Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while watching Jeopardy to see what all the Arthur Chu fuss is about….
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder. If you are going to win the MVP award you need a couple monster games on national television. Durant delivered that on Sunday — 41 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists as the Thunder beat the Knicks. Durant would have had a triple double if Serge Ibaka could have finished a dunk. Durand has seven 40-point games this season. He is your MVP, having pulled away in the race while Russell Westbrook has been out.
Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers. He’s back. After missing 18 games with a separated shoulder CP3 was returned to the court in the Clippers powder blue (they wore the sleeved throwbacks). That’s not the reason the Clippers utterly destroyed the Sixers on Sunday night, but he did look solid with 7 points and 8 assists for Los Angeles. The Clippers went 12-6 without him and Blake Griffin among others stepped up their game, now can they take the next step with him in the lineup.
Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers. He certainly was making plays – 28 points on 17 shots, including the game-tying layup that sent the game to overtime, then he had four points in OT to lead the Cavs over the Grizzlies. He also had six assists. Still, I watch him play and I wonder how much better he would look in a different offense — he looks good, better than he did earlier in the season when he was forcing shots and plays, but he still doesn’t seem to be on the career trajectory expected of his this season (despite the fans voting him an All-Star starter). I just wonder how much of that is the offense he is playing in right now.
Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic. Orlando came from behind to upset the Pacers in large part because of the rookie — he had 12 of his team-high 23 points in the first minutes of the fourth quarter when the Magic went on a 17-2 run to come back and take the lead from a Pacers team that had been up 16 in the third quarter at one point. (To be fair, Indiana helped out that comeback with some uncharacteristic sloppy play, and when Orlando went smaller with Tobias Harris at the four the Pacers chose to settle for jumpers rather than attack.) What I really liked about Oladipo’s game is that he kept relentlessly attacking the rim — which resulted in him getting five shots blocked and shooting just 3-of-7 inside 8 feet, but he kept attacking. He plays with an aggressive energy that is infectious.
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.
The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.
Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.
Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.
“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”
After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.
There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.
Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.
However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.
It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.
I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.
There are no NBA playoff games Saturday night, the first night since the start of the postseason there hasn’t been one game. Don’t worry, there are two games on Sunday, including Game 7 between the Jazz and Clippers.
But if you need a Saturday night fix, this will have to do: 15 minutes of the best plays from last season, as compiled by NBA.com.
Go ahead, watch it. You’ve got nothing better to do.
This is ranked right next to “overeating can lead to weight gain” on the list of surprising things, but we will dutifully report it anyway:
Paul Millsap is going to opt out and officially become a free agent this summer.
Atlanta’s owner as well as Mike Budenholzer, the coach and head of basketball operations, have both said they plan to do whatever it takes to re-sign Millsap with the Hawks. Millsap didn’t sound like someone eager to leave after the Hawks were eliminated from the playoffs Friday.
“It’s been great. I’m looking to expand this and see where the franchise can go. These last four years has been great. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Even with both sides singing Kumbaya, keeping Millsap in Atlanta likely means a five-year contract at or near the max, which for a 32-year-old player means the Hawks would regret the last year or two of that deal.
Not that the Hawks have much of a choice here, they have to come in big and keep him. For one, they can’t afford to lose Al Horford and then Millsap for nothing in back-to-back years. If they were going down the rebuilding road, they needed to trade Millsap at the deadline (or last summer) to make sure they got something in return. Atlanta explored trade options at the deadline, but then pulled back (rumored to be because of an edict from ownership, which didn’t want to see the team blown up after the Kyle Korver trade).
By not making that trade the Hawks signaled their intention to remain a good team — a 43-win team this season that got them the five seed — with Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard, one that draws well at an arena that historically has not been that full, and see if they can add on. They strike me as a team that will win between 42-50 games a year and be middle of the pack in the East for the next few years, unless they can find a way to add an elite player (which is incredibly difficult).
But if the Hawks can’t re-sign Millsap, then the plan gets blown up. So expect them to come in with a big offer come July 1.