NBA Playoffs, Suns Spurs Game 1: By the way, Steve Nash can score, too. A lot.

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Nash_layup.jpgHere’s the counterintuitive trick to beating the Phoenix Suns — you want Steve Nash to score. Seriously. The theory is that when Steve Nash is forced to shoot he is less dangerous than when he is feeding Amare Stoudemire and Grant Hill dunks. Phil Jackson has used this defense with a lot of success.

The problem — Steve Nash can score. The man is a very good shooter; you still have to make it hard on him.

George Hill and the Spurs did not — Nash had 17 first quarter points, seemingly all on layups, and that fueled a confident Suns squad that held on for a 111-102 win in game one.

Hill, a very nice up and coming player who looked so good against Dallas, got benched to start the second half after Nash just abused him. That really says more about Nash than Hill — three days off to rest his sore hip (and back and countless other nagging injuries) made Nash look like a new man. He finished with 33 points on 13 of 19 shooting.

Nash still got his assists (10) and late got the help he needed — the Suns ended the game on a mini-run capped by a Jason Richardson three that was the dagger.

Defensively — and the Suns do play some defense now — the Suns plan in the crunch was pretty clear: Don’t let Manu Ginobili beat us. They doubled him on the perimeter, took the ball out of his hands, and dared some other Spur to beat them with the three ball. It worked because the Spurs shot 21 percent from three (4 of 19) on the night.

Still, Ginobili had 27, Tony Parker had 26 off the bench, and Tim Duncan had 20 and 11. The big three for the Spurs shot a respectable 50 percent from the floor. All the other Spurs shot just 37 percent.

Still the Spurs had some answers, they actually led early in the fourth quarter. Well, I don’t know that giving Keith Bogans minutes is an answer as much as a band aid on the problem, but it worked — he was out there for the Spurs 13-0 run that made it a game at the end.

The game was close because the Spurs made a couple of nice runs, but the Suns dominated he majority of it. Those Spurs runs were enough to put fear in the hearts of Suns fans, people with plenty of San Antonio inflicted scars. But for most of the game, it was the Suns that dictated the tempo, the style of play. That’s why they got the win. If they can do that three more times, they can exorcise some demons.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?

Hawks’ DeAndre’ Bembry out with fractured wrist

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In their season opener Wednesday, Atlanta second-year man DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench and played 17:45, scored six points and was +13 on the night. It was a good start to his career.

But now he is going to miss some time with a fractured wrist.

Bembry underwent an MRI, which revealed a fracture in his right wrist, the Hawks announced Friday. He will return to Atlanta with the team (the Hawks lost to the Hornets Friday night) and will meet with team doctors at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center on Monday. His status will be updated after that.

“We just may play some other guys more, we may use some of the young guys,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told the AP before Friday night’s game. “We’ll just figure it out tonight and as we move forward. I don’t think there’s anything guaranteed for anybody, it’s unfortunate for DeAndre’ and for us.”

 

Danny Ainge says Celtics will apply for Disabled Player Exception

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It’s not likely Gordon Hayward returns this season. His agent said as much, although a return in March is not out of the question. (It’s better PR wise for the Celtics to say he is out for the season, then if he returns early great, it’s better than setting a deadline he doesn’t meet.)

With that, the Celtics are going to apply for the Disabled Player Exception, which could help them land a replacement player, Danny Ainge told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Globe on Friday the club is applying for the Disabled Player Exception, which would provide the Celtics $8.4 million to pursue a player to fill Hayward’s roster spot.

“We’re in the process of doing that,’’ Ainge said. “We have a while to do that. There’s no urgency, but we will apply for that.”

There are limits to what that money can get the Celtics. The money is the same as the mid-level exception, the Celtics can go over the cap to use it, and the player can be obtained via free agency or trade. However, the player must be in the last year of his contract.

It gives the Celtics options. It also does not mean Hayward cannot return, it only means NBA-approved doctors determined he is not likely to return before a mid-June deadline.

Kings hire former WNBA Seattle coach Jenny Boucek as assistant

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The NBA now has a third female assistant coach.

The first was Becky Hammon, who has been part of Gregg Popovich’s Spurs staff for several years (and has coached their Summer League team). The second was Nancy Leiberman, who has been on the staff in Sacramento for a couple of seasons now.

Now the Kings have hired former Seattle Storm coach Jenny Boucek as an assistant coach on Dave Joerger’s staff. She will work as an assistant player development coach.

A former WNBA player in the league’s inaugural season, the past three years she has coached the WNBA’s Seattle Storm (she was fired midway through the last season), and prior to that had been the head coach of the Sacramento Monarchs from 2007-09.