Toronto Raptors v Houston Rockets

The Extra Pass: Gay, Wallace and D-Will on notice, plus Tuesday’s recaps

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It’s early. Early, early, early. I don’t want to condemn anyone based on ten games, but it’s time to wonder what’s going on with Rudy Gay, Gerald Wallace and Deron Williams.

Rudy Gay – He’s been chucking, but his chucking has now reached historic levels.

Through 11 games, Gay has shot under 40 percent from the field on 20 attempts per game while averaging less than two assists a night. In the shot clock era, he’s the only player to ever do that.

There have been a lot of inefficient, high volume scorers in the history of the league, but Gay is on pace to make those guys look unselfish in comparison. Pass the ball, Rudy.

Gerald Wallace – Wallace has the yips. Much like a player who suddenly can’t throw to first base, he’s completely in his own head. You can hide a little better on the court than on the diamond, but it’s still pretty apparent that something is up.

Wallace’s struggles shooting the ball began when he was traded to the Nets, and he’s deteriorated offensively ever since. Wallace has flat out stopped shooting altogether this year, as he’s averaging just 5.2 shots per 36 minutes. That’s less than half the attempts he’s averaged on his career.

In 309 minutes this year, Wallace hasn’t attempted a single shot that wasn’t at the rim or a three-pointer. Not a one. From the free throw line, he’s a dreadful 5-for-17.

Wallace has been incredibly outspoken about Boston’s poor play this year, citing selfish play as the root of the problem. Is Wallace making a point with his decision not to shoot, or is he searching for a way to justify his fear of shooting?

Deron Williams – While I’m playing armchair psychologist, I may as well try to tackle Williams’ early season struggles. Injuries have taken their toll once again, but doesn’t this feel like a familiar song at this point?

Here are Williams’ averages in the first month of each season over the last four years:

2013-14: 8 games, 25.4 minutes, 10 points, 41.9 field goal percentage, 50.5 true shooting percentage.

2012-13: 15 games, 35.6 minutes, 15.7 points, .38.8 field goal percentage, 51 true shooting percentage.

2011-12: 4 games, 32.7 minutes, 16.5 points, 34.9 field goal percentage, 46.8 true shooting percentage.

2010-11: 3 games, 34.7 minutes, 15.3 points, 35.3 field goal percentage, 53.7 true shooting percentage.

Point being, Williams is a notorious slow starter. It’s hard to find reasons to be optimistic about Brooklyn’s chances right now, but if history is any indicator, Williams should be heating up soon.

Help is on the way for Brooklyn, even if Williams’ habit of using the first ten games of the year as his own personal preseason is more than a little troubling.

The Nets need Williams and the rest of their roster for the playoffs more than anything else, but you’d like to think that the nagging injuries and slow starts every year could be avoided.

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Is Jalen right?

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Wizards 104, Timberwolves 100: Minnesota led by a dozen at the half and seemed to be in control. Then the Timberwolves took the second half off while the Wizards finally got out and ran (as they should do more of). Minnesota’s transition defense was terrible. Bradley Beal had 17 of his 25 in the second half to help spark the comeback. Nene added 20 points, John Wall had 16 assists including one to Martell Webster for what was the game winner. Washington just executed better down the stretch. After his play most of the game Ricky Rubio was benched in favor of J.J. Barea down the stretch.

Pistons 92, Knicks 86: New York was without Raymond Felton but that doesn’t begin to fully explain how the Knicks could not take advantage of what up to this point has been the worst defense in the NBA this season. Carmelo Anthony was 8-of-20 with seven turnovers and spent much of the night hunting for fouls rather than just playing ball. The Knicks play without any identity. Rodney Stuckey had 21 points for Detroit — not because of his good shot selection but because the contested jumpers just fell for a night. Doesn’t matter, the Pistons will take it. Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond combined to be 12-of-15 shooting for 29 points, Josh Smith had 19 points and played good defense on Anthony.

Heat 104, Hawks 88: Atlanta came in only turning ball over on 13.9 percent of possessions this season. Against Miami they turned it over on 26.2 percent of their possessions (24 times) — better than one-in-four trips down the court resulted in a turnover. And that is the cardinal sin against the Heat who then get out and run. Mario Chalmers had 12 points in the third quarter to help the Heat pull away, Ray Allen had 12 in the fourth to keep it that way. No Dwyane Wade so it was Chris Bosh who stepped up with 19 points on 9 shots.

