Morning shootaround — May 22


VIDEO: Highlights from Game 2 of the Western Conference finals

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Curry, Warriors lock up Harden | LeBron: Too much iso ball in Game 1Nuggets take their time vetting coaching candidates

No. 1: Curry: Warriors didn’t want to let Harden be ‘hero’ — Once again in the Warriors-Rockets West finals series, James Harden and Stephen Curry waged a fantastic scoring duel. And, once again, Curry’s squad came out on top, claiming a 2-0 series edge after Thursday night’s win. But it wasn’t an easy victory for Golden State as the Rockets had a shot at tying the game in the waning seconds. Curry and his “Splash Brothers” cohort, Klay Thompson, trapped Harden on the final possession, keeping him from a shot attempt in a move Curry says was definitely planned. Our Fran Blinebury was on the scene and has more:

The Splash Brothers became the Mash Brothers, squeezing the life and any last desperate attempt by the relentlessly splendid James Harden into a two-man vise.

It was a night when Curry (33 points, 5-for-11 on 3-pointers, six assists) and Harden (38 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists) could have danced on the head of a pin with their fearless, peerless offensive fireworks.

“Sometimes I want to crack open a beer and get a courtside seat, because these two guys are the two best basketball players in the world,” said Bogut. “Steph knocks down a big shot and then we come down and try to stop James and he knocks down a big shot.”

Yet it was fitting that it all came down to a final stop.

“Got the ball off the glass, and I’m thinking, just to try to get an easy one,” Harden said. “They did a good job of having two guys on me, so I couldn’t attack, and when I looked up I saw a red jersey and it was Dwight, so I tried to throw it back to him. At that time I’m thinking five seconds on the clock, so I tried to get the ball back, and it was still two guys right there, and I watched the film, it’s just a tough, tough play.”

Tougher because Curry and Thompson have been playing the roles of the disrupters in the backcourt all season for a team that finds a sense of defensive urgency to keep digging itself out of tough spots when the alarm bells start clanging. It was the defense that turned everything around in the first round of the playoffs when the Warriors came from 20 points down in a rousing fourth quarter to win Game 3 at New Orleans. Then it was the defense that ultimately found a way to stifle the interior game of Memphis.

In their 10 playoff wins this spring, they have trailed by at least 13 points behind on six occasions. It’s not a coincidence that so many of those breathtakingly amazing and gorgeous shots come as the end product of simple down-and-dirty defense that stokes the fire.

“Once [Harrison Barnes] went for the layup and missed and Draymond tried to get the rebound it was kind of me and Klay and Andre [Iguodala] on the other side retreating,” Curry said. “You saw James kind of put his head down, you knew he probably wasn’t going to pass in that situation, so just to kind of stand him up before the 3-point line, Klay fronted him right to me, I was able to get a body on him. He threw it away to Dwight and threw it right back, so at that point, it’s just don’t let him get a shot off and try to be the hero, so we were able to get it done.”

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No. 2: LeBron: Too much iso ball in Game 1 — Thanks to the play of LeBron James down the stretch of Game 1, the Cleveland Cavaliers have a 1-0 lead in the East finals on the Atlanta Hawks. But despite that series advantage, James sees an issue with how he played on Wednesday night — too many possessions with him going one-on-one. ESPN.com’s Dave McMenamin has more on the player who leads the playoffs in shots taken with four seconds or less on the shot clock:

James racked up 31 points, eight rebounds and six assists, in the process passing Michael Jordan for first on the all-time playoff list for games with 30 or more points, five or more rebounds and five or more assists. James also halted the biggest slump of his otherwise sterling career by winning Game 1 on the road, something he hadn’t done in eight previous attempts.

And for the cherry on top, James sealed the victory with a monstrous dunk with 37.9 seconds left after driving right down the heart of Atlanta’s defense.

Yet there was a degree of dissatisfaction for James because of the way he executed on offense late in the game. His isolation-based possessions contributed greatly to the Cavs’ 18-point fourth-quarter lead being cut down to four and making that aforementioned dunk necessary for Cleveland to stave off the Hawks’ comeback attempt.

“In the fourth quarter, I played way too much isolation basketball, one-on-one basketball [with] a lot of the defenses set, and I was letting the clock run down way too much. I just had to take the shot or I was giving it to my guys late in the shot clock, and they couldn’t do nothing with it besides shoot it or turn the ball over.”

He used even stronger language during his interview on the court with Fox Sports Ohio’s Allie Clifton immediately after the game, saying, “I allowed them back into the game with my offensive nonsense.”

James’ 18 isolation possessions in Game 1 were the most by any player during the 2015 playoffs, according to SportVu. While he had some success with it, shooting 8-for-17 on those possessions, it clearly took the rest of the Cavs out of any sort of flow. James went iso for at least three Cavs possessions in a row during three separate stretches.

