Morning Shootaround — May 24


VIDEO: Saturday night was Stephen Curry’s night in Houston

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Steph Curry is the real MVP | LeBron is the B.O.A.T. | Korver, Hawks all but done? | Wounded Rockets stunned by loss | Skiles the frontrunner for the Magic job

No. 1: Steph Curry is the real MVP — The debate is over. Stephen Curry is the “real MVP.” If that is not clear after three games of the Curry-James Harden duel in the Western Conference finals, you need a new pair of glasses. Curry’s brilliance was on full display in the Warriors’ Game 3 win in Houston Saturday night. And good luck finding a comparable talent, a topic our very own Fran Blinebury explored in the aftermath of the Warriors’ huge win:

The record book now says that after hitting 7-for-9 from long range to ignite his 40-point, seven-assist, five-rebound, two-steal bonfire and an embarrassing 115-80 beatdown of the Rockets, Curry is now the most prolific 3-point shooter in the history of the playoffs, passing the legendary likes of Reggie Miller and Ray Allen.

Your eyes that pop wide open, your ears that can hear the wind getting sucked right out of the arena and any sense of innate rhythm that runs from your head to your feet say you don’t need any list of numbers to tell you he’s a completely different breed of cat.

“I think it’s the ball-handling that leads to the shot,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr. “People ask me all the time who I would compare him with. I played with Mark Price years ago. Mark had a skill set that was really fun to watch, great ball handler, quick pull-up on a dime. Steve Nash, although Steve really preferred to make the pass and he was a reluctant shooter, could still shoot off the dribble.

“But I don’t think we’ve seen anybody this quick, [with] ability to create space and then pull up and six, seven feet beyond the line, with this kind of fearlessness and confidence. He’s really something.”

That was perhaps one thing a few of the swells in the high-priced front row seats were saying midway through the third quarter when Curry grabbed the rebound off a missed layup by Klay Thompson, ran to the left corner, turned to drill one more trey, stared at the crowd, then removed his mouthpiece to return verbal fire.

“That’s the fun with playoff basketball on the road,” Curry said. “You’ve got hecklers and guys up close that paid of a lot of money for those seats that want to get their money’s worth. It’s fun. You know, those are just genuine reactions.

“I think the one in the corner, a guy said — it was a four-letter word I can’t repeat. But that’s the one I turned around and just said, ‘Sit down.’ Just having fun with him, go about my business, get back on defense. If they want to talk, hopefully they can take some back in my fashion.”

***

No. 2: LeBron is the B.O.A.T. — The search for clever ways to describe the impact LeBron James has had on Cleveland since his return to his native Northeast Ohio last summer is an ongoing pursuit. The legacy questions will linger forever without a title in Cavaliers jersey. But there is no denying he belongs, especially on the cusp of leading a team to a fifth straight appearance in The Finals, in the conversation of the best of all time. Bud Shaw of the Northeast Ohio Media Group has more:

The upshot is a series that once threatened to test the Cavs defensively, a series played without the home court advantage, could now be a sweep.

The Atlanta Hawks need all the points they can get these days. Even if only points for bravery in the face of a lost cause.

“We played them in the regular season this year and got the best of them,” the Hawks’ Kent Bazemore told reporters in Atlanta Friday night. “I still think we’re the better team. We haven’t shown it yet.”

The Cavs aren’t the same team the Hawks played in the regular season. The Hawks aren’t the same team the Cavs played in the regular season. The difference is to the Cavs’ benefit on both counts.

Of more concern for Atlanta, James isn’t the same player. He knows he can’t win a title single handedly. He learned that the last time around. So he’s willing the Cavs toward one.

During an especially frustrating time in his career – 2011 after the Mavericks had beaten the Heat — James reached out to Jerry West who shared his experiences with him.

“My friend Pat Riley calls [LeBron] the B.O.A.T., the ‘best of all time,'” West told  ESPN.com. “I told Pat, ‘You better call him the boat, because he carries a whole bunch of people across the sea to promised land.”

