Morning Shootaround — May 4


VIDEO: Highlights from Sunday’s playoff action from around the NBA

NEWS OF THE MORNING

The Clippers have an edge over the Rockets | Rugged Wizards still unblemished in the postseason | Can the Cavaliers handle the Bulls without Love, Smith? | Parade plans being made in Golden State

No. 1: The Clippers have an edge over the Rockets — Even with Chris Paul “questionable” for Game 1 of the Los Angeles Clippers’ Western Conference semifinal against the Houston Rockets, the Clippers are confident. They have an edge, of sorts, over the Rockets, according to Ben Bolch of The Los Angeles Times:

After edging the five-time NBA champion San Antonio Spurs in the first round, the Clippers have advanced to face a team with a lesser recent playoff pedigree than themselves.

The Houston Rockets have won two playoff series since 1997, one fewer than the Clippers have won since Chris Paul arrived in December 2011.

It’s true that Rockets guard Jason Terry won a championship with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011 and stars James Harden and Dwight Howard each advanced to the Finals with other teams, but the group has done little collectively besides getting past the Mavericks in a relatively breezy first-round series this season.

The Rockets and Clippers each won 56 games in the regular season, finishing tied for the league’s third-best record. The Rockets were awarded the second seeding in the Western Conference and the accompanying homecourt advantage in this conference semifinal series against the third-seeded Clippers by virtue of winning the Southwest Division.

The Clippers have dominated Houston in recent seasons, winning 11 of the last 14 games. But the Rockets won the final two games between the teams this season and Howard did not play in any of the four games in the series this season.

“Obviously, they have a good thing going,” Clippers forward Blake Griffin said. “James has had an unbelievable year, Dwight had a huge series against Dallas and really all the way down the line. They’re a great team.”

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No. 2: Rugged Wizards still unblemished in the postseason — The standard for toughness and determination in this postseason, at least in the Eastern Conference, is the Washington Wizards. Playing on the road to start both their first round series and the conference semifinals, the Wizards remain unblemished, perfect after five games. They are the embodiment of toughness, says Mike Lee of The Washington Post:

Bradley Beal and John Wall showed up at the postgame podium looking as if they had just been sparring for 12 rounds instead of playing basketball for four quarters. Beal had petroleum jelly covering two scratches under his right eye that came after Atlanta Hawks reserve guard Kent Bazemore inexplicably kicked him in the face while chasing down a loose ball. Wall had his left wrist and hand heavily taped after an awkward landing that was exacerbated by Beal tripping and falling on him.

At different times during the Washington Wizards’ 104-98 victory over the Hawks in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, Beal and Wall provided moments of spectacular play and trepidation for a team that suddenly doesn’t know how to lose. Beal matched his playoff career high with 28 points, his third 20-point game this postseason. Wall added 18 points and a game-high 13 assists , extending a string of four consecutive double-doubles that has seen him dish out 55 assists over those games. Beal and Wall have been a representation of the mental and physical toughness required to win at this time of year, having already led the Wizards to more postseason wins in the past two seasons than the previous 27 seasons combined.

“We two guys that’s going to fight until the end,” Wall said after winning at Philips Arena for just the second time in his career and first time this season. “If it ain’t broke, you can’t get us off the court.”

The win almost felt bittersweet after Beal sprained his right ankle in the fourth quarter when he landed awkwardly on Hawks center Al Horford. Beal returned to hobble around for a few minutes but finally got benched, pulled a towel over his head and sobbed uncontrollably as the final seconds ticked off. He continued to weep through a postgame television interview and on his way for X-rays , which turned out negative. With a protective sleeve on his right leg, Beal walked with a slight limp after the game, and Coach Randy Wittman was uncertain about Beal’s availability for Game 2.

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No. 3: Can the Cavaliers handle the Bulls without Love, Smith? — No Kevin Love. No J.R. Smith (for the first two games). Some think that’s a “no go” for the Cleveland Cavaliers as they open their Eastern Conference semifinal series tonight against the Chicago Bulls. But LeBron James and Kyrie Irving might have something to say about that. Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer raises some questions and provides some answers as this long awaited series gets ready for tip off:

1. It’s impossible to know how the Cavs will play in the first two games. Once General Manager David Griffin made his two deals in January, J.R. Smith sat out only one game with the Cavs. That was a 117-78 loss to Boston when the Cavs rested most of their key players, a game meaning nothing. So it’s only this game where we’ll see what the Cavs look like without Kevin Love (shoulder surgery) and Smith (two-game suspension).

2. That’s why it’s so hard to know how the Cavs will perform against the Bulls. It’s great to have LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, they give your team a chance in nearly every game. But the Bulls are a tall team, and they also have some skilled scorers. I’m very, very worried about this matchup.

3. The 6-foot-10 Love would have been a big deal in the Bulls series. He probably would have been defended by Joakim Noah or Pau Gasol — pulling one of the Bulls big men away from the basket. Coach David Blatt loves a power forward — “a Stretch-4” — who can shoot. That’s Love. Without him, James Jones will be the best option for some parts in the game when the Cavs want a power forward who can shoot. But Jones won’t demand the defensive attention of Love.

4. When the Cavs start Smith and Love, the have two guys capable of making jump shots from long range. That helps keep the middle open for James and Irving to drive to the rim. Of course, Irving and James also can shoot from the outside. But they are even more dangerous when they drive to the rim.

5. When Smith returns from his suspension, the Cavs can play three guards — Iman Shumpert, Smith and Irving — with James at power forward and a big man (Timofey Mozgov or Tristan Thompson) at center. Not sure what they will do in the first two games with no Smith, other than Shawn Marion will see some action at forward — and Mike Miller at guard.

