Three elimination games on tap Thursday night — somebody’s season is ending.
Indiana Pacers at Atlanta Hawks (Hawks lead series 3-2). This is the big one Indiana — win or go home. This is the one for Atlanta — they do not want a Game 7 back in Indy. Indiana coach Frank Vogel may have could something late in their Game 5 loss to the Hawks — a small lineup featuring Chris Copeland playing the four and spacing the floor. Expect to see a lot of that lineup, Vogel can’t worry about anything other than winning Game 6 and if something works he needs to ride it as far as he can. That’s sort of what Mike Budenholzer has done for the Hawks this series — for example the pick-and-pop was working in Game 5 (Mike Scott always seemed to be open), the Pacers weren’t adjusting their coverage so the Hawks went to it again and again. The Pacers are going to have to defend like their reputation, but if the Hawks are just hitting shots the Pacers are going home.
Oklahoma City Thunder at Memphis Grizzlies (Grizzlies lead series 3-2). Expect overtime. The last four games in this series have gone to OT, and we will all be disappointed if we do not get free basketball again. The real questions in this game hinge on the Thunder offense and how difficult the Grizzlies defense has made life difficult for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Tony Allen has been brilliant for Memphis, harassing and being physical with Durant — but this is bloody Kevin “about to be named MVP” Durant, he has to rise above that and make plays. He’s not, at least not consistently. Westbrook gets the ball and just pounds it and pounds it, and he Thunder offense stagnates. It stalls out. Durant and Westbrook aren’t passing, but the guys off the ball aren’t moving. The result is too much isolation ball, which the Grizzlies can defend. On the other end of the court, Memphis lacks the pure skill of the Thunder but they are making the extra pass, guys are cutting, the ball is switching sides and that is leading to Zach Randolph getting good looks inside or Mike Miller having space to set is feet for a three. If it all plays out like that Thursday night the Thunder will be done for the season — and there will be a lot of hard questions to answer.
Los Angeles Clippers at Golden State Warriors (Clippers lead series 3-2). The real Clippers were back in Game 5 and we can expect to see that same unburdened, energized team in Game 6. Which is trouble for Golden State — the Warriors had success this series going small with Draymond Green and David Lee up front, but in Game 5 DeAndre Jordan made them pay for that. Jordan is not always the most consistent of players but the Clippers need him to be. Golden State needs Stephen Curry to knock down shots — in every game but Game 4 (when the Clippers were distracted by the Donald Sterling fiasco) they have slowed Curry with aggressive pick-and-roll traps, with defenses designed to take the ball out of his hands. In Game 5 Curry was flustered and turning the ball over too much, he needs to be a force both hitting shots and setting up teammates in Game 6. The Warriors need the three ball to fall, or they will be golfing on Friday.
Leandro Barbosa – guarding Marcus Thornton and fighting through a Clint Capela screen – was called for a foul in the first quarter of last night’s Warriors-Rockets game.
Thornton went to the line.
Should he have? Or should Capela have?
Perhaps, Thornton and Barbosa tangled, but it certainly appeared the contact primarily occurred between Barbosa and Capela. It looks like Barbosa tries to ram through Capela.
It also appears Capela thought he drew the foul. Watch him step toward the line before seeing Thornton there and taking his spot along the paint.
So, why would Thornton step in? He’s making 89% of his free throws to Capela’s 40%.
I’m honestly surprised players don’t try this maneuver more often. Refs have so much to keep track of. The worst consequence would be the refs shooing away Thornton and bringing Capela to the line.
Thornton made both free throws, but it didn’t matter. Houston was playing Golden State, which rolled to a victory.
Kanye West – when he isn’t tweeting to invalidate the claims of dozens of women on nothing more than his own suppositions – is tweeting to Michael Jordan
Mark Parker is CEO of Nike, a company that collaborated with West on the Air Yeezy before an unhappy West bolted for Adidas. Jordan, of course, is a Nike ally and known for the Jumpman logo on his brand.
That’s why Kanye rapped in “Facts:”
Yeezy, Yeezy, Yeezy just jumped over Jumpman
Yeezy, Yeezy, Yeezy just jumped over Jumpman
We bring you the important news.
(hat tip: Jovan Buha of Fox Sports)
Kevin Durant has taken plenty of criticism for his reported interest in signing with the Warriors.
Don’t chase a ring by just bolting for the best team. Build up your own team. Kobe Bryant would never do that.
Kobe Bryant requested a trade from the Lakers in 2007 – when the Cavaliers tried trading everyone but LeBron James for him – and the Bulls were Kobe’s top choice. Kobe had a no-trade clause, so he had some power to choose his next team. The rest of his list?
Kobe, via Brian Windhorst of ESPN:
It was Chicago, San Antonio (or) Phoenix.
The Spurs were reigning NBA champions, and the Suns were coming off a 61-win season. These teams were the class of the league.
They also had strong offensive identities – Gregg Popovich’s ball-movement-happy system in San Antonio and Mike D’Antoni’s up-tempo attack in Phoenix. How would Kobe have fit? Now, that’s a great what-if – especially because both teams had the assets to create intriguing trade packages.
The Spurs could’ve built an offer around Tony Parker and/or Manu Ginobili, the Suns around Shawn Marion and/or Amar’e Stoudemire. Could you imagine Kobe and Tim Duncan or Kobe and Steve Nash in 2007? It wouldn’t have been anything like the over-the-hill version we saw in Los Angeles a few years later.
Of course, Kobe stuck with the Lakers, who traded for Pau Gasol and won a couple more titles. Kobe led them to those championships, and he deserves credit for staying the course.
But, no matter what Durant decides this summer, remember all players consider as many options as they have in front of them. There’s nothing wrong with someone leaving a job for a better one when he has the ability to do so.
Even Kobe – a self-declared “Laker for life” – tried to do it.
The Knicks reportedly believed hiring Derek Fisher made them a contender for Kevin Durant this summer.
If they were right, firing Fisher – a respected former teammate of Durant with the Thunder – certainly didn’t help New York’s ability to lure the superstar in free agency.
Ian Begley of ESPN:
New York faces long odds to land Durant to begin with. And their chances took a hit after Derek Fisher was fired, league sources say.
I suppose it was possible Durant would’ve picked the Knicks, because I don’t believe Durant has decided where he’ll sign. But their odds looked so slim, anyway.
If the Knicks believed Fisher wasn’t the best coach for them, they were right to move on. Keeping him for Durant would have been foolish.
Is there a way New York can gain credibility with Durant? What about hiring former Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks?
Brooks is a name to think about, for one reason: The Knicks have been informed that their chances of landing Kevin Durant this summer would be influenced by hiring Brooks, according to league sources.
Begley implies Brooks would help New York sign Durant, but his words don’t explicitly say that.
“Would be influenced.” Positively? Negatively? Won’t the coach of any team Durant considers influence his decision? Durant, while thanking Brooks, quickly and fully got on board with the Thunder’s decision to fire him.
And informed by whom? Do we trust the Knicks to properly assess whether the source of that information is credible?
It’s probably not worth exploring those questions, anyway. Brooks has neither Phil Jackson nor triangle ties, which seem to be perquisites.
At least New York can still use Carmelo Anthony to recruit Durant.