Archive for the ‘ NBA Playoffs Blog ’ Category

The Jazz lead the Thunder 2-1 in their first round playoff series. Jazz center Rudy Gobert’s defense has been key for the Jazz as long as he’s been on the team, and of course stakes get even bigger in the postseason. Here’s the Oklahoman reporting:

Donovan Mitchell doesn’t let opponents dribble past him on purpose. But sometimes, the Utah Jazz rookie doesn’t mind when they do.

Even when the likes of Russell Westbrook get past Mitchell, he’s not too concerned. “I’m like, ‘OK, try it,’” Mitchell thinks to himself. “I’ve tried it, and it doesn’t work.”

Utah’s 7-foot-1 Rudy Gobert protects the basket like few players in NBA history. It’s not just his shot-blocking or the threat of shot blocking. It’s his quick reactions and 7-foot-9 wingspan, which makes Gobert a horizontal enforcer as much as a vertical enforcer.

The Thunder is down two games to one in this Western Conference playoff series, and Gobert is the reason why. For a full decade, the Thunder offense has revolved around Westbrook’s assaults on the basket. He’s been scared by neither man nor beast. Not by Tim Duncan. Not by DeAndre Jordan. Not by Marc Gasol. Westbrook would go where others dared not trod.

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Now this is fun. Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio has a monster game Game 3 in his team’s win against the Thunder. Russell Westbrook struggled. And Westbrook was quite vocal that Game 4 will be a totally different story. Here’s the Deseret News with Rubio’s reaction to what Russ said:

So, when Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook ended Saturday’s press conference with his ballsy statement, Utah Jazz guard Ricky Rubio was certainly aware of the comments.

“He made some shots,” Westbrook said of Rubio. “Too comfortable, but I’ma shut that (expletive) off next game, though. Guarantee that.”

However, the Spanish floor general is focused on the team for Game 4, not any individual matchups with the reigning MVP. Tonight’s game is set for 8:30 p.m. on TNT.

“He makes a big deal,” Rubio said. “Of course, they lost Game 2 and Game 3, of course they’re going to come ready, not just him, we expect the whole team to come ready back and be physical, and we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing in the last couple games. We made adjustments and go for the game.”

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The Spurs looked totally down and out in their first-round playoff series against the Warriors, yet were able to come up away with a Game 4 win. Here’s the San Antonio Express News reporting:

Spurs acting coach Ettore Messina made one key defensive adjustment in Game 4, assigning Danny Green to defend Klay Thompson from the start. Thompson had been abusing matchups against the smaller Patty Mills throughout the first three games, averaging 25.6 points. With a bigger, longer defender on him in Game 4, Thompson went 4 of 16 from the floor and finished with 12 points. The Spurs also took the novel approach of putting point guard Dejounte Murray on Draymond Green, limiting the Warriors forrward’s upside as a playmaker.

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The Sixers and Heat series has been a joy to watch. Here’s the South Florida Sun Sentinel reporting on the Heat, who have put up a great fight but are now one game from elimination:

Two games later, and with the Heat on the brink of elimination, there is no room for fun. They need a victory Tuesday in Game 5 in Philadelphia to keep the season alive. The Sixers lead 3-1 in the best-of-7 series.

“I was just having fun with that in Game 2,” Wade said. “It’s not about him. It’s about us. It’s about these 15 guys going on the road against a team that’s looking to close us out to win their first playoff series. We got to do what most people don’t think we can do.”

Only 11 teams have rallied from a 3-1 deficit in league history. The Cleveland Cavaliers were the last team to do it when they defeated the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals. The Heat did it in 1997, rallying against the New York Knicks in the conference semifinals.

“It’s not necessarily us against the world,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It’s us against the Philadelphia 76ers. We have to find a way to finish games. They’ve really nailed us in the fourth quarters in all four games — except the one we were able to pull away. We just have to do better. Through three quarters we’ve been up. It’s going to require a full 48-minute game of absolute our best effort.”

