MIAMI – In the wake of the what he called the “ultimate pain and failure,” Miami Heat Erik Spolestra challenged all involved to reinvent themselves, have a growth mindset and put the team first.
He placed that request with the players and also his coaching staff after the Heat fell in The Finals to the Dallas Mavericks in 2011. That forced guys like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to do some self-examination and find a weakness and turn it into a strength or find something they hadn’t done much of and turn into a staple.
For James, it was about asserting himself and becoming the leader of this crew. For Wade, it was about learning how to defer to another superstar (or two, when needed), something foreign to his system as the lone superstar here before James and Bosh showed up. And for Bosh, it became about expanding his game and becoming the “positionless” big man Spoelstra needed for this team to play to its strengths.
Perhaps no one’s sacrifice has been greater than Bosh’s. He’s had to abandon the conventional low-post construct most NBA big men operate in and learn how to play center while operating from the 3-point line in, a change that has come gradually over the past two seasons. He’s not a 3-point specialist by any stretch as he made just 21 this season and shot just 28 percent. But he’s capable of being a threat from that distance if the Heat need him to be. He shot 54 percent from deep during the Heat’s championship run last season.
“That’s where he becomes positionless,” Spoelstra said. “Is he a [four] or a [five]. As long he’s doing the things that help us be versatile, that’s what makes him so special and unique to us, his versatility. And if you don’t have a player such as Chris, with his versatility …”
They couldn’t handle any of them in Game 1. But Bosh was a particularly tough matchup because he stretched the floor early with two 3-pointers, drawing Bucks rim protector Larry Sanders away from his comfort zone and opening up the floor for James and Wade to operate.
Bosh might not make another 3-pointer in Game 2 tonight or the entire series, for that matter. And that’s fine with Spoelstra, who insists that the fact that Bosh has polished that part of his game and can use it is far more important than worrying about whether he actually utilizes that skill. (more…)
MIAMI – When Brandon Jennings made that upset prediction involving his Milwaukee Bucks and the Miami Heat, he did so with Larry Sanders factored into the equation.
The Bucks’ rim protector and Defensive Player of the Year nominee has to play more than the 18 minutes and 41 seconds he played in that Game 1 loss. He was in foul trouble early and never got into a rhythm. He sat out the final four games of the regular season after a hard fall during an April 10 loss to Orlando, so Sunday night’s game was his first real game action in almost two weeks.
It showed. Sanders barely made a ripple in the first playoff action of his career, scoring six points, piling up as many fouls (five) as he did rebounds and not registering a single block.
Credit the Heat for going after him early and often and doing it in all sorts of ways. LeBron James and Udonis Haslem challenged him at the rim on three first-quarter possessions and Chris Bosh made sure to follow through on the game plan by stepping outside for jump shots in an effort to drag Sanders away from the basket.
If the Bucks are going to avoid a repeat performance in Game 2 on Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena, they’ll need to make the proper adjustments and make sure Sanders leaves a much bigger footprint on the action. (On NBA TV, pregame 7 p.m. ET)
“I’m going to keep myself in the game and play better,” Sander said. “Every time we were aggressive on defense, we got good things out of it. When they came out and they were aggressive, we couldn’t really match their intensity.”
The Bucks couldn’t match the Heat’s balance or energy either, especially when it mattered most. Jennings and Monta Ellis were plenty aggressive on both ends, combining for 28 points and five of the Bucks’ 12 steals.
They didn’t do a great job of involving Sanders or anyone else, though, an adjustment that Ellis and Bucks coach Jim Boylan said must change for Game 2.
“A lot of guys that usually help us out on the offensive end didn’t have a good shooting night,” Ellis said. “You’re going to have nights like that. We just have to stay together as a team, keep trusting each other … we have to play a perfect game, everybody has to be engaged.”
Sanders in particular. It’s difficult to scheme against players like Jennings and Ellis, guys who are every bit as craft and athletic as the Heat defenders assigned to stop them. Designing an attack for Sanders is much more deliberate. And when it is executed properly, the way it was in Game 1, can make a guy who averages nearly three block night a non-factor.
