Author: Brett Pollakoff

Bradley Beal

Bradley Beal waves goodbye to Kyle Lowry after Lowry fouls out of Game 1 (VIDEO)


With 2:36 remaining in regulation of the Game 1 matchup between the Raptors and the Wizards, Kyle Lowry fouled Bradley Beal in the act of shooting, and Beal crashed awkwardly to the floor.

It was Lowry’s sixth personal foul, and as he headed to the bench for good after being disqualified, Beal gave him a friendly wave goodbye.

Beal had a dismal game offensively, finishing just 6-of-23 from the field, so he had little reason to be talking. Lowry wasn’t much better, and finished 2-of-10 himself.

The contest was an ugly one, but it was competitive nonetheless. If we can get some personal battles going before the series is finished, the entertainment value will increase exponentially.

MORE: Paul Pierce leads Wizards to overtime Game 1 win over Raptors

Paul Pierce leads Wizards to overtime Game 1 win over Raptors

Washington Wizards v Indiana Pacers

Paul Pierce ended the Raptors’ postseason run last year with a series-saving blocked shot in Game 7 of the first round matchup while he was a member of the Brooklyn Nets.

A year later, now with the Wizards, he remains the bane of Toronto’s playoff existence.

Pierce finished with a game-high 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting to lead the Wizards to a 93-86 Game 1 victory, one that needed an overtime session to be decided.

Washington’s backcourt duo of John Wall and Bradley Beal struggled, shooting just 5-of-18 and 6-of-23 from the field respectively. But Pierce was there when needed, and scored 10 of his points in the second quarter during a critical stretch that turned a seven-point Toronto lead into a four-point Wizards advantage before the halftime intermission.

Washington’s lead grew to as many as 11 points in the third, thanks to its fifth-ranked defense giving Toronto fits. The Raptors shot just 28 percent in the period, and missed all seven of their attempts from three-point distance.

In the fourth, however, Toronto’s bench unit, which we knew would be a factor coming into the series, was able to bring the team back.  Part of it was due to Beal’s insistence on shooting so much when he was clearly having an off day, but the Raptors took advantage. Lou Williams and Greivis Vasquez each had eight points in the period, and their production was especially needed once Kyle Lowry fouled out of the game with 2:36 to play.

Wall had a chance to win it in regulation, but dribbled down most of the clock before going one-on-one and missing a pull-up jumper with just tenths of a second left.

In overtime, it was once again Pierce time. He began the scoring for the Wizards in the extra session by hitting a three, and ended it by helping to seal the victory with a couple of free throws. Toronto didn’t score in overtime until there were just 29 seconds left, and only did so because the Wizards had a big enough lead and no longer needed to contest the shots.

Pierce was the focus of the Raptors before the series even began, thanks to remarks he made in an interview leading up to the playoffs. “We haven’t done particularly well against Toronto, but I don’t feel they have the ‘It’ that makes you worried,” he said,

Toronto GM Masai Ujiri responded colorfully in front of fans before Game 1, similar to what he did a season ago before a playoff game against Pierce’s Nets.

There were other reasons Washington was able to get this win; the rebounding advantage, especially on the offensive boards, was massive. And, the Wizards got timely contributions from guys like Kevin Seraphin and Drew Gooden off the bench, which hasn’t been something the team has been able to count on reliably this season.

But had the Raptors paid as much attention to Pierce on the court as they did to comments he made off of it, they may have had a better chance in this one — especially on a day where Wall and Beal, the Wizards’ primary scorers, were so obviously out of sync.

Raptors GM Masai Ujiri on Wizards’ Paul Pierce: “We don’t give a sh-t about ‘It'”

Masai Ujiri

In advance of a home playoff game against the Brooklyn Nets last season, Raptors GM Masai Ujiri screamed “F— Brooklyn” into a microphone at a fan rally outside the arena.

The league deemed this inappropriate, and doled out a slap-on-the-wrist fine of $25,000.

A year later, it seems as though Ujiri has not learned his lesson.

Paul Pierce of the Wizards was quoted as saying that the Raptors “don’t have the ‘It’ that makes you feel worried.”

Ujiri’s response, (along with some “F— Paul Pierce” chants from the assembled masses):

The league may or may not see fit to fine Ujiri once more, but either way, his enthusiasm is good for the game, and the Raptors fan base undoubtedly agrees.

Q&A: Corey Brewer on trade from Timberwolves, his 51-point game, Harden’s MVP case, Rockets vs. Mavericks

Washington Wizards v Houston Rockets

Corey Brewer has been a key rotation player for the Rockets this season, after coming to Houston via trade from Minnesota in mid-December. I caught up with him recently to talk about how the trade came together, and how in the world he scored a career-high 51 points in a game last season, James Harden’s MVP-caliber impact, and why he believes Dwight Howard is the best center in the league. Our discussion is transcribed below.


