Nike LeBron 8 PS: Reviewing the shoe’s performance after a run on the Heat’s home floor

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Pro Basketball Talk was in Miami for the release of the Nike LeBron 8 PS, the playoff series edition of LeBron James’ signature shoe. In this third and final part of of our profile, we break down how the shoe performed on the court … the Miami Heat’s home court, at American Airlines Arena.

This is where it all comes together. We told you about the concept and the creative process behind the LeBron 8 series, and we told you about the differences in the construction of the shoes that Nike created for LeBron James this season. Now, it’s performance time.

Nike flew a group of media members to Miami for the weekend for the release of the LeBron 8 PS. The shoes were globally released to the public last Saturday, the same day that the Heat opened the playoffs with a Game 1 home win over the Sixers.  The whole experience, as you might imagine, was pretty insane.

After everyone got into town and checked into a hotel that was far, far nicer than necessary — and after everyone somehow found their way out of their ridiculously large, multi-room individual suites — it was time for a trip to the American Airlines arena, where the group was led through the underbelly of the massive building and into an auxiliary locker room. Waiting for us when we got there was a full compliment of basketball gear to prepare us for the actual wear test.

Once the presentation from Nike lead designer Jason Petrie was finished, and the question and answer session with the media was complete, it was time to hit the floor for some hoops to test the footwear out. But not in the PS 8s just yet.

Nike wanted us to feel the difference between the V2s and the latest edition, both in terms of the weight difference  and in how the different technology feels while wearing them in a basketball situation. We all put on a new pair of the V2s and headed out of the locker room, through the tunnel, and onto the Heat’s home court.

As we walked onto the floor, a group of “coaches” was there waiting for us. The first extended his hand to me and introduced himself: “Hey. Kenny.” No big deal. It was only Kenny Anderson.

They started things off by leading us in some warmup stretching, then put us through some fairly standard basketball practice drills (three-man weave, screen and pop, two-man full court fast break, etc.) so we could get a feel for the shoe’s performance.

(Side note: This was actually pretty hilarious, for a couple of reasons. First off, it was immediately clear that not everyone in the group had experienced playing organized team basketball, and for a couple of players, it seemed as though they hadn’t played basketball in any capacity in a long, long time. Now, this is not a knock on anyone, because really, any fan of shoes or the game of basketball in any capacity likely would have killed for this experience. But the coaches running us through the drills didn’t seem to recognize this, because they just shouted a few vague instructions — “Hey! No! Behind!” —  instead of running through a demo of each drill so that those unfamiliar could see how it was supposed to be done. It’s probably safe to say that we won’t see Anderson roaming the sidelines in a coaching capacity anytime soon.)

The V2s felt great — comfortable, bouncy (thanks to the full-length air bag), and supportive. After the drills were finished, we heeded to the bench to change into the new PSs, then broke into teams for half-court scrimmages.

The quality of basketball in these pickup games wasn’t the best; we had a wide mix of basketball ability, combined with the fact that everyone was playing in a professional arena for the first time, so it took some getting used to. The biggest issues in playing on an NBA floor for the first time are adjusting to shooting against such a huge backdrop, and obviously the size of the court, which came into play near the end of our time when we got to run full for the last 20 minutes or so. But eventually, guys were knocking down shots and making some decent plays out there.

As for the PS editions, they handled well, and were much lighter and really just completely different than the V2s. The weight difference was immediately noticeable, but the way the shoe provides overall support was also extremely different, and if you’re someone who has traditionally played in heavier shoes, these will take some getting used to. But once you do, the shoe feels exactly like that slimmed-down, high-performance edition that Petrie was going for.

The support is definitely there, even if the shoe’s lightness may not make you feel like it at first. There’s plenty of heel cushion, and the pad in the front of the shoe that’s there to compensate for dropping the full length airbag provides more than enough spring.

As with all basketball shoes, it’s all going to come down to personal preference: some people like a tighter fit, some need more ankle support, some like a heavier shoe to feel like they’re being fully protected. But whatever your preferences might be, it’s hard to imagine anyone being dissatisfied with the overall look, feel, and performance of the Nike LeBron 8 PS.

