The numbers tell the story: In the first three games of the series the Magic ran 33 pick-and-roll plays. In Game 4 they ran 43. And won.(via Eddy Rivera)
And these weren’t just your standard screens. They were staggered double screens, with Rashard Lewis setting a first screen before Jameer Nelson came off that one and got to Dwight Howard setting a second one. It worked. According to MySynergySports the Magic got 10 of their 33 baskets directly off the pick-and-roll, but when you notice the most of the 9 spot-up shots they made came off the pick-and-roll.
Nelson came off those screens and was able to penetrate, often getting back behind the basket where he could kick out to shooters or even find Howard or other bigs. Celtics bigs had to help on Nelson, freeing up Howard and others to grab offensive rebounds and get easy putbacks. Finally the Magic were able to do to Boston what they did to every other team in the league.
But can they do it again? If the Magic are to send this series back to Boston, they are going to have to keep running the pick-and-roll. A lot. Everybody knows it.
The question is, what does Doc Rivers — and really Tom Thibodeau — come up with?
Rivers said at shoot around he wants more ball pressure, look for the Celtics to do what they do — be physical on defense. As much as the referees will let them. Rivers said he wanted his defenders to “put their body” into the Magic ball handlers.
He’s talking specifically to Rajon Rondo. This is going to come down to how Rondo fighting through the picks and not letting Nelson have is way. The Magic will be playing with a renewed confidence and energy, but you can bet the Celtics will not play as poorly as they did last game. This is a veteran team that has responded better on the road all season.
But in the end, it will all be about the pick-and-roll.
The Hawks began last season with just two point guards, one fewer than most teams – especially notable because neither starter Dennis Schroder nor backup Malcolm Delaney was experienced for his role.
Schroder and Delaney return, but Atlanta is adding another option – Quinn Cook.
Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:
Cook is a borderline NBA player. He might not make the regular-season roster. He also might supplant Delaney for a rotation spot.
A 24-year-old who has spent most of the last two years in the D-League (also getting stints with the Mavericks and Pelicans), Cook is a good outside shooter. He’s also steady, if unspectacular, in his lead-guard duties.
This is a solid flier at a position the Hawks could use depth.
The Knicks signing Nigel Hayes leaked first.
But New York didn’t stop there.
The New York Knickerbockers announced today that the team has signed forwards Jamel Artis and Nigel Hayes and guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes.
Like Hayes, Artis (Pittsburgh) and Rathan-Mayes (Florida State) went undrafted this year – making them eligible to be waived and assigned to the Knicks’ minor-league affiliate. That’s likely all three’s fate.
But first, each will have an opportunity to make the regular-season roster. The Knicks have just 14 players with guaranteed salaries, leaving one roster spot for someone on a standard contract. Chasson Randle (unguaranteed) is the incumbent choice, but these three could supplant him.
Last year, O.J. Mayo was banned from the NBA for at least two years due to a drug violation. Aside from stating a plan to come back, Mayo didn’t say much publicly.
Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated:
He acknowledged smoking marijuana and abusing a prescription pain medication that triggered his two-year ban because it is on the NBA’s “drugs of abuse” list. (He emphatically denied testing positive for hard drugs like cocaine.)
Mayo also concluded that he had been “overwhelmed” by a string of difficult life events: his father, high school basketball star Kenny Ziegler, was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison for distributing crack cocaine, his brother was placed in juvenile lock-up, a close friend went to jail, and another was killed. “I was bred to play basketball and I thought I could balance everything,” he said. “I couldn’t.”
That’s part of an interesting feature on Mayo, who’s training for his come back. Golliver’s story makes it easy to pull for Mayo.
But the guard will be 30 when he’s eligible to apply for reinstatement, and he played lousily in his last three seasons with the Bucks.
Hopefully, Mayo has and keeps his personal life in order. But returning to the NBA will be an uphill battle.
What chemistry problem?
There are legitimate questions about how Chris Paul and James Harden will share the backcourt and ball with the Rockets, but none of those were on display on Sunday. That’s when CP3 joined his new teammate in Harden’s charity game (raising money for Harden’s charity, which helps children from single-family homes get a higher education), a kind of pro-am with some names thrown in to draw a crowd.
Harden and CP3 put on a show for the fans.
This is a charity event, not every team is going to defend like this or the Phoenix Suns. It’s going to be harder when the games matter.
But the Rockets are going to be entertaining to watch this season. No doubt.