Morning Shootaround — April 20

VIDEO: Highlights from games played Sunday


Wise LeBron shows Cavaliers the way | Green downplays ‘scrimmage’ comments about Pelicans | Clippers rough up Spurs | Bulls expecting different Bucks in Game 2

No. 1: Wise LeBron shows Cavaliers the way — The man with all of the playoff experience in Cleveland set the tone for the home team Sunday. Yes, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love shined in their playoff debut. But wise old head LeBron James is the man who lit the path for his teammates and put the Cavaliers in control in Game 1 against the Boston Celtics. Joe Vardon of the Plain Dealer provides the details:

Fatherhood has been a theme for LeBron James throughout the course of this season.

James’ wife, Savannah, gave birth to the couple’s third child, daughter Zhuri, in October. So, naturally, that was a reason for James to talk about being a dad.

The topic came up again for more philosophical reasons; deep, philosophical issues like when to talk to his two sons about racism or whether or not it’s safe to let them play football.

Once, after a November win over Boston, James, 30, said his teammates were “like my kids” — a reference to the Cavaliers’ younger players learning the finer points of basketball the way his sons learn their school material.

Really, James has played the role of teacher all season, with varying degrees of success.

The thing about being a parent, though, is sometimes the lesson is taught by example. The Cavs’ 113-100 win over the Celtics in Game 1 of an Eastern Conference first-round playoff series Sunday was that time for James.

When the ball went in the air Sunday, James became the franchise’s all-time leader with 72 playoff games. It was his 159th career playoff game, counting his four years and two titles with Miami, and during the game he surpassed Michael Jordan (1,022 assists) for the ninth-most playoff assists in league history.

By contrast, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, and Matthew Dellavedova – four players James relies on in some form — were playing their first-career playoff games.

James spoke to the team before the game about his first playoff game (more on that game later), but he needed to show them. Matched up defensively against former Ohio State standout Evan Turner, James hounded him over the game’s first five minutes. Once, the ball landed in Turner’s hands behind halfcourt, and James was so close to him that Turner could barely turn around.

Turner was trying to move along the perimeter, both with and without the ball, and James was stuck on his every step. Offensively, James scored on a layup in transition and got to the foul line twice. He registered two assists before his hand shot up with 6:45 to go – not even halfway through the first quarter – for coach David Blatt to give him a breather.

“LeBron really pushed himself early, almost to the point of forcing himself to hit that limit, come out, catch his second wind, and then play,” Blatt said. “I think he even did it on purpose.”


No. 2: Green downplays scrimmage comments about Pelicans Anthony Davis is to be feared. That’s the way the Golden State Warriors feel after getting a wicked dose of Davis in Game 1 of their first round playoff series. Any reported derogatory comments about the Pelicans from Warriors star Draymond Green, however, have been misinterpreted. Sam Amick of USA TODAY Sports has more:

Just two days after TNT analyst Charles Barkley told the basketball world that the Warriors’ undersized frontline would struggle against talents like Davis, the 6-foot-7 Green dominated the match-up when it mattered most while getting quality help from Bogut. To that end, it took just one game for a Warriors team that is often labeled as fun-and-finesse to win with the kind of gritty defense (New Orleans shot just 42.2%) that earned them the league’s top defensive ranking this season. And one day after making the kind of headlines that Kerr would prefer they avoid — “Draymond: Anthony Davis has no go-to move,” it read — even Green seemed to be on board with the let-sleeping-dogs-lie approach.

“It’s a great challenge,” Green told USA TODAY Sports about facing Davis. “Obviously you don’t always get a chance to line up against an All-Star, an All-NBA player, so when you do, you take that challenge head on. I was definitely excited about the challenge and idea of playing him possibly seven games. You want to get the better of that match-up. He’s a great player, so I look forward to (the match-up).”