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The Raptors were an excellent team almost all regular season, winning 59 games (second most in the entire league) and clearly played at a higher level than in the past. And started strong in the playoffs, winning their first two at home against Washington. But the Wizards did what was needed and defended homecourt in DC, tying the series 2-2. We have a battle on our hands. Here’s the Toronto Star with more:

Maybe Casey’s team will respond more favourably in the friendly environs of the Air Canada Centre. As it was, the Raptors capped a forgettable trip to the U.S. capital with a second straight loss, 106-98, to leave their best-of-seven series deadlocked at 2-2. For the second straight game the Raptors saw an early lead undone by careless turnovers and unforced mistakes. For the second straight game, the Wizards got a big performance from Bradley Beal to vault themselves back into the series. Even after Beal fouled out with 4:58 to play — after he scored 31 points on 19 field-goal attempts — the Wizards got it over the finish line. John Wall inserted a dagger, making one of his floating mid-range jump shots to put the Wizards up 102-96 with 58 seconds to play. Wall, for whom the Raptors have yet to find an antidote, finished with 25 points and 14 assists.

Yet again, Toronto’s vaunted depth failed to show itself, leaving all-stars DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry to carry far more of the load than they did en route to 59 regular-season wins. DeRozan responded to a steady diet of single coverage with a big game, scoring 35 points and getting to the free-throw line 18 times. Lowry, meanwhile, scored 19 points, going 4-for-6 from three-point range. But Toronto’s other starters were less effective. And Toronto’s bench, which averaged 42 points a game during the regular season, contributed just 22 points. C.J. Miles was 0-for-3 from three-point range. Delon Wright had just seven points on seven shots.

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The assist to turnover radio tells a lot about what a team is doing with the ball. If it’s high — if a team has way more assists than turnovers — the night probably belongs to them. As for the Timberwolves, who lost games 1 and 2 to the Rockets but secured a Game 3 victory, here’s the St Paul Pioneer Press reporting:

Against a Rockets team that has been creative in the way it switches on defense and brings extra defensive help, the Wolves struggled a bit while losing the first two games. In a Game 2 blowout loss in Houston on Wednesday night, the Wolves had only 15 assists and 16 turnovers while being held to 82 points.

What a difference a game makes.

In Saturday night’s 121-105 victory over the Rockets at Target Center, the Wolves had 29 assists and seven turnovers. Those 29 assists are tied for the second-most in the playoffs by a Wolves team. Four starters had three or more assists seven players had multiple assists. It is no coincidence the Wolves set all kinds of franchise playoff scoring records; their 35 points in the third and 34 in the fourth are their top two quarters. Their 121 points was a franchise record, too.

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Miami Heat forward Justise Winslow has been fined $15,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct for intentionally stepping on and attempting to damage the facemask of Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, it was announced today by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

The incident, which took place after Embiid’s facemask had fallen onto the playing court, occurred with 7:51 remaining in the second quarter of the 76ers’ 128-108 win over the Heat on Thursday, April 19 at AmericanAirlines Arena.

The Warriors are handling their first round opponent, the Spurs, quite handily so far, taking a 3-0 series lead while playing without guard Stephen Curry. Here’s the SF Chronicle with the latest on Steph:

Warriors guard Stephen Curry has officially been ruled out another week, the team announced Friday afternoon.

Curry, who had his Grade 2 left MCL sprain re-evaluated Friday, is set to be re-evaluated again on April 27. That would conceivably put his earliest possible return at a potential Game 7 of the first round.

Such an extended series appears unlikely, given that Golden State enters Game 4 against the Spurs on Sunday with a 3-0 lead.

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Here’s the Miami Herald reporting on Heat center Hassan Whiteside, who through three playoff games is receiving just 13.7 minutes per outing of playing time, averaging a mere 3.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks.

From a national perspective, Thursday night began and ended the same way for the Heat, with TNT’s Charles Barkley bashing Hassan Whiteside before and after the 76ers’ Game 3 win against the Heat that gave Philadelphia a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series.

What happened in between Barkley’s remarks Thursday was even more discouraging for Whiteside, who has managed just 11 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks in 41 combined minutes during three games in this playoff series while committing seven turnovers and nine fouls.

And with Saturday’s Game 4 looming, Whiteside, who’s active on social media, made clear he’s tuning out the torrent of criticism: “I don’t get caught up in the guys that can’t do my job but talk about my job.”

A night after Whiteside curiously attributed his struggles to lack of involvement on offense, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Friday “we’re not going to change the playbook, but certainly we’ll work to get Hassan active on both ends and where you feel him in the game. Part of that is my job. We had a film session today, and we were working on that. He’s going to do his part.”

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Tyler Johnson health update

The Heat are down 2-1 in their first round playoff series against the Sixers. Here’s the South Florida Sun Sentinel on Heat shooting guard Tyler Johnson:

Guard Tyler Johnson began clutching his left hand early in Thursday’s game after jamming his left thumb while colliding with Sixers center Joel Embiid on the second possession.

