Miami looked dominant on opening day. They came into the season trying to unbalance a defense with speed and aggressiveness, and it worked on Dallas — Miami had 100 possessions, nine more than they averaged last season.
But Boston is a better defensive squad and should prove an interesting preseason test. The two teams meet in Miami at 8 p.m. Tuesday, with the game broadcast on TNT. Which means we get to hear Shaq mumble his thoughts on the Heat.
Pace will be key. Boston is a deliberate team (22nd in the league in pace last year), but they are also a team prone to turnovers that could fuel the Heat’s running game. If Miami runs they will win this game — Boston is a good transition defense team but Dwyane Wade and LeBron James are two of the best open court finishers there are.
Another area to watch is the post. LeBron and Wade went there more often this year and looked good, again creating matchup problems for whomever they play, Sasha Pavlovic (starting for the injured Paul Pierce) would need help on LeBron in the post.
On the other end of the court, the Celtics have talked about getting Kevin Garnett and other Celtics more post touches as well. Against the Knicks on Christmas the Celtics barely went to the post (3.7 percent of possessions ESPNBoston.com reported, down from 12 percent last year). With no real defensive center on the Heat (unlike the Knicks with Tyson Chandler) the Celtics will probe there.
The next question for Boston is will they make the extra pass, can they create open looks against an aggressive and athletic Heat defense? You can’t dribble through the Heat defense forever, but crisp passing would get Celtics enough room to knock down good looks.
There are other questions. Can Chris Bosh bounce back with a good game against Garnett after a lackluster opener? Can Rajon Rondo tear up the Heat’s point guards? How much to the Celtics miss Pierce?
You don’t want to read too much into the second game of the season, but this will give us a view as to where these teams are now. And in a 66-game season every game counts.
LeBron James didn’t get his wish – Dwyane Wade and the Heat – for the Eastern Conference finals.
In advance of tonight’s Warriors-Thunder Game 7, his coach isn’t specifying a preferred NBA Finals opponent.
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue, via Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com:
“We just want the winner,” Lue said. “Just whoever wins. We’re preparing for both and after tonight we will get a chance to see who we finally play.”
This seems like the wrong approach. I’d rather face the loser. That team is likely more beatable. Alas, it doesn’t work that way. Lue is accepting the inevitable.
The Warriors would probably be the tougher matchup. They’ve been the better team all season and would put Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love into a ton of pick-and-rolls. It’s a great offensive matchup for Stephen Curry. But beating Golden State – the defending champions with a 73-9 record – would bring greater glory and personal redemption to LeBron, who clearly views the Warriors as an outlier.
The Thunder would be no pushovers, but Cleveland would have a better chance of winning. Even with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City just hasn’t played as well as Golden State over a long stretch.
This is obviously a discussion only for fun. The Cavs have no say in their Finals opponent. The Warriors and Thunder will decide that tonight.
DeMar DeRozan sounds like he wants to re-sign with the Raptors, and Toronto wants him back.
But what about those Lakers rumors?
Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report, via Noah Coslov of Bleacher Report Radio:
I’m breaking up with you.
No, I’m breaking up with you first.
The Warriors went an NBA-record 73-9.
And the Thunder massively outplayed them in Games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference finals.
No, Golden State wasn’t at full strength. But Oklahoma City reached a level the Warriors hadn’t all season. Even if Golden State had hit peak performance, I’m not sure that would’ve been enough. The Thunder were that good.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were their superstar selves. Steven Adams defended inside and out. Serge Ibaka hit timely shots and moved well defensively. Andre Roberson made open 3-pointers and cut. Dion Waiters read the floor to make the right shot or pass. And everyone rotated correctly throughout entire defensive possessions.
Oklahoma City was awesome, handing the Warriors 28- and 24-point losses.
But Golden State rallied to force a Game 7 tonight. If the Warriors win, they’ll become just the eighth team in NBA history to lose multiple games by more than 20 in a series and still win it. The seven to do it:
- Houston Rockets lost to Los Angeles Clippers by 25 and 33 in 2015 second round
- Atlanta Hawks lost to Miami Heat by 29 and 26 in 2009 first round
- Houston Rockets lost to Phoenix Suns by 22 and 24 in 1995 second round
- Philadelphia 76ers lost to Boston Celtics by 40 and 29 in 1982 Eastern Conference finals
- Denver Nuggets lost to Milwaukee Bucks by 31 and 28 in 1978 Western Conference semifinals
- Los Angeles Lakers lost to Milwaukee Bucks by 21 and 26 in 1972 Western Conference finals
- Minneapolis Lakers lost to St. Louis Hawks by 34 and 30 in 1959 Western Division finals
The Warriors never stopped believing in themselves, even when getting routed. That mentality has them one game from a comeback for the ages.
DeMar DeRozan sounds like he wants to re-sign with the Raptors.
But does Toronto want to give max money to someone who 39% from the field and 15% on 3-pointers in the playoffs?
Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri, via James Herbert of CBSSports.com:
This is probably the right course. I don’t know whom the Raptors could get if they lets DeRozan walk, but if he signs elsewhere, they would have just about $19 million in cap space – less than a max salary. I doubt they could land a better replacement.
I’m not sold on DeRozan as a playoff player, though he legitimately took the next step this regular season. But I’d rather keep him, hope he learns to handle the challenges of the postseason and possibly use him in a trade down the road. It’ll cost a max salary if DeRozan isn’t willing to take a discount, but that beats the alternative of losing him for nothing but cap space.