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

20 Comments

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.

Magic Johnson: “The only player that we… would probably not move is Brandon Ingram”

Leave a comment

The Lakers’ Brandon Ingram had flashes, but he largely struggled through his rookie season. He averaged 9.4 points per game, shot 40 percent from the floor, he had a true shooting percentage of 47.4 and a PER of 8.5, and he finished with the fifth worst “value over replacement player” number in the NBA. Watch him play, and he looked better than those numbers — he did better with the “eye test” — showing some tenacity, and his offense improved toward the end of the season. Still, his rookie season tempered expectations somewhat.

Except amongst the Lakers’ front office.

They have been high on him all the way through, higher than D'Angelo Russell, and that’s what Lakers president Magic Johnson said on ESPN Radio in Los Angeles.

“I would say probably the only player that we would say, hey, we would probably not move is Brandon Ingram,” Johnson, the Lakers president of basketball operations said Thursday in a radio interview with ESPN Los Angeles. “I think that we’re excited about Brandon, his length, his size, his agility, his athleticism. And then when you think about, you know, he was a baby coming in, in his first year last season and we see that he really has a high ceiling and we’re excited about what he can possibly turn into.”

First off, no this doesn’t mean if the Lakers draft Lonzo Ball No. 2 (as expected) they will look to trade Russell. Expect them to see if those two can play together. It means the Lakers think just one of the guys on the roster is a potential key piece of a contender. Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and on down the line may fit into the rotation, but they are not seen as cornerstone pieces that can’t be moved.

Is Ingram really a cornerstone? The jury is still out, but does anyone feel as confident he will be a star as they did a season ago when he was drafted?

Ingram certainly needs to get stronger, something the team and he have worked on (and will focus on this summer). He also was young coming into the league, and with his style of game it was going to take him a little time to find how he fit in the NBA. He wasn’t going to come in and just overwhelm opponents with athleticism, it was going to be a process for him. Like nearly every rookie, his shooting needs to be more consistent.

The questions are how high is his ceiling, and can the Lakers develop him?

This summer and into next season those will come into focus more, but the early returns don’t have some of us as optimistic as Magic.

Josh McRoberts opting into final year of Heat contract

Rob Foldy/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Heat power forward Josh McRoberts has missed 165 games over the last three years due to injury.

So, the 30-year-old sure isn’t turning down a guaranteed $6,021,175 salary.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald:

Any long shot chance of Josh McRoberts voiding his Heat contract was eliminated Tuesday when agent Mike Conley told The Miami Herald that McRoberts will exercise his opt-in and return to the Heat for $6.021 million next season.

Miami will have major cap space this summer with Chris Bosh coming off the books. At this point, McRoberts’ salary is just an impediment to even more room to add an impact player.

The Heat could again try trading McRoberts, but they’ll likely have to attach a positive asset just to dump him. They could also waive and stretch him.

But if his salary doesn’t come between Miami and a big-time free agent this summer, perhaps McRoberts returns for one last chance at helping the Heat on the floor with his passing and outside shooting.

Mike Brown thinks it’s “cute” Tyronn Lue thinks Celtics’ sets harder to defend than Warriors

Getty Images
3 Comments

Celtics’ coach Brad Steven is already one of the best in the NBA. His out of time out plays are brilliant, and his Boston team’s flow of ball and player movement is among the best in the league.

It’s those things that were giving the Cavaliers trouble in the first half of Game 4 Tuesday, and ultimately prompted this comment from Tyronn Lue.

“We’re just focused on Boston. The stuff they’re running, it’s harder to defend than Golden State’s [offense] for me.”

Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle asked Mike Brown about that.

You can certainly make the case that the Celtics have a wider variety in their offense, and that with Isaiah Thomas out the rather balanced, anyone can score nature of the Celtics is challenging to defend for a team with inconsistent help defense like the Cavaliers.

But Boston is running these sets with Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown and Kelly Olynyk. Golden State will use ball and player movement to create space for Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. Which is to say, Golden State is tougher to defend because the space they need to make you pay is much smaller. And even if you do everything right the Warriors may just score anyway.

I get what Lue was trying to say, but don’t give the Warriors more motivation.

Magic sending Raptors draft pick as compensation for hiring Jeff Weltman

AP Photo/John Raoux
2 Comments

The Raptors promoted Jeff Weltman, still working under Masai Ujiri, to general manager last year.

That paid off for Toronto when the Magic hired Weltman as their new president.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

The Magic have their own and the Lakers’ second-round picks next year. Even the lower of those two selections could be somewhat valuable.

In other words, Weltman’s already-difficult job is getting even harder simply by Orlando hiring him.