At this point, you’re probably thinking something along the lines of, “Well, what’s he going to say? Look at the experience Nike gave these guys!” And there’s some truth to that — it was a first-class weekend that was a blast to be a part of. But at the same time, Nike makes quality products, plain and simple. You know this, and they know this. So even if these shoes don’t end up being your favorites or you find that you prefer a different model or brand to play in consistently, as I said, it would simply come down to personal preference. Because from a quality standpoint, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything to truly complain about when it comes to these ones.

Hayward, Johnson, good ball movement lift Jazz past Clippers 98-94, Utah up 3-2

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LOS ANGELES — Chris Paul is the best player on the floor in the Los Angeles vs. Utah first round series. He’s also the best playmaker on either team, a guy who can survey the court and quickly decide whether he should score or what teammate he can set up. He also gets the Clippers points and plays solid defense.

However, for lengthy stretches of the game, he’s the only playmaker on the court for the Clippers. He has to be Mr. Everything.

Utah has multiple guys they can lean on to create looks — George Hill, Gordon Hayward, Joe Johnson — and with that has come better team ball movement and open shots.

It also came with a crucial Game 5 win over Utah, 98-94, putting the Jazz up 3-2 heading to Utah for Game 6 on Friday night. Utah has the chance to advance past the first round for the first time since 2010, when Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer were at their peaks, and Jerry Sloan was still patrolling the sidelines.

Gordon Hayward is Utah’s big star now, and he returned from missing Game 4 with food poisoning. This time he made the Clippers sick, with 27 points on 9-of-16 shooting, plus he made the little plays like a tip-out offensive rebound to Johnson late in the game that turned into a key made three for the Jazz.

“Hayward killed us early,” Clippers’ coach Doc Rivers said. “I thought Hayward set the tone tonight in the first six or seven minutes of the game (Gordon had 11 first quarter points on 4-of-6 shooting).”

The Clippers often use Blake Griffin as a secondary playmaker, because he has good handles and is a strong passer. However, with Griffin out for the rest of the series with a foot injury that will require surgery, the Clippers are stuck. Backup point guard Austin Rivers returned to the Clipper lineup, but he could only play 16 minutes. Too much of the time it felt like CP3 against the world to create shots for the Clippers. That’s rough against a long, disciplined Jazz defense.

Meanwhile, the Jazz were moving the ball and getting better looks — if guys such as Joe Ingles (0-of-4 from three) or George Hill (1-of-7) had knocked down their shots, this game may have been decided much earlier. Utah’s drive-and-kick game was in full force, and with Griffin out the Jazz have nobody who can check Joe Johnson effectively.

“That’s beating us off the dribble way too much and making us rotate,” Rivers said. “Also, we did a good job — we took the ball out of Joe (Johnson’s) hands… by doing that they’re going to get open threes. And listen, we were fortunate tonight with them being on the road, their role players didn’t make some of those.”

That’s what the first half felt like. The Jazz pushed the pace at times, moved the ball well in the half court, exploited mismatches, and largely got better looks than the Clippers, but missed enough good shots that the game was always close. It was 21-19 Clippers after one, led by six points from Paul Pierce nailing a couple open threes. By the half the Jazz had a small 46-43 lead behind 14 from Hayward on 5-of-8 shooting. But neither team was able to take control.

The third quarter was just ugly basketball — it was slow, physical, and Utah missed shot after shot. So did both teams — Utah “won” the quarter 18-15 to have at 64-58 lead after three. Still, it just felt like Utah was playing better and just missing looks.

Utah pushed the lead to 11 in the fourth after some threes started to fall, but the Clippers went on their own 11-0 run sparked by Paul to tie the game up 69-69. Staples Center was getting loud. But out of a time out the Jazz scored five quick points off well-designed plays, and order was restored (as far as Utah was concerned). From there Utah just held on.

Hayward finished with 27 to lead the Jazz, followed by Rodney Hood who came off the bench with 10. Utah had six players in double figures.

