Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while trying to decide if powdered alcohol was brilliant or just pure trouble, or both….
DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors. It was far from a perfect game for the Raptors forward as he struggled defensively to contain Joe Johnson, but DeRozan led the Raptors in scoring and hit key free throws down the stretch to make sure they got the win. That said, he showed a diverse offensive repertoire that let him score from anywhere when the Raptors needed it. Toronto got important games from Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson and Landry Fields (who was better than more John Salmons) but without DeRozan’s scoring it all goes to waste.
Paul George, Indiana Pacers. Early on there was too much isolation, but like the rest of the Pacers — particularly George Hill — he found his groove when they needed him. He finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists as part of a Pacers team that found its groove. At least for a half.
Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards. That was not exactly how coach Randy Wittman wanted the game to go — blowing a 17 point lead and needing overtime — but Bradley Beal was huge when they needed him, with 11 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter and the Wizards have a commanding 2-0 lead over the Bulls heading home. It wasn’t a perfect effort from Beal for sure — his double technical with Kirk Hinrich fired up the Bulls, and Beal missed a free throw and a shot to win it in regulation — but he was a guy they went to in the clutch for a reason. He was making plays.
Yes, the video is a little long, more than eight minutes. Have you watched LeBron James these playoffs?
LeBron has been the best player in the postseason and one of the reasons — along with his hitting threes and great passing — has been how often he got into the paint and scored buckets. He has taken advantages of mismatches (and there may be only one defender in the league who is not a mismatch) and attacked the rim, getting into the paint and finishing impressively.
JM Poulard, who has written for a number of good NBA blogs over the years, compiled this video and it’s interesting to watch. Both in terms of how LeBron is getting his buckets inside, and to just marvel at the greatest player of his generation.
It’s easy for him to say, Warriors’ co-owner Joe Lacob doesn’t have to set foot on the court in the next round and see LeBron James on the other side.
However, I bet a lot of Warriors’ players feel the same way.
Lacob spoke to some reporters after the Warriors swept their way into the playoffs. He suggested the Warriors would prefer a rubber match, a trilogy with the Cavaliers. Here are the comments, via Anthony Slater of the San Jose Mercury News.
“Honestly, I don’t really care who we play (shoots a sly grin). Ok, maybe a slight preference for Cleveland. Only because I feel we have some unfinished business from last season…
“I think (this team is better than last year’s). Honestly. I think we’re better. It’s hard not to be better when you have a guy as good as Kevin Durant on your team. We were awful good last year. The one difference is Steph was hurt, as we all know. How much we can debate. But he was not what you see out there now. Then of course we had some other issues in the Finals. With Kevin, this is a very, very good team. The opposition is going to be good in the Finals. So not taking anything for granted.”
These Warriors create new challenges for how the Cavaliers attacked them last postseason, particularly offensively because of Durant’s ability to score one-on-one. But we’ll get into a lot of that over the next eight days until the Finals begin.
Just don’t doubt the Warriors would like a little revenge.
The Warriors have gone 12-0 through the playoffs, the first team to sweep the first three rounds of the playoffs since the NBA went to a best-of-7 in all three rounds (a couple Lakers teams did it when the first round was best-of-5).
That doesn’t mean they haven’t missed Steve Kerr as coach, but they haven’t needed him. Yet. Mike Brown has done the job quite well.
Will Kerr be back for the NBA Finals? He told Marc Spears of ESPN he doesn’t know.
Kerr had back surgeries two summers ago, and that caused him to miss the start of the 2015-16 season (Luke Walton ran the show). Kerr coached through pain caused by a slow leak of spinal fluid until nausea and pain became too much at the start of this postseason. Kerr has had a new procedure — one that is apparently promising, one that we hope works to end the leak — but he’s understandably cautious about jumping back in.
That said, the next round, against the Cavaliers (barring the most improbable comeback in NBA history), is when the Warriors will need Kerr’s creative mind and solutions to the challenges Cleveland presents.
He’s also got more than a week to decide since the Finals don’t start until June 1.
Manu Ginobili is a four-time NBA champion, a two-time All-NBA player, two-time All-Star, and a Sixth Man of the Year.
He’s also the most popular Spur of his generation — walk around San Antonio, even at the peak of the Spurs runs, and you saw more Ginobili jerseys than Duncan or Parker or Robinson or anyone else. Ginobili is beloved.
When he was taken out near the end of Game 4, maybe his final game as a Spur, the fans erupted into a standing ovation (joined by Stephen Curry, who stepped away from the free throw line to let the moment happen).
Ginobili hinted during the season this would be his last, but has said repeatedly during the playoffs he didn’t know what he would do during the season. He said that again after the game, via ESPN.
“I do feel like I can still play,” Ginobili said. “But that’s not what is going to make me retire or not. It’s about how I feel — if I want to go through all that again. It felt like they wanted me to retire, like they were giving me sort of a celebration night. And of course, I’m getting closer and closer. There is no secret, for sure. It’s getting harder and harder. But I always said that I wanted to let it sink in for three weeks, four weeks, whatever, and then I will sit with my wife and see how it feels.
“Whatever I decide to do, I’ll be a happy camper. I have to choose between two wonderful, truly wonderful options. One is to keep playing in this league at this age, enjoying every day, playing the sport I still love. The other one is to stay at home, be a dad, travel more, enjoy my family. Whatever it is, it’s two unbelievable options. So there is no way I can be sad, because whatever I decide, it’s going to be great.”