Johnson was evaluated after the game but no serious damage was found after X-rays. He wore a protective wrap during Friday’s practice.

“I was trying to catch myself,stumbled, put my hand down,” Johnson said. “I lost my balance when I ran into him. I tried to brace myself on the floor and jammed my thumb … Initially it was a little bit sore. We got a little tape job on it.That’s more to make it a little bit more comfortable. It’s a little sore, nothing that’s not manageable.”

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Kevin Love dealing with thumb sprain

The Cavs played winning basketball for a huge stretch as the regular season came to a close, but in two playoff games against the Pacers they have one win and one loss but easily could have been down 0-2. Complicating matters is the health of Kevin Love, who will be in action tonight but is playing through a minor yet still presumably annoying injury to his non-shooting hand. Just how good are these Cavs? The jury is still out. Here’s the Akron Beacon Journal reporting:

Kevin Love wore a support wrap on his sprained left thumb during shootaround and Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said the five-time All-Star center would play in Friday night’s Game 3 of the Eastern Conference playoffs against the Indiana Pacers.

While warming up at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Love didn’t look impeded by the bandage, which covered his thumb and went across his knuckles.

Lue wasn’t sure if it would affect Love’s shot, but Lue was glad the injury was to Love’s non-shooting hand.

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Justise Winslow willing to do whatever

The playoffs are not a time for friendship between foes. It’s about winning. Send the other guys home. And every winning team needs an enforcer or two. Or three. As for the Heat, here’s the South Florida Sun Sentinel reporting:

Justise Winslow is not here to win friends, not this time of year, and certainly not from the Philadelphia 76ers fans who took exception with his over-the-top defensive aggression against Ben Simmons.

“I can be the bad guy if that means winning,” the Miami Heat reserve forward said as his team prepared for Thursday’s Game 3 of the best-of-seven, opening-round series that is tied 1-1.

Winslow said maximizing his fouls and physicality against Simmons has returned him to his basketball roots.

“Growing up I played on all types of teams that would just press and defend and run around with our heads chopped off,” he said on the practice court at AmericanAirlines Arena. “But this is more organized obviously in the NBA. It’s fun sometimes you get to go back to that and just go out there and make plays defensively. It’s kind of in my nature. I was brought up in AAU, high school.”

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No Joel Embiid in Sixers vs Heat Game 1

The Playoffs begin Saturday. The Sixers enter the postseason on a 16-game winning streak. But the health status of Joel Embiid continues to be a confounding issue. Here’s the Palm Beach Post reporting:

The Sixers will start the playoffs Saturday night without starting center Joel Embiid.

“[Embiid] will not play in Game 1,” Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said on the Dan Patrick Show on Friday morning. “He will not play in Game 1 and from that point going forward, we’ll figure some stuff out. Unless something remarkable happens, Dan, I don’t plan on him playing in Game 1.”

The Sixers officially ruled out Embiid for Game 1 on Friday afternoon.

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And here’s the South Florida Sun Sentinel:

Embiid has missed the past eight games after sustaining the injury and a concussion in a March 28 game against the New York Knicks.

Journeyman big man Amir Johnson has been starting in place of Embiid, with the 76ers undefeated in the interim, with Philadelphia ending the regular season on a 16-game winning streak.

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The Nuggets and Timberwolves play in Minnesota tonight. The winner makes the NBA playoffs. The loser has to go home and stare at a wall. Or they can watch TV. Maybe eat something. Or hop on a plane and fly to an exotic overseas beach destination. Which sounds cool. But making the playoffs is better. Beaches can wait.

The Western conference playoff seeding situation is complicated. Regarding these two teams, here are the possibilities:

If the Nuggets win tonight, they will either be the 6 or 7 West seed.

If the Timberwolves win, they’ll be the 6, 7 or 8 West seed.

Why? Because a big stack of West playoff teams have almost identical records, and therefore tiebreaker rules come into effect.

Here’s what’s set in the West through Tuesday:
Rockets are the 1-seed.
Warriors are the 2-seed.
Blazers or Jazz are the 3-seed.
The rest will be determined tonight.

InsideHoops.com will turn things things up for the 2018 playoffs. Roll with us daily.

