If the Lakers are going to make the playoffs, they are going to have to do it without Steve Nash.
That shouldn’t be as surprise, Nash hasn’t set foot on a court since the calendar flipped to April due to a hamstring issue. But it was hoped, with Kobe Bryant out, he could come back. Maybe for the Lakers final game, a win-and-your-in contest against the Rockets Wednesday.
Nope. Via Kevin Ding of the OC Register.
If the Lakers beat the Rockets Wednesday, not only are they in they get the seven seed and will face the Spurs. They have a better chance of beating the Spurs in a seven game series than the Thunder — not nearly as much as some Lakers fans seem to think, their chances are still slim (to be kind), but they are better.
Problem is, the Rockets have something to play for, as well. With a win and a Golden State loss at Portland the Rockets get the six seed. If the Lakers lose and the Jazz beat the Grizzlies, the Lakers are on the outside of the playoffs looking in.
The Lakers big challenge against the Rockets is transition defense — Houston plays at the fastest pace in the league and the Lakers transition defense has been a weakness this season. If the pace is up, the Lakers are in trouble. The Rockets also run a lot of pick-and-roll and Los Angeles was spotty with that defense this season.
Getting Steve Nash back was not going to help their transition or pick-and-roll defense much anyway.
Apparently, all it takes is a little public discussion of LeBron James‘ “broken” jump shot to get him back on balance and knocking down the three ball — he was 4-of-6 from deep Wednesday.
Then again J.R. Smith was 7-of-13, Kyrie Irving 4-of-5, and as a team the Cavaliers knocked down a record 25 threes — while shooting 55.6 percent — as they wiped the floor with the Hawks in Game 2.
In case you’re curious where the Cavs were hitting from, here’s the team’s shot chart.
The Houston Rockets aren’t in any rush to hire a new head coach, preferring to interview a wide range of candidates to find the right one. Jeff Van Gundy has been widely believed to be at the top of their list, now that Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks are off the market, but ESPN.com’s Marc Stein is reporting another name that has entered the mix: Mike D’Antoni, who last held a head coaching job from 2012 to 2014 with the Lakers and currently serves as the Sixers’ lead assistant.
The Pacers, meanwhile, haven’t made a final decision on Frank Vogel’s future with the team, but all signs seem to point to him getting let go in the next few days. And if that happens, Stein reports that Vogel will also be on Houston’s list of candidates.
Given the Rockets’ massive drop-off on the defensive end this season, Vogel would seem to be a better fit than D’Antoni. But it sounds like the Rockets aren’t close to finding a replacement for J.B. Bickerstaff, although it would make sense to have a new coach in place by next month’s draft.
On Monday, the Hawks played the Cavaliers close and even led in the fourth quarter, leading plenty of optimism that Game 2 would be equally competitive, that the Hawks had something to build on.
The Cavs dominated from the start on Wednesday, with a 123-98 final score that was far closer than the game actually was — the Cavs led 74-36 at the half and led by as much as 38 at one point in the second half.
The Cavs also hit 25 three-pointers, which is the all-time record for a single game — regular season or playoffs. J.R. Smith hit seven of them, along with four each from LeBron James and Kyrie Irving and three for Kevin Love.
18 of Cleveland’s threes came in the first half, also a playoff record, and this was all Atlanta could do:
That’s the kind of night it was for the Hawks, who now trail 2-0 in the series as it heads back to Atlanta.
LeBron James has always been an incredible passer. In the midst of the Cavs’ Game 2 beatdown of the Hawks, he zipped this one-handed beauty into the paint to Kyrie Irving, who kicked it out to Kevin Love for a corner three:
The three was just one of the 18 Cleveland hit in the first half, which set an NBA playoff record.