Morning Shootaround — May 11




VIDEO: Highlights from games played May 10

NEWS OF THE MORNING
Kyrie dealing with more than he’s letting on | Clippers hack their way to cusp of history | Wall unlikely to play in Game 4 | Vultures circling Warriors

No. 1: Kyrie dealing with more than he’s letting on — Cleveland’s Big 3 of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love has been reduced to a injury unit Big 1.5. Even LeBron is hobbled right now with a sore ankle he turned in Sunday’s buzzer-beating win over the Chicago Bulls. Love is gone for the postseason after shoulder surgery. But Irving is dealing with more than just a sore left ankle. He’s dealing with more than he’s letting on, a gusty but dangerous move for the young point guard in the midst of his first ever playoff experience. Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group explains:

Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving is hurting more than he is letting on.

He’s dealing with more than just the right foot strain that was made public by coach David Blatt on Friday, even though the injury occurred almost three weeks ago in Game 2 of the first-round series against the Boston Celtics.

After the huge Game 4 victory over the Chicago Bulls to even the series, I asked him directly in the media scrum to address if there’s anything wrong with his left leg, and he paused briefly, before responding “Nah. Nah, there’s nothing wrong.”

As soon as the media contingent dissipated, Irving said, “Chris, you’re very observant.”

Irving’s left leg has been wrapped in dynamic taping, which is elastic that helps support the structure of the body. The pain is believed to be caused due to overcompensating. Upon exiting the arena last night with a grimacing expression plastered to his face, Irving walked gingerly and limped extremely noticeably.

However, it wasn’t his right foot that he was favoring. He was very cautious with each step not to place weight on his left leg. The Cavaliers are calling it a “sore left leg,” for the time being.

Irving is guarded when it comes to not revealing injuries and their extent, not wanting to give the opponent any sort of an advantage. He said “that’s Basketball 101.”

He’s laboring out there. The speed, the acceleration, the first step isn’t there. He’s giving it all he has, and has no plans of letting his team down. He’s in it until the very end.

“I’d rather will it out and give it a chance, than sitting back and watching my brothers compete without me,” Irving said.


VIDEO: Kyrie Irving talks after the Cavs’ Game 4 win

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No. 2: Clippers hack their way to cusp of history — History in the making, that’s the road the Los Angeles Clippers are on right now. Believe it or not, the Clippers, long a doormat in the NBA, are poised to make history by reaching the Western Conference finals. They are one win away from getting there after hammering the Houston Rockets for the second time in as many games. Is Los Angeles ready for that team not named the Lakers to give chase for a NBA title? Mike Bresnahan of The Los Angeles Times has explains:

The Clippers have never made it to the Western Conference finals in 45 years of a mostly despondent existence, but the equivalent of an NBA miracle might happen this week.

The odds were ever in their favor after they shrugged off the Houston Rockets and the numbingly boring strategy of fouling DeAndre Jordan seemingly as often as he drew a breath.

It took forever to get to the second half but the Clippers owned it once they got there, running away with a 128-95 victory Sunday and dominating the Rockets in everything from A to Zzzzzz at Staples Center.

Of great interest, the Clippers had never held a 3-1 lead this far into the playoffs. Gulp. Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals is Tuesday at Houston.

“It’s about us, not about the Clippers’ franchise [history] and all that,” guard Chris Paul said, trying to create some distance from the past.

Only eight teams have come back from 3-1 deficits to win an NBA playoff series, most recently the Phoenix Suns in 2006.

These Clippers don’t seem like the fun-but-ultimately-futile bunch that lost to Phoenix in Game 7 of the West semifinals by 20 points. If Ron Harper played on this team, he wouldn’t compare the franchise’s doom and gloom in the 1990s to logging time in jail.

These are the new Clippers, pulling off their second-largest margin of victory in a playoff game. T-shirts handed out to their fans claimed “We Are Relentless,” and the home team certainly proved it in the third quarter, scoring 43 points and taking a 103-79 lead.

There were more “Aus-tin Riv-ers” chants, plenty of boos for Dwight Howard and a steady 15-point, 12-assist game from Paul despite a hamstring injury still forcing him to stiffly get in and out of his seat on the bench.

Throw in 21 points from Blake Griffin and, indeed, 26 from Jordan and this is the quote you get from Houston Coach Kevin McHale:

“They beat the hell out of us. I really don’t know what to tell you.”