That he’s doing it here in his first season back, without Kevin Love and with Kyrie Irving injured, easily leads to the opinion that, hey, LeBron James isn’t half bad.

***

No. 3: Korver, Hawks all but done? — Whatever hope the Atlanta Hawks had for a miraculous comeback from that devastating 2-0 hole in the Eastern Conference finals vanished in a flash with the news that All-Star sharpshooter Kyle Korver was done for the postseason with an ankle injury suffered in Game 2. The Hawks are all but done as well, so says Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

What hope remained — and not much did — was all but extinguished at 3 p.m. Saturday. The Atlanta Hawks, who already trail Cleveland 2-0 having yet to play away from home in the Eastern Conference finals, announced that Kyle Korver will miss the remainder of the playoffs. That’s just about all, folks.

Not that Korver was having a great postseason. He’d actually had a lousy one. (His 12 points in Friday’s Game 2 were his first double-figure game since Game 2 in Round 2.) But he was still Kyle Korver, one of the world’s best shooters, and attention had to be paid. Now the Cavs don’t have to assign Iman Shumpert to run through screens; he can go pester somebody else.

It’s uncanny — actually, given that we’re talking about an Atlanta team, it really isn’t — how quickly this series has unraveled. The Hawks led by nine points in the first quarter of Wednesday’s Game 1. Then J.R. Smith got hot and they blew the lead and the game and saw DeMarre Carroll hurt to boot, and even with Carroll gutting it out in Game 2 they were beaten badly. And now Korver has been lost and, to borrow from esteemed former colleague Lewis Grizzard, I don’t feel too good myself.

Down 2-0, the Hawks could still make this a series — in theory, anyway. In reality, it’s hard to imagine them forcing a Game 5. Sad, sadder, saddest.

***

No. 4: Wounded Rockets stunned by loss — Losing a home game in the Western Conference finals after two close road games to open the series is bad enough. Getting destroyed in that game, however, can have a destructive effect on a fragile team. We’ll find out which one it is for the Houston Rockets. Because, as  Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com writes, the Game 3 destruction was disturbing for the Rockets in many ways:

The head coach said there was a lack of juice. The leading scorer said the team was too relaxed and too comfortable. The star center said the Golden State Warriors played harder, and the veteran point guard said the kid who scored 40 points is doing a number on him.

Yes, the Rockets were beaten badly, embarrassed at home 115-80 by the Warriors. The series is now 3-0 Golden State, and no team has ever — ever — rallied from this deficit in the history of the NBA playoffs. The record is 0-116.

And the Rockets in their history, a history that has the Kiss of Death, the Dream Shake, Yao, Superman and The Beard, are 0-3 when faced with this deficit.

“Surprised,” said James Harden who finished with just 17 points after playing 32 minutes in three quarters. “We were too relaxed. We were too comfortable. We were playing downhill the majority of the game. Trying to come back, trying to fight. The fight wasn’t enough.”

The Rockets were down 30-18 to start and scored just 37 points in the first half, the second-fewest points they compiled this season.

This was such a surprising performance by the Rockets, who played so well in Oakland — particularly Game 2 at the final buzzer — only to lose both games. This team hadn’t lost three consecutive games since the 2013-14 season, and given the magnitude of this contest, the Rockets should have performed better.

“I mean, we’re down 2-0, we had two tight games [in Oakland], and I was surprised that we didn’t come out with more,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “I thought we’d come out with a little more juice, and it seemed like things got a little tight defensively. They tightened it up, we couldn’t make some shots and then we just — they drove us all night long. They got the ball and just attacked our paint.”

Golden State dominated inside, snagging 60 rebounds to Houston’s 39 and produced 58 points inside. Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut had 31 rebounds combined.

“I don’t think that’s how they won the game,” said Dwight Howard, who finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds.

So why did they win?

“Just played harder than us,” he said.

