NBA Playoffs: Hawks look to bounce back in game two

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Like the Bobcats before them, the Hawks couldn’t do anything against the defense of the Orlando Magic in game one. The Hawks were a top-five team in offensive efficiency in the regular season, but that number was more the product of a low turnover rate and high offensive rebound rate than it was the product of effective shooting by the Hawks. As John Hollinger pointed out earlier today, the Hawks are an isolation-heavy team in the half-court — that approach worked for them in the regular season, but it isn’t going to get it done against Dwight Howard and Co. 

The Hawks only managed 71 points in game one, and what makes it even worse is that they got 20 points off of Magic turnovers. That means they scored 51 points against the Magic’s half-court defense in 48 minutes of play. They couldn’t defend the Magic either, allowing Orlando to score 114 points on 52.4% shooting from the field. Atlanta got embarrassed in game one. Here’s what needs to change if they even want to be competitive in game two:
-Move the ball. Try to move the ball. Maybe get out in transition more. Anything that isn’t holding the ball and letting Dwight Howard prepare for a drive would be an improvement. Someone needs to get more than three assists, and the team’s assist:turnover ratio has to be better than 12:15.
-Do something different on Howard. Bring immediate doubles. Foul him. Call him bad names. Anything but continue to give him easy dunks in the paint. 
-Get something out of Jamaal Crawford. He might be the best shooter on the team, and he’s certainly the best shooter off the dribble. He can get points without needing to venture into the paint, which is a must against the Magic. He needs to do better than 1-11. 
-Attack Lewis in the post with Josh Smith or Horford, depending on who Lewis is guarding. Posting up Lewis keeps Howard from being able to alter the shot unless he commits to an extreme double, which will leave somebody free. If there was ever a great time for Josh Smith to realize he’s a power forward, it’s now. 
Even if the Hawks manage to do all those things successfully, the Magic could still win easily. This is a horrible matchup for the Hawks, and the Magic look unstoppable right now. Still, there’s a reason they play the games. 

Somebody looks comfortable: Paul George drops 20 in first quarter

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Paul George‘s first experience starting as a power forward was going up against Anthony Davis — not just one of the best power forwards in the game, one of the handful of best players in the game period. That didn’t go well for George, and he wasn’t happy about it.

His second experience was in another preseason game Tuesday, going up against the Pistons and their four, Ersan İlyasova. He’s not quite as intimidating.

George scored 20 points on 7-of-8 shooting, 4-of-5 on threes — and that was just the first quarter (you can see it all in the video above).

As we have said before, George at the four is not a bad call by the Pacers, but some of that depends on the matchup. On the nights the Pacers face Davis or Blake Griffin or LaMarcus Aldridge or Zach Randolph (or a handful of others) the Pacers’ coaching staff is going to have to adjust. But there are a lot of nights where George at the four is going to force the other team to adjust, and that will play into the Pacers’ hands.

Is DeMarcus Cousins MVP worthy? “It’s mine to grab”

DeMarcus Cousins

Last season, DeMarcus Cousins received zero MVP votes (the same as every year of his career). Even though he averaged 24.1 points, and 12.7 rebounds a game, which was enough to get him his first All-Star berth, MVP is another thing entirely. Only players on winning teams tend to draw the attention of MVP voters.

This season, can Cousins — arguably the best center in the game — get in the conversation?

He thinks it’s more than just that, he told Kevin Ding at Bleacher Report.

The topic is the 2015-16 NBA MVP award and whether it could be reachable for DeMarcus Cousins.

“Reachable, man?” Cousins told Bleacher Report, his voice rising high. “It’s mine to grab.”

As noted above, the only way Cousins gets into the conversation — fair or not — is if the Kings are in the playoffs (at the very least). He understands that.

“It’s going to take a full team effort,” Cousins said. “I’ll try to play at a high level and bring my team along with me.”

Vlade Divac built a Kings’ team designed to start winning now — as you would expect from a team a year away from moving into a new arena they need to fill. Owner Vivek Ranadive is not about selling hope anymore, he wants to sell wins.

I think Cousins can help provide that.

I’m less sold on the cast around him being able to help.