The Miami Heat run devastating pick-and-roll combinations — LeBron James and Zydrunas Ilgauskas have been doing it for years, and now a few times a game LeBron is setting picks for Wade and that can be an unstoppable combination.
After a slow start to the season, the Knicks Raymond Felton/Amare Stoudemire pick-and-roll has become a very efficient weapon. Which shouldn’t be shocking, Stoudemire is the best roll man in the game. He can pop, he is devastating going to the rim. And in vintage Mike D’Antoni style, the Knicks spread the floor around that play with guys who can knock down the open shot on the kick-out when you help off them.
What that means is Friday night at Madison Square Garden — whoever can defend the pick and roll best will probably win.
Kevin Arnovitz breaks it down fantastically at ESPN’s Heat Index.
Like every Knicks’ opponent, the Heat will have a series of tough choices to make. Do they want Stoudemire’s defender to pressure Felton off the pick-and-roll? If so, then the Heat’s other big man better be ready to stand in front of the freight train as Stoudemire dives to the hoop. James might be one of the best help defenders in the NBA in these situations, but if he’s going to leave Gallinari all alone on the arc, somebody in a Heat jersey better be prepared to rotate over, or else Felton makes an easy skip pass for an uncontested 3. Cheat off Chandler and he can make you pay as both a shooter or a slasher (he’s finishing at the rim at a 81.6 percent clip). Fortunately for the Heat, they have both speed and intuition — and they’ll need a healthy dose of both on Friday night to contain the Knicks.
So far this season, the Heat have defended the pick-and-roll ball handler well — he is shooting 38.5 percent — but the roll man is having considerably more success when he gets the ball back, shooting 51.9 percent.
On the season, the Knicks have held the pick-and-roll ball handler to 43.7 percent shooting, while the roll man is shooting 50 percent even. (Stats via Synergy Sports.)
There are going to be a lot of pick-and-rolls tonight. The team that defends that better — and defends better in transition — will get the win.
LeBron James didn’t get his wish – Dwyane Wade and the Heat – for the Eastern Conference finals.
In advance of tonight’s Warriors-Thunder Game 7, his coach isn’t specifying a preferred NBA Finals opponent.
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue, via Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com:
“We just want the winner,” Lue said. “Just whoever wins. We’re preparing for both and after tonight we will get a chance to see who we finally play.”
This seems like the wrong approach. I’d rather face the loser. That team is likely more beatable. Alas, it doesn’t work that way. Lue is accepting the inevitable.
The Warriors would probably be the tougher matchup. They’ve been the better team all season and would put Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love into a ton of pick-and-rolls. It’s a great offensive matchup for Stephen Curry. But beating Golden State – the defending champions with a 73-9 record – would bring greater glory and personal redemption to LeBron, who clearly views the Warriors as an outlier.
The Thunder would be no pushovers, but Cleveland would have a better chance of winning. Even with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City just hasn’t played as well as Golden State over a long stretch.
This is obviously a discussion only for fun. The Cavs have no say in their Finals opponent. The Warriors and Thunder will decide that tonight.
DeMar DeRozan sounds like he wants to re-sign with the Raptors, and Toronto wants him back.
But what about those Lakers rumors?
Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report, via Noah Coslov of Bleacher Report Radio:
I’m breaking up with you.
No, I’m breaking up with you first.
The Warriors went an NBA-record 73-9.
And the Thunder massively outplayed them in Games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference finals.
No, Golden State wasn’t at full strength. But Oklahoma City reached a level the Warriors hadn’t all season. Even if Golden State had hit peak performance, I’m not sure that would’ve been enough. The Thunder were that good.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were their superstar selves. Steven Adams defended inside and out. Serge Ibaka hit timely shots and moved well defensively. Andre Roberson made open 3-pointers and cut. Dion Waiters read the floor to make the right shot or pass. And everyone rotated correctly throughout entire defensive possessions.
Oklahoma City was awesome, handing the Warriors 28- and 24-point losses.
But Golden State rallied to force a Game 7 tonight. If the Warriors win, they’ll become just the eighth team in NBA history to lose multiple games by more than 20 in a series and still win it. The seven to do it:
- Houston Rockets lost to Los Angeles Clippers by 25 and 33 in 2015 second round
- Atlanta Hawks lost to Miami Heat by 29 and 26 in 2009 first round
- Houston Rockets lost to Phoenix Suns by 22 and 24 in 1995 second round
- Philadelphia 76ers lost to Boston Celtics by 40 and 29 in 1982 Eastern Conference finals
- Denver Nuggets lost to Milwaukee Bucks by 31 and 28 in 1978 Western Conference semifinals
- Los Angeles Lakers lost to Milwaukee Bucks by 21 and 26 in 1972 Western Conference finals
- Minneapolis Lakers lost to St. Louis Hawks by 34 and 30 in 1959 Western Division finals
The Warriors never stopped believing in themselves, even when getting routed. That mentality has them one game from a comeback for the ages.
DeMar DeRozan sounds like he wants to re-sign with the Raptors.
But does Toronto want to give max money to someone who 39% from the field and 15% on 3-pointers in the playoffs?
Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri, via James Herbert of CBSSports.com:
This is probably the right course. I don’t know whom the Raptors could get if they lets DeRozan walk, but if he signs elsewhere, they would have just about $19 million in cap space – less than a max salary. I doubt they could land a better replacement.
I’m not sold on DeRozan as a playoff player, though he legitimately took the next step this regular season. But I’d rather keep him, hope he learns to handle the challenges of the postseason and possibly use him in a trade down the road. It’ll cost a max salary if DeRozan isn’t willing to take a discount, but that beats the alternative of losing him for nothing but cap space.