Posts Tagged ‘John Schuhmann’

Blogtable: The best of Round 2

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

BLOGTABLE: Second-round squeakers | Indy: Reasons to believe | Is KD really OK?

Blake Griffin (left) and Serge Ibaka are trying to reach the conference finals (Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE)

Blake Griffin (left) and Serge Ibaka are trying to reach the conference finals (Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE)

> After five Game 7s in the first round, what’s the one conference semifinal that you expect to be closest?

Steve Aschburner, Give me Clippers-Thunder. I think the talent level is close between the two teams (slight nod to OKC). And we’ve got big-time semi-intangibles in play – the emotional turmoil-turned-energy burst of the Donald Sterling controversy for the Clippers, the MVP specialness of Kevin Durant and the mission he and his teammates have undertaken because of it. As potent as Durant and Russell Westbrook are, I’m not sure the Thunder have enough other sources of offense, so I’m guessing Clippers in 7.

Fran Blinebury, Thunder-Clippers has all the earmarks of a series that will go the distance. Rather than take them down, Donald Sterling affair seems to have brought he Clippers together with more of a purpose. The Thunder don’t seem to have a rhythm or flow to their offense, but with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook’s 1-on-1 skills quite often don’t need it.  They’ll go back and forth, winning on each other’s court, and OKC uses the advantage of Loud City to pull out another Game 7.

Jeff Caplan, Oklahoma City and the Clippers, to me, are so evenly matched and have players on both sides — Chris Paul for L.A.; Kevin Durant for OKC — who are desperate to move on.

Scott Howard-Cooper, Clippers-Thunder. I would have thought it would be evenly matched anyway, but seeing both pushed to the limit in the first round, and maybe even to the point of exhaustion, created another obstacle that should keep it close. It may not be a bad obstacle of sloppy play as much as making it hard to see either side winning more than two in a row. It sets up for a lot of back-and-forth. Oh, and Clippers in 7, which I said before L.A. won the opener.

John Schuhmann, Thunder-Clippers. These are two of the three teams that ranked in the top seven on both ends of the floor, and one of them won’t make it to the conference finals to (presumably) face the third (San Antonio). I like both team’s offense against the other’s D, and the team that wins will be the one that manages to get a few stops here and there. I originally picked OKC in 7 and I won’t change that now, but Chris Paul looked a lot healthier in Game 1 than I remember him looking in the first round.

LeBron James and the Heat face the Nets in an East semifinal matchup (Issac Baldizon/NBAE)

LeBron James and the Heat face the Nets in the East
(Issac Baldizon/NBAE)

Sekou Smith, The first round spoiled us all. There’s no way that was going to be duplicated in the conference semifinal round. Just no way. The Clippers-Thunder series is the one semifinal that I think is going to be the closest, whether it goes six or seven. The Thunder will bounce back from that Game 1 blowout loss. Chris Paul caught them napping in Game 1 and did what you expect one of the game’s best to do in that situation. But the newly minted MVP (Kevin Durant) won’t go down without a furious fight. That said, I’m going with the Clippers in six.

Lang Whitaker, All Ball Blog: Before last night, I would have said Miami/Brooklyn, because the Nets have history on their side — we know they can match up  against the Heat, we know they have players who can cause match-up problems for the Heat, and then there was that whole 0-4 regular-season record thing. But then last night, the Heat looked like they were running lay-up drills after traffic cones. I’ll still roll with the Nets, I guess, because a comeback now would mimic their regular season, when they struggled early and turned things around. And I still think they have the best chance of anyone in the East to beat the Heat.

Selcuk Aytekin, NBA Turkiye: I believe the Clippers-Thunder series will be very tight. With Durant now in possession of his first MVP, he will step up and play like it. On the other hand Chris Paul started the second round about as well as someone can. That scoring duel will be very interesting to watch, and we’ll see at least 6 games.

Marc-Oliver Robbers, NBA Deutschland: I hope it will be the Heat-Nets-series. The West is so hard. Every team has to go over the limit to get in the next round. That takes a lot out of them. On the other side the Heat could rest for a long time after their sweep in Round 1. Brooklyn will challenge them more and that’s good for the Finals, so we won’t have a well-rested Heat team against a leached West team.

Blogtable: Hope for Indiana fans

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

BLOGTABLE: Second-round squeakers | Indy: Reasons to believe | Is KD really OK?

