Perfect storm continues for Jeremy Lin, Knicks cruise to win

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Linsanity is now 7-0.

For the sensation that is Jeremy Lin to be unleashed — from the wins to the mania that gripped New York and spilled over into popular culture — it takes more than just the fantastic play of Lin. Although that is certainly the catalyst. But it takes a perfect storm of things coming together.

That storm washed over the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night and swept them out in a 100-85 win for New York. And it wasn’t that close. But that is what the storm of Linsanity brings now to lesser teams. Lin finished with 10 points on 4-of-6 shoointg, a career-best 13 assists and was a plus-19 on the night.

To get to this blowout win, Linsanity’s storm took a lot of factors coming together.

It starts with Lin working hard on his game during the lockout, making improvements with his outside shot, going left and other areas that the Warriors never got to see because they waived him before their first practice. Improvements the Rockets never got to really see because they were already deep with good point guards like Kyle Lowry.

Then it takes him getting a chance in New York, playing on a Knicks team desperate for a point guard that knew how to run the pick-and-roll and organize an offense. Skills that are in Lin’s wheelhouse. He was the perfect fit. It helped that he got a chance to start his run and gain confidence against a series of teams — the Nets, Jazz, Wizards — that are terrible defensively, especially against the pick-and-roll. Give Lin all the credit because he took advantage of those defenses and with each bucket, with each assist his confidence grew. He developed a real swagger against those teams that he unleashed on better squads like the Lakers.

The storm of his popularity also takes a Knicks’ fan base desperate for a messiah at the point guard to save this team and their hopes of winning with Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire. Those hopes seemed to ride on Baron Davis’ unstable back — then suddenly Lin came in and grabbed his chance.

Add to that fact that Lin is Taiwanese-American, becoming the face of a fan base, and that he plays in New York and you have fuel for that storm. Lin would be a big story anywhere, but it is magnified under the bright lights of Broadway.

But in the end, it is about the basketball. All the things that Lin has brought to the Knicks were on display against the Kings on Wednesday.

Lin has brought creativity and freedom to Mike D’Antoni’s offense that was lacking before. With Anthony trying to be a square peg in a round hole as a point-forward, there were a lot of isolations and a lot of standing around. When the ball is in Lin’s hands guys will move off the ball because they know if they get open they will get fed for an easy bucket.

Against Sacramento that became evident with a series of backdoor cuts and ally-oops, as well as wide-open 3-pointers when the defense collapsed on Lin driving the lane.

Lin also brings a balanced attack where everyone gets involved — it’s hard to defend that. Seven Knicks were in double figures led by Landry Fields with 15. Stoudemire added 11 as he is still getting used to playing with Lin.

To be truthful, all sorts of things open up against the Kings defense, which was 27th in the league coming in (giving up 104.7 points per 100 possessions; the league average is 100.2). Like a lot of young teams, they watched the ball too much and lost their man, they collapsed and overhelped. The Knicks destroyed them on backcuts all night long.

For a guard playing like Lin, that kind of defense is like Christmas Day. The Knicks started the game shooting 10-of-12 and Lin had six assists. The game felt over that quickly. Tyreke Evans led the Kings with 19. DeMarcus Cousins played well early, but as tends to happen with him when he got frustrated he started forcing bad shots and not hustling constantly. The result was 15 points on 18 shots and as many fouls as rebounds (4).

You could really see what Lin means to the Knicks when he sat to rest, and the Knicks had nobody who could create penetration or run the pick-and-roll, and they looked like they had much of the season. The Kings could not exploit that.

At some point Lin will come back to earth a little, all storms eventually die out. But what he has brought to the Knicks in terms of balance and creativity could last, and could carry them a long way in the future. They look like the team we all expected them to be right now.

Jamal Crawford says Lonzo Ball should not change his shot

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Lonzo Ball‘s shot has become a running gag around the NBA. During pregame warmups this season it looked like LeBron James and Joel Embiid mocked/tried to imitate it. TNT’s Inside the NBA was asking if it was worse than Charles Barkley’s golf swing, and the crew on that show mocks it all the time.

Ball is shooting 30.3 percent overall this season, and 23 percent from three. He’s shooting just 42.1 percent in the restricted area (it’s not just his jumper that is off). He’s shooting 37.5 percent on pull-up jumpers. He’s shooting 22.5 percent on shots when there is nobody within six feet of him (stats via NBA.com).

Is it time to tear down Ball’s awkward release and rework his jumper? Jamal Crawford, a guy who knows something about getting buckets in the NBA, said no, speaking on CBS Sports’ Flagrant 2 Podcast.