There was little pretty about this game, or for that matter the series. It’s become slowed down and grinding. It’s not a style the Clippers thrive in, but they’re going to have to find a way — or pick up the pace — by Friday night, or their season will come to an end. Then the questions will begin.

Russell Westbrook, Patrick Beverley get weak double techs for trash talking (VIDEO)

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Russell Westbrook and Patrick Beverley had no love lost during Tuesday night. The Houston Rockets closed out the Oklahoma City Thunder, 105-99, but that didn’t stop Brodie and Beverley from getting one of the weakest double technical foul calls we’ve seen during these playoffs.

The two squared off midway through the fourth quarter, with both players seemingly OK and a bit incredulous after getting techs for what amounted to trash talk.

I’ll let you be the judge for yourself whether it was worth of a tech.

Via Twitter:

The double technical foul is definitely one of the dumbest calls in the NBA.

Houston goes on to face the winner of the series between the San Antonio Spurs and the Memphis Grizzlies.

Kawhi Leonard, Patty Mills lead Spurs by Grizzlies for 3-2 series lead

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) Kawhi Leonard had 28 points and the San Antonio Spurs rebounded from two discouraging road losses to beat the Memphis Grizzlies 116-103 on Tuesday night and take a 3-2 lead in their first-round series.

San Antonio shot 14 for 28 on 3-point attempts, two off its postseason record, including 5-for-7 shooting by Patty Mills.

Mills finished with 20 points and Tony Parker added 16.

Mike Conley had 26 points and Marc Gasol added 17 for the Grizzlies, who have lost nine straight postseason games in San Antonio.

With each team winning on its homecourt, Game 6 is Thursday night in Memphis.

The Spurs went on an 11-0 run shortly after switching Leonard onto Conley defensively, holding the Grizzlies scoreless for 2:46 midway through the first quarter.

But it was the few times either team had success defensively.

San Antonio shot 53 percent from the field and Memphis shot 52 percent in a surprisingly explosive game between teams renowned for their defense.

Conley had seven points during a 17-3 run bridging the third and fourth quarters to pull Memphis within 87-83 with 9 minutes remaining.

The teams exchanged baskets over a 3-minute span before consecutive 3-pointers by Mills helped break the game open for San Antonio.

After failing to score in the first four games, Manu Ginobili had six points in 33 seconds in the first quarter and finished with 10 points.

James Ennis III had 11 points and Andrew Harrison added nine, as both took advantage of Leonard leaving them to help defensively during the second and third quarters.

TIP-INS

Grizzlies: Conley and Gasol are the only Memphis players to score in double figures in all four games. . Zach Randolph had nine points and six rebounds Tuesday after averaging 17 points and 9.7 rebounds in the previous three games. Randolph was held to six points and three rebounds in Game 1. . Tony Allen remained out with an injury to his right leg after being kicked in the calf during Memphis’ regular-season finale against Dallas. . Ennis was 4 for 9 from the field in scoring 11 points after averaging 7.0 points in the previous four games.

Spurs: San Antonio’s franchise record for 3-pointers made is 16 against Miami in the 2013 NBA Finals. . Leonard has scored in double figures in 25 straight playoff games, the longest streak in franchise history since Tim Duncan had 26 from 2011-2013. . The Spurs have lost three straight only once this season, dropping their final three games of the regular season after clinching the second seed. They have lost two straight on four occasions, including back-to-back losses in Memphis in this series. . Dewayne Dedmon returned after missing Game 4 due to an illness. . Ginobili’s eight points in the opening quarter are the most he scored in any quarter of a playoff game since scoring nine in the 2014 NBA Finals.

Watch Houston’s Eric Gordon yam it down over Thunder forward Jerami Grant (VIDEO)

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Eric Gordon is a leading Sixth Man of the Year candidate for the Houston Rockets for one reason: he can shoot the lights out.

But that didn’t stop Gordon from surprising a few folks during Tuesday night’s closeout Game 5 against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Gordon scored just eight points in Houston’s 105-99 win, but two of those points came on a thunderous dunk over Oklahoma City’s Jerami Grant.

Via Twitter:

Wasn’t expecting him to get up like that.

Houston will go on to play the winner of the San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies series.