“I had to be a little less aggressive with the fouls I picked up,” Sanders said. “I wanted to be more aggressive in the fourth (quarter) but I went into the fourth with four fouls. But they were really aggressive in how they attacked the basket for rebounds, they attacked us in pick and rolls. They were really aggressive. And that was so smart on their part, to use Bosh the way they did. Definitely, in Game 2, Game 3, Game 4, or however many games we play, you’ll see me more aggressive if I’m not in foul trouble.”
h MIAMI – For a guy who claims not to have slept much Saturday night, LeBron James looked remarkable Sunday night, refreshed even, for the start of the Miami Heat’s defense of their NBA title.
And no, it had nothing to do with the designer red sweater he wore to the postgame media gathering after James and the Heat demolished the Milwaukee Bucks 110-87 at AmericanAirlines Arena.
A restless LeBron looks a lot like the same uber-efficient LeBron we’ve seen all season, and particularly in his past 10 games. James is shooting a staggering 70 percent from the floor and 57 percent from behind the 3-point line. While everyone else plays at game speed, James continues to play at his own speed. It’s not breaking news that he flirted with a triple-double Sunday night … he does that on the regular. It’s the way he does it, making it look easy, that makes you pause.
He needed just 11 shots, making nine of them, to pile up his game-high 27 points. The 10 rebounds and eight assists, nearly each and every one of them a momentum-shifter in one way or another, completed his performance.
“He really just let the game come to him,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He facilitated quite a bit for us. He was creating triggers a lot of times by setting screens and generated a lot of offense just by doing that. It was a very mature, high IQ game. Yeah, that’s about as an efficient as you can get. He made that look easier than it was.”
James has a knack for doing exactly that, making it look easier than it was. Sunday marked the 13th time in his career that he has finished a playoff game with those numbers, the most of any player in NBA history.
“When [James] has a game like that, what can you do?” Bucks coach Jim Boylan said. “I thought Luc Mbah a Moute and Marquis Daniels battled him well. The guy is the best player in the world right now, so what can you do?”
A calm and composed James can nitpick his own work, highlighting his five turnovers and the Heat’s 19 that resulted in 22 points for the Bucks, who will get another dose of this in Game 2 Tuesday night.
“That is the disappointing thing for us,” James said, “The 19 turnovers and 22 points. A lot of those 19 turnovers were careless, including myself, I had five. You know how I am about turning the ball over. I had five of them and three or fourth of them were careless and unforced. We can’t allow that to happen.”
Actually, you can. When you have a bench, powered by Ray Allen‘s 20 points and Chris “Birdman” Andersen‘s 10, capable of producing 43 points, to the Bucks’ 25, you can get away with a little sloppiness in your playoff opener. You can get away with it when superstars like Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh can play complementary roles to the most efficient and dynamic player in basketball.
“He’s in playoff mode,” Wade said of James. “We love him in that mode. Now he is focused on his goal. His goal is to dominate every game and help take this team to a championship.”
Having done it once before, you might assume that this playoff journey would stand out to James above others. But that’s not his way, not his frame of mind for this postseason. He said before the game that he couldn’t remember how he felt before Game 1 last year, so he couldn’t compare then and now. Truth be told, he has no desire to compare what was with what is or even what could be. Competing against his own ghost holds no appeal to James.
“I try to stay in the moment, to live in the moment,” he said.
And why wouldn’t he?
His next game always provides an opportunity to set a new standard or at least chase one that someone else set. He’s scored 25 or more points in 16 straight playoff games, and he kept that streak alive Sunday night with the fewest shot attempts in his playoff career. Shooting 82 percent from the floor, of course, makes these sorts of things possible in LeBron’s world.
The Bucks found that out the hard way. They stayed close early thanks to Brandon Jennings (26 points on not-nearly-as-efficient 8-for-20 shooting) and kept fighting long enough for Monta Ellis (22 points on solid 10-for-19 shooting, though he was just 1-for-6 from deep) to get going, too.
