Archive for April, 2008

Apr. 28: Hawks 97, Celtics 92

The AP reports: Forget about a Boston sweep. The Hawks are headed back to Beantown all tied up with the mighty Celtics. Joe Johnson scored 35 points—20 in the fourth quarter—and Josh Smith added 28 points and seven blocks for Atlanta, which surprised the Celtics again 97-92 on Monday night to even the best-of-seven series at two games apiece… The credit for this Atlanta stunner goes largely to Johnson, who took control in the final quarter. After Smith’s jumper put the Hawks ahead to stay 81-79, Johnson scored nine straight points to keep the Celtics on the ropes… Josh Smith set an Atlanta playoff record with seven blocks, the last of them a key swat on Garnett after he backed down in the lane, looking for the easy shot, with just over 3 minutes left… The Hawks led 51-48 at halftime, only to put themselves in another hole with a dismal third quarter. Standing around on offense and doing little to create shots, Atlanta was 6-of-17 from the field, missed all seven of its 3-point attempts and turned it over seven times, giving Boston plenty of easy baskets. Stat Notes: The Hawks shot 47.8%, the Celtics 41.2%, though Boston took 85 shots while Atlanta only took 67. And the Celtics rocked from outside, nailing 12-of-23 three-pointers, while the Hawks were just 4-of-18. But Atlanta hit 29-of-33 free throws, Boston just 10-of-18, and that was the difference. Rebounds were almost even, and the Celtics dished more assists. For the Hawks, Joe Johnson (14-of-24) had 35 points and 6 assists (but 4 turnovers). Josh Smith (8-of-16, 12-of-13 free throws) had 28 points, 6 rebounds and 7 blocks. Mike Bibby (5-of-8) had 18 points and more turnovers than assists. Al Horford shot badly for 4 points but grabbed 13 rebounds. For the Celtics, Ray Allen (8-of-14) had 21 points and 4 assists. Kevin Garnett needed 21 shots for 20 points, 9 rebounds and 6 steals. Paul Pierce (5-of-14) had 18 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Rajon Rondo needed 16 shots for his 14 points and 12 assists.

Apr. 28: Magic 102, Raptors 92

The AP reports: Dwight Howard had 21 points, 21 rebounds and three blocks—his third 20-20 game in the series—and the Magic advanced to second round for the first time in 12 years by beating the Toronto Raptors 102-92 in Game 5 on Monday night… Chris Bosh, who posted career playoff highs of 39 points and 15 rebounds at Toronto on Saturday, had 16 points and nine rebounds Monday. Howard frustrated him down low into 7-of-19 shooting, and Bosh picked up a third-quarter technical foul after the Magic star muscled past him for a layup. T.J. Ford and Carlos Delfino both scored 14 points for the Raptors, while Jason Kapono had 13 and Jose Calderon 12. Delfino added seven rebounds and Ford had five assists… Keyon Dooling’s free throw after the technical on Bosh put the Magic ahead 73-66 with just under a minute left in the third quarter, and Orlando kept that cushion until midway through the fourth. Delfino hit a jumper and Bosh made two free throws in four trips to the line, plus a hook shot over Howard, to draw the Raptors within 84-82. Stat Notes: Neither team shot particularly well and both teams struggled from three-point range. And both teams shot around 82% from the free throw line, though the Magic got more opportunities. A huge factor was rebounding: Magic 55 boards, Raptors only 37. Assists were almost even. The Magic threw the ball away more than the Raptors. As for individual players, for the Magic: Dwight Howard on just 12 shots had 21 points, 21 rebounds and 3 blocks. Jameer Nelson scored 19. Rashard Lewis had 18 points, 13 rebounds and 4 assists. Hedo Turko shot just 4-of-13 but with his 12 points also came 8 rebounds and 9 assists. For the Raptors, Chris Bosh took 19 shots for just 16 points, plus 9 rebounds. Five other Raptors scored between 11 and 14 points.

The Charlotte Bobcats will make a major announcement in a press conference on Tuesday, around 1 p.m. ET.  It’ll be to name their new head coach, Larry Brown.

A nomad who bounces around to a different team seemingly every 15 minutes, Brown is a perfect coach to properly mold a team. The issue is if he’ll stick around.

Brown will have to figure out exactly how Raymond Felton should be used, how to properly mix and match Jason Richardson and Gerald Wallace, help Emeka Okafor continus his development, and help Adam Morrison make the most of his talent.

It’ll be fun seeing his effect on the squad. Terrific hire by Michael Jordan’s Bobcats.

