Three games on Wednesday night, two series where Game 1 followed form and one — Portland beating Houston — that could be shaping up as one of the best first round series in either conference.
Charlotte Bobcats at Miami Heat (Heat lead series 1-0). Al Jefferson says he is going to play, but after two injections in his foot to kill pain and a couple days in a walking boot, how effective he can be remains to be seen. If he is off his game, the Bobcats are in trouble because you know the Heat will continue to attack the rim, and if that goes well and the defense is drawn in they will kick out for good look threes. If Jefferson is off his game, expect to see a whole lot of Chris Bosh featured by the Heat (he was 4-of-13 shooting despite advantages in Game 1). Without peak Jefferson the Bobcats need to find offense from somewhere — that could be a lot of Kemba Walker, but it needs to come from somewhere. It’s going to be a tough series for Charlotte, but expect the Bobcats to put up a fight, They did all season.
Dallas Mavericks at San Antonio Spurs (Spurs lead series 1-0). The question for Game 2 is the same key one we had before the series: How can the Mavericks slow down the Spurs offense? In Game 1 the Spurs leaned on its biggest names — Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili accounted for 65 of the team’s’ 90 points, and 25 of the team’s 35 field goals — but in Game 2 you can expect more from Kawhi Leonard and others. Expect less isolation and for Danny Green to have a better game.
On the other side Dallas has to keep Tony Parker out of the paint, he broke down their defense off the pick-and-roll all night — Dallas switched everything and Parker just tore apart the mismatches. Shawn Marion will again get the start on Parker, but expect more Devin Harris in that role as well. With Dirk Nowitzki and an expected better game from Monta Ellis the Mavericks will get points. The question remains can they get stops, or will they go home down 0-2.
Portland Trail Blazers vs. Houston Rockets (Blazers lead series 1-0). Is LaMarcus Aldridge ready to put the Portland Trail Blazers on his back and keep them there?
Aldridge returned to early season MVP-ballot-worth form with 46 points and 18 rebounds in Portland’s Game 1 overtime victory, and the Trail Blazers might need another heroic effort from their power forward to win Game 2 tonight. With Dwight Howard and James Harden both pledging to get more aggressive offensively, Aldridge’s defense could be pivotal. He can double team Howard with Robin Lopez and rotate to help cut off Harden’s drives.
If that saps Aldridge’s energy on the other end, Damian Lillard should test the hobbled Patrick Beverley. How healthy Houston’s top stopper is could go a long way in determining Game 2 and the series.
Carmelo Anthony wants to be recruited. He wants to be told how much he’s wanted, more than that how much he’s needed. How he can help them win. How they can market him. He wants teams to come to him.
In other words, he wants the full Dwight Howard treatment.
That’s not my words, that’s what an associate of Anthony told Sean Deveney of the Sporting News.
“He wants to be in a situation where he can start winning, and he is going to look at teams based on that,” the source said. “Coaching is only a part of the equation. What they do now is not going to be as important as can they win?”
Free agency opens on July 1, and, the source said, Anthony would like, “the Dwight Howard treatment.” That means he wants to go through the same sort of process that Howard went through last summer, when Howard set up shop in Los Angeles and set up meetings with five teams—Houston, the Lakers, Dallas, Golden State and Atlanta—each of whom came in and made formal presentations.
The one thing that Howard — and hopefully ‘Melo — did better than LeBron James was keep this all under wraps. LeBron had ESPN camped out in front, Howard kept it under wraps.
In the end New York is still the favorite to keep him. Anthony has said to me and many others that his preference was to stay in New York if he saw a plan. Phil Jackson is a plan. Is it a better plan than Chicago, where a structure and defense is in place? The Bulls seems to be more confident, according to reports, because they can offer winning.
Anthony has to decide what really matters most: The money the Knicks can offer and his clear love of New York or a vastly improved chance for a ring?
Anthony can be recruited all he wants, he has to answer that question for himself or he will not be happy with his decision.
I expected a close Defensive Player of the Year race that would go to Joakim Noah over Roy Hibbert.
I was half right.
Noah won the award over Hibbert, but the race was not close.
The Bulls center took 100 of 125 first-place votes to just eight each for Hibbert and DeAndre Jordan. Noah’s 555 total points were as many as the next 12 closest finishers combined. Nobody has won this award in such a rout since Dwight Howard in 2011.
