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.
The Spurs fell behind by 18 and eventually lost to the Bulls, 95-91, last night – which begged the question:
Does San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich bear any responsibility for his team’s lack of early intensity?
Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News:
I don’t remember playing tonight. I didn’t play. Guys get a lot of money to be ready to play. No Knute Rockne speeches. It’s your job. If you’re a plumber and you don’t do your job, you don’t get any work. I don’t think a plumber needs a pep talk. If a doctor botches operations, he’s not a doctor anymore. If you’re a basketball player, you come ready. It’s called maturity. It’s your job.
Like it or not, motivation is part of an NBA coach’s job.
But that’s also precisely what Popovich is doing.
His credentials dwarf any other coach’s. He can play to his own ego and absolve himself of responsibility – and players will seek to please him. His years of success have earned him the ability to motivate this way, a method no other coach could use without alienating his team.
Once the Rockets let Donatas Motiejunas back into free agency, this was only a matter of time.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:
This sounds remarkably similar to the salaries and incentives set in the original offer sheet from the Nets. But remember, the Rockets didn’t match some of those bonuses that Brooklyn would have been bound to.
So, why not hold Motiejunas to what became a four-year, $31 million offer sheet once matched? Houston got something in return – a later trigger date on guaranteeing Motiejunas’ 2017-18 salary. Originally, that decision had to be made March 1 – which would’ve meant dropping Motiejunas from the team this season to prevent his salary from counting next season. Now, the Rockets can make that call in July, after this season is complete.
The following two Julys, Houston will also have a choice on guaranteeing Motiejunas’ upcoming salary or dropping him.
Essentially, Motiejunas is signing the most lucrative Hinkie Special in NBA history. If he plays well and stays healthy, the Rockets have Motiejunas at an affordable rate. If he struggles or his back injuries flare up, they can drop him with little to no penalty.
After they backed themselves into this corner, Motiejunas and his agent, B.J. Armstrong, didn’t do so bad. Considering the similarity between this contract and the Nets’ original offer sheet, it seems Houston helped Armstrong save face after a bungled free agency (which is easier to accept when you’re adding a talented reserve to a formidable team).
But for how little is guaranteed and how much control the Rockets hold over the next four years, wouldn’t Motiejunas have been better off accepting the $4,433,683 qualifying offer?
The Rockets had Donatas Motiejunas in a bind.
He was beholden to them on a four-year, $31 million deal and unable to sign with other teams. Motiejunas’ choices: Report for a physical or wait in limbo.
But apparently Houston has allowed him out of that constraint.
Marc Stein of ESPN:
This means Motiejunas can’t sign with the Nets, who signed him to the original offer sheet, for one year.
I bet it also means Motiejunas and Houston have agreed to a new contract. Otherwise, why release him from the offer sheet? The Rockets would be giving up a tremendous amount of leverage out of the goodness of their hearts – unless this is just a prelude to a new deal with Houston.
John Wall didn’t like how Jusuf Nurkic bumped him, so Wall shoved the Nuggets center from behind and sent him to the floor.
An overreaction to the bump? Probably. Wall got hit with a technical foul.
But I’m mostly just impressed Wall was strong enough to push over Nurkic.