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. 

Stan Van Gundy backs off feud with ESPN ahead of televised Pistons game

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Pistons president/coach Stan Van Gundy said he wouldn’t give ESPN its usual access – a private pre-game meeting and an in-game interview – in the aftermath of ESPN publishing LaVar Ball’s negative comments about Lakers coach Luke Walton.

The first test of Van Gundy’s new policy comes with today’s Pistons-Wizards game on ESPN… and Van Gundy is mostly backing down.

Van Gundy, via Rod Beard of The Detroit News:

“I got an email from Rick Carlisle of the coaches association and they want me to cooperate, so my whole idea was to boycott the thing in support of coaches,” Van Gundy said. “If the coaches don’t want that, then it would be a selfish thing, sort of a grandstanding thing.”

“I’m certainly not looking to do extra stuff with ESPN.com when those guys call and want to do things,” Van Gundy said. “They want to put themselves out there as a journalistic enterprise — they’re clearly not. They don’t have any journalistic standards. I have no obligation to do anything extra.”

Many media members have quoted Ball on a variety of issues. Coaches threw a fit over this one because they’re sensitive to coaches being criticized. It wasn’t about journalistic ethics or the source. Van Gundy and other coaches simply didn’t like Ball’s conclusion.

I’m so glad Van Gundy is no longer grandstanding. [extreme sarcasm]

He’s not obligated to speak with ESPN reporters, but when Van Gundy rails on journalistic standards as cover for disagreeing with the opinion a journalist published, he sounds a lot like the guy he loves to criticize.

Pistons’ Jon Leuer to undergo season-ending surgery

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Jon Leuer‘s ankles survived this.

But apparently they’re not invincible.

Rod Beard of The Detroit News:

After suffering a sprained ankle on Oct. 31, the symptoms worsened, as an exam revealed bone fragments and other issues. Leuer has missed the last 35 games and has decided to have season-ending ankle surgery, he told The Detroit News on Friday.

Leuer, 28, has scheduled the procedure to remove bone fragments for next Friday and will have a four-month rehabilitation process.

The Pistons have applied to the NBA for a disabled-player exception

The Pistons have been without Leuer for a while, and they’ve done fine without him. Anthony Tolliver is a capable backup stretch four, and Henry Ellenson adds even more insurance there. Detroit misses Leuer as a stretch center, providing a different style behind Andre Drummond, but Eric Moreland and Boban Marjanovic have at least decently handled those reserve minutes.

The bigger issue: The Pistons are paying Leuer $10,497,319 this season and owe him $19,510,724 over the next two years and don’t miss him that much. He’s a luxury they don’t need and maybe can’t afford.

Perhaps, they’ll deal him before the trade deadline, as they look to upgrade the roster for a playoff run. Detroit could send Leuer and a draft pick or young player (Stanley Johnson) for a better player on a more favorable contract. How about Leuer and a first-round pick to the Bulls for Nikola Mirotic?

A disabled-player exception (DPE) would be worth $5,248,660, half Leuer’s salary. It could be used to sign a free agent for the rest of the season or trade for a player in the final year of his contract.

But the NBA grants a DPE only if a league-appointed physician rules the player is “substantially more likely than not” to be unable to play through June 15. The reported timeline would have Leuer back in May.

Still, the league tends to be lax with giving out DPEs. Detroit has a chance to get one.

The Pistons are just $2,745,417 below the luxury-tax line. So, they’re unlikely to use a full Leuer DPE to acquire another player (and would still need to clear a roster spot). But it could be helpful in facilitating a bigger trade.

PBT Podcast: All-Star starters mock draft, picking reserves

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The votes are in, and LeBron James and Stephen Curry are your All-Star captains.

For the first time in NBA All-Star history, that means they are picking their own teams, playground style, first from the pool of starters, then the pool of reserves. Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports take on the roles of LeBron and Curry and pick their All-Star starters, from James Harden through Kyrie Irving.

Then the pair gets into who should be the All-Star Game reserves — and choosing among the Western Conference guards is brutal. Do they leave out Damian Lillard? Lou Williams? Klay Thompson? And that’s not even getting into Paul George being a bubble All-Star in a deep West.

Kurt and Dan break it all down, plus talk some Kemba Walker trade scenarios.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

Aaron Gordon forgoes desperation attempt to win, sinks halfcourt shot instead (video)

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The Magic were in dire straights near the end of their game against the Cavaliers last night. Orlando trailed 104-103 with 0.2 seconds and a jump ball to be tossed at center court. By rule, the Magic didn’t have time to catch-and-shoot, let alone recover the jump ball then shoot. Aaron Gordon had to tip the jump ball through the hoop from halfcourt – nearly impossible, but technically possible.

Instead, Gordon grabbed the jump ball – a violation – then sank a halfcourt shot. What an ironic end.

Cleveland then harmlessly inbounded the ball to seal the win.