Posts Tagged ‘LaMarcus Aldridge’

Westbrook: Ibaka won’t be fooled again

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: Spurs-Thunder Game 6 preview

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Spurs’ Game 5 strategy to use Matt Bonner and Boris Diaw as “stretch” power forwards to bait Thunder rim protector Serge Ibaka out of the paint worked just like Gregg Popovich drew it up.

Ibaka admitted the ploy threw him off, and he had his first dud since joining the Western Conference finals in Game 3. Yet any notion that the San Antonio’s two role players suddenly present an unsolvable riddle for the Thunder in Saturday’s do-or-die Game 6 (8:30 p.m. ET, TNT) literally made point guard Russell Westbrook shake his head.

“They’re not the first stretch-4s that we’ve played,” Westbrook following the team’s morning shootaround. “We played Dirk [Nowitzki], LaMarcus [Aldridge], Kevin Love, all these different bigs that can shoot the ball at a high percentage, so we know what to do.”

Then Westbrook sort of chuckled thinking of Diaw and Bonner as being the type of gunners he had just listed.

“Boris Diaw, Bonner, man, they can shoot the ball, but that’s nothing we’ve never seen before. We know how to guard somebody that can shoot the ball. Serge knows what he’s supposed to do, we know what we’re supposed to do as a team, so we’re not worried about that.”

And there this was this final guarantee from Westbrook regarding Ibaka’s ability to make himself a presence in the paint in Game 6 assuming the Spurs continue to try to drag him away.

“He won’t be dragged away,” Westbrook said. “He’ll be locked in tonight.”

The home team has been the one locked in through the first five games of a series that coaches and players on both sides have punted on reasons why we’ve yet to see a fourth quarter that matters. Earlier in the playoffs, road teams were stealing games. The Thunder wrapped up their second-round series on the Los Angeles’ Clippers home court.

The Spurs, the regular season’s best road team, are only 2-5 on the road during the postseason going back to Game 3 of the second round at Portland. They’ve also lost nine straight, including blowout losses in Games 3 and 4 of this series, at the Thunder’s raucous Chesapeake Energy Arena. Oklahoma City has won four consecutive home playoff games going back to their Game 1 loss in the second round.

HOME SWEET HOME

The home team has won every game in this series and has dominated all of the key statistics. A look at the Thunder’s production at home versus the road in the Western Conference finals:

Home      Road

FG%                  47.1            42.8

3FG%                34.2           28.2

OffRtg              111.5            94.6

DefRtg              95.6            125.0

FB PTS              16.5             9.3

PITP                   45.0           36.7

Opp PITP         38.0           53.3

Reb                     47.0           36.7

Blocks                9.0            3.0

Steals                 9.5             5.3

Popovich and Thunder coach Scott Brooks both say their teams’ energy and effort have dictated the wild fluctuations of this series more than game-to-game, or even in-game, adjustments.

The home team has simply played with more force and defensive determination for 48 minutes. Consider in their two home wins the Thunder averaged 9.0 blocks (3.0 on the road) and 9.5 steals (5.3 on the road). Those stats go hand-in-hand with their Jekyll-and-Hyde fast-break points that are so crucial to OKC’s offensive success: 33 in two home games compared to 28 in two road games.

Those turnovers and fast-break points work the Thunder crowd into a lather, turning an already hostile environment into one in which visiting teams feel as though the walls are caving in around them.

“Just because we’re home we can’t relax and think we’re automatically going to win because we’re at home,” Kevin Durant said. “This team [the Spurs] is looking to get to the NBA Finals, so we know how desperate they’re going to be to win the game, how hard they’re going to come out and play. We’ve got to match it. We know the circumstances.”

24-Second thoughts — May 12

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com


VIDEO: LeBron talks about his crazy, 49-point night in a win over the Brooklyn Nets

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — LeBron James. Paul Pierce.

Their careers have been intertwined for years. They’ve been at this, the sniping and swiping on and off the floor, for years now.

So, there’s no better way to dive into Game 4 of the Miami Heat-Brooklyn Nets Eastern Conference semifinal than through the eyes, hearts and minds of the main two combatants in a series filled with feisty competitors and at-times, larger-than-life personalities.

“What I try to do in this locker room and with my teammates is just try to give them belief — that we can beat this team,” Pierce said after the Nets’ Game 3 win that included 15 makes from beyond the 3-point line for the home team at the Barclays Center. “They’re not unbeatable. You’ve got to have that mental [approach] if you’re trying to get over that mountain that you’re trying to climb.”

