Pacers guard George Hill had ice on his sprained left big toe after the team’s shootaround Friday morning, but said he would be ready to play Friday in Game 2 of the team’s Eastern Conference finals series against Miami, report’s TNT analyst David Aldridge. Hill suffered the injury in the second half of Game 1 on Wednesday.
MIAMI – It’s another game day on Biscayne Bay, so it’s well past time to put the Vogel/Hibbert thing behind us. It’s done with, the Pacers proved that they can hang with the Heat, and they have another chance to steal home-court advantage in Game 2 on Friday (8:30 p.m. ET, TNT).
Besides, more concerning than the two layups that LeBron James got with Roy Hibbert off the floor in the final 11 seconds of overtime were the other 56 points in the paint the Heat scored in Game 1, 2 of which came with Hibbert on the floor.
The 60 points in the paint were almost twice as many as the Heat averaged (30.7) in three regular season games against the Pacers and, appropriately, were the focus of the Pacers’ film session on Thursday. The Heat shot 11-for-42 from outside the paint on Wednesday and committed 21 turnovers, but still had a solid offensive game (103 points on 97 possessions), because they were able to get to the basket so often against a defense that has typically protected it better than any other team in the league.
“We got to keep them off the glass,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said Thursday. “We got to keep them out of transition more than we did. And we got to clean up our coverages in the half court, so we don’t allow so many straight-line drives at the rim like we did [in Game 1]. And I think we can do that.”
Though there was that example of James getting an and-one when the Pacers failed to get back after a dead-ball turnover, the Heat registered only 11 fast break points on Tuesday, a not-so unacceptable amount given the Pacers’ nine live-ball turnovers. And Miami’s 16 offensive boards (and 24 second-chance points) were mostly a product of those “straight-line drives at the rim” forcing the Pacers’ bigs to help and rotate. So if the Pacers can curtail those, they’ll be in decent shape in Game 2.
The problem is that the Heat have James, the trump card to any adjustments a team might make. Still, there are some adjustments to be made, because the Heat ran their offense a lot differently in Game 1 than the New York Knicks did in the conference semifinals.
Though many of their possessions eventually turned into isolations, the Knicks did run a lot of pick-and-rolls. But they mostly ran them at Roy Hibbert, without much variation. With Hibbert’s man acting as the screener, he was able to pose a threat to the man with the ball, while also staying within reach of his man rolling to the basket (who was still in front of him).
The Heat didn’t run many pick-and-rolls at Hibbert, instead using a guard or David West‘s man as the screener and leaving Hibbert’s man on the baseline, forcing Hibbert to make a decision between the guy attacking the basket or his man behind him.
“They had a more intelligent plan against Roy Hibbert than New York did,” Vogel said. “It was effective last night and we got to adjust to it.”
Of course, the Heat’s plan wouldn’t have been a huge issue for the Pacers if West was able to contain the ball-handler better than he did.
Here’s an example where Chris Bosh sets a high screen for James, who is able to get around West.
At this point, both West and Sam Young (James’ defender) are trailing the play. James goes straight at Hibbert, gets the big man to leave the floor, and dumps the ball off the Chris Birdman, who throws down two of his 16 points.
There were countless examples in Game 1 of West getting burned on pick-and-rolls. In fact, on the very next play, James goes right by West with his left hand. He misses a scoop shot that Hibbert contests, but Andersen is right there to tip in the miss.
Another wrinkle that the Heat used was running a lot of pick-and-rolls toward the baseline, instead of toward the middle, something the Knicks had a little success with in the last round, but probably didn’t try often enough.
The Heat ran it quite a bit in the fourth quarter and overtime, mostly with Norris Cole as the ball-handler and Shane Battier (being defended by West) as the screener.
Here, West doesn’t get totally burned, but Cole uses a little in-and-out dribble move to get to the basket and draw Hibbert’s help.