Here are the full results with each players first-place, second-place and third-place votes and total points:
- Joakim Noah (Chicago): 100-17-4-555
- Roy Hibbert (Indiana): 8-36-18-166
- DeAndre Jordan (L.A. Clippers): 8-23-12-121
- Serge Ibaka (Oklahoma City): 2-17-18-79
- Andre Iguodala (Golden State): 1-7-21-47
- LeBron James (Miami): 2-5-6-31
- Paul George (Indiana): 0-5-15-30
- Anthony Davis (New Orleans): 1-4-8-25
- Dwight Howard (Houston): 1-3-11-25
- Andrew Bogut (Golden State): 1-1-3-11
- Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio): 0-3-0-9
- P.J. Tucker (Phoenix): 1-0-1-6
- Tim Duncan (San Antonio): 0-1-2-5
- Chris Paul (L.A. Clippers): 0-1-2-5
- Trevor Ariza (Washington): 0-1-1-4
- Marc Gasol (Memphis): 0-1-1-4
- Patrick Beverley (Houston): 0-0-2-2
I was a bit surprised Jordan came so close to Hibbert. I guess Doc Rivers’ campaigning paid off – thought not as much as Jordan’s hard work to improve defensively.
Iguodala deserved to be higher, but again, Ibaka received a groundswell of support after losing to Marc Gasol last season, and I suspect that carried into this year.
LeBron got votes on reputation, and funny enough for a second-year player, so did Anthony Davis. Davis built a sterling defensive reputation at Kentucky, but in the NBA, his offense has come much more quickly. He has the tools to deserve consideration for this award down the road, but he’s not that yet.
For the most part, this is a pretty solid list that shows most voters have their act together. However, the two lowest-ranked players to get first-place votes – P.J. Tucker and Andrew Bogut – received the votes from media members in their local markets. That doesn’t make Tucker and Bogut wrong choices, but it at least opens questions about bias.
Overall, there are no truly egregious choices (Tucker’s first-place vote comes closest) – including Noah as the award winner.
As Dwight Howard and Joel Freeland battled for a rebound, a whistle blew with 10.8 seconds remaining in the Trail Blazers’ overtime win over the Rockets last night. Howard held up his arms as he looked to the referee for the call, as if he knew what was coming.
Sure enough, the official called a foul on Howard, who stomped and spun down the court in disgust.
Howard stopped to stare up at the video screen, hoping for vindication. Well, he got it – just too late for it to change the outcome of Game 1.
NBA president of basketball operations Rod Thorn, via a league release:
“After video review by the league office, we have determined that the officials were incorrect in assessing a foul to the Rockets’ Dwight Howard with 10.8 seconds remaining in overtime. The foul should have been called on the Blazers’ Joel Freeland and Howard should have been awarded two free throws.”
Instead, Freeland split a pair of free throws to put Portland up two, and James Harden missed a jumper at the buzzer.
But this was not the only missed call in this game. It was just the one that occurred last. Had the game been called perfectly, maybe Howard going the line with 10.8 seconds left would not have been to win it. There are just so many variables, including this play.
I appreciate knowing the NBA believes it missed the call, but other than that, I don’t really know anything else about this game.
If you just look at the numbers Dwight Howard had a pretty good night at the free throw line — 9-of-17 overall and he hit 6-of-7 from the line late in the fourth quarter and overtime.
But that’s not the whole story.
With four minutes left and the Blazers down 10, coach Terry Stotts ordered hack-a-Howard — Nicolas Batum intentionally fouled Howard. And Howard proceeded to miss two free throws. Next Rockets possession Damian Lillard fouled Howard, and he again missed both free throws.
It forced Kevin McHale to substitute Patrick Beverley in for Howard until under the two minute mark (when intentional fouls off the ball carry a stiffer penalty). By the time Howard came back in it was a three point game,on its way to overtime and a Trail Blazers victory in the extra period.
Before the game Stotts joked he would go to hack-a-Howard on the first possession, but after the game he said you can expect to see it again, reports the Houston Chronicle.
“It prolonged the game for us, no matter what he did,” he said. “It gave us more opportunities….
“I think it has its place,” he said. “It can be disruptive at times and has helped some teams win. It’s an option that is always there.”
Which is to say, if we’re down late again and need a spark I’m doing this again.
And teams will keep doing it until it doesn’t work.