Dan Feldman

Josh Richardson stumbles into live postgame show, does interview (video)

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We’ve seen a thoughtful postgame interview. We’ve seen a snippy postgame interview.

And here’s a startled interview from last night.

Heat rookie Josh Richardson wandered onto the set of a live postgame show, so Jason Jackson – the ultimate pro – had Richardson wired up, finished his own point and then interviewed Richardson (who was presumably there to be interviewed in the first place, though with a smoother entrance).

LeBron James bumps Stanley Johnson, takes elbows from Pistons, calls none of it dirty (videos)

Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James (23) drives past Detroit Pistons' Stanley Johnson (3) in the first half in Game 2 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series, Wednesday, April 20, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
AP Photo/Tony Dejak
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Why did Stanley Johnson say he’s “definitely” in LeBron James‘ head?

Because Johnson and the Pistons are outplaying LeBron and the Cavaliers? No. Detroit isn’t, and LeBron has schooled Johnson when matched up.

Because Johnson is young, used to winning – he was a four-time high school state champion and reached the Elite Eight with Arizona – and doesn’t know any better? That’s most of it.

But also because LeBron, who tried downplaying his matchup with the Stans, acted for a moment as if Johnson were in his head.

Johnson made a 3-pointer in the first quarter, and the Cavs called timeout. As they returned to their benches, LeBron bumped Johnson:

Johnson, via Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports:

“That was fugazi,” Johnson said, using a slang term for fake. “He didn’t bump me. I just didn’t move out of his direction. I don’t know what y’all take from that. I don’t take anything from it. But a cheap-ass shot, a cheap-ass bump.”

If LeBron were overly concerned about Johnson, it only fueled him. LeBron dominated the rest of Cleveland’s Game 2 win.

But the Pistons weren’t done with him.

In the fourth quarter, Andre Drummond and Marcus Morris – who suggested Detroit should rough up Kevin Love at center – delivered back-to-back elbows to LeBron:

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

Cavs coach Tyronn Lue and general manager David Griffin are considering sending the video to the league office for review.

I suppose that wouldn’t hurt. Stan Van Gundy is also lobbying for favorable calls on LeBron.

But LeBron doesn’t find it necessary.

LeBron, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“There hasn’t been one dirty play in the series,” James said. “For me, I’m the last person to ever allow physical play go to the other side. I know how much I mean to my team and I understand what this is all about and I will make sure our guys understand that we’re here to play basketball. Everything else is irrelevant.

“We want to play physical, we want to get up into those guys, make it tough on them, but, like I said, the game is played between the four lines and the video here, video there, it means absolutely nothing. I took a shot. It’s OK, I’m still standing tall. I’ll be ready on Friday.”

When LeBron was bemoaning the Cavaliers’ lack of an enforcer after they let Kendrick Perkins walk, I said the team’s top players needed to show their own toughness. This is LeBron’s opportunity to prove he can.

Kyle Lowry: Raptors won’t stop Paul George from scoring 25

Indiana Pacers' Paul George, right, drives for the basket against Toronto Raptor's Bismack Biyombo during second half, round one NBA basketball playoff action in Toronto on Monday, April 18, 2016. (Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press via AP
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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — When the burning sensation in Paul George‘s shattered right leg finally subsided in August 2014, the Indiana Pacers young star made a commitment to himself and his fans.

He would return to the basketball court even better.

Twenty months after suffering the unforgettably gruesome injury in Las Vegas, George has written the next chapter in his comeback tale with an incredible start to the NBA playoffs.

In Game 1 against Toronto, George scored 27 of his 33 points in the second half, almost willing the Pacers to a 100-90 victory over the East’s No. 2 seed. He added 28 points in Monday’s loss, leaving George with two-game totals of 61 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, five steals and a field-goal percentage of 54.1 percent. He’s 6 of 8 on 3s and 15 of 17 from the free-throw line, playing the same way he did when he led the Pacers to back-to-back Eastern Conference finals against LeBron James and the Miami Heat.

“There’s no stopping PG. He’s playing phenomenal,” Raptors All-Star guard Kyle Lowry said after Toronto’s 98-87 victory in Game 2. “You’re not going to stop him from getting 25 or 30. He’s going to get that, that’s how talented he is.”

George’s amazing journey has been a series of steady steps.

Eight months after snapping his leg when he crashed into a basketball stanchion during a U.S. national team scrimmage and countless hours of grueling rehab, George returned to game action sooner than many thought possible. Seven months after that, the 6-foot-9 forward was named November’s Eastern Conference player of the month after averaging 27.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.4 assists.

In February, George made his third All-Star appearance, started for the second time, broke the All-Star Game record with nine 3-pointers and finished with 41 points, one short Wilt Chamberlain’s record from 1962. George finished the regular season ranked among the league’s top 10 in scoring (23.1 points), steals (1.9) and 3-pointers made (210) and produced the highest single-season point total (1,874) of his career.

On Thursday, George will have a chance to give the Pacers a 2-1 lead in this best-of-seven series when he makes his first home playoff appearance since May 28, 2014.

“I’m real excited to be back on the stage where I was able to make my name,” George said.

Yet George isn’t completely healthy.

Last week, coach Frank Vogel said this season was expected to be a “recovery year” for George and that there are times George feels soreness in his surgically-repaired right leg.