Cole could hit Bosh, who is wide open in the corner here, but the advantage of the ball being on the baseline is that the defense is turned inside-out and defenders have to turn their heads away from their man. That’s exactly what Lance Stephenson does, and Dwyane Wade takes advantage by cutting to the basket. Cole dishes to Wade, who hits a short floater over West.
When West overplayed that toward-the-baseline pick-and-roll, Norris Cole went the other way, drew Ian Mahinmi‘s attention, and got Birdman another dunk …
West carried the Pacers’ offense in the first half on Wednesday and finished with 26 points. But he was largely responsible for many of the Heat’s points on the other end of the floor. And if Indiana is going to keep Miami out of the paint in Game 2, it has to start with his containment on pick-and-rolls.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – If Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals was any indication, we should be in store for an entire series that could go down as an instant classic.
That would eliminate the need for any off-court hype-including Twitter beefs, random pot shots through the media and any of the other extra-curricular foolishness that can sidetrack some good ol’ fashioned playoff-level drama that happens on the court.
U can knee or kick me every time u drive 2the rim. Ill be there 2protect the rim. That wasn't inadvertent. Battier knew what he was doing— Roy Hibbert (@Hoya2aPacer) May 23, 2013
Calling out Heat forward Shane Battier for being a dirty player isn’t a crime. Surely, Battier has been called worse throughout the course of his college (Duke) and professional career. Doing it now, though, with Game 2 of this series just hours away (8:30 p.m. ET, TNT), is just completely unnecessary.
CHICAGO – Phil Jackson has been hitting it hard on his book tour this week, talking up his latest work on late-night TV and national radio broadcasts. Still, in a spate of appearances in the city where his unparalleled NBA coaching success began, the talk invariably has veered back to the one that got away.
The book is titled “Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success” (Penguin Press, 2013). People in Chicago, where rings are hard to come by, still wonder about that missing 12th.
Oh, there wasn’t much Jackson or anyone else with the Bulls could do about the 1994 and ’95 NBA titles seized by Houston during the first of Michael Jordan‘s three NBA retirements. And no one in the audience Thursday night at the Palmer House Hilton, where Jackson appeared as part of the Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row literary series, cared much about the Lakers’ failure to win again in 2011 and finish off what would have been Jackson’s fourth three-peat.
But many in the Windy City crowd of about 750 wanted to know: What about 1999? That was the NBA’s first lockout-shortened season, a schedule that seemed perfect for a veteran-laden team like the Bulls.
And yet, they didn’t even try. The band broke up, the run was over. Jackson famously rode off on a fat motorcycle and Chicago’s NBA team all but went dark for the next half dozen seasons.
Coach Phil Jackson talks with the Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson (right) as he discusses his new book, ‘Eleven Rings’, and his long NBA career. (Courtesy Chicago Tribune)
“I know how hard it is, so many people in Chicago say, ‘You could have continued to win,’ ” Jackson told the audience. “Yes – maybe.”
Ultimately it was Jerry Krause, the Bulls’ determined general manager, who brought that run to its end, the Hall of Fame former coach said.
As stubborn as Jackson or Jordan (and often butting heads with both), Krause had made it clear to the Bulls coach that his run there was over. Team chairman Jerry Reinsdorf asked him to return but Jackson declined. “I just felt our relationship had deteriorated such that, for me to come back, it would be too difficult for Jerry Krause.”
That was the first domino. Jordan didn’t want to play for another coach and, besides, he cut his finger – with a cigar cutter, the story went – badly enough to need surgery. Dennis Rodman essentially was done as an NBA player. Scottie Pippen, Luc Longley and Steve Kerr went elsewhere to get paid better than in their Chicago stays.
It’s doubtful Krause would fill a downtown ballroom on a night the NHL Blackhawks were active in the Stanley Cup playoffs, touting a book titled “Organizations Win Rings” or something like that.
“Right up until the end, we worked well together,” Jackson said, after acknowledging their different temperaments. “We had a wonderful time as a team for three years and we really appreciated it.”
MIAMI – This is where the Indiana Pacers really miss Danny Granger.