LeBron’s response was what you’d expect from a man who has had to go through Pierce and his Boston Celtics while starring in both Cleveland and later Miami, to reach the top of the heap in the conference and the league.

“Words don’t win the game, you’ve got to go out and play,” LeBron said. “Why should there be a fear factor, it’s just basketball? We’re not trying to win a war here, it’s just basketball. We’re all grown men, who cares about who is fearing who? We’ve never been a team that talks, we don’t get into that. We’ve never been a bulletin board team. We just want to play the right way and give ourselves a chance to win.”

Game 4 @ Barclays, bring it on …

24 – No one gets it in like the venerable Ray Allen!

Deron Williams, however, has his own designs on how to prepare for the biggest game of the Nets’ season …

Good to know Shaq and the TNT crew are already warmed up as well …

23 — Alan Anderson gets tangled up with LeBron and the real playoff MVP (double technical fouls) makes an early appearance tonight …

22 – This is as much a mind game for both sides as it is a basketball game …

21 – These two have rolled together before a time or two …

20 – Just turn to TNT and watch playoff hoops!

19 – “AK-47 is the tool!”

– BREAKING NEWS –

NO Mo (Williams) again in Portland …

18 – “Watch what I do to these jokers in the last six minutes.”

LeBrooklyn James is getting whatever he wants out here. Going hard in the paint. Killing it in transition. Facilitating. He’s giving us the whole experience right now. Had 13 points in the final six minutes of the second quarter. Uh, Ballin’ … in #AttackMode …

BTW, Paul Pierce can’t handle the truth tonight …

–Another dispatch from Portland — 

Oh, and Extra Big Ups to Craig Sager!!!!!!!!!!!

17 – Sooner rather than later …

And yet the Nets are right where they want to be, down 65-63 with 7:01 to play in the third and KG acting like it’s 2004 or something. Rebound on one end, tip dunk on the other to cap a 7-0 Nets run! #weaintdoneyet

16 – “Six minutes, six minutes” …

This LeBron and the Miracles thing is not going to work the deeper the Heat go into these playoffs. #justsayin

15 – Pierce with the dunk for the Nets lead right on cue …

And D. Will with the steal on Birdman and the put back …

14 – The #Truth has shown up for the Nets at crunch time. Now the battle with LeBron is really on …

– Just so we’re clear: 22 of LeBron’s 48 points have come in the paint …


VIDEO: Welcome to the drama that is the Sterlings and the Los Angeles Clippers Dick Parsons

– Sterling foolishness on CNN elicits a prompt response from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver …

13 – Third time’s the charm for Bosh. After two misses from deep he nails the one that matters. #corner3 for 97-94 Heat lead. The Nets’ comeback play …

LeBron finishes his ridiculous night with a playoff career-high tying 49 points …

12 – Thanks for taking the high road Magic!

11 – Another head-scratcher to ponder while we enjoy the Spurs’ reserves go toe-to-toe with the Trail Blazers early in the night cap …

10  Still nothing official from New York and the coaching search …

9 – Raise your hand if you love watching Will “Buckets” Barton crank it up, Patty Mills style, when he tears those Rip City warm ups off. He’s got 22 points in 31 minutes in this series through halftime of Game 4 …

8 – Damien Lillard will not go down without a fight (and a few highlights) …


VIDEO: Damian Lillard throws it down over The Big Fundamental!

7 – They won the game, and then raided the New Jack Swing closet for this #NBAStyle pic after it was over …

6 – LaMarcus Aldridge worked the Houston Rockets over. Dwight Howard. Omer Asik, Terrence Jones and whoever else was unlucky enough to draw the assignment of guarding him in that series. But the LA that dominated that series has vanished against the Spurs. Tiago Splitter, that’s right Tiago Splitter, has done the job defensively …

His partner in low-post crime has been, as the kids say, on one tonight. Robin Lopez = ballin’ …

5 – It’s Batum Time! He’s shoving his countrymen Tony Parker and Boris Diaw aside as he tries to keep the Trail Blazers’ season alive with 4-point plays and anything else he can muster …

4 – #putthebroomsaway?

3 — Good to see Lillard bounce back like this. A sweep and individual struggles would have disrupted his wicked rise …

#RipCityReserves doing their part to make sure this season doesn’t end tonight. Buckets Barton and T-Rob playing wtih crazy energy on both ends …

2 – Spurs,

Put the brooms away please.

