NBA finals, Lakers Celtics: L.A. made statistical anomalies look easy in Game 1

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bynum_game1.pngEven if the Laker lead in Game 1 never got completely out of hand, there’s no question that Los Angeles was in control. L.A. was in sync both offensively and defensively, and their offensive balance and defensive resistance offered the Celtics a challenge they’ve rarely faced in these playoffs.

It was a bit odd to see a Boston team that has fared so well throughout this postseason give way to L.A. in so many different regards, but that was the story of the finals’ opening game. Zach Lowe of CelticsHub broke down some of the Lakers’ triumphs in greater statistical detail:

It’s a recipe for disaster: giving up a good shooting percentage and allowing
a lot of offensive rebounds. In Game 1, the Lakers shot 48.7 percent from
the floor and rebounded 12 of their 39 misses–an offensive rebounding
rate of about 31 percent. To put that in perspective, only two teams
recorded offensive rebounding rates of better than 30 percent this season–Memphis (31.3) and Detroit (30.3).

So Boston, an elite defense, allowed Los Angeles to shoot well and
dominate the offensive glass. A good team can win when allowing one of
those things to happen, but not both.

How rarely do teams pull off this dubious double against Boston? [It’s only been done in] 24 games out of 304–or about 8 percent of all Celtics
games over the last three seasons. And as you can see, Boston is now
6-18 in those 24 games.

The Los Angeles Lakers accomplished something unusual last night in
decimating Boston’s defense with their shooting and their rebounding,
with much of the latter built on aggressive dribble penetration from
Kobe, Jordan Farmar and others.

As a result, the Lakers posted an offensive efficiency of 113.3 points per 100 possessions, the third highest that Boston has allowed all postseason. The only two lesser defensive performances? The Game 3 decimation at the hands of the Cavaliers in the second round (140.9 points allowed per 100 possessions), and the Magic’s blowout win in Game 5 of the conference finals (120.7 points allowed per 100 possessions).

That’s quite a high mark for the Lakers to set from the opening tip, with Boston’s biggest concern perhaps being that L.A.’s performance seems replicable. No one Laker really stepped outside themselves for Game 1, but their ball movement, penetration, rebounding efforts, and shooting were enough to dismiss the Celtics with relative ease. Boston is a good enough team that we shouldn’t expect it to be that way in every game of this series, but their defense will have to refocus and improve from this Game 1 slip.

Thunder’s Enes Kanter: ‘I don’t like Golden State, so I want Cleveland to win the championship’

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
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When Kevin Durant left the Thunder for the Warriors, Oklahoma City center Enes Kanter jumped fully on board the pro-Russell Westbrook, anti-Durant bandwagon.

That ride doesn’t stop with his former teammate facing the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.

Kanter, via Fox Sports Radio:

I don’t like Golden State, so I want Cleveland to win the championship.

Kanter never misses an opportunity to take a shot at the Warriors – except when Zaza Pachulia laid out Westbrook and stood over him.

Dwane Casey: Masai Ujiri assured me I’ll return as Raptors coach

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Galit Rodan
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Raptors president Masai Ujiri didn’t mince words at his season-ending press conference: Toronto’s playing style had become unacceptable.

It sounded as if he might have been planting the seed for firing Dwane Casey.

But the coach says Ujiri assured him he’d return next season.

Casey on TSN (hat tip: Blake Murphy of Raptors Republic):

I think people mistook Masai’s comments for that. We had a good meeting before that meeting, and we’ve had meeting since then – with all the coaches – as far as plans for next year and the culture reset, which I think every corporation and every team should do periodically to get the culture back in focus and that type of thing. It’s not like we’re in total chaos or anything like that. It’s just good to have roles defined, things we can do better in each of our roles.

We’re doing some good things and some things we can do much better with. And that’s what we’ll plan on doing this summer and also this fall, when we go to training camp.

The Raptors’ offensive rating has dropped from regular season to the playoffs by 8.5, 7.2 and 11.7 the last three years. Their isolation-heavy style is just easier to stop when defenses see it in consecutive games.

The big question: What does Toronto do about that?

It’d be difficult to move on from the two players most responsible for the style, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. DeRozan is signed long-term, and if the Raptors don’t re-sign Lowry, who’ll be an unrestricted free agent this summer, they won’t have the cap space to land a comparable replacement.

The best bet is probably changing schemes from the bench and hoping the players can adjust – and maybe Casey can handle that responsibility. Hiring a new coach obviously would been the clearest path to a shake up, but maybe Casey can evolve. I’d want to see a plan from him before committing to keeping him, but maybe Ujiri got that.

Casey has played a key role in Toronto’s improvement, it’s nice to give him an opportunity to coach differently before hiring a different coach.

Kevin Durant: Don’t blame me for Nets, Magic and other teams stinking

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For the first time in NBA history, the NBA Finals will feature the same matchup for three straight years.

Among those responsible: Kevin Durant, who sunk the title-contending Thunder and gave the Warriors an even stronger grip on the Western Conference.

But don’t blame him for a lack of parity league-wide.

Durant, via Sam Amick of USA Today:

“Like I’m the reason why (expletive) Orlando couldn’t make the playoffs for five, six years in a row?” he said. “Am I the reason that Brooklyn gave all their picks to Boston? Like, am I the reason that they’re not that good (laughs). I can’t play for every team, so the truth of the matter is I left one team. It’s one more team that you probably would’ve thought would’ve been a contender. One more team. I couldn’t have made the (entire) East better. I couldn’t have made everybody (else) in the West better.”

Some teams will always be better than others. The Magic, Nets and more were mis-managed before Durant left Oklahoma City.

But I’m not even sure this is the right debate.

Does the NBA even have a parity problem to blame on Durant?

Cleveland and Golden State aren’t traditional powers. Before 2015, the Warriors hadn’t won a title since 1975 and the Cavaliers had never won one. Their ascension is proof of parity – that sound management and a little luck can lift teams from the basement.

Report: Clippers take Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumor ‘very seriously’

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Want to laugh off that Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumor?

The Clippers aren’t joining you.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The Clippers should be concerned. Losing Paul would unravel their entire foundation, dropping them from the fringe of championship contention to out of the title picture completely. It could even help usher out Blake Griffin, who will also be an unrestricted free agent this summer. (To be fair, Paul leaving could also help convince Griffin to stay.)

About a month ago, the Clippers reportedly expected Paul to stay. They even reportedly struck a verbal agreement with him to re-sign before that. But they can’t officially sign him until July, and that leaves the door open for him to leave.

The Clippers should be heartened by their advantages – a prime market and a projected max offer of $205 million over five years.

The most another team projects to be able to offer is $152 million over four years, and San Antonio will have a hard time doing that. Even if they trim their roster to Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Danny Green and Tony Parker, the Spurs would still have to shed two of those players to clear max cap space.

So, never say never, but the Clippers’ concern might be rooted more in the dire consequences of Paul leaving rather than the likelihood of it.