And the Heat still won going away, with all of their turnovers tossed in for good measure, thanks to James.
It’s like Boylan said, when a guy has a game like that (and game like that), what do you do?
HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The playoffs are here. And to get you ready, we’ve got statistical nuggets for each series, courtesy of NBA.com/Stats.
Eastern Conference basketball was slower and less efficient than Western Conference hoops. Five of the eight East playoff teams ranked in the bottom eight in pace, while four of the eight ranked in the top seven in defensive efficiency.
Yet, a couple of these series (Knicks-Celtics and Nets-Bulls) can be seen as offense vs. defense.
Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank) OffRtg: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank) DefRtg: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank) NetRtg: Point differential per 100 possessions (League Rank) The league averaged 94.4 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 103.1 points scored per 100 possessions.
The Knicks scored just 97.6 points per 100 possessions in 70 minutes with Kevin Garnett on the floor this season, and scored 115.8 against the Celtics with KG on the bench. He missed the final two regular season meetings.
Welcome. The darts are on this table, the names are on that wall.
Choose Most Improved Player.
Several candidates will get votes, as is the case most years in this most-subjective of all postseason awards that requires weighing past impact as much as present value. Best reserve or top defender are about 2012-13, but this is the category that attempts to quantify a full body of work. Some among the writers and broadcasters who regularly cover the league from each NBA city will even consider expectations – the young player picked in the lottery was supposed to be this good and merely needed time to get there, unlike the guy that built a career from back in the pack.
One well-regarded coach – not Mark Jackson – said Golden State’s Klay Thompson would be his choice because of Thompson’s key role in the Warriors surging into the playoffs… and Thompson is a shooter whose shooting percentage dropped from last season. Most Improved can become a bottomless grab bag.
The choice here, after conversations with several people inside the game, is Larry Sanders of the Bucks in a very close call over Omer Asik (Rockets), Paul George (Pacers), Jrue Holiday (76ers) and Greivis Vasquez (Hornets), such a close call that the runners up are listed alphabetically to avoid making a split on top of the split. Kemba Walker (Bobcats), Tristan Thompson (Cavaliers) and Nikola Vucevic (Magic) also probably get support.
Each candidate from the lead pack has a sound argument, especially George and Holiday as All-Stars in an undeniable credibility boost. If coaches in their own conference say George and Holiday reached such a special level, that is impossible to dismiss.
But so is this: George’s shooting percentage overall and on threes is down from last season. Holiday’s overall accuracy will be about the same as 2012-13. Plus, they were already established, big-minute guys.
Sanders will go from 12.4 minutes a game last season, all as a reserve, to possibly finishing in the top 10 in the league in two categories, blocks (for sure) and rebounding (maybe). In a nod to his 27.3 minutes, not the typical starter’s work load, he could also end up in the top five in both departments per 48 minutes, and he has logged more time the second half of the season, a nudge that started soon after Scott Skiles was fired as coach.
This is the Sanders the Bucks envisioned when they picked him at No. 15 in 2010, five spots after the Pacers took George and 13 before Vasquez went to the Grizzlies. This is also the Sanders that Milwaukee imagined as part of the front line after trading center Andrew Bogut last season, albeit, the team hopes, while learning to control his emotions. That needs to become his next improvement.
The other top contenders:
Asik – For all the deserved attention on what the arrival of James Harden has meant for the Rockets, signing Asik as a free agent to be the once-and-for-all successor to Yao Ming at center became a direct hit of an acquisition. He became a big factor on defense at age 26 and they became a playoff team.
George – He turned the potential devastation of losing Danny Granger to injury into the positive of George blossoming in his third season as one of the best young wings in the game. Already well-established after starting 19 games as a rookie and all 66 in 2011-12, George became an All-Star who will score and rebound.
Holiday – The serious fade of 39.4-percent shooting in March and 26.6 percent the first five games of April hurts his case. But there is no denying the gains of 2012-13, all the way to the All-Star game. P.S.: He’s 22 years old.
