David Blatt calls trend of hard fouls against LeBron ‘worrisome’


LeBron James has been victimized by a series of hard fouls recently, and predictably, his head coach would like that to stop.

James Harden was suspended a game for kicking LeBron in the groin, and Jonas Valanciunas was called for a flagrant for taking LeBron to the floor two games later.

There were no such antics during Friday night’s loss to the Hawks, but Cavaliers coach David Blatt said that the trend of teams being overly-physical was troublesome nonetheless.

From Jason Lloyd of Ohio.com:

“I just think LeBron is getting hit, and getting hit every time he goes to the basket, and half of them are ignored,” he said. “Because of the strength and the power he brings to his drives, it’s easy to overlook a lot of stuff.”

James was belted again tonight going to the basket by DeMarre Carroll, but I didn’t think it was dirty or flagrant. It was just a good, hard foul. Carroll even made a play on the ball. But when it comes on the heels of the Jonas Valanciunas takedown and the James Harden kick, all of these events are coming a little too close together.

“It does seem to be a trend,” Blatt said. “That’s going to happen now and again, but when it’s happening continually that’s worrisome. And it should be worrisome for everybody. Because there’s ways to defend guys and ways to defend guys physically, but there’s a limit and that limit needs to be recognized.”

Carroll committed two fouls against LeBron in this one, but upon further review, neither could be classified as being hard or crossing the line. One was a simple contest as James drove to the basket (likely the play in question), and the other was a reach after LeBron used a spin move to get loose. It’s possible, however, that one of these appeared to be more violent in person.

Regardless of how you view Carroll’s fouls, though, this isn’t something that’s going to change. LeBron is one of the best players in the world, and teams aren’t just going to let him get to the basket without putting a body on him to make his shot attempts as difficult as possible.

Wesley Matthews’ injury will test Trail Blazers’ spacing


Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge are unquestionably the Trail Blazers’ biggest stars.

But we’re going to see just how pivotal Wesley Mathews is to Portland, especially its impressive offensive spacing.

The shooting guard ruptured his Achilles tendon last night, ending his season.

Matthews might not belong in the elite class of 3-point shooters with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kyle Korver. But Matthews is the best outside shooter outside that top tier. Only he, Curry and Korver have shot above 38 percent 3-pointers while making at least one per game each of the last five seasons.

Matthews is nearly as reliable as it gets from beyond the arc.

And for Portland, he’s the only player who comes close to fitting that description.

There are 81 players in the NBA who’ve played at least 20 games, made at least one 3-pointer per game and are shooting at least league average (34.7 percent) from downtown. Matthews is the only Trail Blazer.


Despite this, Portland ranks 10th in points per possession.

The Trail Blazers don’t offensively rebound particularly well, and they’re even worse at getting to the free-throw line. They just spread the floor so they can pass cleanly and make open shots.

To do that, they needed Matthews to draw defenders to the perimeter.

The only other other teams with only one player on the above list – Nuggets (24th in points per possession), Timberwolves (26th), Knicks (29th) and Jazz (15th) – have struggled to form quality offenses with so few traditional floor spacers. Even teams with two players on the list – Celtics (21st), Nets (22nd), Hornets (28th), Pacers (25th) and Grizzlies (11th) – have mostly struggled offensively.

And now Portland proceeds with no healthy qualifying players.

Terry Stotts has his work cut out to overcome that disadvantage, but his task is not impossible.

Matthews was just one piece of the floor-spacing puzzle.

Aldridge is an elite mid-range shooter. What Lillard lacks in efficiency on 3-pointers (a very reasonable 33.9 percent) he more than makes up for in volume (2.4 makes per game). Nicolas Batum is a skilled playmaker. Robin Lopez sets excellent screens, springing others free.

And Mathews’ certain replacement in the starting lineup, Arron Afflalo (1.5 3-pointers made per game, 34.0 3-point percentage this season), can play a similar role to his predecessor. Afflalo’s outside shooting has disturbingly fluctuated the last few years, but he has more good seasons than bad under his belt.

Solid 3-point shooters Steve Blake (0.9, 34.6) and Dorell Wright (0.8, 37.8) could also play more. Lineups featuring Blake and Lillard have fared particularly well offensively, as the point guards provide 3-point shooting and ball movement.

Several factors have contributed to Portland’s floor spacing. Matthews’ 3-point shooting is only one, but a big one. Unfortunately, we’ll find out just how big.

