Two Game 2s on the docket for Monday night. Here’s what to look for.
Memphis Grizzlies at Oklahoma City Thunder (Thunder lead 1-0). Oklahoma City is not going to get a soft first half from the Grizzlies where OKC can race out to a big lead like it did in Game 1. Expect this to be a meaner, more physical Memphis team from the opening tip. Memphis knows it doesn’t have the offensive weapons to dig out of a big hole and win against the Thunder, they instead are going to try to grind this game down.
Memphis needs a better outing from Zach Randolph, who was rushed and pressured by Serge Ibaka (Randolph had 21 points but on 21 shots). Also expect a healthy Tayshaun Prince for Memphis (he practiced Sunday)… who still should give way to Tony Allen early (he was the best Memphis player Game 1). Memphis also needs much more out of their role players — Beno Udrih, Mike Miller and Courtney Lee were no help in Game 1. That lack of depth was a big issue in Memphis not being able to maintain their third quarter run.
You know Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will put up numbers again for OKC, but they need another high energy game out of Serge Ibaka and another rock solid steady game from Caron Butler (who played 31 minutes in Game 1). Ibaka was flying all over the place protecting the rim (he had four blocks) and he helped even the balance with the Grizzlies in the paint. He needs to do that again, if the Grizzlies own the paint completely they win.
Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Clippers (Warriors lead 1-0). Don’t expect Game 2 to look like Game 1. Blake Griffin will play more than 19 minutes (he was limited by foul trouble). Stephen Curry will have more than 14 points on 16 shots. Chris Paul will not have six turnovers and he will make better decisions late. The referees won’t call the game as tight (we can hope, in particular Griffin and Andre Iguodala picked up ticky-tack fouls that shouldn’t be fouls in the playoffs). Both teams were sloppy in the final couple minutes. We will see if any or all of that changes the outcome, but the game will look and feel different.
For the Clippers, they need more from Griffin who must dominate David Lee. They also need more consistent defense — they trapped Stephen Curry on the pick-and-roll but he did a good job finding the open guy, look for a coverage change from LA. Finally Los Angeles needs a lot better production from their bench — Jamal Crawford, Darren Collison and Danny Granger combined to shoot 5-of-26. There is pressure on the Clippers — go down 2-0 at home and they are likely not advancing. (There is already pressure with this loss, they haven’t won at Golden State since Christmas Day 2011, that now has to change.) Golden State needs another big game from Klay Thompson to go with what we can expect as a much better game from Curry. Another quality Draymond Green outing wouldn’t hurt.
NBA considering if jump-on-back foul should be flagrant foul
The NBA was quick to let people know that this is just something under consideration — there has been no change in the rules. This may well be where the league is headed, but it’s not there yet.
The NBA defines a flagrant foul as “unnecessary contact committed by a player against an opponent.” To me, leaping on a player’s back like that qualifies. (A flagrant two foul is “unnecessary and excessive contact” and leads to an ejection; this is not that.)
Jared Dudley — one of the more vocal players on union issues — added a good point.
Since we're in the subject! I think it's crazy that the @NBA can make a rule without even discussing it with the players. No input at all
Smith (CLE) makes incidental contact with Turner’s (BOS) body as he attempts the layup.
If this were officiated correctly, the Cavs would’ve had the ball and a two-point lead with 5.9 seconds left. That’s not a lock to win – they’d still have to inbound the ball and make their free throws – but it’s close.
Cleveland is definitely entitled to feel the refs wronged them out of a victory.
Report: Kevin Durant has “done his due diligence on the Bay Area”
Kevin Durant has not made up his mind about what he will do as a free agent this summer. Until his playoff run ends, whenever that may be for the Thunder, his focus will be on bringing a title to Oklahoma City.
But even he admits he can’t help but think about free agency a little.
The Warriors play in front of an intimidating Oracle Arena crowd and are expected to debut a new San Francisco arena in 2019. Durant has quietly done his due diligence on the Bay Area, too, sources told Yahoo Sports.
His people — specifically agent Rich Kleiman and personal manager Charlie Bell — would be stupid not to have done some research on not only Golden State but on every other team he might consider: Houston, Miami, Washington, both teams in Los Angeles, the Knicks, and on down the line. Golden State, playing with Stephen Curry, certainly would have its attractions.
I’m still in the camp that Durant signs a 1+1 deal to stay in Oklahoma City (meaning he can opt out after one more season, in 2017), and it’s all about the cash. While he could get 30 percent of a $90 million cap this summer (about $27 million a season to start), with one more year of service in 2017 Durant could get 35 percent of $108 million ($37.8 million to start). That’s a lot of cash. Plus he gets one more chance at a ring with Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, who both are 2017 free agents.
But you can be sure whatever Durant decides, it will be well researched and thought out. And he’s not going to announce it in a live special on ESPN.
Byron Scott expected to start D’Angelo Russell after All-Star break, but hasn’t talked to him about it
When we talk about Lakers’ coach Byron Scott’s questioned player development skills with young players Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, and particularly D'Angelo Russell, it is his old-school lack of communication that comes into question. It’s what is different from what Gregg Popovich or Quin Snyder or other guys developing strong young players have done. From the outside (we’re not in practices/film sessions), we see Scott was not letting Russell play through mistakes — feeling that was rewarding bad behavior — but then not doing a good job communicating what the player is doing wrong.
Scott plans to start Russell after NBA All-Star weekend (Feb. 12-14). But Scott said the two have not talked about that issue.
“He’s not old enough for me to have a meeting and discuss, ‘What do you think?’” Scott said.
I would say you should have that meeting — it’s called a teachable moment. “What do you think? Well here is what I see that is different.”
Part of what is going on with Scott and Russell is the concern from some in the Lakers’ camp that Russell is a little too full of himself, that his ego is too big, and it could become a problem. So they are trying to take him down a peg. I would say that for a smart player — and Russell is that — the game is humbling and will take care of the ego issue. But you’ve got to give him run to develop him.
Play him, and then communicate with him. It’s a system that does worth with modern players.