The Wizards won Game 3 without Wall, dominating and leading by more than 20 at one point. Washington took its foot off the gas and that combined with a great run from the Atlanta bench made things interesting in the end. Or, set up Paul Pierce for heroics, if you prefer.
This opens a door for Atlanta it has to step through this time. All season they have relied on their bench, but it is time for Mike Budenholzer to really lean on his starters. That group — Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, DeMarre Carroll, Paul Millsap, Al Horford — are +28 in this series but have played just 53 minutes as a group. That’s fewer than 18 minutes a night. In the debacle that was Atlanta’s Game 3 that lineup was +7 in 12 minutes. It’s the playoffs, time to go with what works. Or go home.
PBT Extra: Hawks can even series with Wizards if they play to their strengths
No John Wall, no problem for the Wizards in Game 3 against the Hawks. Washington was in control by more than 20 and it was a run by the Atlanta bench — which had been unimpressive up to this point — that made it close in the end. Paul Pierce will be remembered for his heroics.
But can the Hawks tie it up Monday night, I tell Julie Donaldson in this latest PBT Extra.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: The Hawks just need to play to their strengths. I know Paul Millsap is banged up, but in 12 minutes in Game 3 the Hawks usual starting give — Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, DeMarre Carroll, Millsap, and Al Horford — were a +7. That lineup has been strong all series, they just don’t lean on it. They need to now.
PBT Extra: How will Warriors respond to playoff adversity?
Nobody wins an NBA title without facing adversity. Not Jordan’s Bulls, not the Duncan Spurs, not Shaq and Kobe’s Lakers, not anybody.
The Warriors are getting facing their first real adversity of the playoffs, down 2-1 to the Grizzlies, and Julie Donaldson and I discuss how the Warriors will respond.
I think the Warriors will start to hit some of the shots they’ve been missing, but the question is can they get some more stops and turn those into transition/early opportunity points? Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph have won the battle inside, and that has taken away the easy buckets the Warriors thrive on.
LeBron James says coach Blatt only facing criticism “because he’s coaching me”
LeBron James is as calculating and polished a player interview as you will find in any sport (and most politicians). He’s been in the national spotlight since he was 16, and he gets it — he doesn’t say things on accident.
So when he said this about the final shot of Game 4:
“To be honest, the play that was drawn up, I scratched it. I just told coach ‘Give me the ball.’ We’re either going to go to overtime or I’m going to win it for us. It was that simple.”
You can also be sure LeBron was going to backtrack some on Monday — he doesn’t want to be seen as a coach killer. Here are LeBron’s Monday quotes, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN and Rick Noland of the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram (hat tip http://hoopshype.com/rumors.htm).
LeBron on criticism Blatt is facing for Game 4: "He's catching heat because he's coaching me, that's all that is"
Blatt deserves some criticism — and some praise. He has made some bad decisions in this series, the last play call being at the top of the list (in Europe it is common for the best player to inbound the ball, but you can’t do that with LeBron, you need his shot or at least his gravity to open up someone else). However, he’s made some good defensive calls (like finally putting Iman Shumpert on Derrick Rose and LeBron on Jimmy Butler last game).
If you want to believe Blatt and LeBron are all good, you go right ahead. We are a nation of ideas. If you want to believe that the moon landing was faked and that our government is savvy enough to keep an alien spacecraft at Area 51, you can believe those things, too.
Personally, I don’t think LeBron has called out Blatt twice during the playoffs on accident. But I do think he wants to protect his image.
DeAndre Jordan laughs off post-game question about hack-a-Jordan (VIDEO)
LOS ANGELES — DeAndre Jordan had answered another question Sunday night about the hack-a-Jordan that the Rockets went to early and often in Game 4 — 14 times Jordan was intentionally fouled in the first half, sending him to the line a record 28 times before the break.
“I didn’t really know how many I was shooting,” Jordan said. “I was just trying to make as many as I could for our team, and on the other end just try to get as many stops as I could in a row. In that stretch, they scored a little bit, but we were able to get stops and cut their lead a little bit in the first quarter.”
But the second time he was asked about it, he thought it was funny, and tried to do some kind of George Costanza walk off. Blake Griffin got him to at least throw a cliche out first.
The strategy made it a painful first half to watch, and in the end the hacking ended up throwing off the Rockets’ rhythm more than the Clippers. Los Angeles rebounded quite nicely, thank you very much, and now are in command of the series