Five Things We Learned in NBA Tuesday: The Hawks clinched playoff spot in front of Josh Smith


If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while going down the rabbit hole on conspiracy theories on Malaysian Airlines Flight 370

1) The Hawks are officially in the playoffs. The first of the 16 NBA playoff slots have been filled — the Atlanta Hawks are in. They locked it down by coming from behind to beat the Houston Rockets in what was the most fun game of the night. With James Harden out for the night after going Bruce Lee on LeBron James, the Rockets had guys step up, such as Terrence Jones (18 points on 11 shots, plus eight rebounds) and Jason Terry (21 points). The Rockets also took advantage of a sloppy and defensively disinterested Hawks team in the first half. But while everyone was watching Josh Smith play games with the Hawks crowd, the Hawks players woke up. Atlanta went on a 21-3 run in the third quarter to take the lead, sparked by the guard play of Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder. The Hawks are going to finish the top seed in the East, and as well as Cleveland is playing Atlanta is still a legitimate threat to come out of the conference.

2) The Denver Nuggets are undefeated in the Melvin Hunt era. When a coach gets fired — particularly one that completely lost the locker room — the players often come out with a more energy. That’s what happened with the Nuggets on Tuesday, they got 26 points from Danilo Gallinari and beat the Bucks 105-96. Ty Lawson had his best game in a while, and Kenneth Faried was doing this.

3) LeBron James moved past former teammate Ray Allen on the all-time scoring list. LeBron dropped 27 points on the Celtics in a blowout win (he was +35 on the night), and that was enough to move LeBron past his former teammate Ray Allen for 21st on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. When it’s all said and done, LeBron is going to be a lot higher on the list, but this was a nice milestone. And LeBron was putting up points with flair on Tuesday.

4) Rudy Gobert has arrived in Utah and the Jazz are far more interesting. I don’t know that the Most Improved Player award can go to a second-year guy — players are supposed to make a leap between their rookie and sophomore campaigns — but Utah’s Rudy Gobert is making his case. He has become a defensive force in the paint and on Tuesday, against a depleted Memphis team (no Zach Randolph) Gobert had 15 points (on 10 shots) and 24 rebounds. He was central to the Jazz knocking off the Grizzlies. Utah will lose more game than it wins the rest of the way, but this team has become a tough out nightly. They are building something.

5) Jeffery Taylor was dunking, and the Hornets could be a playoff team. The fine folks at NumberFire ran the numbers and figured out of the six teams battling for the two final playoffs spots in the East, the Hornets had the second best chance of getting in (behind the Pacers). With their win over the hapless Lakers, the Hornets moved into a tie for the eight seed in the East. Plus, they had Jeffery Taylor doing this:

Josh Smith calls Hawks fans “bandwagoners”


For nine seasons, Josh Smith was launching ill-advised jump shots while wearing an Atlanta Hawks jersey. Smith is an Atlanta native who averaged 15.3 points and eight rebounds a game for a Hawks in those years, alternating between showing off his stunning athleticism and poor decision making. The Hawks were largely mired in mediocrity during his run, which ended when he bolted for Detroit a couple years back.

Smith returned to Atlanta in a Houston Rockets jersey on Tuesday night, and Hawks fans let him hear it — every time Smith touched the ball they booed. He played back, hitting a big three then shushing the crowd.

After the win Smith didn’t hold back his thoughts, speaking with the fantastic Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.

“I mean, those fans are fickle, very fickle and bandwagoners,” Smith said. “It really doesn’t mean anything to me.”

First off, this is a different Hawks crowd than Smith is used to because they are into the game. The team changed their marketing strategy and focused on the people living in the city (not the suburbs), and that combined with just winning change the feel in the building.

“It’s’s been really fun to be a part of, just seeing everyone get behind us,” Kyle Korver told PBT recently. “We truly have a home court advantage now.”

That said, I’m not sure Smith deserved boos. He was who he was on the court in those years in the ATL, and off the court he was very active with area charities.

“I’d been here for nine years, and all I did was positive things in the community and with the basketball team,” Smith said.

The Hawks had the last laugh, coming from double-digits down to pick up the 104-96 win. The Rockets were without Dwight Howard and James Harden for this one. And it showed. But the Hawks will take the win, which clinched a playoff spot with the win.

Michael Beasley with a monster slam over Hawks’ Mike Muscala (VIDEO)


The Heat signed Michael Beasley to a 10-day contract earlier this week, after reportedly having a multitude of reasons for not re-signing him to the roster last summer.

It’s early, but Beasley looks comfortable in his familiar surroundings. He threw down this monster dunk over Atlanta’s Mike Muscala on Saturday, who, admittedly, was only in the game because Atlanta sat four of its regular rotation players for this one.

But it was a strong showing by Beasley nonetheless, while playing for the only NBA team that seems willing to continue to give him a chance.