There were plenty of questions for McHale, actually, first and foremost his decision to continually have the Rockets foul Jordan on purpose.

Jordan had 28 free-throw attempts before halftime, an NBA playoff record for a half. He made only 10 of them for unsightly 35.7% accuracy, but the Clippers led at halftime, 60-54, thanks to Houston’s inability to make its own free throws (three for 13) and a virtual no-show by Howard.

“We were just trying to see if we could muck up the game a little bit,” said McHale, whose team is now the one in a big mess.

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No. 3: Wizards will have to do it again without Wall — It’s easier to survive without your All-Star point guard and catalyst when you have The Truth on your side, the way the Washington Wizards do with Paul Pierce serving as their veteran savior. They’ll need Pierce and everyone else to step up again tonight in Game 4 against the Hawks, because John Wall does not appear to be ready to shed the wrap on his fractured left wrist and hand in time for tip off. He remains a longshot to return tonight and perhaps for this series. While he’s headed in the right direction, that does not mean he’ll be available anytime soon. Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post has the details:

The Washington Wizards proved they can topple the top-seeded Atlanta Hawks without John Wall on Saturday night, and they’re likely going to have to do it again in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series on Monday.

The all-star point guard still hadn’t tried dribbling a basketball as of Sunday afternoon because the swelling in his left hand, one week after suffering five non-displaced fractures in the Wizards’ Game 1 win, had not yet subsided, according to Coach Randy Wittman.

“It’s headed in the right direction,” Wittman said. “Again, we’re not to the point of him doing anything on the floor yet of that nature. But it’s heading to a situation where hopefully he can get a ball in his hand and see how that feels and you just take those steps like that.”

Wall suffered the injury when he landed on his wrist near the end of the second quarter last Sunday. He was a late scratch for Tuesday’s Game 2, which the Wizards lost, because he couldn’t handle a basketball effectively. Further examinations in Washington on Wednesday revealed the fractures. The Wizards then blitzed the Hawks Saturday, building a 21-point fourth-quarter lead before squandering it and requiring a buzzer-beater from Paul Pierce.

The victory buys Wall more time to return this postseason. The bones usually require four to six weeks to heal, but the Wizards haven’t ruled Wall out from returning against the Hawks. Given the unpredictability of the schedule, the Wizards could eliminate the Hawks in five games by May 13 or the series can go to a Game 6 on May 15 and a Game 7 on May 18. That would give Wall 15 days after the injury occurred to return. For now, Wall’s focus is on being an enthusiastic cheerleader on the sideline and receiving around-the-clock treatment to diminish the swelling.

“That’s the number one thing,” Wittman said of the swelling. “Before we move anywhere else, before he does anything down there with a ball, he’s got to get that out of there. There’s no sense in trying to do anything with the ball while it’s swollen.”

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No. 4: Vultures circling Warriors — The thought of the Golden State Warriors falling short of their goal of playing for a title this season has become a distinct possibility to passionate fans in the Bay Area. And the vultures (the folks critical of their jump-shooting style) are already chirping in advance of their season-defining Game 4 tilt tonight in Memphis. Marcus Thompson II of the Bay Area News Group explains:

The Warriors are already getting a glimpse of how an early postseason exit would play out.

Phil Jackson is sending veiled jabs on Twitter. Charles Barkley is on his soapbox for being right about calling the Warriors too reliant on shooting jumpers. Some fans are already taking to social media, calling for heads to roll.

And you know Mark Jackson‘s working on a new line about the greatness of the caterpillar.

If the Warriors don’t come back in this second round series against Memphis, which holds a 2-1 lead, they’ll have undone all the love they’ve received and reclaim the label they worked so hard to shake: disappointment.

They’d be a 67-win tease, exposed by a Grizzlies squad that hasn’t won a title but has been the barometer for title worthiness. The Warriors would be acquitting their critics, who refused to see Golden State as a real force, and convicting believers, who touted their dominance.

Make no mistake: Starting with Game 4 at Memphis on Monday, the Warriors’ legitimacy is on the line. They are faced with losing their seat at the true contender’s table, perhaps never to get it back until they make some real noise in the postseason.

The vultures are (rightfully) circling the Warriors, ready for the Grizzlies to finish them off so they can start picking away at the franchise’s best team.

