Miami Heat v Dallas Mavericks

NBA Power Rankings: Mavericks fall, Heat race into top spot

7 Comments

Only one third of the teams in the NBA have played a game, but it was enough to move some teams around and give us a new No. 1.

1. Heat (1-0, last week ranked No. 2). They had 100 possessions in their opening game, nine more than they averaged last season. If they do that for a full season they will be a much better team.

2. Bulls (1-0, LW 3). It was all Derrick Rose and defense — so the same as last year — but a dramatic comeback win over the Lakers on the road is a fantastic way to start the season.

3. Thunder (1-0, LW 4). Durant dropped 30 on the Magic, but the real key was Kendrick Perkins defending Dwight Howard one-on-one and throwing him off his game.

4. Knicks (1-0, LW 6). I’m still not sold on Carmelo Anthony as a point forward, and I don’t love how they are using Amare Stoudemire, but a win over Boston to start the season is a nice win.

5. Clippers (1-0, LW 10). Make no mistake, this is Chris Paul’s team. Blake Griffin is now the No. 2 guy. And note to DeAndre Jordan: Loved all the blocked shots but your chasing the blocks is a key reason the Warriors were so strong on the offensive glass. Pick your spots.

6. Lakers (0-1, LW 5). They showed some grit, but this team needs Andrew Bynum back (Dec. 31 is his return).

7. Celtics (0-1, LW 7). Brandon Bass had a very nice debut with 20 points and 11 boards. They are going to need big number from him nightly.

8. Mavericks (0-1 LW 1). That was not pretty, but we’re going to assume it was a one-off for now and think things will improve fast.

9. Grizzlies (0-0, LW 8). They only move down because the Clippers played and moved up.

10. Spurs (0-0, LW 9). Antonio McDyess has retired. It was time, but that leaves the Spurs front line very thin.

11. Blazers (0-0, LW 11). This is one of the two teams we may well be under-rating right now. They could climb fast.

12. Nuggets (0-0, LW 13). This is the other team we are underrating. Still a lot of talent on this roster despite how much of last year’s team is in China.

13. 76ers (0-0, LW 14). If Evan Turner’s reworked jumper is ready to roll the 76ers are improved. But I need to see it in real action to believe.

14. Hawks (0-0, LW 15). I want Jeff Teague to blow my doors off this season. He has the skills. I’m just not sold it will happen.

15. Magic (0-1, LW 12). Man that was ugly, but the Thunder are able to follow the book on the Magic — Kendrick Perkins can cover Dwight Howard one-on-one, which means other guys can stay home on the shooters. Worked for the Hawks last playoffs, worked for the Thunder Sunday.

16. Rockets (0-0, LW 16). Samuel Dalembert may not play in the opener, and if he does minutes will be limited.

17. Pacers (0-0, LW 17). How healthy is David West and that surgically repaired knee? If it’s all the way back the Pacers will finish this season much higher up this list.

18. Bucks (0-0, LW 18). Stephen Jackson does have back problems but is back with the team after an epidural. That means he’ll be dealing with the injury all season. Something to watch.

19. Suns (0-0, LW 19). No, they have not traded Steve Nash yet and are not planning to. So stop asking.

20. Jazz (0-0, LW 21). This is the kind of team that may not win a lot of games but they are not going to get blown out much — they are a hard out.

21. Warriors (0-1, LW 20). Stephen Curry was 4-of-12 shooting with five turnovers in the first game. Chris Paul is not that good a defender, makes you wonder about the ankle (if it’s not right they should be resting him). That said, I don’t think he looked off on his cuts or movement.

22. Kings (0-0, LW 22). Getting Chuck Hayes back is big for the Kings, especially if his game starts to rub off on DeMarcus Cousins.

23 Wizards (0-0, LW 23). Jan Vesely probably will not play on opening night due to a sore hip. Not good, we’re looking for reasons to watch the Wizards other than Wall.

24. Pistons (0-0, LW 25). Rodney Stuckey is going to get the start at the point. But eventually Brandon Knight is going to get that job.

25. Timberwolves (0-0, LW 26). This may be one of the most fun teams to watch in the league this season. Not one of the best (although Rick Adelman makes them better), but if they really run one of the most entertaining.

26. Nets (0-0, LW 24). How do you fall two spots without playing a game? Lose Brook Lopez for a couple months and replace him with Mehmet Okur.