You began the season with the Timberwolves, and at the time there were reports that said you had requested to go to a contender, and that Minnesota gave you permission to speak with other teams. Can you kind of walk me through how that all went down?

“Minnesota’s a good organization, I was happy there. It wasn’t like I wanted to leave there, but you know, coach Saunders — we had a good relationship. He knew and I knew that they were going young, and it really wasn’t going to be a season for us to try to make the playoffs. For me, I’ve been in the league for eight years, and it’s all about playing in the playoffs. That’s what it’s about; you want to win a championship. He helped me out. We looked at the trade options, he gave me permission to talk to teams, and it worked out perfectly.”

Were there any other teams in the mix besides the Rockets?

“It was probably the Rockets and Cleveland. Those were basically the two teams.”

You had a career-high game against the Rockets the season before, how much might that have played a part in their level of interest?

“(Laughs) I don’t know if it played a part in it. Coach McHale drafted me actually, so we have a good relationship. We go way back to ’07.”

How did that happen, that 51-point game? As far as I could tell, your career-high before then was 29 points. You’re not really known as being a volume scorer like that, so how does that happen?

“Well, Kevin Love wasn’t playing, and Kevin Martin wasn’t playing, so there was a lot of shots out there. I hit my first four out of five, and there wasn’t nobody else taking shots, so I had the opportunity to be a scorer. It worked out perfect — and we got the win.”

So you guys have the Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs. You beat them 3-1 during the regular season, can you take anything from those regular season meetings, or do you kind of have to throw that all out and start from scratch?

“You can take stuff from it, like what they did against us and how we were able to stop them, and what we did against them and how we can keep doing it. But also, it’s going to be totally different. In the playoffs, they’re going to make adjustments, we’re going to make adjustments. So it’s all about coming out in Game 1 and trying to impose our will on them.”

Where are some areas where you think you might have an advantage in the series?

“We have to get out in transition, and we have to take advantage of getting [Dwight Howard] the ball. Him and [James Harden] in pick-and-rolls should be really good for us.”

How big is it to have Dwight back healthy? He missed 40 games during the regular season, but you were still able to keep it together.

“It’s huge having Dwight back. Dwight’s a beast. He’s still probably the best center in the league, even though he’s been hurt lately. He’s still the best center in the league the way he impacts the game —  blocking shots, when he’s in pick-and-rolls, everybody (on the defense) has to help. It’ll be big for us to have him back.”

Most people have the MVP race down to James Harden and Stephen Curry. I went with Harden, I think what he’s done for you guys has been incredible, and not to take anything away from Curry, because they’re both probably equally deserving. I’m not going to ask you who your pick is, because I’m sure you’ll go with your guy Harden, but what has he meant to you guys? Why is he the MVP this year?

“He’s done a lot for us. Before me and [Josh Smith] got here, Dwight was hurt and he was out there carrying the team. It was him and [Trevor Ariza], they were playing like 45 minutes a game. It was crazy. Then when we got here, he upped his ability — the way he’s been scoring, the way he’s been passing, he just makes us go. He makes us so much better when he’s aggressive. When he’s scoring, then they start helping on him and he can really pass. The things he’s doing right now are unbelievable. He can go out there and get 50, and then the next night get a triple-double. It’s crazy.”

Tell me about some of the work you’re doing with the University of Florida Diabetes Institute.

“The Center for Diabetes is excellent. They’re trying to find a cure for diabetes, and I do a basketball camp in the summer, the Corey Brewer Back2Back Basketball Camp — it’ll be in Gainesville. I’ve been doing that for the last six or seven years and give all the funds to the diabetes foundation. It’s all about trying to find a cure, man. It’s very unfortunate because my dad passed away from diabetes, and my mom has diabetes also. So I know what it’s like for someone who has diabetes to go through that.”

Corey Brewer supports his alma mater, The University of Florida Diabetes Institute to raise money for education and awareness to prevent diabetes and those living with the disease.

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NBA 2K video game simulates playoffs, picks Warriors over Cavaliers to win the title

Stephen Curry

A video game simulation correctly predicted the winner of the Super Bowl, the exact score and the MVP, while coming scary-close to nailing the quarterback’s statistics exactly.

Can the same happen in the NBA?

2K Sports is giving it a shot, and simulated the entire 2014-15 playoffs. The final result: Warriors over the Cavaliers in six games to win the title, with Stephen Curry finishing the year as the Finals MVP.

That’s what most people are predicting, so the computer doing the same shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. But some of the forecasts for how the earlier matchups in the playoffs might play out are a bit more interesting.