Be sure to come back at 9 p.m. (Eastern, 6 on the West Coast) for our live blog from tonight’s game.
Robin Lopez will start for the Phoenix Suns in the only real bit of pregame news from players and coaches before Game 1 at Staples Center.
Suns coach Alvin Gentry said he wasn’t expecting big minutes out of Lopez, who has not played in a game since March. If the Suns can get 15-20 out of him, they should be happy.
There also is a rumor here at Staples that Lopez will guard Pau Gasol, while Amare Stoudemire will by on Andrew Bynum. If Bynum were healthy that would be a big size advantage for the Lakers, but he is not. Watch to see if the Lakers can exploit that matchup.
With a week between series, there was little new to find out, no new angles to talk about before this game.
I his pregame press conference, Phil Jackson said he was not thinking about retirement and was not leaning either way.
“I’m leaning on this podium, that’s it,” Jackson said.
Jackson again dodged talking about the immigration issue as well, refusing to discuss the issue.
The coolest thing seen pregame: TNT studio host Ernie Johnson got a ball during warm-ups, walked to the corner three and — in full tie and dress shirt — missed the first shot. Lakers assistant Chuck Person challenged EJ with a “that’s all you got?”
Johnson coolly drained the next one, then went back to his set.
Dwight Howard never played for the Nets. He almost got traded to Brooklyn by the Magic, but the deal never happened.
Which puts a dent in Dennis Schroder‘s theory Howard gets up for games against only his former teams.
Howard dominated Brooklyn for 32 points and 30 rebounds in the Hornets’ 111-105 win tonight. That’s just the second 30-30 game in the last 36 years, Kevin Love notching the other in 2010.
All 30-30 games since Wilt Chamberlain, who had a ton:
- Dwight Howard (Charlotte Hornets, 3/21/2018): 32 points, 30 rebounds
- Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves, 11/12/2010): 31 points, 31 rebounds
- Moses Malone (Houston Rockets, 2/11/1982): 38 points, 32 rebounds
- Swen Nater (Milwaukee Bucks, 12/19/1976): 30 points, 33 rebounds
- Elvin Hayes (Capital Bullets, 11/17/1973): 43 points, 32 rebounds
Howard helped Charlotte erase a 23-point second-half deficit and a 10-point deficit with four minutes left. The Hornets are playing out a lost season, and Brooklyn has looked overmatched most of the year, particularly at center. But no matter the situation, Howard says he still feels super-sized expectations.
Tonight, he exceeded them by leaps and bounds.
The Bucks lost, 127-120, to the Clippers tonight.
More importantly, Milwaukee lost Antetokounmpo to an ankle injury.
He limped off in the second quarter and didn’t return. The Bucks called it a sprain.
Any more time Antetokounmpo misses would be a huge loss. Hopefully, he recovers quickly.
No matter how many other good players – Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe – Milwaukee has put on the floor, the team has struggled without its star. Antetokounmpo is a commanding force offensively who just does so much, and his defense impresses.
The Bucks (37-34) are eighth in the East. They’re safely in playoff position, five games ahead of the ninth-place Pistons. But this hurts Milwaukee’s chances of avoiding a first-round matchup with the excellent Raptors – though the way Toronto has regressed in the playoffs in previous years, that might not be so bad. Still, the Bucks should probably chase the seventh-place Heat, who are up 1.5 games on Milwaukee, and a likely first-round matchup with the injury-ravaged Celtics.
Obviously, a healthy Antetokounmpo would be central to that pursuit.
The Cavaliers haven’t been good enough throughout the season, especially defensively. The Raptors have – offensively, defensively, starters, bench. Hope has grown in Toronto of winning the Eastern Conference after getting eliminated by Cleveland the last two years.
But LeBron James and Cavs showed why it’s hard to pick any other team – even the first-place Raptors – to win the East in a 132-129 win over Toronto tonight.
Cleveland allowed 79 first-half points and fell behind by 15. But a LeBron-led offense was just too potent. This was the first time since 1990 (Nuggets over Spurs after trailing 90-83) a team surrendered so many first-half points then still won.
LeBron finished with 35 points, 17 assists and no turnovers. No forward has ever dished so many assists without a turnover in Basketball-Reference’s database, which dates back to 1963-64.
And LeBron led the Cavaliers to this win despite Tristan Thompson, Rodney Hood, Larry Nance Jr., Kyle Korver and Cedi Osman being out.
It’s only one game, and it was in Cleveland. But even with home-court advantage in a potential playoff series, the Raptors must grapple with even more lingering doubt now about their ability to beat the Cavs.
Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon was a candidate to coach the men’s team at Colorado State, her alma mater. That would have made her the first woman to coach a Division I men’s team.
Alas, it won’t happen.
Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports:
It’s unclear whether Hammon was ever actually offered the job.
She’s still on the right track for a head-coaching job somewhere. Most importantly, by all accounts, she’s doing good work in San Antonio. There’s also more attention on her career because of her pioneering status, and that will appeal to some teams.
This dalliance with Colorado State raises her profile even further and shows just how close she is.