NBA Playoffs: Knicks compete early, but Heat roll late to take 3-0 series lead


The Heat took command of their first round playoff series with the Knicks, winning Game 3 in New York 87-70 to take a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Matt Moore and I discussed.

Matt Moore: Ugly, ugly, grotesque basketball Thursday and it looked like the Knicks could do the improbable without Amar’e Stoudemire, relying on Landry Fields and Mike Bibby. Don’t know how that plan failed.

LeBron just shut it down in the fourth. And for once, it was the other team! Just closed them out since he had so much energy. Wade’s third quarter, James’ fourth quarter, and maybe biggest, Mike Miller couldn’t hit, Shane Battier couldn’t hit, but Mario Chalmers could and did. If the Heat find one shooter a game to do that, they’re pretty much unstoppable. The Knicks did everything you can do and it still wasn’t nearly enough.

Brett Pollakoff: You always like to talk about whether or not a way a team wins (or is winning) is sustainable. Well, when the Knicks were leading in the second quarter by 11 at 40-29, what was the plan to get there? Let Miami start off the game up 9, then watch the Heat get bored and start jacking ill-advised three-pointers while you attack the paint to get easy looks, and finally, make sure the Heat go without a field goal for a stretch lasting almost 12 minutes?!

Yeah, definitely not sustainable.

Also, it didn’t hurt that LeBron played less than five minutes in the third due to foul trouble, which allowed him to play all of the fourth and score 17 (!) in the final period to finish things off.

So, two things: First, this was NOT a good game, and was nothing like the tough games in the 90s, right? Low-scoring and close does not equal interesting or exciting hard-nosed playoff basketball.

And second, how easily does the Heat win Game 4, having taken the (admittedly shorthanded and depleted) Knicks’ best shot?

MM: Horrible, awful game. The worst game I’ve seen since Game 7 of the 2010 Finals. Just terrible play, a lack of focus, bad shooting, needless fouls, a mishmash of movement. Sluggish and bad. I think it was like the 90’s, but only because I don’t overromanticize  bad basketball at any level.

I think the Knicks probably win Game 4. The Heat have no reason to let the Knicks win, should be able to coast, just have to not have a complete letdown. So naturally, they’ll let up. Also, two days in New York, with that crew of magazine-interview’in’, fashion-show-appearin’, mega-party-goin’ jokesters? No way the Heat come in fresh. Gentleman’s Sweep for the Heat. Let them win one, you know, to be polite. Melo is LeBron’s friend, after all.

How big was James though, in just choking the life out of New York down the stretch?

BP: I think the Heat got the excessive partying out of their system before this one, especially as evidenced by that first-half scoring drought. Besides, even if they hit the NYC club scene hard before Game 4, are the Knicks really able to do anything about it? Carmelo Anthony was 7-for-23, J.R. Smith was 5-for-18, and Steve Novak only attempted one three-pointer all night. As currently constructed, they simply don’t have the offensive weapons to hang with Miami for 48 minutes, and they certainly don’t have a point guard who can create easy, wide-open looks for the rest of the team.

(Seriously, Baron Davis is still out of breath after that and-1 drive in the first half, and might not recover until the offseason.)

LeBron coming out and scoring 11 straight Miami points to start the fourth was huge. Wade’s run in the third was equally important. A team like New York can’t stop these guys for an entire game, and the way the rest of the top teams in the conference are seeing players go down, Miami is going to have a much easier path to the Finals than expected.

Since the Knicks appear to be done, what do they need to improve upon before next season to actually win a game in the playoffs? In addition to not having their starting, $100 million power forward rip up his hand punching inanimate objects, of course.

MM: I’m not sure there’s much the Knicks can do. They’re flawed at their core. Melo and Amar’e doesn’t work. It was a bad plan conceptually from the start, and they’ve wed themselves to the player it’s harder to find a star to fit around. I’m sure James Dolan will spend some money trying though.

BP: I agree that Melo and Amar’e doesn’t work, but that doesn’t mean it can’t work. Sure, it would require a complete re-design of the offense from the top down, but the Knicks have a lot of money invested in those two, and I don’t see them being able to (or even wanting to) cut ties with either of them over the summer.

What’s clear, though, is that when the Knicks have everyone back healthy, they’ll need a creative, offensively-minded coach to make all of the pieces fit. Someone like Mike D’Antoni might be just the person to … Oh. Right.

Report: Suns start coaching search now, before season ends

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Unlike last summer, there is going to be a lot of coaching changes this NBA offseason.

There are three teams — Phoenix, Memphis, and Milwaukee — who have interim coaches now and will conduct searches, plus at least a couple more firings are expected (Jeff Hornacek in New York and Frank Vogel in Orlando are both likely to be ousted, according to the buzz around the league, and there could be more). That’s at least five teams looking for a new coach.