Sincerely,

Buckets Barton

1 – Another double-header Wednesday, courtesy Nic and friends …


VIDEO: Will Bartton goes coast-to-coast and finishes with the layup

Blazers’ pride is left on the line

By Fran Blinebury, NBA.com


VIDEO: Spurs-Blazers Game 4 preview

PORTLAND, Ore. — The holiday was fitting, since it was a situation that only a mother’s hug could make feel better.

They’ll tell themselves to ignore history, that it doesn’t matter that no team has ever climbed out of an 0-3 hole in the NBA playoffs.

But all that’s really left for the Blazers to reclaim is their pride.

“The first thing is I don’t want to be swept,” said guard Damian Lillard. “That’s the first thing. That’s the main thing. If we win one game, that’s momentum. That’s going in the right direction. As a team we can’t look too far ahead. Just gotta go out there and try to get one and go from there.”

Just a week ago, the Blazers were still floating on the high on the emotional wave that came from Lillard’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer that crushed the Rockets and gave the franchise its first playoff series win in 14 years.

Now they’re drowning in a Spurs tsunami that won’t let them catch a breath, let alone catch a break.

So how do the Blazers avoid thinking they’re now faced with trying to do, at the very least, the improbable?

“I think just pride,” Lillard said. “You don’t want to just give in. We’ve had such a great season. We’ve worked so hard to be in this position to just say, ‘All right, nobody’s ever done it.’

“Because it’s not impossible and if we count ourselves out that way, then we have no chance. I think you’ve got to look at it to try to be the first more than anything else.”

For now, it’s about winning a possession, winning a quarter and earning back just a little of the respect that might be slipping away if the Blazers surrender in four straight.

“That’s part of it,” said forward LaMarcus Aldridge. “We understand that we haven’t played well, that we have to do a lot of things better.

“Just by take it game by game. We can’t look too far ahead. Right now it’s a one-game season for us. If we can win, there’s one more game. That’s the way we’ve got to look at it. We’ve got to be locked in on that.

It’s not hard to know that you got one game left and if you don’t win, you go home. That’s easy to do.”

The hard part is slowing the Spurs who at the moment are like a huge boulder rolling down the side of a mountain. If it’s not Tony Parker’s offense, then it’s Tiago Splitter’s defense. If it’s not an All-Star starter in Tim Duncan, then it’s Boris Diaw or Patty Mills coming off the bench.

The Blazers contend that their effort has not been the least bit lacking and yet they have managed to lead for a grand total of just 34 seconds through three games. So the question must be asked if there comes a time when you have to simply admit that the other guys are better.

“No. No,” Aldridge said. “When they beat us, maybe. But not right now. We feel like this team is good and we’ve played them well and we’ve beaten them in the regular season.”

The ultimate challenge now is to beat the Spurs four straight times, which would let the Blazers write their names in the history books. But the immediate — if not just as difficult — goal is to force a Game 5 back in San Antonio, which would let the Blazers look themselves in the mirror by avoiding the sweep.

“That’s a terrible feeling,” said guard Wes Matthews. “I’ve been swept before and it’s not cool, it’s not fun. You worked too hard all season. You worked too hard the first series to win the way that we did in the fashion that we did, against the odds that we had to come out and be swept. It’s not like we’re not playing hard. That’s not a question by any means. It’s just a matter getting a win. Get a win and you never know what can happen after that.”

24-Second thoughts — May 10

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com


VIDEO: First and foremost, Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms out there

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — It’s all about you, tonight, Deron Williams.

Someone has to be in the eye of the 2014 playoffs storm every night and since Roy Hibbert is off, it’s most definitely your turn.

World’s watching.

Brooklyn is definitely watching!

What’s it gonna be?

Heat @ Nets … #nosleeptilbrooklyn

24 – A quick Schuhbie Stat you can dip in ranch or blue cheese to get us ready …

And a little mood setter, too …

This is even better …

23 – I wonder if it bothers opponents to see LeBron James run through them in the lane like Godzilla through the middle of the city? #freighttrainjames

And he does it on both ends …

22 – The #NBAStyle Police have an APB out for Dwyane Wade

21 – Shaun Livingston from deep to end the first …(#freighttrainjames with 16 points in 12 minutes for the Heat)

20 – It should be bonkers at the Moda Center in Portland tonight for Game 3 of this playoff double-header (#RipCity) …

– #RedOut

19 – The D. Will-Hibbert connection strikes again …

18 – “Hey, I’m trying to watch the game people!”

17 – Another coaching vacancy coming?


