Kurt Helin

Watch Damian Lillard go off for 40 to beat Golden State


When Portland beats teams, it’s usually because of an offensive explosion. The Trail Blazers don’t win with defense, they just count on their offense being so good it covers everything else up.

For example, there is Damian Lillard going off for 40 points against the Warriors leading the Blazers to a 120-108 Game 3 win Saturday. Lillard did his Stephen Curry impression by hitting threes and looking unstoppable. Oh, and playing like an All-Star, not that he’s still bitter about being left off that team this season.

We will see Monday if Lillard can replicate it. And if Curry is back.

Will Toronto get Jonas Valanciunas the ball more in Game 3?

Getty Images

Through two overtime games against the Miami Heat — a series tied 1-1 as it heads to Florida for Game 3 Saturday — there has been one consistent offensive player for the Toronto Raptors:

Jonas Valanciunas.

Yet he got only nine shots in Game 2, even though it was his play — particularly in the fourth quarter and overtime — that won Toronto the game. He was 3-of-4 on post ups and can use his big body to overpower Hassan Whiteside (not the greatest post defender ever) or anyone else the Heat throw at him. But again, just four attempts at something that was working.

During the regular season, the Raptors’ fifth-best offense in the NBA was fueled by the play of guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, arguably the second best guard duo in the NBA during the season. But in this series they are combined 28-of-81, 34.6 percent. DeRozan hasn’t taken a three (which makes him easier to defend, teams can lay off him) and Lowry is 2-of-14 from deep.

The playoffs are about adjustments — not just the ones the coaches draw up on whiteboards, but also the ones players make. Will they sacrifice parts of their game, particularly shots, to do what is best for the team? That question hits the Raptors as they head into Game 3. To win this series eventually Lowry and DeRozan need to shoot better, but also they need to give up some shots to Valanciunas. Here is what Raptors said about this idea, via ESPN.

“Do I want the ball more?” Valanciunas replied to reporters in diplomatic fashion. “No, I’m good.”

“They’re our guys,” Casey said of Lowry and DeRozan. “They’re our go-to players. They’re our two All-Stars. They’ve carried us the entire year. Both of them are going through a tough shooting slump right now, and it’s hard to say just stop shooting and start looking for everybody else.

“They’re accountable for their shots; they take accountability for some of the tough shots that they take. But again, we have to live with some of their tough shots as the game goes on because we need them to be there, to have the threat of scoring as much as anything else. And again, it’s not like we haven’t seen those things change from game to game for certain players, and I’m confident that it will for those two.”

If those two cold Raptors shooters don’t warm up in Miami, this series could be over sooner rather than later. But getting there might involve working inside-out more, and giving the big man in the paint more touches. Adjust or go home.


Watch Kawhi Leonard’s game-sealing offensive rebound

Leave a comment

“It was a backbreaker.”

That is how Kevin Durant described this offensive rebound by Kawhi Leonard, a play which sealed the game for the Spurs (along with some free throws down the stretch). The Thunder were down two but scrambling on defense, LaMarcus Aldridge took the jumper but missed — and there was Leonard. He put a body on and shielded the taller Serge Ibaka from the ball, then outleaped Andre Roberson and got the ball.

Leonard was the best player on the court Friday night, scoring 31 points and pulling down 11 rebounds. One of which sealed the win.

Thunder return to bad habits, vintage Spurs execute down stretch to take 2-1 series lead

Leave a comment

We’ve seen this movie before. A lot.

Oklahoma City’s athletes started to make plays and in the middle of the fourth quarter hit a couple of huge threes to retake the lead, and then the Spurs execution kicked in — a 10-0 run to retake the lead, one they would never relinquish again. The Thunder and their isolation basketball had three key turnovers late (two by Russell Westbrook), and if it wasn’t that it was rushed shots (some of which fell). Then, when the Spurs needed it most, Kawhi Leonard came up with the key offensive rebound to seal the win.

The Spurs just executed better down the stretch than the Thunder in what was another close, exciting game in this series. That execution led to a 100-96 win that puts San Antonio up 2-1 in the series. Game 4 is Sunday in Oklahoma City.

Leonard had 31 points, LaMarcus Aldridge added 24, but the real key was Tony Parker‘s efficient 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting. The Spurs need Parker in this series.

Well, that was a key and just player and ball movement. Down the stretch it was so evident — the Spurs are running off-ball action to free up Leonard or Aldridge to get them open and into a position they like, the Thunder run simple isolation or high pick-and-rolls for Westbrook or Durant. It led to a seven-minute scoring drought in the fourth quarter. The Thunder are predictable, and it gets them in trouble down the stretch because predictable is defendable. As an example, with 18 seconds left and down four the Thunder ran 14 seconds off the clock trying to get a shot off — when they couldn’t get a three they didn’t have a good plan for a quick two and their shot ended up being a Dion Waiters shot moving across the lane. By that point the Spurs just had to inbound the ball — Tim Duncan did that but with a dangerous pass — and wait to get fouled. Leonard did and hit his free throws.

Another example: Westbrook led the Thunder in scoring with 31 points, but look at his shot chart on the night.

Westbrook shot chart

“I’ve got to do a better job executing and putting guys in a position to score the basketball, especially tonight,” Westbrook said after the game. “You got to find ways to move the ball around, that starts with me. I’ve got to do a better job with that, leading into the next game.”

Credit the man for owning up to a rough night where he shot too much and didn’t move the ball enough. Westbrook had 31 points on 10-of-31 shooting, Kevin Durant added 26 and Serge Ibaka 15.



Al Horford dunks all over Kevin Love (VIDEO)



Kevin Love may not be the greatest rim protector in the Association (to put it kindly), but he stepped up to make the play here, tried to draw the charge, and ended up in Al Horford‘s poster.

It’s been a rough night for Love, who got crossed up by Kris Humpries — yes, Kris Humphries — earlier in the game.