27. Hornets (0-0, LW 27). Newly acquired point guard Greivis Vasquez is going to get some run in New Orleans. That’s not really going to change anything.

28. Raptors (0-0, LW 28). Going into opening day, nobody is really sure what the starting lineup for Toronto will be. That’s not a good sign.

29. Cavaliers (0-0, LW 29). Kyrie Irving will be thrown to the wolves be the Cavaliers starting point guard and learn on the job beginning day one — he got the starting job.

30. Bobcats (0-0, LW 30). Just to add to the fun, Tyrus Thomas will not start in the opener Monday due to injury. This team is snake bit right now.

LeBron James leads Cavaliers back to Finals doing it his way

Leave a comment

LeBron James is the first NBA star of the social media age, and with that has come a volume of criticism that the greats before him — Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan — never had to deal with.

Even these playoffs, there have been chattering voices knocking LeBron for how he worked more to set up teammates — particularly Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love — more than seeking out his own shot. Some people have always wanted him to be more Jordan, when he was always more Magic. Or Oscar Robertson.

And this playoff he knew that he could carry his Cavaliers to the NBA Finals through a diluted East, but if he wanted a ring he was going to need those other players to be confident, ready, and believing in the team.

You could see that all come together for LeBron James in Game 6. He attacked early and set a tone, then got everyone involved on his way to 33 points and 11 assists in what became a 113-87 win sending Cleveland back to the NBA Finals.

“I just had to bring my game,” James said in his on-court postgame interview on ESPN. “I had to bring my game, I had to be in attack mode from the beginning, trust my shot, and once my shot start going I can get my teammates involved and they was able to carry me down the stretch.”

LeBron James was getting to the rim with those attacks, check out his shot chart:

LeBron shot chart

LeBron also keyed the fourth-quarter 22-7 run that put away the game.

“There is only one LeBron James, and he makes a difference on any team he plays on, and he’s proven that,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said postgame. “It’s six Finals (in a row for LeBron), to compare him to our team — and I love our players, I wouldn’t trade any of our players — but you put him on any team and he’s a difference maker.”

LeBron’s critics will not be silenced. The man has made six straight finals, a feat not accomplished by anyone since a few legendary Celtics of the 1950s-60s (Bill Russell’s teams). It speaks to LeBron’s focus, skill, durability, and ability to lead teams.

Critics will point to LeBron being 2-4 in the Finals. That misses the point — making it to six straight is an amazing accomplishment, and LeBron did it his way. Not trying to be MJ or Magic or Oscar, just being LeBron James.

We should savor watching this guy play while we still can.

James scores 33, Cavaliers reach second straight NBA Finals

lebron
Getty Images
9 Comments

TORONTO — LeBron James scored 33 points, Kevin Love had 20 points and 12 rebounds and the Cleveland Cavaliers advanced to their second straight NBA Finals by beating the Toronto Raptors 113-87 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals Friday night.

It’s the third finals appearance in team history for the Cavaliers. Cleveland lost to Golden State in six games last year and got swept by San Antonio in 2007.

For James, it’s his sixth straight trip to the finals, including four with Miami. He broke the 30-point barrier for the first time this postseason and finished with 11 rebounds and six assists.

“I had to bring my game,” he said. “I had to be in attack mode from the beginning.”

Kyrie Irving had 30 points and J.R. Smith had 15 for the Cavaliers, who will face the winner of the Golden State-Oklahoma City series on Thursday.

Cleveland would open at home against the Thunder but would be on the road against the 73-win Warriors, who trail 3-2 against Oklahoma City heading into Saturday’s Game 6.

The Cavs will be seeking to end Cleveland’s 52-year championship drought, the longest by any city with at least three professional teams. No Cleveland team has won it all since the Browns blanked Baltimore 27-0 to win the NFL championship in 1964.

Kyle Lowry scored 35 points and DeMar DeRozan had 20 as the deepest playoff run in Raptors team history ended, much to the disappointment of a sellout crowd of 20,605 dressed in red and white T-shirts that formed a maple leaf pattern on either side of the court. Fans stood and cheered “Let’s go, Raptors! Let’s go, Raptors!” throughout most of the final three minutes.

Toronto prolonged the series with back-to-back home wins in Games 3 and 4 but never mounted much of a challenge to the conference champions in Game 6, falling behind by 21 in the third quarter.

