The Magic's third-quarter run against the Celtics

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On Sunday, the Magic were able to beat the Celtics on the Celtics’ home floor thanks to an absolutely dominant 36-11 third quarter. On NBAplaybook.com, Sebastian Pruiti has a video breakdown of three key sequences in the quarter.

The Magic’s offensive formula isn’t a state secret. They put Dwight Howard on the block, surround him with three-point shooters, and dare opposing defenses to pick their poison. The Celtics are one of the teams best-equipped to defend this strategy. Kendrick Perkins is one of the few defenders in the league who can keep Howard from getting the shots he wants in the paint, allowing the rest of the Celtics to stay at home on the Magic’s shooters.

In the three sequences highlighted by Sebastian, we can see three of the ways the Magic overcame the Celtics’ defense, in particular the matchup of Kendrick Perkins on Dwight Howard.

1. Dwight Howard Continues To Evolve His Game

Howard is an absolute monster around the rim. He has a combination of strength, speed, and hops not seen since Shaq was shattering backboards, and he loves to throw the ball down with authority. However, Howard has had some issues with expanding his offensive arsenal. Against Perkins, Howard is forced to get baskets with finesse instead of power, and he was able to do that in the third quarter. In the first possession shown, Howard faces up Perkins from the left block and makes a sweeping hook going across the lane. It’s an unblockable shot, and one Howard rarely found the net with when Boston and Orlando met in the playoffs last season. Later in the quarter, Howard showed some touch from the outside, again facing up Perkins on the left side of the floor and knocking down a 13-foot bank shot. Howard will always be at his best in the immediate basket area, but if he can make shots like those consistently, he’ll be much harder to take out of a game.

2. The Magic Push The Ball and Spread The Floor

In the second possession shown, we see the Magic pushing the ball in transition and finding Rashard Lewis in the corner for an open three-point look. The Magic aren’t known for their ability to run the break; they’re only 23rd in the league in fast-break points per game, and scored just five fast-break points during Sunday’s game. What the Magic use their transition game for is spreading the floor, confusing the defense, and getting their shooters quality three-point looks early in the clock. It isn’t a traditional fast-break, but it works for the Magic. Against a Celtic team that came into Sunday’s game giving up the second-fewest points in the league from beyond the three-point arc, the Magic were able to drain 11 of their 22 shots from deep.

The Magic Benefit From Rasheed Wallace

In the third sequence, the Magic get an easy look at a three-pointer thanks to Rasheed Wallace coming over to help out Garnett against Howard, then getting caught in no-mans land as Rashard Lewis moves without the ball and drains a three. It’s not a good double, and put very little additional pressure on Howard while freeing up a very good three-point shooter for an outside shot. Wallace came into Boston with a very good defensive reputation, and has drawn more ire for his shot selection than his defense during his disappointing time with the Celtics.

However, the numbers suggest that Wallace has hurt the Celtics on defense more than their offense. According to 82games.com, The Celtics are 0.8 points per 100 possessions worse offensively when Wallace is on the floor, and 5 points per 100 possessions worse defensively. When Rasheed is in the game, the Celtics go from being an elite defensive team to a below-average one.

So that’s part of the reason the Magic were able to steamroll the Celtics in the third quarter. Advanced post moves by Dwight Howard, three-point looks early in the shot clock, and playing against Rasheed Wallace. Not a bad formula.

Carmelo Anthony responds four times to Instagram post calling Kyle Korver better: ‘FOH’

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Carmelo Anthony was the No. 3 pick in the 2003 NBA draft. He had just led Syracuse to the national title as a freshman, and some fans and media advocating taking him No. 1 overall ahead of LeBron James (and Darko Milicic).

Korver was the No. 51 pick in the same draft. He looked like this:

Fifteen years later, Anthony and Korver are still in the league. Korver is helping the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals, and Anthony and the Thunder already got eliminated. That sparked an Instagram post that clearly irked Anthony:

Anthony has had a better career than Korver. But who’s better right now? It depends on the terms of the debate.

Anthony is still a more-skilled all-around offensive player. (Neither gains credit for their defense.) Anthony can create in ways Korver just can’t.

But any team running its offense through Anthony now is asking for a bad time. Even if that’s that the best style for maximizing him individually, he’s no longer good enough to justify having the ball that much.

Korver is a far superior complementary player. He’s an elite 3-point shooter who moves well off the ball. Anthony struggles in that role.

In a hypothetical game between Anthony plus four average players and Korver plus four average players, I’d lean toward Anthony’s squad. But an actual NBA team capable of winning needs players better than both, and at that point, I’d rather have Korver.

Pistons hire Ed Stefanski to advise owner on searches for general manager and coach, with Dwane Casey reportedly top target

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After interviewing Kiki VanDeWeghe, Ed Stefanski, Gersson Rosas, Trajan Langdon, Brent Barry and Shane Battier, the Pistons picked Stefanski… to help pick the head of basketball operations.