Vasquez – The kind of out-of-nowhere candidate that can draw a lot of attention in this category. Holiday and George were full-time starters last season, and Asik had the headline of the free-agent move from Chicago, but Vasquez went from a lot of Jarrett Jack backup duty in 2011-12 to being on track to finish third in assists in 2012-13. Not third on the team. Third in the league.
Whatever lack of enthusiasm or even dread the Milwaukee Bucks might be feeling about their rapidly approaching postseason public flogging is entirely understandable. Assuming the Bucks do eventually nail down the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference bracket, their reward will be worse than a lump of coal or a Miss Congeniality award.
They’ll get to face the Miami Heat in a best-of-seven series, requiring them to endure four spankings as the NBA’s defending champions rev up for their title defense.
So yeah, we get it. It’s not much to look forward to. But the way the Bucks have gone about their business lately, you’d think Milwaukee would rather not participate in the playoffs at all. There are several teams headed for the lottery, but playing smarter and harder than Milwaukee lately, that look as if they’d appreciate the opportunity more and give a better showing than the Bucks. Orlando, for one, bad as its record is. Minnesota, for another.
Losers in seven of their past 10 games heading into Saturday’s home clash with Toronto and just 4-10 since a moderately encouraging 2-1 West Coast trip a month ago, the Bucks have been busy fulfilling all the concerns about them when the year began. And squandering what was a legit chance to move up to No. 7 by catching Boston.
The dynamic backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellisis undersized and defensively challenged. On too many nights, there’s a your-turn, my-turn pattern to their offensive probes, and a disjointed or absent playmaking that has Milwaukee’s frontcourt players all too happy to come off the bench if it spares them some standing around with that starting duo.
Short-timers abound, in contract terms, and the resultant lack of cohesiveness and long-term vision predictably has followed. Jennings is headed to restricted free agency and has handled it poorly, pouting in or after games, through actions or words, more like an immature rookie than a fourth-year floor leader. Ellis can opt out of his deal and, at times in the past month, has played as if on a salary drive.
Samuel Dalembert, acquired to stem some bleeding up front, was needed less once Larry Sanders finally got traction this season. So first coach Scott Skiles and then replacement Jim Boylan warehoused Dalembert – over there on the bench next to drydocked Drew Gooden.
Dalembert’s deal is up once the Bucks head into summer, as is Mike Dunleavy‘s, as is J.J. Redick‘s, who probably will test the free-agent market and revive criticism that Milwaukee maybe gave up too soon on the small forward shipped to Orlando in that deal, Tobias Harris.
Ersan Ilyasova only recently has played up to the deal he landed last summer in free agency. Sanders reverted to some bad tossed-from-games-habits in a recent stretch. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was hurt less and in better shape before he got paid a couple years ago. Whatever bump the Bucks got from parting ways with Skiles appears to have been temporary – they’re 20-23 under Boylan – and the defense (104.1 ppg over the past 14) hardly is Miami-ready
Meanwhile, the locker room has been light and largely unaffected by all of the sputtering. During postgame media time Wednesday, after the loss to the nowhere-bound Timberwolves, somebody kept humming the tune of “The Final Countdown,” loud enough to be picked up in audio reports. Their third-quarter collapse at New York on Friday kept their magic number for clinching the playoff spot at two.
They’ll get it soon enough. But it’s too bad the NBA has no surrogate system, in which the disinterested Bucks players could vote someone pluckier and more eager to take their place in the first round. The way they’re going, the playoffs will be an opportunity wasted on them.
I’m back with seven awards for the fantasy season that was — and still is for the lucky and talented few who are still alive for their league’s title.
MVP- James Harden, Rockets: Harden was drafted late in the first round or more likely in round two, but his 8-cat goodies rank behind only Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Harden has overtaken Chris Paul as the annual #3 guy.
Pickup of the Year – Nicola Vucevic, Magic: Coming into this season, Vucevic was in a position battle with Gustavo Ayon. Six months later, Vucevic is third in rebounding (11.5), and sixth in double-doubles (38), while Ayon was traded at the deadline.
