There are great all-around performances, and then there are singular plays which rise above all else to define a day of NBA basketball. DeAndre Jordan’s dunk over Brandon Knight falls into the latter category, and (spoiler alert) it earns him our top spot in the nightly rankings.
Third Star: Dwight Howard (16 points, 21 rebounds, 4 blocked shots in win over Bulls)
Dwight is getting healthier with each passing game, and as a result, he’s looking more and more like the defensive monster he’s proved to be in previous seasons. Howard was active defensively and dominated the glass, while helping the Lakers beat the Bulls and move into the playoff picture officially for the first time all season.
Second Star: Mario Chalmers (26 points on 9 shots, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals)
The Heat won their 18th straight game on Sunday against the Pacers, and anytime the leading scorer in Miami isn’t named LeBron James or Dwyane Wade, you know they turned in a special performance. 26 points on nine shots is about as efficient as it gets, and the fact that guys other than James, Wade, and Chris Bosh can step up like this for the Heat is what makes them heavy favorites to repeat as champions.
First Star: DeAndre Jordan (Soul-crushing dunk that broke the Internet)
DeAndre Jordan finished with 13 points on 5-5 shooting, to go along with seven rebounds and two blocked shots in the Clippers’ 32-point win over the Pistons. But when this happens, not much else matters.
Lonzo Ball will never be as good as this fan-made video of him destroying people in 2K17
Ultimately, nobody has any idea how good Lonzo Ball will be as an NBA player. Franchise cornerstone? All-Star? Above average starter? Rotation player? He will fall somewhere on the scale, but even for NBA teams it’s a guess as to where. (His dad apparently thinks he will end his career compared to Jordan, I seriously doubt that.)
However good he ends up being, he may never be as good as he looks in this 2K17 fan video made by Shady00018. The Lakers should pray he does: Dropping Stephen Curry on a crossover, dunking over Rudy Gobert, throwing no-look passes like beads at Mardi Gras? It’s impressive, if unrealistic.
Then again, reality Lakers fans don’t always intersect.
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.