Monday Summer League Notes: Another rough night for Ben McLemore

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LAS VEGAS — There is a whole lot going on in Las Vegas… and we’re not just talking about the TAO nightclub. It’s Summer League and here is stuff from my notebook today (well, if I had a notebook, more stuff from my MacBook Air really)….

• The scouting report is out — Golden State overplayed Sacramento Kings rookie Ben McLemore’s right hand, shifted their defense on him and dared him to try and go left. He didn’t, even when he went left he tried to pull it back and move right to get his shot. The result was a 4-of-12 shooting night for the No. 7 pick.

“I don’t feel like they were,” McLemore said of the effort to push him left. “They was just trying to stop me from shooting. That’s what most teams going to do, so when I see that I’m going to drive to the hole, get into the lane, get to the line.”

When McLemore tried to drive the need to improve his handles showed — he lost the ball a couple times, once getting away with a carry before he was stripped in the pant. But Warriors coach Mike Malone wants him to keep driving.

“That was one of the things they said about him coming out of Kansas, that right now he’s a straight-line driver but he doesn’t have the great ability to break his man down off the dribble so along with his shot selection we’re going to work on his handle,” Malone said….

“He has to realize… that if your jump shot’s not going sometimes drive the ball, get to the foul line, get an easy one, see that ball go through the net and that will help you out for your next one.”

• Shabazz Muhammad is not shy on the court — he wants the rock every time down, his hands are up constantly asking for the ball. He’s got a scorer’s mentality and he works really hard off the ball to get open — these are good things. Clearly someone on the Minnesota staff talked to him about passing more so he was trying hard to show he can dish, which led to a few forced attempts, but he was trying.

• Andrew Goudelock had another big scoring night for the Bulls — 31 points on 10-of-13 shooting, 5-of-6 from three. He was made for Summer League.

• Otto Porter was held out of the Wizards practice and scrimmage against the Raptors with a tight hamstring. Nothing serious, but the Wizards are not taking any precautions.

Cassell said he is going to continue to experiment with Porter in the rotation in Summer League, because they are trying to see what kind of player they really have.

“(Tuesday) I might play him at the point some,” Cassell said, and nobody is sure if he is joking or not. “I’m telling you we just want to see, we want to see what he can do, see what he brings to our ball club. I tried him at the four a little bit the other day, I might play him at the four (Tuesday). We got to see what he can do and what he can’t do.”

• It was nice to see Robbie Hummel’s play well — 16 points on 6-for-8 shooting. The Timberwolves have his rights and he’s playing for them in Vegas (he was in Europe last season). He has bounced back from three major knee surgeries and looks like he could be a rotation player. He plays hard, knocks down looks and stays within himself.

• One guy turning a few heads is Wizards point guard Marquez Haynes, who played in Germany last year. He’s played well and a few teams are interested in at least inviting him to training camp.

• The Lakers look like a D’Antoni team even in Summer League — Robert Sacre in the paint and four shooters to space the floor around him. By the way, Sacre is the only guy on this Lakers SL team that will be on the team this fall (they picked up his option for next season).

• Gorgui Deng could lead the league in per minute foul rate next season. He’s a foul sponge.

• Here is Wizards Summer League coach Sam Cassell talking about Jan Vesely through a couple games (and some practices):

“Vesely can play the four or the five. I think he’s been solid but I’m expecting more…. His offense is getting a little bit better, but unfortunately you’ve got to play both ends of the court. He’s got to make the adjustments. He ain’t playing bad, but being his third year he’s got to play better. I’m expecting a little bit more.”

• Kendall Marshall struggled in the first half but during the Suns’ second half comeback he played solid ball. That’s an improvement from last season. Which should help his trade value.

• Also for the Suns, both Morris twins got a technical in the same game Monday. Their mother must be proud.

• Timberwolves Summer Leaguer Luke Sikma is a dead ringer for his father.

Hawks battle back to knot series with Wizards, 2-2

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Paul Millsap shoved Markieff Morris out of the way, grabbed an offensive rebound in the middle of the paint and pushed through a shot while Marcin Gortat bumped him to the floor.

The Wizards knocked down Atlanta. They didn’t stop the Hawks.

Millsap and Atlanta showed plenty of fight, topping Washington 111-101 in Game 4 Monday to tie their first-round series 2-2 after falling behind 2-0.

Have the Hawks seized meaningful momentum? History says no.

Teams that have won the first two games of a best-of-seven series at home then lost the next two on the road have won 81% of the time. The Wizards’ regular-season superiority still speaks loudly, and up to two more home games – starting with Game  5 Wednesday – also help.

Still, credit Atlanta for making the series competitive after digging such a big hole.

Millsap (19 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and two steals) soundly outplayed Markieff Morris (nine points on 3-of-10 shooting, -10) in the latest round of their personal feud. Millsap also got plenty of help with seven Hawks scoring double digits.

