Posts Tagged ‘Chris Paul’

Allen might add to playoff injury woes

Oakland, Calif. — Tony Allen is a tough guy but he’s also human and therefore, prone to the same issue that’s ruining the playoffs for other players and teams.

As if these playoffs haven’t had enough carnage, the Warriors-Grizzlies series is about to feel the pinch should Allen, as expected, miss Game 5 with a hamstring pull. All morning the Grizzlies were coy about Allen’s status although the mood around Memphis spoke volumes. No one associated with the team was ready to declare him fit for duty and if anything, all signs pointed to Allen being an injury scratch. The final say on Allen is expected be announced about an hour before tipoff, after Allen puts his hamstring through a pre-game test.

It’s the same scenario that the Wizards and John Wall had before Game 2 of the Hawks-Wizards series when Wall tested his injured left hand and felt too much pain to play. It was later diagnosed with multiple fractures and Wall missed the next two games; his status for that series is uncertain.

As much as the post-season has been helped, from a dramatic standpoint, by a series of buzzer-beaters, it has been harmed by injuries. To different degrees, Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving, Pau Gasol, DeMarre Carroll and Jeff Teague have been hampered during the playoffs. And remember, Kevin Love was knocked out with a damaged shoulder.

The shame of it all for Memphis is that Allen’s defense has helped the Grizzlies stay even with the best team record-wise in the NBA. Should he miss tonight’s game, his minutes will be taken by Jeff Green.

 

 

Morning Shootaround — May 13

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Lebron carries Cleveland | Houston blasts off thanks to Harden | New Orleans fires Williams | Will Wall return tonight?

No. 1: LeBron Carries Cleveland Going into last night, the Cavs and Bulls series was tied two games apiece, sure, but the Cavs found themselves beset by injuries and in need of some help. Enter LeBron James. The King went for 38 points, a dozen rebounds, six assists and three steals, and carried the Cavs to a 106-101 Game 5 win, giving the Cavs a series lead and leaving them one win away from advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals. As Steve Aschburner writes, Chicago’s Jimmy Butler may be one of the league’s best defenders, but stopping LeBron James is not only nearly impossible, it’s nearly thankless as well…

So he got dressed slowly? Butler should have been doing everything slowly, from walking to talking. He is doing so much in the series and it’s not enough. His Bulls team is down 3-2 and Butler is signed up for another four or eight quarters of hell.

“Nobody cares,” Butler said of the wear and tear, along with the psychic scars, this series has inflicted. “Nobody feels sorry for me anyway. I’m supposed to produce at both ends of the floor. Make shots. And guard. I’ve just got to do better.”

Do better. Chicago likes to think of itself as a blunt, no-nonsense town and that’s a big-shoulders way of approaching his duty on James. When he subbed back in to start the second quarter, knowing that a third foul would sit him down again, Butler wasn’t surprised to be lined up again against James. No rest for the weary.

“It’s just part of the game plan,” said Butler, taciturn as the Texan he is when talking serious business. “Just got to guard without fouling. Sometimes that’s the way it goes. But that’s that. Can’t change it.”

James roared to his best game of the five so far in the series and patted himself on his own back for avoiding even a single turnover. Meanwhile, Butler was down the hall, quietly licking his wounds and searching for ways to do better in a largely no-win situation.

“I don’t mind him being my shadow,” James said. “I don’t mind it at all. I’ll take all competition. I love going against Jimmy. I think it brings out the best in myself. And I try to reciprocate back to him.”

***

No. 2: Houston blasts off thanks to Harden The Los Angeles Clippers won Game 4 of their series against the Houston Rockets by 33 points, taking a 3-1 series lead in completely convincing fashion. Last night in Houston, with the Clippers holding the chance to close out the series, the Rockets fought back, making an adjustment to the starting lineup and getting a triple-double from a flu-addled James Harden in a big 124-103 win. As Jonathan Feigan writes in the Houston Chronicle, it may have taken them four games, but perhaps the Rockets finally found their groove against these Clippers…

“We weren’t aggressive enough the first four games,” Harden said. “We were timid. They have really good bigs. We made a conscious effort to go into attack mode.”