Pistons release:

Detroit Pistons Owner Tom Gores announced today the hiring of Ed Stefanski as a senior executive reporting directly to Mr. Gores with responsibility for helping reshape the team’s basketball operations infrastructure and strategy. In this new role, Mr. Stefanski will assist in the searches now underway for a new head coach and new head of basketball operations; conduct a broad review of the existing structure in which the two jobs were previously combined;  recommend enhancements and improvements to that structure; and act as a long-term strategic adviser to Mr. Gores and the Pistons’ ownership team. His contract has a three-year term.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The Pistons’ top target in the coaching search is former Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey, according to league sources.

Gores loves his consultants. He hired former Knicks and Jazz president Dave Checketts as an advisor shortly after buying the Pistons in 2011. That led to keeping Joe Dumars as president of basketball operations for three more, nearly doomed-to-fail, years. When Gores set out to replace Dumars in 2014, the Pistons trumpeted their use of search firm Korn/Ferry. On the recommendation of Korn/Ferry, Gores hired Stan Van Gundy as president-coach.

Now, with Van Gundy out and Detroit untangling those roles, Gores has turned to Stefanski.

Stefanski ran the 76ers from 2007-10, and he worked for the Grizzlies the last few years. Maybe his many years of experience will help in the latest general-manager search.

But then what?

Once the Pistons hire a general manager, what will Stefanski do? How will Gores distribute power so the new general manager and Stefanski aren’t stepping on each other’s toes or, worse, undercutting each other?

Locking in on Casey before hiring a general manager also seems like a mistake. Casey is a good coach and would be a good hire based on his acumen. But that should be the next general’s call. Forcing a coach onto a general manager usually goes poorly – though there might be a selection bias, because the type of team that does that usually has wider problems, too.

Which, yeah.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue on Kyle Korver’s playing time: Brad Stevens ‘threw us for a loop’ by not playing Semi Ojeleye

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LeBron James is obviously the Cavaliers’ best player. Cleveland’s second-best player? Usually Kevin Love, but Kyle Korver has made a case lately.

So, how did Korver play just 19 minutes, including none in the first quarter, in the Cavs’ Game 5 loss to the Celtics last night? That was his playoff low, besides Game 1 against the Pacers, when he was still recovering from injury.

Blame Boston coach Brad Stevens removing Semi Ojeleye from his rotation.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue:

Well, initially, he’s been putting [Semi] Ojeleye in, so that’s been kind of Kyle’s matchup when he comes in the game. He didn’t play him tonight, so it kind of threw us for a loop.

This won’t slow the talk of Stevens being a genius. He neutralized one of Cleveland’s best players simply by not using a limited rookie.

Still, Lue’s strategy held some merit. Korver is a defensive liability, but Ojeleye’s offensive limitations make it hard to take advantage. Ojeleye’s biggest strength, his physical strength, is of limited utility in trying to stick tight to Korver on the perimeter.

In Games 1-4, Cavaliers with Korver on and…

Ojeleye on:

  • Offensive rating: 111.9
  • Defensive rating: 102.1
  • Net rating: +9.9

Ojeleye off:

  • Offensive rating: 97.0
  • Defensive rating: 109.5
  • Net rating: -12.5

That said, Korver is too good to plant on the bench. Other perimeter options – J.R. Smith, George Hill, Jordan Clarkson and Jeff Green (who actually played fine last night) – are just so unreliable. Lue shouldn’t just wait for the perfect matchup to use Korver.

But will Lue get it, anyway?

Stevens:

We believe in Semi and we think he’s a big, huge part of our team. It would not be a shock if he plays a ton for us in Game 6.

Lue better develop a plan for using Korver in Game 6 Friday, with contingencies based on Stevens using or not using Ojeleye. I wouldn’t trust Stevens’ declaration one bit, and Lue doesn’t want to get thrown for a loop again.

PBT Extra: Rockets showed defense, resilience, can Warriors show same in Game 5?

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Game 4 was an epic game, and the Houston Rockets proved they are a serious threat to knock the Warriors off the top of the mountain. They took Golden State’s big punch to start the game (a 12-0 run) and Stephen Curry haymaker in the third, cranked up their defense, got a great game from Chris Paul, and evened the series at 2-2.

Heading back to Houston, we can expect more of the same out of the Rockets Thursday night — they know a win in Game 5 puts them in a very dominant position in the series.

The question is, do the Warriors have another gear? That’s one of the topics I get into in this PBT Extra. For a few seasons now, the Warriors have been able to play lockdown defense and hit tough shots in the clutch, with Kevin Durant making them especially hard to stop, but in Game 4 when it got tight they looked tired and slow. Houston’s ball pressure threw Golden State off its game, and fatigue had set in for the Warriors. Can they not only go on big runs but slow down Chris Paul, James Harden and the Rockets’ attack?

Thursday night is going to be interesting.