Warriors win 2017 NBA championship

As yellow confetti fell from the rafters and TV cameras swarmed Monday night, Kevin Durant grabbed the charcoal cap emblazoned with the Larry O’Brien trophy before embracing Stephen Curry. In that moment, as a capacity crowd belted along to “We Are the Champions,” the Warriors had finally vindicated the 3-1 Finals lead they squandered last June. Nothing — not the chorus of critics, not the Herculean performances from Kyrie Irving and LeBron James, not a lengthy hiatus from head coach Steve Kerr — could keep Golden State from winning its second NBA title in three years.

– San Francisco Chronicle

Cleveland, fresh off a 137-point outburst in Game 4, used an early 14-2 run Monday to seize a seven-point lead midway through the first quarter. With James, Irving and J.R. Smith leading the way, the Cavaliers were up 41-33 early in the second. That’s when Golden State, perhaps the most combustible team of this era, tightened up defensively, ratcheted up the tempo and unleashed a 21-2 rally. Durant poured in 13 points on only five shots in the quarter to power the Warriors to a 71-60 lead by halftime.

– San Francisco Chronicle

Durant scored 39 points — he broke 30 in all five games of the Finals — and Curry had 34 and 10 assists… Right after the pass to Iguodala to put the Warriors up eight, Durant nailed a 3 to erase the Kevin Love and-1 seconds prior. When a Kyle Korver 3 with 8:27 left cut it to six, Durant sliced backdoor for an easy dunk, uncontested just like the six dunks he had in the first half of Game 1. In all, he made 14 of 20 shots, including five of eight from beyond the arc. For the series, he shot 56 percent from the field. He led the Warriors in rebounds and blocks.

– Bay Area News Group

And in the clincher, Curry had 34 points, 10 assists, six rebounds, and enough moments to silence his loudest critics. The reasonable ones, anyway. He led the way to a 129-120 win over the Cavaliers, clinching the Warriors’ second title in three years, completing their vengeance from last year’s epic collapse. This is how you earn super stardom. Curry wasn’t the Finals MVP. But he vindicated himself by averaging 26.8 points, 9.4 assists and 8.0 rebounds in an NBA Finals.

– Bay Area News Group

While James went for game highs in points (41) and minutes (47), Kyrie Irving and J.R. Smith were second and third on the Cavs with 26 and 25 points, respectively. For the Warriors, Stephen Curry was second with 34 points — hitting 10-of-20 shots — and 2015 NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala accounted for 20 points in 38 minutes off the bench.

– Akron Beacon Journal

Steve Kerr wants more edge from Warriors tonight

Many different words can be used to describe “edge.” As in, playing with more edge. Nerves. A sense of urgency. Pick whatever word or phrase you like — you get the idea. But you aren’t Warriors coach Steve Kerr. He’s got a better sense of all of this. And here’s what he said on the matter:

“For us as a team tonight, we’ve got to be more on edge,” said Kerr before the game, according to the Bay Area News Group. “I hope we’re a little more nervous. We didn’t seem that nervous in Game 4. Nervous is good. Appropriate fear is the Greg Popovich line. You need that. When we come out in the beginning of Game 4 and lose shooters and turn the ball over carelessly, we’re obviously not ready. I would hope we’re more ready, more prepared tonight.”

More from the Bay Area News Group: There’s a running theory that the pressure is on the Warriors tonight. They own a 3-1 series lead, but after the Cavs took Game 4, that’s now the same deficit they overcame to beat the Warriors a year ago. If they can get a win in Oakland to send the series back home, they might gather enough steam to pull it off.

NBA Finals Game 5 is tonight in Oakland at 9 p.m. ET. The Warriors lead 3-1.

Draymond Green makes fun comments about Cleveland fans

Warriors forward Draymond Green is a great quote. He’s got big personality and unleashes lots of fun stuff when speaking to the media. And he didn’t hold back when discussing his thoughts on fans in Cleveland.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “asked Sunday whether he regretted saying after Game 4 that Clevelanders “don’t seem to be the sharpest people around,” Green detailed why he seized the opportunity to deride the opposing fan base. “I didn’t bash them,” Green said. “I just gave my thoughts.”

More from the Chronicle: After the referees told the scorekeepers that the first technical should have been assigned to Kerr, Green stepped back on the court. In the wake of Golden State’s 137-116 loss, when a reporter asked him whether he had noticed that the first technical had been announced as his, Green said: “I don’t pay much attention to anybody in Cleveland, honestly. Don’t seem to be the sharpest people around. So, whatever.”

Trash-talk on the court is fun. And off the court? Still fun. Green won’t label this trash-talking. He’s merely expressing his opinion. And if anybody takes offense, that’s their problem!