VIDEO: Joe Johnson was hotter than fish grease in the first half

16 – The Barclays Bounce has the Nets playing with a wicked flow tonight. They’ve got it rocking. Ball is rotating like crazy on offense. The energy on both ends is high. They’ve got their largest lead of the series, 68-56 inside of five minutes to play in the third quarter.

It also helps when the elders move like they did years ago …

15 – There’s a Teletovic Outbreak in Brooklyn right now!

“Brooklyn” chants cranking up with the Nets blowing the game open in the third quarter. D. Will even hit a 3!

14 – Dust up time. Ray Allen vs Alan Anderson (I’m predicting double techs, nothing more … this game is over, btw! Nets raining 3s all night. It’s a wrap.)

13 – From the “What in the name of Naismith?” files …


VIDEO: Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts checks in before tip-off

12 – We get Jay, Bey and Jake in Brooklyn. But they’ve got stars in Portland, too!

Jimmy Goldstein, too!

11 – A staggering 15-for-25 from deep for the Nets in a 14-point win to make things interesting …

But …

10 – Hey Underdog, “put that on a T-shirt!”

9 – Portland, we have a problem!

8 – This look sums it all up for the home crowd in Portland …

7 – Bow down to Timmy, passing Karl Malone for 5th place on the career playoff scoring list …

6 – You don’t need advanced stats, analytics or any other tools when you have just plain math …

5 – I’ve been in the Moda Center (it was the Rose Garden then) when the home made runs like these. It can go from  zero to nuclear in a matter of seconds …

4 – That’s the idea #edgeofyourseat …

3 – Gregg Popovich spares no one!

And the results can be, in a word, breathtaking …

They’ve got this basketball thing down, too!

2 – Hard to argue with this at the moment, but we know where to find you when the season is done if your crystal ball has a crack in it  …

1 – Spurs fans don’t need to hang their heads. Your team just ran into a machine. Spurs have been at this, at this level, for nearly tw decades. #SpursWayDon’tPlay

#thenightdalightswentoutinripcity


VIDEO: Tim Duncan joins the playoff Fab Five!

Blazers in hole, need to dig deeper

By Fran Blinebury, NBA.com

VIDEO: The GameTime guys preview Game 3 between the Spurs and Blazers

PORTLAND, Ore. — Dig deeper.

That’s the answer for the Trail Blazers, even though they’re already standing in an 2-0 hole.

LaMarcus Aldridge says they’ve got to play better. Damian Lillard says they have to play harder.

“Everybody has to play better, starting with me,” Aldridge said.

“It’s going to be tough, but we have confidence in what we can do on our home floor,” said Lillard.

But as the Western Conference semifinal series resumes tonight with Game 3, the Blazers will have to go deeper into their suspect bench with reserve guard Mo Williams sidelined by a groin injury.

“We anticipate that he will not play,” said coach Terry Stotts.

Portland is a young team, with no starter older than 28, but even young teams can get worn down. The Blazers compensate for a water-thin collection of reserves by playing their starters more, with three of them averaging at least 41 minutes in the playoffs and another logging 39 per night.

Williams suffered the injury in the Game 6 close-out win over Houston in the first round and labored to shoot just 3-for-11 with four turnovers in Game 1 against the Spurs. In Game 2, Williams played just under nine minutes before the injury flared up again and he was forced to the bench.

For a team that is being overwhelmed by San Antonio’s depth — the Spurs regularly use 10 players — and with Lillard already up to 43.3 minutes per game in the playoffs, the loss of Williams is significant.

“I would assume that Earl [Watson] will get some minutes and Will Barton will get some playing time,” Stotts said. “With Mo averaging his 24 minutes, some of them are at point guard and some of them are alongside Damian. His 24 minutes will kind of be spread out among at least two or three other players.

Barton was on the court for less than 90 seconds total in the entire first-round series win over the Rockets, but has played 20 minutes in two games against the Spurs. In Game 2 on Thursday night, he shot 5-for-5 for 13 points in 12 minutes and during the second quarter was the often the only Blazer who was on the attack offensively.

“Will comes in ready,” Stotts said. “He loves to be on the court and I think that showed when he made his first two shots in maybe a minute of being on the court.”

Film Study: Splitter D keys Spurs

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com


VIDEO: Trail Blazers vs. Spurs: Game 2

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – If there was a postseason Defensive Player of the Year award, the early leader would have to be Tiago Splitter.

After seven games of keeping Dirk Nowitzki in check in the first round, Splitter has done the same to LaMarcus Aldridge in the conference semifinals, helping the San Antonio Spurs to a 2-0 series lead.