Rockets coach Kevin McHale tweaked his rotation a bit to play Harden for shorter stints, having him come out in the first quarter when Dwight Howard usually does. But when Harden returned, he took over, scoring 14 second-quarter points to take the Rockets to a 15-point lead. He still played 43 minutes, getting his first playoff triple double with a career playoff high 11 rebounds and 10 assists.

“James started warming into the game,” McHale said. He was moving the ball. We attacked. Finally, we got to the basket. We got points in the paint and tried to attack and played a little bit more like we tried to play the entire year.”

“We play better when we play inside-out, attack downhill. We’re one of the best teams at getting points in the paint and we just weren’t doing it.”

When he knocked down a corner 3 with 2:02 left, he had 26 points, the Rockets had a 21-point lead and Harden could finally head to the locker room early.

“He wasn’t feeling well all day,” McHale said. “He had a hell of a game. He had an IV this afternoon and he played a great game for us and we needed it.”

***

No. 3: New Orleans fires Williams The New Orleans Pelicans embarked upon a rebuilding program a few years ago, trading Chris Paul, drafting Anthony Davis, and slowly but surely creating a team that could be a postseason problem for the rest of the Western Conference. This season, the Pelicans not only made the playoffs, but they won a game against the mighty Golden State Warriors. So perhaps coach Monty Williams can be excused for showing up yesterday at the team’s facility thinking a contract extension was in order. Instead, writes John Reid, Williams was fired with a year left on his contract.

When Monty Williams came to the New Orleans Pelicans’ facility Tuesday morning for a meeting with executive vice president Mickey Loomis, he thought the discussion would be about a possible contract extension, league sources said.

Williams, whose contract was set to expire after the next season, had just ended the franchise’s four-year playoff drought and presumed he would be rewarded.

Instead, Williams was fired. He was completely taken aback by the decision, especially after recently receiving praise from ownership for reaching the postseason.

Loomis said the reason for the dismissal was more about the future of the franchise than Williams’ final season.

“I just felt like the end of the day, we had a good season and Monty did a great job, he’s done some really good things for us,” Loomis said. “But going forward, we just felt like our group needed something different to get to the next level.

“We’ve seen improvement from year to year. Obviously, we were excited to make the playoffs. But at the end of the day, the decision is to get to the next step up. We needed to do something a little different.”

Williams had a 173-221 record in five seasons with New Orleans and led the franchise to two playoff appearances, including his first season when he had All-Stars Chris Paul and David West.

Two weeks ago at his season-ending news conference, Williams spoke with excitement about the future of the team, which beat the Spurs to clinch a playoff berth and cap an improbable run down the stretch before being swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Western Conference’s top seed, Golden State. Williams, who guided the Pelicans to a 45-37 regular-season record, praised his players’ improvement over the past few seasons and looked forward to the possibilities.

“He was surprised, totally unexpected,” Loomis said of Williams’ reaction after losing his job.

***

No. 4: Will Wall return tonight? John Wall suffered fractures to his left wrist early in Washington’s Game 1 against the Atlanta Hawks, and he’s missed every game since. But with the series now tied at two victories apiece and the Wizards needing a win tonight in Atlanta, could Wall swap his sharp sideline suits for a spot on the active roster? He made an appearance at Wizards’ practice yesterday and is a step closer to returning to action, writes Jorge Castillo in the Washington Post

For the first time in nearly a week, Washington Wizards point guard John Wall dribbled a basketball with his left hand Tuesday, a minor but crucial step in his recovery. Wall will have the five non-displaced fractures in his left wrist and hand re-evaluated before Wednesday’s Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, Coach Randy Wittman said, and a decision will then be made whether the all-star will return for the game against the Hawks in Atlanta.

Wall, who sustained his injury in Game 1 on May 3, is officially listed as questionable. “When they check him again,” Wittman said, “I’m sure they’re either going to say ‘No, we need more time’ or ‘It’s up to you’ from a pain standpoint.”

Wall did some light shooting with his right hand for the final portion of the Wizards’ walkthrough at Verizon Center open to the media Tuesday. He held his lightly bandaged left hand off to the side. The Wizards then closed the practice court while several players, including Wall, and assistant coaches remained. About 30 minutes later, Wall emerged breathing heavily and sweating.

