NBA Playoffs: Magic look for the sweep in Charlotte

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The Magic haven’t been able to get their offense going against Charlotte all series. Dwight Howard has had trouble staying on the floor, and hasn’t been very effective in the post when he is in the game. Vince Carter has been off. The Magic have launched threes and relied on the play of Jameer Nelson, and only the latter has been consistently effective. Yet they still find themselves up 3-0 on the Bobcats thanks to their dominant defense and Charlotte’s impotent offense. 

Can Charlotte take a game on their home floor, or will the Magic enjoy a few extra days off before their second round series? Let’s take a look at what both teams need to do to win game four:
What Charlotte Needs to do to win:

-Get some scoring. When their jump shots have fallen, they haven’t been able to score in the paint. When they finally had success inside in game three, they couldn’t buy an outside shot. Charlotte has kept each game relatively close with their defense, but they need to put the ball in the basket to win.
-Slow down Jameer Nelson. Easier said than done, I realize. Nelson has looked unstoppable. He’s hitting threes, he’s getting into the paint, and he’s draining pull-up jumpers. Howard and Carter are the bigger names, but Nelson’s the one who’s been killing the Bobcats. They need to trap on him and force the other Magic players to step up. The strategy could easily fail, but they need to do something.
-Attack Gortat. The Bobcats have gotten Howard off the floor, but in games two and three they struggled to take advantage when Gortat was in the game. If they can’t outscore the Magic when Orlando’s best player is on the bench for extended periods, they have no chance. 
-Get something out of Diaw. He’s one of the players who could put pressure on the Magic, but he’s alternated between looking passive and forcing up bad shots. He needs to find a rhythm in the worst way. 
-Don’t play like it’s a 3-0 series. The Bobcats have kept themselves in each game by making it ugly and giving tons of effort. If they try to go on tilt and try to outscore the Magic instead of grinding out each defensive possession, it will get ugly. 
What Orlando Needs to do to win:

-Keep Howard on the floor. Howard’s been getting frustrated by ticky-tack calls and physical defense in the post and picking up unnecessary fouls. He has to show maturity and wait for the game to come to him instead of swinging his arms out on offense and asking to pick up fouls. It’s fine for him to get fouls, but he should at least earn them.
-Get something out of Howard and Carter. Carter’s shot hasn’t fallen, and Howard hasn’t been effective when he’s been force-fed in the post. It could work in Orlando’s favor to get both of them going by setting both of them up with some easy looks to start the game.
-Keep playing defense. The Magic are a defense-first team, and that’s why they’re up 3-0. 
-Hope Jameer keeps it going. When he has a big performance, the Bobcats don’t have an answer at the offensive end. 

Kevin Garnett: Thon Maker “is going to be the MVP of the league one day. Mark it down.”

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Not to get to inside baseball on NBA journalism, but one fundamental truth is player trainers pump up their guys. There usually is some truth in what they say, but it is in their interest to spin the player the best way possible. On and off the record it happens. It’s like asking a political campaign manager about his candidate, you will only get the positive.

Kevin Garnett worked out and helped the Bucks’ Thon Maker this summer.

In just his second season, Thon Maker has been in and out of the starting lineup for the Bucks at center, and he’s struggled this season with a true shooting percentage of 48 getting him 4.5 points a game, and PER of 9.3. (Bucks fans are understandably disappointed, but this is a second-year player, some patience is required).

Garnett had Makers’ back in a Q&A with Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Abrams.

Thon Maker reminds me a lot of myself. He loves the game. He’s a young, exuberant athlete who has a lot of tools—he has touch; he has agility; he has really, good feet. He has a really good shot from three-point all the way up to 19 to 21 feet. He has very good bones, as we say.

Thon is going to be the MVP of the league one day. Mark it down. He has the bones. He has the appetite to be able to chase something like that.”

Garnett may have the wrong young-stud Buck with an MVP in his future.

Maker has gotten KG comparisons for years, he’s a very mobile and athletic but thin big who can shoot from the wing… but the physical similarities are not enough. Maker is no KG. Not yet. Maker showed promise against the Raptors last playoffs but has not taken a step forward off that progress this season, looking far more prone to fouling than defending. The effort is there, but the maturity of game has a long way to go to catch up.

Garnett is right that Maker has the tools, and he is just in his second NBA season so patience is required, but there were concerns around the league before the draft if he had the makeup to put it all together and become a quality NBA player. That question is still out there, let’s get past it before we heap on accolades.

LeBron James all good with Reggie Jackson’s free throw gamesmanship, “I’ve done it before”

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Let’s set the stage: Sunday night, the fast-rising Pistons led the fast-rising Timberwolves by three with  6.2 seconds left when Jimmy Butler drew a foul on a 3-pointer. Butler drained the first two free throws. Before the third, Reggie Jackson interrupted to talk to Stanley Johnson, who was in rebounding position. Butler missed the free throw, and Detroit held on to win 100-97. Here’s the play in question.

It was a bit of gamesmanship by Jackson.

LeBron James was asked about the move at Cavaliers shootaround and endorsed it with a smile on his face.

“I’ve done it before. I won a playoff series before doing that actually. So, I’m all for it.”

That series was in 2007, overtime of game 6 of a first-round playoff series against Washington, and the victim was the Hibachi, Gilbert Arenas. The Cavaliers were down 1, Arenas had two free throws, missed the first, then LeBron stepped in. Arenas missed the second, and the Cavs went on to get the win.

Is interrupting free throws about to become an NBA thing? If it works, players will do it.

Warriors pose for photos with Jahlil Okafor’s dad’s ‘FREE JAH’ shirt

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Jahlil Okafor‘s father has not been shy about speaking out on his son’s behalf. NBA players are advocating for the 76ers to grant Okafor, who’s out of the rotation and on an expiring contract, his desired trade or buyout.

When both join forces…

Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Stephen Curry appear to really enjoy Chukwudi Okafor’s shirt. That doesn’t mean they’re necessarily calling on Philadelphia to do anything. But they hadn’t to know how it’d be perceived.

It’s easy to predict free agents will avoid the 76ers as a result of the Okafor situation, but few anticipate getting stuck similarly. Players overwhelmingly value money, winning, role and location. If Golden State’s stars are applying any external pressure, it shouldn’t really move Philadelphia more than anything that has already been said and done.

A couple of Lonzo Ball’s triple-double assists look dubious (video)

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Lonzo Ball draws outsized attention because his father, LaVar Ball, lures onlookers and because the rookie plays for the high-profile Los Angeles Lakers.

So, when Lonzo gets a triple-double – like his 11-points, 16-rebound, 11-assists game against the Nuggets yesterday – it draws scrutiny.

Mo Dakhil of The Jump Ball:

The NBA defines an assist as a “pass that directly leads to a basket. … An assist can be awarded for a basket scored after the ball has been dribbled if the player’s pass led to the field goal being made.”

I wouldn’t describe either of those passing as leading directly to a basket. Ball’s teammates each hold the ball for a moment after receiving the pass then take two dribbles against set defenses.

But assists are subjective, and the Lakers aren’t alone in offering a home-court scorekeeping advantage.

Kyle Neubeck of Philly Voice

So, criticize/laugh at the Lakers. But your favorite team probably manipulates assists in its favor, too.