NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Warriors appreciating Livingston even more now — The Golden State Warriors were hoping to have Stephen Curry back for Game 3 of their semifinal series with the Portland Trail Blazers. After practice yesterday, though, Warriors coach Steve Kerr says Curry ‘probably’ won’t play in Game 3. That means more heavy lifting at point guard for Curry’s backup, Shaun Livingston. It’s not surprising the Warriors have come to value Livingston’s contributions to the team even more during Curry’s absence, writes Ron Kroichick of the San Francisco Chronicle:
Kerr and team trainers want Curry to participate in practice, including at least a three-on-three scrimmage, before he returns to game action. This scrimmage might happen in the next few days, if all goes well, so it’s possible Curry could play in Game 4 on Monday night.
Still, his all-but-certain absence Saturday means it’s time, again, for Warriors fans to appreciate Shaun Livingston. He’s in line to make his sixth start of the playoffs when his team, already leading 2-0, meets Portland in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals.
“We’d be dead without him,” Kerr said.
Livingston brings a polar-opposite style — 4 inches taller than Curry and without similar lateral quickness or snazzy ballhandling skills. Curry does his best work away from the basket; Livingston prospers on the low post.
“Honestly, if you lose the MVP, you better have somebody capable to come in,” Kerr said. “Shaun is obviously more than just capable. He’s a great player in his own right.”
The Warriors looked lost at times without Curry on Tuesday night. Their offense grew stagnant as they fell behind 87-76 after three quarters.
But they rallied in the fourth quarter for a stirring victory, and Livingston was right in the mix. He re-entered the game with 6:07 remaining and the score tied 91-91. He had six points and two assists down the stretch as the Warriors pulled away.
He knows he won’t score 30 points a game, like Curry, but Livingston is trying to look toward the basket more often in his temporary role as a starter.
“We obviously don’t have the MVP out there, so my role is to be just a little bit more aggressive with my offensive game,” he said. “I’m trying to get guys involved but also keep attacking.…
“It’s a different game when Steph’s not out there. We don’t have the same spacing or the same shooting, or the same playmaking to a degree. So we have to rely on each other more, move the ball, just trust each other.”
No. 2: Heat bemoan mistakes in Game 2 loss — After Game 2 of the Toronto Raptors-Miami Heat semifinal series, it’s clear awards for beautiful won’t be handed out anytime soon. Still, the Heat had a chance to grab a 2-0 series edge but a run of mistakes throughout the game — and particularly down the stretch — doomed in in a 96-92 overtime loss in Toronto. Ethan J. Skolnick of the Miami Herald has more on the Heat, who feel they left a golden opportunity north of the border:
The pest buzzed around Dwyane Wade, from the left ear to the right, as he tried to focus on a question about the mood of his Heat, following a 96-92 overtime loss to the Raptors in Game 2 of a second-round series. A loss, largely due to early sloppiness and late stagnation, that turned a potential road sweep into a split.
“Well, we had an opportunity, man,” Wade said. “First, that’s all you want. You want an opportunity to win on the road. You want to put yourself in great position. And we did that. Seven point lead going down the stretch, 77-70, you want to lock in right there. But they got back and took a one-point lead so fast, which was tough. But we had opportunities. I didn’t think overtime, we did a good job —”
This is where he stopped to swat.
“This mosquito is all on me,” he said.
Because the Heat, in this game, allowed the opponent to buzz around too long. And now, as a result, it may become an annoyance in this series.
“If we don’t turn the ball over 20-something times, we’ll be fine,” Wade said. “(The) offense is fine. We can’t keep giving up 20 turnovers a game. That limits us a lot. It allows us to see their set defense a lot.”
“We didn’t play well,” said Dragic, who led the team with 20 points, but lost more blood, this time not from losing a tooth but from his teeth slicing his lower lip as he took an elbow from DeMar DeRozan. “We had too many turnovers. I feel like, we come back, force the overtime, but we didn’t get good shots in overtime, and they took advantage of that.”
And this is why the Heat will beat itself up some, prior to Game 3 on Saturday.
The Raptors haven’t been very good. So if Miami had just focused offensively for a few more stretches Friday, the Raptors would be very gone.
“We had some cushion there in the fourth quarter and for whatever reason, we just kind of stopped executing offensively and defensively,” Joe Johnson said. “Those guards have to come down and help the bigs rebound. We weren’t getting the rebounds. They were getting the 50-50 balls down the stretch.”