Indiana fans are looking for reasons to root for the Pacers (Gary Dineen/NBAE)

Indiana fans are looking for reasons to root for the Pacers (Gary Dineen/NBAE)

> We have reasons to doubt the Pacers. Give an Indiana fan a reason or two to believe.

Steve Aschburner, Hmm, let’s see … Indiana’s bench is deeper than Washington’s, at least on paper with Luis Scola, C.J. Watson, Ian Mahinmi and Evan Turner available for spot help. Paul George is the best player in the series, so if he can keep double-doubling the way he did against Atlanta, that’s a nice edge. Oh, and David West had a look in his eye after the Game 1 defeat like there will be mayhem if the Pacers don’t advance. How’s that for cheery optimism?

Fran Blinebury, Paul George, David West.  And if you want a third, it’s always possible that the aliens who abducted Roy Hibbert will return him

Jeff Caplan, Very hard to suggest reasons of optimism considering the way Roy Hibbert continues to spiral downward and other assorted rumors that might or might not be affecting the group’s ability to coexist. Washington is playing very well, playing as a unit, so forgive me for having little optimism to share.

Paul George (Ron Hoskins/NBAE)

Paul George (Ron Hoskins/NBAE)

Scott Howard-Cooper, They should believe because it’s still a talented team that has lost its way, not its talent. There. Otherwise, I got nothing. I know I don’t believe as much as late in the regular season, when I thought winning the East was very realistic. Now, it would be surprising.

John Schuhmann, Believe what? That they can win a series against a team with a winning record? I don’t see it happening, but I will say that, with their defense, Indiana has a higher ceiling than Washington. They just haven’t been able to get anywhere near it for more than one game at a time over the last few months. If Frank Vogel can convince Paul George to play 48 minutes a night, they might have a shot. Where they are certainly isn’t on him.

Sekou Smith, So you want me to lie to the Pacers’ fans, huh? I don’t know that I can manufacture believable reasons for them to believe in their team right now. The Pacers have been the most consistently disappointing elite team in this postseason. The only thing working for them right now is that the best team always tends to find its way in a best-of-7 series. The problem is, I don’t think they are the best team in this series. I think the Wizards, top to bottom right now, are just better. If Nene and Marcin Gortat continue to play the way they are and that young backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal doesn’t crack, I think the Wizards will knock the Pacers off. So as much as I’d love to stay married to my prediction of Pacers in 7 (from the series preview), I’m ready to flip-flop after seeing Game 1.

Lang Whitaker, All Ball Blog: Here are two reasons I can give Pacers fans to believe: Paul and George. Regardless of their struggles, regardless of their opponent, the Pacers have had the best player in both series in which they’ve played. He hasn’t always played like the best player, sure, but when Paul George is playing at the height of his powers, the Pacers can withstand 0-fers from Hibbert and drifting performances from George Hill. The Pacers are a great team, sure, but they are only going to go as far as Paul George carries them.

Akshay Manwani, NBA India: Yes, the Pacers have been disappointing but if I am an Indiana fan, I am not calling it quits until Paul George lets me down. George is among the best players in the game and his play alone could give Indiana the edge in a few of these playoff games. Also, Indiana is a solid defensive team even with Roy Hibbert caught in a funk. As long as the Pacers can get stops, and play that grind-it-out style, they have a chance.

Simon Legg, NBA Australia: What if I don’t have a reason? I guess, Roy Hibbert’s performance in Game 7 against the Hawks was encouraging so maybe he recaptures that form for enough time for the Pacers to advance past the Wizards. At the end of the day, this team cannot do a thing on offense right now, their spacing is shot and they’re playing too much isolation for a team devoid of isolation players. It probably can’t be fixed.

XiBin Yang, NBA China: At least, the Pacers still own the same players who captured the top seed in the East Conference, and they still have enough options on the lineups. If the Wizards really put them on the edge, the Pacers still could try something new desperately. They may not be a contender anymore, but if they could throw away the egos just to advance past the Wizards, they’ve still got a chance — as long as they play as a TEAM.

Blogtable: Is KD really OK?

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

BLOGTABLE: Second-round squeakers | Indy: Reasons to believe | Is KD really OK?