“I knew right away, in training camp, that I was going to be OK. I knew I was OK last summer,” George said. “But I’ve still not regained all of my strength and explosiveness. I’m hopeful I’ll get that explosion, that quick step back and be lighter on my feet. I do feel good with where I’m at right now.”

George spent this transition year learning how to play the four spot after spending his first five seasons playing almost exclusively at the three spot. He still thrived – and he doesn’t turn 26 until May 2.

Vogel figures George is only scratching the surface of what’s possible.

“It (the comeback) is remarkable. It’s just a testament to his work ethic and his competitiveness to get back to this level this fast,” Vogel said. “Injury aside, guys grow from year six to year 10, so we do still think there’s more there.”

First, though, George has big plans for the rest of this year.

He believes the Pacers, who have won seven of nine, are playing their best basketball at the right time and could make a surprising postseason run. And whenever the Pacers season ends, George has another goal – playing for Team USA at the Rio Olympics, another major step on the comeback trail.

“It’s a dream of mine,” he said. “I want to represent my country and do it alongside the best players in the country. We’ll see, after the season, how my body is feeling.”

So far, things look just fine.

George is playing well, his body is holding up and the Raptors have discovered how difficult the matchup can be.

“We’ve just got to make it a little bit more difficult (on George),” Lowry said. “He’s getting to his spots a little bit too easy.”

NBA playoff games more lopsided than ever at this point

Memphis Grizzlies forwards Chris Andersen, front right, and Matt Barnes, front left, sit with teammates on the sideline during the second half in Game 2 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs, Tuesday, April 19, 2016, in San Antonio. San Antonio won 94-68. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
AP Photo/Eric Gay
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Why have the 2016 NBA playoffs seemed exceptionally boring?

Because they have been.

Through two games in each series, the average contest has been decided by 17.3 points. That’s, by far, the most lopsided gap ever at this point in the postseason.

Here are are the average scoring margins through two games in each first-round series since 1984, when the league instituted a 16-team playoff:

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Six higher seeds have taken 2-0 series leads this year:

  • No. 1 Cavaliers over No. 8 Pistons
  • No. 3 Heat over No. 6 Hornets
  • No. 4 Hawks over No. 5 Celtics
  • No. 1 Warriors over No. 8 Rockets
  • No. 2 Spurs over No. 7 Grizzlies
  • No. 4 Clippers over No. 5 Trail Blazers

Forget the nonsense about a series not beginning until the home team loses. Teams that have won the first two games of a best-of-seven series at home have won 94% of the time. With No. 1, 2 and 3 seeds in the first round, it’s 100%.

It’d be extremely rare for Boston or Portland to come back and win. For Detroit, Charlotte, Houston or Memphis to do it would be unprecedented.

This postseason has produced just two games that came down to the wire – the Hawks’ Game 1 win over the Celtics and the Mavericks’ Game 2 win over the Thunder, each separated by one point. The Pistons came within five of the Cavs in Game 1, and the Rockets hit a couple late 3s to lose to the Warriors by “just” nine in Game 2. Otherwise, every game has been separated by double digits.

Since the NBA went to a best-of-seven first round in 2003, every first round has included at least seven more games than the minimum 32. So, far we’re guaranteed just two extra – and the first 16 haven’t been that thrilling.

Let’s hope a couple more series, or at least games, get more competitive.

Stan Van Gundy saucily answers question on LeBron James’ playing time (video)

BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 06:  Stan Van Gundy of the Detroit Pistons looks on during the fourth quarter against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on January 6, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Pistons defeat the Celtics 99-94. 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 Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
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Hornets coach Steve Clifford delivered an eloquent soliloquy on how adjustments actually work in the NBA playoffs.

And then there’s Stan Van Gundy.

Cleveland.com reporter Joe Vardon asked the Pistons coach about the Cavaliers starting the second and fourth quarters of Game 2 with LeBron James on the floor, an adjustment from Game 1.

Van Gundy:

LeBron’s always a pretty good adjustment, yeah. Yeah, that’s really smart coaching, to put LeBron on the floor. It is. That’s really smart coaching to put LeBron on the floor. I give him a lot of credit for that adjustment, if that’s what you want to call it.

Vardon actually made a good point, though I don’t think Van Gundy had interest in even considering the question’s nuance.

This wasn’t about how much LeBron played. He actually played 1:07 less than Game 1 (though if the score were close, he probably would’ve played the final 3:59 of Game 2). This was about when LeBron played.

In Game 1, Detroit outscored Cleveland by 13 in the five minutes LeBron sat to begin the second and fourth quarters.

In Game 2 – with LeBron on the court – Cleveland outscored Detroit by 11 in the six minutes before a majority of the Pistons’ starters returned in the second and fourth quarters.

Detroit’s bench has been a problem all season, especially after trading Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova for Tobias Harris. The upgrade of Harris from Ilyasova in the starting lineup outweighs other concerns, but a necessary side effect has been elevating Steve Blake permanently into the rotation. It’s hard for the 36-year-old point guard to run a unit, and he’s a defensive liability. That puts too much pressure on the Pistons’ other backups.

Nobody in this series is more capable of exploiting that weakness than LeBron. So, Tyronn Lue wisely found more minutes for LeBron against Detroit’s reserves. And Cleveland’s other starters held their own in increased minutes without LeBron.

This adjustment worked.

Now, it’s on Van Gundy to answer – not in his post-game press conference, but in Game 3.