Rockets 109, Celtics 85: Houston opened the game on an 18-1 run, went on to lead by 35 at one point, and this was a complete and total blowout. Terrence Jones is making the case that he is the starting four next to Dwight Howard on this team, putting up 24 points and grabbing 9 rebounds. Even in a blowout, Omer Asik only got seven minutes, but that’s seven more than the last couple games. Boston just had no fight in them, as Gerald Wallace said after the game: “I don’t know what the (expletive) tonight was.”

Kings 107, Suns 104: Phoenix was without Eric Bledsoe but took the lead in the second quarter behind 12 points from Archie Goodwin (who saw that coming? Goodwin finished with 16). The Suns led by 14 in the third and seemed in control until a 10-2 Kings’ run to close out the third made it close. In the fourth Isaiah Thomas (9 points in the fourth) and DeMarcus Cousins (27 points on the night) closed the door and got Sacramento the win as the Kings shot 50 percent in the final frame and Phoenix 32 percent. The Suns have led in the fourth quarter of all 10 games they have played this year but are 5-5.

Dwyane Wade’s determination outlasts Kyle Lowry’s buzzer beater

Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade controls the ball as Toronto Raptors' Kyle Lowry (7) defends during the first half in Game 1 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series, Tuesday, May 3, 2016 in Toronto.  (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP
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Dwyane Wade was helpless as Kyle Lowry‘s halfcourt heave sailed through the air (though Wade cocked his head back and leaned to the side, as if changing his view could alter the ball’s trajectory).

Wade was helpless as the referees swallowed their whistles despite Cory Joseph crashing into him on an inbound. (Haven’t we had enough incorrect no-calls on late inbound plays?) That led to a Heat turnover that preceded Lowry’s miracle shot.

Wade was helpless as the referees again swallowed their whistles despite DeMarre Carroll tugging his jersey on an overtime inbound. (Haven’t we really had enough incorrect no-calls on late inbound plays?) That also created a turnover and gave the Raptors another chance to tie.

So, Wade took matters into his own hands.

Wade snatched the ball from DeMar DeRozan, went to his knees to recover it and charged for a three-point play with 1.8 seconds left – finally clinching a 102-96 Miami Game 1 win in a second-round series Tuesday.

The game went to overtime on Lowry’s long-distance buzzer beater. When the shot fell, Wade dropped to one knee and buried his face in his hand. But he didn’t stay on the mat for long.

The Heat scored first eight points of regulation, and Wade (24 points, six rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks) outscored the Raptors himself in the extra period, 7-6.

This is Toronto’s seventh straight Game 1 loss, including four at home the last three years with largely this group of players. But as the Raptors’ first-round win over the Pacers showed, this series is far from over. Road Game 1 winners have taken the series 53% of the time, hardly an overwhelming clip.

Toronto must better stay in front of Goran Dragic, who led Miami with 26 points. Dragic, who had 25 in Game 7 against the Hornets, had never scored so much in consecutive games with the Heat. They’re thrilled to run their offense through him more often.

The Raptors should also more resolutely attack Hassan Whiteside, who scared them away from the basket. Beyond Jonas Valanciunas (24 points, 14 rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals), the Raptors were 8-for-20 in the paint with Whiteside in the game. It’s not so much the shooting percentage – which isn’t great – but the low number of attempts in 39 minutes. Whiteside is a premier rim protector, but he’s not invincible. That proclivity for the perimeter failed especially with Toronto’s star guard struggling so mightily.

Aside from his halfcourt highlight, Lowry scored four points on 2-of-12 shooting, including 0-for-6 from beyond the arc. More than anything, the Raptors need him to play better.

Otherwise, the shot of the playoffs will only delay the inevitable.

Kyle Lowry sends Raptors-Heat to overtime with halfcourt buzzer beater (video)

Toronto Raptors' Kyle Lowry makes a pass as Miami Heat's Luol Deng (9) and Goran Dragic (7) defend during the first half in Game 1 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series, Tuesday, May 3, 2016 in Toronto.  (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP
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Kyle Lowry was 2-for-11, including 0-for-5 on 3-pointers.

