NBA Playoffs: Dallas hits, Kobe misses and Mavs make it a series

20 Comments

Are these Dallas Mavericks different?

Different than the team that falls short, that so many pundits thought didn’t know how to close, that was too old or too soft. The one that keeps getting smoked in the playoffs.

Or was it just the Lakers having one of their patented lapses? Combined with Kobe missing a good look at a three to win it?

One game does not answer those questions.

But for that one game the Mavs were different enough to be able to capitalize on Lakers lapses, the Mavs were the team that held their composure down 16 (after it seemed they would melt down at the end of the first half) and kept doing what they do. They were the team that executed at the end. They got the Game 1 win 96-94 and lead the Lakers 1-0 in the best-of-seven second round matchup.

Game 2 Wednesday will be a more telling to what this series will look like going forward. Don’t expect another Lakers collapse (and just 15 points in the fourth quarter). But for a night, Dallas was good enough.

One play summed it up pretty well. With 23 seconds left and the Lakers up one, Kobe Bryant tried to drive. But waiting for him was one of the people who makes Dallas different — Tyson Chandler. Kobe tried to make a kick-out pass to Derek Fisher that Jason Terry stole.

“He drove right and Tyson (Chandler) did a good job of cutting him off, Jason Kidd put his hands up and he couldn’t really see, and I was in the right position where he usually gets those threes, those dagger threes, and thank God I was there to make a steal….

“In years prior Kobe probably would have made a dunk or layup (Terry said of Chandler’s play).”

It was the Lakers making the mistakes in the clutch — a foolish foul by Pau Gasol, a turnover when Kobe fell on a poorly executed set, a missed game winner by Kobe off a good look — while Dallas made their free throws and shots.

Phil Jackson was very much in “the Lakers blew it” camp.

“We went in the locker room and we gave it away,” he said post game. “I’m not sure Dallas didn’t outplay us, but I just felt like we gave it away. A couple misplays on the offensive end and the foul at the end (by Gasol) to put them on the line kind of makes it difficult to win those kind of games.”

The Lakers built their lead by getting the ball inside — as Hoopdata tells us the Lakers shot 17-for-26 at rim, 19-for-58 elsewhere else. In the second half once they went up by 16 on a Kobe three the Lakers rushed their offense and kept looking for more daggers. As if you can get those in the third quarter. They stopped throwing the ball inside (they had no points in the paint the final 9 minutes of the third quarter). The offense suffered.

Dallas settled for jumpers much of the game — they as a team are so willing to do that — but with good ball movement and some effort to get shots in transition (aided by all those missed Lakers jumpers) they got good looks. Dallas hit 9-of-20 from three (45 percent) and a combined 14-of-29 (48.3 percent) from 10-to-23 feet.

The Lakers to a man talked of missed rotations — they kept Dallas out of the paint by and large but did not contest those looks.

Dallas took advantage and hit their shots.

Is that because Dallas has evolved into the kind of team that could win this series? Or is it because the Lakers just had an off night and they can play better defense?

We know the Lakers will have these lapses. They are standard for them now. But this is one of the few times Dallas has been able to capitalize. Can they do that three more times?

The only thing we do know for sure — this is a series now. Dallas has won on the road and there will be no easy path out for either side.

This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!

Another Hornets backup PG injured

Dave Reginek/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Hornets backup point guard Michael Carter-Williamsout.

Nicolas Batum, who handled a lot of playmaking with Charlotte’s second units – out.

Julyan Stone, another Hornets backup point guard – out.

Hornets release:

The Charlotte Hornets announced today that guard Julyan Stone has suffered a Grade 2 strain of his left hamstring. The injury occurred in practice on Sunday, Oct. 22 and he did not travel with the team to Milwaukee.  Stone is listed as out for tonight’s game against the Bucks and his expected recovery time is estimated at four to six weeks.

The Hornets have been outscored by an astounding 35.8 points per 100 possessions without starter Kemba Walker, producing an offensive rating of just 61.4. That’s in just 23 minutes, but the problem dates back to last season, when Charlotte was outscored by 7.0 points per 100 possessions with a 100.7 offensive rating sans Walker.

Now, the Hornets have little choice but to turn to rookie Malik Monk. Monk is a scoring guard, but his 6-foot-3 size means he has at least worked on playing point guard. Is he ready to play the position full-time for a team eying the playoffs. Probably not, but he’ll just have to do his best to keep Charlotte afloat in the few minutes Walker rests.

Report: Suns also fire three assistant coaches

AP Photo/Jim Urquhart
1 Comment

The Suns fired Earl Watson just three games into the season – the second-earliest firing in NBA history.

They didn’t stop there.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Firing assistant coaches during the season has become Phoenix’s m.o. I’m just not sure what it accomplishes.