Surprise of the Year – Larry Sanders, Bucks: Sanders rose from a deep, deep sleeper entering the season to a candidate for the reality DPOY and MIP awards. He’s hovering around 10-10-3, vaulting him into the top-50 of the 8-cat rankings.
Disappointment of the Year – Kevin Love, Timberwolves: K-Love broke his shooting hand in the preseason doing knuckle-pushups and then re-broke it during the season, limiting him to 18 games and 35 percent shooting. He’ll never be worse.
Determinator – Stephen Curry, Warriors: Curry has re-injured his surgically repaired ankle multiple times this season, and yet he’s on pace to rank in the top 5 on the 8-cat chart and play close to 80 games.
Fantasy DPOY – Dwight Howard, Lakers: The best combination of blocks plus steals has been authored up by Dwight, who is averaging 2.5 blocks and 1.1 steals for a league-leading defensive total of 3.6. Dwight could have been the Determinator as well for playing through the torn labrum and returning early from back surgery.
Fantasy MOOP (Most Outstanding Offensive Player) – Kevin Durant, Thunder: The MOOP award goes to the player with the best combination of scoring average, field goal percentage, free throw percentage, and threes made. This year, it’s Durant, who is leading the NBA in scoring (28.3) for a fourth straight year thanks to 51% FG, 91% FT, and 1.7 threes/game.
It’s been a great year. Thanks for the eyes, good luck in your games, and we’ll see you on the air…
Rick Kamla is an anchor on NBA TV. You can follow him on Twitter at @NBATVRick.
Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.
The one recap to watch: Lakers-Bucks was the more sexy game of the night, what with Milwaukee climbing out of a 13-point hole to take down the West’s most glamorous team. By contrast, the Kings-Suns game gets the award for least sexy matchup of the night (despite an awesome performance from the enigmatic DeMarcus Cousins). That leaves Pacers-Mavs as our pick this morning, a bit of a surprise if you look at the final score. We’re picking this one, though, for some off-court reasons. Namely, the Pacers’ mental toughness and circle-the-wagons approach to last night’s game (especially after they learned Danny Granger won’t be back this season). Indiana also heard Dallas’ talk of shaving their hope-to-be-.500 beards after this game, as if assuming they’d topple the East’s No. 2 team with no problem. But great performances from Paul George and Roy Hibbert showed the Pacers are as serious of a contender in the East as they have been all season.
Sanders fuels Bucks’ big victory — As our man Steve Aschburner pointed out postgame, the big story from last night’s Lakers-Bucks game in Milwaukee was obviously the injury toKobe Bryant. But while we’re all fretting over whether or not the Black Mamba will play in L.A.’s next game, lost in the shuffle was the play of Larry Sanders last night. He finished with a career-best 21 points and his high-energy play that has been a hallmark of his season sparked Milwaukee as it rallied from a 13-point hole. Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has more on Sanders and the Bucks’ big win:
The Bucks knew that somehow, some way, they had to halt a four-game slide that was putting their playoff push in reverse gear.
And they did it with a collective effort, posting a 113-103 victory that featured a career-high 21 points from center Larry Sanders and a stellar defensive performance by veteran Marquis Daniels, who had the difficult assignment to defend Bryant.
“We came out and accepted the challenge,” Daniels said. “We needed a win bad. We came out with more intensity and more energy.
“You just try to make all his shots tough and make him work for everything that he got.”
“Our attention to detail was a little better,” Bucks coach Jim Boylan said. “Larry was great, really active, did a lot of talking out there.
“We’ve been struggling lately. And when you struggle, you can get into your own little world, and that’s a bad place to go as a team. You need to be communicating; you need to be playing a collective game.
“Tonight was breaking out of that shell a little bit.”
The Bucks trailed by as many as 13 points in the second quarter but rallied within 56-53 at halftime.
Then they began to take control in the third quarter, using a 13-2 run that featured three dunks by Sanders and a three-pointer by Daniels.