Despite the absence of one of their best players for all but five games this season, the Pacers took a step forward. They became the No. 1 defensive team in the league, have advanced a round further than they did a year ago, and just might have what it takes to knock off the defending champs.
Paul George has stepped into Granger’s go-to-guy shoes and Lance Stephenson has stepped into a starter’s role, enough that we sometimes forget that this team is missing a former All-Star who averaged 21.6 points over the previous five seasons.
The Miami Heat are an aggressive defensive team on the strong side of the floor, looking to deny the post, trap pick-and-rolls and force turnovers. That in itself is an issue for the turnover-prone Pacers, but if they can move the ball successfully to the weak side, they can get open shots.
The problem is that the Pacers don’t have anybody on the weak side to really take advantage of the Heat’s aggressiveness. Their best 3-point shooters are George and George Hill, who are the guys handling the ball on the strong side.
Stephenson is most often the guy left open from beyond the arc, but he’s a career 30-percent shooter from 3-point range. He missed all five of his 3-point attempts in Game 1 on Wednesday (including one that could have given the Pacers a six-point lead with 1:21 left in overtime) and has missed his last 10 threes, going back to Game 4 of the conference semifinals.
The Pacers could ask Stephenson to run more pick-and-rolls so that George or Hill is on the weak side, but Stephenson is often very passive on high pick-and-rolls, rarely forcing the defense to rotate with penetration.
Granger has shot 38 percent from 3-point range over his career. Though he shot 1-for-10 from beyond the arc in Games 1 and 2 against the Heat last year, he made 11 of his next 23 treys and would obviously be a bigger weak-side threat than Stephenson. Not only that, he’d be another ball handler who could free George or Hill on the weak side.
“It’s a factor,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said of Granger’s absence on Thursday. “You got to be able to shoot the ball from the weak side against this team that loads to the strong side. So I think Danny Granger would have a profound impact on a series like this. But we got guys who have gotten the job done all year.”
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Locations change. Games change. Series change. Nobody knows that better than the Spurs and the Grizzlies.
This time a year ago, the Spurs were in precisely the same spot with a 2-0 lead and halfway home in the Western Conference finals. Then the Thunder reeled off four straight wins and suddenly it was summer in San Antonio.
Barely a month ago, the Grizzlies fell behind 0-2 in the first round of the playoffs to the Clippers. Then Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Mike Conley and the NBA’s best defense ripped off four in a row and began their deepest playoff run in franchise history.
That could be what it will take now for the Grizzlies to get up off the floor and keep moving forward.
There’s little doubt that for the Grizzlies to win four out of five games against San Antonio, they’re going to need an effective Z-Bo in the middle of their offense, throwing around his bulk and wreaking havoc in the low post.
But, while Randolph did miss more than a few easy shots at the AT&T Center (“tightest rims in the league,” he said), there has also been the matter of a Spurs defense that blatantly collapses and doubles on Z-Bo because the Memphis perimeter shooting has been so horrid.
For all of his high energy and ability to make something out of nothing at times, Randolph does need room to operate with the way the Grizzles are misfiring so bad from the outside, he’s apt to continue getting smothered by the Spurs.
The Grizzlies‘ starting pair of Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince has made just 8 of their 24 shots from the field in the first two games. Prince has been especially woeful at 3-for-10, and it could be time for coach Lionel Hollins to put Quincy Pondexter into the starting lineup at small forward for Prince — and even consider getting Jerryd Bayless onto the floor much earlier in games.
It was the combination of Conley, Pondexter and Bayless playing with the Randolph and Gasol that enabled the Grizzlies to find an offensive rhythm for the first time in the series during the second half of Game 2.
Prince has had production go steadily downhill since the first round of the playoffs, and it’s gotten to the point where he is also a liability on defense. It be too early to say where this is just a bad match and bad series or whether the 33-year-old former defensive stopper is showing his age. But there’s no mistaking that his opposite number, the 21-year-old Kawhi Leonard, is winning the matchup easily. Leonard has size, strength, quickness and energy to run the floor, get rebounds, chase down loose ball and make shots against Prince.
