2013 adidas Eurocamp: Day 2 recap

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TREVISO, Italy — The camp’s second day was lighter on the competition for the older, draft eligible international prospects, and was focused instead on drills, coaching, and showcasing the younger teams in attendance.

There was only one game featuring the event’s main attractions, and it was used by two Brazilian players to dominate the action.

Point guard Raul Neto and big man Augusto Lima (pictured) each put in 14 points to lead an All-Star team in a blowout of the under-19 Serbian team. Neto did his damage as more of a scorer than a distributor, but it’s easy to see why he is a prospect teams will be keeping an eye on over the next year or two. His ability to create his own shot is to be valued, and he is able to cause havoc on the defensive end of the floor, as well.

Lima was especially dominant on Day 2, after a less than inspired performance the first day.

“I like to compare myself to Anderson Varejao,” Lima told me. “A lot of guys say that about me when we played together on the national team. I think in the future I’ll be able to be even more like him. I try to have more activity than him, but you know. He plays really hard. When I play with him on the international team I try to be like him, but he has much more experience so I’m not there yet.”

Lima, 22, also said this might be his last, best opportunity to show scouts what he can do for them at the NBA level, and he seemed to realize it against the under-developed Serbian team on this second day. He played with that Varejao-like intensity for most of the game, hustling for position inside and dunking the ball four times. He was playing with passion which always is nice to see, and seemed to be enjoying himself out there — even when hacked so hard that he fell awkwardly to the ground without a call from the nearby referee, he sat up with a big smile for a few moments and shared a look with the NBA executives who were sitting courtside along the baseline.

adidas Eurocamp Game #2 adidas ALL-Star vs SERBIA U19 (Day 2)

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Nemanja Nedovic is a strong, athletic point guard from Serbia who was one of the remaining players at Eurocamp that teams were most interested in getting a look at. But after suffering an ankle sprain, he won’t be participating in any more activities. Nedovic looked sharp on the camp’s first day, however, and is projected as a second round pick this year. He will likely work out with teams in the states in the next couple of weeks.

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Timberwolves executive and veteran NBA head coach Flip Saunders was the guest speaker of the day, and put on a detailed clinic that showed players some ball handling and shooting drills, as well as some fundamentals and tricks of playing in the post at the professional level.

Saunders was energetic and engaging, and the players seemed to respond well to his teachings. He got some assistance from both Omri Casspi and Kenneth Faried during his talk, which certainly didn’t hurt his credibility in the eyes of the young international players.

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Serge Ibaka was the third NBA player that adidas had in attendance on Day 2, and discussed the past and the future of his Oklahoma City Thunder team. He said he doesn’t know whether or not the team will retain Kevin Martin in free agency, and discussed how hard it was to end the season shorter than expected after losing Russell Westbrook to injury in the early stages of the playoffs.

“I mean, it was hard,” Ibaka said. “It was tough for us. To lose a player like Russell … he’s your point guard. But it’s no excuse, though. I will not give an excuse for us. It was hard for us, but we tried the best we [could]. It didn’t work, so now the good thing about it is we have all summer to get better and to be ready for next year.”

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It was a rough season for Casspi last year, averaging career lows in all relevant statistical categories, including minutes played. He enters this summer as a restricted free agent, but isn’t yet sure what the Cavaliers are planning to do in terms of making a qualifying offer in order to have the right to match any contract he may receive from another team.

“I just want to be in the right situation, play for the right team, and win — you know, compete for something,” Casspi said. “I’ve been in the league four years now and never competed really in the playoffs, or been part of a winning organization. It’s a big key choosing my next team.”

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A few more notes:

– Kenneth Faried spoke at length about the changes in Denver, and the Nuggets’ earlier than expected first round playoff exit.

– Complete BAM testing results and measurements for all of the camp’s players can be seen here.

– The USA Select team of high school players was once again overmatched, this time getting blown out by the under-20 team from France. Devin Robinson, a 6’8″ forward from Christchurch in Virginia, was the star for the USA team in this one, and did a good job using his length and showcasing his athleticism to make himself a factor on both ends of the floor.

adidas Eurocamp Game #1 FRANCE U-20 vs adidas USA Select (Day 2)

– The camp’s final day features three games in the afternoon session where NBA general managers will get a good last look at the remaining international players in attendance.

Jazz shut off Thunder in feisty Game 4 win

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Jae Crowder threw an ejection-drawing elbow, and teammate Donovan Mitchell couldn’t contain his grin as he pulled Crowder from the scuffle.

Steven Adams took the elbow in the face, and he didn’t even flinch.

Both the Jazz and Thunder showed their competitiveness in Utah’s chippy 113-96 Game 4 win Monday. The difference: The Jazz delivered the blow. Oklahoma City took it.

Utah has won three straight to take a 3-1 lead in the first-round series. Teams without home-court advantage up 3-1 in a best-of-seven series have won it 89% of the time. Still, those leading teams lose Game 5 on the road 74% of the time. Game 5 of this series is Wednesday in Oklahoma City.

In other words: The Jazz have seized control of the series. They probably won’t close it out in Game 5 – though the way they’re playing, the certainly could.

Mitchell scored 33 points tonight, the first 30-point playoff game by a rookie since Brandon Jennings in 2010 (34 points). Mitchell has already scored 110 points this postseason, the most by a rookie since Harrison Barnes in 2013 (193 points). With Utah increasingly likely to advance, Mitchell has a chance to catch Dwyane Wade (234 points in 2004).

“He’s playing amazing,” Ricky Rubio said of Mitchell. “He doesn’t seem a rookie at all.”

