<span class="vcard">Kurt Helin</span>

Stephen Curry

Stephen Curry, LeBron James unanimous choices, lead All-NBA First Team

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This is bigger than the All-Star Game for a lot of players. Because it’s more exclusive.

Only six guards, six forwards and three centers get to make the All-NBA team, it is the cream that has risen to the top of the NBA.

No shock, LeBron James and freshly-minted MVP Stephen Curry were unanimous choices to make the first team — if you put together a ballot and they’re not on it you’re doing it wrong. This is also the first First Team vote for Anthony Davis, who earned this spot based on his historic season and carrying the Pelicans to the playoffs.

No Hawks made the list — the team ball concepts can hurt come time for individual awards. Fair or not.

Here is the full list. The two forwards are listed first, followed by the center, then the two guards. After the players team is the number of first team votes (in parenthesis) and total points.

2014-15 ALL-NBA FIRST TEAM

LeBron James, Cleveland (129) 645
Anthony Davis, New Orleans (119) 625
Marc Gasol, Memphis (65) 453
Stephen Curry, Golden State (129) 645
James Harden, Houston (125) 637

2014-15 ALL-NBA SECOND TEAM

LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland (13) 390
DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento (18) 220
Pau Gasol, Chicago (15) 242
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City (10) 397
Chris Paul, L.A. Clippers (1) 335

2014-15 ALL-NBA THIRD TEAM

Blake Griffin, L.A. Clippers (2) 189
Tim Duncan, San Antonio (6) 167
DeAndre Jordan, L.A. Clippers (12) 175
Klay Thompson, Golden State 122
Kyrie Irving, Cleveland 112

Other players receiving votes, with point totals (First Team votes in parentheses): Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio, 155; Paul Millsap, Atlanta, 70; Al Horford, Atlanta, 64 (1); John Wall, Washington, 50; Jimmy Butler, Chicago, 32; Damian Lillard, Portland, 22; Draymond Green, Golden State, 9; Zach Randolph, Memphis, 7; Jeff Teague, Atlanta, 7; Andrew Bogut, Golden State, 6; Nikola Vucevic, Orlando, 6; DeMar DeRozan, Toronto, 3; Rudy Gay, Sacramento, 3; Andre Drummond, Detroit, 2; Gordon Hayward, Utah, 2; Kyle Korver, Atlanta, 2; Joakim Noah, Chicago, 2; Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas, 2; Dwyane Wade, Miami, 2; Carmelo Anthony, New York, 1; Tyson Chandler, Dallas, 1; Mike Conley, Memphis, 1; Brook Lopez, Brooklyn, 1; Kevin Love, Cleveland, 1; Kyle Lowry, Toronto, 1; Khris Middleton, Milwaukee, 1.

Rockets vs. Warriors Game 2: Five things to watch

Los Angeles Clippers v Houston Rockets - Game Seven
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Houston and Golden State agree on one thing out of Game 1: Both know they can play better.

The Rockets saw the way they pounded the ball into the paint early, the way that put them ahead, and believe there is a blueprint for winning. They also need to get James Harden “playing downhill,” as Kevin McHale likes to say.

The Warriors see the impact of their small lineup, they know they can get more out of Klay Thompson, they feel they can defend better, they think they played their worst game of this series. This team does not lack for confidence.

What should we watch for in Game 2 Thursday night? Here are the five keys for Game 2.

1) Dwight Howard’s knee. There is no bigger story in this series; his status will have more of an impact on Game 2 than anything else. Howard has a sprained knee from when Josh Smith fell into it in Game 1, and Howard’s status is going to be a game-time decision Thursday night. Expect him to play, but if the version on the court is the limited Howard from the last three quarters of Game 1, it plays into the hands of the Warriors. We know that Golden State is going to go small with Draymond Green at the five for healthy stretches of Game 2. If Howard can’t punish Green inside, and get back fast enough in transition defense, he has to be on the bench.

2) How does Houston defend the Warriors’ small lineup? Golden State went with the small lineup for 16 minutes in Game 1 and were +18. Coach Steve Kerr is no dummy and said you can expect to see more of it going forward. The lineup that worked best in Game 1 had Green at the five to go with three guards in Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Shaun Livingston — it works because the Warriors don’t suffer a defensive drop-off with this group. Whether with Howard or Clint Capella in the paint, or some other method, the Rockets have to find a counter to this lineup.

