Atlanta Hawks head coach Drew talks to players at timeout during NBA first round playoff basketball game against Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis

Hawks need to match Pacers physicality, get out and run in Game 2

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This series is better than you think it is.

Which judging by the Internet buzz isn’t saying much. You all think this is vanilla ice cream in a cup. And not the good stuff, you think this is ice milk.

This series is more entertaining than that. The Pacers with Paul George and David West are more than just defense — oh, make no mistake, the Pacers want some 1990s throwback physicality if they can get away with it. But they can play, too. The Hawks have the talent to match that in Josh Smith (who will play on his tweaked ankle), Al Horford and occasionally Jeff Teague.

The Hawks got their way in Game 1 — it was physical, they punched the Hawks on the nose and the Hawks retreated.

The Atlanta Hawks can win Game 2 of this series. They can make this a series. But they are going to have to do three things.

1) Match the Pacers physical play. Atlanta needs to show the toughness it should have on this roster — Ivan Johnson, DeShawn Stevenson — and stand toe-to-toe with the Pacers. Because you know Game 2 is going to feel a lot like Game 1 and Hawks coach Larry Drew admitted his team got manhandled in Game 1.

2) Stop shooting themselves in the foot. Play your best players. If Al Horford picks up a couple quick fouls again KEEP PLAYING HIM. I’m talking to you, Larry Drew. As was well explained at Peachtree Hoops, you yanked him after in the first half with two fouls in Game 1 and never got back into the flow. Horford is not a foul sponge, the guy is not going to keep fouling, and he’s your best player. So play him.

3) Get out and run on the fast break. Every team in the NBA — Miami, OKC, everyone — is going to struggle to score on the Pacers if you let them come down, put Roy Hibbert in the middle and set their defense. Teague can be good in the open court, Smith knows how to run, as do a lot of the Hawks. Get your looks before the defense sets.

For the Pacers, just do more of the same. More Paul George — he had a triple-double and led you to 109 points in Game 1. You know if the Pacers reach triple digits the Hawks are in trouble. Most of all, be physical until the Hawks show they can handle it. Then be more physical.

Do that, and this game will not be boring.

Lou Williams hits halfcourt buzzer-beater (video)

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Yeah, the Lakers lost to the Rockets, 134-95, Wednesday. But consider how lopsided that margin would’ve been without Lou Williams‘ halfcourt buzzer-beater.

And if this headline looks familiar, it is.

LeBron James, Cavaliers do water-bottle challenge on bench during blowout win over Knicks (video)

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, left, and Cavaliers forward Richard Jefferson entertain themselves by flipping a water bottle trying to get it to land on it's flat bottom during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden in New York, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016. The Cavaliers defeated the Knicks 126-94, and most starters left the game for the bench at the end of the fourth quarter. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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LeBron James did his part – scoring 25 points (on just 10 shots!), dishing seven assists and grabbing six rebounds – to give the Cavaliers an insurmountable lead over the Knicks through three quarters. So, he didn’t even play in the fourth quarter.

As Cleveland put the finishing touches on its 126-94 win, boredom set it. LeBron and a few of his teammates tried to flip a water bottle and have it land upright on the floor. LeBron even dove onto the court to pull the bottle back in after an errant flip!

No, Phil Jackson should not have used the word “posse” to describe LeBron’s business associates and friends. But this is the most disrespectful thing I’ve ever seen – and I love it.

DeMarcus Cousins says Mavericks’ rumored interest flatters him, but he loves Kings

Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) receives a blow to the head from Dallas Mavericks' Dwight Powell as Cousins works to get to the basket in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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The Mavericks’ long-rumored interest in DeMarcus Cousins took its most direct public turn before the season, when Dallas signed Cousins’ brother, Jaleel Cousins. Jaleel is now on the Mavericks’ D-League affiliate, and I bet he will remain there as DeMarcus approaches 2018 free agency.

Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News:

So, DeMarcus Cousins, what do you think about the Mavericks’ long-rumored interest in acquiring you?

“It’s flattering,” Cousins told me, with a laugh, after the Kings’ Wednesday shootaround at AAC. Then, turning serious, he added of the Mavericks, “I respect them.”

“But,” I said, “I’ve also heard that you like it in Sacramento.”

“No,” Cousins corrected, “I love Sacramento.”

Cousins is getting good at this, toeing the line between appreciating another team’s interest and expressing his satisfaction with the Kings.

And give Cousins credit. He keeps producing at a star level for a team that hasn’t provided him with the proper support. Sacramento again appears headed toward the lottery, even as Cousins averages 29-10.

Questions remain, though: How much of Cousins’ attitude is him trying to make the best of an inescapable situation, and will expanded options in the summer of 2018 test his loyalty?

LeBron James dunks, struts past camerapeople and toward crowd, spooks fan (video)

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LeBron James is dominating, and the Cavaliers are rolling over the Knicks.

It’s almost as if something has LeBron particularly riled up. But maybe ease up a little? That cowering fan isn’t Phil Jackson.