The Phoenix Suns — who fired Earl Watson just three games into the season — are not wasting time, they are starting that search now, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The Phoenix Suns are beginning their search for a new head coach now, a process that will include interim coach Jay Triano, general manager Ryan McDonough told ESPN…

“This is going to be a competitive marketplace,” McDonough told ESPN. “There are three of us with interim coaches in place, and we want to be able to hit the ground running. We don’t want to have to wait until the end of the regular season for candidates who aren’t with teams now. At the end of the regular season, we’ll be able to talk with coaches on non-playoff teams and we’ll need to work with playoff teams on what their approach will be on contacting (assistant) coaches still in the postseason.”

This is not going to be a fast process in Phoenix. For example, interim coach Jay Triano — who has done a respectable job since being thrown into the big chair — will get the chance to interview, but he reportedly (and understandably) wants a little time after the season ends to put together his pitch.

However, there are guys available now to interview — David Fizdale, for example — so why not get the early jump? This is going to be a wide-ranging search, for example, Jay Wright — still busy right now coaching Villanova in the NCAA Tournament — has been linked to this job. Again, never hurts to start early.

The Suns have one cornerstone player in Devin Booker and some other guys with potential to be part of the future there. The new coach needs to establish a culture and system that maximize that talent. Then McDonough needs to get a lot more quality players in to make this all work — he’s made some questionable decisions in the past (drafting Alex Len then giving a massive contract to Tyson Chandler is just the latest), now we’ll see if he can get this rebuild moving a little faster.

Three Things to Know: Protest keeps all but a couple thousand from Hawks/Kings game

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Hawks, Kings play to near empty building after police shooting protest blocks entrance to Sacramento’s home arena. Despite an ugly season on the court, the Kings sell out their building nightly — 17,553 average attendance, 100 percent capacity every game. A passionate fan base and an impressive new building will do that.

Thursday night, there were only a couple thousand people in the arena. The reason is a protest over the Sacramento police shooting of Stephon Clark, 23 and a father of two. Sacramento Police allege Clark had been breaking into cars, and that he ran when confronted by police — he was confronted by police in the backyard of his grandmother’s house where he was living. When two police officers approached him Clark had a cellphone in his hand, which the officers reportedly said they mistook for a gun, and they shot Clark 20 times. The shooting has sparked outrage in the city (while some video of the incident was released, the police body cam footage of the confrontation and shooting has not been yet).

The Black Lives Matter peaceful protest (there were no fights or arrests out of the night), which had shut down a Sacramento freeway earlier, moved over to the Golden 1 Center and worked to block entrance to that building. The game itself started 20 minutes late. In an effort to avoid confrontations, police kept people with tickets away from the protest, so only about 2,000 people (who had been there early when the doors opened) got in.

The Kings, to their credit, handled the situation well. Owner Vivek Ranadivé addressed the crowd after the game, surrounded by the team:

“On Sunday we had a horrific, horrific tragedy in our community. On behalf of the players, executives, ownership and the entire Kings family — first of all, we wanted to express our deepest sympathies to the family. What happened was absolutely horrific, and we are so very sorry, so very sorry for your loss. I also wanted to say that we at the Kings recognize people’s ability to protest peacefully and we respect that. We here at the Kings recognize we have a big platform — it’s a privilege but it’s also a responsibility — a responsibility we take very seriously. And we stand here before you — old, young, black, white, brown — and we are all united in our commitment. We recognize that it’s not just business as usual, and we are going to work really hard to bring everybody together to make the world a better place starting with our own community, and we’re going to work really hard to prevent this kind of a tragedy from happening again. Thank you all for your patience and have a good night.”

The Kings also will be offering refunds to people with tickets who could not get in.

On a far less important note than that tragic shooting, the Kings won the game 105-90.

2) Kemba Walker scores 35 points in the first half, Hornets beat tanktastick Grizzlies by 61. The Memphis Grizzlies have reached the figurative “sitting on the bench, their knees have ice packs taped to them” portion of the season. They are still playing games, but the team has checked out. The focus is on the draft, the upcoming coaching search, the question of who will own this team by the start of next season, and are they going to tear it down and rebuild or think if healthy they could make the playoffs next season.

The Charlotte Hornets have Kemba Walker — he always plays hard.

The result was Walker dropping 35 points in the first half and 46 for the game — on 18 shot attempts, and knocking down 10 threes — before he literally sitting on the bench, his knees with ice packs taped to them in what went on to be a historic blowout, a 61-point win for Charlotte 140-79.

It’s going to be an interesting offseason in both Charlotte and Memphis. The Hornets are already in the midst of a search for a new general manager — Gersson Rosas of the Rockets and Mitch Kupchak formerly of the Lakers are reportedly the frontrunners — but whoever gets that job will have to answer the #freeKemba question: Do the capped out and missed the playoffs Hornets trade Walker and start a rebuild, or do they run it back and try to make the postseason next year? Is Steve Clifford still coaching this team next season?