“The swelling is minimal now,” Wittman said. “It’s still a little but nothing where it was. Like we talked about, the doctors wanted to reassess things after that. What he’s doing now is fine according to them, to get a little feel for it so see how it feels, number one, again, from a pain standpoint.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Pau Gasol is hopeful he’ll be healthy enough to return in Game 6 … Now that he knows his knee is sound, Kyrie Irving is playing with peace of mindAlan Anderson underwent successful surgery yesterday … Craig Sager continues his fight against leukemia … The Philadelphia 76ers unveiled new logos yesterday …

Pelicans need to explore Calipari option


VIDEO: Should Anthony Davis sign an extension with the Pelicans this summer?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — This parting of the ways between coach and franchise is not about Monty Williams and the job he did or did not do as coach of the New Orleans Pelicans.

No offense to the coach, dumped this afternoon after five years on the job, but this is about Anthony Davis.

Anthony Davis … the recent past, present and future of the franchise.

And in order to secure a shared future, the Pelicans have to spend the next few days carefully examining their options to replace Williams. That coaching search has to begin in the same place Davis rose to stardom, Lexington, Kentucky. That’s where John Calipari has continued his burger All-American-to-UK-to-the-NBA pipeline since Davis helped the Wildcats to a national championship in his only season on campus.

The first call needs to be to Calipari, an ambitious sort who has coached as many (current and future) NBA players the past few years as just about anyone collecting a NBA paycheck these days. If his relationship to Davis and so many other of the NBA’s stars, young and otherwise, is as rich as advertised, perhaps he can be the key to the Pelicans keeping Davis in the fold for years to come. There is the pesky detail of that five-year contract extension Davis can sign this summer to think about when finding the replacement for Williams.

Pelicans general manager Dell Demps knows it. The Benson family knows it. The entire city of New Orleans and Pelicans fans around the globe know it.

They have all experienced the pain of a losing a transcendent franchise player before (Chris Paul, anyone?), and what could be more painful than watching Paul and his new team, the Los Angeles Clippers, on the cusp of making franchise history by making the Western Conference finals, than having to announce that they are searching for direction once again by firing Williams and hunting for his replacement?

It’s hard for me to blame Williams for the Pelicans’ struggles during his tenure. Sure, he leaves with ownership of whatever shortcomings he had as a coach. And like every one of his (former and future) peers, he walked into the job knowing that he’d be tossed out the door at some point. Nothing lasts forever these days, unless your name is Gregg Popovich.

I understand what this season meant for Williams, Davis and the Pelicans. I was there courtside for that unbelievable win over Pop’s Spurs in the regular season finale for both teams. That was the game that secured the playoff fate for the Pelicans and Spurs, entry for the Pelicans and that early exit for the Spurs, courtesy of the seeding free-fall the loss produced.

The emotion coursing through Williams and his family as the postgame celebration commenced was impossible to ignore. Williams had grown tired of the criticism, the second-guessing and the whispers he and his family had to endure in New Orleans. That moment of triumph will never be erased. But it was buttressed by the reality of his situation. A first round sweep at the hands of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and the Golden State Warriors would likely mean he’d coached his last game as the Pelicans’ coach.

That reality came to fruition this afternoon and now the Pelicans have to decide if they are ready for the regime change that would come with a coach like Calipari, or if Demps and the current brain trust want to retain control.

They’ll say all the right things and promise to do what is in the best interest of the franchise going forward, standard fare for these sorts of things.

But if the best thing does not jive with the wishes of Davis, the 21-year-old wunderkind who could one day soon be the face of the NBA, something has gone terribly wrong.

Rarely do I advocate for a franchise bowing down to their star player in these sort of situations. This is that rare exception where genuflection to the wishes of your best player makes more sense than any fragile attempt to maintain some semblance of control of the situation. Don’t let pride or ego get in the way of doing the right thing by Davis, and in turn the entire organization and its fans.

Yes, it’s a dangerous way of doing business if your franchise is not rooted in a championship culture that can withstand the pressures of the moment.

Think back to the beginning of the end for Paul in New Orleans. Byron Scott was dumped as coach without anyone consulting with the franchise player. It was a move dismissed by many, at the time, as something Paul would get over.

He did.

Elsewhere.

The Pelicans have to make sure Davis doesn’t follow that same script. Doing so means at least exploring whatever possibilities might be there with Calipari.

You have to at least poke those tires, make Calipari tell you he is not interested, and then move on to the next phase of the process.