The Bucks led, 82-77, after three quarters and extended the lead to 12 points in the fourth quarter.
Daniels had a key three-point play off a Monta Ellis assist as part of an 8-0 spurt to give the Bucks a 104-92 lead.
“It gets the crowd going and gets the team going,” Sanders said of his six dunks.
He exhorted the crowd in the final minute, walking over to the sideline and raising his arms to get the fans out of their seats.
“I love the crowd,” Sanders said. “I like to get them hyped, especially with the playoffs coming up. It will be good for us.”
Randolph, Hollins ignore talk of conflict — During the Knicks’ win over the Grizzlies on Wednesday night, the New York broadcasting crew implied that there might be growing friction between Grizzlies All-Star forward Zach Randolph and his coach, Lionel Hollins. They also suggested there is a growing belief there is a wedge between the star and his coach and that dynamic is being played out on the court. Randolph and Hollins, though, refute those claims and detail their relationship further to Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal:
There is a growing belief that the Grizzlies’ veteran power forward and head coach aren’t on the same page as they prepare for a postseason run. However, both men dismissed that notion Thursday, saying there is no friction between them.
“Our relationship is fine,” Randolph said. “I respect my coach.”
“The only beef I had with Zach is he was excessively late for a shootaround that started at 4:30 p.m. (last Saturday),” Hollins said. “I told him I can’t start you and he understood. Everybody’s got their opinion about what goes on in our locker room. But only the people in there know. I haven’t had a beef with Zach and he hasn’t had one with me.”
Randolph didn’t start last Saturday against Boston because of his tardiness that day. He struggled mightily on the court this past week in games against Washington and New York.
Randolph had just one shot in the second half of a loss at Washington. He was just 1 of 3 from the field against New York.
Hollins said any correlation between Randolph’s recent poor performances and their relationship is off base because there are basketball reasons why Randolph has struggled lately.
“We’re getting him the ball,” Hollins said. “If you watch the games, we’re getting him the ball. It’s just now teams are taking him away. They’re running three people at him and he’s making passes. Other people are having to step up and try to do things. It’s just the way it is.”
Hollins did acknowledge that the Grizzlies aren’t in the best place as the regular season winds down. And his assessment had nothing to do with their fifth-place standing in the Western Conference.
“I’d like for us to be sharper mentally and more focused intensity-wise. But I understand it’s a long season. I understand that guys get tired and you go through lulls. Then, you get your energy back,” Hollins said. “I just don’t want us to get bad habits. That was one of the reasons I had practice (Thursday). I wanted to get back to practicing our habits. It wasn’t a hard workout, but it was back to technique and fundamentals offensively and defensively.”
Cousins pounds away on Suns — The Kings are one of the West’s worst squads but have shown improvement in March, going 7-7 with wins against the Bulls, Clippers and, most recently, the Warriors, during that span. The win in Golden State wasn’t without its dramatic points for the Kings, most notably being that leading scorer DeMarcus Cousins sat out the entire fourth quarter of that game as coach Keith Smart went for a defensive lineup. Cousins was back in action last night and made sure his play wasn’t an afterthought in the Kings’ win, writes Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee:
A night after being held out the final 12 minutes, DeMarcus Cousins had the option of going back in during the fourth quarter Thursday night.
He declined. There was no need for Cousins to do any more.
Cousins had his way against the undermanned Phoenix Suns. The third-year center scored a season-high 34 points to go with 14 rebounds as the Kings bullied their way to a 117-103 win at US Airways Center.
Rather than seethe over what happened against the Warriors, Cousins took his frustration out on Luis Scola, Markieff Morris, Hamed Haddadi or any other Suns player that tried to stop him.
Cousins scored 17 points and had seven rebounds in the first quarter to spark the Kings’ 38-point effort to open the game. It was the most points Phoenix allowed in a first period this season.
“It was definitely frustration,” Cousins said. “I just try to put it behind me. It’s a new day, so I just try to act like it never happened.”
Cousins showed off his overall skills in going 12 for 16 from the field and making all nine of his free throws. He also made one of his two three-point attempts.
