The losses just keep piling up for the Magic, and the season hasn’t even started yet. It was bad enough having to fire Stan Van Gundy, who is undoubtedly one of the game’s best strategic minds, because of some overblown drama caused by a petulant star. It was even worse having to trade Dwight Howard (petulant or not, the best defensive player in the league) for an overpaid shooting guard and receive no franchise altering pieces, draft picks or substantial salary relief in return. But, now? Et tu, Gustavo Ayon?
Via Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel
Gustavo Ayon alone going down for a few weeks with a sprained left thumb isn’t the iceberg to the Magic’s ship — it’s more like one of the lifeboats sinking. Ayon was a pleasant surprise last year for the Hornets, and is a joy to watch sneak around the baseline with clever little duck-ins and good instincts around the rim. He’s an energy guy who works hard and plays smart, and that’s something that can be cherished in what’s almost certain to be a really, really bad season for the Magic overall.
It certainly doesn’t help that the Magic are dangerously thin up front as is. Everyone’s favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle lookalike, Al Harrington, is already out for the first few weeks of season with a knee injury. Same goes for rookie forward Moe Harkless, who is sidelined with a sports hernia.
That leaves the frontcourt duties to (gulp) Glen Davis, Andrew Nicholson, Josh McRoberts and Nikola Vucevic — not exactly a quartet that strikes fear into the hearts of their opponents. Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu aren’t exactly nails as perimeter defenders, either, so we could be looking at a team defense that reaches all-time levels of bad. Ayon could have at least mitigated some of the damage early on, but just like Orlando’s hopes of being competitive, that will have to wait.
Apparently, all it takes is a little public discussion of LeBron James‘ “broken” jump shot to get him back on balance and knocking down the three ball — he was 4-of-6 from deep Wednesday.
Then again J.R. Smith was 7-of-13, Kyrie Irving 4-of-5, and as a team the Cavaliers knocked down a record 25 threes — while shooting 55.6 percent — as they wiped the floor with the Hawks in Game 2.
In case you’re curious where the Cavs were hitting from, here’s the team’s shot chart.
The Houston Rockets aren’t in any rush to hire a new head coach, preferring to interview a wide range of candidates to find the right one. Jeff Van Gundy has been widely believed to be at the top of their list, now that Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks are off the market, but ESPN.com’s Marc Stein is reporting another name that has entered the mix: Mike D’Antoni, who last held a head coaching job from 2012 to 2014 with the Lakers and currently serves as the Sixers’ lead assistant.
The Pacers, meanwhile, haven’t made a final decision on Frank Vogel’s future with the team, but all signs seem to point to him getting let go in the next few days. And if that happens, Stein reports that Vogel will also be on Houston’s list of candidates.
Given the Rockets’ massive drop-off on the defensive end this season, Vogel would seem to be a better fit than D’Antoni. But it sounds like the Rockets aren’t close to finding a replacement for J.B. Bickerstaff, although it would make sense to have a new coach in place by next month’s draft.
On Monday, the Hawks played the Cavaliers close and even led in the fourth quarter, leading plenty of optimism that Game 2 would be equally competitive, that the Hawks had something to build on.
The Cavs dominated from the start on Wednesday, with a 123-98 final score that was far closer than the game actually was — the Cavs led 74-36 at the half and led by as much as 38 at one point in the second half.
The Cavs also hit 25 three-pointers, which is the all-time record for a single game — regular season or playoffs. J.R. Smith hit seven of them, along with four each from LeBron James and Kyrie Irving and three for Kevin Love.
18 of Cleveland’s threes came in the first half, also a playoff record, and this was all Atlanta could do:
That’s the kind of night it was for the Hawks, who now trail 2-0 in the series as it heads back to Atlanta.
LeBron James has always been an incredible passer. In the midst of the Cavs’ Game 2 beatdown of the Hawks, he zipped this one-handed beauty into the paint to Kyrie Irving, who kicked it out to Kevin Love for a corner three:
The three was just one of the 18 Cleveland hit in the first half, which set an NBA playoff record.