Kurt Helin

Dallas Mavericks v Houston Rockets - Game Two

Smoove operators: Josh Smith, Dwight Howard lead Houston past Dallas to 2-0 series lead

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Josh Smith and Dwight Howard were reliving their old AAU teammates days together.

Smith had seven fourth-quarter assists — five were lobs to Howard for rim-rattling dunks. Most of that came during a 19-4 fourth quarter Houston run where Smith’s passing carved up the slow feet of the Dallas defense. This was an 84-84 game early in the fourth quarter before the Smith-inspired Rocket Run.

Combine that run with 28 points and 12 boards from Howard, plus 24 points from James Harden, and you have a 111-99 Houston win Tuesday in Game 2. That puts the Rockets up 2-0 in the series as it shifts to Dallas — and puts the Mavericks in a must-win situation Friday night in Game 3.

Tuesday night Dallas was without Chandler Parsons due to injury, and they missed his defense on Harden.

This was also a game where — once again — Rajon Rondo was utterly ineffective for Dallas. To the point that after he picked up two fouls and a technical in the first :34 seconds of the second half Mavs coach Rick Carlisle never put him back in the game. Rondo has killed Dallas’ spacing (not just this playoff, since he came to town) and they were better with J.J. Barea on the floor (he had 13 points on 14 shots). Barea came in and Dallas hung around. Rondo was nowhere near his vintage self — he walked the ball up so slowly in the first half he got an eight-second backcourt violation — and after the game Carlisle dodged the questions about Rondo’s impact and how much they play him going forward (Rondo did not speak to the media). If one thing has become perfectly clear in these playoffs it’s that Rondo will not be a Maverick next season. However, in the 36 minutes Rondo has played in the two games in this series, Dallas is -37. If Devin Harris is healthy for Game 3 Rondo may not see the court.

If one thing has become perfectly clear in these playoffs it’s that Rondo will not be a Maverick next season.

Meanwhile, Rockets’ coach Kevin McHale went to his mid-season pickup in Smith and got a monster performance. Remember, this is the Smith that Stan Van Gundy waived and essentially paid to go away from his team.

Smith came in and scored seven straight points at one point in the third quarter, then ran a nice pick-and-roll with Howard, making the pass to set him up (Howard was fouled). Smith finished with nine points in the third quarter, 15 for the game.

Because Smith was feeling it, Tyson Chandler and other Mavs defenders gravitated toward him, and Smith carved up Dallas with his passing. Dallas just had a lot of minus defenders on the floor at the same time in the fourth quarter, and they lost guys and didn’t rotate on Houston cuts. It kept leaving Chandler in an impossible situation — watch Smith dunk, or get in his way and watch him lob to Howard for the dunk. Bottom line is the Mavericks shot 10-of-12 in the paint in the fourth quarter as they put on a dunking exhibition.

Howard, a dominant force early in Game 1, was not the same early in Game 2 — he was 2-of-6 shooting in the first half, had a few rebounds, and picked up two immature fouls that had him on the bench. Clint Capela stepped in with another solid performance in the first half. It was an uneven, back-and-forth first half that ended with Houston up 53-51. It wasn’t exactly art as both teams shot less than 40 percent.

In the third quarter, the Rockets started to find their groove. However, Monta Ellis came on with 11 points in the third quarter for Dallas — including a 30-foot buzzer-beater at the end of the quarter — and the Mavericks were right there, down by one after three. Ellis finished the game with 25 points. Dirk Nowitzki had 10 points on 3-of-14 shooting. It wasn’t the big German’s night.

The fourth quarter was just too much Smith and Howard reliving their glory days. Dallas could not match their energy or execution (the Mavericks shot just 37 percent on the night).

Houston looks to be in control of this series — Dallas would need to win four of five to take it — and while Carlisle may figure out the questions that Houston poses, he may not have the right players to answer.

PBT Extra matchups to watch: Spurs look for ways to contain Chris Paul

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It was hard to pick one key matchup to watch in the Spurs vs. Clippers first round matchup, there are so many good ones. Like the coming effort by Gregg Popovich to get in DeAndre Jordan’s head.

But if the Spurs are going to win Game 2 it has to start with the head of the Clippers’ snake — Chris Paul. CP3 put up 32 points and completely controlled the flow of the game in the series opener.

Expect to see a lot more Kawhi Leonard (and Danny Green) on Paul from the start, and a lot less Tony Parker.

 

Blazers’ Batum says he wrote “We don’t lose to Spanish players,” was intended as joke

Portland Trail Blazers v Memphis Grizzlies - Game One
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It was meant to be an internal joke that got out and blown way out of proportion.

That according to Portland’s Nicolas Batum, who told CSNNW.com he was the one who wrote the “We don’t lose to Spanish players” line on a motivational card in the team locker room. Batum, who is French and says he has family living in Spain, said it was a running joke with Spanish former teammate Victor Claver. The French and Spanish national hoops teams have had somewhat of a rivalry in recent years.

It probably wasn’t the smartest thing to write, but it doesn’t seem to be malicious or from the Blazers’ organization.

For his part, Marc Gasol — Spanish-born star for Memphis — blew off the “controversy.”

 

PBT Extra matchups to watch: Can Memphis keep Damian Lillard in check?

Damian Lillard, Marc Gasol
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In Game 1 of the Portland vs. Memphis series, not only did Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley play, but he also moved incredibly well. Especially for a guy battling a foot injury through the end of the season. Then there was Tony Allen, who was back and looking sharp for Memphis.

All that spelled trouble for Damian Lillard, and Portland as a whole.

Lillard shot 5-of-21, harassed at times, and with that forcing the issue and missing his shots. Portland has LaMarcus Aldridge, but he has his own challenges with the Grizzlies front line of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Aldridge played Memphis to a standstill up front, but Memphis won the backcourt game.

Lillard is key in Game 2. Can he keep getting into the paint (he did that fairly well) and this time finish when he does? If so, Portland can make Game 2 interesting, if not they will go home for Game 3 in a deep hole.

Report: Suns’ Morris twins charged with aggravated assault

Phoenix Suns Media Day
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After a review by a Grand Jury, felony aggravated assault charges have been filed against Phoenix Suns players and twins Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris.

The pair had been under investigation for a Jan. 24 incident where the twins and three others allegedly beat up Erik Hood at a recreational basketball tournament in the Phoenix area. The motivation allegedly had been Hood sending “inappropriate” text messages to the Morris brothers’ mother.

Prosecutors have decided to go ahead with the case, they confirmed to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

After the (rec league) game, police say Hood was confronted by (Julius) Kane and struck from behind on the head by (Christopher) Melendez. Hood tried to run to his car but had been dazed by the initial blow to the head and fell to the ground, where he was then repeatedly punched and kicked by all five suspects. The assault was witnessed by a 27-year-old woman, who had attended the game with Hood.

Hood was taken to the emergency room at Phoenix Baptist Hospital where he was treated for a broken nose, bruises and abrasions.

The Morris brothers reportedly denied taking part in the attack and even knowing Hood.

Neither the Morris twins nor the Suns organization released a new statement since the charges were filed.

Suns GM Lon Babby released a statement a while back on the incident:

“The Phoenix Suns are aware of an investigation by the Phoenix Police Department of an alleged assault. We have no information beyond what has been alleged in the police report and therefore have no further comment on the matter at this time. Our organization will closely monitor developments as the legal process unfolds.”