VIDEO: The GameTime crew breaks down Tony Allen’s defense of Kevin Durant

> Tony Allen can play, sure, but what happened to MVP Kevin Durant in the first round? BTW, who’s your early leader for postseason MVP?

Steve Aschburner, I attribute Durant’s indecisiveness during the Memphis series to the playoff effect of a defense adjusting game by game to its opponents’ strengths. That’s going to continue, but Durant and the Thunder should be quicker to adjust back. As for postseason MVP, I’ll take LeBron James against the field. More than the first two, if Miami wins another ring, it will come via his will and his skills, happily swapping out the Podoloff trophy for the Russell.

Fran Blinebury, Mostly, you answered your own question.  Tony Allen happened to him early and late, K.D. got a bit out of sorts and out of kilter and it became a series about survival rather than looking good.  He did, the Thunder did and that’s all that matters.  Even though his team was thumped in the opener of the second round, I’ll give LaMarcus Aldridge the edge for early playoff MVP for the way he carried the Blazers to their first series in 14 years against the Rockets.  But that’s only because LeBron James has barely had to break a sweat so far.  The best from the best is yet to come.

Jeff Caplan, I’m still trying to figure this out. KD’s shooting percentages have dipped really since the start of April and there is genuine concern here that something’s not right. The biggest indicator that I red flag is his playoff free-throw percentage of 75 percent. He’s an 88-percent free throw shooter for his career and hit 90 percent last season. It suggests, to me, either he’s fatigued or not concentrating fully, or those two factors are working together.

Scott Howard-Cooper, I don’t know that anything “happened” to KD. He faced a good defensive team and a very good defensive player, as you mentioned. And he played huge minutes. As easy as it is to say Durant is young and can handle the heavy workload or that Durant is so much better than a lot of players that he can adjust, having 42 or 43 minutes be a slow day takes a toll after carrying so much burden in the regular season. He was spending a lot of time in the high-40s and low-50s.

John Schuhmann, Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince played fantastic individual defense, but Durant had the attention of the whole Grizzlies D, which happened to rank second after Marc Gasol returned in mid-January. The best players see extra defenders in the playoffs, especially when they have a teammate or two on the floor who can be left alone. My playoffs MVP so far is LeBron James, even though the Heat haven’t really needed much from him to this point. He’s just been the best player, there isn’t anyone really close, and the Heat are the only team in either conference that’s a clear favorite to make The Finals.

Sekou Smith, Durant’s fine. Tony Allen and the Grizzlies happened to him in the first round. Nothing more and nothing less. And he survived them. The real test comes against a Clippers team that doesn’t have an individual defender like Allen to slow him down. They’re going to try and limit him as best they can but the Clippers will live with Durant getting his and hoping to outscore him and the Thunder to get to the conference finals. My early leader for postseason MVP? He’s only played five games, so far, but I’m going with LeBron James.

Lang Whitaker, All Ball Blog: I’ll tell you what happened to Kevin Durant in Round One: He won. Rather, his team won. And if there’s anything you should understand about Kevin Durant, it’s that he doesn’t care much about the individual numbers or stats — he just wants to win. That isn’t just lip service, either: KD is not nice when it comes to winning. Did he have some low scoring games? For him, sure. But the most important thing is he figured out how to give his chance the best opportunity at winning every night. Which is what MVPs do.

Davide Chinellato, NBA Italia: KD had a couple of tough games, something that happens even to MVPs. He’s guilty of having them in the postseason: a consequence of Tony Allen stalking him even on the bench. Not to mention poor shooting, and some shaky playmaking in the team (Westbrook fell into I’m-gonna-win-this-alone mode at times). But when it counted most (Game 6 and 7) he averaged 34.5 ppg. But my early leader for postseason MVP is Damian Lillard, a playoff rookie who killed the Rockets with a buzzer beater and he’s averaging Jordan-esque and LeBron-esque numbers. Tony Parker thinks he’s already among top 5 PGs in the NBA: he has the chance to prove it against Parker himself, the No. 2 in my early postseason standings.

Numbers preview: Spurs-Blazers

By John Schuhmann,

VIDEO: Blazers and Spurs Series Preview

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Only one Western Conference team has a winning record against the San Antonio Spurs over the last six seasons. That team is the Portland Trail Blazers (14-7), who the Spurs haven’t faced in the postseason since they won their first championship in 1999.