If anyone can appreciate a player finding motivation in any form, it’s Green. Barkley’s commentary is the latest example, but it seems as if something is said on a weekly basis — at least — that becomes fuel for his fire. The tables were turned when it came to the “scrimmage” situation, and Green — like Bogut before him — was quick to clarify that perception didn’t meet reality on that front.

As the story goes, a Pelicans ball boy heard the Warriors say the game in New Orleans was a scrimmage. That message was relayed back to the home team, and Davis deemed it a serious enough offense that he mentioned that it was added motivation in his postgame television interview. Most assumed it had been Green who made the comment, but he said that wasn’t the case.

“Our team was joking,” Green said. “Their ballboy likes to talk a lot of junk, and we’ll talk junk back. But there’s this belief that I was the one who said it. I’ll take the credit for it, but I’m not. I’m not one to throw someone under the bus.

“They were saying some things. We were saying some things. I wouldn’t necessarily say we called it a scrimmage, but there were some words back and forth. It happens every time we play them. … They just felt the need to try to motivate themselves.”


No. 3: Clippers rough up Spurs — Underdogs, huh? Don’t tell that to the Los Angeles Clippers, the No. 1 offensive team in the NBA this season and the crew that waxed the reigning champion San Antonio Spurs in Game 1 Sunday. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Co. handled the Spurs just the way they planned. Ben Bolch of The Los Angeles Times has more:

All the Clippers needed to do, they said, was do play to their considerable strengths to do what many figured was unlikely: beat the Spurs.

The Clippers unveiled a template for what that looks like Sunday night at Staples Center during a 107-92 victory in their playoff opener.

There was Blake Griffin dunking and Chris Paul darting and Matt Barnes grappling and Jamal Crawford shooting the Spurs into submission, just like the Clippers scripted it.

Griffin unfurled a dizzying array of dunks on the way to 26 points and Paul was a game-long menace with 32 points on 13-for-20 shooting to go with seven rebounds and six assists.

“The team goes as we go and we sort of feed off each other,” Paul said. “Blake was so aggressive early and it opened it up for me.”

The Clippers will try for a repeat performance in Game 2 Wednesday night at Staples Center.

San Antonio Coach Gregg Popovich pulled his starters in the final few minutes after his team largely sputtered in the opening of its title defense. Guards Tony Parker and Danny Green combined to make two of their first 16 shots before finally heating up a bit after the Clippers had stretched their lead into double digits.

“The game was their defense was better than our offense,” said Popovich, who provided a summary after reporters’ questions weren’t to his liking. “Their aggressiveness, their physicality, their athleticism really hurt us offensively.”


No. 4: Bulls expecting different Bucks in Game 2 — The Milwaukee Bucks needed a sparring session in Game 1 of their playoff series against the Chicago Bulls. Adjustments, no doubt, will be made. And the Bucks believe that the outcome of Game 2 has more to do with said adjustments made on their part than it will anything the Bulls bring to the party. The Bulls are expecting as much. The energy and effort needed to compete in the postseason must be present. Our very own Steve Aschburner of explains:

Milwaukee’s players and coaches were remarkably quiet as they filed into their borrowed downtown gym Sunday morning to begin the adjustments process. As in, monastically quiet. It sounded like a crowd exiting a particularly powerful movie — say, “Schindler’s List” or “American Sniper” — with an emotional impact so great, normal chit-chat waits at least until the parking lot.

Actually, that’s what the Bucks had done — they watched game film and realized, without coach Jason Kidd growling about or even pointing them out, the critical flaws that undermined them the night before.

“The mistakes we made, it’s very hard,” center Zaza Pachulia said. “When you give up 60 points the first half, it’s very hard to win, especially in the playoffs. Offensively we hit a pace — we scored over 50 points. But defense killed us in the first half. Once they start scoring easy layups and offensive put-backs, then second half, the basket looked big for them. Rose is not known as a 3-point shooter but he made a couple — that’s because we gave him confidence early on.”

So let’s hear the list, Zaza, for Game 2.