3) Rocket defenders may want to stick with Stephen Curry. In Game 1, Jason Terry hit a three to tie the game, and then proceeded to do a little trash talking coming up the court. Vintage Terry. However, the next two defensive possessions Terry lost Curry off the ball and gave up open corner threes. Unfortunately for the Rockets, also vintage Terry. Both Terry and Pablo Prigioni lost Curry a few times off the ball — 13 of Curry’s 22 shots in Game 1 were uncontested (according to the NBA’s SportsVU camera data). That’s far too many. He may hit the contested ones anyway, but if you don’t make Curry work hard for his looks you will pay a price.

4) James Harden needs to get to the line more. James Harden got to the free throw line six times in Game 1 (he averages more than 10 a game). Credit the Warriors’ defense for some of that, but the Rockets need to get Harden rolling like a bowling ball down the lane — gathering fouls and getting buckets at the basket. If Howard can’t get the Rockets points in the paint, Harden must. Expect to see an aggressive and attacking Harden from the opening tip.

5) The Rockets need more threes. In the regular season, the Rockets attempted a league-high 32.7 threes a game. In the playoffs that dipped to 28. But in Game 1 the Rockets only took 22 threes, hitting eight. They were 3-of-12 above the break. Again, give the Warriors defense some credit, they have been good at thwarting threes all season and into the playoffs. That said, the Rockets have to take more and make more threes. They need the extra points to hang with the Warriors, plus that will open up the paint. Jason Terry was 1-of-4, he needs to shoot better from there, and if they can free up Trevor Ariza (4-of-5 in Game 1) for more looks all the better. Or they can just hope Josh Smith gets hot (he’ll take them anyway).

Hobbled Kyrie Irving says he plans to play in Game 2 for Cavaliers

Cleveland Cavaliers v Atlanta Hawks - Game One
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Kyrie Irving played the first 3:05 of the fourth quarter in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, then went to the bench for the night. Tendonitis in his left knee has hobbled the All-Star guard to the point the Cavaliers were better with Matthew Dellavedova on the court.

But Irving plans to play in Game 2 Friday. From Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com.

“Right now, I’m pretty confident I’ll go,” Irving said after the game, visibly frustrated by his injuries affecting yet another one of his postseason performances.

That attitude shouldn’t be a surprise, this is the guy who last week said:

“I’d rather give 30 percent, 40 percent, rather than give none at all. I just literally can’t do it. I can’t sit on the bench and be hurt and be OK with that.”

The concerning thing is that Irving had almost a week off from the time the Cavaliers eliminated the Bulls to this Game 1, a week he spent getting rehab on his sore right foot and tender left knee. It didn’t help much, and coach David Blatt suggested Irving may have aggravated the knee during the game.

It showed on the court. Irving was not much help defensively in Game 1 and lacked the explosiveness that characterizes his game.

“The most frustrating point is seeing holes in the defense that I’m used to attacking,” Irving said. “I tried to make one move and accelerated and then I stopped and I passed it to Mozzy [Timofey Mozgov]. Mozzy missed the shot, and I came right out in the third quarter.”

He can still help the Cavaliers on the court with his shooting — he was 2-of-3 from three — but not much else. Still, he will start because he earned it

Still, he will start Game 2 because he earned it — and if the Hawks are smart they will attack him with Jeff Teague off the dribble. LeBron James needs some support in this series, and he got it in Game 1 from J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson. Enough to get the Cavaliers the win.

He’ll try, but Cleveland can’t count on that support coming from Irving this series.

 

PBT Extra: Warriors small ball lineup key to Game 1 win

Dwight Howard
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Throughout the playoffs, when the Warriors have needed to make a push, they went to a small lineup with Draymond Green at the five. It works for them because their defense doesn’t suffer when they add the offense, thanks in large part to Green.

That worked again in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals — the small lineup was +18 in 16 minutes and was key to the Warriors win.

The big challenge for the Rockets heading into Game 2 is what they can do to counter it — especially if Dwight Howard can’t play or is limited.

PBT Extra: Game 1 wasn’t so much lost chance as learning opportunity for Rockets

Klay Thompson, James Harden, Andrew Bogut
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Houston pounded the ball inside in the first quarter, and by the middle of the second quarter they were up 16 points and seemingly in control of Game 1 against Golden State.

And by halftime the Warriors had come back and taken a lead they would never surrender.

Did the Rockets let one get away, asked Jenna Corrado in this latest PBT Extra? I don’t think so. Now when you consider Dwight Howard’s injury changed the game, plus you had to know the Warriors had a run in them. The question is can the Rockets build on the lessons they learned in Game 1?