Archive for the ‘ NBA Playoffs Blog ’ Category

The Celtics have a 1-0 second round playoff series lead against the Sixers. Game 2 is Thursday in Boston. The Celtics were quite impressive in Game 1, getting huge performances from Al Horford, Jayson Tatum and a guy by the name of Terry Rozier. The team won’t have Kyrie Irving in these playoffs, but they do hope to get shooting guard Jaylen Brown back soon. They’re being careful, though. Here’s the Boston Herald:

The Celtics continue to practice extreme caution with Jaylen Brown, who tested his strained hamstring during a workout before Wednesday’s practice.

Though Brown will check his leg again during tomorrow morning’s shootaround, he continues to be listed as doubtful for Game 2 tomorrow night against Philadelphia.

And the reason, especially with a balky hamstring, is clear. Brad Stevens doesn’t want his star two guard risking re-injury while chasing the likes of Ben Simmons, J.J. Redick and Marco Belinelli – all very active wing players in their own ways.

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The Warriors and Pelicans begin their second round playoff series tonight. Warriors guard Stephen Curry won’t participate this evening, but he should return soon, perhaps as early as Game 2. Here’s the SF Chronicle with the latest:

Warriors guard Stephen Curry is likely to return for Game 2 of the second round Tuesday night after being ruled out for Game 1 on Saturday.

Golden State head coach Steve Kerr informed Curry after shoot-around Saturday morning that he wouldn’t play Game 1 against the Pelicans. The decision came down to the fact that Curry has only played one 5-on-5 contact scrimmage since he sprained his left MCL in a March 23 win over Atlanta.

“When you’ve been out five weeks and you want to play in the playoffs,” Kerr said, “I don’t think one scrimmage is enough.”

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LeBron James speaks on upcoming Game 7

Game 7 of any NBA playoff series is an epic event. Even bigger is when a legendary player like LeBron James is involved. Because at this point in his career, everything LeBron does makes history. That’s not an exaggeration. Here’s the News Herald reporting on tomorrow’s Pacers at Cavs event:

The Cavs and Indiana Pacers are deadlocked, 3-3, heading into their game at 1 p.m. April 29 at Quicken Loans Arena. The winner, or, more appropriately, the survivor, advances to the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Toronto Raptors.

“I think Game 7 is the greatest two words in sports,” Cavs star LeBron James told reporters in Indianapolis after the Cavaliers were crushed, 121-87, in Game 6 on April 27. “With us having Game 7 on our home floor, our fans are going to be truly excited to be a part of that. I hope our guys are excited about that as well.

“Just don’t take these moments for granted. I’ve been part of Game 7’s for quite a while. It’s something you wish you can get back when you’re not playing the game anymore.”

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The playoffs are all about health. Well, and winning. Okay, mostly winning. But being healthy helps with the winning. See how it all ties together? Take notes. Anyway, here’s the Houston Chronicle with a Rockets update:

Key Houston Rockets reserve forward Luc Mbah a Moute is optimistic that he will be able to play in Sunday’s Game 1 against the Utah Jazz after missing the first round due to a dislocated right shoulder.

Mbah a Moute, who suffered the injury in the Rockets’ April 10 win over the Los Angeles Lakers, is officially listed as questionable. He went through his first full practice of the playoffs on Saturday, which he hopes is the final step before being cleared to return.

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Getting rest and staying healthy is a huge part of winning in the NBA playoffs. The Rockets are happy to have some time off prior to the second round. Here’s the Houston Chronicle:

Though the Rockets had played just five games since the previous break in the schedule, they did not mind getting time before the second round while the Thunder and Jazz work their way through their first-round series.

“I think it’s good,” Rockets forward Trevor Ariza said. “It will give us time to rest and give us time to work on things that we didn’t do so well. But the fact that we got it over with, it’s an encouraging thing.”

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During Game 5 on Wednesday, Gobert picked up his fourth shooting foul on Carmelo Anthony early in the third quarter, which led to OKC’s 32-7 run to end the period after the Thunder trailed by 25 points.

“When Rudy went out, that impacted us. But that said, I thought our struggles on the offensive end impacted our defense too much,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “We’ve known during the year if we struggle offensively that our defense has to stay solid.

“But I thought when they did start making plays and Rudy went out that we were fighting it, but we didn’t execute as well as we needed to offensively against the switch, got some good looks, missed them, and then the biggest thing is 37 points in the third quarter, just kind of back in the game and they had confidence and life, and we didn’t do what we needed to do.”

Gobert’s defensive presence was certainly missed as Westbrook went off for 20 of his 45 points in the third and Paul George also dropped 12 of his 34 during that stretch. With Gobert on the court, Utah’s defensive rating was 89.9, but it jumped to 133.5 with him off the court, according to NBA Advanced Stats.

Deseret News

Despite having blown a 25-point lead in Game 5 of their playoff series Wednesday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder on the road, the Utah Jazz still had a chance to come away with the win even if all the momentum had shifted to the Thunder.

Nevertheless, Oklahoma City made the necessary plays down the stretch to claim the victory. In particular, a 10-2 run from the home team in the middle of the fourth quarter did the Jazz in.

Following a Rudy Gobert putback dunk with 6:40 remaining, the Jazz led by a point, 91-90. Russell Westbrook, however, responded 30 seconds later with his fifth 3-pointer of the second half to give the Thunder the 93-91 edge.

Deseret News

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.

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