It’s the same question in Memphis — GM Chris Wallace has made it clear so far there are no plans to trade Marc Gasol, they will get Mike Conley back from injury, and with that the Grizzlies believe they can make the playoffs next season. They are trying to hang on to the grit ’n grind era a little longer. Memphis will be in the market for a new coach, too, but the bigger question for the franchise — both in terms of on-the-court direction and off-the-court challenges — is who will own the team? Robert Pera is the controlling owner right now, but due to an odd ownership arrangement he has to buy out Steve Kaplan and Daniel Straus (for about $300 million) or they can buy Pera out. It’s being negotiated, but the outcome of all this is unclear, and teams with a muddled ownership rarely do well on the court.

3) Another night, another 33 points and nine rebound night from Anthony Davis. The Lakers are maybe the ultimate spoiler in the West right now — a non-playoff team that has come together, is playing well, and is not in tank mode (they don’t have their own pick this year). That has led to wins over teams such as the Cavaliers, Spurs, and Heat this month.

The Pelicans could not afford that kind of loss — even on the third night of a back-to-back-to-back — so Anthony Davis took over. Again. He dropped 33 points with nine rebounds and a couple of blocks on the Lakers in a 128-125 Pelicans win.

With the victory, the Pelicans are currently the 4/5 seed in the West, tied with Oklahoma City.

Kemba Walker scores 46, including 10 threes, as Hornets rout Grizzlies by 61 (VIDEO)

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Kemba Walker scored 46 points and made 10 3-pointers, and the Charlotte Hornets rolled to the most lopsided victory in franchise history by beating the Memphis Grizzlies 140-79 on Thursday night.

Walker had the ninth 40-point game of his career as the Hornets easily overcame the absence of the suspended Dwight Howard. The All-Star guard hit 13 of 18 shots overall, including 10 of 14 on 3-pointers, and was 10 of 10 on free throws in 28 minutes.

He scored 17 points in the first quarter, 18 in the second quarter and 11 in the third before he was replaced for the final time with 1:48 left in the period.

It came one night after Howard’s 32-point, 30-rebound performance that helped Charlotte rally from a 23-point deficit for a 111-105 victory at Brooklyn. But in the process, Howard was whistled for his 16th technical foul of the season, meaning he had to serve a one-game suspension on Thursday night.

It didn’t matter as the Hornets roared ahead 12-2 in the first 4 1/2 minutes, were ahead 37-14 after one quarter, 75-42 at halftime and by a game-high 65 points (137-72) with 1:45 left before taking the 61-point win.

Charlotte’s largest previous win in franchise history came by 52 points (136-84) at home against Philadelphia on Feb. 27, 1992.

It was the third-highest scoring game of Walker’s career. The 6-foot-1 point guard had a career-high 52 points against Utah in a 124-119 double-overtime win in January 2016, and had 47 points in a 123-120 loss at Chicago in November 2017.

Marvin Williams and Dwayne Bacon added 15 points apiece for Charlotte. Wayne Selden had 18 for Memphis.


Grizzlies: Memphis interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff was on the Charlotte coaching staff when the city returned to the NBA in 2004 and nicknamed Bobcats. Then a 25-year-old assistant coach to his father Bernie Bickerstaff, J.B. Bickerstaff was the youngest coach in the NBA at that time.

Hornets: On Wednesday, Howard became one of only three players in the last 20 years (Andrew Bynum on April 11, 2012, and Kevin Love on Nov. 12, 2010) to get 30 rebounds in a game.


Grizzlies: Host Lakers on Saturday night.

Hornets: Visit Mavericks on Saturday night.

Kings game delayed, fans blocked by protest of Stephon Clark shooting


The game between the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks had a late start on Thursday. As fans arrived at Golden 1 Center for the matchup between the two potential lottery teams, they were blocked and most were eventually turned away as a group protested the shooting death of Stephon Clark.

Clark, 23, was killed by the Sacramento Police Department in his grandparents’ backyard. According to KCRA in Sacramento, police claim Clark was seen breaking into cars in the area. When police responded to the scene, police shouted at the unarmed Clark to stop and show his hands. When Clark ran, the officers shot at Clark 20 times. He was pronounced dead on the scene.

Video and audio of the shooting, including police bodycam footage, was released on Wednesday. That sparked protests in the city, including the one at the Golden 1 Center, where people gathered and spoke about Clark’s death.

Via Twitter:

While some fans did find their way inside the arena, the Kings eventually released a statement saying that, “Due to law enforcement being unable to ensure ticketed fans could safely enter the arena, the arena remains closed and we ask fans outside to travel home.”

For their part, the Kings organization, including owner Vivek Ranadive, stood up and spoke to the crowd about the tragedy. In his statement, Ranadive said he was sorry for Clark’s family’s loss, and that he recognized their right to protest peacefully.

The team also said that fans would be hearing from the Kings about a refund for their tickets in the near future.