“It’s a proud group,” coach Steve Kerr said in Sunday’s chat with reporters. “We’ve had a tremendous season. We’re in a position now where we have no choice but to respond to the adversity. And we will, I’m confident in that.

“We’ve got to compete 48 minutes. We’ve got to defend harder. We’ve got to do everything better. It’s what the playoffs are about. You have to know your opponent, you have to learn from each game and you’ve got to respond when things don’t go your way.”

But beyond the ridicule, the embarrassment, the 12 months of being called frauds no matter how well next season goes — bowing out early has deeper ramifications for the Warriors.

Because if Barkley is proved right, what does that say about the Warriors roster?

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Keyon Dooling‘s convinced Rajon Rondo has more left in his tank … The Nets are unlikely to trade Bojan BogdanovichJames Harden does not endorse the hack-a-whoever strategyDeMarre Carroll does his best to explain his benching in Game 3 … The Inside The NBA crew takes another look at LeBron’s game winner against the Bulls

11 Comments

  1. harriethehawk says:

    Kyrie Irving is always hurt….. Let’s Go Hawks!!!

  2. dustydreamnz says:

    Charles Barkley is often right however the Warriors vs Grizzlies series isn’t even halfway through so it’s too early to tell. The Warriors are too good to write off.

  3. joanvonnegut says:

    Refs clearly wanted Cavs to win the Game 3. Honestly I am not a Bulls fan, but I can not ignore seeing how unfair officials were in last 3-4 min of Game 3. NBA commentators were fully agreed with me. How about just penalizing J. Smith for 2 games on knocking down the Boston player while Barkley was expecting 10 days game suspension. NBA/NIKE clearly want Cavs to at least play in finals…..

  4. taekayo says:

    The Clips dethroning the champs in a best of 7, down to the last second series, against a Rockets team that went through a high-scoring, no defense shootout against the Mavs… they just have to be glad they weren’t swept in this round.

    The Griz are a very proud and tough team that aren’t just lucky enough to get into the finals (I mean, this is the WEST, you’d get beat up even before reaching the conference finals). I still believe they would’ve given LBJ’s Miami a tougher time (through match ups and grit n’ grind) had they got into the finals when Miami won their two titles. GS can only prove themselves worthy if they’re able to grind through this team. I won’t say they shoot stop shooting, that’s who they are. But they also need to match Memphis’ toughness because this team will just bully their way and run over them. I still think GS could win this series, but they just have to be a lot tougher while doing their game.

  5. ImMe says:

    Warriors need to start Lee, Green is just too small for ZBo. Also if Wiz beat Hawks, thats the biggest upset if they do it without Wall.. Bulls Cavs series is probably going to game 7, and watch it be a buzzer beater.

    • Gametime says:

      Lee doesn’t fit with Kerr’s offense of spreading the floor, but he’s the only legitimate post player they have so in a series like this he dealt should be playing, even off the bench. Grizzlies are able to defend the 3 so well because no one is a threat down low. Memphis in 6!

  6. BIG-GAME-JAMES-23 says:

    Whoever wins game 5 on tuesday between the cavs and the bulls will win the series.

  7. Gametime says:

    Fouling Jordan just gives players time to rest and so far it’s backfired for both San Antonio and Houston. GS will be no different if they meet. Bogut is a bad FT shooter and on the road Green is a choker so Clippers can exploit their weaknesses as well…if GS can beat
    .

  8. William says:

    Can’t rule out Cleveland because they have LeBron and he is that good. BUT, he will have to carry the Cavs past the depth and talent of the Bulls.

    Harden will have to buy his jewelry.

  9. Patrick says:

    Try not to leave to much time left at he end of games so Lebron James can keep beating us with his jump shot. Their was just to much time left for him to make that shot. We need Pau gasol back in for game 5-6 and keep putting dunleavy on james instead of butler. i think derrick and jimmy are great gaurds but can not stop lebron james as a small forward. try to keep the right matchups going and I think we should be fine Tajh Gibson is an awesome backup center. Maybe we could also try Joakim Noah at small forward to help stop lebron james. Patrick.

  10. Indiana'sownLarryBird says:

    The Cavs have know Love, Kyrie is giving them nothing, JR, Thompson, Mosgov, are getting it done. King James. Hack a how ever does not work, it took the Rockets right out of the game, the Clippers are now 19-2 in the Hack a Jordan games. The Clippers are ball’n.