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Rockets need more than James Harden show vs. Spurs

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HOUSTON (AP) — As Houston Rockets guard James Harden barreled through the San Antonio defense on Friday night en route to 30 second-half points, what gradually became clear was the Spurs’ willingness to let Harden thrive as long as his teammates did not.

Plenty of the postgame dialogue celebrated the Spurs’ height advantage and how they parlayed it into a 103-92 victory over Houston in Game 3 of this Western Conference semifinal series. The adjustment that proved more decisive was San Antonio ceding scoring opportunities to Harden while muting the Rockets’ other perimeter threats.

Harden scored 56.6 percent of Houston’s second-half points, doing so with an impressive 75.0 effective field goal percentage. But Harden recorded two assists following the intermission and had just one teammate reach double figures in scoring after halftime. Center Clint Capela had 10 of his 12 points after the break.

Houston aims to square the series at 2-2 in Game 4 on Sunday night at Toyota Center.

After averaging a league-leading 11.2 assists during the regular season and 12 in Games 1 and 2 in San Antonio, Harden produced five assists in Game 3. Houston fell to 1-5 in the six games that Harden recorded six or fewer assists this season.

“It’s a battle I’ve been trying to figure out all year long, to find a happy medium between scoring the basketball and facilitating,” said Harden, who finished with 43 points. “I think I just go with basketball instincts. If I have a shot be aggressive and shoot it. If not, get off the ball and have someone else make a play.”

The Rockets exploited foes based on decisions Harden makes with the ball, and when he is able to score and facilitate, their offense is often overwhelming. Harden recorded 20 points and 14 assists in the series opener, needing just 13 shots to orchestrate an offense that produced a 39-point lead and a 126-99 win.

Houston finished 19-10 when Harden produced 30-plus points and 10-plus assists during the regular season. Preventing him from striking that balance, even while running the risk of Harden exploding, renders the Rockets’ offense less frightful. Excluding Harden, Houston went 0 for 8 on second-half 3-pointers.

“It’s a challenge,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “They’ve got great shooters, good athletes, good scheme, and just as anyone else would do we’re just trying to do our best to get out to those shooters. James does a great job making you think about what you have to do to him, how much you can help off other people. It’s enough to drive you crazy but you just do your best. That’s why people score.”

The Spurs will again be without point guard Tony Parker in Game 4 after he was lost for the season with a quadriceps injury in Game 2. Rookie Dejounte Murray will again start with Patty Mills coming in off the bench.

Power forward LaMarcus Aldridge exploded for 26 points in Game 2 after totaling just 19 over the first two games. Star small forward Kawhi Leonard had another strong game with 26 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.

What proved crucial for San Antonio was that while Harden scored at will in the second half, so too did the Spurs. After mustering only 43 points prior to the intermission, San Antonio scored 60 in the second half with a 63.9 effective field goal percentage.

While there was no correlation between Harden finding his offensive rhythm and the Rockets’ defensive collapse, their shortcoming on that end of the court left them acknowledging one more thing that needs to change Sunday night.

“They played harder than we did in the second half. We can’t allow that, especially at home,” Rockets forward Trevor Ariza said. “We’ve got to do a better job of matching their physicality and playing harder.”

Report: NBA not headed toward 1-16 playoff seeding

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NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the league would continue look at 1-16 playoff seeding.

Ken Berger of Bleacher Report:

Silver is well-intentioned on this issue, and open-minded, too—as he is on most agenda items that could, in theory, make the league better. But despite his willingness to discuss postseason reformatting, multiple people familiar with league discussions say it’s not anywhere near the top of the agenda.

After its analysis of the issue in ’15, the league concluded that, for a variety of reasons, it wasn’t sensible to change the playoff format. The two key factors, according to league sources, were 1) travel; and 2) a belief among league officials that conference imbalance was a temporary trend that would correct itself, as it typically has in the past.

For playoff qualification to truly be fair, teams would have to play a balanced schedule. As is, teams play teams in their own conference 52 times and teams from the other conference 30 times.

