Bradley Beal

Pacers already running out of time against Wizards

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Frank Vogel called one timeout and then another.

His Indiana Pacers were getting battered by the upstart Washington Wizards, and not even eight minutes in, he was running out of possible solutions.

At that point, the Pacers had twice as many of their shots blocked (six) as had gone through the hoop (three). And that’s when Indiana could even get off a shot. The symmetrically out-of-sync Pacers had five turnovers, each starter with one.

Can an underdog end a series in Game 1? The Wizards, crushing the East’s No. 1 seed, seemed on the verge.

Well, this won’t be that quick a quick knockout. The Pacers eventually got off the mat and even landed a few punch-drunk right hooks late, but that’s about all they did.

The Wizards took Game 1  102-96 Monday, and if they didn’t take the series in one night, they at least positioned themselves as unquestioned favorites.

So this series won’t be easy for Washington? The Wizards hadn’t won a second-round game since 1982. This isn’t supposed to be easy.

Even if it looked that way early.

Washington jumped to an 8-0 lead, fell asleep a bit and then expanded its lead to 16 points. The Pacers led for 15 seconds the entire game, a possession in the second quarter. Otherwise, until the closing minutes, the Wizards cruised with a steady onslaught of quality play:

  • Bradley Beal (25 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and five steals) was the game’s best two-way player.
  • Trevor Ariza made all six of his 3-point attempts to score 22 points
  • Drew Gooden (12 points and 13 rebounds in 18 minutes) was everywhere, especially wherever the ball was headed off the offensive glass.
  • John Wall (13 points, nine assists, one turnover and two blocks) controlled Washington’s offense and played excellent transition defense.
  • Marcin Gortat (12 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks) fortified the middle.
  • Nene (15 points, six rebounds, two assists and two blocks) made solid contributions on both ends.

That’s way too much for Indiana – at least this Indiana – to overcome. The Pacers barely beat the 38-44 Hawks. How are they going to get competitive with Washington?

Due to Roy Hibbert (zero points, zero rebounds, five fouls and two turnovers in 18 minutes) more than anyone, the Pacers’ starting lineup – a mainstay among the NBA’s best over the last two years – has lost its effectiveness. That unit was outscored by eight points in 12 minutes Monday.

Vogel is left mixing and matching whatever starters haven’t self-destructed with C.J. Watson, Luis Scola and Chris Copeland to form cohesive lineups. That scattered approach can work – Indiana went on a late 7-1 run before George Hill made 3-pointers on three of the Pacers’ final four possessions – but it’s tough to win a game, let alone a series, that way.

Especially against the feisty Wizards.

Washington’s ability to win anywhere puts even more pressure on the Pacers. The Wizards opened round one in Chicago and didn’t settle for a single win, coming home with a 2-0 series lead. There’s no reason to believe they can’t do the same in Game 2 Wednesday.

Already possessing four road wins in these playoffs, Washington has shown a resiliency becoming of a conference finalist. In the last eight years, all 21 teams with four road wins in a postseason reached the conference finals.

Lady Gaga? The Wizards might not need to worry.

They didn’t end this series in one. But four? That’s still on the table.

Reports: Cavaliers to work out Larry Sanders Wednesday

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Let this be a reminder: If you are 6’11” with impressive athleticism, you are going to get second (and third, and fourth, and…) chances in the NBA.

Larry Sanders has been out of the NBA for a couple of seasons after a mutual parting of the ways with the Bucks, a buyout of his contract that let him get away from basketball. He had personal demons to deal with and checked himself into a hospital program for anxiety, depression, and mood disorders.

He’s said now he wants to make a comeback, and the Cavaliers are going to at least take a look, reports Chris Haynes of ESPN.

A solo workout implies this is not going to lead to him being signed soon, it’s just more of a progress check. Sanders reportedly has looked in some previous settings like a guy who has been out of the league for a couple of years.

Sanders averaged 9.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.8 blocks a game, which led to him getting a big extension with the Bucks (and that’s the Sanders teams hope to see in workouts). Sanders wrote later he struggled with the pressure and how to cope with it after signing that deal, which led to things such as a nightclub brawl left him with an injured thumb in need of surgery, being charged with animal cruelty, and being suspended a couple of times by the league for marijuana use.

 

Hopefully, Sanders has found the balance he sought in his life. He’s trying to turn that into a return to the NBA.

Report: Clippers, Thunder may make run at Nuggets’ Wilson Chandler

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 20:  Wilson Chandler #21 of the Denver Nuggets looks on from the bench during the second half of a game against the LA Clippers  at Staples Center on December 20, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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As teams return from the All-Star break, the Denver Nuggets are holding on to the eighth seed in the West. They have an underperforming Trail Blazers team two games back, and a Pelicans team two-and-a-half back that just added DeMarcus Cousins.

