NBA Playoffs Magic v. Celtics: J.J. Redick making it tough for Magic to keep him off the floor

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nba_redick.jpgAlthough the Orlando Magic have struggled at times in their series against the Boston Celtics, they need not despair. It’s never good to drop two games on your home court in the playoffs, especially in consecutive contests in the series’ opening games.

Still, Orlando has lost two games by a combined seven points against a team on an obscene roll. It makes winning the series incredibly difficult, sure, but for as well as the Celtics have played and as poorly as the Magic have at times, the slim scoring margin between the two has to be seen as reason for optimism.

The key is for Stan Van Gundy and his staff to identify the most problematic areas and the Magic players to adjust before its too late. In a seven-game series, changes in approach and execution are only as influential as the time at which they’re implemented. Everyone within the Magic organization can only hope that there’s still time to implement a change, go about making the necessary adjustment, and do their best to perform beginning with Game 3.

One possible adjustment is to yank the injured Matt Barnes from the starting lineup, and replace him with the far more effective J.J. Redick.

Just by watching the flow of the Magic offense, you can notice a significant difference between when Redick is in the game compared to when he is not. It’s as much about what Redick does as it is about what Barnes doesn’t (or can’t, with his injury). Revisit the video from Game 2, and you’ll not only see Redick contributing off the ball on both ends (either by chasing Ray Allen around screens or making his defender chase him), but also with the ball in his hands or the hands of his defensive assignment.

The only situation in which Redick seemed to struggle was in a temporary lapse of judgment that cost the Magic a proper look at a game-tying three-pointer. That play was an outlier. It was a bout of temporary insanity for a player that has played very well this season and has carved out a place in the NBA by working and making the right play.

Don’t trust me? I’d like to point your attention to an excellent piece by Ben Q. Rock of the Orlando Pinstriped Post, who used a combination of Redick-centric stats as evidence of J.J.’s impact. When you look at his production relative to Barnes’, the decision to start Redick doesn’t even seem debatable.

This is a player that’s giving the Magic the best chance to win by playing with the starting unit, and even though Stan Van Gundy has displayed an unwillingness to alter his starting five (while still praising Redick’s impact, mind you), the most important thing is that SVG continues to employ this incredibly successful lineup for serious minutes. Redick has forced the adjustment with his play, and J.J.’s 34 Game 2 minutes should establish a trend for the remainder of the series.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.

How to start your Saturday night: Watching 15 minutes of best plays from NBA season

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There are no NBA playoff games Saturday night, the first night since the start of the postseason there hasn’t been one game. Don’t worry, there are two games on Sunday, including Game 7 between the Jazz and Clippers.

But if you need a Saturday night fix, this will have to do: 15 minutes of the best plays from last season, as compiled by NBA.com.

Go ahead, watch it. You’ve got nothing better to do.

 

Paul Millsap says the expected, he will “most likely” opt out of contract

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This is ranked right next to “overeating can lead to weight gain” on the list of surprising things, but we will dutifully report it anyway:

Paul Millsap is going to opt out and officially become a free agent this summer.

Atlanta’s owner as well as Mike Budenholzer, the coach and head of basketball operations, have both said they plan to do whatever it takes to re-sign Millsap with the Hawks. Millsap didn’t sound like someone eager to leave after the Hawks were eliminated from the playoffs Friday.

“It’s been great. I’m looking to expand this and see where the franchise can go. These last four years has been great. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Even with both sides singing Kumbaya, keeping Millsap in Atlanta likely means a five-year contract at or near the max, which for a 32-year-old player means the Hawks would regret the last year or two of that deal.

Not that the Hawks have much of a choice here, they have to come in big and keep him. For one, they can’t afford to lose Al Horford and then Millsap for nothing in back-to-back years. If they were going down the rebuilding road, they needed to trade Millsap at the deadline (or last summer) to make sure they got something in return. Atlanta explored trade options at the deadline, but then pulled back (rumored to be because of an edict from ownership, which didn’t want to see the team blown up after the Kyle Korver trade).

By not making that trade the Hawks signaled their intention to remain a good team — a 43-win team this season that got them the five seed — with Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard, one that draws well at an arena that historically has not been that full, and see if they can add on. They strike me as a team that will win between 42-50 games a year and be middle of the pack in the East for the next few years, unless they can find a way to add an elite player (which is incredibly difficult).

But if the Hawks can’t re-sign Millsap, then the plan gets blown up. So expect them to come in with a big offer come July 1.