Breaking down last three minutes of Warriors 106-105 win over Nuggets.

6 Comments

This game was crazy. And fun. Both teams had and gave up double-digit leads. The end involved missed shots, replay and about as close to a game going the other way as it can.

For something a little different, rather than a traditional recap, let’s just recap in some detail the final three minutes of this game and how that showed the trends of the entire night:

102-102 tie, 2:56 left (Warriors ball): David Lee is working at the elbow extended draws and the defense out then makes a nifty pass to Klay Thompson who had cut from the weakside along the baseline to get the ball on the strong side low post. His problem is Kenneth Faried switches onto him quickly and now lords over him. Thompson tries to swing into the middle for a shot but Faried rejects it. This is what Faried did all night — he seemed to be everywhere grabbing rebounds, playing good defense and just working harder than everyone. Like Manimal always does. He is just fun to watch and this was a good game from him.

Denver takes the ball off the blocked shot and pushes the pace in transition, and while the defense is focused on not giving Ty Lawson a lane to drive — something they struggled to do all night, he carved them up — Andre Iguodala runs to the arc on the right side and after a pass steps into a wide-open three that rims out. Golden State gets the rebound.

After taking some time off the clock, Jarrett Jack and Lee run a side pick-and-roll, both defenders go with Jack and he hits the rolling Lee feet from he rim. Faried is a split-second late on the rotation and Lee both makes the bucket and gets an and-1 chance (he missed the free throw). Lee was on top of his offensive game all night — he played smart on offense and just scored, putting up 31 points. He made shots isolated in the post, off the pick-and-roll, in transition, he was 13-of-15 shooting and had a fantastic offensive game. (If we knock Lee’s defense we would have to knock everyone’s in this game. The fans got their money’s worth of offense but no D.)

104-102 Golden State, 2:07: Lawson brings it up off the missed free throw and the Warriors defense isn’t set, so Lawson finds a wide-open Corey Brewer in the left corner corner but Brewer misses the shot.

Warriors don’t run much of an offensive set, Curry just hangs out up high and eventually fires up and misses a three, but Jack gets and offensive rebound. Curry tried to pass inside this time but Denver deflects it out of bounds. Then on the inbounds pass Jack just throws it to nobody and it is a turnover.

Denver takes the turnover and it is off to the races. In transition Lawson passes to Brewer who is fouled going to the rim. But Brewer only hits one of two free throws.

104-103 Golden State, 1:26 left: Jack runs a high pick-and-roll with Lee and Denver handles it about as poorly as you can — Lawson can’t fight over the top but Danilo Gallinari doesn’t show out, or really do much of anything but stand there like a marble Italian statue, so Jack drives into the wide open lane. Faried is the help but he is late and Jack hits a layup high off the glass. With that Jack had 18 points on the night.

106-103 Golden State, 1:12 left: Early in the clock Lawson decides to just drive on Stephen Curry, Lawson tried to initiate contact he didn’t get the foul call and the ball just goes off him out of bounds. That would be Denver’s fifth turnover of the quarter

Jack is in control of the offensive set for Golden State and he keeps going off picks until he can find a little daylight in the lane, but not much. The result is him driving the right side then trying an awkward looking 11-foot fadeaway that airballs.

Denver works it around but the ball eventually goes to Gallinari who tries to take Carl Landry off the dribble and he almost does, but his three-foot runner rims out.

Again, it’s Jarrett Jack with the ball. Not Stephen Curry. Jack uses up some clock then again drives and this time uses some hesitation moves to get himself a nice 15-foot look, but that won’t go down either, it is off the back rim.

Gallinari gets the rebound and pushes it up (I love that George Karl didn’t call a timeout here, he told his team to play) and Gallinari passes to Iguodala. The Warriors have a foul to give and Jack tries to use it while Iguodala tries to go into the shooting motion. The referees called it a shooting foul and while they reviewed this all they can review is if it is a three or not. Which is good for Denver because the replay showed it was not a shooting foul, but the refs can’t reverse that.

So Iguodala has three free throws to tie the game with just 3.4 seconds left. He drains the first. He drains the second. But the third clangs off the rim, however it goes out of bounds of Lee. And Denver gets a last chance.

