Three Stars of the Night: Not Enough Help Edition

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No one really remembers the numbers guys get in losing efforts. Those numbers usually seem hollow; they come off as not worthy of mention. Tonight, though, we honor those guys who put up big numbers in a losing effort. Because as those guys showed out and did their best to help their team win, they didn’t get enough help to make it happen.

So, a sincere apology to LeBron James (40 points, 16 assists, 8 rebounds), Dwyane Wade (39 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists), and Deron Williams (33 points, 8 assists), but tonight we’re going in a different direction for Three Stars. Tonight, we’re looking at the guys who didn’t get enough help and had great nights in losing efforts. Let’s get to it…

Third Star: Marcus Thornton (36 points, 8 made three pointers, 3 assists)

There’s a reason this guy’s nickname is buckets. When Thornton has it going, he can knock down shots from all over the floor and light up the scoreboard in the process. Against the Heat, Thornton did just that, hitting long range shot after long range shot to help keep the Kings close throughout the game. Without his 30 points in regulation there’s no way this game even goes to overtime, much less a 2nd OT. So, while LeBron and Wade will get the big honors in all the highlights, bravo to Thornton who carried a Kings bench that only managed 6 additional points to his 36 on the night.

Second Star: Dirk Nowitzki (21 points, 20 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals)

Lately Dirk has really been playing well. In fact, this is his 2nd straight excellent game in a losing effort (his 30 and 13 against the Lakers was fantastic). Against the Bucks, Dirk did everything he could to lead his team to the win. He hit shots from all over the floor against very good defense, got the foul line, and was a beast on the boards. It just wasn’t in the cards for the big German, however, as the Bucks proved to be too much to overcome down the stretch of the game. Dirk did get some good help from O.J. Mayo and Elton Brand, but the rest of the team was a bit too inconsistent, especially on defense.

First Star: Stephen Curry (38 points, 7 made three pointers, 4 assists, 3 steals)

Curry’s night will likely be remembered for how he rushed Roy Hibbert as part of the Warriors/Pacers scuffle and that’s a shame considering how well he was playing before that all went down. Curry played like the best player on the floor in this game, shaking free from every defender the Pacers sent his way and hitting some fantastic shots in the process. Long range bombs, mid range pull ups, and even a nice finish at the basket were all part of his arsenal tonight, but it just wasn’t enough. It made for some great highlight’s though.

Three things to watch: Boston Celtics vs. Washington Wizards

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1. How much will these teams’ disdain for each other color the series?

Back in January, the Wizards wore all black for a figurative funeral while arriving for a game against the Celtics then buried Boston in a 123-108 win.

But the Celtics are still alive and ready for the next stage in a rivalry that has included:

Both teams appear primed for more hijinks. The Wizards taunted the Hawks throughout their first-round series, and Boston crossed the line with the Bulls.

2. Which team is actually better?

The Wizards outpaced the Celtics in my adjusted-for-playoff-rotation rankings before the postseason began. But getting a clear picture of who’s in the teams’ playoff rotations and counting the first round turns the tables.

Here’s both teams’ offensive, defensive and net ratings from the regular season to counting only lineups (regular season and first round) comprised of five players projected to be in the teams’ rotation this series:

1. Boston Celtics

  • Offensive rating: 112.4 to 116.2
  • Defensive rating: 109.8 to 110.4
  • Net rating: +2.6 to +5.8

4. Washington Wizards

  • Offensive rating: 111.7 to 115.6
  • Defensive rating:  110.0 to 110.5
  • Net rating: +1.7 to +5.1

Even with the flaws in these numbers – small sample sizes and no control for competition – the question of which team will put a better team on the floor in this series isn’t everything. Boston has home-court advantage, and that matters.

The complete updated playoff-rotation-adjusted ratings will be released Monday, after the first round ends.

3. How will the MVP-vote-getting point guards match up?

Both the Celtics and Wizards are reasonably deep, but good luck keeping your eyes off their star point guards. Isaiah Thomas and John Wall both received fifth-place MVP votes, tributes to their importance to their teams.

Thomas is Boston’s lone reliable scorer, and that brings a heavy fourth-quarter burden – which he has answered all year. Even when opponents know he’ll get the ball, they haven’t stopped him. Wall also drives Washington’s offense, though he does it with a more balanced passing and scoring attack throughout the game.

But Wall’s primary argument for superiority over other big-name point guards – including Thomas – is his defense. The 6-foot-4 Wall will have an opportunity to show that against the 5-foot-9 Thomas. Likewise, Thomas has a chance to pester Wall enough to show the defensive gap isn’t too wide.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.

How to start your Saturday night: Watching 15 minutes of best plays from NBA season

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There are no NBA playoff games Saturday night, the first night since the start of the postseason there hasn’t been one game. Don’t worry, there are two games on Sunday, including Game 7 between the Jazz and Clippers.

But if you need a Saturday night fix, this will have to do: 15 minutes of the best plays from last season, as compiled by NBA.com.

Go ahead, watch it. You’ve got nothing better to do.