“No, I wouldn’t (change his shot). He’s done it his whole life. Even if he struggled, I’m sure he’s struggled, but when he makes 10 in a row you won’t change it then so I’d just keep it consistent.”

Crawford also said he sees a real star in Ball.

“Star. Absolutely a star. I love watching him play. He plays the right way. He doesn’t play for stats. He’ll give the ball up early when he could easily hold it to get an assist. He’s making the right play if it was a hockey assist he’d get 20 a game cause he’s always passing up early. He seems like a great teammate. If you look at all his interviews…he’s always well spoken he’s always about the team.”

Luke Walton has the Lakers players taking and making 100 threes at each practice, and he continues to encourage Ball to shoot his way out of this slump. Magic Johnson has said the Lakers would not change Ball’s jumper during the season.

But if Ball does not find a rhythm and is under 40 percent for the season on jumpers, come next summer the Lakers have some decisions to make. And tearing down and rebuilding Ball’s shot is a long process that will take more than one summer of hard work.

PBT Podcast: Celtics win over Warriors, all things Boston with A. Sherrod Blakely

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The Boston Celtics are for real.

In case you had any doubts, they ran their streak to 14 wins in a row by coming from 17 down – twice — to beat the Golden State Warriors. The Celtics have the best defense in the NBA, and it threw the Warriors off their game, something few teams have been able to do over the past few years.

Kurt Helin welcomes in A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston to talk about what this win means to the Celtics, why their defense is so good, how Kyrie Irving is fitting in, how young stars such as Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are rising up, and what is the deal with Marcus Smart. Also, there is a lot of Brad Stevens love.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

Grizzlies’ Mike Conley out at least two weeks with sore heel, Achilles

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Injuries are already starting to shape the playoff chase in the West — Rudy Gobert is out for at least a month in Utah, and the Clippers have lost six in a row as they battle injuries to three starters.

Now add the Memphis Grizzlies to the mix.

Mike Conley, the point guard who, along with Marc Gasol, is crucial to Memphis’ success, will be out at least two weeks to rest a sore left heel and Achilles, the team announced Friday. He could be out longer, Conley has had issues with this Achilles before, the team will want to be cautious, and by far the best treatment is rest.

Conley averages 17.1 points per game, is a great floor general running the offense, and is a quality defender at the point.

Memphis is 7-7 on the season and tied with Oklahoma City for the final playoff slot in the West, but the Grizzlies have dropped six of their last eight. What’s more, they are entering a gauntlet part of the schedule without Conley: Their next game is against Houston, then Portland, and in the next 10 they have the Nuggets, Cavaliers, Timberwolves, and Spurs (twice). The danger is they fall far enough back from the playoff chase they struggle to catch up again.

Expect to see a lot more Tyreke Evans, who has been strong as a sixth man but now will have much more asked of him. Also, more playmaking duties will fall to Gasol, working out of the elbow, and both Chandler Parsons and Mario Chalmers will get the ball in their hands. The question is what do they do with it.

Stephen Curry, was Warriors/Celtics a Finals preview? “Very, very likely, right?”

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The Golden State Warriors remain the prohibitive favorite to win the NBA title.

Thursday night, the Boston Celtics earned some validation that they belong in the conversation. Using a stymieing defense that threw off the vaunted Warriors offense, Boston came from 17 down in the third quarter to beat the Warriors.

With the Cavaliers stumbling out of the gate, does this make the Warriors/Celtics game a Finals preview? Stephen Curry (who was 3-of-14 shooting with four turnovers on the night) said yes, as you can see in the NBC Sports Bay Area video above.

“Very, very likely, right?” Curry said. “They’re playing the best right now in the East. Obviously, they need to beat Cleveland, who’s done it three years in a row. We’ll see, but I heard the weather’s great here in June.”

The weather in Boston is great for a short window in the spring, then the humidity kicks in. But that’s not the point.

I came into this season thinking the Celtics were a year away still, and when Gordon Hayward went down it strengthened that belief. But this team is a contender now — they are far better defensively than expected, and young players Jaylen Brown (22 points against the Warriors) and Jayson Tatum have stepped up more than expected. Kyrie Irving and Al Horford have developed a fast chemistry. And Brad Stephens is proving he is in the very upper echelon of NBA coaches.

It’s not even Thanksgiving, talk of the NBA Finals is premature. Curry is right, the Celtics still have to go through LeBron James and his Cavaliers to reach the Finals, which will not be easy.

Still, June basketball in Boston seems like a real possibility again.