Brook Lopez was in a mini-slump following All-Star Weekend in Houston. That happens. The players are pulled 50 different directions during the day and then there are parties every night.
But a week after that game, on Sunday night, the Nets were locked in a low-scoring affair with the Memphis Grizzlies, a team with a big front line (Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol). Plus the Nets were without Joe Johnson for the night.
But coach P.J. Carlesimo benched Lopez the entire fourth quarter. Memphis won 76-72 and the Nets offense had no good options late, while their leading scorer (18.7 points a game) sat on the bench.
Carlesimo admitted to Howard Beck at the New York Times that was a mistake.
Carlesimo acknowledged his error Monday, telling reporters: “I created the situation, and it’s not a good situation. I worry about it that I need to address it, and I worry about it that I need to watch what I do going forward.”
Thing is, Carlesimo has done that a few times recently, Andray Blatche is getting the run. Not only does Lopez need to be in the game but the Nets need to run plays for him — he can score with the game on the line but he’s not going to be Joe Johnson, get the ball 25 feet from the basket and create his own shot. Get Lopez the rock in the post or force the defense to adjust and take that away, which opens up other options.
The Nets are not a consistent team. They need to lean more on Lopez and Johnson, who are their most reliable players night in and night out.
Russell Westbrook might not want to talk about his supporting cast distinctively, but it’s a real issue for the Thunder, who trail the Rockets 3-1 in their first-round series.
Even Andre Roberson, who has impressively defended James Harden, brings a glaring weakness: free throws. Roberson is 2-for-17 from the line in the playoffs, including 2-for-12 in Game 4 yesterday. Houston even repeatedly intentionally fouled him late.
It was agonizing for all but the most partisan Rockets supporters – though even Houston’s bench, while at least implicitly mocking Roberson, appeared put off that he missed yet again.
Isaiah Thomas previously explained his emotions in a statement, but the Celtics guard spoke publicly yesterday for the first time since the death of his sister in a car crash just before the playoffs.
Thomas, via A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN Northeast:
“Mentally and emotionally I’m not here,” Thomas said after Game 4, the first time he has spoken publicly since his sister’s death. “So I just feed off of what the guys give me. They give me a lot of confidence. I can’t do it without those guys. They believe in me. Being here is what makes me sane and makes me feel somewhat normal through these tough times.”
Thomas has played well for Boston, which won twice in Chicago to even its series with the Bulls, 2-2. It’s remarkable considering the heavy emotional burden and extra travel, going to Seattle for his sister’s funeral then joining the Celtics in Chicago.
His teammates have clearly rallied around him, and that surely helps. But I can’t even imagine how he’s simultaneously handling such a tragic family situation and the biggest games of his career.
Pacers super fan Matt Asen brings his lucky flamingo to each game.
He also annoyed the heck out of Kyrie Irving by trying to hand it, rather than the ball, to the Cavaliers guard.
James Harden didn’t lead the Rockets in scoring in their Game 4 win over the Thunder yesterday.
He didn’t even rank second – or third.
Nene, Eric Gordon and Lou Williams each outscored Harden, who scored 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting, including 0-for-7 on 3-pointers.
What happened to the Houston star?
Calvin Watkins of ESPN:
Houston Rockets star guard James Harden said he has been hobbled by an ankle injury that occurred in Game 3 of this first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Harden made the revelation to ESPN’s Lisa Salters after the Rockets’ 113-109 Game 4 victory on Sunday afternoon.
“It was pretty tough; we don’t make excuses,” Harden said in a news conference when asked about his health. “We just try to go out there and get the job done. You build trust, and trust in your teammates all year long. When there’s moments like this, guys step up and they did tonight. We have another opportunity in a few days to go out there and win on our home court, and we’re going to have to get off to a really good start.”
Many players are grinding through injuries this time of year. Is Harden’s exceptionally bad? There’s no way of telling from the outside.
But he didn’t look quite right in Game 4, and if he’s hobbled, that opens the door slightly wider for Oklahoma City to come back from its 3-1 deficit.