Three games on tap Monday night and two of them should be fascinating — Atlanta and Indiana in a crucial Game 5, and the Spurs down 2-1 to Dallas will be desperate for a win.
Miami Heat at Charlotte Bobcats (Heat lead series 3-0). Can the Bobcats win one? That’s really the only question left in this series. They can — they have played Miami tough twice in this series, they can have another close game. But what they really need is one of those Miami Heat on a mental vacation nights. You know Charlotte will bring their best effort, but if LeBron James and Dwyane Wade come ready to really close this thing out there is not a whole lot Charlotte can do.
Atlanta Hawks at Indiana Pacers (series tied 2-2). Indiana has home court advantage and full control of its destiny back — if they can build upon the win in Game 4 in Atlanta. Building on any success is not something the Pacers have done well for the better part of a month. Vogel needs to continue to go with the small lineup of David West and Luis Scola — that means benching Roy Hibbert for long stretches — and they need Paul George to continue to play well. Atlanta needs to play the game at a faster pace, not let the Pacers grind it down, and they need another monster night from Jeff Teague. Atlanta has won in Indy already in this series, do it again and they control their destiny.
San Antonio Spurs at Dallas Mavericks (Dallas leads series 2-1). The book on Dallas was they needed big nights from Dirk Nowitzki to beat the Spurs, and for the last two games Nowitzki has been held to fewer than 20 points thanks to great defense from Tiago Splitter. Yet Dallas has still won because Monta Ellis, Shawn Marion, Vince Carter, Devin Harris and the other Mavs have stepped up. Dallas needs that again, San Antonio needs to tighten up its defensive rotations and slow those other guys. Tony Parker needs a big game — he should own Jose Calderon and the rest of the Mavs point guard matchups. I expect we will see a more familiar Spurs team in Game 4 and an even series when this game is over… but Dallas keeps surprising me.
DeMar DeRozan sounds like he wants to re-sign with the Raptors, and Toronto wants him back.
But what about those Lakers rumors?
Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report, via Noah Coslov of Bleacher Report Radio:
I’m breaking up with you.
No, I’m breaking up with you first.
The Warriors went an NBA-record 73-9.
And the Thunder massively outplayed them in Games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference finals.
No, Golden State wasn’t at full strength. But Oklahoma City reached a level the Warriors hadn’t all season. Even if Golden State had hit peak performance, I’m not sure that would’ve been enough. The Thunder were that good.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were their superstar selves. Steven Adams defended inside and out. Serge Ibaka hit timely shots and moved well defensively. Andre Roberson made open 3-pointers and cut. Dion Waiters read the floor to make the right shot or pass. And everyone rotated correctly throughout entire defensive possessions.
Oklahoma City was awesome, handing the Warriors 28- and 24-point losses.
But Golden State rallied to force a Game 7 tonight. If the Warriors win, they’ll become just the eighth team in NBA history to lose multiple games by more than 20 in a series and still win it. The seven to do it:
- Houston Rockets lost to Los Angeles Clippers by 25 and 33 in 2015 second round
- Atlanta Hawks lost to Miami Heat by 29 and 26 in 2009 first round
- Houston Rockets lost to Phoenix Suns by 22 and 24 in 1995 second round
- Philadelphia 76ers lost to Boston Celtics by 40 and 29 in 1982 Eastern Conference finals
- Denver Nuggets lost to Milwaukee Bucks by 31 and 28 in 1978 Western Conference semifinals
- Los Angeles Lakers lost to Milwaukee Bucks by 21 and 26 in 1972 Western Conference finals
- Minneapolis Lakers lost to St. Louis Hawks by 34 and 30 in 1959 Western Division finals
The Warriors never stopped believing in themselves, even when getting routed. That mentality has them one game from a comeback for the ages.
DeMar DeRozan sounds like he wants to re-sign with the Raptors.
But does Toronto want to give max money to someone who 39% from the field and 15% on 3-pointers in the playoffs?
Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri, via James Herbert of CBSSports.com:
This is probably the right course. I don’t know whom the Raptors could get if they lets DeRozan walk, but if he signs elsewhere, they would have just about $19 million in cap space – less than a max salary. I doubt they could land a better replacement.
I’m not sold on DeRozan as a playoff player, though he legitimately took the next step this regular season. But I’d rather keep him, hope he learns to handle the challenges of the postseason and possibly use him in a trade down the road. It’ll cost a max salary if DeRozan isn’t willing to take a discount, but that beats the alternative of losing him for nothing but cap space.
At 30-11, the Cavaliers had the best record ever while firing a coach during a season. Cleveland was the first team in a decade to fire a coach that took it to the NBA Finals the year prior.
Maybe firing David Blatt was the right move, but on the surface, it seemed outrageous.
Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com:
In speaking with numerous sources close to “The Call,” cleveland.com learned the details. There were no initial pleasantries. Griffin got right to the point — David Blatt was being relieved of his duties.
Lue’s response was candid and immediate.
“This is f—– up, Griff.”
That didn’t prevent Griffin from calmly asking Lue if he could take over. Hired as the associate head coach a year and a half earlier, becoming the head of a franchise was Lue’s eventual goal. But this didn’t seem right.
Lue pleaded with Griffin, arguing for several minutes that firing Blatt was an excessive move for a team carrying a conference-best 30-11 record. Griffin listened to Lue’s pleas. When they ended, he told Lue the decision has already been carried out.
Griffin circled back to his original question.
“What’s done is done. I’m asking you if you can lead this team?” It had taken a few minutes, but Griffin got the response he sought.
“Yeah, I can f—ing lead this team.”
Griffin then congratulated him.
I’m not sure I buy all this. It’d look bad if Lue undermined Blatt in any way.
But the Cavs asked for this situation when they hired the runner-up in their head-coaching search to assist the winner. Lue didn’t have to do anything for that call to happen. The situation opened the door for it.
And it worked out. Lue has done a masterful job guiding the Cavaliers back to the NBA Finals. We’ll never know how Blatt would’ve done if he remained on the job, but Lue has set an excellent bar. I’m not yet sold Lue is a great head coach, but for this team – and the difficult task of communicating with LeBron James and elevating Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, who’d be featured stars on many teams – Lue has been aces.