The triangle offense requires a “big with a brain” to run it correctly — a smart and willing passer. Pau Gasol is perfect. The Bulls used to put Scottie Pippen, Michael Jordan and a host of guys who could pass in the post. That seemed to work pretty well for them. Even Shaquille O’Neal is a deft passer. When he wants to be.
Al Jefferson has a brain, but he couldn’t quite wrap it around how to play the post in Kurt Rambis’ triangle. So the Timberwolves went away from it more and more (Johnny Flynn and the guards had something to do with that, too).
Then along came Darko Milicic. The motion and passing of the triangle feel at home to those coming from traditional European systems, and suddenly the Timberwolves offense was flowing a little better with Darko in.
“I see myself looking at passes now that I never would have looked at before. [Milicic] helps me open my eyes up to the game because he can pass, he can score, he does all the right things on offense. I see the things he does in games. Now, I think I’m a lot better making the right decisions.”
That has carried over with Darko out due to a mild concussion. Jefferson is passing to hit the cutters. Things are opening up in the offense. It almost resembles the triangle at times.
Not that this has translated much to the win column so far. But it’s all about baby steps at this point.
Utah’s Donovan Mitchell wins throwback Dunk Contest with Vince Carter tribute
The throwbacks started with Cleveland’s Larry Nance Jr. going quick-change to pay tribute to his father, the 1984 winner of the Dunk Contest.
Nance later had the best dunk of the night, but it wasn’t enough in the face of Utah’s Donovan Mitchell‘s strong and consistent night highlight by his throwback dunk — donning a Vince Carter Toronto dinosaur jersey and doing VC’s famed 360 dunk — which got Mitchell the 48 points he needed to hold-off Nance and win the contest. It was over.
“Growing up I was a big dunker,” Mitchell said. “I wasn’t really much of a basketball player. I just dunked and played defense, and I watched a lot of Vince’s videos. I’ve been seeing what he’s been doing all year at his age, which is incredible.
“So I figured, you know, at my size if I was able to get it, it would be a great dunk and a way to finish it, you know. And actually, funny story is I haven’t made that dunk in like half a year. I tried it in practice the past two days and tried it this morning, didn’t make it. Tried it last night, didn’t make it… But to be able to make it was why I was so excited.”
Earlier in the night, Mitchell had done another tribute worn a Darrell Griffith jersey — Utah’s Dr. Dunkenstien, who went to Louisville like Mitchell — for an off-the-side-of-the-backboard jumping over Kevin Hart dunk.
“You know, just knowing your history, I think, is the biggest thing,” Mitchell said of the throwbacks. “Just understanding where this game originated, I guess the OGs of the game, I guess you would call it. But just understanding. Even if it’s just dunking. Whether it’s dunking in the NBA in general, Darrell Griffith, we went to the same school in college. I know Darrell very well. Both got drafted by the Jazz, and he was an incredible player. To be able to pay homage to him meant a lot to me.”
For my money, Nance had the dunk of the night, his first in the Finals, a double off-the-backboard throwdown that you had to see on replay to get (it wasn’t as evident in the building what he had done until it was re-shown on the big screen).
It was a fun contest all night long.
Mitchell (the leader in the Rookie of the Year race) started it off brilliantly — he brought out a second backboard, and did a self-alley-oop off one to the other.
Larry Nance Jr. did his tribute to his father with his first dunk, and on his second one came from behind the backboard, going around the world, and threw it down hard. That got him into the Finals.
Oladipo missed all three of his dunks in the first round, which almost doomed his night. He, however, did a dunk wearing the Black Panther mask for his second dunk, which impressed.
Mitchell said he wanted to beat Dennis Smith Jr. because the Mavericks’ point guard had beaten him in dunk contests for years. Smith had one monster dunk, when he went between the legs and threw it down hard and got the full 50. It just wasn’t enough to get Smith to the Finals.
Nance started off the final round by bringing out his father again to throw an alley-oop to a windmill. Mitchell responded with a self-alley-oop to a windmill that was flat-out wicked. That got Mitchell a 50-46 lead after one round of the Finals.
Then Mitchell went to Vince Carter and “it was over.”
Larry Nance Jr. throws alley-oop to himself, throws alley-oop to himself (video)