There were three games Thursday night and each one had a clear star. Actually, each was an All-Star.
Third Star: Kobe Bryant (33 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists)
Kobe Bryant played like a guy trying to will his team into the playoffs — he returned to scoring mode on Thursday night, but it was hard to blame him early as the Timberwolves gave him good looks. Then he got in a rhythm and by the third quarter he was three feet behind he three point line with a hand in his face and it didn’t matter. He got his 33 points on 22 shots. It’s what Los Angeles needed — the Lakers can’t afford any more nights off and have to take advantage of every break that comes their way (such as Monta Ellis hitting a prayer to beat the Rockets). For a night Kobe made sure they did that.
Second Star: Chris Paul (29 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds)
Chris Paul looked like the best point guard in the game pretty much all night, making shots, setting guys up. But when it really showed was in the games final minutes — just when the game seemed over the Pacers went on a 15-2 run to make it a four-point game. So CP3 took over, went into hero mode a little and scored the Clippers final eight points to secure a quality road win for Los Angeles.
First Star: Joakim Noah (23 points 21 rebounds, 11 blocked shots)
When you get a triple-double with 11 blocks, you get to be the First Star of the night. Noah absolutely owned the paint all game, looking like a guy who wants to be named Defensive Player of the Year. At the offensive end he brings that same hustle plus an ability to finish. But mostly the Bulls beat the Sixers because Noah wasn’t going to let them lose. Well, that and the Sixers are pretty bad right now. But mostly it was Noah’s will power forcing a Bulls team that has had some ugly games lately to pick up a win.
The Los Angeles Clippers dropped Game 5 to the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night, and find themselves down 3-2 as they head back to Salt Lake City for Game 6. The Clippers have had to deal with Utah’s formidable defense, so much so that they’ve built in counters to Jazz defenders overplaying shooters like JJ Redick.
One example of this countering method could be found in Game 3, when the Clippers ran a split cut for Redick. Instead of fighting endlessly around screens for a 3-point shot as you might expect, LA took the easy route and simply cut Redick to the basket for an easy layup as a means to take advantage of an overeager defender.
We’ve talked about the Split Cut here on NBA Playbook before. The Los Angeles Lakers used it earlier in the season to beat the Golden State Warriors, the team that uses the split cut perhaps the most out of any team in the NBA.
Other teams, including the Portland Trail Blazers, have adapted the Warriors’ use of the split cut as a counter for their own offense this season, which is a testament to just how useful it is.
If you need a reminder, a split cut all about a screener coming up to screen, then cutting toward the basket before his screen action fully takes place. It’s about timing, and catching defenders off guard when they go to set up their recover positions for screens.
For a full breakdown on the split cut and how the Clippers used it, watch the video above.
John Wall has been super, averaging 27 points and 11 assists while leading the Wizards to a 3-2 lead over the Hawks in the first-round.
Fred Hoiberg opened himself to clowning by complaining about Isaiah Thomas carrying.
So, the Bulls coach got clowned after the Celtics’ Game 5 win.
Late in the Celtics’ Game 5 win over the Bulls last night, Jae Crowder leg-locked Robin Lopez – the same dirty play that caused rancor for Matthew Dellavedova in the 2015 playoffs.
Lopez blocked Crowder’s shot, but the ball went to Al Horford, who attacked the basket. As Lopez tried to rotate to contest another shot, he couldn’t move. Crowder, who’d fallen to the floor, had him in a leg-lock. Lopez freed himself just in time to foul Horford.
Adding insult to avoided injury, Lopez got hit with a technical foul for complaining about the no-call.
I bet the league issues a technical foul on Crowder, too.