In the regular season, LeBron James actually played well in the fourth quarter — he had the second highest fourth quarter PER in the league. Part of the reason is that the Heat’s rotation let him sit the first four to five minutes of the quarter and rest, then come in with real energy.
In the playoffs — especially the Eastern Conference Finals and Game 1 against Oklahoma City — there has been almost no rest for LeBron.
The result? In Game 1 it was a quiet 7 points on 2-for-6 shooting, with him settling for a lot of jumpers. After the game in the interview room, he looked and sounded tired.
In Game 2 the Heat are going to ask more of LeBron — he likely logs minutes defending Kevin Durant plus he needs to take on more of the offense if Dwyane Wade can’t — and he may well have to do it without rest. Here is what Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, via Brian Windhorst at ESPN.
“We were able to manage his minutes pretty much at a career-low level for the majority of the regular season, and you get to this point, we have 12 days left, I know he has the mentality that he’ll do whatever it takes,” Spoelstra said. “I want him fresh so I’ll work to try to get him some rest, and ideally it won’t be 48, 53, whatever it is.”
Lack of rest isn’t going to fly as an excuse. Nor should it. But this is where the depth of the Thunder pays dividends — they can rest one or two of their “big three” at a time and not really suffer a huge drop off. When LeBron sits the Heat struggle right now. Do that for too long against the Thunder and the Heat will find themselves in a deep hole. The Thunder will be relentless.
It’s something to watch in Game 2 — can LeBron just get a few minutes of rest? How does that impact him when the game is on the line?
It’s just part of the huge mountain the Heat have to climb. And it is a steep one.
Joakim Noah said in January he wanted to re-sign with the Bulls. Chicago reportedly wants to keep him.
A perfect match?
Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:
According to a Bulls player, Noah has been telling teammates the last few weeks that he was done with the organization once free agency begins, and “has no trust in the front office getting this in the right direction.’’
The player was asked if Noah’s feelings had anything to do with first-year coach Fred Hoiberg and the he said, he said that went on early in the season when Noah lost his starting job, and insisted that Noah didn’t offer up that as an explanation.
What was offered up, however, was the fact that there seems to be a complete mistrust that multiple players have toward general manager Gar Forman, with Noah leading the way.
Noah and Hoiberg publicly disagreed about whose choice it was for Noah to come off the bench. Hoiberg said it was Noah’s. Noah said it was Hoiberg’s.
That looked like a petty problem, one both sides could – and maybe did – get over. But it seems Noah has deeper concerns.
This has been a rough year for the Bulls, who missed the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons. That unexpected downturn takes a toll on chemistry and brings buried problems to the surface. That’s especially true considering Chicago fired Tom Thibodeau – a coach who looks better in hindsight. If players miss Thibodeau, that opens the door for them to turn on Forman, who forced out Thibodeau.
That said, the Bulls are probably better off letting Noah walk. He’s 31 and has been banged up the last couple years. I wouldn’t commit big money to him with Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis under contract and the need for faster players to run Hoiberg’s system. Chicago can’t quickly solve its Jimmy Butler–Derrick Rose issue, because Butler is worth keeping and Rose is under contract another year on a difficult-to-trade deal. But shedding Noah and using the resulting cap flexibility elsewhere gets the team headed in the right direction.
For his part, Noah can seek a fresh start – how about with Thibodeau in Minnesota? – and find a team that suits him, either a win-now squad or a younger group seeking veteran leadership.
An Indiana player – Thomas Bryant – who likely would’ve been a first-round pick didn’t even declare for the draft without an agent.
Another Indiana player – Troy Williams – who might not even get picked will stay in the draft.
Gregg Doyel of The Indianapolis Star:
Williams, a 6-foot-7 small forward, is an excellent athlete. He’s not strong enough and hasn’t shown enough awareness to project him defending well in the NBA yet. But his length, quickness and leaping ability give him potential on that end. That and transition offense will have to carry him for now, because his outside shot is unimpressive.
There are players like Williams in every draft. It’s on him to convince a team that he has the work ethic and intelligence to refine his game.
The Warriors are taking a beating on the court, but their turmoil reached heartbreaking levels in Klay Thompson‘s press conference after Game 4.
Thompson, scanning the box score for any semblance of hope, applauded Golden State’s “40 assists” – which would have been the most in a playoff game since 1994. But he quickly realized that couldn’t be right, looked again and sadly announced Golden State had just 15 assists.
Thompson was probably looking at the Warriors’ rebounding total (which was 16 below the Thunder’s).
When Draymond Green kicked Steven Adams in the groin, it did more than create mass debate about the appropriate punishment.
Green hurt Adams badly, it sounds like.
John E. Hoover of The Franchise Tulsa:
Once you finish wincing, take a moment to appreciate how tough Adams is. He kept playing in the game and then came out in Game 4 throwing bullet passes.