Tag: J.R. Smith

Atlanta Hawks v Washington Wizards - Game Six

Hawks face uphill climb after DeMarre Carroll injury


The Eastern Conference Finals may have just been decided in the worst possible way.

Nobody knows yet how bad DeMarre Carroll’s leg injury is yet. The Hawks are calling it a knee sprain for now, but it looks bad. Even if it isn’t as bad as it seemed at the time, Carroll couldn’t put weight on it after the Hawks’ Game 1 home loss to the Cavs, and it’s highly unlikely he plays in at least the next game, if not longer.

Which is an awful prospect, both for Carroll (coming up on free agency) and the Hawks, who now face the task of beating the best player in the world without the guy on their roster most equipped to guard him. Carroll has been the least talked-about member of the Hawks starting five, the only one that wasn’t named an All-Star. But he’s their best perimeter defender, and it’s not really close.

The most logical choice to guard LeBron James with Carroll out is Paul Millsap, who handled most of those duties after Carroll went down on Wednesday. Millsap can handle him in small stretches, but as the Hawks’ primary game plan (which he is now by default), he’s not nearly as well equipped as Carroll to do that heavy lifting.

In addition to creating a much greater defensive burden on the rest of the Hawks, Carroll’s injury is going to force their bench — which has been problematic for much of the playoffs — into a larger role. Kent Bazemore will probably get the starting nod at small forward, and he was solid in 16 minutes in Game 1, scoring 16 points on 4-of-5 shooting. He’ll bring energy on offense, but he isn’t nearly the defender Carroll is. What the Hawks got out of Dennis Schroder, Pero Antic and Mike Muscala off the bench on Wednesday is not encouraging. Maybe Mike Budenholzer will dust off Mike Scott, who’s fallen out of the rotation for most of the playoffs.

The Cavs won Game 1, but they’re still hobbled by injuries. They were carried on Wednesday night by J.R. Smith setting a playoff career high and hitting eight three-pointers. For the most part, this is still a series that James will have to do the heavy lifting for. The Hawks’ best hope was to make that workload as heavy as possible, and at least for the short term, they will have to find a way to do that without their defensive ace.

Carroll will get an MRI on Thursday, and he and the Hawks will have to hope that it’s “only” a strain or a hyperextension, not something much worse. Either way, they’ll probably be without him for at least the rest of this series, and that makes their road to the Finals much more difficult.

LeBron James gets help from red-hot J.R. Smith as Cavs take Game 1 from Hawks

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The question was never “Will LeBron James be good?” going into the Eastern Conference Finals. LeBron is LeBron, still the best player walking the face of the earth.

The question is would he get help?

On a night where Kyrie Irving looked nowhere near healthy, LeBron James got his help from J.R. Smith, who knocked down a franchise-record eight threes in his one-man quest to prove the hot hand theory. That, combined with some quality play from Tristan Thompson and some good defense, was enough.

The Cleveland Cavaliers went into Atlanta and took Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals from the Hawks 97-89. Game 2 is set for Friday night in Atlanta.

The new primary concern for the Hawks is they almost certainly will be without DeMarre Carroll for at least a few games. Midway through the fourth quarter, he was driving through the lane and planted on his left leg to leap when his knee just buckled. He fell to the ground in pain clutching that knee and had to be helped straight to the locker room. He will get an MRI on Thursday, and we hope the injury isn’t serious. That said, even if it is not I don’t see any way he could play Friday — and without him the Hawks are without their best perimeter defender.

The Hawks looked good as a team in the first half, in part because Jeff Teague was in attack mode — he had 17 of his 27 points in the first half and Atlanta as a team shot 58 percent. Still the Hawks could not pull away thanks to LeBron’s 14 points in the second quarter and the Cavaliers seven offensive rebounds in the first quarter. It was tied at the half 51-51.

The game was won by Cleveland during the J.R. Smith show late in the third. The Cavaliers went on a 22-4 run spanning the third and fourth quarters led by Smith knocking down contested three after contested three. LeBron made his plays in the fourth to maintain the lead, including a monster dunk that had Kyle Korver scurrying. LeBron finished with 31.

Kyle Korver’s numbers show how the Hawks offense never got moving — he took just five shots total, four from three (hitting two). Al Horford had an efficient 16 points, but the Hawks ball movement that defined them during the regular season. Cavaliers defenders started to play off Teague and Dennis Shroeder and dare them to shoot.

When the Hawks did shoot, it didn’t go in — they were 4-of-22 from beyond the arc in this game.

If Atlanta is going to bounce back in Game 2, they will need those shots to fall. They will need much more out of Paul Millsap (3-of-11 shooting), and they will need Kent Bazemore to step up with Carroll out.

For the Cavaliers, there are questions about Kyrie Irving and his leg. They had defensive lapses. Can they count on Smith or someone else to step up again?

But it’s a lot easier to ask those questions when you are up 1-0 like the Cavaliers.

Kyrie Irving on his early relationship with Matthew Dellavedova: We ‘damn near almost fought every single day’

Brooklyn Nets v Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavaliers have come together quite nicely this season, especially when considering just how much and how quickly the roster has changed.

The addition of LeBron James and Kevin Love changed the dynamic in Cleveland, as well as the expectations. But that was only the beginning of a personnel shake-up that wasn’t complete until the mid-season deals to acquire Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith and Timofey Mozgov — while sending Dion Waiters out of town — were completed in January, and Kendrick Perkins was signed a month later.