The Spurs’ offense has been ridiculously efficient, scoring almost 120 points per 100 possessions over their last five games. They basically won Thursday’s game with a stretch of 12 possessions (spanning the first and second quarters) in which they scored 29 points.

But their opponents have been two of the three worst defensive teams (among those that made the playoffs) from the regular season. And maybe more impressive is that they’ve held two top-five offensive teams under a point per possession over their last three games.

A big key to that has been Splitter’s ability to defend both Nowitzki and Aldridge one-on-one. They are the two of the most prolific mid-range shooters in the league. But if you can contest those mid-range shots, they’re better for the defense than layups or 3-pointers. And the best way to avoid the layups and 3s is by not helping the defender guarding Mr. Mid-Range.

Splitter allows the Spurs to do that. And if he can keep his man from shooting too efficiently, his team is in really good shape.

According to SportVU, Nowitzki shot 21-for-45 (47 percent) against Splitter’s defense in the first round. In the conference semis, Aldridge has shot 8-for-25 (32 percent) against Splitter, including 2-for-13 in Game 2.

Aldridge’s favorite spot on the floor is the left block. Nine of his shots in Game 2 came from that spot with Splitter defending him. He made his first one, and then missed the next eight.

Here’s a compilation of those nine shots …


VIDEO: Splitter Defends Aldridge

From the same spot, Aldridge was 2-for-3 against Boris Diaw. When he hit two straight turnaround jumpers (here and here) midway through the fourth quarter, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich immediately sent Splitter back into the game.

On another day, Aldridge would certainly have made more than one of those nine shots. But Splitter has the size and discipline to use a simple and effective method for defending him. Stay in front, stay on the ground and contest the shot.

Aldridge can get more open looks by getting away from Splitter, as he did a few times on Thursday.

Early in the first quarter, he got a wide-open elbow jumper off a pick-and-pop with Damian Lillard, with the three Spurs who weren’t defending either Lillard or Aldridge staying at home on their man …

20140509_aldridge_pop

Midway through the second quarter, Aldridge got two straight layups (one he made, one he missed) by curling off a pin-down screen from Lillard.

20140509_aldridge_curl

The Spurs cleaned up their defense on those after that, but Aldridge clearly got better looks at the basket when he caught the ball on the move. That will be something to look for in Game 3 (10:30 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPN).

Snakes alive! Spurs squeeze Blazers

By Fran Blinebury, NBA.com

VIDEO: Spurs stifle Blazers in Game 2

SAN ANTONIO – It was the middle of the second quarter and the Blazers’ biggest offensive weapon had finally found a clear path to the basket.

LaMarcus Aldridge slammed his dunk attempt off the back iron.

On the next trip down the floor, Aldridge took another feed, had another open path to the hoop.

And clanked another dunk.

Snakes in the Portland locker room. Snakes on the rim.

When the Blazers eventually slithered out of the AT&T Center on the wrong end of another clubbing, they probably didn’t feel bitten by a viper as much as squeezed breathless by a powerful boa constrictor.

Aldridge can’t find room to move in the low post. Damian Lillard can’t find enough opportunities to work his shimmy-shake magic. Wes Matthews can’t find anything to do except toss up his arms in frustration and plead his case to referees. The numbers on a map say it’s just 200 miles between Houston and San Antonio, but the Blazers have discovered the brand of basketball might as well come from opposite sides of the planet.

In the first round of the playoffs, the Rockets’ played one-on-one. Now the Spurs play all-as-one.

In the first round, the Rockets played with frantic, nervous energy. Now the Spurs play with the quiet, deadly hum of high voltage power lines.

In the first round, the Rockets often treated the fourth quarters and the final minutes of games as something to give away. “Here, take this.” Now the Spurs treat the opening quarters of games as time to simply smack the Blazers and bloody their noses. “Here, take that.”

At this rate their stock is dropping faster than Johnny Football’s. Maybe even the Cleveland Browns wouldn’t take a gamble on the Blazers.

For a Portland team that just four days ago was still celebrating the first playoff series win for the franchise in 14 years, this has been a step up in class like going from kindergarten to quantum mechanics. While Houston poked and prodded and tweaked and adjusted a defensive plan to try to turn down the heat from the boiling concoction that was Aldridge, the Spurs have turned to Tiago Splitter and told him to be the lid on the pot. He bumps Aldridge. He grinds Aldridge. He bangs Aldridge. He flusters Aldridge. And then Splitter gets help in close to the basket from Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard and anybody else who just feels like taking a swipe or throwing shoulder.

“I missed two dunks and four or five layups,” Aldridge said after a 6-for-23 shooting night and just 16 points. “If those shots go in, then the whole game is different.”