Paul’s hamstring continues to improve


VIDEO: Chris Paul talks after the Clippers’ Game 4 win

LOS ANGELES — In non-foul news, sort of, Chris Paul said he continues to recover from the strained left hamstring that sidelined him the first two games of the Western Conference semifinals against the Houston Rockets amid the possibility he could reach a full workload Tuesday night as the Clippers try to advance to their first-ever Western Conference finals.

In Game 3 Friday at Staples Center, Paul played without much burst in his return from the leg injury suffered in Game 7 of the first-round series against the San Antonio Spurs. In Sunday’s Game 4, he was clearly moving better while contributing 15 points and 12 assists (against one turnover) while, at times, pushing the ball in a very encouraging development for the Clippers.

He only inched from 23 minutes in Game 3 to 26 in Game 4, but that barometer is misleading because he only played 10 minutes in the second half and three in the fourth quarter because he was not needed as L.A. cruised to a 128-95 win. Paul looked healthy enough to have logged more time, possibly much more, if needed.

Getting blown out would have been help enough, but the Rockets also did their part with the failed game plan of constantly intentionally fouling Clippers center DeAndre Jordan. That tactic slowed Game 4 down so much that Paul rarely had the kind of extended stretches of constant movement that could have severely tested his hamstring. There was little need to take Paul out of the game until there was little need to keep him in.

Said coach Doc Rivers, asked after the win how he thought the All-Star point guard and whether Paul’s minutes would be increased Tuesday as the Clippers took their 3-1 lead to Houston: “I have no idea. Today it was funny because that’s where the Hack-a-Whatever-You-Want-to-Call-it — I still think we should call it the Haq-a-Shaq in honor of him — that’s where the Hack-a-Shaq help is. We were going to take CP out and I turned to (trainer Jasen Powell) and I said, ‘He’s just walking down the floor every time.’ Even though the minutes were ticking, there was no basketball going on so he could stay in, and JP agreed with that. But moving forward, I just don’t know, Again, every step he takes makes the coach nervous.”

Paul averaged 34.8 minutes in the regular season and 39.3 in the first round, big minutes as the Clippers and Spurs played several close games that allowed little rest. The pace in Game 4 — an approach that could continue Tuesday — plus Rivers being able to conserve the minutes plus a day off Monday likely leads to continued health improvement.

“I’m sure they’re not fouling to make sure my hamstring feels good, you know what I mean?” Paul said. “If so, I appreciate it, I guess. I don’t know. I’m feeling better. I think that’s all that matters. We’ve just got to stay hungry for the game on Tuesday.”

Meanwhile, Paul’s backup, Austin Rivers, followed up his starring role with 25 points on 10-of-13 shooting off the bench in Game 3 with another good showing. He had 12 points in 24 minutes while going 5-for-9 overall and 2-for-3 on 3-pointers.

 

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

*** (more…)

Paul out tonight, questionable Game 3

HOUSTON — After scratching point guard Chris Paul from the lineup for a second straight game with a strained left hamstring, Clippers coach Doc Rivers said he still believes the All-Star will playing the Western Conference semifinals series against the Rockets.

“Yeah, I just don’t know when,” Rivers said. “I don’t know if I’m discouraged or encouraged about Game 3 (Friday night in Los Angeles). We’re just gonna have to take it day by day.”

Paul suffered the injury in the first half of the Clippers’ Game 7 win over the Spurs on Saturday. Paul tried to go through a light workout early Wednesday and did some running in a pool.

“It wasn’t that hard a decision.” Rivers said. “He’s just shooting free throws and moving. It’s more just talking to him and J.P. (athletic trainer Jasen Powell). It wasn’t that hard to assess.”

The Clippers got a leg up on the Rockets in the series with a 117-101 win on Monday night with Paul watching from the bench. But Rivers said having the 1-0 lead and taking home court advantage away from Houston with a chance to get Paul more healing time did not factor into the decision.

“That had nothing to do with it,” Rivers said. “You’ve got to win four. So if he could play, he would play. Yeah, I’m concerned.”

Paul likely out again for Game 2

HOUSTON — If Chris Paul has a wish for his 30th birthday, it’s to celebrate it with a return to the court with his teammates for Game 2 against the Rockets tonight. But Clippers coach Doc Rivers said he’s not expecting that to happen.