Miami Heat President and Head Coach Pat Riley has stepped down as Head Coach of the Miami Heat, but will continue to serve as team President. Former Assistant Coach/Director of Scouting Erik Spoelstra has been elevated to head coach. Spoelstra becomes the sixth head coach in franchise history.

Here’s Dwyane Wade reaction to the coaching change: “I am excited about the future of our organization….as head coach - Pat Riley has instilled in me values that enabled me to win a championship in just three seasons. I’ve seen him do the necessary things to make us winners and I believe that with his focus on being president and his commitment to the team - we will once again become a contender…I believe in Coach Spo and have complete confidence that our team will succeed with him at the helm.”

And here’s what Alonzo Mourning said: “A big reason for coming to Miami was to help Coach Riley build a winning team and franchise…we’ve experienced many rough times together on the road to the 2006 championship, and those experiences made the winning that much more gratifying. I admire Coach Riley and his accomplishments and I am also proud of Spo, who will now step into this position to take the organization back to our winning ways.”

Riley right to step down as coach

Heat coach Pat Riley, probably realizing that it’s no fun coaching a team that gets destroyed by 70 points a night, is making the wise move to just be team president. Former assistant coach/director of scouting Erik Spoelstra is now head coach. It’s not surprising that the new coach came from within, as Spoelstra obviously has Riley’s respect, knows the players and the team’s secrets. And until Dwyane Wade and Shawn Marion get a lot more help around them the team has plenty of rebuilding to to.

“The game of basketball is a game about talent,” said Riley. “While we are always looking for NBA talent to perform on the court, the most important talent that you may find has to perform on the bench, in the locker room, on the practice court, late at night, watching film, motivating and executing all the responsibilities of a head coach. I believe Erik Spoelstra is one of the most talented young coaches to come around in a long time. This game is now about younger coaches who are technologically skilled, innovative and bring fresh new ideas. That’s what we feel we are getting with Erik Spoelstra. He’s a man that was born to coach.”

More info about Spoelstra is here.

Apr. 27: Hornets 97, Mavs 84

The AP reports: David West bounced back from a miserable Game 3 with a determined effort in Game 4, scoring 10 points in an early second half rally that sent the Hornets surging past the Mavericks 97-84 on Sunday night, giving them a 3-1 lead in the first-round series. West had 24 points and nine rebounds, Chris Paul had 16 points, eight assists and seven rebounds and the Hornets ended an 0-for-14 drought in Dallas that dated to January 1998. Now they’re headed to New Orleans, hoping to win Game 5 on Tuesday night and avoid coming back to Big D until next season. The Mavericks are on the brink of a second straight first-round exit… Dirk Nowitzki had 22 points and 13 rebounds and Jason Terry scored 20 points, but they didn’t get much help. Josh Howard was 3-for-16 and Kidd had only three points, three assists and four rebounds before getting ejected with 7:16 left for a flagrant foul on Jannero Pargo. The exodus in the aisles came soon after, even before Hornets coach Byron Scott pulled his starters… Peja Stojakovic scored 19 points and Julian Wright added 11, including a tremendous dunk off a midcourt steal of Jerry Stackhouse, a play that emphasized the difference in the age and agility of these teams… Even with Pargo running the offense instead of Paul, the Hornets went on a 15-2 run to regain the lead, with Wright’s big dunk coming in that spurt. Stat Notes: The Hornets shot 50%, the Mavs just 36%. The Hornets hit 4-of-10 three-pointers, the Mavs just 8-of-25. The Mavs had a slight rebounding edge, assists were tied and both teams barely committed any turnovers. For the Hornets, West had 24 points and 9 rebounds. Stojakovic, hitting three of the team’s four three-pointers, had 19 points and 5 rebounds. Chris Paul had 16 points, 7 rebounds and 8 assists. Morris Peterson, Jannero Pargo and Julian Wright (5-of-6) all scored double-digits. For the Mavs, Nowitzki needed 18 shots to get his 22 points and 13 rebounds. Jason Terry took 16 shots to get 20 points and little else. Brandon Bass took 12 shots to get 12 points and 9 rebounds. No other Mavs reached double-digits. Jason Kidd, playing just 29 minutes, shot 1-of-6 for 3 points and little else.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Sekou Smith) reports: There’s no question Kevin Garnett’s relentless verbal barrage has energized the Hawks’ retaliatory talents. “That’s all he does is talk. He talks probably every play,” Hawks captain and All-Star Joe Johnson said Sunday when asked about Garnett’s running dialogue. When asked if Garnett was asking for suggestions about dinner hot spots around town, Johnson just smiled. “A lot of times he talks to himself,” Johnson said. “It’s crazy.”

