D’Antoni gets backing of Stoudemire, Anthony. Will it matter?

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I feel I could do better walking into the Palms casino in Vegas (got to help out those struggling Maloofs), stroll right up to roulette table and place one bet on what the next number will be than I do of predicting what the New York Knicks will do this week.

Owner James Dolan has to decide what to do with Donnie Walsh — he seems to be leaning to keeping him — and by extension the fate of coach Mike D’Antoni is there too. Then there is what to do with Chauncey Billups — name another point guard they can get this summer who their stars respect? — but we will save him for another day.

Right now, we’re talking D’Antoni. And both Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony told Neil Best at Newsday they want him back.

“Mike is a phenomenal coach,” Stoudemire said. “He’s been great my whole career. He’s been great in New York so far this year. I have high confidence in his coaching style and what he can bring to the team.

“Coach Mike is phenomenal. He’s been doing great all year with the different changes we’ve made throughout the season. We’ve been able to maintain and still have a winning record and also have a chance to do something special in the postseason if it weren’t for injuries, so I have high confidence in Coach D’Antoni.”

Said Anthony: “I think D’Antoni was very patient. I only can speak on when I got here. I think he’s been very patient due to the circumstances. We came a long way, especially when I first got here, with the expectations being so high so quickly.

“For us to lose some games and take a step backward, and then to go out the regular season winning the way we did, you’ve got to take your hat off to Mike for being able to handle a situation like that, after almost losing damn near the whole team and start off fresh with something new. He lost four key components to his team. They had something rolling here.

“For him to take on another challenge and getting everybody on the same page when we got here, I think it took a lot and I respect that from him.”

The question with D’Antoni really is one of fit of style. If you bring back Chauncey Billups, is he the right guy to run the up-tempo offense? Does the isolation preferences of ‘Melo fit with that style either? And can D’Antoni get them to play enough defense to take the next step and be consistent (and maybe contenders)?

The questions are not easy. And Dolan throws in a complete randomness factor. This is the guy who wanted to bring Isiah Thomas back as a consultant, who made sure extra role players went to Denver in the ‘Melo deal (and Denver got a playoff win out of it). I’d be better off at the roulette table.

PBT Extra: Can Toronto threaten Cleveland, LeBron James in second round?

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There are a few reasons to think the Toronto Raptors can push and maybe even upset the Cleveland Cavaliers in their second round playoff series that starts Monday. For one, they went six games last playoffs and this is a deeper, more versatile Raptors team with Serge Ibaka as the power forward/center, P.J. Tucker coming off the bench, and the emergence of guys like Norman Powell. The Raptors have a great backcourt in Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. And, the Cavaliers were not a focused or good defensive team in the first round.

On the other side of the ledger, the Cavaliers have LeBron James.

I break down this series in the latest PBT Extra.

Three things to watch: Boston Celtics vs. Washington Wizards

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1. How much will these teams’ disdain for each other color the series?

Back in January, the Wizards wore all black for a figurative funeral while arriving for a game against the Celtics then buried Boston in a 123-108 win.

But the Celtics are still alive and ready for the next stage in a rivalry that has included:

Both teams appear primed for more hijinks. The Wizards taunted the Hawks throughout their first-round series, and Boston crossed the line with the Bulls.

2. Which team is actually better?

The Wizards outpaced the Celtics in my adjusted-for-playoff-rotation rankings before the postseason began. But getting a clear picture of who’s in the teams’ playoff rotations and counting the first round turns the tables.

Here’s both teams’ offensive, defensive and net ratings from the regular season to counting only lineups (regular season and first round) comprised of five players projected to be in the teams’ rotation this series:

1. Boston Celtics

  • Offensive rating: 112.4 to 116.2
  • Defensive rating: 109.8 to 110.4
  • Net rating: +2.6 to +5.8

4. Washington Wizards

  • Offensive rating: 111.7 to 115.6
  • Defensive rating:  110.0 to 110.5
  • Net rating: +1.7 to +5.1

Even with the flaws in these numbers – small sample sizes and no control for competition – the question of which team will put a better team on the floor in this series isn’t everything. Boston has home-court advantage, and that matters.

The complete updated playoff-rotation-adjusted ratings will be released Monday, after the first round ends.

3. How will the MVP-vote-getting point guards match up?

Both the Celtics and Wizards are reasonably deep, but good luck keeping your eyes off their star point guards. Isaiah Thomas and John Wall both received fifth-place MVP votes, tributes to their importance to their teams.

Thomas is Boston’s lone reliable scorer, and that brings a heavy fourth-quarter burden – which he has answered all year. Even when opponents know he’ll get the ball, they haven’t stopped him. Wall also drives Washington’s offense, though he does it with a more balanced passing and scoring attack throughout the game.

But Wall’s primary argument for superiority over other big-name point guards – including Thomas – is his defense. The 6-foot-4 Wall will have an opportunity to show that against the 5-foot-9 Thomas. Likewise, Thomas has a chance to pester Wall enough to show the defensive gap isn’t too wide.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.