It was still anybody’s game — Atlanta led by 5 with 3:10 left when Josh Smith took a three against the Pacers Monday night and you could hear the entire Phillips Arena do the same thing:
Smith made that shot and that’s what he’ll remember. So he’ll shoot it again and again. And miss the vast majority of them.
After the game Al Horford admitted that the Hawks players shake their heads at Smith’s shot selection sometimes, as reported by Sekou Smith of NBA.com.
“This was definitely one of those ‘ooh, aah’ moments with Josh,” Al Horford said. “He gives you those ‘oohs’ and then those ‘aahs.’ It’s kind of a ‘Yes’ and then ‘No’ thing going on. That’s the way it is. I think [the fans] obviously want Josh to be successful. Everybody loves him here. Sometimes we do question his shot selection. But tonight he hit some big shots down the stretch, made some huge plays for other guys down the stretch and made plays to help us win this game. I know it might drive some people a little crazy. But it works for us and that’s just the way it is.”
It works for them sometimes.
The numbers paint a very clear picture: inside 8 feet this season Smith shot 62.2 percent; from 8 to 16 feet out he hit 23.3 percent; from 16 to 24 feet 32.4 percent. He shot 72 percent at the basket in the restricted area this season and not better than 32 percent in any area outside it. He shot 30.3 percent from three this season but still took 2.6 shots per game from there, a career high.
Smith doesn’t play to his own strengths and it’s frustrating. But the he puts together a string of play like he did at the end of the Hawks win over the Pacers Monday night and you are reminded there are not many players like him out there — 6’9” with athletic gifts that let him run the floor, good court vision and the ability to make plays. He had 29 points and was key to the Hawks tying the series.
But if he wants to take threes, the Pacers will let him do that all night long in Game 5.
Paul George‘s first experience starting as a power forward was going up against Anthony Davis — not just one of the best power forwards in the game, one of the handful of best players in the game period. That didn’t go well for George, and he wasn’t happy about it.
His second experience was in another preseason game Tuesday, going up against the Pistons and their four, Ersan İlyasova. He’s not quite as intimidating.
George scored 20 points on 7-of-8 shooting, 4-of-5 on threes — and that was just the first quarter (you can see it all in the video above).
As we have said before, George at the four is not a bad call by the Pacers, but some of that depends on the matchup. On the nights the Pacers face Davis or Blake Griffin or LaMarcus Aldridge or Zach Randolph (or a handful of others) the Pacers’ coaching staff is going to have to adjust. But there are a lot of nights where George at the four is going to force the other team to adjust, and that will play into the Pacers’ hands.
Last season, DeMarcus Cousins received zero MVP votes (the same as every year of his career). Even though he averaged 24.1 points, and 12.7 rebounds a game, which was enough to get him his first All-Star berth, MVP is another thing entirely. Only players on winning teams tend to draw the attention of MVP voters.
This season, can Cousins — arguably the best center in the game — get in the conversation?
He thinks it’s more than just that, he told Kevin Ding at Bleacher Report.
The topic is the 2015-16 NBA MVP award and whether it could be reachable for DeMarcus Cousins.
“Reachable, man?” Cousins told Bleacher Report, his voice rising high. “It’s mine to grab.”
As noted above, the only way Cousins gets into the conversation — fair or not — is if the Kings are in the playoffs (at the very least). He understands that.
“It’s going to take a full team effort,” Cousins said. “I’ll try to play at a high level and bring my team along with me.”
Vlade Divac built a Kings’ team designed to start winning now — as you would expect from a team a year away from moving into a new arena they need to fill. Owner Vivek Ranadive is not about selling hope anymore, he wants to sell wins.
I think Cousins can help provide that.
I’m less sold on the cast around him being able to help.