And if pigs had wings, it would be tougher for us to catch that bacon.

It’s never a good thing when coach Terry Stotts is pointing out the highlights of not giving up any fast break points and holding the other guys to just 44 points in the second half. Not when his team gave up 70 points and trailed by 19 at halftime.

On one hand, all the Spurs have done is held the home-court advantage as they now head out to Portland. On the other hand, the Blazers have held the lead for a grand total of 16 seconds in two entire games of playoff basketball.

These are not the Spurs who looked disinterested and disjointed through the first six games against Dallas in the previous round. Now they are back to rolling up and down the court like a road grader, flattening anything in their path. Their deepest-in-the-NBA bench is back. So is their swagger. Manu Ginobili throwing football-style touchdown passes to Leonard on the break. Boris Diaw doing the Jell-O roll through the paint to drop in the kind of shot that was so tasty it made you want to lick the spoon.

These are not the Blazers who looked like the poised ones down the stretch against the discombobulated Rockets.

“No panic,” said the Blazers’ Nicolas Batum. “We know we’ve done bad the last two games.”

On the bright side, nobody was bitten.

24-Second thoughts — May 8

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com


VIDEO: HT fave Jamal Crawford collects another KIA Sixth Man of the Year trophy

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — While NFL fans wait around for the start of their beloved draft, we hoops lovers are already engrossed in Game 2 of the Miami Heat and Brooklyn Nets.

You can have Johnny Football, that Jadeveon Clowney fella and the draft that never ends (in the NBA we go 60-men deep, that’s it). I’m rocking with the round ball tonight.

Give me LeBron James and Paul Piece, Kevin Garnett and Dwyane Wade and Tim Duncan and LaMarcus Aldridge, Tony Parker and Damian Lillard in the nightcap when the Spurs and Trail Blazers get it on in Game 2 of their conference semifinal showdown.

I don’t care how choppy it is early, still waiting for someone to knock down a shot here, I’m sticking to NBA basketball tonight …

(I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t intrigued by this one wrinkle, though. The prospects choosing their walk-up song is a splendid idea. The fact that we already know which song each guy has chosen steals just a little bit of the thunder. But I love the idea and wouldn’t mind if the NBA poached it come Draft night next month.)

Oh and big ups to my main man Jamal Crawford of the Los Angeles Clippers on winning KIA Sixth Man of the Year honors for the second time in his career. Well deserved honor for one of our faves around here.

24 – For all of my anti-NFL draft hype, this one didn’t exactly start with fireworks. Brutal start for both teams in the early going. no one wanted to score, or even hold on to the ball, for that matter.

23 – We’re two hours from tip in San Antonio and already there is more action than we’ve seen from the Heat offense, which has produced just 15 points on 6-for-18 shooting (1-for-8 from deep) after the first 12 minutes.

22 – Nets guard Shaun Livingston slipped on a wet spot under the basket early and I missed the replay. He kept playing, so I didn’t think it was that serious. It didn’t hit me until a few minutes later that when you hear the words “Shaun Livingston” and “slipped under the basket” you can’t help but freak out. Glad it wasn’t anything serious. He’s one of my favorite players. Loved his game coming out of high school. He’s the embodiment of the power of perseverance. We were all robbed of what he might have been …

21 – Why don’t we just let Rashard Lewis and Mirza Teletovic play a game of H-O-R-S-E  to decide this thing …

20 – Sorry LeBron, but we don’t always get what we want …

But you did get it cranked up the closer we got to halftime …

19 – Joe Johnson scores on an isolation play and ESPN’s Mike Tirico talks about his nickname in Atlanta being “Iso Joe.” My memory could be a bit shaky, but I swear I coined that nickname when I was the beat writer for the Hawks. Seriously, I think that’s one of mine. I wonder if the url is already taken?


VIDEO: Who’s hotter than Teletovic in the first half? 

There are other Nets stars in the crosshairs at halftime, though, K.G. and D-Will in particular …

18 – Welcome to San Antonio folks …

17 – The battle of the role players continues with Teletovic ballin’ out for the Nets and Ray Shuttlesworth doing the honors for the Heat. We can watch this all night …

16 – There has been a breakout of happy feet in these playoffs. I was going to refrain from bringing it up, until my favorite WNBA player went and did this …

This is a nutty game. Watching some of these elder statesmen battle each other as much as they’re battling Father Time can be painful at times. KG missing wide open jump hooks and D.Wade walking the ball up the court and passing up open shots repeatedly …

Too bad the game isn’t the story of the night. The NFL draft is a role player, too. This is the night of the snake …

14 – BALLGAME!!!! The Heat just finished off a 100-second possession (they got three offensive rebounds) with a LeBron layup to push the lead to 89-79. Nets vets moving like those zombies on the Walking Dead …

13 – Ray Ray was fabulous. And the Heat did what you expect a championship team to do. But D-Will’s 0-for-everything shooting night sticks out to me as the most glaring item of the night.


