We all know the San Antonio Spurs came within a Ray Allen three — or just a couple made free throws — of winning the NBA title last season (Spurs fans would like to stop reliving that, thank you very much). We also know that they are 28-8 this season, the best record in the West.
But are they really that good? Are the “aren’t they too old yet” Spurs really contenders again?
There are some troubling signs. The Spurs are 10-7 against teams .500 or better, just 1-5 against the top four in the West or the top 2 in the East. Both Tim Duncan and Tony Parker are playing well but have come down from their uber-efficient numbers last season. There are legitimate questions about if this year’s Spurs can compete with the league’s best.
In a sign the Spurs’ management isn’t sold they are being aggressive in talking trades, reports Ken Berger of CBSSports.com.
The Spurs have been unusually aggressive trying to upgrade their roster in the trade market, a signal to rival execs that Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford realize this might be the final shot at a title with the triumvirate of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Duncan, 37, has a $10.4 million player option for next season, and Parker’s future also has to be addressed; only $3.5 million of his $12.5 million for next season is guaranteed.
The conventional wisdom around the league is that the Spurs were going to go this season and next with that core, even if next season was more of a farewell tour.
But they don’t want to go around the league collecting rocking chairs and framed mementoes. No doubt this Spurs team is good, and depending on health could well be in title contention again. It sounds like management wants to ensure they are in that mix. They can worry about the rebuilding down the line.
When De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk declared for the NBA draft, they jumped in with both feet, hiring agents.
A third Kentucky freshman, Bam Adebayo, took a more cautious approach – until now.
Jon Rothstein of FanRag Sports:
Adebayo is a borderline first-round pick.
He’s a ferocious dunker. All his best skills – motor, explosiveness, physicality – come together to produce slams.
But Adebayo is an underwhelming shot-blocker and rebounder, and those same tools should translate. That speaks’ to his focus.
He has a center’s game. But at 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-1.5 wingspan, does he have a center’s size? Adebayo can’t step away from the basket or handle the ball, so if he can’t bang with NBA centers, he’s in trouble.
The Rockets were trying to protect a two-point lead as they inbounded with 7.8 seconds left in Game 4 against the Thunder on Sunday, and James Harden wanted the ball. So, the Houston star pushed off Alex Abrines.
The play still turned chaotic – Russell Westbrook tipping the inbound pass and Eric Gordon recovering the loose ball – but it never should have gotten that far. Harden should have been called for an offensive foul, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report:
Harden (HOU) pushes off Abrines (OKC) to create space during the inbound.
A correct call would have given Oklahoma City the ball down two with 7.8 seconds left and a real chance to tie or take the lead.
Instead, the Thunder had to intentionally foul Gordon, who hit two free throws to effectively ice a 113-109 Rockets win. Houston now leads the first-round series, 3-1.
The Cavaliers outscored the Pacers by just 16 points in their first-round series – tied for the narrowest margin ever in a four-game sweep. (The Warriors also outscored the Washington Bullets while sweeping the 1975 Finals.)
So, each Cleveland-Indiana game was close, including Sunday’s Game 4, which the Cavs won 106-102.
LeBron James hit a 3-pointer with 1:08 left to put the Cavaliers up 103-102, and they added a few free throws after intentional fouls to produce the final margin. But LeBron travelled with 1:14 left while making his move to get that 3-pointer, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report:
James (CLE) moves his pivot foot at the start of his dribble.
A correct call would’ve ended Cleveland’s possession and given Indiana the ball with a two-point lead. Instead, the Pacers had only one possession before they had to begin intentionally fouling.
Would Indiana have won if the travel were called? Probably, though the odds would have been only slightly better than a coin flip.
Would the Pacers have won the series if the travel were called? Probably not. No team has ever overcome a 3-0 deficit, and even a Game 4 win was far from guaranteed with a travel call. But they might have at least felt better about not getting swept.
“Give all praise to Norman Powell with his energy, his athleticism, his passion, just everything he brought to us this series.”
That was Kyle Lowry talking about what his Raptor Norman Powell, who put up a career playoff best 25 points in the Raptors’ Game 5 win. Powell played good defense on Khris Middleton and drained some deep threes to help Toronto pull away in this one. Lowry was so impressed after the game at a press conference he told the media to ask Powell questions, not him.
Oh, and Powell threw down some huge dunks, too. Just check out the video.