“We have to play harder. We have to play with more discipline. We have to pay more attention to detail, the little things,” he said. “Put some more energy. And helping each other, obviously. We’re built with helping each other. We never play the whole season long with just 1-on-1 individual defense.”

It wasn’t clear whether the Bucks actually threw single coverage at key Chicago players or if they were so shoddy in their double-teams and traps that the Bulls just felt that comfortable. They did sufficiently prioritize Pau Gasol; the Bulls’ big man averaged 24.3 points on 54.7 percent shooting against Milwaukee in four regular-season meetings, and was held Saturday to 10 points on 5-of-17.

But that focus only opened up opportunity for Rose and Jimmy Butler, who had a game-high 25 points. To Pachulia, that means the Bucks need to help Michael Carter-Williams and Giannis Antetokounmpo more in their matchups, lest they become mismatches.

“As the bigs, we have the job of loading and helping guards,” Pachulia said.

At the other end, Milwaukee felt it let the Bulls off the hook by letting the ball “stick,” as they say, before settling for too many one-pass or no-pass shots. Consider this from SportVU tracking: the Bucks made just 246 passes, to Chicago’s 357.

Another sore point: Kidd wasn’t happy with the Bucks’ assertiveness in attacking the basket. “For us, paint touches is something that we try to keep track of,” the coach said. “When we have paint touches, a lot of good things have happened for us. Last night was probably very low in that regards.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Portland gets manhandled by the Memphis Grizzlies in their playoff opener … Nothing beats Brian Shaw rapping the pregame scouting report … Al Horford admits to discomfort with dislocated finger, but how will it affect him going forward is the biggest question … The mighty Spurs could not find their offense in Los Angeles SundayCP3 relishes a legitimate title run in Los Angeles

ICYMI of the Night: Blake Griffin kicked off the playoffs in vintage fashion, with two dunks that went viral instantly. Check them out in the Top 10 plays from Sunday’s action … 

VIDEO: Blake Griffin goes at the to the rim against the Spurs in the Top 10 plays



  1. Game Time says:

    Clippers should pull this off in 5. This series will be decided by how well Blake and CP3 play, and also how much San Antonio’s bench can step up.

  2. harriethehawk says:

    I have to admit, I don’t like these teams, but they came out strong and played impressive basketball this weekend: The Flippers and the Cavaliers. Well done guys.

  3. Indiana'sownLarryBird says:

    Blake spun on dude then banged on oh boy.. Nasty !!!!!

  4. j00sh says:

    it is good the cavs have gotten a little bit of experience. it will help them bc now we all know they will sweep the celtics

  5. ImMe says:

    The post game interview with Jason Kidd, all he said was our team is ONLY about defense, not offence, just defence, like ok.. You need to have some faith in your offence, can’t beat a good DEFENSIVE team like the bulls you twat

  6. alex harrison says:

    The Washington/Raptors series to me is the only one worth watching in the East. The rest of the series will be strictly chalk. I would not be surprised if the Cavs, Hawks, and Bulls all swept. Looking forward to Game 2 tonight of the Warriors/Pelicans. Curious as to the reactions of both teams from Game 1. I think the Pelican’s gained a little confidence cutting the large lead down the stretch. But I also think the warriors won’t take their feet off of the gas tonight. Expecting a big win for Warriors. Good article on SH about the MVP race. It is Curry’s to lose:

  7. Bstarr says:

    Go Clips!!! Finish them in 5!!!!

    Hope for WCF LAC-GSW & wanna see CP3 gets his revenge on StephC

    Go Clips!!!

  8. Amador Amor says:

    The opportunistic Lebron did it again. Remember when he moved to Miami in 2010 and he boldly shouted in front of the adoring fans that the Heat would win not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six NBA titles? Well, the self-proclaimed king decided to move back to Cleveland when Wade started to stagnate and suffered injuries. What happened to his promises of winning titles withe Heat of more than 4 rings? It shows you how opportunistic he is now that he’s got younger teammates in Irving, Love, etc. Karma will return to him and Cleveland will not win a championship this year.