Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while playing the Breaking Bad game…
Jeff Teague, Atlanta Hawks. Teague had a nice game before entering overtime — he had 22 points and 7 assists in regulation. However, he finished with 12 points and 3 assists in the extra 10 minutes and controlled the play a lot of ways for Atlanta. We have to ding him because he had chances to end the game at the end of regulation and at the end of the first overtime. However, the third time was a charm. We also have to ding him because he was assigned Kyrie Irving much of the night and the Cavs point guard scored 40. Still, Hawks get the win.
James Harden, Houston Rockets. Second night of a back-to-back with their best win of the season on the front end, then trailing Memphis by 13 in the third quarter of the second game, a lot of teams would have just rolled over. It’s a sign of maturity that James Harden and Jeremy Lin led a comeback to get Houston the win. Harden had 11 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter. Harden got those 27 points on just 9 shots. How? He attacked the rim and got to the line 25 times, drawing a boatload of fouls.
Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs. Who is too old again? At age 37 on the second night of a back-to-back, if Tim Duncan had an off night you’d forgive him. But Duncan showed up and had one of the best games of his season. In the fourth quarter Dallas had made a push and Duncan responded with a couple makes and a key assist to seal the win.
LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers. Aldridge had some troublesome wisdom teeth pulled Sunday and since then hadn’t eaten much at all (which sucks on Christmas) nor had he shot a basketball. He was a game time decision Thursday, decided to play and went out and dropped 32 on the Clippers, including seven in overtime. Plus he pulled down 10 rebounds. Down the stretch of this game it was pretty much all Aldridge all the time for the Blazers, who ran the offense through him on the left block. And he responded.
He tried. Rajon Rondo has seen the Chicago Bulls struggle the last two games without him as a strong defender and stabilizing influence at point guard — something nobody thought Rondo would be mid-season — and he wanted to get back on the court for Game 5 against the Celtics. He took some steps toward getting ready to play.
But it’s not happening, Rondo said at shootaround Wednesday. From Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.com and K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.
And it’s not just the fractured thumb.
If the Bulls are going to win this series, they are going to have to do it without Rondo.
Isaiah Canaan will get the start in Game 5, and he will set a lot of screens in a 1/3 pick-and-roll to try and get Isaiah Thomas switched on to Jimmy Butler. Canaan can do that. He had fallen way out of the rotation and is really a two-guard not a point, but with the terrible play of Jerian Grant and Michael Carter-Williams, coach Fred Hoiberg took a gamble. It worked, at least for one game. Canaan with the other four Bulls starters — Butler, Dwyane Wade, Nikola Mirotic, and Robin Lopez — were +12 in 11 minutes together in Game 4, and played well on both ends of the court. But Canaan was buried on the bench for a reason, he shot 36.4 percent on the season, 26.6 percent from three, and he’s not a great defender. The Celtics will be prepared for him in Game 5.
Hoiberg’s best option is to lean on a no point guard lineup when it matters most, with three wings who can handle the ball in Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade, and probably Denzel Valentine. That could be a challenging defensive lineup and Boston will try to get the lightning quick Isaiah Thomas switched onto Wade or Valentine (neither of which can guard him). Also, this lineup would be draining and put a big load on Butler, but he could handle it for critical stretches of the game.
CLEVELAND (AP) — Cleveland officials have committed the final chunk of financing for $140 million in upgrades planned at the Cavaliers’ home arena.
The makeover of Quicken Loans Arena would include more space for dining and gathering.
The cost of renovations to the concert and sports venue is being split by the city, the team, Cuyahoga County, and a convention and visitors bureau. The final total is expected to be roughly double the initial $140 million price tag, mostly because of interest over the next two decades.
Cleveland’s share is an estimated $88 million over 11 years, starting in 2024. Mayor Frank Jackson signed off on that Tuesday.
The county already approved the deal and agreed to sell bonds for the project.
The team committed to extend its lease at the arena to 2034. It is expected the team will make a bid to host the NBA All-Star game once renovations are complete.
Well, this video plays right into the hands of the anti-Westbrook crowd.
The knock on Russell Westbrook‘s season-long triple double and MVP candidacy is that he is chasing stats, padding his numbers at the expense of efficiency and making the Thunder a better team. Basically, he’s looking out for himself and to heck with his teammates.
Which leads to this fourth-quarter video from Game 5.
It sure looks like Westbrook blocks Jerami Grant‘s shot to get the rebound (we only have the one camera angle here).
I would argue that this was just Westbrook being uber aggressive — the only way he ever plays — and he was going hard for the rebound and not noticing it was his teammate about to get the ball. Westbrook just wants the ball and gets it. But he also wants to win and would not have taken the ball out of Grant’s hands had he seen who it was in time to react.
Game 5 — where the Rockets eliminated the Thunder — was a microcosm of the Westbrook debate. Westbrook finished with 47 points on 15-of-34 shooting, but was 2-of-11 in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma City was +12 in the 41:52 that Westbrook played, but was -18 in the 6:07 he sat. You can read whatever you want into those numbers.
Much like the video above.
There was a time when Paul George was an up-and-coming but raw young player on an Indiana team led by Danny Granger. It was when Granger went down injured that George was thrust into a larger role, where he thrived in the trial by fire.
Granger knows what it’s like to be the star player of the Pacers, and he knows George, so on Bill Reiter asked Granger his thoughts during an episode of CBS’ “Reiter Than You” and Granger’s answer was not what Pacers fans wanted to hear.
“You look at him in that press conference (after losing to Cleveland) and his face and the dejection on it – the guy wants to win. Money don’t make everybody happy, but winning and success and your craft, that does fill a void that a lot of these players have. So you can’t fault him if he leaves Indiana, I’ll tell you that.”
Oh, Pacers fans will fault him. Even if he’s traded.
Pacers’ decision maker Larry Bird isn’t going to do anything until he sees if George makes an All-NBA Team, because if he does Indiana can offer him the new “designated player” contract this summer worth around $80 million more guaranteed than any other team can offer. George will not walk away from that.
However, if, as expected, George doesn’t make an All-NBA team, Bird is going to have to revisit the idea of trading George, who can be a free agent in 2018 — and the sense around the league is he will walk away at that point if the Pacers are not contenders. (There are a lot of Lakers’ rumors there, but whether George would leave a team where he is dragging lesser players to a low playoff seed and a first-round exit in Indiana for the same situation in his old hometown is up for debate.)
Bird isn’t going to deal George for pennies on the dollar at this point — think the Kings’ trading DeMarcus Cousins — but if some team comes through with a legitimate quality offer of young players that can help jump start the rebuild in Indiana, he may have to jump at it.
Either way, Granger is right that you can’t blame George for wanting to move on, but plenty of fans will anyway.