It was always going to be difficult for Memphis to keep up with a Spurs offense that likes to play at a faster tempo and has more weapons and more ways to score. But the Grizzlies can’t afford to dig themselves a deeper hole by employing a lineup that is only 3/5 of a threat to score, even if they should get a bounce from being at home in the Grindhouse for Games 3-4.
History says that in the history of the NBA playoffs have lost the first two games of a best-of-seven series and come back to win. Of course, both of these teams have experience with that history, although from opposite sides.
“We’re in a great spot, but if you look at it, it’s the same spot we were last year,” said the Spurs’ Manu Ginobili. “It doesn’t mean at all that we’re going to make it just because we won the first two. We have to go there and try to win one.
“If it’s the third [game], it’s better. We’ve been here. We know that it’s not over until you win the fourth. So we just have to stay humble, keep working hard, definitely try to get one [in] Memphis.”
Locations change. Games change. Series sometimes change.
But sometimes it takes a lineup change to make it happen.
TEAMS THAT HAVE RALLIED FROM 0-2 IN A BEST-OF-SEVEN PLAYOFF SERIES
–Celtics vs Lakers 1969 NBA Finals
–Lakers vs. Warriors 1969 Western Division semifinals
–Bullets vs. Knicks 1971 Eastern Conference finals
–Trail Blazers vs. 76ers 1977 NBA Finals
–Bulls vs Knicks 1993 Eastern Conference finals
–Rockets vs. Suns 1994 Western Conference semifinals
–Rockets vs. Suns 1995 Western Conference semifinals
–Lakers vs. Spurs 2004 Western Conference semifinals
–Mavericks vs. Rockets 2005 Western Conference first round
–Wizards vs. Bulls 2005 Eastern Conference first round
–Heat vs. Mavericks 2006 NBA Finals
–Jazz vs. Rockets 2007 Western Conference first round
–Cavaliers vs. Pistons 2007 Eastern Conference finals
–Spurs vs. Hornets 2008 Western Conference semifinals
–Thunder vs. Spurs 2012 Western Conference finals
–Grizzlies vs. Cippers 2013 Western Conference first round
Miami guard Mario Chalmers (bruised left shoulder) said today he expects to play in Friday’s Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against Indiana, reports TNT Analyst David Aldridge. Chalmers suffered the injury when he ran into Pacers forward David West in the second half.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra indicated that Chalmers could have played in Game 1 after the injury.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The 15 players selected to the All-NBA team every season earn a place in NBA lore that is rarely celebrated the way fans do All-Star bids.
Weighing the two, however, is a battle that shouldn’t be a fair fight. An All-star nod is often based on reputation and how well someone is playing early in a given season. The All-NBA team measures the best of the very best the league has to offer in a season. The team consists of the 15 best players (by position) in the league.
It doesn’t get much better than that.
Thursday, the NBA released this year’s squad. But what about the future? What might that team look like in say, three seasons, when Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan, stalwarts on All-NBA teams the past two decades, are no longer active?
What is the makeup of the All-NBA team in the future? What does the league look like three seasons from now?
We take a look, courtesy of the HT (Hang Time) Time Machine, at the future All-NBA Teams …
2015-16 All-NBA First Team
F LeBron James, Miami Heat: No one was sure if LeBron would stick around South Beach after the Heat won those back-to titles in 2014 and 2015. But he watched his good friend Dwyane Wade retire after the last one and vowed to finish his career in a Heat uniform as well. There are no signs of his skills diminishing either. He bounced back masterfully after the Heat were beaten soundly by the Memphis Grizzlies in The Finals in 2013. James has reinvented himself as the epitome of a point forward during the second act of his Hall-of-Fame career, leading the league in assists this season with 12.7 per game. He’s still chasing Michael Jordan‘s six championships standard, though the comparisons to Magic Johnson are much more appropriate, and at 32 he still has plenty of time left.
