NBA Playoffs, Bucks Hawks game 5: Atlanta fears the deer now

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Jennings_win.jpgAtlanta fears the deer now.

This was supposed to be easy. The Hawks have athletes all over the floor, they are the more physically gifted team in this series. The Bucks were without Andrew Bogut. But the Hawks play like Nuke LaLoosh — million-dollar arm and a five-cent head.

With game five — and maybe the series — on the line the Hawks got tight, they stopped executing. Up nine with four minutes left their offense became a predictable and defendable series of isolations that went away from their strengths. Meanwhile, the Bucks kept coming, kept executing, kept getting the mismatches they liked and attacking them. They kept their heads. They won the loose balls. They went on a 14-0 run.

The Bucks won 91-87 and are now up 3-2 going back home to the Bradley Center for game six Friday night.

Folding up late in games is not some new thing for the Hawks, it’s a season-long trend. Their execution goes away, their play calling is poor and/or ignored. At some point, that responsibility has to fall on coach Mike Woodson. He has not made an adjustment to counter Milwaukee’s destroying the Hawks switch on the pick and roll. That play and the Hawks late game play combined into one big disaster late.

Early in the game the Hawks tried to exploit their advantage and size inside — and it worked. Marvin Williams was attacking, dunking and hit four of five. Josh Smith and Al Horford were getting good looks. The only thing that kept the Bucks in it was Brandon Jennings, who kept going around the pick, getting a Hawk big to switch on him them blowing by for a layup, or hitting the jumper over him. Jennings started 5 of 7 while the rest of team was 4 of 14 in first quarter.

Late in the game, it was John Salmons doing the same thing off the same plays for the Bucks, and he had eight points of their 14-0 run.

Late in the game Hawks stopped going inside, they stopped making good passes into the post. They went to isolations, and the result was help on drives where the Hawks missed layups.

Joe Johnson fouled out with 2:15 left and his final two fouls were the kind of thing the Hawks did wrong all night. He closed out late on a Jennings jumper and fouled him. Six came on an offensive charge where he drove the lane, kicked out to a shooter and barreled into Kurt Thomas anyway.

Meanwhile, Bucks were making plays. Ersan Ilyasova made a fantastic save of a ball going out of bounds under the basket, recovers, gets position, the ball back and scores inside. Next possession he runs in hard to catch offensive rebound, gets it to Carlos Delfino open in the corner for the three (Mike Bibby made the mental error of reacting as if the shot clock was reset, doesn’t run out at Delfino, and let him set his feet).

The Hawks ignored their advantages — Williams posting Luke Ridnour — due to bad spacing and indifference.

This was not a matter of desire — both teams wanted it, both teams played hard. But the Bucks have been coached to execute under pressure, to play the system. The Hawks have not. Ballgame. And maybe series.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue: Kyrie Irving feeling ‘good’ after ankle injury

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BOSTON (AP) — Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue says that Kyrie Irving‘s left ankle is feeling “good” in advance of Cleveland’s Game 5 matchup Thursday night with the Celtics.

Irving was moving around and putting up shots during the Cavs’ morning shootaround.

The All-Star rolled his ankle in the third quarter of Game 4 when he stepped on Terry Rozier‘s foot. Irving was able to stay on the floor and finish the game, scoring a career playoff-high 42 points.

Cleveland leads Boston 3-1 and can wrap up its third straight Eastern Conference title Thursday night.

Several Celtics are also fighting injuries as they try to stave off elimination.

Jaylen Brown is listed as questionable with a right hip pointer. Jae Crowder is probable with a left groin strain, and Amir Johnson is probable with a right shoulder sprain.

Danny Ainge: Lonzo Ball declined to work out for Celtics, who hold No. 1 pick

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LaVar Ball said his son, highly touted draft prospect Lonzo Ball, would work out for only the Lakers.

You thought he was bluffing?