VIDEO: Some sounds of the game for you from these #NBAPlayoffs

12 – Always figured TP for more of a win guy, being from France and all …

11 – Still no sign of the team willing to take the leap and pick Johnny Manziel. #struggleface …

10 – What is it with Lillard and these buzzer beaters?


VIDEO: Dame Lillard loves to beat the buzzer!

Portland faring much better tonight and they’re still down after the first 12 minutes. Thanks to Kawhi Leonard’s relentless assault. Don’t let the #tbt cornrows fool you, KLeonard is the future of the San Antonio Spurs  …

9 – Crusty old Spurs, huh?

8 – I love the fight in these Trail Blazers. They’re getting cracked in the face and still pressing the action. #betterbasketballclinicfromthespurs …

#nosleeptilbrooklyn for the Heat and Nets

7 – The Spurs’ second quarter burst was a thing of beauty, coordinated chaos and fury from the crew that’s supposed to be boring but has been anything but so far …

– #nomorejohnnyfootballjokes

Johnny Football is a Cleveland Brown with the 22nd pick, joining Kyrie Irving as one of the professional sports saviors of Northeast Ohio!

6 – The KLeonard walk off interview at halftime was quality stuff. He’s every bit as no-frills as his coaches and teammates insist. And the #tbt cornrows got some prime time love. That’s always a good thing …

5 – The power of the #NBAPlayoffs … you’re welcome Pit Bull!

4 –  See Roy Hibbert prior to Game 2 of Pacers-Wizards series …

3 – Young fella is 4-for-4 from deep and helping maintain control at a time when there is. Big 3!

2 – There’s a first time for everything …. especially in the playoffs!

1 – A fitting nugget to end with on “draft night” …


VIDEO: Kawhi Leonard delivers the dagger that all but clinched Game 2 for the Spurs

Morning Shootaround — May 8



VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played May 7

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Whose house? Russell’s house! | Blazers have to prove they can hang with Spurs | Hibbert feeds off of positive vibes from teammates, mentors | Heat always ready for “lineup Twister”

No. 1: Round 2 of an epic point guard battle goes to Russell Westbrook: Chris Paul fired the first shot in Game 1. Russell Westbrook‘s response … whew! After spending the opener as a guest on his own floor, Westbrook made it clear whose house it was with a wicked Game 2 effort, finishing with a triple-double* that helped lift the Thunder. Before things head for Hollywood for Games 3 and 4, Westbrook took his star turn. Jenni Carlson of the Oklahoman has the details:

Russell Westbrook made it clear early that Game 2 was going to be different.

On the first possession of the night, he snagged a steal, then in the process of gathering the ball and heading up court, he ran counterpart Chris Paul into an official. It was whistled a foul on Paul. Then, Westbrook got an offensive rebound and drew a foul on Blake Griffin. Then, he dished an assist to Kevin Durant.

The game was less than a minute old, but the Thunder point guard was already filling the stat sheet.

Setting the tone, too.

“I think Russell probably played harder than all of us combined,” Paul said. “He was all over the place.”

On a night when the Thunder needed to win on home hardwood and even up this Western Conference semifinal – and did just that with a 112-101 victory — Westbrook made sure that this series turned around. He scored. He rebounded. He assisted. He defended. He hounded.

In the process, Westbrook notched his third triple-double of these playoffs.

No other player has even one triple-double in this postseason.

Roll that around in your head a minute. Westbrook 3, rest of the NBA 0.

His triple-double numbers: 31 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists. He became the fifth player in the last 25 seasons with three or more triple-doubles in one postseason. The others: Magic Johnson, LeBron James, Jason Kidd and Rajon Rondo.

Westbrook added three steals and plenty of defensive headaches for the Clippers. What’s more, Westbrook contained Paul, who managed only 17 points and 11 assists. Maybe that seems like a lot, but compared to what he did in Game 1, the damage was minimal.

Two nights after Paul dominated this matchup with eight three-pointers, 32 points and a career night, Westbrook showed that he wasn’t going to back down. Yes, Paul is great. Sure, he might be the best point guard on the planet.