Which leads to the question, how eager will Denver be to move players that can help them hold on to the eight seed? There have been trade rumors around veteran forward Wilson Chandler for a couple of seasons, but will they move him at the deadline?

At least a couple of teams are interested, the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports in a video about trades (video below).

“Watch both of those teams with Denver’s Wilson Chandler. Oklahoma City had been very much in pursuit of Rudy Gay before his season-ending injury. They’d love to get a four-man, a versatile forward, as would the Clippers. Both teams think that kind of player maybe gets them over the hump in a first-round series.”

The Thunder simply need more playmakers and guys who can score around Russell Westbrook. Chandler can do that, he’s averaging 15.6 points a game playing 30 minutes a night in Denver, he has to be respected from three, can score inside, and overall he’s a slightly above-average (or above replacement level, if you will) NBA forward who can play the three or the four.

For the Clippers, he could slide right into the three, which has long been a weak spot in their rotations.

Of course, the real question is what does Denver want in return? And this is where it gets tricky because the Nuggets want to win and Chandler is part of that, so the price has gone up for him in Denver’s estimation. Neither the Clippers or Thunder have obvious players that they would be willing to move that the Thunder likely want, and would either team give up a future first rounder for Chandler?

This trade may well not happen, but it’s something to watch.

Report: After not landing Lou Williams, Wizards may target Shabazz Muhammad

GREENBURGH, NY - AUGUST 06:  Shabazz Muhammad #15 of the Minnesota Timberwolves poses for a portrait during the 2013 NBA rookie photo shoot at the MSG Training Center on August 6, 2013 in Greenburgh, New York.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
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The Washington Wizards are thinking about a deep playoff run this season — they are the current three seed in the East, they have the best record in the conference since Dec. 1, and they have a starting five that has been powerful all season and is staying healthy.

What they could use is some bench help to help make that run, which is why the Wizards were linked to the Lakers’ Lou Williams in trade talks. However, Williams is now headed to Houston. So what’s next for the Wizards? They have interest in the Nets forward Bojan Bogdanovic, but instead how about talking to the Timberwolves, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Shabazz Muhammad has shot the three ball better this season than at any point in his career, hitting 41.4 percent but taking just 1.9 shots from deep a game. He’s not a great shooter generally but is more of a physical small forward who would like to post smaller guys up inside and score at the rim. The bigger problem is he is simply not a good defender — ESPN’s real plus-minus has him as 75th among small forwards on defense.

He could step in and give the Wizards a little help in the rotation, but not near as much as Williams. The question is what would the Wizards offer for Muhammad, who is a free agent after this season? A second-round pick is probably the top end, maybe a player they don’t need to balance the salaries gets thrown in.

The Wizards are one of the more active teams trying to land help heading into the trade deadline. There just aren’t a lot of good options left for them.

Report: With Jahlil Okafor trade talk stalled, Sixers could reconsider Nerlens Noel offers

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The trade market for centers heading into the trade deadline isn’t good — there’s a glut of them on the market. If a team wanted a guy to play the five, they could acquire Brook Lopez, Tyson Chandler, Greg Monroe, and some others who are available. Also, the low price the Pelicans paid for DeMarcus Cousins — the best center in the game — has driven down the price.

Which is why the Sixers have had little success moving Jahlil Okafor. They came close with Portland, but the Blazers instead traded Mason Plumlee and a 2018 second round pick to the Denver Nuggets for Jusuf Nurkic and a 2017 first round pick. With Portland off the table, the market seems barren for Okafor.

So the Sixers may think about moving Nerlens Noel more, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports said in a recent podcast (hat tip Hoopshype).

“If they can’t get a deal for Okafor done before the deadline, I’m told that it’s possible they’ll start – there are still teams still checking on Noel, re-engaging on him. What complicates it for Noel is that he’s a restricted free agent, and teams want to know ‘what is it going to cost to us to re-sign him’. And it’s going to be a big number.”

Noel fits more with what teams are looking for in a five — he can protect the rim, he has hops, and he can finish around the rim (63.4 percent of his shots come within the restricted area, and he shoots 72 percent on those). He gets most of his offense off cuts or being the roll man — get him the rock near the basket and he’ll do the rest, but he’s not going to create or step out. He provides rim protection in the paint on defense (but if you have a big that can pull him out of the paint it gives him trouble).

There’s also the concern about his injury history.

The question is what the Sixers can get for Noel — it’s not going to be a first-round pick, because if a team wants him that badly they’ll just wait until this summer and try to poach him as a free agent. Come July, the Sixers could be forced to match a contract they don’t love just to avoid losing him for nothing.

Or, Bryan Colangelo can trade Noel for whatever he can get (a couple second rounders, most likely). Which has not been his style in Philly.