Through the years, the Spurs have had a hard time slowing the Portland offense down. And this season, doing that has been tougher than ever. The Blazers ranked fifth in offensive efficiency in the regular season and first in the first round.

Of course, the Spurs were the best team in the league in the regular season. They’re looking to get back to The Finals, but have another tough challenge ahead.

Here are some statistical nuggets regarding the No. 1 and No. 5 seeds in the Western Conference, as well as the four games they played against each other.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
Stats and rankings are for the first round.

San Antonio Spurs (62-20)

Beat Dallas in 7 games.
Pace: 94.2 (5)
OffRtg: 110.2 (3)
DefRtg: 106.8 (9)
NetRtg: +3.4 (6)

Regular season: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups
vs. Portland: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups
First round: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups

First-round notes:

Portland Trail Blazers (54-28)

Beat Houston in 6 games.
Pace: 95.9 (3)
OffRtg: 111.8 (1)
DefRtg: 109.8 (13)
NetRtg: +1.9 (8)

Regular season: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups
vs. San Antonio: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups
First round: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups

First-round notes:

The matchup

Season series: Tied 2-2 (1-1 at both locations)
Pace: 98.5
SAS OffRtg: 106.8 (10th vs. POR)
POR OffRtg: 107.0 (5th vs. SAS)

Matchup notes:

Numbers preview: Heat-Nets

By John Schuhmann,

VIDEO: Nets-Heat: Game 1 Preview

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — What do regular season head-to-head matchups mean? We’re about to find out.

The Miami Heat are the two-time defending champs and just cruised through the first round. But they’re about to face the team that beat them four times this season. In fact, the Brooklyn Nets were the first team ever to sweep a LeBron James team in four regular season meetings.

But the Nets led those four games by a total of three points at the end of regulation. And the Heat obviously know how to flip the switch in the postseason.

Here are some statistical nuggets regarding the No. 2 and No. 6 seeds in the Eastern Conference, as well as the four games they played against each other.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
Stats and rankings are for the first round.

Miami Heat (54-28)

Beat Charlotte in 4 games.
Pace: 92.5 (9)
OffRtg: 109.8 (5)
DefRtg: 99.6 (3)
NetRtg: +10.1 (1)

Regular season: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups
vs. Brooklyn: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups
First round: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups

First-round notes:

Brooklyn Nets (44-38)

Beat Toronto in 7 games.
Pace: 91.1 (13)
OffRtg: 108.3 (6)
DefRtg: 104.5 (6)
NetRtg: +3.8 (5)

Regular season: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups
vs. Miami: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups
First round: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups

First-round notes:

The matchup

Season series: Nets won 4-0
Pace: 88.1
MIA OffRtg: 102.6 (18th vs. BKN)
BKN OffRtg: 104.0 (14th vs. MIA)

Matchup notes:

Numbers preview: Pacers-Wizards

By John Schuhmann,

VIDEO: Wizards vs. Pacers, Series Preview

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — After going down three games to two, the No. 1 seed Indiana Pacers managed to escape the first round and avoid a disastrous result, considering where they were at the All-Star break.

They still have work to do to get back to the conference finals. With more traditional bigs, the Washington Wizards don’t present the unique matchup challenge that the Atlanta Hawks did, but they’re a better team on both ends of the floor, and they just dispatched the team that most resembles the Pacers.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
Stats and rankings are for the first round.

Indiana Pacers (56-26)

Beat Atlanta in 7 games.
Pace: 93.0 (7)
OffRtg: 101.6 (12)
DefRtg: 98.2 (1)
NetRtg: +3.3 (7)

Regular season: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups
vs. Washington: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups
First round: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups

First-round notes:

Washington Wizards (44-38)

Beat Chicago in 5 games.
Pace: 88.1 (15)
OffRtg: 104.8 (10)
DefRtg: 100.4 (4)
NetRtg: +4.4 (4)

Regular season: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups
vs. Indiana: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups
First round: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups

First-round notes:

The matchup

Season series: Pacers won 2-1 (home team won all three games)
Pace: 93.7
IND OffRtg: 93.6 (28th vs. WAS)
WAS OffRtg: 82.0 (29th vs. IND)

Matchup notes:

Numbers preview: Thunder-Clippers

By John Schuhmann,

VIDEO: Clippers vs. Thunder, Series Preview

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers were two of the best teams in the regular season and were both considered title contenders entering the playoffs. But they both needed seven games to get past their first-round opponent and now face each other.

