Archive for the ‘ NBA Playoffs Blog ’ Category

Game 7 of the Heat-Raptors series is Sunday afternoon. Here’s the South Florida Sun Sentinel reporting on a key Heat coaching decision from the series:

Justise Winslow playing big role for Heat

Justise Winslow figures the last time he played center was in high school. Maybe even earlier.

But there he was on Friday night, during an elimination game in the Eastern Conference semifinals taking the opening jump for the Heat as they tried to keep their season alive against the Raptors.

And as he has throughout the season, the rookie showed the kind of moxie that has earned him praise from teammates and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who said he and Winslow shared a laugh after the coach opted not to play the former Duke standout in Game 3 of the series, a game Toronto won 95-91.

Since that decision, Winslow has responded with a 9-point, 4-rebound performance in Game 4, an 8-point, 7-rebound performance in Game 5, and then a 12-point, 3-rebound performance in Game 6, his first career postseason start and a game the Heat won 103-91 to force Sunday’s deciding Game 7.

Thunder reach West Conference Finals

The Oklahoma City Thunder advanced to the 2016 Western Conference Finals after defeating the San Antonio Spurs, 113-99, Thursday night, winning the second-round series 4-2. The third-seeded Thunder will now play the first-seeded Golden State Warriors in Oklahoma City’s fourth Western Conference Finals appearance in the past six seasons.

The Thunder and Warriors will face off starting on Monday, May 16, in Oakland at 8 p.m. (CT) followed by Game 2 on Wednesday, May 18, at 8 p.m. (CT) at Oracle Arena.

The series will then shift to Oklahoma City for Games 3 and 4. Game 3 will take place on Sunday, May 22, at 7 p.m. (CT) and Game 4 on Tuesday, May 24, at 8 p.m. (CT) at Chesapeake Energy Arena. If necessary, Games 5, 6, and 7 will be played at alternating sites beginning with a road contest on Thursday, May 26, followed by Game 6 in Oklahoma City on Saturday, May 28, and concluding with Game 7 in Oakland on Monday, May 30. The game times for Games 5, 6 and 7 will all be 8 p.m. (CT).

The defending champion Warriors will be considered the favorites in the series, but OKC poses a very respectable threat. And from an entertainment perspective, the point guard matchup of Russell Westbrook versus Stephen Curry makes the series must-watch. Kevin Durant against anybody is also top-notch viewing. It’ll be interesting to see who Golden State sticks on Durant. It could be Harrison Barnes for some stretches but Draymond Green for others. Like the point guard matchup, Green against Durant would also be must-watch — at least when Durant’s the guy with the ball.

We’ll of course post more on the series this weekend.

DeMarre Carroll day-to-day with wrist injury

The Toronto Raptors announced Thursday tests taken following Wednesday’s game on forward DeMarre Carroll’s left wrist were negative. Carroll left Game 5 versus Miami in the third quarter with a left wrist contusion.

He will be treated symptomatically and is questionable for Game 6 on Friday at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Carroll has averaged 9.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 31.5 minutes in 12 playoff games this season. In five games versus the Heat in the Eastern Conference Semifinal, he has averaged 11.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 35.7 minutes in five contests.

Shaun Livingston regrets Game 4 ejection

Here’s the San Francisco Chronicle reporting on Warriors guard Shaun Livingston, a fantastic contributor to the squad and a key member of the supporting cast who was needlessly ejected last game. Fortunately, Stephen Curry came back that same day and steadily rose to the occasion, helping Golden State secure a dramatic overtime win to take a 3-1 series lead:

Shaun Livingston regrets Game 4 ejection

Shaun Livingston was back to his usual calm and introspective self on Wednesday morning, two days after the first ejection of his 12-year career.

The Warriors’ backup point guard joked that he did some yoga and meditation and will listen to some soothing music after getting two technical fouls in the second quarter of Monday’s Game 4 victory at Portland.