His iso play permeated the Cavs’ play as a team, too. A whopping 35 percent of Cleveland’s possessions in Game 1 came out of isolation play, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

Of course, James found the ball in his hands more than usual down the stretch after Kyrie Irving tweaked his left knee in the third quarter and was limited to just 27 minutes on the night.

“It’s tough sometimes with our main ball handler not being on the floor, and that’s Kyrie,” James said. “That’s something that I’m not happy with, something I’m not really comfortable with doing. I can do it, but I don’t like to play that much isolation basketball late in the game. I’d much rather get the ball moving from side to side and get a good look after that.”


VIDEO: LeBron James is hoping for a more complete performance in Game 2

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No. 3: Nuggets take their time finding new coach — The Denver Nuggets fired Brian Shaw late last season and replaced him on an interim basis with Melvin Hunt and since their season ended a month ago, are no closer to finding a permanent replacement for Shaw. That’s all by design, writes Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post, as Hunt and several others are in contention for the gig:

Team president Josh Kroenke spoke at length about the search and other topics Thursday with The Denver Post. The most pressing issue is securing a coach, and Kroenke said that process has gone as expected.

“It’s exactly how we thought it would go,” Kroenke said. “We’ve had several conversations with a lot of people. I think that it benefits us to talk to as many people as we can. We have some people in the back of our mind that we think would be great fits. I’ve talked to enough people, and going through the process before, your coaching hire is probably going to be your hardest hire because there’s so much that goes into that role in today’s sporting industry.”

“It’s beneficial for us on some level to be patient,” Kroenke said. “I think more candidates have opened up since the end of the season. Based on different organizations wanting to go different directions with different guys, I think there was never a time when we wanted to rush into anything.

“Until you have that guy that you know is the one that you want, I think it really benefits you to talk to as many people as you can. Because also during the course of these interviews you’re getting to pick some of the best basketball minds that are out there. That’s an incredible benefit to the process.”

The Nuggets finished the season with Melvin Hunt as their interim head coach. He’s in the mix for the job along with others such as Mike D’Antoni and Alvin Gentry. The Nuggets have talked to other candidates as well.

“We have a list of traits that we have identified that are incredibly important to us going forward,” Kroenke said. “And we’ve had several conversations with people already to kind of identify if those guys have the traits that we’re looking for.”

Kroenke was generally pleased at how the team finished out the season after then-coach Brian Shaw was fired and Hunt took over. He noted, however, that the players’ attitudes over the entire course of the season would be taken into account as roster adjustments are made.

“I think that while we were left encouraged by everything that was done after the coaching change, and smiles on guys faces, playing more free flowing style on offense, we can’t ignore the previous 50 games, either,” he said. “It was all part of the same group. You’re going to weigh both options as we go forward, because we don’t want to be a negative environment.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Digging into everything you need to know, stats-wise, from Game 2 of the Western Conference finals … Some weird stuff going on during Allen Iverson‘s visit to China … New Orleans Pelicans guard Tyreke Evans had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee … Dallas Mavericks forward Chandler Parsons is being mum on whether or not he had microfracture surgery … Disgraced NBA referee Tim Donaghy will appear in a CNBC documentary … Not exactly stunning news, but Doc Rivers says the Clippers will offer DeAndre Jordan a max contract

ICYMI Of The Night: Andre Iguodala jumped into the wayback machine with this dunk in Game 2 …


VIDEO: Andre Iguodala flushes it with authority in Game 2

7 Comments

  1. Indiana'sownLarryBird says:

    Warriors Basketball !!! Curry MVP…

  2. sally says:

    Cavs will be sweeping Hawks, hide and watch !!!

  3. Nick says:

    If Howard could shoot the ball things could have been different for Houston!

  4. Nick says:

    Sekou, I’m glad Lebron recognizes the folly of 1 on 1 ball in the playoffs even if you don’t! You are wrong, and he is right. He caused numerous turnovers and definitely let the Hawks back in the game. I’m glad he is being the consummate pro and being a man about it. Historically, ball movement wins in the playoffs because it’s the ONLY way to CONSISTENTLY beat very tough defensive play. The Hawks themselves strayed from that type of play, and lost. Of course, they don’t have a Lebron, but one-on-one even with Lebron will not win a championship.

  5. BIG-GAME-JAMES-23 says:

    Cavs in 5

  6. DC RO says:

    LEBRON IS THE BEST MOE. STAMP ON MY DEAD GOLDFISH.

  7. harriethehawk says:

    I hope DeMarre Carrol can play tonight. We can win tonight. Let’s Go Hawks!!!!!!