NBA Playoffs: Brandon Roy and the Rose Garden Time Machine

3 Comments

Portland 84 Dallas 82.

You could not have written it better.

Well, maybe if it was Game 7. But then it would be in Dallas and that’s a whole different result.

In sports, a lot of us have become repulsed by cliches, by ridiculous preconceived storylines forced down our throats. But there is still something powerful, something palpable, about stories like what Brandon Roy did in Game 4 against the Dallas Mavericks in Portland. In front of a desperate, always emotional Rose Garden crowd, the Blazers stormed back from a 23-point deficit Saturday night behind 18 fourth quarter points from a player who less than a week ago was crying as he was left on the bench for much of the game due to injury. Nate McMillan rewarded the one-time All-Star with playing time, and he came through with an outright barrage. Off the dribble, from the corner, slip-screen catch-and-shoot, dagger after dagger after dagger. The crowd responded with a roar, Roy wound up with a four-point-play off a nice sell by Roy on a touch foul, and the Mavericks were caught in a tidal wave of emotion.

That’s sports.

For Dallas, they now get to enjoy two days of non-stop talk about 2006. And 2007. And 2010. Collapses like these define the Mavericks in common media, because it’s easy. That overlooks the incredible job they did in building the lead, which was an outlier in and of itself, as was the bizarre meltdown from the Blazers. The fourth quarter was more a reversion to the mean offensively than anything, from a macro level, and the momentum carried Portland to the win.

That’s a macro level. But to really enjoy this, you have to look micro, you have to look at Roy.

To say that Roy sparked the team on his own sounds absurd, but with 18 in the 4th quarter, what else can you say? Roy used the glass on runners, he nailed pull-up threes. He dropped everything you can think of and went back for more. He played point for a long stretch. That, in itself, is maddening to think about, before you look at his production.

The Mavericks certainly helped out, dropping poor decision after poor decision. Jason Kidd, he of a million years experience, had turnovers. The Mavericks could not convert, despite some key shots from Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki. But strangely, the Mavericks went away from Dirk down the stretch. Part of that is great help defense by the Blazers. All of it led to a 23-point comeback.

Heroic is a word you can use. Outlier is a word you can use. Unbelievable is definitely a word you can use.

It was the stuff of legend, and just when the Mavericks looked like they were going to take complete control of the series, end the hopes of a great crowd, and exert themselves as the better team, the Rose Garden erupts, Brandon Roy returns, and the series is tied. We’ll play three more. If the Mavericks let this get to them, to rattle them and break up their confidence, this could be the upset Blazer fans were so confident about. But regardless, it made for an amazing game, and an incredible comeback for a player who needed it for his soul.

Sports. What are you gonna do?

Lonzo Ball will never be as good as this fan-made video of him destroying people in 2K17

2 Comments

Ultimately, nobody has any idea how good Lonzo Ball will be as an NBA player. Franchise cornerstone? All-Star? Above average starter? Rotation player? He will fall somewhere on the scale, but even for NBA teams it’s a guess as to where. (His dad apparently thinks he will end his career compared to Jordan, I seriously doubt that.)

However good he ends up being, he may never be as good as he looks in this 2K17 fan video made by Shady00018. The Lakers should pray he does: Dropping Stephen Curry on a crossover, dunking over Rudy Gobert, throwing no-look passes like beads at Mardi Gras? It’s impressive, if unrealistic.

Then again, reality Lakers fans don’t always intersect.

 

LeBron James on the Finals: “I feel good about our chances. Very good.”

2 Comments

If there is one team in the NBA that can knock off the Warriors in a seven-game series, it’s the Cavaliers. They are the best team in the NBA at creating mismatches and isolating them, and in Kyrie Irving and LeBron James they have two of the best isolation scorers in the game. Cleveland is strong on the boards and is capable of impressive defense. Also, they have the best player on the planet.

If nobody else is confident in the Cavaliers chances, he is.

Here is what LeBron James said his confidence level facing the Warriors in a Finals trilogy.

What else is he going to say?

And if anyone should be confident, it’s LeBron. He can change a series.

