Spurs don’t need to adjust as much as you think for Game 3

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It wasn’t so much the plan as the execution of it.

Despite what the final score suggests, San Antonio did a number of things right in Game 2. They once again made things difficult for LeBron James — through two games he is averaging 17.5 points on 42.4 percent shooting. He started Sunday night 2-of-12 shooting. Yes, he’s getting boards and dishing out assists and blocking Tiago Splitter at the rim, but he is not dominating games like he is capable.

The Spurs also did a good job for most of the first seven quarters of this series taking away the transition baskets that fuel the massive Heat runs that no team can match. San Antonio has made a point of getting back and clogging the lane.

What failed the Spurs in Game 2 not design but the execution of the plan. They had 17 turnovers, and while the Heat cranked up their defensive pressure a lot of those were just bad passes and decisions by the Spurs. The kind they don’t normally make. When was the last time you saw Tim Duncan pass the ball into the first row? Don’t expect those same mental mistakes in Game 3.

Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili combined to shoot 10-of-33 on the night. Duncan and Parker can be expected to have better games going forward (Manu, we’re not so sold).

If the Spurs get back to executing like they know how, they will be right in Game 3. They are not going to change their defense much because they shouldn’t — you contain LeBron and make the other guys beat you. Tuesday night they did.

But there are a couple other things they need to get back to doing.

One key is they have to get back to attacking in the middle of the court. Tony Parker attacking from the top of the key and getting into the paint will break down any defense, including the Heat. But not only did Miami crank up its pressure it worked hard at controlling the middle of the court and pushing the Spurs wide. Chris Andersen was particularly good at blowing up Spurs plays. That pressure led to Danny Green threes but not enough points in the paint. San Antonio has to take back the middle of the court.

Another, they have to figure out the LeBron/Chalmers pick and roll. Miami did a good job of starting it’s pick-and-roll lower — below the free throw line if possible, often more in the elbow area — and that plus an attacking Mario Chalmers forced the Spurs to make quicker help decisions and the result was lanes to attack or passing lanes to Mike Miller and Ray Allen at the arc.

Miami is still going to get its points — this was the best offense in the NBA this past season. That LeBron guy is still pretty good. But if the Spurs take care of the ball then make a few more shots they can squelch those Heat runs and stay right in the game.

That’s what we should expect in Game 3.

Kevin Garnett: Thon Maker “is going to be the MVP of the league one day. Mark it down.”

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Not to get to inside baseball on NBA journalism, but one fundamental truth is player trainers pump up their guys. There usually is some truth in what they say, but it is in their interest to spin the player the best way possible. On and off the record it happens. It’s like asking a political campaign manager about his candidate, you will only get the positive.

Kevin Garnett worked out and helped the Bucks’ Thon Maker this summer.

In just his second season, Thon Maker has been in and out of the starting lineup for the Bucks at center, and he’s struggled this season with a true shooting percentage of 48 getting him 4.5 points a game, and PER of 9.3. (Bucks fans are understandably disappointed, but this is a second-year player, some patience is required).

Garnett had Makers’ back in a Q&A with Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Abrams.

Thon Maker reminds me a lot of myself. He loves the game. He’s a young, exuberant athlete who has a lot of tools—he has touch; he has agility; he has really, good feet. He has a really good shot from three-point all the way up to 19 to 21 feet. He has very good bones, as we say.

Thon is going to be the MVP of the league one day. Mark it down. He has the bones. He has the appetite to be able to chase something like that.”

Garnett may have the wrong young-stud Buck with an MVP in his future.

Maker has gotten KG comparisons for years, he’s a very mobile and athletic but thin big who can shoot from the wing… but the physical similarities are not enough. Maker is no KG. Not yet. Maker showed promise against the Raptors last playoffs but has not taken a step forward off that progress this season, looking far more prone to fouling than defending. The effort is there, but the maturity of game has a long way to go to catch up.

Garnett is right that Maker has the tools, and he is just in his second NBA season so patience is required, but there were concerns around the league before the draft if he had the makeup to put it all together and become a quality NBA player. That question is still out there, let’s get past it before we heap on accolades.

LeBron James all good with Reggie Jackson’s free throw gamesmanship, “I’ve done it before”

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Let’s set the stage: Sunday night, the fast-rising Pistons led the fast-rising Timberwolves by three with  6.2 seconds left when Jimmy Butler drew a foul on a 3-pointer. Butler drained the first two free throws. Before the third, Reggie Jackson interrupted to talk to Stanley Johnson, who was in rebounding position. Butler missed the free throw, and Detroit held on to win 100-97. Here’s the play in question.

It was a bit of gamesmanship by Jackson.

LeBron James was asked about the move at Cavaliers shootaround and endorsed it with a smile on his face.

“I’ve done it before. I won a playoff series before doing that actually. So, I’m all for it.”

That series was in 2007, overtime of game 6 of a first-round playoff series against Washington, and the victim was the Hibachi, Gilbert Arenas. The Cavaliers were down 1, Arenas had two free throws, missed the first, then LeBron stepped in. Arenas missed the second, and the Cavs went on to get the win.

Is interrupting free throws about to become an NBA thing? If it works, players will do it.

Warriors pose for photos with Jahlil Okafor’s dad’s ‘FREE JAH’ shirt

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Jahlil Okafor‘s father has not been shy about speaking out on his son’s behalf. NBA players are advocating for the 76ers to grant Okafor, who’s out of the rotation and on an expiring contract, his desired trade or buyout.

When both join forces…

Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Stephen Curry appear to really enjoy Chukwudi Okafor’s shirt. That doesn’t mean they’re necessarily calling on Philadelphia to do anything. But they hadn’t to know how it’d be perceived.

It’s easy to predict free agents will avoid the 76ers as a result of the Okafor situation, but few anticipate getting stuck similarly. Players overwhelmingly value money, winning, role and location. If Golden State’s stars are applying any external pressure, it shouldn’t really move Philadelphia more than anything that has already been said and done.

A couple of Lonzo Ball’s triple-double assists look dubious (video)

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Lonzo Ball draws outsized attention because his father, LaVar Ball, lures onlookers and because the rookie plays for the high-profile Los Angeles Lakers.

So, when Lonzo gets a triple-double – like his 11-points, 16-rebound, 11-assists game against the Nuggets yesterday – it draws scrutiny.

Mo Dakhil of The Jump Ball:

The NBA defines an assist as a “pass that directly leads to a basket. … An assist can be awarded for a basket scored after the ball has been dribbled if the player’s pass led to the field goal being made.”

I wouldn’t describe either of those passing as leading directly to a basket. Ball’s teammates each hold the ball for a moment after receiving the pass then take two dribbles against set defenses.

But assists are subjective, and the Lakers aren’t alone in offering a home-court scorekeeping advantage.

Kyle Neubeck of Philly Voice

So, criticize/laugh at the Lakers. But your favorite team probably manipulates assists in its favor, too.