More 10 p.m. starts on the East Coast and 4 p.m. starts on the West Coast would hurt TV ratings.

Plus, as relative conference strength exists now and has existed for several years, 1-16 playoff seeding would make it harder for bigger Eastern Conference markets and easier for smaller Western Conference markets to qualify for the postseason.

Quality of competition matters, and there would be value in the NBA building a playoff field of its 16 best teams. But follow the money. There isn’t nearly enough urgency with this issue to overcome the direct financial setbacks reform would cause.

Draymond Green’s MRI comes back negative

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The Warriors can exhale. Their status as overwhelming championship favorites remains intact.

Draymond Green injured his knee in Golden State’s season-opening loss to the Rockets, but it appears he didn’t suffer major damage.

Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area:

Even if Green misses a little time, the Warriors should be fine. They can cruise until playoffs – maybe even a round or two into the playoffs.

Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry are Golden State’s best players, but Green’s defense is so important, especially in small-ball lineups with him at center. The Warriors led Houston by 13 when Green left the game and then couldn’t get enough fourth-quarter stops in a one-point loss.

Golden State values rest and built a supporting cast around its stars to follow through. If Green misses tomorrow’s game against the Pelicans or any beyond, Jordan Bell, David West, Kevon Looney and Omri Casspi could all see bigger roles.

Report: Grizzlies starting power forward JaMychal Green out several weeks

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The Grizzlies are undefeated, having topped another playoff hopeful (Pelicans) in their season-opener.

But things seem tenuous in Memphis.

Not only is Chandler Parsons feuding with Grizzlies fans, JaMychal Green is hurt.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The supporting cast looks rickety around Mike Conley and Marc Gasol unless second-rounder Dillon Brooks (19 points on 7-of-13 shooting +17 against New Orleans) keeps humming. And maybe even still then.

Green’s injury opens the door for bigger roles for Jarell Martin and maybe Parsons (gulp).

At least Green locked in his guaranteed money. This shows why he couldn’t afford to risk taking the qualifying offer.

Booed by Grizzlies fans, Chandler Parsons says he’ll treat home games like road games

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Chandler Parsons‘ great sin? Signing a four-year, $94 million contract and failing to justify it due to injuries. He missed 48 games last season and struggled mightily while on the court.

His more recent transgression? Missing a couple free throws.

The Grizzlies forward missed a pair from the line in yesterday’s season-opening win over the Pelicans, and Memphis fans booed him:

Later, Parsons drew a three-shot foul, and Marc Gasol tried to rally the crowd behind Parsons:

Plenty of fans cheered, but as Parsons went 1-for-3, others still booed.

Parsons, via Geoff Calkins of The Commercial Appeal:

“I’ll just go into every game with the mentality that it’s a road game, if that’s how it’s going to be,” he said.

Finally, Parsons stuck up for himself, saying, “They can boo me, they can sarcastically cheer me, they can do whatever they want. … It’s tasteless , man, it makes no sense. We’re athletes, we’re human beings. I don’t know them personally, so, it’s just a little strange to me, but that’s sports.”

If Parsons didn’t understand Mavericks fans booing him after he left Dallas, he sure isn’t going to understand Grizzlies fans booing him while he’s still in Memphis.

Fans largely see Parsons as a character in the drama that is the Grizzlies – something removed from their everyday reality. Of course, Parsons is taking it personally. He’s a person, and it’s his everyday reality.

It’s unclear what portion of Memphis fans booed him. Grizzlies fans probably aren’t excited about cheering him right now, but many did – as a direct response to the boos. Even if they would’ve preferred no reaction a vacuum, those cheering fans didn’t want the boo birds speaking for them.

Parsons ought to remember those supportive fans before painting the entire home crowd as the enemy, or else he’ll turn everyone against him. None of this is fair to Parsons, who has surely been frustrated with his injuries, but he can control how he reacts to the fans.