The Palm Beach Post (Chris Perkins) reports: The big picture for Miami should be going into training camp in 2009, about 18 months from now, with a team just a tweak or two away from winning the title. That’s possible with the talent that could be available at the trade deadline. Elton Brand and Corey Maggette of the Los Angeles Clippers could have expiring contracts going into next season and therefore be trade-deadline bargains. The same could be true for Sacramento forward Ron Artest and Washington guard Gilbert Arenas. And New Orleans guard Jannero Pargo, Philadelphia guard Andre Miller and swingman Andre Iguodala, Portland sharpshooter James Jones, and Toronto guard Carlos Delfino, to name a few.

Bucks will have all new assistants

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (Tom Enlund) on Friday reported: None of the Milwaukee Bucks assistant coaches from this past season will be a part of new coach Scott Skiles’ staff next season. Skiles confirmed Friday that Tony Brown, Brian James, Jim Todd, and Jarinn Akana – all assistant coaches under Larry Krystowiak – had been informed that they would not be retained for next season. This was James’ third season with the Bucks while Brown and Akana were in the first season. Todd was in the first season of his third tenure with the team.

Usefulness of the minor league

The Sacramento Bee (Scott Howard-Cooper) reports: Seven seasons after the NBA started the D-League as a training ground for all levels, from management and referees to players and coaches, the Lakers and San Antonio Spurs remain the only franchises to run their own affiliate. No matter how logical it seems for the development of first-round picks and other well-regarded hopefuls, the 28 other organizations, including the Kings, share assignments and have no authority to dictate the critical decisions of hiring coaches, distribution of minutes or the style of play. “I think it is a big advantage (for L.A. and San Antonio),” Timberwolves general manager Jim Stack said. “They’re running all their stuff. They can kind of control it how they want to control it, where we may be able to influence it, but we don’t control it. There’s that level of difference between those two things.” … That 29 of the free agents have been signed this season indicates the D-League is serving a purpose for players who would otherwise be scattered around smaller minor leagues and overseas. But the unmistakable trend of the parent clubs keeping top young players in the NBA, even with limited minutes, rather than sending them down, raises speculation that some front offices don’t trust the affiliate.

Josh Howard likes to smoke marijuana

The AP (Jamie Aron) reports: Hours before the Dallas Mavericks’ biggest game of the year, forward Josh Howard went on the radio Friday to talk about something else — his fondness for marijuana. It was quite a follow-up to teammate Jerry Stackhouse calling opposing coach Byron Scott “a sucker in my book” on local airwaves. Howard’s comments are more serious because marijuana use is illegal and eligible for punishment from the NBA. It’s a topic he’s addressed before, but never so publicly, so close to tipping off such an important game, the Mavericks down 0-2 in their first-round series against the New Orleans Hornets. “Most of the players in the league use marijuana and I have and do partake in smoking weed in the offseason sometimes,” Howard told The Michael Irvin Show on the local ESPN affiliate. “I mean, that’s my personal choice and my personal opinion, but I don’t think that’s stopping me from doing my job.”

The San Antonio Express-News (Mike Monroe) reports: Boris Diaw said he has a good “book” on how to defend his friend [Tony Parker]. “I think it does help a little bit because I’ve seen him play a lot,” Diaw said. “I kind of know sometimes when he wants to go to his floater, when he tries to go for his jump shot, or when he is looking to pass. But the main thing is trying to stay close to him and bother the pass or the shot.” Parker was willing to heap praise on Diaw’s offense, if not his defense. The Suns’ forward was just two rebounds shy of a triple double, with 20 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Parker’s praise was offered with a caveat.

Apr. 27: Pistons 93, Sixers 84

The AP reports: Tayshaun Prince scored 23 points and made all but one shot from the field, and Detroit played with a purpose and dominated the second half to beat the Philadelphia 76ers 93-84 on Sunday night, tying the best-of-seven Eastern Conference playoff series at 2-2… All the euphoria the Sixers created after a 20-point win in Game 3 only grew as they raced to a 14-point first-half lead. The younger, faster, confident Sixers were taking it to the aging, slumping Pistons yet again. Then those 59-win Pistons showed up in the third quarter… The Pistons picked up the defensive pressure and forced seven turnovers in the third. Detroit played like the 76ers did in Game 3, with active hands in the lane and pressure up top that rattled the upstart home team. Stat Notes: The Sixers shot better than the Pistons did from the field, but the Pistons took 80 shots, the Sixers just 67. Credit Pistons hustle to getting those extra attempts. Neither team was impressive from three-point range. Both teams made 19 free throws, but the Pistons did it on fewer attempts. Rebounding and assists were close. For the Pistons, Tayshaun Prince shot 11-of-12 for 23 points, 6 rebounds and 4 steals. Rasheed Wallace (4-of-7 three-pointers) had 20 points, 10 rebounds and too many turnovers. Chauncey Billups shot a miserable 4-of-16 but got free throws for 18 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists. And Richard Hamilton shot just 7-of-22 for 18 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists. Antonio McDyess shot 5-of-8 for 10 bench points. For the Sixers, all five starters scored between 12 and 15 points, and Louis Williams had 10 off the bench. Samuel Dalembert had 12 rebounds.

