Lithuania does not make it easy on you, they are a physically and mentally tough side that plays savvy basketball. Just ask Team USA.
Or, ask Russia. The top seed out of Group A had to work hard for an 83-74 win to advance to the semifinals of the London Olympic basketball tournament.
Russia did it with a defense that held Lithuania to 37.3 percent shooting, and they did it with big men running the floor and scoring — Minnesota’s Andrei Kirilenko had 19 points, Denver’s Timofey Mozgov had 17 and was key to Russia’s second half run.
The game was close most of the way. Lithuania got out to an early lead but Russia cranked it up to the defensive pressure and went on an 11-1 run to end the first quarter and lead 17-10. Lithuania started 3-of-16 from the field in the first quarter. Russia does a good job smothering players who get the ball below the free throw line as they use sort of a matchup-zone defense that has worked well.
It was a five point game at the half and in the third quarter Lithuania got that down to 1 point. But Russia responded with a 7-0 run keyed by Mozgov running the floor and connecting with soon-to-be Timberwolves guard Aleksey Shved, who had 6 assists and runs the pick-and-roll very well.
Russia held a small lead through the rest of the game. It was never big enough to call it comfortable, but it was big enough.
With the win Russia assures themselves of two more games. The first will be Friday against the winner or Spain and France. Win that game and they play for the gold, lose and they fight for the bronze.
Part of the reason Oklahoma City was able to push Golden State so far in the Western Conference Finals was Kevin Durant on defense. He could switch out on the perimeter and use his length to bother Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson, and take away their driving lanes. Multiple times in that series he was the guy rotating into the paint to protect the rim and he gave Draymond Green trouble in the paint. Durant is listed as 6’9″ but look at him from this summer standing next to DeMarcus Cousins or DeAndre Jordan, and you can see he’s more like 7-foot — the most mobile seven-footer in the league.
Which is why the Warriors — who already had a top-five defense the past two seasons — think they have another guy that fits right in with their switching-heavy style and can make them better on that end.
Here is what Warriors’ assistant coach and defensive guru Ron Adams told Monte Poole of CSNBayArea.com.
“His versatility is outstanding,” Ron Adams says of Durant. “He’s a terrific defender, who played with great defensive consistency in our playoff series. We will expect a lot out of him in that regard….
“He can, if necessary, guard all five positions – and do it effectively,” Adams says of Durant, who spent most of the conference finals smothering Warriors forward Draymond Green.
“He’s a really good rim protector, in a non-traditional way,” Kerr says. “When he played the ‘four’ against us in the playoffs, he was brilliant. He blocked some shots and he scored a bunch of times. So he’ll play a lot of ‘four’ for us, for sure.”
You don’t need me to tell you the Warriors are going to be good this season. Hate them and KD if you want, but know they will be a force.
Just remember they are not a team looking just to get in a shootout — the Warriors get stops, too. And that’s not changing.
Steven Adams and Andre Roberson are just like the rest of us.
The Thunder players sit around and belt out the Backstreet Boys’ “I want it that way.”
John Salley has said becoming a vegan sooner would’ve enhanced his NBA career.
Now, the former Piston has another idea for improving player health.
Salley, via TMZ:
I am a proponent and I believe in the advocacy of medical marijuana. We see football players in Alabama getting busted. We see – we need to get it out. We need to move it and realize that is something that can help the human body.
It helps athletes. I didn’t start smoking until my last two months before I was a pro. And I believe if I would’ve smoked while I was playing, I probably still would be playing.
Marijuana is already legal in Colorado (where the Nuggets play), Oregon (where the Trail Blazers play), Washington and Alaska. Medical marijuana is legal in numerous other states. The nation is definitely trending toward legalization.
If that continues, why shouldn’t NBA players be permitted to use the drug? It can be an effective method for treating pain – which is quite common in a profession that requires such intensive physical labor.
The 52-year-old Salley is obviously exaggerating about still played today if he smoked weed, but maybe his career would’ve lasted longer. Shouldn’t players determine for themselves what legal methods they can follow to manage injuries?
Perhaps, they’re already taking Salley’s advice.
John Wall and Bradley Beal admitted they clash on the court.
That caused controversy as the outside world expressed dismay at the Wizards guards’ attitudes.
Paul Shirley – who played for the Hawks, Bulls and Suns from 2003-05 – shrugged.
Paul Shirley on NBA.com:
What I learned, when I got to the NBA, was that my dreams of fraternity were naïve ones. I sat in locker rooms where players barely spoke to one another. I endured team plane rides where one guy stared daggers at the next because of a contract dispute.
Consequently, I barely batted an eye at the recent “revelation” that Bradley Beal and John Wall don’t much like one another.
Of course they don’t like each other, I thought. That’s just the way it is.
This is a secret of the NBA: Not all teammates get along. Some are friends, but many are just coworkers – and consider your relationship with your coworkers. Frequent travel for work and the closed-off nature of locker rooms can push players toward forging bonds – but those conditions can also magnify any rifts.
In theory, Wall (a slashing passer) and Beal (an outside shooter) should complement each other well. But it’d be hard to find a team where each of the top two scorers doesn’t believe he should get more shots.
The successful teams manage that tension productively. They can convince each player to accept a role, sacrifice and contain his displeasures.
Maybe the Wizards can get there.
But that – not a fantasy friendship between Wall and Beal – should be the goal.