“You don’t ever want to leave your brothers out there, so I was wrong for that,” Livingston said following the Warriors’ shootaround. “Definitely, it was a mistake on my behalf to get ejected. I lost my cool. I made a mistake.

“Intentionally, I was going for the technical. I wasn’t going for the ejection.”

The Toronto Raptors announced yesterday that center Jonas Valanciunas will miss the remainder of the Eastern Conference Semifinal playoff series versus Miami with a sprained right ankle.

This is a huge blow to the squad. Jonas has been one of their best performers this postseason.

Valanciunas sustained the injury during the third quarter of Saturday’s Game 3 in Miami. He has averaged 15.0 points, shooting .550 (61-111) from the field, with 12.1 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 28.5 minutes in 10 playoff games this season. In the series versus the Heat, he has averaged 18.3 points on .649 (24-37) percent from the floor, 12.7 rebounds, 1.33 blocks and 33.7 minutes in three contests.

Raptors win Game 3 vs Heat

Kyle Lowry got his game back at the perfect time for the Toronto Raptors.

And the Miami Heat are in all kinds of trouble.

Shaking off epic playoff struggles, Lowry scored 33 points - including five straight to break a late tie - in a duel with Dwyane Wade to lift the Raptors to a 95-91 victory over the Heat on Saturday night in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series.

The Raptors lead the series 2-1. Game 4 is in Miami on Monday night.

“I felt like it was just a matter of time,” Lowry said.

He was a career 34 percent playoff shooter coming into Saturday, and was shooting 31 percent in these playoffs. But he connected on 11 of 19 shots, 5 of 8 from 3-point range.

– AP

Chris Bosh played 44 games for the Heat in the 2014-15 season, and 53 games this season. Major health concerns with the reason for the missed games. And those concerns mean he will not resume playing for the Heat during the 2016 NBA playoffs. Here’s a team statement:

The Miami HEAT and Chris Bosh announce that Chris will not be playing in the remainder of the 2016 NBA Playoffs. The HEAT, Chris, the doctors and medical team have been working together throughout this process and will continue to do so to return Chris to playing basketball as soon as possible.

And here is ESPN.com reporting:

Chris Bosh will not make return during 2016 NBA playoffs

The announcement eases a degree of tension that was building between Bosh and the team over his status. Bosh and the Heat avoided acrimony, and he remained active with the team and traveled to road games on owner Micky Arison’s plane, but he appeared to be pushing for a resolution in recent days.

Last week Bosh and his wife, Adrienne, used social media to generate attention to his desire to return to the floor this season. On Tuesday, at Bosh’s request, the National Basketball Players Association asked for a meeting with the Heat to address the issue.

It is relevant that Bosh and the Heat released the statement together. Bosh released his own statement in March announcing that he did not have deep vein thrombosis, another name for blood clots in the leg, and said he was positive he would return this season. The Heat had not made a statement on Bosh since February, when an undisclosed medical condition forced Bosh to be ruled out indefinitely.

It is also relevant that the statement indicated the intention for Bosh to return to the playing floor eventually.

Blazers vs Warriors game 2 recap

Still playing without Stephen Curry, the Warriors exploded in the 4th quarter and shut the Blazers down for a comeback win, giving them a 2-0 lead in their first round playoff series. Here’s the Columbian Blog with some insight:

Blazers Warriors game 2 recap

For three quarters, it looked like the Portland Trail Blazers would add “beating the 73-9 Warriors at home in the playoffs,” to their list of accomplishments everybody else thought was impossible. But some villains are to vile to stop. Some mountains, too tough to climb. Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and the Warriors proved to be that mountain again for the Blazers, leading the Warriors to a 110-99 win behind a monster 4th quarter where they outscored Portland 34-12. The Warriors lead the best-of-seven series 2-0. Game 3 is 5:30 Saturday at the Moda Center.

