Kurt Helin

New Orleans Pelicans v Golden State Warriors - Game One

Pelicans’ Tyreke Evans leaves Game 1 with knee injury, MRI Sunday

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The Pelicans were gamers on Saturday in their first ever playoff series. They were getting blown out, down 25 in the third but fought back to make it interesting in the end, falling to Golden State 106-99.

They did all that without Tyreke Evans — and he may be out for a while.

With just more than five minutes left in the second quarter, Evans collided with Andre Iguodala and the Pelicans’ guard injured his knee. He did not return to the game with what was officially called a bruised left knee.

However, to hear Evans talk after the game it sounds like more than that. From John Reid at the Times-Picayune.

“We were coming down and banged knees real hard,” Evans said. ”I felt like a little pop or snap. I don’t know what it is, but I will get an MRI (Saturday night) and I’ll see.”

That’s not good. Evans is set to have an MRI on Sunday.

Evans averaged 16.6 points and 6.6 assists this year for the Pelicans, becoming the primary ball handler with Jrue Holiday out injured. If Evans has to miss time, the Pelicans have Holiday back to lean on again, plus we likely would see more Norris Cole.

Not that this would change the ultimate outcome of the series, but the Pelicans are less dangerous without him — this season the Pelican’s offense drops 6.8 points per 100 possessions when Evans is on the bench.

PBT First Round Playoff Previews: Los Angeles Clippers vs. San Antonio Spurs

Los Angeles Clippers v San Antonio Spurs
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SEASON RECORDS

Clippers: 56-26 (third place in Western Conference)
Spurs: 55-27 (sixth place in Western Conference)
Season series tied 2-2

KEY INJURIES

Clippers: No significant injuries

Spurs: Tiago Splitter is battling a calf injury, he practiced with team Friday but will be limited (this matters, Splitter is a good defender on Blake Griffin). Matt Bonner has a calf injury, missed the final game of the season and may miss the start of the series.

OFFENSE/DEFENSE RANKINGS

Clippers: 109.8 points scored per 100 possessions (1st in NBA); 103 points allowed per 100 possessions (15th in NBA).
Spurs: 106.2 points scored per 100 possessions (7th in NBA); 99.6 points allowed per 100 possessions (3rd in NBA).

THREE KEYS TO THE SERIES

1) Chris Paul vs. Kawhi Leonard. Gregg Popovich is not going to use the best on-ball defender in the league on CP3 exclusively, but when it gets to crunch time in games you can expect this matchup. We didn’t see this much in the regular season; the teams didn’t play after mid-February, so the Clippers didn’t see dominant late-season Leonard. Chris Paul is smart and efficient setting up the Clippers offense, but Leonard’s length and athleticism give every player he guards trouble. It’s a huge question for this series: Can CP3 be CP3 late in games with Leonard blanketing him? If this takes the ball out of his hands, can the other Clippers effectively orchestrate the offense? This is going to be a joy to watch unfold.

2) Hack-a-Jordan. Personally, I prefer the term “hack-the-DJ,hack-the-DJ” sung to the tune of the Smith’s “Panic.”

This should be the best first-round series in the land, and it will be marred at times by Gregg Popovich ordering fouls on DeAndre Jordan, who shot 39.7 percent from the line this season. The last times these teams met Jordan took 26 free throws because of the strategy (he hit 10). More than just the missed free throws, for the Spurs this works because it disrupts and stalls the best offense in the NBA. Then eventually Rivers is forced to sit Jordan and replace him with a lesser player (Glen Davis or Spencer Hawes). It’s also just painful to watch. Having to suffer through this on what will be a much-watched first-round series is maybe the impetus to force a rule change, but not in time for this series. If it works, you can be sure the ruthless Popovich will go to it over and over.

3) Clippers lack of depth vs. Spurs bench. Doc Rivers tried to fill out the Clippers’ bench this season, he went out and got Spencer Hawes and Hedo Turkoglu, they tried guys like Jordan Farmar and Austin Rivers. None of it worked well. Jamal Crawford remains a quality sixth man, but that’s where the rotation stops. Because of that Rivers leans on his starters heavily — the Clippers starting five was the most used lineup in the NBA by more than 300 minutes (that despite Blake Griffin missing 15 games). Meanwhile, the Spurs’ bench is a Swiss Army Knife that Popovich can unfold in a variety of ways, depending on what the matchup calls for. He trusts Marco Belinelli, Patty Mills, Matt Bonner, and the rest to make plays if their number gets called. And they do. What this gives Popovich is more pieces on the chess board to move around and try to exploit specific situations and match ups. That versatility will be key for San Antonio as the series moves on, and Rivers may not have the players to counter Pop’s moves.