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No. 4: Parade plans being made in Golden State — Five down and 11 more to go for the Golden State Warriors, who have looked every bit of the championship caliber team many assumed they would after an epic regular season. Sure, there is a long way to go, but the path is there for them to grind all the way to a championship. Tim Kawakami of the Mercury News has done the math and is convinced that there will be parade through the streets of Oakland this summer:

There was one moment among the many, one move among the multitudes, one particularly providential part of Game 1 at Oracle Arena on Sunday.

It was presumptive MVP Stephen Curry casually dribbling into a high screen-and-roll, luring Zach Randolph to the perimeter … and then a sudden Curry fake that sent Randolph lunging to the right, a Curry sublime flash to the left, and a 3-point splash.

It was poetry. It shook the walls of the old building.

What opponent can stop that? Who can beat the Warriors when they have everything going at full throttle?

Nobody. That’s sort of important to know and point out, 11 victories from a title.

And though it was just a single play on the way to the Warriors’ commanding 101-86 victory over Memphis, it communicated everything important about this team and that player.

This is why the Warriors are already in total control of this series, this is why Curry will win the MVP on Monday (reported first by CSN Bay Area, with a 1 p.m. news conference as reported by this newspaper’s Marcus Thompson II).

And this is why the Warriors are in such a special place, time and mood.

Curry and his teammates know they can’t look too far ahead — not even to potentially winning the MVP, Curry said Sunday.

They realize that any little stumble or loss of focus could put them in jeopardy at any time.

But if they play like this for the rest of the playoffs, the Warriors are going to win the championship, there just isn’t much doubt anymore.

“It’s a fun time,” Curry said after his 22-point, seven-assist, four-steal performance. “The pressure is on.

“The vibe around the league is at a high, and I think we’re ready for the moment, just trying to stay in the moment.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Hawks have dug themselves a hole and must grind their way out of it, with the starting unit on the floor more, in the Eastern Conference semifinals … Grizzles look ordinary without Mike Conley in their first blush against the Warriors … Spurs still dancing around questions about the future of Tim Duncan, Gregg Popovich and the crewIman Shumpert is the X-factor for the Cavaliers against his hometown Chicago Bulls …  Tom Thibodeau still has the blueprint for defeating a LeBron James led team …

7 Comments

  1. harriethehawk says:

    They were tired. They didn’t have any rest from the previous series. Let’s Go Hawks!!!! Okay, I love John Wall and Bradley Beal too, and yes they are awesome!! But my Hawks are awesome too and they will regroup! Let’s Go Hawks!! You can do it!!!!! A win for sure tomorrow night!!!

  2. OverseasNBAfan says:

    Simply put not many will remember the season Harden had 10-20 years from now, It will fade from memory..

    Fans of the game in general will know, the Warriors lead by Curry (this team of deep talent was built around his unique skill set), had one of the top 10 seasons in the NBA of ALL TIME! When a team is compared to Jordan’s Bulls or Birds Celtic’s other legendary teams long ago that’s special, a historically great team performance for the ages with their star as the driving force behind it all.

    This amazing performance now etched into the history books and our memories, It would have been an insult not to award the MVP to Curry.

  3. Paul says:

    Hey! NBA.com, don’t put videos of Steph crossing my man CP3 on Facebook. Ok, he won the MVP and that was a nice move, but I didn’t like that game because the refs cheated LA. You could put up any other video (no, not the one when he faked out CP3, any other one). Don’t make me expose you Sekou Smith.

  4. Paul says:

    I’m not even mad that they gave the award to Stephen Curry, I thought he deserved it early in the season, but after watching Harden absolutely carry the Rockets on his back night after night to victory after victory, despite the many injuries to their other stars, I thought Harden deserved it more. I’m not discounting Curry at all though, I just thought Harden edged him out as most valuable. I know Curry’s very popular now and that’s probably why the voters selected him, to please the “fans”. So please, to avoid any issues, change the name of the award to most popular player.
    I knew that Curry was going to be chosen as the MVP and I made a comment about it in the previous Morning Shootaround and an individual named Denholm stated, without knowing anything about me, let alone who I am, that I didn’t watch a Warriors game this year. Yes, Denholm, I did. I’ve been watching them since Mullin played for them and touting Curry since Davidson. I know his game sways simple minds like yours and makes you think that alone makes him MVP, but it doesn’t. Next time, could you please have a little respect for yourself the next time and try to think before you reply to someone who really knows.

  5. Indiana'sownLarryBird says:

    I’m surprised at the Wizards, did not expect them to play this well in the playoffs, Cavs and Bulls, Lebron is good enough to beat the Bulls with Kyrie, Love’s injury is going to catch up to them at some time, the Bulls are so up and down, i know what to expect inconsistent play a win a bad loss from the Bulls, the Cavs and Lebron are more consistent,

  6. Alex Ross says:

    Game 1 of the Cavs/Bulls series is one of the biggest games of the entire season for NBA basketball. A lot os riding on the outcome of tonight’s game with the Cavs having home court, but playing without Love and JR Smith. This could define the entire series. FWIW, there is a good piece on SH today about the impact of the Love injury on the series and what the Cavs need to do to still, be in a position to win the series: http://straighthoops.com/love_loss.html

    • Is it just me or is everyone else starting to realize that the people who keep posting links to straighthoops.com for nearly every story and article that is written on nba.com really just the same person who is just advertising the straighthoop.com website under a different name? Lol I remember a while back there was this one person named Johnnyhoops1980 who kept commenting on different articles and stories on nba.com stating his case based on an article that was written and published on straighthoops.com and there was another person who called him out on it and said that because his name was similar to the name of the website, that he must be a writer or someone who works for the straighthoops.com website who is just commenting on here to advertise and persuade readers to visit their website lmao