“I’m going to see how it feels this morning at walk-through and get with the training staff and we’ll see,” Paul told reporters at Wednesday’s shootaround at Toyota Center about his strained left hamstring. “It’s really tough, really tough, especially with the way that I play. There’s only one way that I know how to play. You don’t want to make it worse than it already is.

“Every day is better. Hopefully, we’ll see if it’s ready by tonight. One thing about me is if I can play, I’m going to play.”

Rivers had been saying that the Clippers’ 117-101 win over Houston in the opener of the series would not be a factor in deciding Paul’s use in Game 2. He maintained that if Paul was ready to play, he would play and be held out for two more days of rest at home in L.A. on Friday.

“I’m not even thinking about Game 3, so we will find that out today and right now I don’t think so,” Rivers said.

“We are going to see. I pretty much doubt it to be honest just from talking to him but he is going to shootaround and we will go from there.”

If he doesn’t play tonight, Paul will be back in street clothes on the Clippers bench, stalking and urging on his teammates in a role that he did not exactly like.

“I told them if I was going to miss tonight, I would have to take some anxiety pills. It’s a lot more nerve-wracking being on the bench than it is being in the game.  This is probably a reason I never coach, not that this level, maybe my AAU kids. This is too stressful.

“I told the guys after last game, ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.’ Blake (Griffin) said that he needed me. I’ll see how it feels.”

Blogtable: How many more MVPs will Stephen Curry win?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: How many MVPs for Curry? | Best bench in playoffs? | Aldridge’s next move?



VIDEOHow many more MVPs can Stephen Curry win?

> Stephen Curry hoisted the Kia NBA MVP trophy on Monday. He just turned 27, so how many more of these will he collect?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: I say one more in sort of an homage to Steve Nash and Steve/Steph’s everywhere. But my hunch is Anthony Davis, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Kyrie Irving, John Wall, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Andrew Wiggins and several others — including LeBron James — say none.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Curry could and likely will continue to perform at this MVP level for another handful of years, but this could well be his only time to hold the trophy. There are just so many other contenders. I don’t think LeBron James is done adding to his collection. A healthy Kevin Durant will return with something to prove. James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul are all solid contenders.  But most of all, we are entering the Era of Anthony Davis and he’s going to fill up a shelf.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Maybe one. That’s not a knock on Curry — he will be at an MVP level for many years. But the field of other realistic possibilities is so deep. Look at who else finished near the top of the 2015 vote. LeBron James is the only one past halftime of his career. Curry’s problem with adding to the collection isn’t Curry. It’s everyone else.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: I wouldn’t be surprised if he won another MVP or he doesn’t. It’s just too unpredictable right now, especially with James Harden and Russell Westbrook waiting “their turn” and the ever-imposing presence of LeBron James. Plus, there’s always the issue of health. But hey, if Steve Nash can win a pair, why not Curry?

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: It’s certainly possible that he can win one or two more, but if I had to guess, the answer would be zero. Curry is ridiculous and the Warriors will be a great team for at least a few more years, but it was a crowded MVP field this year. LeBron James and Chris Paul each have one or two more MVP-esque years in them (and Paul will be more appreciated by the voters after this postseason). Kevin Durant, James Harden and Russell Westbrook each have a few more great seasons left in them. Kawhi Leonard is only 23 years old and Anthony Davis is only 22. It’s not about Curry, but about how many other options there will be every season.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: He’s got at least one more in him and maybe a third, overall. Curry’s young enough and the Warriors should remain in the elite mix long enough for him to contend for more. There are no guarantees, of course (we would have said the same thing about Derrick Rose after he won his MVP and the same thing about Kevin Durant last season, and neither one of them was in the mix this season). Being in the MVP discussion requires so many moving parts to fall into place in a given season. Curry has all of them on his side now and going forward. Only time will tell.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comSteve Nash won two of them, even though his teammates lacked the defensive mentality of Curry’s Warriors. I’m going to give Curry another MVP – and he could contend for more pending his ability to win championships.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I’ll say two more, and that’s being conservative. Winning an MVP almost requires a perfect storm, and this season everything has been clicking for Curry and the Warriors, from Curry staying healthy to the team around him being championship caliber. It’s almost felt like a downhill trip at times for the Warriors and for Curry’s MVP candidacy. How many more times will the chips all fall perfectly, or at least perfectly enough to make Curry the front-runner in the MVP voting? It requires skill, for sure, but a little luck never hurt anyone, either.

