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.
CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.
Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.
James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.
Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.
Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.
After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.
“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”
Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.
Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.
This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.
One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.
LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.
Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.
That lasted about a minute.
LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.
For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.
The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.
With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.
I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.
That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.