Cousins used power against smaller players and skill and quickness against stronger players that could not match his athleticism.
“The guy has a lot of talent, and you saw everything,” Smart said. “From the three-point shot, he can do that, he shoots them in practice. The midrange, 17-, 18-foot shot. The drive to the basket from deep off the floor. Obviously his rebounding is still going to be his strong suit because that’s what he does, and he’s a very good offensive rebounder.”
Smart knew Cousins wasn’t happy about not playing in the fourth against the Warriors and liked how Cousins responded.
“The best way to handle anything you may be feeling is to go out on the floor and perform,” Smart said. “We’re all judged on the performance. And regardless of what a coach did or a player did, it’s all about your performance on the floor. And tonight he created the environment that he wanted to have success in.”
Barnes wants more transparency with refs — The Clippers are tied with the Thunder in average technical fouls per game this season with 0.8. There have been 58 technicals assessed to the Clips this season, with Blake Griffin’s 12 being the team high. And, as Dan Woike of the Orange County Register points out, most of those technicals have come after the Clippers’ players and coaches argue with officials about a call. Reserve forward Matt Barnes, though, has clear thoughts on what should happen with officials in the future:
Matt Barnes, a player who has made a career of not backing down from anyone on the court, didn’t back down from the touchy topic, calling for the leae to be more transparent with their officials.
“One I thing I will say is I know they get graded. I think their grades should be public record,” Barnes said before the Clippers’ victory over New Orleans Wednesday. “Everything we do on the court is public. Our fines, our techs, everything we do is under a microscope. And the refs are supposed to be a part of this league just like we are.
“Their grades should be public record. Everyone should be able to see.”
“It’s hard,” Barnes said. “When you’re playing as hard as you can and you’re getting beat up and nothing is being done about it, it’s frustrating.”
Multiple players agreed that the team has developed a reputation around the league for complaining about calls.
“I think we do, and if so, it’s warranted,” Barnes said. “I’ve seen the calls that have been made against us and the calls that are not made for us. Blake’s a superstar, and I see the way he gets beat up or me as a defender being aggressive and the fouls I get. It’s frustrating, but it’s something we have to play through.
“…I think the reputation, for whatever reason, is something we’re going to have to work through because we definitely don’t get calls.”
Barnes said he doesn’t hold any ill will towards officials, though.
“They’re out there doing the best job they can,” he said.
But that doesn’t change his views on whether the NBA should be more open with its reviews of their officials.
“A ref’s grade should be public record after a game just like our stats are,” Barnes said. “They’re out there, doing their job, and they’re supposed to be the best in the world just like we are. Their grades should be public record. I don’t understand why not.”
ICYMI of the night: It takes a lot for a mascot to make the cut down here, but Bango sure did get Dwight Howard good on this one … :
MILWAUKEE – The respective head coaches were asked prior to the game Thursday which of their teams was feeling more desperate.
By the end of the night, the Lakers’ Mike D’Antoni had it all over the Bucks’ Jim Boylan. For all the wrong reasons.
Snapshot of the night, the latest in this tortuous season for L.A.: Kobe Bryant hopping out of the BMO Harris Bradley Center on one crutch, his left foot burning from a bone spur diagnosed after the game. Bryant did not talk with reporters in the dressing room but did say to Yahoo! Sports as he maneuvered toward a waiting car: “Inflamed on me. I’ll be all right.” The Lakers were staying over in Milwaukee before flying to Sacramento Friday, where Bryant is expected to be examined again.
This came at the tail end of what already had been a lousy night. After the 113-103 loss the Bucks, their eighth-place counterparts from the East. After another defensive collapse and a blown 13-point lead. After point guard Steve Nash exited for good at 5:13 of the third quarter with an aching back and hamstring. After an old, banged-up team – still smarting from Metta World Peace‘s knee surgery earlier in the day – showed its age, D’Antoni said, then got a little older and more banged-up.