But seriously: Green is fun, and we enjoy hearing his take on just about anything. Especially the opposition.

The Cavs are in big trouble, down 3-0 in the NBA Finals against a superior-looking Warriors team. Cavs veteran Richard Jefferson says reaching the Finals is no prize if it doesn’t include the acquisition of a championship ring at the end. Here’s ESPN.com reporting:

Championship or bust, says Richard Jefferson

“I still do not feel like we’ve reached our potential,” Jefferson said Friday, after the team’s shootaround at their practice facility. “We’ve said it all along — it doesn’t matter if we lose in Game 7, what happens with tonight: If we don’t win a championship, then the season was unsuccessful. That’s it. It’s the same for them.

“It’s probably the same for three teams in this league every single year. And it’s true. If we don’t win a championship, it’s unsuccessful. Nobody would be surprised at the end of the day if before this series you said the Cavs won. No one would be surprised if someone said San Antonio won a championship at the beginning of the season. No one would be, like, mind blown.

“So for the three, four teams that are in that position, regardless of how it ends or whatever, if you don’t raise that banner the next year, then it was unsuccessful.”

Warriors take 3-0 NBA Finals lead

The Cavaliers did everything right in Game 3 except what they needed to do most — close it out.

The Cavaliers on June 7 followed the blueprint drawn up by coach Tyronn Lue for Game 3 like a team of construction engineers erecting a futuristic skyscraper, and still lost, 118-113, and now are one loss away from becoming the first team swept out of the NBA Finals since the San Antonio Spurs did it to the Cavaliers in 2007.

The Warriors went on an 11-0 run to after a 26-footer by J.R. Smith gave the Cavs a 113-107 lead with 2:32 remaining. Smith preened for the Cavalier fans sitting in the front row of The Q as he trotted down the court on defense — way too early, as it turned out.

– Akron Beacon Journal

Cavs guard Kyrie Irving said he had to be more assertive driving to the hoop and he was. His driving layup high off the glass as the first half ended were his 16th and 17th points of the first half and cut the Warriors’ lead to 67-61. He finished the game with 38 points.

– Akron Beacon Journal

Steph Curry was incredible much of the night, going for 26 points, a team-high 13 rebounds, six assists and only one turnover. Klay Thompson parlayed his huge Game 2 into a bigger Game 3, nailing six of the Warriors’ 16 threes and hitting 30 points for the first time in this postseason. He kept them afloat early.

But Kevin Durant, the frontrunner for Finals MVP, drove the Warriors home in the final sequence.

With less than two minutes left, the Warriors trailed by four and their perfect playoffs were in peril. But with 1:15 left, Durant powerfully pushed Kevin Love back on a drive, got to about 12 feet out and planted a floater to pull the Warriors within two.

– Bay Area News Group

By the time the Warriors entered halftime up 67-61, they had tallied assists on 21 of 23 field goals. It was the most assists by any team in a half of a Finals game since the Bulls had 22 in the second half against the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 1 of the 1992 NBA Finals. With the Cavaliers’ season on the edge of disaster, James and Irving had combined for 44 points on 18-for-27 shooting. The rest of Cleveland had mustered 17 points on 4-for-14 shooting.

With Durant, Klay Thompson (30 points) and Curry (26 points, 13 rebounds) leading the way, Golden State weathered inspired performances from James (39 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists) and Kyrie Irving (38 points). The Warriors’ 16 three-pointers and 29 assists ultimately overshadowed their 18 turnovers. After posting their two worst offensive outings of the playoffs in Games 1 and 2, the Cavaliers scored 46 points in the paint. But the immense assignment of toppling Golden State eventually took its toll. Visibly gassed, Cleveland didn’t score over the final 3:09.

– San Francisco Chronicle

Tonight in Cleveland, the Cavaliers face the Warriors in NBA Finals Game 3. Down 2-0 in the series, the Cavs have clearly been the best team in the Eastern Conference, but the Warriors have been on another level all regular season and all playoffs long.

Now, we don’t actually root for one team over another. But we certainly root for what’s good for basketball. And the Warriors going on to win Game 3 in all likelihood means they will go ahead and win the series. Which is great for NBA history buffs whosw main interest is to compare the Warriors with other dominant NBA teams of the past. But for regular everyday basketball fans, it would certainly be better for the Cavs to step up tonight, defend home court, take the win, and make it look like a real series.

We’ll be watching.

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