NBA Playoffs: Can anyone slow Nowitzki, Durant?

3 Comments

One player does not win a basketball game.

But if Dallas or Oklahoma City can figure out a way to slow the other’s star player in this series — starting with Game 2 Thursday night — they will have a huge leg up. Because in Game 1 those two pretty much scored like Wilt in Hershey.

Part of that is on the officials — they called a tight Game 1 (both ways) and if you can’t be physical with these guys they will shred you. And get to the line a lot (and nothing makes for great television like a parade to the free throw line). Oklahoma City may want to make sure Dirk can’t catch the ball 18 feet out on the right baseline and face up — one he has the battle is lost. Doesn’t matter if you get a hand in his face, he can hit 8 out of 10 blindfolded from there. You have to deny him his spots on the floor.

Same with Durant — they defenders he struggles with are the ones that play great ball denial and don’t let him ever get comfortable. If he does, you lose.

Expect both teams to try and be more physical with the other’s star, look for more hard double teams to come earlier.

All of that has trade offs — double Dirk and those deadly Mavs jump shooters are wide open. Double Durant and you’ll have Russell Westbrook and James Harden flashing to the basket. Will the defenders help the helper, will the rotations be tight? If not, both teams can make you pay.

Westbrook is another key for this Game 2 — not in the he should score 30 way (he can, but it comes at a cost) but can he strike the balance we saw in Game 7 against Memphis. He can score, but he needs to balance the team out. As Beckley Mason said so well, he can’t eat that marshmallow.

There are a lot of interesting things to watch this game. At key moments the Thunder struggled when the Mavericks went to a zone, will they attack it better this game? On the other end, can OKC find a good defensive answer for the J.J. Barea/Nowitzki pick-and-roll?

Game 1 felt like an outlier. A one off. Nowitzki and Durant are elite scorers, but to expect that kind of performance in Game 2 is a mistake. Others will step up, teams will have adjustments. Game 2 will give us a better feel for what the rest of this series will look like.

It’s going to take more than one player to win it.

Gordon Hayward’s agent says return this season unlikely

Associated Press
Leave a comment

Wednesday night in Boston Gordon Hayward underwent surgery to repair his dislocated ankle and fractured tibia suffered just five minutes into the season-opening game, a gruesome injury that put a pall over the rest of the night.

There had been hope from some Celtics fans that Hayward could return this season, likely for the playoffs, but now that the surgery is complete Hayward’s agent told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN not to expect him back until next season.

This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who saw the injury. Hayward is in the first year of a four-year deal with the Celtics, they were always going to choose a cautious path rather than rush him back. Under Danny Ainge Boston has always taken the long view, even with all their moves this summer — specifically bringing in Hayward and Kyrie Irving — the target was to be the team set up for next as LeBron James and the Cavaliers faded. That plan does not change now.

Earlier in the day, Hayward had sent a video message out to Celtics fans thanking them for their support in the past 24 hours.

Without Hayward, the Celtics now will focus more on smaller lineups, rookie Jayson Tatum will get more run, as will Marcus Smart in his contract year. Jaylen Brown will be thrust into a more significant role. Also, Kyrie Irving will be asked to do more as the team’s second-best playmaker is now out for the season.

The Celtics will take a step back this season without Hayward, who was going to be crucial for them on both ends of the floor. That’s evidenced by their 0-2 start, falling to the Cavaliers and Bucks on the first couple nights of the season. Boston should still be a team well above .500 and in the playoffs, but they will not be quite the same this season.

Trail Blazers beat Suns by 48, biggest season-opening rout in NBA history

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Any controversy over C.J. McCollum‘s suspension for the season-opener should be put to rest. The Trail Blazers fared fine without him.

More than fine.

Portland beat the Suns, 124-76, Wednesday. The 48-point margin is the largest ever in a season opener, even as the Trail Blazers let a 58-point fourth-quarter lead dwindle.

Here are the most lopsided season-openers in NBA history (openers for both teams appearing twice):

image

The 48-point defeat is also the Suns’ worst lost in franchise history, topping a 44-point loss to the Seattle SuperSonics in 1988. It could be a long year in Phoenix.

Marcus Smart and Matthew Dellavedova scrap (video)

2 Comments

Marcus Smart and Matthew Dellavedova thrive on aggravating opponents, so when matched up, of course they aggravated each other.

Deduct points from Smart for pulling the hold-me-back charade behind a referee. Plus, Dellavedova’s Bucks beat Smart’s Celtics, 108-100.

Report: ‘Tremendous concern’ for Jeremy Lin’s knee injury

Leave a comment

The Nets’ projected record this season came under greater scrutiny when the Celtics traded Brooklyn’s unprotected first-round pick to the Cavaliers in the Kyrie Irving trade. After finishing third-to-last and last the previous two years, were the Nets poised to take a step forward, or would they convey a very high pick to the Cavs?

Jeremy Lin, who missed 46 games last season, getting healthy was a reason for optimism in Brooklyn and pessimism in Cleveland. But it appears the veteran guard could be out a while.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Billy Reinhardt of Nets Daily:

If the injury is as bad as feared, what a bummer for Lin. He came to Brooklyn expecting to play a leading role on a developing team, and he just can’t stay healthy.

The Nets were probably more focused on developing their younger players, but – especially without their own draft picks – there was no harm in shooting for the playoffs. This appears to a blow to that (already unlikely) dream.

It’s a boon to the Cavaliers, though. And whenever something significantly affects LeBron James‘ team, it has ramifications into the entire power dynamic of the Eastern Conference. For an injury to a player on a team most expect to be bad, the medical developments here will be tracked closely around the league.