“It’s been a long year, there’s no doubt about it,” forward Pau Gasol said. “A lot of ups and downs. But we’re here. We believe in ourselves. We have the weapons. Hopefully we will stay healthy enough to be able to give it our best shot. But it’s been difficult, no doubt about it.”
Bryant, who sprained his left ankle in Atlanta two weeks ago and missed two games, led the Lakers with 30 points Thursday but shot 6-of-17 from the floor. He was 2-of-8 in the second half, when L.A. got outscored 60-47 by a Bucks club that had dropped four in a row and wasn’t playing at all like a team, ahem, peaking for the playoffs.
But Milwaukee, 35-36, perked up and crept within two games of seventh-place Boston in the East. Led by Larry Sanders’ career-high 21 points and 13 rebounds, all five starters scored in double figures, and Marquis Daniels‘ defense on Bryant led an effort that limited the Lakers to 37.5 percent shooting after halftime, including 1-of-11 on 3-pointers.
“When you’re losing, it seems like you’ll never win again,” Daniels said. “Finally we got a win, we can breathe a little bit. Not breathe, but it’s fresh air and we’ve got to continue to build off this.”
The fact that D’Antoni’s team, 37-36, is sweating out games in late March and figures to do so right through however many it has in April, sums up the failures of its season. Nash is expected to face the Kings Saturday and, given Bryant’s recuperative track record, maybe he won’t miss time either. But with just nine games remaining, a Lakers team that so often can’t control its own scoreboard will be eyeballing others’.
“We have to,” Gasol conceded. “We don’t need anybody else to be injured, to be out, missing games, especially at this point of the year. So let’s see what happens. Hopefully Kobe will be healthy for the next game. Steve will be healthy. I’ll get healthier and we’ll continue to move forward.”
Continue? There was a distinct shifting of gears Thursday but grinding, like something headed toward reverse.
MILWAUKEE – Gordon Hayward didn’t have the heft of reputation necessary to get the foul call in the final seconds of regulation Monday night against Milwaukee. That’s what it looked like to some, anyway, when the Utah Jazz’s third-year swingman drove to the rim, went up, created some measure of contact with Bucks forward Larry Sanders and had the ball knocked away.
Others wrote it off as a classic “swallowing the whistle” moment, the three referees making a conscious decision — contrary to everything the league claims and preaches — not to determine the outcome. The ball wound up in Enes Kanter‘s hands left of the basket, and his short baseline shot off one foot hit the rim and fell out into a scramble at the horn. Milwaukee won the overtime 10-9 on eight points by J.J. Redick and the clinching jumper by Monta Ellis.
In a sense, though, the Bucks won the game when Sanders took advantage of a break in the action to set up that Hayward play with the refs.
Previously in the fourth quarter, Sanders had greeted Kanter in front of the rim but his feet were planted in the restricted area. When the chest-to-chest contact came, he was called for the foul.
So, Sanders said he sought out veteran ref Dick Bavetta and his mates to get them all on the same page for Utah’s final possession of the fourth quarter.
“I asked them to make sure that was the rule – I didn’t leave my feet on the big guy [Kanter] and it was a foul,” Sanders said. “So, the next time I made sure I left my feet and went straight up. Once you’re straight up, you’re OK. I felt like I was on the same page with the referees at that point. As long as I didn’t swipe down.”
Sanders wound up with 16 rebounds and six blocks, including one of Paul Millsap in the final minute of overtime. He has logged at least one block in 40 consecutive games, which means he has a ways to go to match Elmore Smith‘s franchise mark of 61 straight back in 1975-76.
The NBA’s leader in blocks (3.23 per game), Sanders also will get heavy support for Most Improved Player — his 9.0 points and 9.0 rebounds nearly triple what he averaged last season.
“[Hayward] comes to the basket, Larry’s there. That’s what he’s done for us all year,” Bucks coach Jim Boylan said. “In my NBA experience, I look at Larry and I see a little bit of Tyson Chandler. Because, when I was in Chicago, Tyson was very similar: able to make a big play at the end of a game, a big block, a big tip-in or something like that. Larry has a lot of the same qualities.”