Be very, very careful reading much into the end of the regular season when trying to predict the playoffs. The Lakers stumbled the final games of the regular season, Boston took the final few weeks off and was 11-11 right before the playoffs. They were the teams in Game 7 of the finals.
But one thing seems to be different in the East — Boston has lost some of its intimidation factor.
They have replaced Kendrick Perkins’ scowl with nothing right now — Jermaine O’Neal doesn’t count and Shaquille is still out — and the result is teams are not afraid of ventures into the paint.
Former Celtic Brian Scalabrine said it after the Celtics/Bulls game, then after the Heat thumped the Celtics on Sunday it was the Chris Bosh saying the same thing to the Boston Herald.
Speaking of the difference in the Celts since their big trade, Chris Bosh said things were essentially the same in what they try to do. Then he added, “It’s just a difference in players. Kendrick (Perkins) brought a certain element to that team, and it’s not there anymore.”
Look, getting Shaq back matters, no doubt. But the attitude of other teams tells of a perception shift — Shaq does not intimidate. Not anymore, anyway. How much that perception really matters in the playoffs — when the Celtics veterans have rested legs and bring another level of energy — remains to be seen.
Perkins himself Sunday said he is not buying any of it.
“This is nothing for them, they’ll pick it up in the playoffs, believe me,” Perkins said in the Thunder locker room after his new team beat the Lakers. “They’ll be a different team in the playoffs.”
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.