Kurt Helin

Cleveland Cavaliers at Chicago Bulls

LeBron James rolls ankle when Derrick Rose takes charge, Mark Cuban calls for charge rule change

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In the end, it didn’t stop LeBron James. He still called his own number then hit the game-winning jumper from the corner.

But near the end of the second quarter LeBron sprained his ankle when Derrick Rose stepped in to take a charge in transition.

“I rolled it pretty good,” LeBron said after the game. “I haven’t had an opportunity to see the replay, but I know I rolled it pretty good when I stepped on D-Rose’s foot in transition. I wasn’t coming out. I felt it on the floor for a while, and I just took my time. I was not coming out not only because of the position our team was in but because of who I am as the leader of the team. I was going to fight through it no matter what.”

I’d have ruled that a block. Bulls’ fans no doubt see it differently.

But should those kinds of step-in charges even be in the game? Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban says no.

I don’t know if this is as pressing as looking at whether divisions should still exist, or if hack-a-whoever should be banned (it should if you ask me), but it’s a topic worth discussing.

Zach Randolph too big, too strong, too good for Warriors to stop (VIDEO)

Golden State Warriors v Memphis Grizzlies - Game Three
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All through Game 3 Saturday it seemed like Memphis’ big men could get the ball wherever they wanted, which usually meant deep in the post. Combine that positioning with guys like Festus Ezeli being asked to stop Zach Randolph for stretches, and you end up with Z-Bo scoring a team-high 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting.

Randolph had the kind of big game the Grizzlies need from him this series. He hit shots close to the basket but also was 4-of-4 from the right side midrange.

He’s a problem the Warriors don’t quite know how to solve yet. They need to figure it out — and start hitting the looks they get as well — quickly, or we are going to all have to listen to Charles Barkley say “you can’t win shooting jump shots” for another year.

Jimmy Butler reiterates he intends to remain with Bulls this summer

Jimmy Butler, Iman Shumpert
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This is nothing new — Jimmy Butler has said before he has no intention of trying to leave Chicago as a restricted free agent this summer. The Bulls are reportedly going to offer him a max contract.

But the dreams of other teams’ fans — and a few front offices — will not die easily. You can be sure some other teams will reach out and try to make a max offer to Butler (the Bulls just have the right to match). The question is will he sign any of those offers and put the Bulls on the clock? Maybe, if the franchise changes coaches, he would think about…

Nah.

Butler told Jeff Zillgitt of the USA Today he plans to remain a Bull.

“This is a place for me. I love playing with the guys that we have,” he said. “They continue to bring in great, high character guys that fit the team role. I love it here. I’m happy to be here.”

 

One other theme you will hear about Butler is he bet on himself and won. He could have signed with the Bulls for four-years, $42 million last summer but rejected the offer thinking he could get more this season. He will, he’s going to get four years, more than $60 million.

But Butler has a good perspective on that bet.

“Do I feel like I won the bet? It’s a tie. I think we both won,” Butler said. “I did my job and what I was supposed to do, and I think they are happy with where I am right now.”

They are. They would not be up 2-1 on the Cavaliers heading into a key game Sunday without his Most Improved Play this year.

But nobody won like Butler.

 

Marc Gasol banks in dagger for Memphis in win over Warriors (VIDEO)

Marc Gasol
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All weekend the big shots have seemed to bank in. Derrick Rose was first. Paul Pierce followed suit.

Marc Gasol wanted in on the action.

This wasn’t the game winner, but his shot to beat the shot clock banked in and was the dagger in the Grizzlies’ 99-89 win over the Warriors. This was the shot that was the final nail in Golden State’s coffin for the night and put Memphis up 2-1 in the series.

Memphis has the chance to take total control of the series on Monday night in Game 4. At home.

Rockets’ shoddy defense has Clippers in command of series

Los Angeles Clippers v Houston Rockets - Game One
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LOS ANGELES — In a pivotal Game 3 Friday night, 54.2 percent of the Clippers shots were open ones. Uncontested. Clean looks.

Due to a combination of lineups and effort, too often the Rockets couldn’t or wouldn’t get a defender in the way of the shooter. (For comparison, less than 40 percent of the Rockets’ shots were uncontested.)

It’s been a problem all series — and it’s going to end this series quickly if the Rockets don’t fix it.

Through three games against the Clippers, the Houston Rockets have allowed 110.6 points per 100 possessions. That’s terrible. It’s 10.1 worse than Houston gave up in the regular season, when the team was sixth in the league defensively. That 110.6 is one point worse than the league-worst Minnesota Timberwolves gave up on the season.

It’s not just this series; the Rockets didn’t defend the Mavericks well either in the first round. Throughout the playoffs, they have allowed 107.8 points per 100 possessions. It’s just in the first round they could outscore Dallas.

The Clipper offense is carving up Rockets — particularly in transition. But honestly just about all the time they can get the shots they want — Jason Terry cannot hang with J.J. Redick, and pairing Terry and James Harden has been a defensive disaster. Harden is showing the habits of his old, poor defense self (after a season where he put out a good effort on that end of the court). Terrence Jones has missed assignments. There are more problems — too many for Dwight Howard to clean up (he’s played well). This is more than missing Patrick Beverley (the Rockets’ defense was statistically better with him on the bench during the regular season). The Rockets’ defense is the main reason the Clippers are ahead two games to one and appear in total control of this second round series.

“We’ve had one good defensive half so far,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said after Friday night’s Game 3 loss. “That was the second half of the second game. But other than that we haven’t gotten anything.”

And the Clippers have gotten pretty much everything they wanted.

That successful half the Rockets had came with Trevor Ariza fronting Blake Griffin in the post with help (usually Dwight Howard) behind to kill the lob. It was a good strategy, but the Clippers didn’t show any counters Wednesday night, often keeping the ball on one side of the court.

That changed in Game 3 Friday. Chris Paul is not one to let the ball stick on one side. The Rockets rarely went to the small lineup out of that fear. Then when Clippers players got looks they knocked them down — Austin Rivers and J.J. Redick were a combined 8-of-12 from three.

Houston counts on stops to get themselves out in transition and to get some easy buckets before the defense sets. That did not happen much at all Friday night — the Rockets went against set defenses all night long and did okay, but not great, scoring against them.

On the other side, Houston’s poor offensive choices at times have fueled easy Clippers buckets going the other way because the Rockets have been so bad in transition defense. That was especially true in the ugliest defensive stretch of the series for Houston, the Clippers’ 23-0 run later in the third quarter when Los Angeles blew the game open.

“We didn’t play much defense at that point,” McHale said. “They made a few shots on us, we had a couple turnovers during that stretch, and you know they were running, we weren’t getting back. We played very poorly during that stretch, needless to say….

“Our turnovers, they ran off it, and you know, we did not. We did not do a good job of handling the pressure., all the things that came out with that little bit of a run. We just let go of the rope, and they piled on us.”

That has to be the most concerning thing Kevin McHale — when punched in the mouth, the Rockets folded. They let go of the rope. They showed no heart. Use whatever cliche you want for the Rockets’ becoming demoralized and rolling over once the Clippers get going. That’s not how McHale played in his Celtics days, but his Rockets’ have different leadership in the locker room than those legendary teams.

If the Clippers jump out to an early lead in Game 4, what happens to Houston?

But even the early lead may not matter. If the Rockets don’t figure out how to get consistent stops — and that will not be easy against the best regular season offense in the NBA — this series will be over sooner rather than later.