Damian Lillard loves playing at home and looked better in Game 2, scoring 25 points through three quarters. And he of course wanted to erase a rough Game 1 where he scored 30 but was just 8-of-26 from the field. He was quiet early but exploded for 17 points in the third quarter, helping Portland hold an 8-point lead after three quarters. But Lillard didn’t score in the fourth and nobody on the Blazers could help their cause late as they saw what was likely their best opportunity for a road win in the series slip away.

With a quick turnaround, the Blazers looked overmatched in Game 1. Truth be told, they are overmatched. But they don’t fold and their start to Game 2 was exactly what should have been expected. The Blazers learn and they found ways to attack the Warriors with success. They preyed on Andrew Bogut’s slow feet and it helped create holes in the defense. Those holes weren’t there when Steve Kerr dusted off Festus Ezeli down the stretch, which coincided with Portland suddenly being unable to score. Ezeli suffered an injury and was inexplicably buried on the bench behind Anderson Varejao and Mareese Speights until the 2nd half of Game 2. He made a major contribution and helped turn the game around with his defense as well as improved play from Green and Thompson.

By InsideHoops.com editor Jeff Lenchiner

(Note: I am typing this entire blog entry on my cellphone while in a cab around 11:15pm Friday night and not editing this, so I insist that you forgive and ignore any typos)

Friday night in Charlotte the Miami Heat beat the Hornets 97-90 to tie their first round NBA playoff series at three games apiece.

A minor side story was “Purple Shirt Guy” — an unnamed fan (if he’s famous, we didn’t recognize him) with a great courtside seat, quickly nicknamed Purple Shirt Guy because, why not.

He was standing up and loudly taunting veteran Heat star Dwyane Wade, who responded with some huge clutch baskets.

My opinion is that while fans close to the court have a right to stand up and be enthusiastic, I’m not sure that SUSTAINED yelling by a fan as he is out of his seat at a player should be allowed, especially if the fan is courtside and therefore very close to the players.

I’m not sure exactly where the league should draw the line. Naturally they should err in favor of passionate fans. But in this sort of situation in the future, perhaps a security guard needs to encourage him/her to get back into their seat and stay there.

Tough call. But Purple Shirt Guy in Charlotte did, in my opinion, cross the line slightly. Players have to feel comfortable and protected.

The good news is, D-Wade sure appeared to feel fine as he suddenly drained key three-pointers and rose up like the star he’s been for many years.

Spencer Hawes knee injury: MCL sprain

Spencer Hawes knee injury: MCL sprain

The Charlotte Hornets announced today that center Spencer Hawes underwent a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) which revealed a sprain of the medial collateral ligament (MCL) in his right knee. Hawes is listed as out for Game 6 tomorrow night in Charlotte and will be re-evaluated in a week. He suffered the injury during the Hornets win in Game 5 last night in Miami. Hawes has appeared in five playoff games for Charlotte with averages of 3.6 points (.462 FG%) and 3.2 rebounds in 10.6 minutes per game.

The Hornets currently lead the Heat 3-2 in their first round NBA playoff series.

The Raptors and Pacers are tied 2-2 in their first round NBA playoff series. Raptors guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan haven’t been at their best, to put it lightly. Looking at this as Glass Half Full, things can only get better — right? We’ll see. Here’s the Toronto Sun reporting:

Kyle Lowry can tell you to the third decimal what he is shooting in the playoffs.

And even if he’s not happy about that particular number he is not at liberty to grouse about it or let it affect him.

“I’d be lying to you if I said I’m not upset at how I’m playing,” Lowry said. “But I’ve got to be positive. At the end of the day my teammates bank on me to be positive and lead these guys, and that’s what I’m going to do no matter how I’m shooting the ball, I’ve got to make sure my teammates are positive and confident.”

And on that front he has been for the most part successful.

DeRozan and Lowry both know they need to shoot the ball better but getting frustrated over it is not something either will allow himself.

“No, not at all. I’m not frustrated,” DeRozan said Sunday following practice.