Were Watson, Nate Bjorkgren, Mehmet Okur and Jason Fraser all so bad at their jobs? If so, why did the Suns figure that out simultaneously?

Were the firings designed to shake up a losing team? If so, wouldn’t ousting Watson have been enough?

Will Phoenix replace those assistants? If not, will the team have the resources to properly train its players?

The Suns are filled with young players who need coaching, particularly skill development. This move looks like it will put them further behind.

Watch Andre Roberson airball back-to-back free throws

2 Comments

Andre Roberson is not a good free throw shooter, a career 48.9 percent from the stripe.

But even for him, this is ugly. Heck, for DeAndre Jordan would think this was ugly.  Against the Timberwolves Sunday night, Roberson airballed two free throws. In a row. You can see it above.

This game went on to have the most dramatic ending of any NBA game this season, with Carmelo Anthony and Andrew Wiggins trading big buckets but the Twolves getting the win on the road.

 

NBA Three Things to Know: Sun sets on Earl Watson in Phoenix

Getty Images
1 Comment

Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA. This is what you missed on Sunday while wondering if oyster vending machines are a good idea. (They’re not.)

1) Eric Bledsoe Tweets he wants out, hours later it’s Earl Watson who is out, fired as Suns coach. The Suns are a bad team, one that lacked offensive cohesion and defensive effort. Phoenix was blown out by 48 points by the Trail Blazers in their first game, the worst opening night loss in NBA history. It was an ugly start to the season. How could things possibly get worse from there?

Well, how about the Suns get blown out by 42 points in the third game of the season, have their best player Tweet he “doesn’t want to be here” then turn around and fire the coach? That’s what happened, and Earl Watson is out in Phoenix.

Watson was 33-85 as the Suns head coach, but that record isn’t a fair way to judge him — Suns management made him sit Eric Bledsoe and Tyson Chandler to tank at the end of last season, much to Watson’s frustration. This is a young team this season that is not going to be good no matter who coached it. But Watson’s Suns didn’t seem to have a strong offensive identity, didn’t play hard on defense, and there were doubts about his ability to develop young talent. Watson took over as an interim coach after the Suns fired Jeff Hornacek, then he went an unimpressive 9-24 in that role. However, he preached love and togetherness at a time the franchise needed it, and the players loved him, so despite the record management decided to give him a shot as a guy who could develop talent. Watson and GM Ryan McDonough were notoriously rarely on the same page, but Robert Sarver is not the kind of owner who will pay a couple of coaches at once, and the players loved Watson, so he stayed. Then, Eric Bledsoe tweeted this.

I’m not saying the two things are directly related, but if Watson was losing the players, he had little left.

The only question about this move is “why did they wait three games into the season?” Why not make their move over the summer, allowing a new coach to have a training camp to change the tenor of the team? Former Raptor coach (and Canadian national team coach) Jay Triano gets the job in the short term.

The Suns are a young, developing team but with some good pieces already in place — Devin Booker, Josh Jackson — and some guys who need to be brought along (Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss). They need a strong developmental head coach, someone who can install a mindset and get the young guys playing hard. The Suns are going to lose a lot of games this season, and end up with a high draft pick, they are building for the future. They need their process, and they need a coach who can lead it.

2) Carmelo Anthony drains game-winning three… wait, no it’s Andrew Wiggins who drains game-winner for Timberwolves. For a couple of games (this one and the previous one against the Jazz) the Thunder have struggled with their offensive rhythm. Or, more accurately, they just missed shots. Through three quarters the Russell Westbrook/Paul George/Carmelo Anthony trio was 17-of-43 (39.5 percent) and 3-of-10 from three.

But after the Thunder second unit made it a game again, Westbrook found his groove late — he took over the offense, attacking, and going 6-of-9 in the fourth. Then came the big finish. Karl-Anthony Towns — who was a beast again with 27 points and 12 boards (but needs to take fewer threes if he keeps missing like this) — put the Timberwolves up two. With 8.9 seconds left Westbrook drove, drew two defenders, then shared the rock, found Anthony… and just watch for yourself.

Underrated on that last play: Towns set a massive screen to free up Wiggins and get him that look. Wiggins did not call bank, but as Paul Pierce said last season he did call game.

3) Clippers’ Milos Teodosic out indefinitely. The NBA just got a little less fun to watch. The Clippers brought the passing wizard over from Serbia as a 30-year-old rookie, and he was dishing.

Unfortunately, Teodosic is out indefinitely with a plantar fascia injury. The concern with the Clippers this season was not the talent but the health of a team leaning on Blake Griffin, Danilo Gallinari, and others with long injury histories. Hopefully for Los Angeles, the Teodosic injury is not the start of a trend.