Rubio, the star of Game 3, happily deferred to Mitchell tonight. Russell Westbrook‘s guarantee to shut down Rubio meant little, as Rubio set the tone as a passer. His eight assists don’t do him justice, as he made key passes that led to fouls drawn and other advantage situations for his teammates.

“We play as a team,” Rubio said.

Westbrook, on the other hand, looked out of control. He committed four first-half fouls, and though calls were questions, he also committed five turnovers and shot just 7-for-18. The question isn’t whether Westbrook was reckless. He was. The only debate is just how reckless.

Westbrook’s fervor hardly stood out. In addition to Crowder’s ejection, the game featured six other technical fouls – on Paul George, Quin Snyder, Steven Adams, Joe Ingles, Rudy Gobert and Raymond Felton. And there was even more trash-talking and physicality than whistled.

There just wasn’t nearly enough sustained production from the Thunder.

George (32 points on 9-of-21 shooting with six turnovers) had moments but was far too sloppy. Oklahoma City’s big three shot dreadfully from beyond the arc – Carmelo Anthony (0-for-6), Westbrook (0-for-3) and George (2-for-9).

Utah led by double digits the final 23 minutes. Joe Ingles made as many 3-pointers (5-for-11) as the Thunder combined (5-for-26).

Ingles is an excellent shooter, but the Jazz’s offense hummed and got him open looks. His outside shots are a bellwether – of a Utah team cruising.

Mitt Romney taunts Russell Westbrook after fourth foul

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It’s been a glorious night for Utah Jazz fans.

In Game 4 the Jazz have taken care of the big three of the Thunder in what has been a very physical, chippy game (Jae Crowder even got ejected). Between their team going on big runs and the physical play of the game, the Utah crowd — one already with a reputation for verbal hostility toward opponents — has savored every second of it.

That includes former Massachusetts Governor, presidential candidate, and current Utah Senate candidate Mitt Romney, who reminded Russell Westbrook exactly how many fouls he picked up.

Twitter – which has its own reputation for verbal hostility — was not kind to Romney after this. Of course, he earned it with that outfit.

MVP James Harden, dominant Rockets show up in second half, crush Timberwolves

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We had to wait three-and-a-half games for it.

We had seen James Harden play like an MVP all season. We had seen the Rockets bury threes at a record rate all season. We had seen Houston’s switching defense impress all season (sixth best in the NBA). We had seen Houston rack up 65 wins and make it look easy.

Then we got to the playoffs and the Rockets couldn’t put it all together at once. Harden struggled after Game 1, including going 0-of-7 in the first quarter Monday night. The defense was inconsistent and the threes were not falling. All of it let the Timberwolves hang around in the series — down 2-1 — and the same in Game 4, down just a point at halftime.

Then the Harden and Rockets we all expected showed up.

Houston put up 50 points in the third quarter alone, shooting 61 percent overall and 9-of-13 from three, plus they got to the line 13 times and made every shot. The Rockets opened the second half on an 11-0 run that extended all the way to 25-4, with almost all of the damage from Harden, who had 22 in the quarter.

The Rockets pulled away and cruised from there to an easy 119-100 win.

“We hit the switch, the switch we’ve been trying to hit since the beginning of the playoffs on both ends of the floor,” Harden said postgame. “It’s pretty scary what we’re capable of when defensively we’re locked in like that, and offensively we got rolling.”

Houston now leads the series 3-1 and can close it out at home in Game 5 Wednesday night.

In the first half this looked nothing like something that would end with a comfortable Rockets win. Houston struggled at the start of Game 4, opening 0-of-5 in the paint, including Harden missing an open layup. As a team, the Rockets started the game 4-of-16 from three, and a lot of those were uncontested looks. The Rockets play a lot of isolation, but even for them the ball seemed to stick in the first half. If not for Trevor Ariza knocking down three from beyond the arc, the Timberwolves might have been able to pull away.

The fact they didn’t was a blown opportunity for the Timberwolves, something they just can’t do in this series. It was a one-point Rockets lead, 50-49, at the half.

Minnesota had some moments on offense in the game, usually when attacking quickly off the Rockets switch. Derrick Rose had some moments and finished the game with 17 points. Karl-Anthony Towns had 22 points and 15 rebounds, Jimmy Butler had 19 points on 17 shots.

But that was no match for the Rockets when they flipped the switch.

It was a barrage of threes that we have waited for all season, and it all started with Harden and Chris Paul, they had all of the first 15 points of the second half for Houston. Harden finished with 36 points and hit 5-of-11 from three. CP3 had 25 points and six assists, Eric Gordon finally woke up in this series with 18, and Ariza finished with 15.

Minnesota is a talented team, but they are learning fast what a contender can do — even not at their peak the Rockets had taken two of the first three in the series, and when they did flip the switch it was another level. A level the Timberwolves want to get to, there are just some rough lessons along the road to getting there.

James Harden puts on show to start second half vs. Timberwolves

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James Harden started Game 4 0-of-7 from the floor, including missing a lay-up. It was an extension of Game 3, and it let the Timberwolves hang around for a half despite their own offensive woes.

Then in the second half the MVP Harden showed up.

Houston started the second half on an 11-0 run that extended all the way to 25-4, and a lot of it was Harden (with a little help from Chris Paul). Harden had 22 points in the third (with 4:30 left in the quarter). After a couple rough games the Timberwolves were going under the pick when Harden had the ball, and suddenly he made them pay.

Or, he was just stepping back.

With all the buckets the Rockets turned a close game into a 25 point lead.