Celtics president Danny Ainge, whose team holds the No. 1 pick, on 98.5 the Sports Hub:

We just tried to get him in for a workout, and they politely said no.

It’s not ideal.

Listen, we’ve drafted guys that wouldn’t come in for workouts before. I mean, it’s not the end of the world. We’ve watched them play a ton. We have a lot of information on them.

Good for Ball. Professional sports teams already hold inordinate power over players entering the workforce. In no other industry are top young employees assigned to a particular company, the worst-performing companies typically getting priority, with no ability to bargain with competitors.

Ball wants to play for the Lakers, who offer proximity to his family and hold the No. 2 pick. He can’t force Boston to pass on him or Los Angeles to pick him. But he can influence decision-making.

It seemed likely the Celtics would draft Markelle Fultz, and though they could still pick Ball, him declining a workout with Boston makes that only less likely. The Lakers will probably draft Ball, but this plan carries risk. If they pass, he could fall once he gets to teams less familiar with him.

Still, Ball deserves to decide for himself how to manage his career – especially in such a closed job market. Not working out for the Celtics is probably his best path to getting where he wans to go.

Donald Sterling’s wife petitioning NBA to overturn his lifetime ban

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Former Clippers owner Donald Sterling settled his lawsuit against the NBA and his wife. Reconciled with Shelley Sterling, Donald sounds – in a recent interview with James Rainey of NBC News – ready to move on.

Rainey:

But his wife, Shelly Sterling, also 83, said in a separate interview that she has not let go of at least one formal blot that remains on Sterling’s record: the lifetime ban from the NBA that was imposed on the long-time Clippers owner after his racist remarks against African-Americans attending games.

Shelly Sterling said she personally approached Silver and also had her attorney, Pierce O’Donnell, talk to the league office about lifting the lifetime ban, which prevents Donald Sterling from attending NBA games. Her intention is not to allow her husband to do business with the league, but to clear his record, in consideration of the 33 years he spent as an owner.

“”I couldn’t understand the severity of the ban. It just seemed a little bit out of line,” Shelly Sterling said. “I have talked to [the NBA] several times and I don’t know what they will do. Maybe they will and maybe they won’t [lift the ban]. Maybe it takes a little bit more time.”

The NBA won’t lift the ban for the same reason it implemented the ban: Associating with Sterling was costing the league money.

Time has cooled the resentment toward Sterling, but overturning the ban would return the venom – and much of it would be directed toward the league. There’s no good reason to open that box.

Besides, Sterling – with his lengthy record of racism and sexism – doesn’t deserve clemency. People like him deserve far more comeuppance than they’ve gotten.

Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan staying in 2017 NBA draft

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Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan declared for the 2016 NBA draft, struggled at the combine, withdrew, got into great shape, had an All-American sophomore season, declared for the 2017 draft.

This time, he’s not turning back.

Swanigan:

Swanigan is a borderline first-round pick. He has a couple NBA-ready skills the good teams that typically pick late in the first round might covet, but thanks to trades, teams that didn’t win a playoff game this year hold most late first-round picks. They might pick someone with more upside than Swanigan.

Swanigan is a tenacious rebounder, particularly defensively. He has excellent fundamentals, size (6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan) and ability to read the ball, and he crashes through contact to hunt boards.

He’s also a quality post-up player who can finish with either hand and has the passing ability to make that play work.

But Swanigan is slow. NBA teams have become increasingly adept at running plodders like him off the court by dragging them into pick-and-rolls. Even when on the court, he hasn’t protected the rim at satisfactory levels.

Swanigan has overcome his athletic limitations as a rebounder. He hasn’t done so in other facets of defense.

He’s hardly a dinosaur offensively. He made 45% of his 3-pointers last season, and though I’m not confident that will translate to NBA 3-point range (give the small sample and his form), he should be at least a midrange threat.

Swanigan is also just 20, young for a sophomore. He can improve.

But it’s just hard to look past his defensive limitations.