The conventional wisdom about Game 1 of this series misses the point.
As our own Matt Moore pointed out, what Atlanta did to the Magic was what teams used to do to Michael Jordan, what teams have tried to do to Steve Nash in recent years — let him score, make him a shooter. Don’t let him kick out for wide-open threes, don’t let his teammates get going. It worked.
Dwight Howard got 46 points (and 19 boards) against largely single coverage of Jason Collins (and it wasn’t much coverage), but the Hawks were able to stay home on every other Magic player. Jameer Nelson out up 27 points but the rest of the Magic combined shot 23 percent and score just 20.
That becomes the bottom line question for Game 2 — can the Hawks replicate that performance? Can the Magic get their other shooters going, can the Hawks keep their shooters red hot?
This series is a battle of the jump shots, and the Hawks won round one.
Atlanta is going to single cover Howard again in the post, you can be sure. But can the Magic make adjustments — like more pick and roll but this time with their spot up guys knocking down shots. Atlanta collapsed on Howard or whoever was the roll man then tried to recover on to shooters. It worked. The Magic were 2-of-11 on catch-and-shoot threes in Game 1 and were also 4-of-14 from 10 feet out to the arc. Simply put, they missed a lot, and they will lose if that happens again.
Atlanta did not miss a lot — they took a ridiculous 27 shots from 16-feet out to the arc. That’s the least efficient shot in the game but the Hawks drained 48.2 percent of them. On the season the Hawks averaged 17 shots from that distance and hit 43 percent of them (second highest in the league behind Dallas). Look for the Hawks to come back to earth on their jump shots, that or they need to get more looks inside with Howard lurking around.
The Hawks beat the Magic now 4 out of 5 meetings. What the Hawks seem to do — just letting Howard pulverize them, stop the threes and hit a lot of jumpers — is an unconventional, against the grain system. It should not be sustainable. But it has worked. And the Hawks are going to ride that train for as long as they can. It will be up to the Magic to show they can adjust and knock down shots.
Because this is a battle of the jump shots.
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.
The Memphis Grizzlies have found their man — Miami Heat assistant coach David Fizdale has been offered the head coaching job in Memphis. He’s a smart coach who earned the trust of elite players and was a key part of the staff that helped Miami to a couple of rings.
It’s a good hire. Don’t just take my word for it, check out what a couple Heat players from that era had to say.
Mario Chalmers had a first-hand view — he was traded from Miami to Memphis in the middle of last season. The point guard who went the other way in that deal, Beno Udrih, also helped push the deal along.
Fizdale is going to be a popular hire with the players. That said, if the Grizzlies can’t keep Mike Conley in free agency the team is going to have struggles this season, regardless of who coaches them.