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. 

Bulls’ Dunleavy to see specialist after suffering setback with back injury

Mike Dunleavy, Joakim Noah
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CHICAGO—Over the past few weeks, Bulls forward Mike Dunleavy has seemed to be making progress in his back rehab. Dunleavy underwent back surgery shortly before the start of training camp and was initially given a timeline of 8-10 weeks. Recently, he’s been increasing his workload, and he traveled with the team on their recent west coast road trip.

However, his recovery may have hit a snag.

“Mike is going to see a doctor again tomorrow and then we should have a better update after that,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said after practice on Sunday. “He had a little bit of soreness. But we’ll have more on that tomorrow.”

An update to Dunleavy’s status is coming, but given Dunleavy’s age (35) and the frequency of back injuries to reoccur, this news certainly isn’t encouraging. Between Tony Snell and Doug McDermott, the Bulls have struggled at both ends of the floor on the wing. Getting Dunleavy back, whenever that happens, will be a huge help. But nobody knows when that will be.

Stan Van Gundy calls out Andre Drummond’s effort after loss to Thunder

Andre Drummond
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After a promising start to the season, the Pistons have lost three of their last four games and seven of their last 10. And although he’s been outstanding for most of the season, Andre Drummond has not been above receiving criticism from Stan Van Gundy. The coach called out Drummond’s effort on Friday night after a loss to the Thunder.

Via Sportando:

“I didn’t think he brought much energy to the Milwaukee game, and I didn’t think he brought much energy tonight,” Van Gundy said of the two beatings the Pistons received this week. “Why that is, I don’t know. But we need a lot more from him than we got tonight.”

Calling out your best player in the media is bold, but Van Gundy has enough of a track record and a reputation, going back to his days in Orlando with Dwight Howard, that he can get away with it. It also sends a message to the entire team that Van Gundy isn’t going to hold his star to a different standard than the rest of the team.

Despite a couple of poor performances, Drummond is having a career year, leading the league in rebounding at 17.1 per game while also averaging 17.9 points.

Lopez twins don’t live together because their cats don’t get along

Brook Lopez, Robin Lopez
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The Lopez twins have always been close. They were teammates at Stanford, they’re both heavily into comic books (and even write their own together), and they both have Instagram accounts for their cats (here’s Brook’s cat, Poupin, and Robin’s cat, Prince Edward Zephyr). So naturally, this summer, when Brook re-signed with the Nets and Robin signed with the Knicks, the logical thing to do would be to live together. Apparently that isn’t happening, because their cats don’t get along.

Via Kirsten Fleming of the New York Post:

“Brook’s cat is very two-faced,” Robin tells The Post. “Everybody loves Brook’s cat. To everybody’s face, he’s such a nice cat. And it may sound like I’m joking, but I am dead serious. He acts like a lazy, sweet cat when everybody is looking. But when their heads turn, he’ll try to chase after [my cat] Edward. The second I lay eyes on him, he’ll act like, ‘I’m a cherub. I’m innocent.’ I’m not buying it.”

Brook agrees that it would be a bad idea.

“We thought about it,” Brook tells The Post. “But the cats really wouldn’t get along. They just wouldn’t allow it.”

This is an extremely valid reason, even though it’s a disappointing. The Lopez twins are two of the most entertaining people in the NBA, and them living together would have had off-the-charts reality TV potential.

Byron Scott isn’t thinking about next year’s draft

Byron Scott

A month into the season, the Lakers the only team in the Western Conference that can absolutely be written out of any hopes of playoff contention. They’re in an awkward position with the upcoming draft: they still need talent long-term, and they owe their pick to the Sixers if it’s outside of the top three. Not surprisingly, Byron Scott isn’t thinking about it at all.

Via Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News:

With the Lakers fielding the NBA’s second-worst record, how much effort will the franchise put in retaining its top-3 protected draft pick?

“I don’t think about that whatsoever,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said. “I probably won’t until April. That’s something I can’t control.”

The Lakers are in a precarious position. They appear likely bad enough to lose a lot of games. But will they lose enough to land in the top three? Otherwise, the Lakers owe Philadelphia their first-round pick as part of the Steve Nash trade.

“It’s impossible to think about the team, try to get our young guys better, the team better and also thinking about a pick,” Scott said. “That’s six months away and you might not even get it.”

Given Scott’s mentality, it’s not at all surprising that he isn’t thinking about the draft. But with his insistence on playing Kobe Bryant and Lou Williams more crunch-time minutes on this dismal Lakers team than D'Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson, it’s pretty laughable that he talks about wanting to develop their young players.

Scott may not be thinking about the draft, but with the position the franchise is in and the likelihood that they lose their pick, he should be.