Here’s the Detroit Free Press reporting on the Pistons, who were eliminated yesterday by the Cavs in the first round of the 206 NBA playoffs:

Cold-blooded threes by Kyrie Irving and J.R. Smith were monumental in the Cavaliers sweeping the Pistons with the 100-98 victory Sunday night at the Palace.

For the series, Cleveland made 57 threes for the series, a little more than 14 per game.

Irving’s triples were of the spectacular variety.

His final one, with 43.2 seconds left and the shot clock running down, gave the Cavaliers a 100-96 cushion.

As the buzzer sounded, Irving waved good-bye to the Pistons crowd as he finished with 31 points and averaged 27.5 points per game for the series.

“For our team it doesn’t matter who is the leading scorer,” said LeBron James, who finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds Sunday. “The fact that he was in a great groove throughout this whole series. … We rode his coattail, we rode Kev’s (Kevin Love).

Marcus Smart fined for flopping

Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart has been fined $5,000 by the NBA for violating the league’s anti-flopping rules during Game 3 of the Celtics’ Conference First Round series against the Atlanta Hawks.

The incident occurred with 4:32 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Celtics 111-103 victory over the Hawks last night at TD Garden.

Look. The NBA playoffs are very competitive, but there’s still an occasional opportunity for players to give helpful advice to guys on other teams. The latest generocity comes from Charlie Villanueva, who offers a useful tip to Russell Westbrook. Via ESPN.com:

Charlie Villanueva suggests Russell Westbrook take his dancing to a club

Charlie Villanueva has a simple request for Russell Westbrook: Find somewhere else to dance.

The Dallas Mavericks reserve forward and Oklahoma City Thunder superstar guard had a minor confrontation before Monday’s Game 2, after Villanueva stepped between Westbrook and rookie guard Cameron Payne during their normal pregame dance routine in front of the scorer’s table at midcourt.

Villanueva, who was shoved by Westbrook but didn’t push back, weighed in Tuesday after video of the incident went viral.

“If you want to go dancing and stuff like that, go to a nightclub,” Villanueva said on a Fox Pro Cast video he filmed.

The Grizzlies are without several of their best players, and in big trouble in their first-round NBA playoff series against the mighty Spurs. Here’s the Memphis Commercial Appeal reporting:

Matt Barnes says Grizzlies need to change gameplan

After the Grizzlies scored their fewest points in the postseason during their 94-68 Game 2 loss to the San Antonio Spurs, journeyman forward Matt Barnes had a suggestion or two or 10.

“We’ve got to roll the dice a little bit. We’ve got to play small, play fast. We’re coming to a gunfight with some spoons,” Barnes said. “We’ve got to do something to try to switch this up at home next game. It’s very frustrating.”

Memphis is 0-16 all-time when scoring 86 points or less in the postseason. San Antonio is responsible for six of those losses.

“You can credit their defense a little bit,” Barnes said, “but you’ve got to put the onus on us to make shots.”

Indeed.

Cavs win Game 1 vs Pistons

The Cavaliers took a 1-0 first round playoff series lead againts the Pistons Sunday. Here’s Michigan Live reporting:

There is a distinct difference between a team that knows how to win in the playoffs and one finding its way.

The Detroit Pistons might work their way to the positive side of that equation in time, but in Game 1 of a first-round Eastern Conference playoff series, it was the heavily favored Cleveland Cavaliers whose superstars closed the show in the fourth quarter for a 106-101 victory Sunday.

Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Wednesday night here but the opener had to leave the Pistons with a gnawing feeling that this was their chance to steal home-court advantage — whether they could have kept it is a separate debate — and they let it get away…

The “Big Three” — James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love — combined for 21 of the Cavs’ 30 fourth-quarter points. They totaled 81 points for the game — 31 for Irving, 28 for Love, 22 for James.

Love (13 rebounds) and James (11 assists) had double-doubles.