F Paul George, Indiana Pacers: Three straight trips to the Eastern Conference finals without a breakthrough performance would be a mental and emotional setback for most stars, but not George. He’s done nothing but build on that All-Star berth in his third NBA season. George has blossomed into the closest thing to a legitimate challenger to LeBron’s throne. He interrupted LeBron’s MVP flow in 2015, when he stunned the hoops world by averaging a triple-double (24.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and 10.0 assists) while leading the Pacers to a franchise-record 63 wins and finished as the MVP runner-up this season. The only threshold left for George to cross is to lead the Pacers past LeBron and the Heat into The 2016 Finals.
C Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies: Gasol served as the backbone for the Grizzlies’ 2013 championship team, though Zach Randolph walked away with Finals MVP honors, and solidified his status as the most complete big man in the game with his performance each season since. While he’s never piled up the kind of impressive numbers that would allow him to stick out historically among players at his position, Gasol does have three Kia Defensive Player of the Year awards on his mantle and a championship on his resume. If Ed Davis can replace Randolph as Gasol’s tag-team partner in the low post, the Grizzlies could have another run or two in them before it’s time to break this veteran crew up and start over.
G James Harden, Houston Rockets: The two-time (and counting) scoring champ, Harden has supplanted his former teammate and friend Kevin Durant as the league’s most prolific scorer. He’s averaged 30 or more points in three straight seasons, including this one (31.7) and has led the Rockets to the playoffs in each of his four seasons in Houston. Harden has evolved into more than just a scorer, too, leading the Rockets in assists (7.6) and steals (2.3) while adjusting to playing alongside Patrick Beverly in the starting lineup instead of sixth man Jeremy Lin. Harden’s career went to another level since he radically changed his look in training camp before the 2013-14 season by shaving off his trademark beard and mohawk in favor of a bald head and clean-shaven face. Who knew?
G Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors: With his ankle injuries behind him, the sweet-shooting Curry finally claims the first-team spot from Chris Paul and a crowded, star-studded point guard field. Curry’s work as a shooter — he’s shot 45 percent or better from beyond the 3-point line every season since 2011-12 — overshadows the fact that he’s become the consummate playmaker and leader for the league’s most exciting team. Curry put together a 20-10 season at the point (23.6 points and 10.4 assists), the only point guard to do so in the past three seasons, while leading the Warriors to a top four finish in the Western Conference playoff chase for the third straight season. With Curry and Klay Thompson (still the league’s best-shooting backcourt) as the catalysts, the Warriors are trying to crash the conference finals party.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – You couldn’t ask for a better fit … or better results.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is a Hall of Famer, an icon and living legend in his profession. And yet, he’s found a way to step aside and allow the spotlight to shine exactly where it needs to when he’s coaching the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team — on the NBA stars in he leads in international competition.
That’s what makes his return to his post great news for USA Basketball and chairman Jerry Colangelo, who hand-picked Coach K to take over as coach in 2005, and the future of the program. The continuity this dynamic duo brings is what will propel the program for years to come. Sure, it helps having the best talent on the planet to choose from. But the pipeline was full of talent before Colangelo and Krzyzewski got together and the results looked nothing like the 62-1 mark the Men’s Senior National Team has compiled under them.
This is one of those times when the numbers do not lie. There is something special about the bond Coach K has forged with the core members of the program that was on full display at the 2012 London Olympics. He found a way to succeed with superstars like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony and others while also continually integrating new and different faces into the mix. Under him, the U.S. won back-to-back gold medals in Beijing in 2008 and London four years later.
He found roles for guys like Kevin Love, Andre Iguodala and even a rookie like Anthony Davis, all stars in their own right and also all guys who might have been marginalized in years past on this stage. Things haven’t always run as smoothly as they have in recent years with the NBA stars involved with the program.