Kent Bazemore (16 points, seven assists and three steals) played meaningful defense and hit a couple big shots. Jose Calderon (10 points, five assists, +29 in 20 minutes) provided a huge spark. Dwight Howard (16 points and 15 rebounds) asserted himself for the first time this series. Taurean Prince (11 points on 5-of-7 shooting) picked his spots well. Dennis Schroder (18 points on 6-of-15 shooting) had his ups and downs. Tim Hardaway Jr. (15 points) at least offset some of his defensive shortcomings.

This was a total team win.

Washington, on the other hand, got little outside its starting backcourt. Bradley Beal (32 points) thrived, and John Wall (22 points and 10 assists) was still good in an off-by-his-standards performance. But the Wizards crumbled when either sat – especially with both on the bench in the late third/early fourth quarters. Erasing those few minutes with staggering would’ve helped, though it wouldn’t have been the answer tonight.

This has become a far less certain series than Washington hoped, but the Wizards don’t need a wild fix. They just need their top players to play better. Maybe going home will help.

Raptors break out best game of postseason, rout Bucks 118-93 to take 3-2 series lead

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Norman Powell was draining threes, throwing down dunks that would have won the contest All-Star weekend, and he finished with a career playoff-high 25 points on just 11 shots. Plus defensively he caused Khris Middleton trouble.

The Raptors finished with 28 assists, the most in a playoff game since Dwane Casey took over as coach.

Toronto shot 57.7 percent overall, a franchise playoff best.

The Raptors bench played well pitching in 27 points and growing the lead when they were in, part of an overall strong night from the role players in Toronto.

Combine that all with the expected good nights from Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan and you get the Raptors best game of the playoffs. It looked like a different team than the one in Milwaukee.

Toronto raced out to an early lead and went on to rout the Bucks 118-93, giving the Raptors a 3-2 series lead.

This was a game where the Bucks tried to force the ball out of the hands of Lowry and DeRozan as much as they could, using their length and athleticism. However, Lowry had 10 assists, and DeRozan would get the ball off pindown screens and feel the double coming, move the ball, and another quick pass or two later the role-playing player Raptors were getting good looks and knocking them down. Or throwing it down like this.

Or this.

Toronto just looked more comfortable against the Bucks pressure, having seen it for so many games in a row, than they have all series.

Powell had 25 points for Toronto, Serge Ibaka had 19 and three blocks, Lowry had 16 points and 10 assists, DeRozan had 18 points and six assists, even DeMarre Carroll had 12 points on six shots.

The question for the young Bucks team is how does it bounce back from this kind of loss in the biggest NBA game most of them have ever played? Can they get their defensive edge back?

“We’re going to miss some shots, and we can’t let our offense dictate our defense,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said postgame. “And also the turnovers, again. Right off the bat we had three…

“Our defense kind of got hit there in the first quarter, we knew that they were going to come after us, we had to expect that. And we just couldn’t respond.”

The Bucks had some runs in the second quarter and got the lead to nine at one point, but the Raptors always seemed to be in control.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had another strong game with 30 points on 12-of-19 shooting, and rookie Malcolm Brogdon pitched in 19 points on 11 shots, but for the most part the Bucks struggled with their offense in this game. As their coach noted — and as often happens to young teams — they let their offensive woes impact the other end of the court.

At home, the Bucks will likely feel more comfortable, and they will fight for their playoff lives.

The question is, can the Raptors be this sharp again and close them out? Or will the yo-yo nature of this team continue?

 

Kevin Durant will play in Game 4 for Warriors vs. Trail Blazers

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In case you were curious how serious Golden State was about closing out Portland in four…

After missing the last two games with a strained calf, both Warriors wins to put them up 3-0 in the series, the Warriors are bringing back Kevin Durant for Game 4.

Steve Kerr is also out tonight for Golden State, Mike Brown will coach the team.

There was buzz that Durant could have gone in Game 3 if needed, but the Warriors felt confident they would win without him and they don’t want this injury to linger. There’s no more holding him back now.

Durant averaged 25.1 points a game, and thanks to the space created by the other stars on the team had his most efficient season, with a true shooting percentage of 65.1. He also pulled down 8.3 rebounds a game, dished 4.9 assists, and had his best defensive season in a long time as well. If not for an injury after the All-Star break that had him missing games, he would have made a lot of voters’ All-NBA team.

He adds to Golden State’s size advantage against Portland. The Warriors would like to close out the series tonight and get additional rest before facing the Clippers or Jazz in the next round.

Serge Ibaka is dunking and Giannis Antetokounmpo isn’t going to stop him. Twice. (VIDEO)

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The Toronto Raptors had their best half of their first-round series against the Bucks, taking an early lead and, despite a little shooting slump midway through the second they were up nine at the half.

That was all topped off by two emphatic Serge Ibaka dunks. Ones Giannis Antetokounmpo wasn’t going to stop.

Ibaka dunked around him more than over the Greek Freak, but still.