Then again, maybe not.

The point guard battle royale is back on.

And it is because Westbrook went right at Paul. He drew that foul on the opening possession. Then, he just kept coming. He crashed the boards. He looked for contact. He drove to the basket. For as good as Paul is, he’s more jitterbug than bruiser, and with Westbrooks height and size advantage, he used that to his advantage.

Less than halfway through the first quarter, Paul picked up foul No. 2 and had to go to the bench.

“It’s tough to guard him as it is,” Paul said, “but you get two bad fouls early in the game … it makes it that much tougher.”

(more…)

Spurs’ MVP beauty more than skin deep

By Fran Blinebury, NBA.com


VIDEO: Parker leads Spurs to Game 1 rout of Trail Blazers

SAN ANTONIO – They gave out the Kia MVP award earlier in the day.

Kevin Durant over LeBron James in the ultimate 1-on-1 beauty contest.

But the Spurs have never been ones for strutting their stuff down the runway.

Tim Duncan and Tony Parker finished in a tie for 12th place.

“I can’t wait to tell them,” said their coach Gregg Popovich.

There was no need for him to tell the Trail Blazers, who were on the wrong end of a 116-92 clubbing in the opener of the Western Conference semifinal series on Tuesday night.

The Spurs, of course, have been running an entirely different kind of race for years, one that never quite looks right in a bikini.

This is not the way championship teams are supposed to be constructed in the NBA, a league that has always been built on individual stars who are able to hoist entire teams up on their backs.

Mikan. Russell. Kareem. Bird. Magic. Isiah. Michael. Shaq. Kobe. Wade. Dirk. LeBron.

But here are the Spurs winning a league-best 62 in the regular season while trying their damnedest to look a basketball version of the Rockettes, one huge chorus line where it’s the high kick of the collective that most impresses.

“That’s a championship team,” said Blazers guard Damian Lillard, the star of a team celebrated for getting out of the first round for the first time in 14 years. “They came out with more energy than we did. They threw the first punch on both ends of the floor.”

That’s because the Spurs have been throwing punches in these postseason situations since only what seems like the dawn of time. Duncan alone has played more playoff games (219) than the entire Portland franchise.

“They did what championship teams do,” said Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge. “Most of the guys on (our) team haven’t even been in the second round and they’ve won championships. They’ve been here. I think they definitely came out and let us know how it’s going to be.”

That is, like playing an octopus armed with a set of butcher knives.

While Parker grabbed the spotlight in Game 1 with 33 points and nine assists, this is not his wagon to pull. Not alone. Not all by himself through the long playoff grind.

Parker is the match, but the fire comes from a Spurs lineup that burns deeper than any other in the league.

Perhaps the only team in NBA history to win a championship without a truly singular star was the 2004 Pistons. Ben Wallace was their highest finisher in MVP voting that year. Wallace was 10th. Yet he, Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace took down the mighty Lakers.

The Spurs have taken that approach one step further, spreading the wealth and conserving their energy all season long in order to be fit and ready for this charge.

Not a single player on the Spurs roster averaged 30 minutes this season. Parker was tops at 29.4.

The Spurs had nine different players who averaged at least 8.2 points and nobody higher than 16.7.

No stars? Tell that to the Blazers, who were seeing them before the end of the first quarter.

This was a Portland team that went into Houston to open the first round of the playoffs and arrogantly rearranged the furniture in winning the first two games on the road. On this night, they were lost, befuddled, hopelessly overmatched.

“They play your plays,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “They knew where and what we were going to do. They did what all teams do in the playoffs.”

The Spurs just do it better.

All that angst and worry when they were pushed to seven games in the first round by the No. 8 Mavericks.

Too slow, too old, too tired?

So in the past two games, San Antonio has averaged 117.5 points, won by an average of 23.5, shot 54 percent from the field and 42.5 percent on 3-pointers.

The Spurs’ defense bodied up Lillard and kept him from doing damage in the paint, kept a lid on Aldridge early and never let the Blazers grow an ounce of confidence.

By the second quarter, the little-used Kiwi-by-birth, Australian-by-passport Aron Baynes was tossing around Portland like throw pillows and the Spurs never let the Blazers get closer than 20 at any time in the last 28 minutes of the game.

When Parker capped off his night with one especially dazzling spin drive, drew a foul and stood at the free throw line late in the third quarter, the home crowd rose with the obligatory chant: “MVP! MVP!”

By that time, it had already been given to someone else who doesn’t play for the Spurs.

Don’t bother to tell them.