They both have two of the league’s top 10 players. They’re two of the three teams (the San Antonio Spurs were the third) that ranked in the top seven in both offensive and defensive efficiency in the regular season. And one of them will see their season end before the conference finals.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
Stats and rankings are for the first round.

Oklahoma City Thunder (59-23)

Beat Memphis in 7 games.
Pace: 91.8 (11)
OffRtg: 105.7 (9)
DefRtg: 98.9 (2)
NetRtg: +6.8 (2)

Regular season: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups
vs. L.A. Clippers: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups
First round: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups

First-round notes:

Los Angeles Clippers (57-25)

Beat Golden State in 7 games.
Pace: 99.4 (1)
OffRtg: 111.7 (2)
DefRtg: 106.9 (10)
NetRtg: +4.8 (3)

Regular season: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups
vs. Oklahoma City: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups
First round: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups

First-round notes:

The matchup

Season series: Tied 2-2 (1-1 in both locations)
Pace: 103.0
OKC OffRtg: 104.9 (11th vs. LAC)
LAC OffRtg: 104.0 (8th vs. OKC)

Matchup notes:

Nets get past Raptors by thinnest of margins in Game 7

By John Schuhmann,

VIDEO: Nets hang on against Raptors in Game 7

TORONTO — Basketball can be a game of inches too.

The difference in the first round series between the Brooklyn Nets and Toronto Raptors was the length of Paul Pierce‘s fingers, which reached up and blocked Kyle Lowry‘s shot as time expired in Game 7, sending Brooklyn to the conference semifinals with a nail-biting 104-103 victory.

Lowry had somehow squeezed between Deron Williams, Alan Anderson and Kevin Garnett, losing the ball on one side of the triple-team and recovering it on the other. With all the defense’s attention on him, he had somehow willed his way to the basket one final time.

“That young man,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said, “did everything he could to get to the basket.”

But …

“Sometimes, it’s about being at the right place,” Pierce said afterward, “at the right time.”

The cumulative score in 11 total games (regular season and playoffs) between these two teams was 1,070-1,070. It really doesn’t get any closer than that. Eight of the 11 games were within three points in the final three minutes. And the team that got its first Game 7 win since the Nets came to the NBA in 1976 was the team that barely hung on.

The Nets’ offense had been rolling through the Raptors over the last 2 1/2 games. They led by 11 early in the fourth quarter and by nine with less that four minutes to go. But they couldn’t stop the Raptors’ offense, which scored 30 points in the final period.

“We were right there,” Casey said.

Lowry was attacking. DeMar DeRozan was making something out of nothing. Patrick Patterson was rolling to the basket. The Nets committed a couple of dumb fouls and just couldn’t get a stop … until they absolutely had to.

“We might have bent a little bit,” Nets coach Jason Kidd said, “but we didn’t break.”

It took every last inch for the veteran team with the big names and the largest payroll in NBA history to get past the young guns who had never been here before. The Nets knew how hard it was and how good the Raptors are. Toronto’s division title was no fluke.

“This was a very difficult series,” Garnett said. “It tested everybody’s will here. If anything, I think we grew up a bit during this series.”

That says a lot about the Raptors, who face some questions this summer. The contracts of their coach (Casey) and best player (Lowry) expire at the end of June. But if those two guys are back, Toronto will be back in the playoffs, with an incredible crowd on their side again.

“This is one of the best environments in basketball,” Pierce said of the Air Canada Centre, “as far as the road crowd, the noise, the enthusiasm. This is as tough as it’s going to get. And to come in here in this type of building, the way they play and the way the crowd is, it’s so gratifying.”

The Raptors had the crowd, but the Nets had the matchups. And that’s more important in a playoff series. The Raptors just had no answer for Joe Johnson, who scored 26 points in the deciding game, half of them in the fourth quarter, repeatedly going one-on-one with whomever the Raptors threw at him.

In the fourth, that list included point guards (Greivis Vasquez) and big men (Patterson). Brooklyn’s final field goal of the series was a ridiculously tough runner by Johnson (against Terrence Ross) that gave them a seven-point lead with just over two minutes to go. Johnson played more than 45 minutes (a season-high for a regulation game) on Sunday, and the Nets needed all of it.