No. 3: Barkley’s comments don’t sit well with Lue — The Atlanta Hawks suffered one of the worst defeats in their history when they lost Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series to the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was a defeat marked by the Cavs nailing an NBA-record 25 3-pointers, many of which came after the game was well in hand. To “Inside the NBA” analyst Charles Barkley, the Hawks missed a chance to “take somebody out” in the course of that blowout loss. Cavs coach Tyronn Lue wasn’t happy with that idea (or that he was chasing the 3-point record after the game was over) and sounded off on it, writes Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal:
One day after the greatest 3-point shooting performance in NBA history, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue was forced to play some defense.
Lue was critical of Charles Barkley’s postgame comments Wednesday and defended his team’s wish to continue shooting 3s long after the game had been decided.
The Cavs set an NBA record by making 25 3-pointers in Wednesday’s 123-98 win against the Atlanta Hawks and now lead their best-of-seven series 2-0. Game 3 is Friday at Atlanta.
“That’s something the players felt like was in their grasp and they wanted to go for it,” Lue said Thursday about chasing the record in a blowout. “I don’t see anything wrong with it. We didn’t do anything malicious. I don’t think we did anything to rub it in their face. They felt good on the floor and wanted to go for the record.”
Lue disagreed with Barkley.
“I don’t think there’s any place in our game to take someone out because they’re playing well,” Lue said. “I think you can get yourself to play harder to stop a team from playing well, but when it gets to the point of trying to hurt guys or take guys out, that’s just not right. … I don’t believe in taking guys out or trying to hurt guys because a team is playing well.”
This is the second time in this postseason the Cavs set a record for most 3-pointers made in a postseason game. They made 20 in a Game 2 win over the Detroit Pistons in the first round, matching a mark held by a number of other teams, including the Golden State Warriors.
The Warriors broke the mark a couple of nights later when they made 21 in a first-round victory against the Houston Rockets. Now the Cavaliers have emphatically reclaimed the mark by making more 3s in any game in history — postseason or regular season. They surpassed the previous mark of 23 set by the 2009 Orlando Magic and tied by the 2014 Houston Rockets.
“It’s on them now,” Kevin Love joked to the Beacon Journal, referring to the Warriors. “It’s not like we’re going out there saying, ‘We’ve got to beat them on what they’re doing’ or play their type of game. We’re just going out there and playing our game.”
No. 4: Why Vogel is out in Indiana — If your read between the lines leading up to yesterday’s news conference in Indiana, you knew that coach Frank Vogel‘s days were nothing if not numbered with the Pacers. But yesterday Pacers president dropped a sizable bomb on the NBA world when he announced Vogel was out as coach after him amassing 250 wins and five-plus seasons. So why was one of the most successful coaches in the modern NBA cast off so quickly? The Indianapolis Star‘s Candace Buckner digs into the deeper issues between the two men and why Vogel is out:
Frank Vogel walked into his postgame news conference Feb. 10 as he usually does. But this time was different. Though he was sans suit jacket and gripping a No. 2 pencil — normal stuff, really — his team had just gotten bullied and blown out in Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and looked rather disinterested as they headed into the All-Star break. And while no one on the outside knew, Vogel was already a lame-duck coach.
“We got to figure this out … didn’t play with enough energy. … I’m not happy about it,” Vogel said after the Indiana Pacers lost 117-95 to the Charlotte Hornets, which followed a game in which the team’s lethargic offense barely got by the worst Los Angeles Lakers team in franchise history, 89-87.
Larry Bird was watching. And he went into the All-Star break thinking. Months later, Bird decided.
The decision should not have come as a shock considering Bird was essentially showing Vogel the door in an interview with IndyStar on Monday. Still, one veteran Pacers staffer responded to the Vogel news with simply: “Wow.”
Surprise echoed across the NBA.
“I probably would have been fired two or three times in a different organization,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said before prepping his team for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. “Voice is lost on who? Teams’ rosters change every two or three years. So my voice is new to virtually everybody in this locker room. It’s the same with Dwyane (Wade) and U.D. (Udonis Haslem), that’s it. But that voice also has been different as a video coordinator, as an assistant coach, as a scout, as a head coach.
“Just look around the league, the teams with great, consistent, continuity,” Spoelstra said, “and see how they’ve evolved. Let’s see how their record is over the years.”
Bird specifically mentioned the All-Star break as a point at which he thought of making the coaching change. Since he liked Vogel, Bird allowed him to finish the season. By Thursday, however, Bird came armed with statistics to help make sense of his move.
