Paul George, Roy Hibbert

Eastern Conference Finals Game 2: Can Pacers put on repeat performance?

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In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals Sunday the Pacers scored 119 points per 100 possessions and absolutely devastated the Heat defense. Indiana played smart pick-and-roll basketball to expose Miami’s poor rotations as the roll man got a lot of good looks in the paint. Indiana moved the ball, hit 8-of-19 shots from three, and made Miami look a step slow all game long. The Pacers were the aggressors, getting to the free throw line 37 times to the Heat’s 15.

It was not at all what anyone expected — the Pacers were built to grind the Heat down, not outscore them. Which begs the real question for Game 2:

Can the Pacers replicate that performance?

Or, was Game 1 a “one off” that will not look like any other game in this series?

We will find out Tuesday night with Game 2 between these teams in Indiana.

First off, expect a much more aggressive Miami defense. In Game 1 the Heat let the Pacers start their sets and get to their spots on the floor with little disruption, that will not be the case this time around. Also, expect much sharper defensive rotations for Miami, particularly off the pick-and-roll. The Pacers roll man continually got the ball in the paint and made plays, expect Miami to defend that with more aggressive play. However, in Game 1 the Pacers hit 8-of-14 from the midrange and 41.2 percent from three, do that again Miami will struggle to stop them.

Expect Udonis Haslem to start and Shane Battier to come off the bench, as the Heat did in the second half of Game 1. Miami needs the size and defense to match up better with Indiana — Roy Hibbert and David West combined for 38 points, 16 rebounds and six assists in Game 1. Don’t expect to see Greg Oden, who coach Eric Spoelstra said after Game 1 was not physically ready to go.

What Miami also needs is someone to play well on offense who is not named LeBron James or Dwyane Wade. We’re looking at you, Chris Bosh. He was 4-of-12 shooting and 0-of-5 from three in Game 1. Miami needs Bosh’s jump shot to pull the Heat bigs out of the paint and create room for LeBron and Wade to drive the lane. Bosh can do that. Also Miami could use more Ray Allen or Mario Chalmers or anyone else who can get hot from three and give them some points.

Indiana still has matchup advantages — mainly Miami doesn’t have a great answer for Roy Hibbert, who had 19 points (9 earned at the free throw line) and 9 rebounds in Game 1. But Hibbert has been anything but consistent these playoffs, posting some zero-zero games as well. He’s had games where he didn’t fight for position, or didn’t get the ball when he did. It begs the question which Roy Hibbert shows up on Tuesday?

It’s really the same question for Paul George and the entire Pacers offense — can they do it in back-to-back games? Because so far in these playoffs (and over the final months of the season) they have often followed a strong performance with a dud. The Pacers have been the very definition of inconsistent, a team Has Miami woken them up? Will the Pacers defense that was built to make life difficult for the Heat continue to thrive on Tuesday night?

Or was Game 1 a one off?

Monty Williams is back coaching with Team USA, ready to get back on NBA sidelines

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 18:  Draymond Green #14 of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team drives against assistant coach Monty Williams of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team during a practice session at the Mendenhall Center on July 18, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Watching Monty Williams back on the court at the USA basketball camp/practices in Las Vegas, you could see he was at home. He’s easily the best 44-year-old defender on the planet — he went toe-to-toe with Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, and the rest, was physical, and made them work for buckets. Then he’d instruct. He’s just a natural.

Back in February, Williams’ wife was killed in an auto accident. It devastated the devout family man, in ways it’s hard for us to understand who have never experienced it. He walked away from coaching the rest of the NBA season with the Thunder, and nobody questioned it for a second.

Now, after getting his feet wet with Team USA (where he is an assistant to Mike Krzyzewski), he told Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman he is ready to get back on the sidelines.

“I wouldn’t even think that if I didn’t know, one, my wife would want me to; my kids talk about it all the time. And there have been some things that have happened in my life lately that have allowed me to get that back. I’m so juiced up and ready to get back into it again.”

He is one of the better respected assistant coaches in the league, and a guy who will get another shot at a top spot someday. Soon. Can’t wait to see him back on the sidelines.

Ben Simmons says he plans to work on shooting, handles, getting stronger before camp

Philadelphia 76ers' Ben Simmons cheers from the bunch during the first half of the team's NBA summer league basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Thursday, July 14, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Associated Press
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The leap from college — even high-level college programs — to the NBA can be hard to describe. Now everybody is bigger, longer, and far more athletic — the guy at the end of the bench barely getting any burn was one of the best players on his college team.

Players get their first taste of that at Summer League. The Sixers’ No. 1 pick Ben Simmons looked pretty good when he got that taste, but you can see the development that needs to go on as well.

He’s spending the time between now and the start of training camp working on his shooting and getting stronger, among other things, he told Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com.

“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”

All good things. Handles and shooting in particular — he’s about to start seeing much better defenders nightly. It’s going to take time, and we’ll see how far he can go, but Simmons unquestionably brings a lot of skill and potential to the table. That he’s putting in the work is a good sign — that was one of the concerns about him heading into the draft.

New GM Bryan Colangelo is going to benefit from Sam Hinkie’s process. So long as he doesn’t screw it up.

Report: Warriors sign JaVale McGee to make-good training camp contract

JaVale McGee
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JaVale McGee is getting another shot in the NBA.

He played just 34 games off the bench for Dallas last season. He played 23 games the season before that due to injury.

But the Golden State Warriors are thin up front — Zaza Pachulia will get the bulk of the minutes at the five (when the Warriors use a traditional center), and there is the often-injured Anderson Varejao behind him. The Warriors could use another big. So they are giving McGee a look, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

This is a low-risk move by the Warriors, and it’s worth the gamble. Vintage McGee, for all his Shaqtin’ a Fool flaws, is far more athletic and a better rim protector than any of the guys the Warriors now have at the five. If it doesn’t work out — and the odds are it will not — they cut him, if it does they pay him a minimum deal.

I hope he makes it, just because the league is more fun when McGee is in it.

Russell Westbrook laughs off question about Kevin Durant

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 21:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Durant #35 discuss play during the first half against the Los Angeles ClipperLos Angeles Kingsat Staples Center on December 21, 2015 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 condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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At some point, Russell Westbrook will sit down with members of the media and discuss Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder, how he felt about the move, and how it impacted him both personally and professionally.

But not right now. He remains silent.

This Vine making its way around, where Westbrook laughs — probably at the question, although read into that whatever you want — when asked about Durant sums up where we are.

https://platform.vine.co/static/scripts/embed.js

In the full Facebook clip, Westbrook walks away, too. It’s his right. He can talk about it on his schedule.