Our quick look around the association on a busy Wednesday night.
Amar’e Stoudemire, New York Knicks. Stoudemire played 30 minutes. Stoudemire was clutch, hitting a key jumper with less than 3 minutes to go after the Bulls had stormed from 23 points back to tie the game. Stoudemire played good interior defense. Stoudemire showed a real chemistry with Beno Udrih. Stoudemire had 10 points in the Knicks 19-0 second quarter run. Stoudemire had 14 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Not sure I ever expected to type any of those sentences but he was as key as Carmelo Anthony’s 30 points to the Knicks win.
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors. He’s here because he dropped 33 points, 16 in the fourth quarter. And he’s here because he does this:
New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls. That grade is for sucking the beauty out of the game of basketball. Since they won maybe the Knicks get a D-, but neither the win nor the injuries to either side excuse them from subjecting us to what they did to James Naismith’s game.
Jason Smith, New Orleans Hornets. The most unheralded of the Pelicans starters had a big night — 22 points, 16 rebounds — against one of the largest front lines in the league in Detroit (he was matched on Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe. He’s a good pick-and-pop guard (or pick-and-flare to the midrange really) and when they use him that way he’s dangerous (he was 4-of-4 from the midrange on the left side of the court.
Utah Jazz offense. Sacramento didn’t play good defense but give credit where credit is due — Utah just could not miss. Richard Jefferson was 7-of-9, Derrick Favors 6-of-9, Alec Burke 7-of-11 and on down the line. The Jazz shot 53.9 percent, hit 13-of-23 from three and had an offensive rating of 133.2 (points per 100 possessions). After the rough start to the season Utah could use a laugher like this.
DeMar DeRozan sounds like he wants to re-sign with the Raptors, and Toronto wants him back.
But what about those Lakers rumors?
Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report, via Noah Coslov of Bleacher Report Radio:
I’m breaking up with you.
No, I’m breaking up with you first.
The Warriors went an NBA-record 73-9.
And the Thunder massively outplayed them in Games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference finals.
No, Golden State wasn’t at full strength. But Oklahoma City reached a level the Warriors hadn’t all season. Even if Golden State had hit peak performance, I’m not sure that would’ve been enough. The Thunder were that good.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were their superstar selves. Steven Adams defended inside and out. Serge Ibaka hit timely shots and moved well defensively. Andre Roberson made open 3-pointers and cut. Dion Waiters read the floor to make the right shot or pass. And everyone rotated correctly throughout entire defensive possessions.
Oklahoma City was awesome, handing the Warriors 28- and 24-point losses.
But Golden State rallied to force a Game 7 tonight. If the Warriors win, they’ll become just the eighth team in NBA history to lose multiple games by more than 20 in a series and still win it. The seven to do it:
- Houston Rockets lost to Los Angeles Clippers by 25 and 33 in 2015 second round
- Atlanta Hawks lost to Miami Heat by 29 and 26 in 2009 first round
- Houston Rockets lost to Phoenix Suns by 22 and 24 in 1995 second round
- Philadelphia 76ers lost to Boston Celtics by 40 and 29 in 1982 Eastern Conference finals
- Denver Nuggets lost to Milwaukee Bucks by 31 and 28 in 1978 Western Conference semifinals
- Los Angeles Lakers lost to Milwaukee Bucks by 21 and 26 in 1972 Western Conference finals
- Minneapolis Lakers lost to St. Louis Hawks by 34 and 30 in 1959 Western Division finals
The Warriors never stopped believing in themselves, even when getting routed. That mentality has them one game from a comeback for the ages.
DeMar DeRozan sounds like he wants to re-sign with the Raptors.
But does Toronto want to give max money to someone who 39% from the field and 15% on 3-pointers in the playoffs?
Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri, via James Herbert of CBSSports.com:
This is probably the right course. I don’t know whom the Raptors could get if they lets DeRozan walk, but if he signs elsewhere, they would have just about $19 million in cap space – less than a max salary. I doubt they could land a better replacement.
I’m not sold on DeRozan as a playoff player, though he legitimately took the next step this regular season. But I’d rather keep him, hope he learns to handle the challenges of the postseason and possibly use him in a trade down the road. It’ll cost a max salary if DeRozan isn’t willing to take a discount, but that beats the alternative of losing him for nothing but cap space.
At 30-11, the Cavaliers had the best record ever while firing a coach during a season. Cleveland was the first team in a decade to fire a coach that took it to the NBA Finals the year prior.
Maybe firing David Blatt was the right move, but on the surface, it seemed outrageous.
Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com:
In speaking with numerous sources close to “The Call,” cleveland.com learned the details. There were no initial pleasantries. Griffin got right to the point — David Blatt was being relieved of his duties.
Lue’s response was candid and immediate.
“This is f—– up, Griff.”
That didn’t prevent Griffin from calmly asking Lue if he could take over. Hired as the associate head coach a year and a half earlier, becoming the head of a franchise was Lue’s eventual goal. But this didn’t seem right.
Lue pleaded with Griffin, arguing for several minutes that firing Blatt was an excessive move for a team carrying a conference-best 30-11 record. Griffin listened to Lue’s pleas. When they ended, he told Lue the decision has already been carried out.
Griffin circled back to his original question.
“What’s done is done. I’m asking you if you can lead this team?” It had taken a few minutes, but Griffin got the response he sought.
“Yeah, I can f—ing lead this team.”
Griffin then congratulated him.
I’m not sure I buy all this. It’d look bad if Lue undermined Blatt in any way.
But the Cavs asked for this situation when they hired the runner-up in their head-coaching search to assist the winner. Lue didn’t have to do anything for that call to happen. The situation opened the door for it.
And it worked out. Lue has done a masterful job guiding the Cavaliers back to the NBA Finals. We’ll never know how Blatt would’ve done if he remained on the job, but Lue has set an excellent bar. I’m not yet sold Lue is a great head coach, but for this team – and the difficult task of communicating with LeBron James and elevating Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, who’d be featured stars on many teams – Lue has been aces.