What you missed while getting ready for the Angry Birds television series….
Knicks 93, Heat 88: It seems weird to say this, but the Knicks won this with defense. They clearly came in with a plan to focus on LeBron James, not let him beat them. He finished with 24 points but on 7-of-24 shooting.
NBA teams can usually take away one option of the opposition when they focus on it. The problem for the Heat is that without Chris Bosh serving as a hub for their offense, working things inside-out, the sets have become listless. There was far too much isolation, not enough ball movement. And not enough transition, which is foolish considering the Heat had gone with small ball. Dwyane Wade adjusted better with 34 points on 22 shots.
The Knicks were struggling plenty as well — they shot 36 percent for the contest — but in the fourth quarter their threes started falling, including a shot by Landry Fields to seal the victory. Under pressure the Knicks adjusted to the sloppy game better.
The energy at MSG for games like this is unmatched. Can’t wait to see playoff games there.
Mavericks 111, Rockets 106: Exactly what you expect from Dallas — Tyson Chandler leading the way with 21 and seven guys in double digits.
This looked like a cakewalk with Dallas up 18 after one and 22 early in the third. Then the Rockets came back on a huge run to make a game of it. Luis Scola played like it was a FIBA game and dropped 30. Then just like it was against the Clippers a couple nights ago, it was J.J. Barea that changed things with his energy off the bench. Barea had 10 in the fourth quarter and Dallas held off the Rockets.
Boston 88, Portland 78: The Trail Blazers are really struggling to score and this would have been a blowout had it not been for the 19 Celtics turnovers. With the injuries the Blazers just can’t score enough, especially with a Celtics defense that made it a rough night for LaMarcus Aldridge. Portland shot just 37 percent overall and 25 percent from three.
Duke guard Frank Jackson declared for the 2017 NBA draft with an outside shot of going in the first round and a likelihood of getting picked in the second-round.
This won’t help his stock.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:
Duke’s Frank Jackson, a well-regarded point guard in the 2017 NBA draft class, underwent right foot surgery and is expected to be fully recovered sometime in July.
When Jackson recovers will determine whether he plays in summer league, and that can affect transition to the pros as a rookie.
The bigger questions: Will this hinder his athleticism long-term? Does this put him at greater injury risk?
Jackson, a 6-foot-4 scoring guard, relies on a strong first step to attack the basket and high elevation on his jumper.
If there’s consensus on the top prospects in the 2017 NBA draft, it’s:
1. Markelle Fultz
2. Lonzo Ball
3. Josh Jackson
That squares nicely with the Celtics picking Fultz No. 1 and the Lakers taking Ball No. 2.
But what about the 76ers, who pick No. 3? They already have a playmaking forward with a shaky jumper in Ben Simmons. Jackson isn’t the cleanest fit. Even if they plan to deploy Simmons at point guard, they could still use a traditional point guard for support/insurance.
Enter De'Aaron Fox and Dennis Smith Jr.
Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:
The 76ers could also get a workout with Ball. There will be point guard options.
I’m just unsure any of them, assuming Ball is off the board, trump Jackson.
Philadelphia’s starting small forward is Robert Covington – a nice player, but not someone who should influence draft decisions. We can lightly pencil Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons into the 76ers’ starting lineup the next time the team gets good, but the rest of the lineup is open. Pondering Jackson’s fit into a half-blank canvass is overthinking. Embiid is an excellent outside shooter for a center, and Philadelphia’s eventual guards (or shooting guard and power forward if Simmons plays point guard) could be good shooters.
The 76ers’ should draft the best prospect available. If that’s Jackson, so be it. They should consider Fox’s and Smith’s fit only if those point guards are in the same tier as Jackson.
That said, don’t rule out the possibility of Fox and Smith working their way into that level. They’re intriguing players.
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.
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.