***

No. 5: Skiles the frontrunner for the Magic job A familiar name has emerged. Scott Skiles appears to be the frontrunner for the vacant position in Orlando. Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel provides the details:

The Magic have sought a coach with extensive NBA head-coaching experience, and Skiles would meet that criterion.

Skiles compiled a 443-433 regular-season record over 13 seasons as coach of the Phoenix Suns, Chicago Bulls and Milwaukee Bucks. His teams reached the playoffs six times, posted an 18-24 postseason record and twice advanced to the conference semifinals.

Skiles, a 51-year-old former point guard, also would be a splashy hire for at least some longtime Magic fans.

He played for the team from its inaugural season in 1989-90 through 1993-94. During his Magic tenure, he amassed 2,776 assists, which stood as a franchise career high until Jameer Nelson broke the record on Jan. 7, 2013.

Magic officials have been tight-lipped about their coaching search ever since they fired Jacque Vaughn in early February and replaced Vaughn on an interim basis with James Borrego.

Many league insiders believe the Magic’s search for a coach has been slow because the Magic have waited to see if the Bulls would part ways with Tom Thibodeau. The Magic are strongly disinclined to give up a first-round pick as compensation for Thibodeau, according to a source familiar with the Magic’s thinking.

Magic officials envisioned the 2014-15 season as a season when their team would turn a corner and possibly contend for a playoff spot in the weak Eastern Conference. But the Magic slumped after they began the year with a 9-14 record; from Dec. 10 through Feb. 4, the team went 6-23, and Vaughn was fired on Feb. 5.

The Magic improved under Borrego, but the team finished the season 25-57, which was the league’s fifth-worst record.

If Skiles is hired, there’s a strong chance that Borrego would be asked to remain on the Magic’s staff as an assistant coach.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: LeBron called for calm in Cleveland on Saturday night during a tense time for the city … An open and honest letter to Clippers’ season ticket holders … The Hawks’ Kent Bazemore still believes, someone has to in that Atlanta camp … Kyrie Irving remains “questionable” for Game 3 against the Hawks … The Timberwolves have an interesting contrast in styles to consider while evaluating Jahlil Okafor and Karl-Anthony Towns … You won’t be shocked by what surprised Josh Kroenke in a season gone awry in Denver

10 Comments

  1. christiancamilo says:

    orlando should trade the draft pick with the bulls……tibbs is very good coach….he knows to mount a team…the bull front ofice is a joke and i think that tibbs would find a great support with henningan…

  2. Mitra says:

    Amazing Curry!!

    Formidable LBJ!!

    Great play-off!!

  3. KDIZZLE says:

    Now Skiles can go from benching Tobias Harris in Milwaukee, to just not playing him in Orlando. I don’t know if that was ownership pressuring him to win, but Skiles never did develop anyone in Milwaukee.

  4. truth says:

    nice deladova almost had horfords knees .. great to have him as teammate … go wreck opponents knees dellee

  5. Indiana'sownLarryBird says:

    Warriors Basketball !!! Curry MVP…. King James the B.O.A.T !!!!

  6. NBAfan says:

    Really the MVP race was never all that close and this playoff series just proves who’s having the best year, who’s the better player all-round..

    Curry makes his teammates better in a team orientated system of ball movement, hardly any ISO plays. Harden enables his teammates to be better by being the superstar with the ball in hand making plays, but at a very high usage rate.

    Its clear which style works best for the concept of team sports, in the words of that fool Jalen Rose: It looked like the Globetrotters out there against the Generals!

  7. Jt says:

    I was hoping that Skiles wouldn’t be the coach, he has a bad attitude, and I hope that doesn’t rub off on the team…The team needs to be talked to not yelled at…so I don’t think he is a great candadate…How bout Jeff VanGundy??

  8. stevew says:

    Paul Pierce for magic job

  9. harriethehawk says:

    Kent Bazemore, you are correct. Let’s Go Hawks!!!!!!

  10. TheKush says:

    Yup Curry showed why he was the MVP Harden looked bewildered