Wednesday night both teams down in the series evened it up, does that trend continue? And do we finally get a close game in Round 2? Lots of questions for Thursday night.
Brooklyn Nets at Miami Heat (Heat lead series 1-0). What does Brooklyn need to do differently in Game 2 compared to the second half of Game 1? Almost everything. They need to defend the three ball better. They need to find a way to keep LeBron James and Dwyane Wade from living in the paint. They need to grab some offensive rebounds. They need to make sure Heat role players such as Ray Allen are held in check (Allen had 19 in Game 1). They need to get Kevin Garnett (zero points in Game 1) and Paul Pierce (8) going. Deron Williams has to have a better game. That’s not a complete list, but that should be enough to keep Jason Kidd busy for 24 hours. Expect the Nets to play better and answer some of those questions, but will that be enough? —Kurt Helin
Portland Trail Blazers at San Antonio Spurs (Spurs lead series 1-0). How did Terry Stotts spend his off day? Did he plot ways to free his suddenly blanketed shooters, especially LaMarcus Aldridge? Did he scout Aron Baynes? Did he devise a defensive gameplan that includes Nicolas Batum on Tony Parker? There are so many issues for Portland to fix in such a short time. Meanwhile, after San Antonio’s 24-point win, Gregg Popovich can work on luxuries — like getting Manu Ginobili following an 0-for-6 Game 1. —Dan Feldman
LeBron James says he doesn’t see Cavaliers-Warriors as rivalry
“We don’t look at it as a rival,” James said. “They’re a great team. They’ve been the best team the last couple years, last three years.”
“It’s just the next game, it’s Golden State,” James said. “They’re a helluva team, like I said the best team in the league and they’ve been that way the last three years, four years, however long it’s been, I’m not quite sure. But, listen, you guys know, we don’t put all our eggs in one basket for one game.”
LeBron just doesn’t want the Cavs to become comfortable. They’ve beat Golden State in four straight games – the last three of the 2016 Finals and on Christmas – and could extend the streak to five today. Beating a rival that frequently is a cause for celebration, and celebration leads to contentment. LeBron would rather keep Cleveland focused and hungry. Hence, saying the Warriors aren’t a rival.
Andre Drummond hits 3-pointer from inside Pistons’ own 3-point arc (video)
But Booker’s last four – which put Phoenix up for good – came directly after incorrect calls, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report.
First, Booker drew a (legitimate) foul on Pau Gasol with 1:08 left and made both free throws. The problem: One second before that, Suns center Tyson Chandler should have been called for offensively fouling Tony Parker, according to the league:
Chandler (PHX) sets the screen on Parker (SAS) and makes leg to leg contact that affects his ability to defend the play.
That would’ve ended Phoenix’s possession rather than allowing Booker to get to the line.
The other missed call in the two-minute report is trickier, because it directly benefitted the Spurs but indirectly benefitted the Suns.
Manu Ginobili got away with travelling with 59.1 seconds left, according to the league:
Ginobili (SAS) moves his pivot foot.
But he coughed up the ball moments later anyway, and – thrilled to gain possession with a live-ball turnover rather than a dead-ball turnover – Booker turned the miscue into a fastbreak dunk.
Rather than debate how to evaluate San Antonio getting away with a travel and it ultimately helping Phoenix more, let’s stick to just the uncalled Chandler offensive foul. That netted the Suns two points. Their lead when the Spurs began intentionally fouling? One.
Russell Westbrook puts up 20th triple-double of season, lifts Thunder past Kings (VIDEO)
Through 41 games — half the season — Russell Westbrook is averaging 30.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.5 assists a game. Those numbers are insane, particularly considering his 42 percent usage rate. He has to put up numbers and do so fairly efficiently or the Thunder stand no chance of winning — and he has the Thunder on pace for 48 wins this season.
The Thunder picked up another of those wins Sunday night knocking off the Sacramento Kings behind Westbrook’s 20th triple-double in 41 games — 36 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. The video highlights are above.
It’s going to be fun watching him and James Harden go back-and-forth in the MVP race for the next few months.