The Pacers are off to a perfect 7-0 start after Saturday night’s win over the Nets, and the reason for it may have more than a little to do with how things ended for the team last season.
Indiana pushed the eventual champion Heat to seven games in the astern Conference Finals, before ultimately being eliminated on the road in the final game of the series.
The Pacers don’t want to have home court advantage to blame a season later, so the goal from day one has been to make sure to pile up as many wins as possible in order to secure the top seed in the playoffs. And it’s a goal which the team’s players and coaches had no trouble discussing after their latest victory.
From Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com:
“We believe in this locker room that we can get the No. 1 seed and we started the year with that attitude,” said Pacers forward David West after registering 18 points and eight rebounds. “The fact that Game 7 of the conference finals wasn’t in our home building we felt was the difference in a trip to the Finals, and we’re going to do everything in our power to get a Game 7 in our building. And we have to start from the beginning of the season.” …
Continuity and stability have huge value in this league, especially early in the season. When that is in place, a team can start talking about playoff seeds six months before it will really matter.
“If we’re going to have playoff success, having home-court advantage would give us an edge,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “We were 8-1 at home in the playoffs last year. To lose a Game 7 on the road, that’s a tough environment. We’re trying for that No. 1 seed. We’re going for it.”
It seems silly to be focused on the playoffs when the season is just a couple of weeks old, but it’s clear that Indiana has its eyes on the prize, even at this very early stage — and that may be the reason behind their fast start, while certain other teams in the East haven’t seemed as focused.
DeMarcus Cousins had a bitter exit from the Kings, but that won’t be the last they see of him.
Cousins’ Pelicans will host Sacramento tomorrow night.
Not that Cousins rushed to talk about the matchup.
Justin Verrier of ESPN:
Cousins is pretty funny when joking with the media, and his smile is contagious. Just listen to all the laughs Cousins generates as he goes through his shtick.
Bonus points to Cousins for eventually breaking down and providing real answers. Some of his relationships in Sacramento were clearly meaningful to him, and he wanted to acknowledge those — even if he’d prefer just to get past this awkward game and all the talk it invites.
Lauri Markkanen is 7-foot and made 42% of his 3-pointers this season.
That combination alone will have NBA teams drooling, and the Arizona freshman will capitalize.
Evan Daniels of Scout:
Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen is declaring for the NBA Draft and is expected to sign with an agent, multiple sources told Scout.
Markkanen seems pretty certain to get picked in the lottery, likely in the top 10.
Calling him a good shooter for his height undersells him. It’s not just he shoots so efficiently from deep, it’s that he can generate 3-pointers in so many ways — pick-and-pops, spot-ups, off off-ball screens and even running pick-and-rolls himself. Having the height to shoot over defenders is his most noticeable asset, but don’t undersell his mobility.
Markkanen also finishes well at the rim and offensively rebounds at extremely impressive clip for someone who spends so much time on the perimeter. Those interior skills instill belief he will eventually become a suitable defender.
There are a couple red flags. He’s old for a freshman, turning 20 before the draft. He leaves plenty to be desired defensively, especially due to his lack of strength.
But his size and shooting are tantalizing. That’s plenty for now.
Watch for Collin Sexton in the 2018 NBA draft.
In the meantime, the Alabama commit had all eyes — include Dwyane Wade‘s — on him with this pass in the McDonald’s All-American Game last night.
Carmelo Anthony scored just nine points on 12 shots in the Knicks loss to the Heat last night — well below his season averages of 22 points on 19 shots per game.
Anthony, via Ian Begley of ESPN:
“I see the writing on the wall. I see what it is,” Anthony said late Wednesday night. “I see what they’re trying to do, and it’s just me accepting that. That’s what puts me at peace. Just knowing and understanding how things work. I’m at peace with that.”
Is Anthony talking about just the Knicks’ final dozen games of this season, when they’re clearly interesting in testing less-proven players? Or is he referring to his entire tenure in New York?
Anthony has said he’d consider waiving his no-trade clause if the Knicks want to rebuild, and they’ll reportedly try again to trade him this offseason. Perhaps, this is Anthony indicating he’s warming up to the idea of allowing a trade.
Anthony’s and Kristaps Porzingis‘ timelines are barely compatible, if at all. It’d make sense for the Knicks to go in a different direction.
Could Anthony be at peace with that?