Game 2 — where we see how fast the Clippers can learn

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Game 1 was a dominant Spurs performance that evoked memories of the championship teams in San Antonio — this version is more offense than defense, but the unselfish ball movement and team concepts were the same.

The Clippers looked like a team still learning to play at that level. Thursday night in Game 2 we’ll see how fast they learn.

In Game 1 San Antonio overloaded on Chris Paul, used Tony Parker well and basically blew up the Clippers pick-and-roll game that is the core of their offense. The overloaded pressure on him forced Paul into a 3-13 shooting night (he still had 10 assists). The problem was outside of Paul (and Eric Bledsoe who had 23 points off the bench) nobody stepped up, nobody made the Spurs pay. Blake Griffin was effectively single covered by Boris Diaw, which cannot happen for Los Angeles.

In Game 2, the Clippers need to get Paul more room to create, which in party could mean upping the tempo and getting transition buckets and setting drag screens (pick-and-roll before the defense gets set) to give him room. They need to get Griffin (bum knee and all, although he will play) and DeAndre Jordan out in transition to make the Spurs bigs run.

The Clippers effectively did to San Antonio what the Spurs did to them — they took the point guard out of the game, Tony Parker shot just 1-9. But unlike the Clippers, when you take away the first action of the Spurs offense they get to the next, and the next, then the next. They are an efficient machine.

The Clippers big men have to get out and chase guys like Kawhi Leonard and Matt Bonner off the three-point line on rotations. They have to be more physical. They have to disrupt the Spurs spacing.

The Clippers are a team learning how to win. They will be better in Game 2. They are learning how to make the kind of adjustments needed in the playoffs. We’ll see how fast they can do it.

Problem is, the Spurs already know how to do it. This game will be closer but you can expect the Spurs to still finish a step ahead.

PBT Extra: How big a threat are Pelicans to Warriors?

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Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday and the New Orleans Pelicans were the surprise of the first round of the NBA playoffs. We knew they were good, but they looked dominant on both ends sweeping the three-seed Portland Trail Blazers right out of the postseason (and into a somber period of reflection).

New Orleans looked like the best team in the West in the first round and now they take all that momentum to Golden State where… let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

In this PBT Extra I discuss how the Pelicans have found an identity, but the matchups against Warriors are dramatically more challenging than what they saw in Portland. And that’s before Stephen Curry returns to the fold.

The Pelicans are a great story, but the pecking order in the West is real for good reason.

Nuggets’ Mason Plumlee undergoes surgery to fix core-muscle injury

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DENVER — Denver Nuggets center Mason Plumlee underwent surgery to fix a core-muscle injury.

The team said Plumlee had the procedure performed Thursday morning by Dr. William Meyers in Philadelphia.

Plumlee is expected to return to basketball activities this summer and be ready for training camp in the fall. He averaged 7.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists for a Nuggets team that narrowly missed out on the postseason.

The 28-year-old Plumlee was acquired by Denver as part of a deal in February 2017 that sent center Jusuf Nurkic to Portland. Plumlee signed a three-year, $41 million deal with the Nuggets last September.

 

PBT Extra: Spurs many off-season questions start with Kawhi Leonard

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San Antonio has a lot of roster questions heading into this summer. When Danny Green opts out at $10 million a year, how much do they offer to bring back a key wing defender? What about Tony Parker, an unrestricted free agent? Will Manu Ginobili come back at age 78 41 for another season?

But at the top of the list: Can the Spurs relationship with Kawhi Leonard be repaired?

If so, do they trust his health enough to offer him the $219 million designated veteran max extension?

If not, do they test the trade market (likely we will know the answer to that around the draft, well before July 1)?

I get into all of it in this latest PBT Extra.

NBA makes it official: LeBron did goaltend on Oladipo’s final shot

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Ultimately, this is moot. Nothing changes — not the critical last Pacers possession, not the fact LeBron James drained a three afterwards (and may well have anyway). All it provides is a little validation for frustrated Pacers fans and players.

Yes, LeBron did goaltend on Victor Oladipo‘s shot with 5.1 seconds remaining in what was then a tie game between the Pacers and Cavaliers. The NBA confirmed it in its Last Two Minute Report on Game 5 in that series. From the report.

“(Above the rim view) shows that James (CLE) blocks Oladipo’s (IND) shot attempt after it makes contact with the backboard.”

Oladipo called it goaltending. However, the officials didn’t call goaltending on the play, therefore it was not reviewable. Often on bang-bang plays like this one an official will call goaltending just to give themselves the chance to review it, but this crew did not (and that is a tough call to make accurately in real time).

From there, LeBron went on to hit the dramatic game-winning three that gave Cleveland the win and a 3-2 series lead.

The report also concluded that it was Thaddeus Young who knocked the ball out of bounds on the baseline with 27.6 seconds left, knocking the ball out of LeBron’s hands. The ball bounced on the line — and was therefore out, but the official didn’t call it — then bounced back up, hit LeBron on the arm and went clearly out of bounds. The referee called the second bounce after it hit LeBron. From the report:

“(Video) shows that Young (IND) deflects the ball away from James (CLE) and it lands out of bounds, but there is no whistle. The ball then bounces and hits James’ arm and lands out of bounds again, which is called. Possession of the ball is incorrectly awarded to the Pacers.”

One other note to Pacers fans: The goaltending call is not why Indiana lost. Oladipo shot 2-of-15 on the night. Darren Collison had a very an off night, was not aggressive, and was 1-of-5 shooting. There are a myriad of plays and decisions that go into a game, one blown call is not why the Pacers lost.

The question is can they regroup at home, get more secondary playmaking and buckets from someone other Oladipo, and can their defense force a Game 7? It can, but they have to put the end of Game 5 behind them first.