Kurt Helin

Chicago Bulls v Cleveland Cavaliers

PBT Extra: Great playoff series to come in later rounds

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ProBasketballTalk’s Kurt Helin discusses the disappointing first round playoff series and looks ahead to the more exciting matchups that will play out in the second round.

Lakers to send Byron Scott to NBA Draft lottery

Portland Trail Blazers v Los Angeles Lakers
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The Lakers are a proud franchise that is not used to figuring out who to send to the NBA Draft Lottery. They expect to still be playing this time of year.

Not this year.

Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak was Los Angeles sports icon Fred Roggin’s radio show on The Beast 980 in Los Angeles (the Clippers flagship station) that coach Byron Scott will represent the Lakers at the draft lottery.

In recent years, the Lakers have sent team owner Jeannie Buss and legend James Worthy to represent the team. We’ll see if Scott can bring the Lakers better luck, although based on his offense I would just expect whatever is most conventional.

Los Angeles had the fourth worst record in the NBA, their odds of keeping their pick is 82.8 percent — if they fall outside the top five the pick reverts to the Philadelphia 76ers (via the Phoenix Suns, part of the Steve Nash trade). Their odds of each of the top five spots: 1st pick 11.9 percent, 2nd pick 12.6 percent, 3rd pick 13.3 percent, 4th pick 9.9% percent, 5th pick 35.1 percent. Yes Lakers fans, the most likely outcome (basically one-in-three) is that you fall to the five spot.

The Lakers did well last season in the draft, getting Julius Randle in the first round and finding a potential gem in Jordan Clarkson in the second round. They need another draft like that (or three) to avoid being in this position again.

Gregg Popovich’s main adjustment: Hope his guys just shoot better

San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Two
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LOS ANGELES — Gregg Popovich made adjustments to how his Spurs defended and attacked the Clippers between Games 1 and 2 of what is now a tied series 1-1 heading to San Antonio for Game 3 Friday.

For example, he tweaked how they defended that double high pick-and-roll the Clippers have gone heavily to (and still are having success with despite the adjustments). On offense, you see the Spurs using a lot of what they did against Miami in the Finals last year (because the Clippers’ defense is similar), coming off the high pick then passing back to the middle of the floor.

But his main adjustment — hope his guys just shot better.

Seriously. For all the talk of an Xs and Os chess match, Popovich said before Game 2 that the real key was just that the Spurs do what they do best better than in Game 1.

“It always gets overplayed, when you lose you need to make an adjustment or two, and if you win you just go with the flow,” Popovich said. “You have to do what you do well. For instance, we can change pick-and-roll defense and do something different on Blake (Griffin), but I’m not sure that’s going to make us shoot better. We would like to shoot better tonight, we’d like to actually get back in transition D like it mattered. So if you do that it’s got nothing to do with Os and Xs and strategy things that you do. You’ve got to get back on defense or you’re in trouble. You’ve got to make shots or you’re in trouble. You can’t turn it over or you’re in trouble. Don’t do those things and the adjustments don’t mean a whole lot. We’ll make adjustments, so you guys think I’m doing something, but I’m hoping we do that stuff better.”

They did.

The Spurs shot 36.6 percent in Game 1, 46.2 percent in Game 2. Their eFG% (which accounts for the bump from made threes) jumped from 41.9 percent to 50.5 percent. The Spurs adjustments and ball movement got them seven more uncontested looks in Game 2 (40 to 33) and they hit a higher percentage of them (45 percent to 39.4 percent). The Spurs also did a much better job of getting back in transition and taking away some of the Clippers’ easy buckets.

This isn’t just a sound bite for Popovich. Doing what they do better was a core part of his message to the team. Look at what Patty Mills said after the Spurs Game 2 win.

“That was a game of grit, and grind and competitiveness,” Mills said. “We showed competitiveness at the toughest times, which is good. We lacked that in the first game so we knew that before any Xs and Os in this game we needed to show we could come out and compete for 48 minutes — and even more tonight.”

Doc Rivers and Popovich will both make adjustments heading into Game 3, and those tweaks will have an impact on the outcome.

But so will the answer to this simple question: Which team can do what it does best, better?

PBT Extra: No Rajon Rondo, no Chandler Parsons, Dallas is in trouble vs. Houston

Rick Carlisle, Rajon Rondo
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Dallas is in real trouble against the Rockets.

Houston was the favorite anyway, but the debacle with Rajon Rondo and the injury to Chandler Parsons leaves Dallas shorthanded and missing key pieces. In this PBT Extra Jenna Corrado wonders if it will be addition by subtraction for Dallas without Rondo, and in the short term it may (especially if Devin Harris can play).

But an engaged Rondo would have been a different story. Probably. We will never know.

How unlikely was Golden State’s comeback? With :09 on clock Warriors had 6.5% chance.

Stephen Curry
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It was as insane a comeback, as wild a finish as you will ever see in a playoff game.

The New Orleans Pelicans were in control of this game from the middle of the first quarter on, including their own 17-0 run in the second quarter. The Pelicans were up 20 entering the fourth quarter and 17 with six minutes to go. This was their game to win.

Even up three with :09 left and Golden State with the ball, the Pelicans had a 94.5 percent likelihood to win the game, according to the people over at Numberfire.com. Check out this chart of the win probability during the game (viaNumberfire.com):

source:

Pelican coach Monty Williams said postgame that he told his charges to foul, don’t let them get off a three. Curry did without being fouled, Marreese Speights got the offensive board and dribbled out (he would have been the guy to foul), and Curry got another shot at the three from the corner (and he was fouled on that shot, it just wasn’t called).

It was improbable, bordering on the impossible, that the Warriors would make this comeback. With  49 seconds to go they had a five percent chance of winning.

Now it is part of the Warrior’s legacy — and part of Stephen Curry’s growing personal mythology.