Coaches and players almost never stray from the “I don’t care who we face in the playoffs, it’s about us doing our thing” mantra. Which is a load of fertilizer, by the way — they all know the playoffs are about matchups and they want to get the more favorable ones. They just won’t talk about it publically.
But George Karl of the Nuggets did, as transcribed on ESPN Dallas.
“If we had to pick and choose on it, we would probably say 55 percent Dallas, 45 percent Oklahoma City, only because Oklahoma City is athletic like we are and they have two great players,” Denver coach George Karl told ESPN 103.3’s Galloway and Company, referring to Thunder forward Kevin Durant and point guard Russell.
“They have two All-Stars who are really in their prime and have never won on the playoff stage. I just think right now our speed might have more effect against Dallas than it will against Oklahoma City.”
The Thunder and Nuggets play for the second time in four games Friday, with Oklahoma City getting a 101-94 win Tuesday. Denver had nobody who could slow Kevin Durant and then the Thunder went on a 16-0 fourth quarter run that the Nuggets could not match. The game gave you the feeling OKC could replicate that win four times in a series.
So you can see why Karl would prefer Dallas. Also, Karl is speaking to a general perception around the league — teams fear Oklahoma City’s potential and high end more than they do Dallas. The Mavs are a veteran team and you know what you are going to get with them. The Thunder are more athletic, they run the floor like gazelles, they have Durant and Russell Westbrook, either of which can just take over a game.
OKC may not live up to that potential this season. But with Kendrick Perkins (and Nazr Mohammed) the Thunder addressed one weakness. They seem to be getting better.
The Nuggets scare teams, too, but the way the Thunder dispatched the Nuggets the other night made it seem like that is a series OKC would win. So Karl wisely wants to take his chances elsewhere.
Steve Kerr needs a lot of things to go differently Thursday night if his defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors want to avoid elimination. That starts with Stephen Curry and Draymond Green needing to play much, much better.
But another is for Andrew Bogut to stay on the court — the Warriors defense is 15.9 points per 100 possessions better this series when he is on the court compared to off it. The Warriors are outscoring the Thunder when he plays.
So why not more minutes? Foul trouble, and Kerr wants that to change, as Carl Steward of the San Jose Mercury News reports.
“He’s fouling,” Kerr said. “He’s got 13 fouls in 56 minutes. He’s almost fouling out of every game in 10-15 minutes. He’s got to be smarter with his fouls. We need him out there — he was plus-7 (Tuesday) night in 11 minutes…
“When he’s out there, we rebound better,” he said. “We’ve got a good passer out of the post. We want to play Bogut more, but he’s got to stay on the floor.”
It’s not that simple for Bogut — the Thunder are aggressively attacking the rim and in the NBA the aggressors usually get the calls. Certainly Steven Adams, Serge Ibaka, and the rest of the Thunder front line is more athletic than Bogut.
Doesn’t matter, Bogut must figure out a way to impact shots in the paint, grab boards, and not foul. The Warriors are not winning this series going small, and if they are going to mount any comeback with a big on the court, it’s going to have to start with Bogut.
Everyone else thinks Dwight Howard is getting out of Houston this summer.
Jason Terry isn’t convinced.
Dwight Howard has a player option this summer, which he is expected to exercise and become a free agent. For one thing, he’d do it for the pay raise — he wants a max contract, starting at about $30 million. The other reason is he and James Harden have not blended in Houston, and Howard wants a fresh start.
But Jason Terry isn’t convinced yet. Terry was on SiriusXM NBA Radio and told Justin Termine and Eddie Johnson Howard may stay put. Here is the quote, via Hoopshype.
“I wouldn’t rule (a return) out. He has yet to opt out. Again, it’s just going to depend on if you get the right coach in there. At this point in his career, he’s not going to be the focal point offensively. They’ve made that clear. He’s gonna have to, if he remains in Houston, buy into the role fully, commit himself to setting screens, rebounding, running the floor, blocking shots and working on his free throws, obviously.”
In theory, a coach could come in and convince Howard to stay. In theory, I could capture Bigfoot and prove his existence to the world. Those have about the same odds of happening.
Forgetting the whole “Howard wants another max contract” thing, what Terry said about Howard accepting a role is the issue. Howard said he went directly to Rockets GM Daryl Morey and asked for a bigger role — and he was shot down. Howard does not want to accept a lesser role where his primary job is rebounding and defense, just like he never wanted to accept running more pick-and-roll and working less from the post even though he was much better at the former than the latter. Howard wants what Howard wants.
And I’d be shocked if he doesn’t want out of Houston.
A good rule of thumb: If LeBron James is getting few breakaway dunks, the other team is in trouble.
Enter the Toronto Raptors, who got to watch a dunking clinic by LeBron as he had multiple breakaways during the Cavaliers’ 38-point win on Wednesday night. LeBron played well, and the Cavaliers got a balanced attack from their stars — 25 points from Kevin Love, 23 each from LeBron and Kyrie Irving.
Watch LeBron’s night above. Toronto needs to find a way to keep him from having another game like this Friday.
After a beatdown at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 — a loss where he was just 5-of-12 shooting, a loss that has the Raptors on the brink of playoff elimination — Kyle Lowry did what he had to do and went in front of the media to answer questions and try to explain that loss.
But really, his face when he walked into the interview room and saw the box score summed up the Raptors night perfectly.
Lowry and the Raptors need to turn it around and win at home Friday night to keep their playoff dream alive another day.