The all-time low point was the 2004 Athens Olympics. During that debacle, an ill-fitted group of NBA stars attempted to rescue the program’s honor on the global stage but ended up disappointing and finishing with a bronze medal. Rock bottom actually came four years earlier at the World Championships in Indianapolis in 2002, when a team coached by reigning NBA Coach of the Year George Karl was humbled on the world stage, becoming the first team with NBA players to fall in international competition while finishing an ugly sixth in the competition on home soil.
I was there in Indy and, as a fan of the international game and the fact that it’s played differently than the NBA style, it was as brutal to watch the U.S. struggle with that adjustment as it was to see them come apart at the seams.
Those back-to-back failures led directly to Colangelo and then Krzyzewski coming on board to help rehabilitate the program, complete with the formation of a robust Men’s Senior National Team roster that included commitments from many of the game’s biggest current stars. And they had to be willing to subject themselves to a grueling tryout process that could bruise plenty of egos along the way.
It wasn’t just about piling up a bunch of stars and throwing them into the unfamiliar international mix, where national teams from Argentina and Spain were gaining major steam. It was about rounding up the right stars that would embrace the team dynamic in ways that the players on the ’02 and ’04 teams refused to or simply could not.
You know the cupboard is stacked when you have All-Stars like Kyrie Irving, Jrue Holiday and other young stars willing to give up their summers to try to earn a place on the teams that will compete in the 2014 World Championships in Madrid and the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro.
Things have changed for the better with the power structure USA Basketball employed to help them regain their stature as the best in the world. And there’s no reason to assume they’ll do anything but continue that reign and improve upon that rock-solid foundation for years to come with Colangelo and Coach K at the helm.
HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – When a couple small-market Western Conference teams battled for seven grueling games in the semifinals of the playoffs two years ago, who could have foreseen that they would meet again this postseason — after each was forced to deal with the inescapable repercussions of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement?
Rudy Gay was injured and out of that postseason two years ago. But at only 24 and locked into a lucrative contract, the No. 8 pick of the 2006 NBA Draft was a central figure for the fast-rising Memphis Grizzlies. Yet on Jan. 30, 2013, Gay, the team’s leading scorer, was traded to Toronto.
In Oklahoma City, the Thunder were coming off a loss to the Miami Heat in the 2012 NBA Finals when, days before this season began, Thunder general manager Sam Presti dealt former No. 3 pick James Harden, just 23 and an integral part of the team’s success, to Houston.
In a postseason marked by a surprising domination of small-market teams — all four teams remaining in the playoffs are in the bottom half of the league in market size — the second-round showdown between the Grizzlies and Thunder (won by the Grizzlies in five games) demonstrated just what many teams have to do to thrive in the era of the still-new CBA.
“With the rules set up the way they are, there’s minimal room for error,” said Jason Levien, the first-year CEO of the Grizzlies under a new ownership group led by one of the world’s youngest tech billionaires, Robert Pera. “You’ve got to be very thoughtful in your approach to how you build your team, how you build a roster, and you’ve got to keep the cap and the tax in mind.”
Avoiding the taxes
Cap and tax are at the forefront of the strategy the Oklahoma City management team is using under the ownership of billionaire energy mogul Clay Bennett. Presti, who has managed to re-sign superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, plus emerging power forward Serge Ibaka, to long-term deals that fit within the team’s cap structure, chose to hold firm to a policy of not commenting on matters related to the CBA.
In Memphis, where the Grizzlies will look to start digging out of a 2-0 hole against the San Antonio Spurs in Saturday’s Game 3 of the West finals (9 p.m., ESPN), Levien has defended the trade of Gay (for veteran small forward Tayshaun Prince and youngsters Ed Davis and Austin Daye) as being made to improve the team.
While that might be true — Memphis won a franchise-best 56 games after a strong start with Gay — the Grizzlies also got out of the $37.2 million owed to Gay over the next two seasons. Memphis will pay Prince, Davis and Daye a combined $26 million over that span ($22 million if Daye is not retained beyond next season). With Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley owed a combined $40.9 million next season, keeping Gay and a payroll under the tax line (this season it was $70.3 million) would have been a near-impossibility.