Bird wanted the Pacers to score more points — this season the team produced an offensive rating of 102.4, an improvement from 100.8.
Bird wanted faster pace — the team averaged 98.99 possessions per game, up from 95.5.
Essentially, Bird wanted more. And while the slight progressions might have been expected from such a flawed roster — a teenager, three career backups as bigs and not one true point guard until late in the season, and all this thrown around Paul George — Bird envisioned the team performing better than it did.
If you listened closely and watched intently Thursday as Bird explained why Vogel is no longer the coach, you would’ve picked up on the signs. The choked words. The pensive pauses. The nervous giggle. The rhythmic finger tapping.
The Legend, at times, looked like a big softy.
“You know, sometimes my job really sucks and this is one of the toughest things I’ve done because of the respect that I have,” Bird said, his voice catching before he could complete the sentence, “for Frank.”
However this sentimental side did not stop Bird from making a business decision on a beloved coach — which no longer seemed soft, but rather savage.
At times, Bird has a no-filter, honest approach, and that side of his personality pushed through Thursday as he shared intimate details of his morning phone conversation with Vogel. The two spoke for a half-hour, the conversation probably lasting that long because Bird relayed how Vogel “was trying to talk me out of this decision.”
“Frank loves it here. His family loves it. He uhhh…” Bird said, and for the third time during his news conference his voice cracked. “He kept bringing it up ‘can we sit down and delay the news conference and start all over again?’”
Bird was asked if Vogel was persuasive enough to make him reconsider the decision. That’s when he let out an awkward laugh and fiddled with a water bottle cap.
“I’d rather not talk about that,” Bird said, tapping the table twice.
Now, a “Help Wanted” sign glows over the fieldhouse. The new voice, once and for all, for the style of play that Bird has wanted for a year. From softy, to savage then finally, a salesman.
No. 5: Report: Rockets to interview Hornacek, Silas; Vogel may be in mix soon — Interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff won’t be in the mix for the Houston Rockets’ coaching vacancy, but plenty of others will. The Rockets are in the midst of a long-term interview process of several candidates and are moving down their list, it seems, as former Phoenix Suns coach Jeff Hornacek and Charlotte Hornets assistant coach Stephen Silas are next on the list, writes Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com:
The Rockets have already interviewed four candidates for their head-coaching vacancy this week: J.B Bickerstaff, Chris Finch, Sam Cassell and Mike D’Antoni. Bickerstaff, who took over for Kevin McHale on an interim basis 11 games into the season, withdrew his name from consideration Wednesday.
Hornacek, who played for three NBA teams in a 15-year career, had coached the past three seasons with the Suns before getting fired after 49 games. He compiled a 101-112 record with the Suns.
During the 2011-12 season, Stephen Silas was the acting head coach for seven games for the then-Charlotte Bobcats.
And now that Frank Vogel is on the open coaching market, he may also have a crack at the job he interviewed for in 2011. Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle has more:
Pacers president Larry Bird announced Thursday that Vogel would not be back next season, immediately making Vogel a likely – perhaps even leading — candidate for the Rockets’ coaching opening.
Though the Rockets are only just beginning a search process that Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has said will be “thorough” and individuals familiar with the team’s plans said will include former head coaches, assistants and college coaches, Morey has thought highly of Vogel since they were with the Celtics together more than 10 years ago.
Morey has said little about what the Rockets will seek in a coach other than the priority in general is to improve defensively and that a coach chosen would have to fit with that goal. Vogel’s defenses have been outstanding and overall, have had the league’s top defensive rating through his tenure.
In addition to the Pacers and the Rockets, the Knicks and Kings have openings for a head coach. Bird said former Rockets coach Kevin McHale, his teammate with the Celtics, will not be a candidate for the job.
“I would not do that to Kevin, to have him work for me,” Bird said. “That’s not fair. I respect him too much.”
Vogel, 42, grew up in New Jersey and has expressed admiration for Knicks present Phil Jackson.
Much as they did in 2011, the Rockets have begun a wide-ranging search, meeting with interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff, associate head coach Chris Finch and former Rockets star Sam Cassell on Monday. Bickerstaff withdrew from consideration for the position. ESPN reported that former Suns, Knicks and Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni is scheduled to meet with Morey. The Rockets have expressed interest in former Grizzlies and Nets coach Lionel Hollins and former Suns coach Jeff Hornacek.