Dan Feldman

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Spurs-Rockets featured historically wild swings

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich on Game 1 against the Rockets:

What do I know? We just lost by 50. What are you asking me questions for anyway? Ask somebody that knows something, who can fix this.

After another blowout loss in Game 4, Popovich again addressed reviewing Game 1 film:

You would’ve traded all the players and fired me by the end of the game. It was that bad.

Good thing San Antonio stuck with this coaching staff and roster.

The Spurs opened their second-round series against Houston with a 27-point loss and ended it with a 39-point win. Between, San Antonio won by 25 and lost by 21.

The six-game series should go down as one of the wildest in NBA history – the Rockets’ seemingly pace-defining Game 1 win, the Spurs’ blowout Game 6 victory without Kawhi Leonard in Houston and the big back-and-forths between.

The only other series in NBA history where each team won by 20 twice was Pacers-Celtics in the 2005 first round. Indiana won by 27 and 23 and won the series while still allowing Orlando to win by 20 and 31.

But that series lasted seven games. San Antonio and Houston packed all its action into just six.

The 66-point difference between the Spurs’ best result (+39 in Game 6) and worst result (-27 in Game 1) was tied for the biggest swing ever in a series. The Cavaliers beat the Wizards by 30 and lost by 36 in the 2008 first round, and the Lakers beat the Nuggets by 44 and lost by 22 in the 1985 conference finals.

Here are the biggest swings between any games in a series, from the perspective of the series victor:

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Aside from each team’s lopsided victory, every other Cleveland-Washington game in 2008 was decided by single digits. Denver lost every game to the Lakers in 1985 beyond its Game 2 rout.

San Antonio and Houston kept trading haymakers, the Spurs winning Game 2 by 25 and the Rockets winning Game 4 by 21.

Here are the biggest differences between a team’s second-biggest win and second-biggest loss in a series, again from the perspective of the series victor:

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San Antonio-Houston had only one great game, the Spurs’ overtime win in Game 5. So, this probably wasn’t a great series or even a particularly memorable one (especially if San Antonio gets smashed by the Warriors in the next round).

But Spurs-Rockets sure was extreme, and it should be appreciated for that.

Will Wizards turn around Celtics series at home?

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Isaiah Thomas‘ Boston Celtics and John Wall‘s Washington Wizards have built something of a rivalry this season, going back and forth, trading wins on the court and barbs off it, from the “Funeral Game” in January to the lost tooth and ejection of their current playoff series.

One thing every matchup had in common so far as Washington prepares to host Boston in Game 6 on Friday night? The home team wins.

Always.

9 for 9.

So the Celtics, leading their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal 3-2, might be feeling pretty good about where things stand at the moment. Because even if they can’t close things out Friday, they’ll get to host Game 7 on Monday, an advantage they earned by finishing with the No. 1 seed.

Hey, Bradley Beal, why does the host come out on top every time?

“I wish I knew,” was the shooting guard’s reply.

A similar question was put to Wizards coach Scott Brooks on Thursday, when his team opted to skip a full practice and instead have a light shootaround.

“That’s been analyzed and studied since the game was invented. (With) the home court, you always have a comfort level,” Brooks said. “It just happens. I don’t really know the real reason. I’ve been thinking about it for many, many years.”

Even though his team is averaging about 30 more points in Boston than in Washington during this series, Celtics coach Brad Stevens insisted that the venue isn’t the most important factor in a game’s outcome.

“It’s more about how you play,” he said.

Brooks, though, said that playing at home is different.

“Even as a player, I always felt better. Just comfortable. Your crowd’s great. They’re backing you up. You’ve played in front of the crowd. You’ve played into the baskets 41 times during the regular season, so the rims, the court, everything’s familiar,” he said. “That being said, we’ve still got to play well. We’ve got to play with great effort. We’ve got to be locked in, focused.”

Brooks acknowledged that was not the case in Boston’s 123-101 victory in Game 5 on Wednesday, especially at the defensive end.

In the first quarter, the Celtics led the Wizards 15-0 in transition points, a surprising statistic given just how good Wall is at orchestrating that part of the game.

“If you miss a shot, you miss a shot,” Brooks said. “You’ve got to get back and not compound that miss with a defensive lapse.”

Still, he chose to accentuate the positive.

“We did not lose the series,” Brooks noted. “We lost the game.”

Celtics at Wizards, Celtics lead series 3-2. Game 6, 8 p.m., ESPN.

