The dynamics of this series — the dynamics that put the Atlanta up 3-1 and give them to close out Orlando on Thursday night at home in Game 6 — have not changed.
Atlanta will largely single-cover Dwight Howard and he will put up impressive numbers. Hedo Turkoglu will stink. Jamal Crawford will again have Hawks fans wondering where this guy has been hiding all season. Jason Richardson will hobble due to stitches on his foot.
One thing was different in Game 5 — Orlando knocked down its threes. The Magic shot 36.6 percent on threes in the regular season then 21 percent through the first four games of this series. Atlanta, because they can single-cover Howard with Jason Collins, does a better job than most defending the arc, but Orlando was just missing. The regression to the mean was coming.
It arrived in Game 5 when Orlando hit 11 of 26 (42.3 percent) from beyond the arc.
Put simply, if the Magic can do that again they will force a Game 7 Saturday. If they revert to shooting in the 20s, well, there are a lot of nice golf courses in the Orlando area.
Al Horford and Josh Smith have both been impressive this series for the Hawks, balancing out the beast that is Dwight Howard. J.J. Redick returned to form in Game 5 for the Magic and started to balance out Crawford, who may be the best player in this series so far.
It’s Game 6, there are no more secrets. If Atlanta can create some turnovers and use missed three-pointers by Orlando to lead to some easy transition points, they are advancing to face Chicago. If Orlando takes care of the ball and the threes are falling, everyone is heading back to Orlando for Game 7.
It seems both obvious and simple to say that this game and this series will come down to made shots, but there it is.
The Warriors have played 202 games in the last two years. Three of the 11 slowest-paced came against the Cavaliers in the 2015 NBA Finals.
Cleveland successfully dictated the style for much of the series – grinding play to a halt, crashing the glass and relying on LeBron James to score against a set defense.
But the Cavs also lost, including all three of the slowest-games. So they’ll they try something different this year.
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue, via Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com:
“We just have to play our game,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “We’re not going to slow the ball down and be at ease. We’re going to push the pace, try to get easy baskets early in transition but make sure we’re taking good shots.”
“We want to push the pace!” Lue yelled in jest for everyone to hear. “You know what I’m saying. Put that on record. Push the pace. You think I’m going to walk it down every time?”
“We’re not going to be scared of their small lineup,” Lue said. “We’re going to play our bigs and if the flow of the game calls for something different, then we’ll do something different.”
Cleveland will try to out-Warrior the Warriors? Good luck.
Only the Thunder in the Western Conference finals did that for a decent stretch, and they couldn’t sustain it. Plus, Oklahoma City is much more athletic than the Cavs.
That said, I’m not sure the Cavaliers have a better alternative. With Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love healthy, the Cavs are a different team from last year. Irving and Love aren’t built to play slow.
And that’s the dilemma. Cleveland can have its top talent or its ideal style for combatting Golden State – but probably not both. The Cavaliers are choosing talent.
Isaiah Thomas pledged to put on his recruiting hat for the Celtics this summer.
He didn’t wait long until Boston target Kevin Durant reached his offseason to send a public message.
Thomas deleted the tweet, but not before Adam Kauffman of WBZ News Radio captured it:
This is how free agency works now. It’d be tampering for Celtics general manager Danny Ainge to talk or tweet about Durant until the star’s Thunder contract expires July 1. But the NBA doesn’t enforce tampering rules on inter-player communication. So, general managers deploy players to pitch pending free agents before July.
Thomas just needs to work on his execution.
The Celtics retired No. 35 for Reggie Lewis, who died at age 27 due to a sudden heart issue. So, Durant would have to change his number if he signed in Boston. No. 35 already has a different, and special, meaning there.
Plus, Durant might not take kindly to potential suitors swarming so soon after the Thunder were eliminated. Whatever he does in the summer, Durant wanted to win with Oklahoma City this season.
But don’t expect this to be the last you hear of the Celtics in the Durant sweepstakes.
Darren Collison, the Kings’ only point guard under contract for next season, has been arrested on charges of domestic violence and driving with a revoked license.
CBS Sacramento broke the story, noting Collison was arrested in Placer County, which is north of Sacramento.
Collison, 28, was booked into Placer County Jail on one count of inflicting corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant and a bench warrant of driving while his license was revoked.
The Kings released this statement:
“We’ve been made aware of the situation. The Sacramento Kings condemn violence of any kind. We are gathering additional information and once all facts are known we will take appropriate steps.”
The NBA, along with other professional sports leagues, has come down harder with fines and suspensions on players found to have committed domestic violence in recent seasons. For example, the Hornets’ Jeff Taylor was suspended 24 games. Both the Kings and the league will let this criminal investigation and process play out longer before jumping in, but Collison likely will get more than just a slap on the wrist if the charges are true.
Collison is under contract for $5.2 million for the Kings next season, and is in line to see more minutes next season (depending upon free agent moves). Sacramento is an organization looking for a fresh start — they have a new coach in Dave Joerger and are moving into a new arena in the heart of the city next season. They want to turn the page on a turbulent, playoff-free past decade. Incidents like this certainly do not help with that perception (even though the team wasn’t involved).
Three minutes after the Thunder lost Game 7 of the Western Conference finals to the Warriors, former Oklahoma City guard Reggie Jackson tweeted:
I’m generally reluctant to interpret vague tweets by a stranger, but it’s hard to believe Jackson was referring to anything but the Thunder losing.
There’s plenty of history here, from Jackson’s ugly Oklahoma City exit to disputes in both Pistons-Thunder games this season. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant have shown they aren’t fond of Jackson, and the feeling is clearly mutual.
If Jackson is referring to Oklahoma City’s loss – and I think he is – he’s being petty. But that’s fine. There’s room for pettiness in sports – especially when both sides will face each other on the court.
Durant and Westbrook surely aren’t thinking about regular-season games against the Pistons, but I bet Jackson is ready for the matchup. Considering how much better the Thunder are than Detroit, Jackson probably needs that extra edge to compete – though now Durant and Westbrook can also use this tweet as motivation (at least if Durant returns to Oklahoma City).