Our grades from around the NBA Thursday night, or what you missed while figuring out how to win at The Price is Right…
Andrea Bargnani, New York Knicks. He’s played a few good games in a row now… I’m still not fully going to buy into him yet but if you want to make the case he’s finding his groove you have a legit argument. Bargnani finished with 24 pints on 9-of-12 shooting plus he played good man defense in the post against Dwight Howard. He’s not getting an A because his help defense was non-existent and that’s one of the reasons the Rockets won, but he played a generally good game.
Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks. It was basically Carmelo Anthony vs. the Rockets — and Anthony almost won. Check out his shot chart from the first half.
Anthony finished with 45 points on 17-of-30 shooting, he had 10 boards, and if you ask me that was a continuation foul with five seconds left (Harden did get an early slap and bump in there but those didn’t strike me as a fouls you call that late in the game, plus you could argue ‘Melo had started his motion). Anthony is going to have to carry this team for a while and this kind of effort would have won most nights.
Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets. He got pushed out of his position and couldn’t get comfortable in the post; he couldn’t get the ball and make plays, while guarded by Andrea Bargnani. The Knicks did throw doubles at him in the first half trying to get the ball out of his hands (which worked but just opened driving lanes) but by the second half Knicks coach Mike Woodson thought just Bargnani would be enough to control the guy thought of as the best center in the game. And it was. Howard can’t disappear like that on offense. His grade bumps up thanks to his 15 rebounds and defensive presence, but we expect more.
Andre Iguodala, Golden State Warriors. Grades can come down to how you did on your finals. How did Iguodala do on his final shot?
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder. Anyone want to tell me again how he is not all the way back? This was his best game since his return, with 31 points hitting 13-of-20 shots, plus 9 rebounds and 5 assists. Plus he almost had a game winner, if Iguodala hadn’t spoiled everything. It’s just good to see Westbrook back and playing like this.
It’s what the playoffs are all about — win or go home Game 7s. Pressure, drama, unlikely stars Sunday is going to have it all. Here are a few things to watch:
1) Can Miami’s jump shooters have another hot game? Dwyane Wade got the headlines (and he earned them) for his Game 6 performance (everyone except purple shirt guy was impressed), but the real key for the Heat to force a Game 7 was they were hitting their jumpers — or at least enough of them. In their three losses, Miami shot 33.7 percent from 3 feet out to the arc, but in Game 6 the Heat shot 43.5 percent in that range, plus knocked down eight threes. The Hornets have packed the paint all series, when the Heat hit their jumpers they win. It’s that simple.
2) Does Kemba Walker have one more big game in him? Walker was fantastic in Game 6 (37 points), and he’s been very good in the Hornets’ victories. He’s going to penetrate and get some shots inside eight feet, but will he be able to finish? And, more importantly, will he hit his threes when they pack the paint on him? If Walker has a huge game, Charlotte very likely moves on.
3) Is Toronto too far into their own head? No team has more pressure on them to advance out of the first round than Toronto after two previous years of getting bounced in the first round, and they will feel that weight at home in Game 7 against Indiana. Will Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan step up with big games in the biggest moments of their careers, or will they succumb to the moment and the Pacers defense? For all the Xs and Os that do matter in this game, how the Raptors handle the pressure will be key.
4) Can the Pacers again get a few quality minutes when Paul George sits? In the Pacers comfortable Game 6 win, George got a rest in the second quarter and the Pacers were +5 while he sat. That was a huge step up from Game 5, where the Pacers were -18 when he was out for less than 7 minutes. If Indiana — by playing some starters such as Myles Turner — doesn’t have a huge bench drop off when George rests a few minutes their odds of winning go way up. We know Paul George can handle the moment.
The second round was supposed to be when things got exciting. Instead, the San Antonio Spurs put on an absolute clinic at home, blowing out the Oklahoma City Thunder, 124-92 to take a 1-0 series lead.
Just about everything went in for San Antonio, particularly for LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard, who combined for 63 points. How dominant were they?
Aldridge in particular got anything he wanted against the Thunder. Oklahoma City’s stars were quiet, with Kevin Durant scoring just 16 points and Russell Westbrook 14. San Antonio controlled the game from the start and Oklahoma City never recovered from the opening punch.
It’s hard to imagine Durant and Westbrook are this ineffective again, and hopefully the rest of this series will be a little more competitive. But the Spurs did what the Spurs do, and did nothing to shake the feeling that they’re the favorites to win the west, now that Stephen Curry‘s status is unknown.
ATLANTA (AP) A year ago, Atlanta’s magical season ended with a resounding sweep by Cleveland in the Eastern Conference final.
Now, the Hawks have another shot at LeBron James and the Cavaliers.
Feeling confident after an opening-round victory over Boston, the Hawks returned to practice Saturday to begin preparations for the best-of-seven series.
Game 1 is Monday night in Cleveland.
The Hawks were the top-seeded team in the East last season after a record 60-win campaign. It didn’t do them much good against the Cavaliers, who steamrolled Atlanta in four straight games.
Even though they slipped to 48 wins and fourth in the conference, the Hawks actually sound a bit more confident heading into this matchup, largely because of their improved defense and rebounding.
For the second consecutive year, the Warriors have lost their lead assistant to another team. When the Pelicans hired Alvin Gentry during last year’s playoffs, Steve Kerr promoted Luke Walton to associate head coach and added former journeyman big man Jarron Collins to the bench. Now that Walton is headed to the Lakers as their next head coach, the Warriors will go outside the organization to find a replacement, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein. And one name that will likely not be in the mix is David Blatt, who very nearly became an assistant under Kerr in 2014 before being offered the Cavaliers’ head job.
Given Walton’s success this season as interim head coach while Kerr recovered from back surgery, this will undoubtedly be the most attractive assistant job in the league.