Teams bounce back from playoff blowouts, but can Knicks?


NBA playoff history is filled with teams who got blown out one game who bounced back the next game and won. Games and series can take dramatic swings.

But after watching Game 1, when the Heat rolled the Knicks behind a big game from LeBron James, you have to wonder if the Knicks can do it.

Maybe, but they need a lot of things to go right. Which is kind of the story of this series.

Health is at the forefront. Tyson Chandler will start for the Knicks after being slowed in Game 1 due to the flu, and New York needs him to be dominant inside. The Knicks also will start Baron Davis, who had a nice first half last game until his back tightened up and he sat the rest of the way.

Landry Fields will start at the two guard spot for the injured Iman Shumpert, who suffered an ACL knee injury in Game 1. J.R. Smith will get more minutes but he will still come off the bench.

The Knicks also need to get their offense firing.

What Miami did best in Game 1 was take Carmelo Anthony out of his comfort zones catching the ball — the result was he had just 11 points on 3-of-15 shooting — and that threw the entire isolation-heavy Knicks offense off rhythm. The Heat fronted him in the post and did not let him get the ball in the spots he likes it. The Heat will bring more and different looks at Anthony in Game 2, which means plenty of LeBron James and doubles, looking to do the same thing.

New York needs to get ‘Melo in a groove, taking steps to get him in isolations where he can succeed. That starts with counters when the post is fronted.

Ball movement and other guys are the key here for the Knicks — if the double is coming to Carmelo then someone else has to be open. New York must rotate the ball to the weak side then knock down the shots. Other guys — particularly guys with range like J.R. Smith and Steve Novak have to step up.

The Knicks also need more out of Amare Stoudemire.

But to make him work means one of the Knicks point guards has to step up. That would be Davis, because you can’t really expect Mike Bibby to do that.

Finally, the Knicks need to contain LeBron and Dwyane Wade — no, Wade was not a force in Game 1 but he had Shumpert on him, the Knicks best perimeter defender. Look for the Heat to attack with him more.

That’s a lot of things that need to go better for the Knicks, which is kind of the story of this series — the Knicks have a very small margin for error, the Heat have pretty big one. Still, I expect Game 2 will be closer than Game 1, and that ‘Melo will have a better outing. The Knicks had better hope so.

Former Kings players DeMarcus Cousins, Matt Barnes reach out to pay for funeral of Stephon Clark

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Whatever Kings fans thought of DeMarcus Cousins on the court — it was a divisive topic with changing opinions over time — he was fully committed to the city of Sacramento. He was all in.

Still is, despite playing for New Orleans. Cousins and another former King, Matt Barnes (a Sacramento native), have reached out to the family of Stephon Clark — the unarmed young black man shot by Sacramento police in his grandmother’s backyard a week ago — and offered to pay for the funeral, reports Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee.

It is a generous gesture. The family had set up a gofundme page and has raised enough to pay for the funeral expenses through it as well.

Clark’s shooting has sparked protests throughout Sacramento, including blocking entrance to a Kings game on Thursday night. According to reports and the Sacramento PD’s own account, the shooting occurred when police were looking for a car burglary suspect and officers had tracked the suspect through yards, then confronted Clark in the backyard of his grandmother’s house, where he lived. Police allegedly thought he was armed and shot him 20 times, but he was holding only a cellphone.

The shooting has sparked reactions around the nation and from NBA players, including Barnes.

Steve Kerr and David West of the Golden State Warriors had these comments, via Logan Murdock of the San Jose Mercury News.

“I was very proud of how the Kings handled it, the way the NBA handled it,” Kerr said Friday. “I thought they did everything they could…

“The main sentiment, though, is horror and sadness for the family involved and there’s not much else to say,” Kerr said.

“You want to go through this song and dance again?” West asked. “I’m done. I stopped. I don’t have the optimism anymore.”

“We’ve been dealing with these issues for hundreds of years and so they continue.” West continued. “We won’t look at real solutions so these things continue to happen.”

Utah’s Donovan Mitchell with shot of night to force OT with Spurs


One of the factors to consider in the Rookie of the Year race: clutch plays.

Down three with less than 10 seconds to go Friday night, the Utah Jazz put the ball in the hands of their rookie playmaker Donovan Mitchell — and he made the play, draining a three to force overtime. It’s an impressive play.

In the clutch this season (last five minutes of a game, within five points), Mitchell has averaged 3.2 shots per contest (by far the most of any rookie) and has a true shooting percentage of 51 percent. Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons, the other front-runner in the ROY race, averages less than a shot per game in those clutch situations (0.8) and has a true shooting percentage of 66.7 percent.

Mitchell made the big shot, but the Spurs made plenty too, had 45 points on the night from LaMarcus Aldridge, and got the win.


PBT Extra: Who is coming out of the Eastern Conference?

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The Toronto Raptors will finish with the No. 1 seed and all the best metrics in the East, but they have a history of playoff flameouts. The Boston Celtics’ have been hit hard by injuries. And the Cleveland Cavaliers have LeBron James but also a dreadful defense, this is the most vulnerable a LeBron led team has been since he bolted Cleveland seven years ago.

So what team is coming out of the East?

We get into that in this latest PBT Extra. A poll on Twitter found most of you think the Cavaliers, but personally, I think the Raptors — who have been better defensively all season than the Cavs — may finally have their year.

LaMarcus Aldridge drops career-high 45 points, Spurs beat Jazz in OT

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — LaMarcus Aldridge had a career-high 45 points, helping San Antonio overcome Donovan Mitchell‘s 35-point performance for Utah in the Spurs’ 124-120 overtime victory over the Jazz on Friday night.

The Spurs won their sixth straight and beat the Jazz for the first time in four meetings this season.

Utah’s 12-game road winning streak came to an end, but only after Mitchell had 14 points in the fourth quarter, including three 3-pointers in the final two minutes to force overtime.

San Antonio remained sixth in the Western Conference with the same record as fifth-place New Orleans, a half-game behind Oklahoma City for fourth. Utah remained eighth in the West.

After free throws by Spurs guards Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills and a dunk by Jazz center Rudy Gobert put San Antonio up 114-111, Mitchell drained his third 3-pointer of the fourth with 3.6 seconds remaining to force overtime.

Mills, who finished with 23 points, had six points in overtime as the Spurs capped an undefeated six-game homestand.

Aldridge averaged 32.2 points and 9.0 rebounds during the winning streak, including two double-doubles.

Aldridge scored 28 points in the first half on 12-for-16 shooting, including a 3-pointer.

Utah missed its first six shots and was 4 for 14 as San Antonio grabbed a 19-8 lead midway through the first quarter. Mitchell settled the Jazz, scoring six points to cut the Spurs lead to 29-21 heading into the second quarter.

Mitchell was 14-for-35 shooting while falling six points shy of his season-high.

Derrick Favors added 22 points for Utah and Ricky Rubio had 20.

Ginobili finished with 18 points for the Spurs.