NBA Playoffs: Bobcats lost game one, but won matchup against Dwight Howard

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Dwight Howard had a rough game against the Charlotte Bobcats to kick-start Orlando’s playoff run, even if his defense met his own unusually high standards. Howard finished with just five points and seven rebounds to go along with his nine blocks, in a performance that seems easily attributable to the Bobcats’ stellar team defense. Charlotte has never scored particularly well, but the one thing they’ve been very effective in doing this season is containing and frustrating their opponents.

From Tania Ganguli of the Orlando Sentinel:

Even when they weren’t fouling Howard, they used small jabs to annoy him

…”He picked up the one sort of in retaliation,” Magic coach Stan Van
Gundy said. “That’s all they’re trying to do. Their big guys are going
to hit him every chance they get and if he gets one foul retaliating,
they did their job. … He’s just going to have to understand no matter
how many times they hit him, he can’t hit back.”

The Bobcats were certainly successful in getting under Howard’s skin, and Dwight picked up five fouls while trying to impose his will on both ends of the court. Only half of that effort could be deemed a success.

You can’t blame Howard for responding to his frustration with increasingly physical play, as the dark arts employed by less athletic and sizable opponents (read: everyone) in defending/denying Dwight in the post and boxing him out are far more insidious than his own play. It’s not that Howard is innocent; he holds, pulls, pushes, and grabs just like the long line of successful centers before him. That doesn’t mean he’ll be happy about two defenders holding him down though, or being pummeled from all angles when he goes up for a dunk.

From the Bobcats’ perspective, this is exactly what they want. Howard wasn’t frustrated into making too much of a negative impact (he often forces shots or commits turnovers when he feels he’s been wronged), but to hold Dwight to five points in the opening bout is certainly impressive. Charlotte not only showed that they’ll be competitive in this series but that they’re capable of neutralizing (or at least hedging the impact of) Orlando’s post game, which seemed like an unknown heading into the series. Now if they could just figure out Jameer Nelson…

Report: Knicks to interview Kenny Smith for head-coaching job

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The Knicks are casting a wide net in their coaching search.

It’ll apparently include a familiar, though surprising, name.

ESPN:

TNT analyst Kenny Smith will interview for the New York Knicks’ head-coaching job on Friday, a source told ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith.

A quality organization, the Rockets, interviewed Smith (in 2016, before hiring Mike D’Antoni). So, this isn’t proof of the Knicks’ oddball thinking. (There are plenty of better examples, if you wish).

Steve Kerr opened the door for former players to go straight from TV to being an NBA head coach without having any coaching experience. He’s been a smash hit with the Warriors.

But Kerr was also the Suns’ general manager before Golden State hired him. Smith has no front-office experience.

So, it’s tough to judge Smith, whose role on television is more to entertain than inform (though he does both). He’ll have to really wow in his interview to get the job.

But at least he has that opportunity.

Pacers coach Nate McMillan slips and falls while arguing call (video)

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Nate McMillan slipped up in his handling of Victor Oladipo‘s early fouls during the Pacers’ Game 2 loss to the Cavaliers last night.

Then, the Indiana coach literally slipped while arguing that LeBron James should have been called for offensively fouling Lance Stephenson.

LeBron James: Reporter warned me about question on Gregg Popovich’s wife before live TV interview

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In her on-court interview with LeBron James following the Cavaliers’ Game 2 win over the Pacers last night, TNT sideline reporter Allie LaForce asked him about the death of Gregg Popovich’s wife.

LeBron appeared emotional as he gathered his thoughts.

That prompted some to criticize LaForce for ambushing LeBron on a sensitive subject on live TV. But that’s not what happened.

Uninterrupted:

LeBron:

I’m not on social media right now, but I was made aware through some friends through texts that a question was asked to me postgame, and a lot of people feel I was blindsided. That is absolutely false. Allie LaForce told me that she was going to ask the question and if it was OK.

And once I started talking about it, once we were on air, actually my emotions kind of took over. And that was just my emotions coming straight from my heart about the late Erin Popovich.

It’s unfortunate. It’s a tragic loss. My thoughts, my prayers, once again goes out to the Popovich family, to Gregg, to the Spurs family, to the whole Spurs fan base.

And also guys, please get off Allie LaForce’ back, because she followed the proper protocol and she warned me. So, get off her back, man. She’s very professional, and she does a great job at her work.

Like I said, thoughts and prayers to the heavens above. We all know the man above never makes mistakes, even when we question it. But it’s a sad, tragic time right now for the NBA family, and we’re all praying and hoping for the best.

It would have been surprising if LaForce hadn’t done that. Somewhere between nearly nobody and absolutely nobody in her position is trying to embarrass players.

PBT Extra: If Portland is going to turn series around it starts with Damian Lillard

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This was the year the Trail Blazers were going to break through. They were defending better as a team. There was some depth on offense. And Damian Lillard was playing at a level that will get him on many voters’ MVP ballots.

Instead, they are down 0-2 to Anthony Davis and New Orleans, having dropped both games at home to open the series. Portland is on the verge of being bounced in the first round for the third time in four years.

If Portland is going to turn this series around, it starts with Lillard, something I discuss in this latest PBT Extra. C.J. McCollum needs to get more buckets, Jusuf Nurkic needs to contribute more on both ends, but for Portland it all begins and ends with Lillard and it’s on him to start the turnaround.