NBA Playoffs, Suns v. Spurs Game 3: Jefferson's big scoring night was all part of the plan

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In Game 2, Richard Jefferson scored 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting. For some guys in this league, that’s a walk in the park. For Jefferson this season, it my be closer to a modern miracle. After being touted as one of the keynote acquisitions by any team last off-season, RJ has disappointed time and time again, with his decent scoring performance in Game 2 standing as one of the ’09-’10 campaign’s few comforts.

Or maybe not. Maybe Jefferson was simply doing exactly what the Suns wanted him to do: shoot. From Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News:

But as if to prove Jefferson’s point about aggression having nothing
to do with his involvement in the offense, Phoenix forward Jared Dudley
said it all was by design — Phoenix’s design.

“We hung our hat
on defense, and made the right people shoot the ball,” Dudley said.
“Who we wanted to (shoot were) Richard Jefferson, Tony Parker from
outside, George Hill.”

The Suns game plan has obviously been geared towards stopping Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, and although Duncan finished with 29 and 10 on Wednesday night, the Suns made him work for it. Ginobili, on the other hand, had to settle into a role as a distributor, and could manage just 11 points on 2-of-8 shooting to go along with his 11 assists.

Other than Duncan staying effective, the Suns are getting what they want defensively. Jefferson taking 13 shots while Ginobili takes just eight has to be considered a win for the Suns’ defense, even if RJ did show a bit of life and manage to contribute. Likewise, if they can keep Tony Parker out of the paint as they did on Wednesday (Parker managed just one field goal attempt at the rim in Game 2), Phoenix will be wisely playing the odds; Tony, like just about every other player in this league, is much more effective around the basket than he is shooting long, two-point jumpers.

George Hill’s ability to hit the corner three could be a wild card, but thus far the Suns have done a decent job of contesting that particular shot. They may give him pull-up jumpers or various looks from mid-range as part of their defensive scheme, but clearly the lethality of the corner three was not lost on Alvin Gentry and his staff.

Something has to give eventually, though. If San Antonio can put enough pressure on the Phoenix from a few different angles, Hill could be left wide open from the wings with enough room to fire comfortably. Tony Parker could look to catch-and-drive rather than catch-and-shoot when Manu Ginobili kicks it out of a double-team. Richard Jefferson — well, the Spurs will just have to hope that he keeps making the looks that he gets. With a defense geared to take the ball out of Manu’s hands, San Antonio needs another scorer to keep pace with the super-efficient Suns.   

Jazz boost international bona fides with new minor-league coach

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Martin Schiller has been named coach of the Salt Lake City Stars, the Utah Jazz’s NBA G League affiliate.

Schiller previously served as an assistant coach of MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg in Germany and replaces Dean Cooper. He was an assistant coach for the Artland Dragons from 2010-15.

Schiller has also been an assistant coach on the German National Team since 2015, where he worked with Jazz assistant coach Alex Jensen.

Schiller hails from Vienna, Austria, and Stars vice president of basketball operations Bart Taylor lauded him for his international experience and player development background.

The Jazz organization is known to have close relationships with the international basketball community. The Jazz currently have eight international players.

Kyrie Irving will wear No. 11 with Celtics

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BOSTON (AP) — Newly acquired guard Kyrie Irving will wear No. 11 in Boston because the Celtics already have retired the numbers he wore in college and with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Irving wore No. 11 at two New Jersey high schools before switching to No. 1 at Duke. He wore No. 2 with the Cavaliers for the first six years of his NBA career.

The Celtics retired No. 1 for founder and original owner Walter Brown. They retired No. 2 for former coach and general manager Red Auerbach.

In all, the Celtics have retired 21 numbers, with Paul Pierce’s No. 34 next in line for the TD Garden rafters.

 

PBT Extra: Cavaliers’ new GM aces first big test with Kyrie Irving trade

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Everyone in the NBA — heck, nearly everyone living in the Western hemisphere — knew Kyrie Irving wanted out of Cleveland. That should kill the Cavaliers’ leverage and make it hard to get enough quality back.

New GM Koby Altman — the guy thrust into the job when David Griffin was shown the door — pulled it off brilliantly.

That’s what I talk about in this new PBT Extra. With Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder, the Cavaliers remain the team to beat in the East this season. The Brooklyn Nets pick gives them flexibility going forward, whatever LeBron James decides to do next season.

First time at the plate in the big leagues and Altman crushed it to straight away center field.

Cavaliers-Celtics deal first offseason trade involving players who just met in NBA Finals or conference finals

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The Cavaliers and Celtics played in last year’s Eastern Conference finals. The teams were widely expected to meet there again.

Yet, Cleveland and Boston just completed a blockbuster trade – Kyrie Irving for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Nets’ 2018 first-round pick.

That seemed odd.

In fact, it’s unprecedented.

That is an incredible fact, one which speaks to LeBron Jamescachet. The Cavs are emphasizing this season, LeBron’s last before a player option, by loading up with veterans Thomas and Crowder. With LeBron still reigning in Cleveland, the Celtics are delaying their peak by acquiring the younger Irving.

Adding to the intrigue: the Cavs and Celtics are still favored to meet in this year’s conference finals. At minimum, they’ll face off in a(n even more) highly anticipated opening-night matchup.