Kyrie Irving and Matthew Dellavedova are key players in the rotation, and two guys that have been constants since before the previous season began. While it’s clear now that they’ve developed a bond, it was a rocky start for the two as the relationship was being formed.

From Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com:

“Yeah, they used to f— each other up,” said Tristan Thompson, recalling the times he’d have to play peacemaker in Cavs training camp in the fall of 2013 when Irving, the franchise player and former No. 1 pick, was matched up with Dellavedova, the undrafted rookie free agent just trying to make the team. “They used to go after it every day. There would be times when they’d be ready to fight each other.” …

“I played him in the summer time and he was going into summer league, I was going into my third year and I was like, ‘Who the hell is this kid?’ I was like, I’ve never heard of him,” Irving said. “I had heard of him, because of St. Mary’s, but I had never played against him. So, I’m coming in and he just basically, every fast break, he was just fouling the s— out of me. I was like, ‘OK, well, maybe I’ll see him in training camp.’ So, we went through training camp, every single day we went against each other and damn near almost fought every single day.” …

“Probably the first three months of the season he was irritated by Delly,” Thompson said, “but he realized Delly is not going to stop and it was going to make him a better player.”

Irving was a young, budding superstar, and Dellavedova was unheralded, likely fighting for a roster spot.

Now that Cleveland is contending for a title, and Dellavedova has come through in some of the team’s bigger moments, he’s earned the respect of his teammates. But it wasn’t something that came quickly, and it certainly was anything but easy.

PBT Eastern Conference Finals Preview: Atlanta Hawks vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron James


Hawks: 60-22, first place in Eastern Conference.

Cavaliers: 53-29, second place in Eastern Conference.

Atlanta won the season series, 3-1.


Hawks: Thabo Sefolosha is done for the year after a leg injury suffered during a nightclub incident in New York in April.

Cavaliers: Kevin Love (shoulder) is out for the season. Kyrie Irving is expected to play in Game 1, but he was limited in the Bulls series by foot and knee issues.


Hawks: 102 points scored per 100 possessions (9th in NBA); 98.2 points allowed per 100 possessions (2nd in NBA).

Cavaliers: 108.2 points scored per 100 possessions (1st in NBA); 98.8 points allowed per 100 possessions (4th in NBA).


1. How much help will LeBron get? With Irving hobbled, the Cavs are going to need plenty of help from their supporting cast. J.R. Smith, Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert and even Matthew Dellavedova all stepped up at various points in the Bulls series, which was enough to make up for a relatively inefficient showing from James. DeMarre Carroll will be in the Jimmy Butler “LeBron stopper” role this series, and if he’s able to slow James down, it’s going to come down to how the secondary pieces fare. If LeBron has to win this series by himself, it’s not going to be an easy task against a team as deep as the Hawks.

2. The point guard battle: In February, a matchup between Kyrie Irving and Jeff Teague would have been the most exciting part of this series, when they were both All-Stars. But Irving has been hurt and largely ineffective, and Teague, who normally jumps a level in the playoffs, has been wildly inconsistent through the first two rounds. What was once a position of strength for both teams has become perhaps their greatest liability, and whichever point guard can give more could end up swinging the series.

3. Can Atlanta’s offense expose Cleveland’s defense? The Cavs’ defense has been outstanding in the first two rounds, but their strong performances came against an offensively limited Celtics team and a Bulls group that had been prone to long scoring droughts all season. Cleveland’s defense ranked 20th in the league in the regular season. In theory, Atlanta’s offense should shred them. But the Hawks haven’t been themselves on that end for most of the playoffs. Mike Budenholzer’s gameplan has remained the same, heavy on ball movement and a read-and-react philosophy—they just haven’t been able to execute it as effectively as they did in the regular season. If they can find that consistency, it will be very difficult for Cleveland to defend.


It’s difficult to pick against LeBron, but Irving’s health is worrisome and Al Horford was outstanding at both ends of the floor in the Wizards series. Carroll is as capable as anyone when it comes to defending James, and if he can make him work for his points even close to the way Butler did in the second round, that places a heavy burden on Cleveland’s supporting cast. This could go either way but I’m going to take Hawks in 7.

After Cavaliers advance to conference finals, J.R. Smith takes jab at Knicks

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 23:  J.R. Smith #5 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks on during the first quarter against the Boston Celtics in the first round of the 2015 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden on April 23, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Couldn't have said it better myself!!!@imanshumpertthe1st

A photo posted by JR Smith (@teamswish) on

J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert can be solid complementary role players on a team.

In New York, there wasn’t much to complement (or compliment, for that matter).

But the pair have fit in well with the Cavaliers — a team that was in need of depth and quality role players — and helped Cleveland past Chicago to advance to the conference finals.

After Thursday’s game, Smith took a little dig at the Knicks on Instagram.

Smith was not long for the Knicks after Phil Jackson came to town — there may be no player that is a worse fit for the triangle offense than Smith. It was a question of when he would go, not if. The divorce was not smooth, and clearly J.R. still has a little resentment. There certainly are some club owners in NYC that miss Smith as well.

I’m sure that Jackson is not losing sleep over any of this.