J.J. Barea health in question for Game 2

Here’s ESPN.com reporting on the Dallas Mavericks, who can use all the help they can get in the health department while battling the heavily-favored Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the 2016 Playoffs:

J.J. Barea health in question for Game 2

Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea’s status for Game 2 is in question after he aggravated his strained groin during Saturday’s 108-70 Game 1 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Barea did not play in the second half because of the injury, the same one that had limited him in recent weeks.

“I’m very, very concerned,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said.

One way NBA playoff seeding may change

NBA playoff seedings might change. Maybe. Here’s a possibility.

Here’s the Dallas Morning News blog reporting on a possible change to NBA playoff seedings. Many suggestions have been made as to improve the postseason seeding system. The current setup works fine. The playoffs are awesome. But there are definitely some possible tweaks that make sense, and what’s mentioned below is one of them.

A subtle, but significant, change to the NBA playoff seedings is being considered by the league’s competition committee.

It could have a positive impact on the Dallas Mavericks and everybody else in the ultra-tough Southwest Division.

League officials are considering seeding teams one-through-eight in each conference for the playoffs without regard for division winners being placed no lower than fourth, sources said.

While this would devalue winning a division, it could make a difference for teams in the Southwest Division. All five teams made the playoffs in the Southwest last season.

Without Kyrie Irving, Cavs were serious underdog vs Warriors

The Warriors won Tuesday’s NBA Finals Game 6 to beat the Cavaliers and win the 2015 NBA championship. Here’s the News Herald reporting on a critical issue that helped ensure Cleveland’s defeat:

Loss of Kyrie Irving was crucial for Cavs in NBA Finals

The loss of All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving after Game 1 was probably the last straw for the Cavs.

His broken knee cap elevated Matthew Dellavedova into the starting lineup. Dellavedova had a brief flurry of spirited play, but eventually settled into what he really was: an undrafted backup role player. Pitting him against league MVP Stephen Curry was almost cruel.

Curry was fueled by all the admiration Dellavedova got early in the series. He was irked by the thought of Dellavedova slowing him down. Curry averaged 26 points in the series, 28 in the last three games.

Kevin Love was injured in Game 4 of the Boston series. They shifted Tristan Thompson into the starting lineup to replace Love, and the Cavs’ defense and rebounding intensified.

“The injuries they suffered were just too much,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said. “This would have been a different series with Kyrie and Kevin Love.”

With Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and Anderson Varejao (remember him?) out, the Cleveland Cavaliers, led by leBron James, were good but not good enough to handle the best team in the league this season, the Golden State Warriors. Last night in Cleveland the Warriors won the NBA championship in six games. Here’s the Northeast Ohio News Group reporting:

LeBron did a ton in Finals, but lacked help

James put in game-highs of 32 points and 18 rebounds to go with eight assists in 46 minutes. He had to fight and claw for each statistic. He was 13-of-33 from the field. After scoring his 12th point, James became the sixth player in NBA history to reach 5,000 career postseason points.

Andre Iguodala led the Warriors with 25 points. His insertion into the starting lineup in Game 4 changed the dynamic of the series. Stephen Curry registered 25 points, five rebounds and eight assists. Eight of his points came in the final quarter.

For the vanquished Eastern Conference champs, it was an incredible postseason run considering the loss of Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. The Q was electric and sheer pandemonium for two and a half quarters. But the noise subsided when it became clear that Warriors were not going to let up in the Cavaliers’ final home game of the season.

“If we want to play another day and live to fight for the championship, we need to win today,” Cavs coach David Blatt said before the game. “So it’s about survival right now, and that’s what you’re looking for.”

They didn’t play like they were in survival mode early on. Golden State got out to a quick 15-point lead in the opening quarter. The Cavs went with their normal Finals lineup with Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov in the front line, only to see Iguodala take repeated open midrange jumpers off of the pick-and-roll game against the overmatched Mozgov.

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