106-105, 2.1 seconds left, Denver ball side out of bounds. Andre Miller is making the pass and while the rest of the Nuggets try to come to the ball Lawson runs basically a football curl route on the weakside and Miller tries to hit him with a pass so he is isolated but the entire thing never comes together or looks like it had a chance to. But the ball is off Golden with 0.5 seconds left.

Denver gets one last chance and somehow the Warriors and their spotty defense all night lose track of Iguodala who gets the pass catches and shoots and drains the three — but replay shows it still on his finger tips as the red lights go on and time expires. It was as close as can be but it was the right call.

The Warriors got lucky, and they got the win.

PBT Podcast: What went wrong and what’s next for Trail Blazers?

Getty Images
Leave a comment

It was embarrassing, and left both fans and players of the Trail Blazers angry and frustrated — Portland was unceremoniously swept out of the playoffs by the New Orleans Pelicans.

Now what happens in Portland? Is Terry Stotts in danger as the coach? What about GM Neil Olshey? Would they consider trading C.J. McCollum? Is there any way to offload the contract of Evan Turner?

Kurt Helin and the Northeast’s own Dane Carbaugh of NBC Sports break it all down in this latest podcast, and Blazers fans may not like the answers. The pair also touch on other series around the league, like do the Pelicans have a shot against the Warriors? And, as required by NBA law, they touch on the Sixers run.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

Pacers head to Cleveland looking to put pressure back on Cavaliers

Getty Images
1 Comment

CLEVELAND, Ohio (AP) — The Indiana Pacers are in no better position to pull off a historic upset in this first-round playoff series with the Cleveland Cavaliers than when they awoke Sunday morning.

The Pacers had a chance to put the Cavs, at the time reeling with playoff inexperience and the crushing weight of expectations with LeBron James, squarely behind the eight ball in this series by winning Game 4.

But Indiana fell behind by a huge deficit in the first half for the second consecutive game, erased it in the third and early fourth quarters again, but couldn’t sustain the momentum. Kyle Korver and James made enough plays down the stretch for the Cavs to win, 104-100, tying this series at 2-2 with Game 5 on Wednesday in Cleveland.

James has never lost a first-round series in 12 previous playoffs. Now, he has two of the next three games at home to try and keep his streak alive.

“I think just tying the series up and coming back home is something we feel good about,” said Kevin Love, who like every other Cav not named James has mostly struggled in this series. “We feel like it’s a best-of-three type series and at the end of the day, if it comes to it, we have two games at home. We like our advantage and we’re going to use that to our advantage (Wednesday) night.”

The Pacers trailed by 17 at halftime of Game 3 but steamrolled the Cavs in the second half and pulled out a 92-90 win behind 30 points from Bojan Bogdanovic, a playoff career high. They were down 10 through two quarters in Game 4 but fought back and were ahead 93-91 with 3:49 remaining before Korver connected on two deep 3s.

Indiana won Game 1 behind a playoff career-high 32 points from Victor Oladipo, who has struggled since (19-of-53 shooting in the last three games). Domantas Sabonis played a big role in the Pacers’ comeback Sunday, scoring a playoff career-best 19 off the bench.

The Pacers are getting the best night of someone’s playoff career almost each game of this series, and it’s been good enough for two wins. Then again, the Cavs’ two wins were by a combined seven points, and outside of James (32.5 ppg this series) almost no one is scoring.

Love is the next closest at 12.0 points in this series and JR Smith is third with 10.0 points.

“We’re not losing confidence,” point guard Darren Collison said, according to the Indianapolis Star. “This team is the defending Eastern Conference champions. Whatever you want to say about them, this is a very good team. They’ve been through a lot over the last few years. We’re fine. There’s no need to overreact or panic. We’re going to go into their building and we’re going to give the same effort.”

The Cavaliers say point guard George Hill (back spasms) is questionable to play in Game 5. He missed Game 4 with the same injury — four injections before the game were not enough to ease the pain to the point where he could play.

Jose Calderon started for Hill on Sunday and scored five points in 19 minutes. The Cavs are 24-9 this year (regular season and playoffs) when Calderon starts.

Hill is the only player on either team listed on the injury report. But Love suffered an injury to his left thumb in Game 1 and it’s affected him. He’s shooting 17-of-47 in the series with 11 turnovers. Catching and gripping the ball have been obvious problems.

“I’ve been able to get up a lot of shots,” Love said. “I think initially it was painful and in the few days that followed, but now it’s kind of subsided and I’m just getting my feel back in my left thumb.”

