NBA Playoffs: Can Denver beat Utah on the road?

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Stealing a win on the road was a huge break for the Utah Jazz. Utah and Denver were a combined 66-16 at home this year, and went 40-42 on the road. Clearly, both of these teams are a lot more comfortable in their own buildings. Even without Kirilenko and Okur in the rotation, Utah has a lot of momentum going right now. 

That being said, the momentum will go right back to Denver if they can get a win tonight. Considering how many offensive weapons the Nuggets have, it’s never a good idea to count them out of a game. Let’s take a look at how each team can win Friday’s game in Utah and take a 2-1 advantage in the series:
Utah:
-Keep Deron Williams going:

Williams averaged 29.5 points and 12.5 assists on 51.7%/50.0%/80.6% shooting over the first two games. Utah is the more disciplined team at both ends of the floor; if Williams can continue to take over games on his own, they have a great chance.
Contain Carmelo Anthony to some degree:
The Jazz were able to live with Carmelo scoring 32 points on 25 shots in game 2. They weren’t able to handle Carmelo scoring 42 points on 25 shots in game 1. As long as he plays like a normal All-Star instead of going absolutely insane, Utah should be able to score enough to hold on. 
-Be Aggressive offensively:

The Jazz didn’t turn into the Suns during game two, but they did seem to get into their offense much quicker and look for more quick-hitting baskets. The Nuggets are a below-average defensive team, and Utah should look to attack the rim against them rather than settling for mid-range jumpers out of their flex sets. 

Get Something out of Wesley Matthews:

Korver coming off the bench takes some pressure off of Matthews, but going 3-12 from the floor over the first two games is not ideal for a starting shooting guard on a playoff team.
Denver:
-Use Your Big Men:

Like the Lakers, the Nuggets have a tremendous size advantage down low but don’t seem to be cognizant of it. Nene and Martin aren’t traditional post-up bigs, but they have the ability to punish Utah’s injury-riddled frontline if they get set up with chances to attack the rim. Martin and Nene both shot 7-10 from the field in game two; J.R. Smith, who went 3-10, was allowed to shoot just as much as either one of them. That should not be so. 
-Play Under Control:

Eight turnovers for the Nuggets in game one. 17 turnovers for the Nuggets in game two. Guess which game the Nuggets lost? Organized chaos only works if the offense knows what it’s doing. It’ll be hard to stay calm with the Utah crowd screaming their heads off, but it’s what the Nuggets have to do. 
-Attack Boozer and Milsap:

First of all, both Boozer and Millsap are iffy defenders. More importantly, if one of them gets into foul trouble, it means major minutes for Fesenko and Koufos. Those are not the guys Jerry Sloan wants to have to count on in the playoffs. 
-Get something out of Ty Lawson:

In game 1, Lawson had 11 points and 6 assists in 22 minutes, and the Nuggets were a +16 when he was on the floor. In game two, he had 3 points and 1 assist in 14 minutes. Lawson is a better backup point than anyone on the Jazz. The Nuggets should try to turn that advantage into some points. 
-Try to play defense:

I know Denver tries to outscore teams, but they should be capable of holding the Jazz to under 50% from the field or 40% from beyond the arc. Maybe they can start out by doing just one of those things in game three. Baby steps, you know?
Well, those are my keys. Tune it at 10:30 EST to watch either the Jazz or Nuggets win for completely different reasons than the ones listed above. 

Corey Brewer: “James (Harden) is going to play defense this year”

HOUSTON, TX - MARCH 18:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets walks across the court during their game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Toyota Center on March 18, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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James Harden‘s defense is not as bad as its reputation.

Well, at least it wasn’t two seasons ago — his near MVP season he was in good enough shape that he could put in a respectable effort on that end and still handle his massive offensive load. There were still some mental lapses, but his focus was better and his improvement lifted the team defense. Last season, he regressed back to youtube “highlight” defense Harden — his conditioning was not where it needed to be, he didn’t expend as much effort on that end, and it showed.

Harden got a massive contract extension this summer, and Dwight Howard is Atlanta’s problem — now Harden has to lead the Rockets. By example. Corey Brewer told ESPN you’re going to see that on defense.

“I think this year he’s going to play better defense, We’re going to let the past be in the past. It’s the future of the Rockets, man. James is going to play defense this year.”

