No one saw this coming.
Goran Dragic went absolutely nova in the fourth quarter, scoring 23 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter, destroying the vaunted Spurs’ defense in route to a 110-96 win for the Suns in Game 3 Friday night. The Phoenix Suns, with all their tortured history against this team, with all their questions, and with low expectations coming into the preseason, now find themselves with a 3-0 series lead and a chance to eliminate the spectre of failure that has haunted them in the playoffs against their rival.
The Suns went down by 18 early, but found themselves back within range by the half. Thanks to a second half push and big contributions from their bench, including Leandro Barbosa who chipped in 13 points. But really, Dragic was the catalyst.
And it wasn’t just offensively. Tony Parker wound up with 17 shots, hitting only five, and he was largely the player trying to initiate offense in the second half, despite his physical limitations due to the injuries he sustained all year and Dragic’ edge on him athletically. The result was sloppy Spurs’ possessions we’ve never seen from a Duncan team in the playoffs and opportunities for the Suns to take it to them on the other end.
Speaking of Duncan, he had only 9 shots, while Matt Bonner had 6. Bonner also added fourteen to five hundred blown assignments. I lost track at one point. Needless to say, the “Matt Bonner blown defensive assignment” drinking game is a painful game to play.
Steve Nash played only the final four minutes of the fourth. Amar’e Stoudemire didn’t play a single minute.
This ain’t your older brother’s Suns team. But it is your grandmother’s Spurs team.
If any team can overcome a 3-0 deficit to crush another team’s soul, it’s the Spurs. But so far in this series, it’s been the Suns with all the answers.
Rob Mahoney will have more answers about this series later today.
I’m still trying to decide if this is cool or a little too Stepford.
The Cavaliers rolled into the Bakers’ Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis tonight wearing matching designer suits, all paid for by LeBron James and custom fitted to each player.
If a college team rolled into a game in four-digit designer suits, the NCAA would have questions. And not about the vests.
The Cavaliers are LeBron’s team, and if he wants to buy his teammates suits and tell them to wear them it’s going to happen. Is it a bonding thing that helps bring them together? Sure. Is it in place to make sure LeBron remembers which ones are his new teammates? Probably not.
Do the suits help on the court? No. And the Cavaliers better bring it in Game 3 because if they go down 2-1 in this series — something that is a realistic possibility — the whispers of doubt are going to get a lot louder.
Mike Budenholzer is restless in Atlanta, seeing a rebuild coming and looking at other jobs (something Hawks management is fine with). He went down the road a ways with the Suns before pulling out of that process, but he’s still looking around.
The Knicks are casting a wide net in their search, talking to virtually everyone looking for coaching jobs.
So, this seemed inevitable, right? Budenholzer and the Knicks are going to talk, according to Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
This will be very preliminary. The Knicks have already had some level of conversation with Mark Jackson, David Fizdale, Jerry Stackhouse, David Blatt, Mike Woodson, and TNT analyst Kenny Smith (Jackson and Fizdale are the rumored early leaders). Budenholzer has established a style and culture in Atlanta, giving the franchise a path forward. New York could certainly use that.
However, the Knicks job comes with real challenges, too. That starts with James Dolan as owner and the erratic, at times paranoid culture he has created there. Also, expectations in New York are always high, but the team will be without Kristaps Porzigis for at least half (maybe all) of the upcoming season as he recovers from an ACL injury, and that puts a ceiling on the team in the short term. Is all that worth leaving Atlanta for?
Golden State has flipped the switch in the first round, going up 3-0 on overmatched San Antonio. The Warriors have been outscoring the Spurs by 20.2 points per 100 possessions in the series, allowing less than a point per possession on defense and scoring when and where they want. Kevin Durant is averaging 27.3 points per game, Klay Thompson is shooting 63.3 percent from three and scoring 25.7 points per game, and the Warriors are clicking.
But they are not yet whole — they need Stephen Curry back. Not for this round, but before the Western Conference Finals for sure.
Curry was re-evaluated Friday and will begin practicing with the team in a limited — or “modified” to use the team’s term — way.
The target has always been a return somewhere during the second round, and that still seems to be on track. That is also a little faster than traditional for a Grade 2 MCL sprain, which can take up to two months to heal (not the 4-6 weeks of the Warriors timeline), but the Warriors are being cautious here for now.
Eventually, the Warriors will need him back — their offense is built around Curry and his ball movement and movement off the ball. Curry’s gravity to draw defenders, even when he doesn’t have the ball, opens up the floor for others. Put simply, if he’s 28 feet from the bucket on the weak side defenders still have to watch and be near him, and help defenders need to be aware, which pulls the defense to wherever he is. Without Curry and the Warriors take more midrange jumpers, it’s just in the first round series against the Spurs they are hitting them.
Former NBA commissioner David Stern said the league began testing for marijuana because players complained of other players playing high. Chauncey Billups said he knew teammates who played better high.
But Stephen Jackson is the rare former NBA player who admitted to playing high.
Now, he has company.
Kenyon Martin – who played for the Nets, Nuggets, Clippers, Knicks and Bucks in a 15-year career – via Bleacher Report:
We were playing in Indiana one day. I wasn’t feeling well. I had a hamstring, a hip or something. So, I smoked. I wasn’t going to play originally. So, we got to the arena, and I’m like, “I feel good.” I went and told the trainer, “I’m going to go today.” I went out there and had a great game.
If you want to guess which game this was, here are the possibilities.
This was part of a great feature on marijuana in the NBA and NFL. Matt Barnes, Al Harrington and Gary Paton also participate. I highly recommend (pun intended) watching it in full.