The bar is set in Minnesota and it’s clear — playoffs or bust.
They were on the bubble last year until Ricky Rubio’s ACL decided to tear. Now this year Minnesota has added real, veteran depth — Brandon Roy, Andrei Kirilenko, Greg Stiemsma and Russian rookie Alexey Shved — to the roster.
And now team leader Kevin Love is made the plans clear — Minnesota is going to the playoffs. He was clear speaking to the Portland Tribune.
“It will be a big surprise to me if we didn’t make a huge leap this year and make it to the playoffs,” the Lake Oswego native told me Wednesday…
“We’re going to have a chance to be very good,” Love said. “We’re hoping Brandon can stay healthy through 82 games. Kirilenko is a big addition. Shved hopefully is going to be a big deal for us.
“We’ll have more firepower in terms of veterans. Brandon and Andrei will help our locker room and on the court. It will make Coach Adelman’s job a lot easier. If everything is put together, if Ricky comes back healthy, we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.”
Their biggest challenge is what they learned last year the hard way — there is no margin for error in a deep Western Conference. The Thunder and Lakers are considered the conference co-favorites, but just a step behind them you have the Clippers and Spurs. Memphis was the four seed last year and is very good; Denver was the six seed and got a lot better with Andre Iguodala. That’s six pretty much playoff locks. To get into the post season, Minnesota is going to have to get by pretty good teams in Utah or Dallas. No easy task.
But you have to like Love’s attitude. This is his team, and he picked up hanging around the other Olympians this year what it will take for him to get Minnesota over the hump. And that is not to accept less from them. Set the bar high — say you are going to make the playoffs — then get them to reach for it.
Dwight Howard never played for the Nets. He almost got traded to Brooklyn by the Magic, but the deal never happened.
Which puts a dent in Dennis Schroder‘s theory Howard gets up for games against only his former teams.
Howard dominated Brooklyn for 32 points and 30 rebounds in the Hornets’ 111-105 win tonight. That’s just the second 30-30 game in the last 36 years, Kevin Love notching the other in 2010.
All 30-30 games since Wilt Chamberlain, who had a ton:
- Dwight Howard (Charlotte Hornets, 3/21/2018): 32 points, 30 rebounds
- Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves, 11/12/2010): 31 points, 31 rebounds
- Moses Malone (Houston Rockets, 2/11/1982): 38 points, 32 rebounds
- Swen Nater (Milwaukee Bucks, 12/19/1976): 30 points, 33 rebounds
- Elvin Hayes (Capital Bullets, 11/17/1973): 43 points, 32 rebounds
Howard helped Charlotte erase a 23-point second-half deficit and a 10-point deficit with four minutes left. The Hornets are playing out a lost season, and Brooklyn has looked overmatched most of the year, particularly at center. But no matter the situation, Howard says he still feels super-sized expectations.
Tonight, he exceeded them by leaps and bounds.
The Bucks lost, 127-120, to the Clippers tonight.
More importantly, Milwaukee lost Antetokounmpo to an ankle injury.
He limped off in the second quarter and didn’t return. The Bucks called it a sprain.
Any more time Antetokounmpo misses would be a huge loss. Hopefully, he recovers quickly.
No matter how many other good players – Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe – Milwaukee has put on the floor, the team has struggled without its star. Antetokounmpo is a commanding force offensively who just does so much, and his defense impresses.
The Bucks (37-34) are eighth in the East. They’re safely in playoff position, five games ahead of the ninth-place Pistons. But this hurts Milwaukee’s chances of avoiding a first-round matchup with the excellent Raptors – though the way Toronto has regressed in the playoffs in previous years, that might not be so bad. Still, the Bucks should probably chase the seventh-place Heat, who are up 1.5 games on Milwaukee, and a likely first-round matchup with the injury-ravaged Celtics.
Obviously, a healthy Antetokounmpo would be central to that pursuit.
The Cavaliers haven’t been good enough throughout the season, especially defensively. The Raptors have – offensively, defensively, starters, bench. Hope has grown in Toronto of winning the Eastern Conference after getting eliminated by Cleveland the last two years.
But LeBron James and Cavs showed why it’s hard to pick any other team – even the first-place Raptors – to win the East in a 132-129 win over Toronto tonight.
Cleveland allowed 79 first-half points and fell behind by 15. But a LeBron-led offense was just too potent. This was the first time since 1990 (Nuggets over Spurs after trailing 90-83) a team surrendered so many first-half points then still won.
LeBron finished with 35 points, 17 assists and no turnovers. No forward has ever dished so many assists without a turnover in Basketball-Reference’s database, which dates back to 1963-64.
And LeBron led the Cavaliers to this win despite Tristan Thompson, Rodney Hood, Larry Nance Jr., Kyle Korver and Cedi Osman being out.
It’s only one game, and it was in Cleveland. But even with home-court advantage in a potential playoff series, the Raptors must grapple with even more lingering doubt now about their ability to beat the Cavs.
Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon was a candidate to coach the men’s team at Colorado State, her alma mater. That would have made her the first woman to coach a Division I men’s team.
Alas, it won’t happen.
Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports:
It’s unclear whether Hammon was ever actually offered the job.
She’s still on the right track for a head-coaching job somewhere. Most importantly, by all accounts, she’s doing good work in San Antonio. There’s also more attention on her career because of her pioneering status, and that will appeal to some teams.
This dalliance with Colorado State raises her profile even further and shows just how close she is.