Didn’t matter.

He hit the big one to stave off yet another Raptors Game 1 loss.

Video via Kenny Ducey of Sports Illustrated

C.J. McCollum on Warriors: ‘They set a lot of illegal screens’

Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum, center, reaches for the ball between Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green, top, and forward Andre Iguodala during the second half in Game 1 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, May 1, 2016. The Warriors won 118-106. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
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Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts accused Anderson Varejao of being dirty on a particular play.

C.J. McCollum says the Warriors cross the line much more regularly.

via Jason Quick of CSN Northwest:

“They set a lot of illegal screens,’’ Blazers guard CJ McCollum said Tuesday at the team’s shootaround at The Olympic Club. “They are moving and stuff. That’s the respect you get when you are champions, you get a lot more respect from the referees. You have to figure out a way to get around those screens and make it difficult.’’

One underappreciated element of the Warriors’ success is their excellent screening. Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut are two of the NBA’s best. Even the diminutive Stephen Curry wreaks havoc with his screens, leveraging his shooting ability to befuddle defenders.

Do the Warriors sometimes set illegal screens? Yup. Do they do so more than other teams? Yup. Do they do so more than every other team? Anecdotally, probably, though I’d love to see numbers.

But that’s part of Golden State’s strategy. The Warriors screeners so often straddle the line, they move it. It’s a fine line between a good legal screen and an illegal one, and Golden State dares the refs to blow the whistle.

McCollum can campaign for that to change, and his statements might cause the league to instruct referees to watch Warrior screens more closely. But even if Golden State has to harness its movement and arm extensions on picks, the team is more than capable of setting quality clean screens.

Anderson Varejao responds to Terry Stotts’ ‘dirty play’ charge: Not intentional

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Golden State backup big man Anderson Varejao insists he didn’t deliberately trip Trail Blazers guard Gerald Henderson in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal playoff series.

Yet after watching the replay, he understands it sure looked like he did it on purpose – which is what Henderson thought. Varejao said it looked worse than it was.

“When I looked at the play, I was like, `Oh, it looked like I was trying to do that,”‘ he said. “How can I try to do something like that? I’m going down and my foot got stuck. That’s all.”

Portland coach Terry Stotts on Monday called it a “dirty play.” Then Tuesday, the NBA ruled it a Flagrant 1 foul on Varejao.

Game 2 of the best-of-seven series was set for Tuesday night at Oracle Arena, and both players involved seemed to be ready to move forward.

The 33-year-old Varejao, a 12th-year NBA veteran from Brazil, said in response to Stotts that he isn’t a dirty player.

“It’s a playoff game, we all know it’s going to be like that. I don’t know exactly what he’s talking about. I just thought it was a physical play,” Varejao said after the morning shootaround. “Got hit in my back, I was going down, my feet got stuck somewhere and all of a sudden, someone else fell. I’m sorry that that happened. Do you think I’m looking for guys to take them out? No. I know how it is to be hurt. I’ve been hurt enough.

“I would never try to hurt anybody, I would never do that.”

He and Henderson were ejected late in the third quarter of Sunday’s game after receiving their second technical fouls. Both were hit with a technical at the 3:29 mark of the third when Varejao tripped Henderson after they collided. Henderson jumped up, pointing a finger at his opponent’s face. They kept jawing a few minutes later and were tossed with 15.1 seconds left in the period.

Stotts was still steamed about it a day later.

“Varejao made a dirty play. It was a leg-whip and I thought it was a dangerous play,” he said. “I thought Gerald’s reaction to being tripped like that was appropriate. Otherwise, no one would have seen it. It was unfortunate that he got tossed on the second, but you have to defend yourself – especially when somebody makes a dirty play.”

Henderson said after the game that he believed Varejao thought the Blazers guard ran into him on purpose.

“I hit him. I bumped him good. But I didn’t, I wasn’t trying to hit him,” Henderson said, calling it “a little excessive” to have Varejao go at his legs.

Varejao said Tuesday he was initially surprised Henderson came at him.

“But looking at the play, he had the right to do it. I understand why he came back at me the way he did, which is OK, guys. It’s a playoff game,” Varejao said. “It’s going to be physical. It’s fun when it gets like that.”