Tag: Dwight Howard

Getty Images

Harden struggles, Warriors role players step up leading team to Finals for first time in 40 years


If you’re going to win tough playoff games and advance to the NBA Finals a couple things have to happen.

First, your stars have to step up. For the Rockets that didn’t happen Wednesday night. After a brilliant season and playoff run, James Harden had an off night with 2-of-11 shooting and 13 turnovers.

Second, you need role players to step. Golden State had Harrison Barnes score 13 points in the fourth quarter (and 24 on the night). Festus Ezeli had 12 points and nine rebounds, and Andre Iguodala stepped up with his best game of the season playing great defense on Harden.

The result was Golden State winning a playoff-style, grinding, at times sloppy but still entertaining game 104-90. The Warriors don’t care how it looked; they will take it, they won the series 4-1.

“I thought the defensive performance was brilliant…” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “I would say in many ways this was a very Warriors’ like performance.”

Golden State is through to the NBA Finals for the first time in 40 years. They will face the Cleveland Cavaliers starting on June 4 at Oracle Arena.

If you think the Warriors are just a jump-shooting team that can’t win when the shots don’t fall, Game 5 was the example of why you’re wrong. The Warriors shot less than 40 percent for most of the game (they finished at 40.7) but they had 19 offensive rebounds and played strong defense all night — they won because they could be scrappy.

As you would expect, Houston came out battling, being physical (in a game the referees largely let them play), and trying to get the ball inside. On the other side, Curry missed four of his first five shots and his teammates followed suit. Dwight Howard had eight points in the first quarter but, unlike Game 4, the Rockets could not take advantage of the Golden State miscues.

“We didn’t finish very well at the rim, they got too many offensive rebounds, and we had too many live-ball turnovers at the top of the floor,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said after the game. “Those three things really doomed us.”

Both teams just looked tired in this one. After three quarters the Rockets had shot 34 percent, the Warriors 37.7 percent. Both teams had 15 turnovers. There was certainly some good defense, but there was also just some slop. Throw in some hack-a-Howard — and some hack-a-Festus — and the game was not always pretty.

For the Warriors, part of the challenge was Klay Thompson being in foul trouble — he had 15 first half points (20 in the game), but missed extended time in the third quarter due to picking up two quick fouls early in the third to give him five. Then Thompson missed time in the fourth after taking a Trevor Ariza knee to the head (he had a cut on his ear that required stitches, but there was no concussion according to the team).

It was never easy for Golden State, Houston just hung around and hung around — Corey Brewer had 10 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter as he showed no quit.

But then Barnes happened.

The Warriors pushed their lead up to 15 as Barnes had a nine straight points (including a right corner three off a defensive mistake by the Rockets and a couple of dunks).

“Harrison was brilliant,” Kerr said. “He gets 24 points, and on a night when Klay goes down after his big first half… so Harrison steps up and takes care of the scoring.”

Houston tried but it was just too much — the depth of the Warriors was too much.

And it gave a passionate and starving fan base a trip back to the Finals.

Dwight Howard elbows Andre Iguodala but avoids flagrant foul and suspension – for now, at least (video)

Houston Rockets v Golden State Warriors - Game Five

Dwight Howard got a suspension-triggering technical foul that might be rescinded.

He also avoided a suspension-triggering flagrant foul that might be applied after the fact.

The Rockets center extended his arms to hit Andre Iguodala high, hurting Iguodala (who remained in the game anyway).  If the NBA rules this a flagrant 1, Howard will face a one-game suspension in Game 6 or his first healthy game next season.

Dwight Howard hit with suspension-triggering technical foul

Dwight Howard, Andrew Bogut

Dwight Howard avoided a flagrant 2 – and the suspension that would have come with it – for elbowing Andrew Bogut in the face.

But Howard and Bogut were hit with double technical fouls in Game 5, and Howard is once again in danger of being suspended.