From the outside, we saw a series last year where everything needed to go right for Cleveland to win — LeBron playing the best ball of his career for the final three games, Kyrie Irving hitting big shots, Draymond Green getting suspended, Andrew Bogut getting injured, Stephen Curry being off (due to injury or fatigue or just a slump). And even then took the Cavaliers seven games and heroics at the last minute. Now the Warriors add Kevin Durant, and it’s hard not to see this ending differently.

However, LeBron James is the one guy who can alter that vision. And he’s confident he can do it, he’s done it before.

Steve Alford: LaVar Ball never meddled with UCLA Basketball

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
4 Comments

Is LaVar Ball just a harmless loudmouth, or will he actually undermine the team that drafts his son, highly touted guard Lonzo Ball?

The Lakers, who hold the No. 2 pick, are the most likely team to find out.

President Magic Johnson said LaVar won’t affect whether they draft Lonzo, but coach Luke Walton wants the team to ask UCLA coach Steve Alford about LaVar’s involvement.

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times did just that:

Was LaVar Ball around the team much?

“Zero,” Alford said.

Was he ever at practice?

“Never at practice,” Alford said. “Never at practice; never called me.”

Did he ever try to meddle in your coaching?

“Never,” Alford said.

LaVar has said his other sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, will play for UCLA. So, Alford has incentive to maintain a productive working relationship with LaVar. The players’ high school coach had a much worse experience dealing with LaVar.

Alford vouching for LaVar means something, but the total picture is more complex.

Still, LaVar would hardly be the first difficult parent of an NBA player. He’s just the most public. Even if he’d try to meddle into the Lakers, they might be willing to handle that to get his talented son.

John Wall: Bench was Wizards’ ‘downfall’

Rob Carr/Getty Images
4 Comments

John Wall left the Wizards’ season-ending loss to the Celtics talking about how badly Washington’s bench got outscored.

Now that he has time to reflect and isn’t just speaking with raw emotion shortly after a devastating loss, how does he feel?

Wall, via CSN Mid-Atlantic

“We need to help our bench,” Wall told CSN’s Chris Miller. “Just to be honest, that was our downfall in each series that we had in the [Eastern Conference] semifinals, our bench got out played.”

It starts from upstairs – just building the right bench guys and building the chemistry. That’s all it is.

I think that’s where they won the game at. I heard Marcus Smart say after the game that I had no legs. He’s basically right. I don’t make excuses. I’m going to play. If I miss shots or make shots, I’ll live with it. I know people will say he finished oh for 11, but I play – I took everything I had in me to keep fighting.

It’s just that their bench guys came in and played well. I think Kelly Oubre could’ve played a little bit more. I wish he would’ve played a little more and Jason. But coach makes the decision, and we stick behind him 100 percent. I feel like those two guys could have really helped us.

Wall – eligible for a designated-veteran-player extension but reportedly unsure about signing one – is clearly telling the Wizards what he wants. Marcin Gortat similarly criticized Washington’s bench earlier in the season, and he apologized. Wall has the leverage not to stand by his assessment.

Both Wall and Gortat were right. The Wizards’ bench was the source of much of their problems.

Washington’s starting lineup outscored opponents by 4.7 points per 100 possessions in the playoffs. Its bench (all other lineups) got outscored 15.5 points per 100 possessions.

Only the Thunder had a similar split in net rating:

image

The Wizards knew their flaw and tried to hide it. Washington’s starters played 34.2 minutes per game together in the postseason – second only to the Pacers (34.5). Wall’s heavy workload contributed to him running out of gas late in Game 7 against Boston, which Marcus Smart noted.

What can the Wizards do to upgrade their bench? Spend.

They sound committed to keeping Otto Porter, a restricted free agent this summer. But that would push them near the luxury tax – so they could scrimp on the bench in a variety of ways:

  • Don’t re-sign Bojan Bogdanovic, another restricted free agent. He’s in line for a raise.
  • Trade Marcin Gortat, elevating Ian Mahinmi into the starting lineup and therefore weakening the bench.
  • Trade Jason Smith, who might be expendable at his salary but at least still provides depth.
  • Don’t use the mid-level exception. That’s Washington’s best mechanism for adding outside help, but it’d be costly.

Will the Wizards take any of those cost-saving measures? Wall is certainly watching.