Angry McHale just wants an effort


VIDEO: The Starters point out some of the Rockets’ lackadaisical play

HOUSTON — There was no alternate ending on the video. No final scene where the Rockets finally stopped making careless turnovers, forcing up bad shots and using all the bad judgment of teen-agers at an abandoned campground in a horror movie.

“Observations are the same from looking at it on tape as looking at it live,” said coach Kevin McHale, the day after his team laid a 117-101 egg against a Clippers team playing without All-Star point guard Chris Paul. “We didn’t play very well. They played a lot harder than we did. They had second and third effort. They got after the ball. They shot better than we did. The game was there. We turned it over left and right, had I think six offensive rebounds with a million different misses. We didn’t play well enough to win.”

There had been so much talk about a lack of energy in the postgame locker room that one might have thought somebody pulled out a plug at Toyota Center.

But McHale, who spent a long stretch after Tuesday’s practice sitting and talking with team owner Leslie Alexander, was in no mood to speculate why a team that had nearly a full week of rest after eliminating Dallas in the first round would have less energy or less of anything in the opener of the Western Conference semifinals.

Word is that McHale tore into his team following Game 1 more than any other time this season.

“I think our attitude and effort has to change,” he said. “We have to be ready to come out and go to work and be ready to be physical and be ready to play at whatever level it takes to win the game. That also includes taking care of the ball. That includes getting second shots, attacking the offensive board, attacking their defenders, putting them in compromising positions and then making the right play.”

When it came to defending Clippers power forward Blake Griffin, who had his third triple-double of the playoffs with 26 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists, the dismissive McHale had an idea.

“Try to possibly do the things we asked them to do in our preparation work,” he said. “We did not play Blake the way we practiced at all. We played him in an unknown way for most of them to watch.

“I’m trying to get our guys to play. We did not play well. They did not have a lot of juice. They had vacant eyes. They just looked like they were running in mud. If I knew what (would) get them out of it, you don’t think I would have given them the elixir?

“That surely caught me by surprise after having time off, getting our rest. The rest had nothing to do with our play last night. We’ve had those things off and on. I did not expect it in the opening game of the second round when you worked hard all year long to get home-court advantage.”

What remained in the air was why something as fundamental as effort would ever be lacking in the playoffs.

“You’re asking me these questions,” McHale said. “You got to go out and play. I saw the same game you did. You have to go out and play. If I had all the answers, I’ve said it a million times, I’d go to Wall Street and not have to talk to you chumps.”

 

 

Rivers calls Paul ’50-50′ for Game 2


VIDEO: Doc Rivers says Chris Paul is ’50-50′ for Game 2

HOUSTON — The Clippers know now that they can beat the Rockets without Chris Paul in the lineup. What they don’t know yet is if they’ll have to try to do it again in Game 2.

“Fifty/fifty,” said coach Doc Rivers on Tuesday before L.A. went through a light practice at Toyota Center. “I just don’t really know. He looked good walking today but I really don’t have a clue right now.

“That’s just a difficult decision. It’s a tough call. That injury, I’ve had it. It’s a hard injury for your trainer because he, at some point, is going to give you the thumbs up and he will be sweating that whole night because that’s an injury you just don’t know and it’s an injury you can’t do an x-ray and say that you’re all right.

“You have to trust your player, which is the worst guy to trust in this situation. At some point he is going to play and when he does, we are going to be sweating because we won’t know until he gets out there.”

Paul, of course, will be champing at the bit to get back in the lineup, even though the Clippers pulled away in the fourth quarter Monday night for a 117-101 victory.

Game 2 will be played on his 30th birthday and conventional wisdom says that having gotten a leg up in the series with the road win in the opener, Rivers could buy added time for Paul’s left hamstring to heal and put him back in the lineup Friday night in L.A. for Game 3. But the coach said the 1-0 lead in the series is not a consideration.

“I didn’t ask (how Paul felt) because we didn’t do anything,” Rivers said. “I know he is going to  try to get some shots up or something but we will find out more (Wednesday). I have no idea. I honestly don’t.

“If he can play, he will play. We just want to make sure he is healthy. I really did not ask.”