We’re all Missourians on this one: Show me.

Remember that the Rockets will be out and running — Mike D’Antoni is the coach now, and Daryl Morey is going to get the up tempo ball he wants (which Kevin McHale had them doing, but Harden didn’t like him so…). D’Antoni’s teams in Phoenix played better defense than their reputation — points per possession they were middle of the pack — but that has never been his focus.

Will Harden be able to run like he needs to on offense and still defend at a reasonable level?

If he can, it’s a big step toward the Rockets being a dangerous team in the West because if he does it others will follow. Otherwise, every Rockets game will be a shootout, which is entertaining but not going to get a team deep into the playoffs.

 

Watch Drake hit a half court shot while doing a situp

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 26:  Singer Drake celebrates after Terrance Ross #31 of the Toronto Raptors sinks a 3-pointer in the second half of Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Indiana Pacers during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at the Air Canada Centre on April 26, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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I can see the questions on Twitter/in the comments already so let me save you some time.

Because it’s summer.

Because it’s Drake (he’s a celebrity and an NBA hanger-on with some quasi-official position with the Raptors).

Because Stephen Curry did it, too.

Because what other hoops are you watching on a late August afternoon?

And besides, you clicked on it. You know you want to see it.

So here it is, Drake, hitting a halfcourt shot while doing a sit up. Enjoy.

FOR THE KIA!!!!! @highlighthub @bleacherreport

A video posted by champagnepapi (@champagnepapi) on

Mario Chalmers says he’s cleared to play

Memphis Grizzlies guard Mario Chalmers moves the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015, in Washington. Chalmers was ejected in the first half. The Wizards won 100-91. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
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Mario Chalmers was thriving with the Grizzlies after a midseason trade from the Heat when a torn Achilles ended his season.

Not the way Chalmers wanted to enter free agency.

Still unsigned, he says he’s progressing.

Chalmers:

Can he go 100%, though? If not, when?

A few teams could use another point guard. If Chalmers shows his health, he belongs in someone’s rotation. But that might require taking a low-paying deal and working his way up from the third point guard spot – or even just onto the regular-season roster.

Report: John Wall ‘rankled’ by James Harden’s high-paying Rockets contract

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 29: John Wall #2 of the Washington Wizards is defended by James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets in the second half at Verizon Center on March 29, 2015 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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Bradley Beal isn’t the only player bothering John Wall.

James Harden – who’s earning a lot of money from the Rockets and adidas – is drawing the ire of the Wizards point guard.

Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer:

One league source familiar with Wall’s state of mind simply put it this way: “Wall’s got jealousy issues. He’s always upset with someone who makes more money than him.”

A front office executive tells The Ringer that Wall was “rankled” after Harden signed a four-year, $118 million extension with the Rockets.

O’Connor also pointed out this line from Nick DePaula of Yahoo Sports on Wall rejected adidas’ offer:

“He wanted Harden money,” a source told The Vertical.

I wonder how Wall feels about Beal’s max contract, which pays much more than Wall’s deal. Wall didn’t like Reggie Jackson, another lesser player, earning the same amount as him.

The union rejecting cap smoothing in light of the new national TV contracts has certainly adversely affected Wall, who locked in long-term just before the salary cap explosion became known. As other players sign huge contracts, he’s stuck on his old-money deal.

Washington could’ve renegotiated and extended Wall’s contract, but it would have been more complicated than Harden’s arrangement. Wall has three years remaining to what was previously two for Harden. How much extra money would the Wizards have paid Wall over the next three years just to get him committed for one more year? Instead, they signed Ian Mahinmi, Andrew Nicholson and Jason Smith.

I’m also unsure Wall would’ve accepted an extension. He doesn’t seem overly happy in Washington, and a raise via renegotiation was coming only if Wall provided something in return – an additional year of team control added to his contract.

And don’t lose track of this: Harden is better than Wall.

I don’t mind Wall monitoring other players’ contracts. That jealousy or whatever you want to call it has driven Wall to become a star NBA player. Whatever motivation works.

But demanding Harden’s deal is unrealistic. The Wizards also ought to be mindful of how Beal’s new contract affects chemistry, but that’s their problem.

Wall’s issue – as a player, not endorser – is primarily theoretical. He’s tied to his current contract, and lesser players will earn more than him due simply to timing. He must find a way to make peace with that.