Rockets-Thunder Game 2 preview: Houston looks to adjust selfish offense after Oklahoma City rout

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Every higher seed in the NBA playoffs won its first game, but none did so more impressively than the Thunder, who beat the Rockets by 29. One game doesn’t make a postseason, or even a series, but Oklahoma City’s victory is promising.

Last year, the Heat led the playoffs in wins by such a margin. They won the championship.

The year before, the Mavericks led the playoffs in wins by such a margin. They won the championship.

One win doesn’t turn the Thunderinto  favorites to win the title – the Heat still carry that title – but it’s at least encouraging.

James Harden was also, somehow, encouraged by Game 1. The Rockets should also be encouraged they’ve found adjustments to make. Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:

The Rockets probably did not need to spend two days studying video to know what went wrong. They might not have needed Serge Ibaka to describe their offense as “selfish” when the Oklahoma City defenders switched on picks or for Nick Collison to say the Thunder “bigs are going to be helpers a lot in this series.”

One way or another, they got the message.

“If they switch out, we have to make them pay for that,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “We have to get the ball inside. We have to move the ball and cut. To stand against (Ibaka), he’s long enough that he can play one-on-one, space you out and get a hand up. We took way too many contested jump shots off the dribble. That’s not how we want to play.

“We have some adjustments to make. The guys saw some things we did that was out of character for us. We’ll be way better tonight. I’m sure we’ll be better.”

The Rockets’ quality offense vs. the Thunder’s quality defense is an intriguing subplot to this series. But the Thunder’s offense is also good, and the Rockets’ defense is, well, not.

Houston can – and likely will – narrow the gap, but stealing a win will be much more difficult.

Kobe Bryant still has it, bounces shot in from near half court

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This was a Nike gala, an event with a basketball theme. The court was lit up from below, there were tables at half court, and people had drinks in their hands.

Kobe Bryant was there, stylishly dressed in black. So was famous model Winnie Harlow.

Know that regardless of the setting, Kobe still has game.

Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala cleared to play vs. Pelicans Friday

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Without Draymond Green in the fourth quarter Tuesday night in the opener, and with Andre Iguodala out for the game, the Warriors defense fell apart against Houston. The Rockets scored 34 points in the quarter and came from behind to beat a Warriors team that had been in control of the game up to that point. There was more to it than just Green’s balky knee, but without the Defensive Player of the Year they are not the same.

Bad news for the Pelicans: Green and Iguodala have been cleared to play in New Orleans Friday. Green had an MRI and it came back negative.

Green admitted he was concerned that the injury, via Anthony Slater of The Athletic.

Now it is the Pelicans who should be concerned. The Warriors will want to wash the feeling of that opening night loss off them.

Report: Kevin Love was frustrated with move to center

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With Derrick Rose having to start at point guard (until Isiah Thomas returns sometime in early 2018) and Dwyane Wade starting at the two, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue had no choice but to move Kevin Love to starting at center. The Cavaliers desperately need the floor spacing to open up driving lanes and options for LeBron James. Start Tristan Thompson at the five (with Love at the four and Jae Crowder coming off the bench) and it adds another non-shooter to the mix that allows opposing defenses to just pack the paint and force LeBron to be a jump shooter.

That doesn’t mean everyone liked the change.

Love admitted to Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer he was frustrated with the move at first.

“It’s been a little bit of a change for me,” Love admitted. “I still find myself spacing a little bit wanting to roll a little bit more and on the defensive end just playing the primary big on their team the whole time on the defensive end. It’s been a little bit different figuring things out on that end, but it comes with the growth I’m talking about. We need to do that and hopefully be a machine when things start clicking.”

Lue put it this way.

“We’re going to try it out and see how it works. He was frustrated at first, but now he’s enjoying it.”

While in certain matchups, when the opposition has a more traditional center, the Cavs may go back to the Love/Thompson front line for a stretch. But the small ball lineup is the way Cleveland should be leaning, even with its clear defensive deficiencies. We saw that in the opener with Love’s dagger three in the fourth quarter.

Love is adjusting, he’s already sacrificed a lot to play with LeBron. This is just another step in that evolution.

Another wing down? Celtics’ Marcus Smart likely out vs. Sixers

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The horrific, probably season-ending injury to Gordon Hayward has left the Celtics with a shortage of players on the wing.

Going up against Philadelphia Friday night, that might be getting worse, reports A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston.

Looking at the pictures, I doubt Smart plays.

As noted, Smart said he hurt both ankles in the second night of a back-to-back against Milwaukee, the left one in a collision with teammate Jaylen Brown. Smart started that game and played 32 minutes. That’s a lot of time to go to lesser players.

If he’s out Friday, that likely means either Terry Rozier or Abdel Nader get the start, and both are going to see a healthy bump in minutes. Whatever happens, the Celtics would miss Smart in a game where they need to defend Ben Simmons on the wing.