Apr. 27: Suns 105, Spurs 86

The AP reports: A Frenchman put Phoenix on the brink of elimination, another brought the Suns back to life. Boris Diaw fell two assists shy of a triple-double Sunday and the Suns avoided a first-round sweep at the hands of San Antonio with a 105-86 rout of the Spurs. Diaw, starting in place of injured Grant Hill, had 20 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists in one of the best playoff performances of his career… Diaw also played tough defense on his good friend and fellow Frenchman Tony Parker, who scored 18 points after a career-high 41 in San Antonio’s 115-99 victory Friday night in Game 3… No one was more aggressive than Raja Bell, who scored 21 of his 27 points in a dominant first half to help Phoenix bring a one-sided end to the defending NBA champions’ nine-game playoff winning streak. The Suns were 11-0 in the regular season when Bell scored at least 20… The Suns won in a blowout even though Amare Stoudemire scored just seven points and Steve Nash had four assists. Nash and Leandro Barbosa scored 15 apiece for the Suns. Shaquille O’Neal had 14 points and 12 rebounds. D’Antoni drew two technicals and was ejected with 3:38 to play and his team up 104-80… San Antonio was 4-for-19 shooting with six turnovers in the first two quarters. The Spurs cut it to 12 three times in the second quarter, the last at 49-37 on Ginobili’s 15-foot bank shot with 4:55 to go. Phoenix, though, scored the next 12—six on free throws by Bell—to go up 61-37 on Diaw’s layup with 1:33 left in the half.

Apr. 27: Cavs 100, Wizards 97

The AP reports: At game’s end, LeBron James was just as collected, drawing waves of Washington Wizards defenders before dishing to Delonte West for a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 5.4 seconds left. That shot, along with James’ 34 points and 12 rebounds, led the Cavaliers to a 100-97 victory on Sunday and a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference playoff series… James got help Sunday from more than just West, whose career playoff-high 21 points included five 3-pointers. Daniel Gibson made four 3s, and Ben Wallace had 12 rebounds—part of a remarkable 51-31 edge on the boards for Cleveland. One small sequence that epitomized things: At the end of the third quarter, Joe Smith’s three-point play followed two offensive rebounds and gave the Cavaliers an 80-73 edge. Wizards coach Eddie Jordan was succinct: “We didn’t rebound.” Antawn Jamison led Washington with 23 points and 11 rebounds, while Caron Butler added 19 points. But it was Stevenson who was at the center of the key play. LeBron vs. DeShawn had been mainly an off-court rivalry, prompted in part by Stevenson calling James overrated, and extending to involve rap megastar Jay-Z and one-hit wonder Soulja Boy. James’ pal Jay-Z created a song dissing Stevenson that was played at a D.C. club this weekend. Stat Notes: The Wizards shot a bit better than the Cavs from the field, but the Cavs nailed 13-of-28 (5 from Delonte West, 4 from Daniel Gibson and 3 from LeBron James) while the Wizards hit a respectable 7-of-19. But the Cavs dominated rebounding, 51-31 and dished 23 assists, the Wizards 18. For the Cavs, James had 34 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists. Delonte West (7-of-12, 5-of-8 threes) had 21 points. Gibson had 12. Ben Wallace had 0 points and 12 rebounds. For the Wizards, Antawn Jamison had 23 points, 11 rebounds and 3 steals. Caron Butler had 19 points and 4 assists. Brendan Haywood had 16 points and 6 rebounds. DeShawn Stevenson had 13 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. Gilbert Arenas wasn’t good, shooting 3-of-8 for 10 points, two steals, but more turnovers than assists.