“For us to post him every time down, get him the ball where he’s the focal point, for him to make plays,” Kidd said, “he’s as good as they come down the stretch.”

The Nets played through Johnson all series, something that will be more difficult to do against the Miami Heat, who are bigger on the wings, in the conference semifinals, which begin Tuesday in Miami.

After grinding through a series that went down to the final play of Game 7, Brooklyn has just 48 hours to prepare for the defending champs. The Nets went 4-0 against the Heat in the regular season, but know that doesn’t matter now.

“We know we can beat them,” Johnson said. “But it’s going to be a lot different from the regular season.”

The Nets can take something on these last seven games, where it took every basket and every stop to separate them from the Raptors by the thinnest of margins. But it’s already time to move on.

The champs are waiting.

Showdown Sunday for final four first-rounders

By Sekou Smith,

VIDEO: The first round’s final four teams are doing whatever they can to avoid going fishing


That’s it!

Four quarters.

It all comes down to this.

Four quarters, or more if need be, for the final four teams still alive on the most epic weekend ever in the first round of the NBA playoffs. From the emotional roller coaster of Saturday’s wild, three-game ride to — the Indiana Pacers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers, all three higher seeds — we finish with today’s two-part saga.

The Brooklyn Nets and Toronto Raptors finish what they started in the Eastern Conference while the defending Western Conference champion and No. 1 seed San Antonio Spurs defend the Alamo against those pesky No. 8-seeded Dallas Mavericks.

It goes without saying, no one wants to Go Fishing!

So the time for posturing is over. All that’s left is this double-header for all the marbles.

The final four must deliver on the promise of what we’ve already seen from this historic weekend of Game 7s. No pressure fellas, just epic finishes to epic series on an epic weekend …


It has to be a comforting feeling for both of these teams knowing that a rested and focused Miami Heat team, the two-time defending champions, await the winner in the conference semifinals.

Either way, the Nets and Raptors couldn’t be better suited for one last battle.

As’s John Schuhmann points out, just one point (967-966) separates them in the 10 games they’ve played this season, with each of them winning five times. This is a much-needed rubber match that pits one of the most well-seasoned teams in the Nets against a Raptors crew that is swimming in the deep end of the playoff pool for the first time.

But there are more than just numbers at stake today at the Air Canada Centre. There are legacies on the line for the likes of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, who were brought to Brooklyn for moments like this, and for Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, whose careers will continue to be built on defining moments like this one.

As a group those four stars have a combined 23 Game 7 starts under their belts … so at least one advantage, the experience edge, goes to the visitors from Brooklyn. Just don’t tell the Raptors, who have the sensational and dynamic DeMar DeRozanKyle Lowry duo (they are averaging a combined 44.8 points in this series) on their side.



No one loves Game 7 like the Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzki.

No one.

His spotless 4-0 record in Game 7s — that’s right, spotless — no doubt makes him love this big stage even more. All he’s ever known in Game 7 is success, as Tim MacMahon of points out:

He knows nothing but the thrill of victory in the winner-takes-all series finales. Nowitzki is 4-0 in Game 7 action throughout his career, and his numbers in those games border on ridiculous.

You think joining a trio of Hall of Famers – Elgin Baylor, Bob Pettit and Hakeem Olajuwon – in the exclusive career 25-point, 10-rebound club is impressive? Nowitzki has averaged 28 points and 14.8 rebounds in Game 7s, with all of that experience coming between 2003 and ’06.

How silly is it that the big German was stereotyped as a “soft Euro” until he led the Mavs on a 2011 championship march without a series going seven games?

Dirk registered a points-rebound double-double in each of his four swings at a Game 7. The only other active players with four such Game 7 double-doubles in their career are Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan.

Nowitzki has three 30-10 Game 7 lines. He’s the only guy who can make that claim in the database, which dates to 1986. The only two-timers in that time span: LeBron James and Karl Malone.

Of course, Duncan is mentioned among those Game 7 greats. The Spurs superstar big man has been at this so long that you knew he’d have this on his resume, too.

You know Duncan remembers well that Game 7 loss to the Mavericks from May 2006 in the Western Conference semifinals, an overtime defeat that saw Duncan torch the Mavericks for 41 points, 15 rebounds and 3 blocks in a failed effort. The Spurs are 3-5 all-time in Game 7s, boasting a rich history of highs and lows in those games, 2-2 record under the watch of Duncan and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.