Report: Kawhi Leonard to return to San Antonio around exit interviews. Then…

Associated Press
11 Comments

Nobody is sure how the Kawhi Leonard situation is going to play out with the Spurs. As is the nature of the NBA, the GMs of other teams are starting to circle the Spurs like vultures, on the chance that this time Gregg Popovich cannot smooth out the relationship with his star player and needs to trade him. Leonard spent the playoffs away from the team, working out and talking to doctors in New York while “his group” shielded him from attempts from San Antonio to reach out.

Now has come the time for the sides to talk, and that will happen soon reports Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News.

What happens during and after that meeting is anyone’s guess.

The Spurs will only move Leonard as a last resort, and they have two things on their side. First, Gregg Popovich, who has maintained a healthy relationship with his star pupil through all of this. LaMarcus Aldridge told Popovich he wanted to be traded last summer, and over the course of some dinner meetings and self-reflection, Popovich was able to both keep Aldridge in the fold and put him in positions to be an All-NBA level player this season. The key is that both sides were willing to talk with an open mind, are Leonard and his advisors open to that?

Second, the Spurs have the ultimate hammer — the $219 million designated veteran extension (the contract James Harden and Russell Westbrook signed this year). Put that on the table and Leonard will sign it. The question is will the Spurs put it out there? Probably not if Leonard makes it clear he doesn’t want to be in San Antonio any longer. That’s when the trade talks start to gain traction.

But we’re not there yet. Not even close. Let the meetings play out first.

Back home, Thunder try to avoid elimination against Jazz

Getty Images
5 Comments

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma City was built this offseason around three All-Stars with the hopes of contending for the Western Conference crown.

The Utah Jazz started the year 18-26 without center Rudy Gobert. However, Gobert returned and the Jazz rolled off 11 straight wins into Valentine’s Day with the help of a surprise rookie of the year contender.

One more win and the Jazz will reach the second round for the second straight year. They’ll send the Thunder home with a second straight first-round exit — despite Oklahoma City’s overhauled, star-studded roster.

After losing the first game on the road, Utah won decisively in each of the past three games, including a 17-point victory in Game 4 — a game the Thunder called a must-win in Salt Lake City.

“It’s the playoffs, it’s gonna be war,” Utah point guard Ricky Rubio, who had a triple-double in Game 3, told the Salt Lake Tribune after Utah’s 113-96 victory in Game 4. “We know that it’s gonna be another war next game. We just have to be tough but at the same time, mentally ready for that.”

Game 5 is set for 9:30 p.m. EST Wednesday at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell, who averaged 20 points per game during the regular season, has averaged 27.6 points during the past three games — taking his play to another level to lead a balanced Jazz attack that has five players averaging in double figures. Mitchell, who was the 13th overall pick in last year’s draft, has scored 110 points through the first four games, the most by a rookie in his first four games since Michael Jordan’s 117 in 1985, according to nba.com.

“To be honest, a lot of this is surreal. I’m just taking it game-by-game and not really getting caught up in the big picture,” Mitchell told the Salt Lake City Tribune. “Just focusing on game-by-game. My teammates have helped me out a lot as far as that goes. But we’re playing together.”

Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook picked up four fouls before halftime in Game 4 and was fined $10,000 for an altercation with Gobert late in the game. Luckily for the Thunder, he was not suspended following his altercation with the Utah center.

Westbrook’s foul trouble has hardly been the Thunder’s biggest issue.

Oklahoma City was inconsistent much of the year, but it has had to contend with shooting woes from offseason acquisition Carmelo Anthony, who has hit just 25 percent of his 3-pointers in the first four games of the playoffs.

“We gotta win, nothing to it,” Anthony said after the Game 4 loss. “We’ve just gotta win. We can sit here and say what we gotta do, or what we didn’t do or what we did do, but it comes down to having the will to win that game Wednesday and forcing a Game 6 back in Utah.”

Winning in Utah won’t to be easy, where the Jazz have won six straight. Oklahoma City has to get back to Salt Lake City first and stave off elimination. But Utah hasn’t lost three straight games since Gobert’s return to the lineup in mid-January.

“Every game’s been physical,” Gobert said to reporters. “We just got to watch the tape, see how much better we can get and get ready to play basketball.”