The Cavaliers came in 0-4 at Air Canada Centre counting the regular season and playoffs, but looked much more like the team that handed the Raptors a trio of lopsided losses in Cleveland this series.

The Raptors trailed 88-78 on a jumper by DeRozan with 10:23 remaining but James scored six points in a 14-3 run that gave the Cavs a 102-81 lead with about 6 minutes left.

James scored 14 in the first and five of Cleveland’s nine field goals were from long range as the Cavaliers led 31-25 after one.

After video review, the officials waved off a basket by Biyombo with 3:18 left in the period and gave him a flagrant foul for knocking down Love.

Tempers flared again early in the second when Richard Jefferson reacted angrily to catching an elbow from Jonas Valanciunas as the two battled for a rebound. Patrick Patterson came over and shoved Jefferson out of the way. Both Patterson and Jefferson were given technical fouls.

Cleveland made five more 3-pointers in the second and outscored Toronto 9-3 over the final 71 seconds to lead 55-41 at halftime. The Cavaliers made 10 of 15 3-point attempts in the first half, while Toronto was 2 of 12.

The Cavs led 78-57 after a 3 by Love at 3:53 of the third but Lowry scored 15 points as Toronto closed the quarter with a 17-8 run, cutting it to 86-74.

TIP INS

Cavaliers: Shot 17 for 31 from 3-point range. … Outscored Toronto 17-5 in fast break points.

Raptors: Finished their playoff run by playing every other day from April 29 onward, a 15-game run that started with Game 6 of the first round against Indiana.

Reports: P.J. Carlesimo to join Sixers staff as Brett Brown’s lead assistant

CHICAGO, IL - MAY 02:  Head coach P.J. Carlesimo of the Brooklyn Nets watches as his team take on the Chicago Bulls in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2013 NBA Playoffs at the United Center on May 2, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. The Nets defeated the Bulls 95-92. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
2 Comments

Last season, when new president Jerry Colangelo started shaking things up in Philadelphia, he brought in Mike D’Antoni to be a lead assistant next to Brett Brown. This led to all kinds of speculation around the league that the Colangelos were trying to bring back the old Suns brain trust (especially when Jerry hired his son Bryan to be GM).

However, D’Antoni jumped ship to be the head coach of the Houston Rockets.

Enter, P.J. Carlesimo.

Carlesimo is a good fit, but that’s not going to quell the rumors that the Colangelos are not comfortable with Brown (despite giving him a contract extension). The Sixers need to give Brown a legitimate shot — he’s been like a contestant on Chopped the past few seasons, given a ridiculous basket of ingredients and told to turn Mango, octopus and graham crackers into a four-star meal. He’s gotten them to play defense (at times) and started to build a culture. He has earned the chance to show what he can do with a better lineup.

Which is what the Sixers will have next season.

Nuggets’ Jusuf Nurkic likes idea of two-bigs lineup with Nikola Jokic

DENVER, CO - APRIL 5:  Jusuf Nurkic #23 of the Denver Nuggets controls the ball against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Pepsi Center on April 5, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Thunder defeated the Nuggets 124-102. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Late last season, Nuggets coach Mike Malone tried something out of the box the way the NBA is trending — playing two young bigs together. Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic, the latter of whom finished in third in the Rookie of the Year voting. Small ball may be in vogue, but going big has worked pretty well these playoffs for Oklahoma City with Steven Adams and Enes Kanter (and Serge Ibaka).

It didn’t work all that well for Denver — in just 92 minutes together the Nuggets were outscored by 7.1 points per 100 possessions, mostly because the offense was terrible.

But Nurkic wants to try it again next season, he told the Nuggets’ official Web site.

“I’m happy about the big lineup [with Nikola]. “Basketball has kind of changed. The NBA has gone smaller because of [the] Golden State [Warriors]. In the [Western Conference] semi-finals, look at [Oklahoma City’s Steven] Adams, [Enes] Kanter, and [Serge] Ibaka. They played all those guys and they see the difference. Me and Nikola have great communication because we played in the same league, we played against each other.”

He’s referring to their time in the Serbian league where the two played before going to the NBA.

While it could only be used situationally, expect Malone to experiment with this lineup more. There are some serious defensive questions (neither is exactly fleet of foot), and there could be spacing issues. But if the league moves one way, the smart teams and coaches think about counters.