Heat go Bosh-less for Game 2, but is that enough for Pacers?

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Indiana didn’t beat Miami in Game 1, but it put up a respectable showing on the road and that was with the team’s leading scorer — Danny Granger — being bottled up by the Heat defense.

Now comes Game 2 and the Heat will be without Chris Bosh (strained abdominal). It changes the equation. For all the people that piled on Bosh this season as a third wheel the statistics bear out they were just flat out better with him on the floor. Without him them take a step back.

Is that step enough for the Pacers to win Game 2 in Miami and even the series Tuesday night? I didn’t say that.

But maybe. This series got a lot tighter with Bosh out.

All the focus is on Bosh and how the Pacers will try again to exploit their size advantage, giving the rock more to center Roy Hibbert. Which they should. But what the Pacers need more of is Granger getting points. The slashing wing was the Pacers leading scorer at 18.7 points per game during the season, but he had just 7 points on 1-10 shooting in Game 1. Indy needs production from him.

That could be impacted by Bosh’s absence — LeBron James will move to the four and David West after he blanketed Granger in Game 1. Thing is Shane Battier also put the clamps on Granger in Game 1. It’s no easy task. Still, expect Granger to find some room, expect Pacers coach Frank Vogel to come up with sets that get him space.

The convention wisdom is right, too —Vogel would be wise to go inside also. Use the size advantage. But more than just Hibbert, the Pacers need to look to David West, the former All-Star who will now see a lot of LeBron James — try to get LeBron in foul trouble. The loss of Bosh hurts the Heat’s depth and if LeBron or Dwyane Wade get in foul trouble things really get dicey for the Heat.

In the end, however, the Heat are still a good team that even without Bosh can create turnovers and get out and run. They are still a matchup nightmare — look for Heat coach Erik Spoelstra to go to his lineup of four guys 6’7” to 6’9” with Wade. It’s a hard group to keep up.

For all the changes this remains a series about tempo — the Pacers have to grind it out in the halfcourt not get into a track meet. If the Pacers turn the ball over and the Heat get easy transition buckets this is going to get ugly. You also can expect the Heat to knock down some threes (they missed all theirs in Game 1).

The Pacers have a better shot now. They need Hibbert and West to really exploit their size advantage, they need Granger to contribute more, they still need to play near perfect ball. But this is not a mismatch, the Pacers are in this. Always were, but now they are closer. We’ll see if they are close enough.

Justise Winslow stepped on Joel Embiid’s mask (VIDEO)

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Joel Embiid started for the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday night. The Game 3 matchup between the Miami Heat and Philadelphia was an important one with the teams tied, 1-1.

Embiid had previously vented his frustration on social media about the perceived slowness of his return to the floor from an orbital fracture.

Now, the Cameroonian big man is back for the Sixers and playing with a huge mask and goggles.

But the mask didn’t come without its problems for Embiid. It clearly affected his shooting and ability to handle the ball, as evidenced by a missed alley-oop in the second quarter, among other things.

There’s also the matter of how other players are treating Embiid and his mask. At one point, Embiid’s googles ended up on the floor and Heat forward Justise Winslow purposely stepped on them.

Via Twitter:

That’s harsh.

Embiid will have to adjust to using the mask since it’s unlikely he will be cleared to play without it soon. Hopefully he has some backups just in case the first couple sets get broken.

Tractors worth $50,000 stolen from Scottie Pippen’s farm

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HAMBURG, Ark. (AP) — Authorities in rural Arkansas are investigating the theft of more than $50,000 worth of equipment from a farm owned by former NBA star Scottie Pippen.

Investigator Mark Griever of the Ashley County Sheriff’s Office says two tractors were stolen from the farm in Hamburg, about 110 miles (180 kilometers) southeast of Little Rock. According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Pippen’s family is offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

Griever says Pippen owns the livestock farm with his brother.

Pippen, who now lives in Florida, is a native of Hamburg. Pippen won six NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls alongside Michael Jordan in the 1990s.

Bucks’ Jabari Parker “frustrated,” wants more playing time

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In the first two games against Boston, Jabari Parker is 1-of-7 shooting, has grabbed 15 percent of the available rebounds while on the court (low for a big expected to board), has more turnovers than assists, has been exploited on defense by Boston, and is -29. All in just 25 minutes.

Parker is also frustrated he isn’t getting more minutes and more of a chance to prove himself. From Stephen Watson of WISN News 12 in Milwaukee:

While there are questions about how Joe Prunty has handled the Bucks and their rotations in this series, more Jabari Parker is nobody’s answer. Except Parker’s. And Celtics’ fans. Parker can be as frustrated as he wants, he hasn’t played his way into more minutes.

Parker returned to the Bucks in January after rehab on his second ACL surgery and averaged 12.6 points per game. He showed some value, with an ability to score efficiently inside and shooting 38 percent from three, averaging 12.6 points per game. But he remains a below-the-rim player who struggles to defend, and in the playoffs that gets a guy a seat.

It’s going to be an interesting summer. Parker is a restricted free agent this summer and the Bucks do not see him as a core part of their future next to Giannis Antetokounmpo anymore, they are not going to come in with a big offer to keep him. However, his play (especially in the postseason) and injury history, combined with a tight free agent market, means he may not have many suitors at all. Is it possible a rebuilding team willing to take a chance — Phoenix, Atlanta, etc. — would come in with an offer higher than the Bucks would match? Yes, it’s possible. But it won’t be for a lot of years, just one or two as teams want to see if he can get right and become the player he once projected to be.

Sixers’ Joel Embiid upgraded to “probable,” will start in Game 3 Thursday

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Everything you saw in the first two games of this Miami/Philadelphia playoff series you can throw out in the trash.

Joel Embiid is back and is now “probable” for Game 3, the Sixers announced, upgrading his status from “doubtful” earlier in the day. Embiid had been out with a concussion and orbital bone fracture.

Embiid will go through warmups — trying out both a mask and goggles — then will make a formal decision. However, he is expected to go. He certainly wants to play. And he is expected to start. How many minutes he can go remains to be seen.

This changes the Sixers and the series. Yes, Philly has likely Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons and high quality role players such as J.J. Redick and Robert Covington, however, is Embiid that makes it all work. Put simply, when Embiid is on the court the Sixers are 15.2 points per 100 possessions better — their defense is elite and their offense is outstanding.

The Sixers will be better with their best player back in the fold, but don’t think this makes the series a cakewalk for Philly. It changes everything about matchups, but things are not all positives. When Embiid is on the court, the up-tempo, ball-movement style that the Sixers built around Simmons slows down and stops at points. The Sixers have played Hassan Whiteside and his rim protection off the court with floor spacing shooting bigs, now he has a place to be in the matchups. There are things the Heat can do now that may work for them.

It just may not matter — Philadelphia just got a lot better.