Three Stars of the Night: Two Bucks and the Way of Wade

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In today’s NBA — the NBA where the hand check and physical perimeter defense has gone the way of the dinosaur — there are few things more dangerous than attack guards who get on a roll. The rules simply favor them and once they find their rhythm, they can become unstoppable. Such was the case tonight when the Bucks back court and the always dangerous Dwayne Wade were all in top form. Onto our three stars…

Third Star: Monta Ellis (34 points, 15-21 shooting, 4 rebounds, 4 steals)

On this night, Monta Ellis really did have it all. At least on the offensive end. Ellis was a demon going to the rim tonight, converting 10 of his 12 shots in the restricted area on a variety of drives including one 360 spin reverse lay was simply incredible. Beyond the fantastic finishes at the rim, Ellis was also able to knock down his outside jumper in hitting 5 of his 8 shots from outside the paint. One of those outside shots was essentially the bucket that clinched the game, putting the Bucks up three points in the final seconds and making it so the Jazz had to hit a three pointer to tie — a shot they ultimately couldn’t knock down. On nights where Ellis is so dangerous inside and out, he’s basically unguardable. As the Jazz learned.

Second Star: Brandon Jennings (20 points, 4-5 three pointers, 17 assists, 3 steals)

After setting a career high in assists in his last game, Jennings nearly did it again by dishing out 17 assists in this game. He expertly set the table for his teammates all night, running the Bucks’ offense masterfully and finding ways to get his teammates shots in both the half and open court. Jennings, though, didn’t just set up others, he also found ways to get his own shot off especially from behind the arc. And Jennings’ biggest shot of the game did come from three, knocking down a step back heave while fading to his right that forced overtime.

First Star: Dwyane Wade (32 points, 10 assists, 7 rebounds)

LeBron James has been getting all the attention of late, but Wade has been nearly as spectacular each night as the Heat have rattled off a franchise record 15 straight wins. Tonight was no different as Wade was aggressive aggressive in getting to the rim all night, finishing 13 of his 15 shots from in close. Wade was also fantastic as a distributor, setting up teammates for makable shots including some fantastic plays in the open court; plays that have become a trademark of the Heat’s season. Games like this serve as a nice reminder of how good Wade is, that’s if you needed a reminder in the first place.

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.

 

Paul Millsap says the expected, he will “most likely” opt out of contract

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This is ranked right next to “overeating can lead to weight gain” on the list of surprising things, but we will dutifully report it anyway:

Paul Millsap is going to opt out and officially become a free agent this summer.

Atlanta’s owner as well as Mike Budenholzer, the coach and head of basketball operations, have both said they plan to do whatever it takes to re-sign Millsap with the Hawks. Millsap didn’t sound like someone eager to leave after the Hawks were eliminated from the playoffs Friday.

“It’s been great. I’m looking to expand this and see where the franchise can go. These last four years has been great. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Even with both sides singing Kumbaya, keeping Millsap in Atlanta likely means a five-year contract at or near the max, which for a 32-year-old player means the Hawks would regret the last year or two of that deal.

Not that the Hawks have much of a choice here, they have to come in big and keep him. For one, they can’t afford to lose Al Horford and then Millsap for nothing in back-to-back years. If they were going down the rebuilding road, they needed to trade Millsap at the deadline (or last summer) to make sure they got something in return. Atlanta explored trade options at the deadline, but then pulled back (rumored to be because of an edict from ownership, which didn’t want to see the team blown up after the Kyle Korver trade).

By not making that trade the Hawks signaled their intention to remain a good team — a 43-win team this season that got them the five seed — with Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard, one that draws well at an arena that historically has not been that full, and see if they can add on. They strike me as a team that will win between 42-50 games a year and be middle of the pack in the East for the next few years, unless they can find a way to add an elite player (which is incredibly difficult).

But if the Hawks can’t re-sign Millsap, then the plan gets blown up. So expect them to come in with a big offer come July 1.