Kobe had the kind of big stat line we take for granted (but that the Lakers need right now). Jose Calderon had the second triple-double of his career. But Nicolas Batum’s balanced stat line wins the night.
Honorable mention to J.J. Hickson (24 points), Nick Young (30 in a losing effort, a lot in garbage time), Greivis Vasquez (23 points, 11 assists and 8 rebounds), and James Harden (28 points).
Third Star: Kobe Bryant (34 points, 6 assists, four rebounds)
Kobe Bryant won the Lakers a game in Philly Sunday not because he scored 34 points, but because he scored 34 points on just 21 shots. It’s the trend this season — efficient Kobe. He shot 43 percent last season, it’s up to 48.2 percent this season. Why? He is getting 1.5 more shots at the rim per game while taking 3.3 fewer shots from 16 feet out to the arc (needless to say, you shoot a higher percentage at the rim than a long two). Also, he’s shooting 39.8 percent from three, which is well up from 30.3 last season. Sunday once again he looked strong running the pick and roll, making smart decisions when to attack and when to pass out of it.
Second Star: Jose Calderon (17 points, 14 assists, 10 rebounds)
The Rockets continue to ask a lot more of Jose Calderon while Kyle Lowry is out… and if he happens to play well and boost his trade value while he’s at it, all the better. And Calderon certainly boosted that value on Sunday. He was 6-of-12 shooting but he was doing a little bit of everything, doing a good job hitting bigs who were flashing to the post and attacking (as opposed to a Raptor big man hanging at the three point line waiting for the ball… not to mention the name of someone who is injured). Just a good all around game from Calderon.
First Star: Nicolas Batum (11 points, 10 assists, 5 rebounds, 5 steals, 5 blocks)
The 5×5 isn’t just an oversized special order at In ‘N Out Burger, it’s also a heck of an NBA stat line — the last time a guy had a 5×5 game before Batum on Sunday was 2006. The last time a guy had 10 assists, 5 steals and 5 blocks in a game was Jamaal Tinsley way back in 2001. Batum had not played well of late but broke out of it here showing the kind of all-around skills that led the Blazers to pay him $46 million over four years. It’s the kind of balance and play at both ends the Blazers need to pair in the perimeter with Damian Lillard.
LeBron James on the Finals: “I feel good about our chances. Very good.”
If there is one team in the NBA that can knock off the Warriors in a seven-game series, it’s the Cavaliers. They are the best team in the NBA at creating mismatches and isolating them, and in Kyrie Irving and LeBron James they have two of the best isolation scorers in the game. Cleveland is strong on the boards and is capable of impressive defense. Also, they have the best player on the planet.
If nobody else is confident in the Cavaliers chances, he is.
Here is what LeBron James said his confidence level facing the Warriors in a Finals trilogy.
And if anyone should be confident, it’s LeBron. He can change a series.
From the outside, we saw a series last year where everything needed to go right for Cleveland to win — LeBron playing the best ball of his career for the final three games, Kyrie Irving hitting big shots, Draymond Green getting suspended, Andrew Bogut getting injured, Stephen Curry being off (due to injury or fatigue or just a slump). And even then took the Cavaliers seven games and heroics at the last minute. Now the Warriors add Kevin Durant, and it’s hard not to see this ending differently.
However, LeBron James is the one guy who can alter that vision. And he’s confident he can do it, he’s done it before.
Steve Alford: LaVar Ball never meddled with UCLA Basketball
“Never at practice,” Alford said. “Never at practice; never called me.”
Did he ever try to meddle in your coaching?
“Never,” Alford said.
LaVar has said his other sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, will play for UCLA. So, Alford has incentive to maintain a productive working relationship with LaVar. The players’ high school coach had a much worse experience dealing with LaVar.
Alford vouching for LaVar means something, but the total picture is more complex.
Still, LaVar would hardly be the first difficult parent of an NBA player. He’s just the most public. Even if he’d try to meddle into the Lakers, they might be willing to handle that to get his talented son.
“We need to help our bench,” Wall told CSN’s Chris Miller. “Just to be honest, that was our downfall in each series that we had in the [Eastern Conference] semifinals, our bench got out played.”
It starts from upstairs – just building the right bench guys and building the chemistry. That’s all it is.
I think that’s where they won the game at. I heard Marcus Smart say after the game that I had no legs. He’s basically right. I don’t make excuses. I’m going to play. If I miss shots or make shots, I’ll live with it. I know people will say he finished oh for 11, but I play – I took everything I had in me to keep fighting.
It’s just that their bench guys came in and played well. I think Kelly Oubre could’ve played a little bit more. I wish he would’ve played a little more than Jason. But coach makes the decision, and we stick behind him 100 percent. I feel like those two guys could have really helped us.
Wall – eligible for a designated-veteran-player extension but reportedly unsure about signing one – is clearly telling the Wizards what he wants. Marcin Gortat similarly criticized Washington’s bench earlier in the season, and he apologized. Wall has the leverage not to stand by his assessment.
Both Wall and Gortat were right. The Wizards’ bench was the source of much of their problems.
Washington’s starting lineup outscored opponents by 4.7 points per 100 possessions in the playoffs. Its bench (all other lineups) got outscored 15.5 points per 100 possessions.
Only the Thunder had a similar split in net rating:
The Wizards knew their flaw and tried to hide it. Washington’s starters played 34.2 minutes per game together in the postseason – second only to the Pacers (34.5). Wall’s heavy workload contributed to him running out of gas late in Game 7 against Boston, which Marcus Smart noted.
What can the Wizards do to upgrade their bench? Spend.
They sound committed to keeping Otto Porter, a restricted free agent this summer. But that would push them near the luxury tax – so they could scrimp on the bench in a variety of ways:
Don’t re-sign Bojan Bogdanovic, another restricted free agent. He’s in line for a raise.
Trade Marcin Gortat, elevating Ian Mahinmi into the starting lineup and therefore weakening the bench.
Trade Jason Smith, who might be expendable at his salary (especially given Wall’s comments about not wanting him to play as much) but at least still provides depth.
Don’t use the mid-level exception. That’s Washington’s best mechanism for adding outside help, but it’d be costly.
Will the Wizards take any of those cost-saving measures? Wall is certainly watching.
Don’t like the wait for this year’s Finals? Here’s the top 10 plays from the last two (VIDEO)
Nobody is enjoying the week-long break between the end of the Eastern Conference Finals and the start of the NBA Finals (except maybe a few of the older Cavaliers players trying to get healthy). For those of us basketball junkies, we just want to get on to the two best teams in the league battling it out.We need a fix.
Here’s the best we can do today: The top 10 plays from the last two NBA Finals, the last two Cavaliers/Warriors showdowns. Courtesy the folks at NBA.com. There’s plenty of LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and a big shot by Kyrie Irving made the list. Enjoy. And just try to be patient.