NEED TO KNOW: This series has been filled with one big run after another. Four of the five games featured a stretch of 16-0 or greater, including a 26-point burst by Washington in Game 4, and a 16-point stretch for the Celtics in Game 5. Joked Brooks on Thursday: “I’ll take a 25-point run. That’d be nice.”

KEEP AN EYE ON: Beal, Otto Porter Jr. The Wizards 3-point shooting has been a problem in the playoffs, with the team down at 32 percent through 11 playoff games after hitting 37 percent during the regular season. Beal (from 40 percent in the regular season to 28 in the playoffs) and Porter (from 43 to 31), in particular, have been off, and they’re supposed to be Washington’s most productive from beyond the arc. “When you’re as good as Brad,” Brooks said, “there’s going to be extra attention on you. You’ve got to give the defense some credit.”

INJURY UPDATE: Celtics G Avery Bradley, who’s been dealing with hip issues during the series, sure seemed OK while scoring 29 points in Game 5 , including 25 in the first half on 10-of-13 shooting. “All indications are that he felt good after yesterday’s game,” Stevens said.

PRESSURE IS ON: The Wizards, of course. Not only are they facing elimination, but even if they win Game 6, they know that they are 0-5 in Boston, the site of Game 7 if there is one, since the start of this season.

 

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: My Dirk Nowitzki ‘one-trick pony’ comments were misconstrued

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Last year, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said of Dirk Nowitzki:

Dirk Nowitzki’s shot is very hard to block, but I don’t think that he was able to have a dominant career because he couldn’t do other things. If he could have shot like that and rebounded and played defense and blocked shots, then he would have been all-around, and he would have gotten more credit. He was like a one-trick pony. You want guys that can shoot like that on your team. I’m not saying that he lacked value, but he would have been considered at a higher level if he had done more on the court other than just shoot the ball.

Abdul Jabbar this week on ESPN, as transcribed by Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

“I want to make a shout-out to Dirk,” Abdul-Jabbar told Nichols. “Some of the statements I made about him were misconstrued to make it seem like I was trying to knock him and knock his career.

“Nothing could be farther from the truth.’’

Of Nowitzki, Abdul-Jabbar went on to say: “He helped the game evolve by stretching the court with his accurate 3-point shooting. Anybody that can lead the league multiple times as the leading scorer is awesome.

“And anything that I said that made anybody think differently, they got it wrong. And I wanted him to hear that from me.”

Nowitzki was an underrated rebounder, defender and passer in his prime. That’s why he led the Mavericks to the 2011 title.

If he had done those things better, would he have been better? Um, sure. That’s not really a point.

And Nowitzki used his primary skill – shooting – to great effect all over the floor in a variety of actions. It’s an oversimplification to call it a single trick.

I don’t know what Abdul-Jabbar originally meant, but it sure sounded as if he was selling Nowitzki short. I don’t blame anyone for walking away believing that was his intent.

But good for Abdul-Jabbar for praising Nowitzki now – even if he’s changing his tune rather more than setting the record straight, though this is probably some of both.

James Blackmon Jr. leaving Indiana early for NBA draft

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OG Anunoby and Thomas Bryant are leaving Indiana early for the NBA draft.

Now, the Hoosiers’ leading scorer is following suit.

James Blackmon Jr.:

Anunoby (health permitting) will be a first-round pick. Bryant is more likely to land in the second round.

Blackmon might go undrafted, though someone could take a flier on him in the second round. He’s an excellent outside shooter, and teams would like to find a place for players with that skill.

It won’t be easy with Blackmon. He’s 6-foot-3 without much athleticism or playmaking ability. Can he shoot well enough to be a poor-defending, one-dimensional shooting guard? That’s a tall order. So is him developing complementary skills without better physical tools.

LaVar Ball: ‘I don’t need no advice from Kobe Bryant’

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Kobe Bryant has mentored several players in retirement. Kobe has also talked about advising the Lakers specifically.

Lonzo Ball prefers the Lakers draft him, and they’re reportedly interested.

Could Ball become Kobe’s protégé?

Lonzo’s father, LaVar Ball, via ESPN:

“I don’t need no advice from Kobe Bryant,” LaVar Ball said Thursday on Keyshawn, Jorge and LZ on ESPN Radio 710 LA. “I don’t need advice from Kobe Bryant. ‘Zo’s got to play his game.

OK then.