A new chapter in this storied rivalry will be written later today.

It’s Showdown time for all involved in the final four of the best first round of the NBA playoffs we’ve ever seen!

VIDEO: The Game Time crew discusses the battle for Texas between the Spurs and Mavericks


Six factors that can separate the Nets and Raptors in Game 7

By John Schuhmann,

VIDEO: Nets-Raptors: Game 7 Preview

TORONTO — How silly of us to think that one of these teams would win this series in six games. We should have realized that the Toronto Raptors and Brooklyn Nets have some sort of reciprocal gravity that keeps one team from ever pulling away from the other.

They’ve played 10 games this season. They’ve each won five, with a total combined score of Raptors 767, Nets 766. Eight of the 10 games have been within five points in the last five minutes.

So it’s only fitting that this first round series will come down to a Game 7 on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, ABC).

For the Raptors, this is an opportunity. A win would give their young core 4-7 more games of playoff experience against the defending champion Miami Heat. It would give head coach Dwane Casey additional job security. And it would help establish the franchise’s place on the NBA map.

For the Nets, this is another referendum. If they can’t get past the first round, what exactly did they spend $104 million in salary and another $92 million in luxury taxes on? And where the heck do they go from here?

“They have more to lose than us,” DeMar DeRozan said Saturday.

Indeed. But payroll won’t determine which team gets their first Game 7 victory (since the Nets came to the NBA). These six factors will.

The nail

Though the Nets lost Game 5, they established some things offensively. One of those was Joe Johnson operating from the middle of the floor, a set that made it difficult for the Raptors to double-team him. The Nets didn’t go to that set much in Game 6, instead using Johnson back in the low post and in pick-and-rolls with Deron Williams more often.

But the Nets did take the middle of the floor away from Kyle Lowry, who scored just three points in the paint or at the free throw line in Game 6 after scoring 14 in Game 5. They took away the Raptors’ primary offensive actions and often had them trying to improvise with less than 10 seconds left on the shot clock.

DeMar DeRozan will make some tough shots, but if it’s only tough shots that he’s getting, Brooklyn is in good shape.

Minutes distribution

The Raptors have been at their best when reserves Greivis Vasquez and Patrick Patterson are on the floor. They may sacrifice some defense by playing big minutes with Lowry, Vasquez, DeRozan and Patterson on the floor together, but their regular small forwards have come up empty offensively all series.

Terrence Ross is gaining experience and John Salmons is a bigger body to put on Johnson. But Raptors coach Dwane Casey shouldn’t hesitate to go to the three-guard lineup early and often, because the positives on offense will outweigh the negatives on D.

Lowry, Vasquez, DeRozan and Patterson are a plus-23 in 54 minutes together, but played just 12 minutes over the last two games.

The 3-point line

Neither team has shot well from 3-point range in the series, but both teams have attempted 22 threes per game. If one team – or just one player – gets hot, it could be the difference. With the attention that Johnson draws, Brooklyn is more likely to get open looks. That’s why Alan Anderson has replaced Shaun Livingston in the starting lineup.

Patterson, of course, puts a fourth shooter on the floor for Toronto. He can punish the Nets’ defense for its focus on Lowry and DeRozan.

Toronto on the roll

One of the bellwethers of this series has been Amir Johnson, who has averaged 14.7 points in the Raptors’ three wins and 4.3 points in their three losses. A lot of Johnson’s production has come as the roll man, catching passes from Lowry and Vasquez. The Nets’ weak-side defender needs to meet the roll man – whether it’s Johnson or Jonas Valanciunas – before he gets too close to the basket.


Both teams have averaged less than 10 fast break points per game, but have been at their best when they’ve been able to get out into the open floor. Williams pushed the pace from the start in Game 6, which allowed the Nets to get into their offensive actions early in the shot clock and before the Raptors could get set. That produced easier shots.

When the Raptors made a little bit of a run in the fourth quarter, they were getting some easy baskets in transition as well.


After averaging 19.3 turnovers in the first three games, the Raptors have averaged just 13.0 in the last three. But it was an issue that popped up again in the fourth quarter on Friday, keeping them from being able to cut the Brooklyn lead to single digits. Any extended turnover issues in Game 7 (for either team) could end their season.