Apr. 26: Jazz 86, Rockets 82

The AP reports: Mehmet Okur can expect to get something nice from teammate Deron Williams. Okur bailed out Williams when he missed two free throws with 7.3 seconds left, then Okur made two from the line to seal an 86-82 win over the Houston Rockets on Saturday that put the Jazz up 3-1 in the best-of-7 series. “Memo saved my butt. I ought to give him something. I ought to buy him a car or something,” Williams said. Okur had 18 rebounds, Carlos Boozer added 14 and the Jazz made up for some dismal outside shooting by controlling the lane… Williams scored eight of his 17 points in the fourth quarter, starting an 8-0 run after Houston had trimmed a 16-point lead to just one with 10:39 left… Tracy McGrady, who is 0-6 in playoff series, scored 23 points to lead the Rockets. McGrady was taunted with the chant “Over-Rated!” when he went to the foul line late in the game. He scored just four points in another quiet final quarter… McGrady also led Houston with eight assists and 10 rebounds, but the Rockets were outrebounded 48-41… Andrei Kirilenko added an exclamatory block as the buzzer sounded and the Jazz left the court one win away from advancing. Kirilenko scored 11 and Ronnie Brewer had 12 points and two blocks as all five Utah starters scored in double figures.

Apr. 26: Hawks 102, Celtics 93

The AP reports: Give Josh Smith a perfect 10 in his personal dunking contest. And give the Atlanta Hawks some credit: The team that was supposed to get swept by big, bad Boston in the opening round of the playoffs pulled off a win that was nine years in the making. The high-flying Smith scored 27 points and the Hawks earned their first playoff victory since 1999, beating the Celtics 102-93 Saturday night to cut Boston’s lead in the series to 2-1… “We’re not satisfied,” said Joe Johnson, who added 23 points for Atlanta… The Hawks took control in the third quarter, outscoring the Celtics 28-18 and limiting Boston to 5-of-21 shooting. Atlanta went on to its first playoff win since May 16, 1999, a Game 5 clincher over the Detroit Pistons… Rookie Al Horford was a force on the inside. He had 17 points, 14 rebounds, six assists and showed he wasn’t afraid of the mighty Celtics, jawing with Paul Pierce in the final minute. Kevin Garnett led Boston with 32 points, but the NBA’s youngest playoff team had him kneeling over, looking totally exhausted, by the end of the game.

Apr. 26: Lakers 108, Nuggets 84

The AP reports: Kobe Bryant led a balanced offense with 22 points and the Los Angeles Lakers took a 3-0 lead in their first-round series, routing the flustered Nuggets 102-84 on Saturday… Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson shot a combined 10-for-38 and finished with 16 and 15 points, respectively… Iverson sat out all but 1:11 of the fourth quarter, when Nuggets coach George Karl emptied his bench, prompting Anthony to accuse the team of quitting… Luke Walton added 15 points off the bench for Los Angeles, and Pau Gasol and Fisher each scored 14. … Lakers F Ronny Turiaf, who lost 11 pounds and missed Game 2 with tonsillitis, was scoreless in three minutes. … Nuggets C Marcus Camby was held scoreless in a playoff game for the first time since 2000.

Apr. 26: Magic 106, Raptors 94

The AP reports: Jameer Nelson scored 12 of his 19 points in the final period, including 10 straight at one stretch, and the Orlando Magic beat the Toronto Raptors 106-94 on Saturday to take a 3-1 lead in their first-round playoff series… Rashard Lewis added 27 points and 13 rebounds, and Dwight Howard added 19 points, 16 boards and eight blocks for the third-seeded Magic, who host Game 5 of this first-round series Monday night. Chris Bosh set a career playoff-high with 39 points and added 15 rebounds for the Raptors, while T.J. Ford had 12 points and 13 assists… Toronto stayed close until back-to-back 3-pointers by Hedo Turkoglu and Lewis gave the Magic a 100-92 lead with 1:31 remaining. Turkoglu had 18 points and nine rebounds. Keith Bogans scored 12 points for Orlando… Jason Kapono and Anthony Parker each scored 12 for the Raptors, who were just 2-for-15 from 3-point range. Bosh finished 16-for-26.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (Charles F. Gardner) reports: The Olympic basketball draw was held in Beijing this morning, and the U.S. was placed in a group with host China, defending world champion Spain and Angola. Two other teams will join the group after advancing from an Olympic qualifying tournament in Greece in July. On the opening day of men’s basketball competition (Aug. 10), the U.S. will play China, setting up the chance for Bucks players Yi Jianlian and Michael Redd to face each other. Bucks center Andrew Bogut and his Australian national team landed in Group A, along with defending Olympic champion Argentina, Russia, Lithuania and Iran. The sixth team in that group will come from the Athens tournament… A Chinese basketball official recently confirmed that Yi will be the first torchbearer on May 4 when the Olympic torch returns to mainland China, in the resort city of Sanya in the province of Hainan.

Basketball blog