PREDICTION

This is not a first-round matchup, this is a conference finals level matchup — the Clippers and Spurs were second and third in the league respectively in point differential per 100 possessions. These are two of the NBA’s top five teams by any reasonable measure, and yet one team will not even make the second round. (This is also Golden State’s dream scenario, let these two challengers beat each other up and avoid either one until the conference finals.) This is clearly the best first round series this year.

The Clippers are an excellent team, but I think Doc Rivers the GM will have tied Doc Rivers’ the coach’s hands too much. The lack of depth leads to a lack of versatility that is the strength of the Spurs. Then there’s the fact the Clippers’ defense isn’t great — they play an aggressive, Heat-style trapping defense, but not as well and it can be exploited with ball movement. Add it all up and you’re left with a Los Angeles side that needs to play almost flawlessly to win this series. I don’t think they can do that four times out of seven. It’s going to be physical, hard fought and close, but I’ll take the Spurs in six.

PBT Extra: Houston, Dallas simply do not like each other

Dallas Mavericks v Houston Rockets
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Houston and Dallas both went after Dwight Howard. Chandler Parsons bolted Houston for Dallas, then called downtown Houston dirty. Mark Cuban and Daryl Morey snipe at each other through the media.

This is a rivalry, and it makes for an entertaining 2/7 series between the Rockets and Mavericks. On the court, there are questions about how much Rajon Rondo and James Harden can give. But the secret may be if Dallas can control their defensive boards.

Jenna Corrado and I talk about a Western Conference series that will be more interesting than these seeds normally put together. I’ll take Houston, but it will not be easy.

PBT staff playoff predictions: Lots of Golden State love from us

Draymond Green, LeBron James
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Predicting this year’s NBA playoffs — particularly in the Western Conference — feels a little like predicting the NCAA Tournament:

You know some upsets are coming, the hard part is figuring out where.

The ProBasketballTalk staff — Kurt Helin, Brett Pollakoff, Dan Feldman, and Sean Highkin — lay out our picks for the upcoming playoffs. And we stay pretty close to the chalk picks a lot of the time, just a few upsets. Unless you consider the Spurs over the Clippers a big upset. And you shouldn’t.

Here are our first round predictions, in a handy table.

source:

The only series with a real split is Portland and Memphis, which is maybe the hardest to predict. Mostly because of the mass number of injuries to those teams.

We’re going to skip ahead a little, over the second round, straight to the conference finals. If you care deeply about what we think happens in the second round you can piece it together easily. And I’m a little worried about you.

Eastern Conference Finals:

Kurt: Cleveland over Atlanta (7 games)
Brett: Chicago over Atlanta (6 games)
Dan: Cleveland over Atlanta (6 games)
Sean: Cleveland over Atlanta (6 games)

Western Conference Finals:

Kurt: Golden State over San Antonio (7 games)
Brett: San Antonio over Golden State (7 games)
Dan: Golden State over LA Clippers (6 games)
Sean: Golden State over San Antonio (7 games)

As you might expect, when it gets to the NBA Finals, we all think the Western Conference takes it. The only difference is which Western team.

NBA Finals:

Kurt: Golden State over Cleveland (5 games)
Brett: San Antonio over Chicago (7 games)
Dan: Golden State over Cleveland (6 games)
Sean: Golden State over Cleveland (6 games)

PBT Extra: Injuries make Grizzlies, Trail Blazers series hard to predict

Marc Gasol
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Wesley Matthews. Arron Afflalo. Nicolas Batum. C.J. McCollum. Chris Kaman. Mike Conley. Tony Allen. And that’s not even mentioning Marc Gasol, and LaMarcus Aldridge having recently missed games for injuries (but they will play).

Injuries will shape the West’s 4/5 matchup between the Memphis Grizzlies and Portland Trail Blazers in interesting ways. Without Conley or Allen at 100 percent, can the Grizzlies defense contain Damian Lillard? Will Portland have the bodies to limit Gasol and Zach Randolph up front from Memphis?

Jenna Corrado and I discuss this, and I still predict the Grizzlies advance in the lastest PBT Extra.