It was quite a different scene from the big boys matchup we see in the regular season.
The Spurs and Lakers met for a rumble to kick off Thursday at NBA Summer League Las Vegas. Still there were some things of note.
- Alonzo Gee, a D-League call-up to the Wizards who later signed with the Spurs (he played for the Spurs’ D-League affiliate Toros) continued his overwhelmingly impressive play, even with a diminished line. 10 points on 4 of 12 shooting certainly doesn’t sound like much, but it was how Gee was able to get to the rim whenever he wanted, and his vision in both the full and halfcourt sets. His halfcourt game was remarkably improved today, as he played more as a combo-forward, backing down smaller players and whipping past larger ones. Gee looks primed for a breakout season off the Spurs’ bench.
- Gerald Green stole the show for the Lakers, and finished with 18 points on 8 of 17 shooting, seven rebounds and the play of a game: a block on a corner three attempt that utilized every inch of his canoe-like frame. Green showed off the same athleticism that got him into the league and made him one of the elite dunkers in the league (remember the cupcake dunk?). But he also focused on leadership and elusiveness. Finishing with no turnovers certainly helped, as did responding from a cold streak in the second quarter.
- The surprise was Gary Neal for the Spurs, an overseas player out of Towson. Neal finished with 20 points on 8 of 16 shooting, including 4 of 9 from the arc. Neal especially showed off elite perimeter speed, and his baseline screen cuts almost always gave him wide open looks with feet to spare. With his lack of size, Neal needs to look more for assists to prove he can play points, but it was an especially strong outing for him.
- Derrick Caracter had a quiet game with 10 points, 6 boards and 7 fouls, but showed a lot of promise, as he’s done throughout Summer League. His frame is well suited to play inside, and the raw materials are definitely there, as all the scouts in town will tell you.
Apparently, all it takes is a little public discussion of LeBron James‘ “broken” jump shot to get him back on balance and knocking down the three ball — he was 4-of-6 from deep Wednesday.
Then again J.R. Smith was 7-of-13, Kyrie Irving 4-of-5, and as a team the Cavaliers knocked down a record 25 threes — while shooting 55.6 percent — as they wiped the floor with the Hawks in Game 2.
In case you’re curious where the Cavs were hitting from, here’s the team’s shot chart.
The Houston Rockets aren’t in any rush to hire a new head coach, preferring to interview a wide range of candidates to find the right one. Jeff Van Gundy has been widely believed to be at the top of their list, now that Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks are off the market, but ESPN.com’s Marc Stein is reporting another name that has entered the mix: Mike D’Antoni, who last held a head coaching job from 2012 to 2014 with the Lakers and currently serves as the Sixers’ lead assistant.
The Pacers, meanwhile, haven’t made a final decision on Frank Vogel’s future with the team, but all signs seem to point to him getting let go in the next few days. And if that happens, Stein reports that Vogel will also be on Houston’s list of candidates.
Given the Rockets’ massive drop-off on the defensive end this season, Vogel would seem to be a better fit than D’Antoni. But it sounds like the Rockets aren’t close to finding a replacement for J.B. Bickerstaff, although it would make sense to have a new coach in place by next month’s draft.
On Monday, the Hawks played the Cavaliers close and even led in the fourth quarter, leading plenty of optimism that Game 2 would be equally competitive, that the Hawks had something to build on.
The Cavs dominated from the start on Wednesday, with a 123-98 final score that was far closer than the game actually was — the Cavs led 74-36 at the half and led by as much as 38 at one point in the second half.
The Cavs also hit 25 three-pointers, which is the all-time record for a single game — regular season or playoffs. J.R. Smith hit seven of them, along with four each from LeBron James and Kyrie Irving and three for Kevin Love.
18 of Cleveland’s threes came in the first half, also a playoff record, and this was all Atlanta could do:
That’s the kind of night it was for the Hawks, who now trail 2-0 in the series as it heads back to Atlanta.
LeBron James has always been an incredible passer. In the midst of the Cavs’ Game 2 beatdown of the Hawks, he zipped this one-handed beauty into the paint to Kyrie Irving, who kicked it out to Kevin Love for a corner three:
The three was just one of the 18 Cleveland hit in the first half, which set an NBA playoff record.