Think of the Suns/Lakers series as a poker game in an old Wild West saloon somewhere outside Phoenix.
By Game 6, the cards are on the table. Both teams have gone all-in and flipped their two cards over. All that’s left to do is flip over the turn and river cards. Meaning the strategy is out there for everyone to see — there are no major Xs and Os changes to make any more.
But the fight is not done, the Suns are looking loose and talking Game 7. The Lakers want their rest, like the Celtics.
In the Wild West the winner was the guy who was quicker on the draw. In this series, the quicker draw is the team that better executes better.
The key end of the floor this series is when the Lakers have the ball (the other end of the court is the more entertaining). Simply, the Lakers want to slow the Suns down by making them take the ball out of the basket, to make them come up and face a set defense. The Lakers do that when the get the ball inside — either by getting the ball in the post to Pau Gasol or via dribble penetration (which is what they used a lot more in Game 5).
The Suns want to block shots and contest inside, give the Lakers jump shots and hope they miss a lot. Which they often do. In the Lakers two losses in Phoenix they took 60 three-point shots, and the long rebounds fueled the Suns break.
On the fun end of the court, the Suns are going to run the pick-and-roll and the Lakers are going to try to take away the roll man. Which means Amare Stoudemire. The Lakers want Steve Nash to be the shooter. The problem with that, as Nash showed in Game 5, he hits a lot of shots.
Controlling the boards will matter. How hot Kobe is will matter. The Suns bench will matter. Which Lamar Odom — aggressive or spectator — shows up will matter. Ron Artest will find a way to matter.
But everybody knows that. Everyone knows their roles now. It’s just a matter of who is quicker on the draw.
Is this disrespectful to the Lakers? Absolutely.
And I love it.
Chris Paul and the Clippers crushed their Los Angeles counterparts, 133-109, last night. The Clippers, who’ve won 13 of 14 in the series, have practically run out of ways to show up their crosstown rival on the court. If it now takes bench visitors, so be it.
This is the best late-blowout bench behavior since LeBron James led the Cavaliers in the water-bottle challenge in a December win over the Knicks. This would rank higher if Chris Jr. didn’t also joined the bench in the Clippers’ November win over the Mavericks, which is the pictured on this post.
You’ve probably heard of the top college point guards for the 2017 NBA draft: Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, Dennis Smith Jr., De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk. You might have even heard of French point guard prospect Frank Ntilikina.
Which point guard will be drafted next after those six?
One possibility: Oklahoma State’s Jawun Evans.
Evan Daniels of Scout:
Evans looks like a second-round pick, but a dearth of point guards projected into the latter half of the first round could boost his stock.
He’s ultra quick and ultra aggressive and led the nation’s top KenPom offense. Evans relentlessly attacks the rim, often while forcing transition opportunities. That gets defenses scrambled, creating kickout-passing lanes and offensive-rebound opportunities.
However, the 6-foot Evans doesn’t finish that well at the rim – creating a major question about how he’ll translate to the NBA. The bigger defenders in the paint might limit his kickout passes, too.
His size also presents major problems defensively, though a 6-foot-4 wingspan at least helps.
Evans is good enough on jumpers to keep defenses honest, and at Oklahoma State, he had to create so much for himself. It’d be interesting to see whether limiting his burden improves his efficiency or whether his helpfulness is limited to having the ball in his hands.
My guess is the latter, and I’m unconvinced he’s good enough to demand such a role in the NBA. But the possibility is strong enough that I’d be excited about rolling the dice on him in the second round.
The Timberwolves surprisingly led the Spurs by nine at halftime last night, which takes us to Shabazz Muhammad‘s mid-game interview.
We’re doing a great job on defense, Wiggs, myself, everybody. It’s a tough team, especially Kawhi and the guys. So, we’re doing a really good job and everybody’s collective – Collective Bargaining Agreement.
To be fair, I can’t even imagine what type of nonsense I’d spew in the midst of a taxing workout or a high-pressure situation – let alone something that qualifies as both.
Unfortunately for Muhammad, Minnesota eventually fell to San Antonio, 100-93. But hopefully, he can laugh at this moment. He should, at least.
hat tip: reddit user cjsplash
Wednesday a couple of forwards expected to go in the first round of June’s NBA draft said they plan on making the jump to the NBA.
As expected, Duke’s Jayson Tatum and Cal’s Ivan Rabb made their decisions official.
Duke announced Tatum’s decision.
Tatum is expected to be a top-five pick, DraftExpress.com currently has him as the No. 4 pick. The 6’8″ wing can flat-out score the rock, which is why teams are intrigued, as Rob Dauster of NBC’s College Basketball Talk told us in a recent podcast. However, teams wonder if he can create shots for others and not just himself, and if he’s going to be a good defender at the NBA level. He has the physical tools to do be a good defender, but will he put in the work game in, game out?
Rabb is a 6’10” sophomore who has a great NBA build and athleticism to spare, but at the NBA level everyone is a great athlete. Rabb doesn’t have a great perimeter game and needs to develop one and be a consistent defensive force to be a difference maker (or have a lengthy career) at the NBA level. DraftExpress.com has him going 22nd in this draft, and his stock seems to have fallen over the course of the season.