This was Howard’s seventh technical of the playoffs, which triggers a one-game suspension and $5,000 fine. That’d be for Game 6 if the Rockets win tonight – which seems unlikely considering their 52-46 halftime deficit at Golden State – or his first healthy regular-season game year season if Houston is eliminated.

But that looked like a pretty weak technical. I expect the NBA to rescind it – especially if there’s a Game 6.

Hawks’ excellent season shouldn’t be discredited because of playoff exit

Cleveland Cavaliers v Atlanta Hawks - Game Two

It’s easy to get caught up in narratives, especially on Twitter. Nothing can be good without something else being bad. As the Cavs blew out the Hawks to reach the NBA Finals, I saw this play out all over my timeline. The Hawks are the worst 60-win team of all time. Their phenomenal regular-season success wasn’t for real because they fell apart in the playoffs. You just can’t win in the playoffs without a superstar.

That, or, a very good team that absolutely could have made the Finals ran into some bad injury luck and one of the most dominant performances of LeBron James’ career.

At the beginning of the season, I picked the Hawks to win 48 games in PBT’s season previews. That seemed high at the time. It turns out I lowballed them by 12. Just about everything broke right for Atlanta after a summer that couldn’t have gone much worse. The racism controversy and lingering uncertainty about ownership could have hung over the team all year like the Donald Sterling scandal did over the Clippers during last year’s playoffs, but it didn’t. Mike Budenholzer achieved total buy-in to a system built on ball movement and passing up good shots to get great shots.

The downside to a system like that, though, is that all of the pieces have to be in place, and once injuries start to take their toll and players’ roles shift, the entire thing can unravel. The Hawks weren’t the same after Thabo Sefolosha’s run-in with the NYPD sidelined him for the year, and all throughout the playoffs they battled injuries to Al Horford’s finger, Paul Millsap’s shoulder and DeMarre Carroll’s knee before losing Kyle Korver to a season-ending ankle injury. Every team has dealt with injuries in the playoffs, and some handle it better than others. In that way, it’s easier to weather that storm when you have LeBron James. But that the Hawks lost to him should not be an indictment of their season or of Danny Ferry’s approach to team building.

In no way is the Hawks’ philosophy dependent on not having a star — they went hard after Chris Paul and Dwight Howard in the summer of 2013 and even sniffed around Carmelo Anthony last summer. When they didn’t get one of those players, they were forced to regroup, and they deserve credit for maximizing their reality as well as they possibly could have, targeting the right role players and putting them in the right spots. If the Bulls don’t fall apart in the second round, maybe Atlanta faces a more favorable matchup in the Conference Finals, and then suddenly we might be talking about the Hawks going to the Finals.

The Hawks have a lot of questions to answer this summer, chief among them the worth of Millsap and Carroll. One of those questions isn’t whether they can win without a star, as if they can make one materialize out of thin air. They have the infrastructure in place now, and if everyone can get healthy, there’s no reason to believe they can’t be serious contenders again next year.

Until then, they and their fans should be proud of what they accomplished.

Storms in Houston forced Dwight Howard to remain at arena with fans until 2:30AM after Game 4 win over Warriors

Dwight Howard

The Rockets were comfortably in control against the Warriors for the majority of their double-digit Game 4 victory, but there was no way fans in Houston would be leaving early with the game already decided.

Mainly because they were strongly advised against it.

Severe storms in Houston had plenty of fans stranded at the arena until the wee hours of the morning. And Dwight Howard, who lives a bit outside of the downtown area, was similarly stuck.

From Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com:

Star center Dwight Howard was stuck at the arena until roughly 2:30 a.m. ET with his son because the highway he lives off was closed due to flooding.

Howard’s son played catch with several fans who were told to remain in the stands as the city was hit with a tremendous storm that shut down several highways and streets. …

“I live a block and half away from the arena, so I was able to get home pretty easily,” McHale said. “The last thing I heard Dwight was in the arena with some of the guys because he lives so far away. I think he was the last to leave.”

Howard could have remained in a players-only area in the locker room throughout, but credit him for hanging with the fans and bringing some joy to what was obviously an unfortunate situation.