We all love the NCAA tournament, but as NBA fans we watch it with a different eye — who is going to be coming out of this showcase and on to the NBA. This is part of a series looking at future NBA players you should watch this weekend.
Certainly there is no reason to really break down Gordon Hayward and his game, because we’ve all seen Butler so much on national television and…
No, we haven’t seen them either. Heck, I and to look up where Butler is (Indianapolis). But Hayward is projected by DraftExpress as a first round pick, and you can catch him tomorrow afternoon against UTEP. (My father’s alma mater, I told him I picked UTEP because of that in my pool. I lied.)
What are we looking for with this 6’8″ combo forward? DraftExpress.com’s Assistant Director of Scouting Joe Treutlein lays it out for us in comments exclusive to ProBasketballTalk:
“Gordon Hayward is an interesting guy in the late first round, and could provide huge value to a team with a system his skills are well suited for. Hayward has a very high basketball IQ, is a deceptively good athlete, and has outstanding shooting mechanics with NBA three-point range. His percentages from three have fallen off considerably this season (down from 45% to 30%), but he’s still near elite from the free throw line (84%) and there’s little reason to believe his shot won’t come around eventually. He’s also a surprisingly good finisher around the basket, due primarily to excellent body control and coordination. Hayward’s biggest problem will be defensively, where his lateral quickness is subpar for a SF, but not worse than players like Danilo Gallinari or Hedo Turkoglu.”
Sounds like the kind of guy San Antonio always picks up late in the first round (or early second) then has the fans of the other 29 teams saying six months later, “why can’t we find guys like that in the draft?”
Report: Danuel House apologized to Rockets before leaving bubble
Anthony Davis has been the best Laker throughout the playoffs, particularly in the Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets. Davis averaged 32.3 points a game while shooting 55.3% from the floor, and the Los Angeles Lakers are outscoring the Nuggets by seven points per 100 possessions when Davis is on the floor.
Behind the play of Davis, the Los Angeles Lakers are up 3-1 on the Denver Nuggets and now just have to do what the Jazz and Clippers couldn’t: Get one more win.
Which might be harder to do after Davis rolled his ankle midway through the fourth quarter Thursday night.
Davis stayed in the game after that, but could it impact him in Game 5?
“[My] Ankle feels fine. Got tonight, tomorrow before the game to get it back to, I don’t want to say back to where it was, but good enough to play,” Davis said postgame. “Rolled it pretty bad but not too bad. I’ll be fine.”
Laker coach Fran Vogel noted that with ankles it is often the next day when there is a sense of the severity.
“We’ll see how it responds overnight, responds to treatment,” Vogel said. “Yeah, there’s always concern with an injury like that. It was good for him to play through it, but we’ll see how he responds overnight.”
With the Lakers just one win from the NBA Finals, if Anthony Davis can walk he will play on Saturday in Game 5. The Lakers want to close this series out, they have seen what happens to teas that let the Nuggets hang around.
LeBron James speaks more on Breonna Taylor, power of Black women
LeBron also had taken to social media to talk about the challenges Black women face.
The most DISRESPECTED person on earth is THE BLACK WOMAN! I promise you I’ll do my best to change this as much as I can and even more!! LOVE to you QUEENS all over this country and beyond! 👸🏽👸🏾👸🏿❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️
When asked about that Tweet after Thursday’s game, James was more than willing to open up on the topic.
“You just look at the history of America and the disrespect that Black women have gotten for the last 400 years. You can’t turn a blind eye to that,” James said. “When I look at my household and see my daughter, who is five on her way to six, my wife and my mom, rest in peace my grandmother, so many Black women have done so many things for me. Seeing the sacrifices they made, especially my mom when I was growing up. They were disrespected along the way and it’s still like that today.
“In the case of Breonna Taylor’s case, it’s just shown once again that the walls of the neighbor is more important than her life.
“So not only did I want to acknowledge all the queens in this world, all the Black queens in this world, but the ones in my life, the personal ones, too. I just kind of had a moment yesterday. I mean, I have a lot of moments, but felt like it was important to let Black women know that you’re not alone. No matter the disrespect or what they may feel, don’t stop. Because that’s exactly what they want you guys to do. They want you guys to stop. They want you guys not to be as powerful as you guys are, not as strong as you guys are, as determined as you guys are. They want you all to be at bay. They want you to accept what’s going on. For sure, I won’t allow that.”
Powerful words from LeBron, who once again is using his platform to speak for a lot of others with these sentiments.
Second chance points, clutch LeBron defense earns Lakers win to go up 3-1 on Denver
It’s a simple and obvious truth about any basketball game: The team that shoots better usually wins.
The Denver Nuggets shot 50.6% in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, including 10-of-28 from three (leading to a true shooting percentage of 62%). The Los Angeles Lakers shot 47.5% overall and 10-of-30 from three (a true shooting percentage of 59.7%). The Nuggets shot better Thursday night.
However, the better shooting team does not win when it gets crushed in another key area.
The Lakers grabbed the offensive rebound on 40.4% of their missed shots — including at three critical possessions in crunch time — and scored 25 second-chance points to Denver having six. Combine that with an aggressive and attacking LeBron James and Anthony Davis getting to the free-throw line 28 times — Denver as a team had 23 free throw attempts — and LeBron playing fantastic defense down the stretch on Jamal Murray, and a team can overcome a shooting deficit.
While the Nuggets came back from 3-1 down on the Jazz and Clippers, this series feels different — Denver may have run out of miracles. The way the Lakers closed out this game showed why the Lakers will not go the ways of Jazz and Clippers.
Once again, Davis was the best Laker on the floor, scoring 34 points on 10-of-15 shooting plus playing strong defense (his light rebounding numbers, five in this game, are overblown because the Lakers as a team are rebounding well).
But there are two key reasons the won the Lakers the game — two critical reasons they were able to hold off a Denver comeback when the Jazz and Clippers faltered in similar situations:
• The Lakers were dominant on the offensive glass, as mentioned above. They got a second chance on four out of 10 missed shots (the league average is about 26-27% of missed shots become offensive rebounds). Dwight Howard was doing it early, Davis was doing it late (plus Rajon Rondo had a critical one), but the Lakers getting a second chance to score and run off some clock down the stretch changed the game.
• LeBron James asked to guard Jamal Murray down the stretch — in the final five minutes of the game Murray was 0-of-3 shooting.
“LeBron asked for the assignment and obviously I granted it…” Lakers’ coach Frank Vogel said postgame. “Nothing was really working in terms of trying to slow him down until ‘Bron took that assignment.”
Vogel isn’t kidding. Murray was torching the Lakers, getting into the lane, and finding a way to finish — including maybe the best layup of the playoffs so far.
Murray finished with 32 points on 12-of-20 shooting, but LeBron held him mostly in check down the stretch (Murray did hit four free throws).
LeBron also had a strong game despite his jumper not falling because he hunted mismatches, throwing the Denver defense into a scramble, plus LeBron commands a double team when he gets the ball at the elbow or on the block and that opens things up.
Another key for Los Angeles was a great first half from Dwight Howard, who had 11 points and 10 rebounds in the first half while keeping the ball out of Jokic’s hands. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 13 points.
Davis rolled his ankle in the fourth quarter, limped around on it, stayed in the game and made some plays down the stretch. A slowed Davis would be a reason for concern for the Lakers.
“My ankle feels fine,” Davis said postgame. “I’ve got tonight, tomorrow, before the game to get it back to where it is, but it’s good enough to play. I rolled it pretty bad, but not too bad. I’ll be fine.”
If Denver is going to shock the world, it needs to keep Paul Millsap and his defense on the floor more, then the Nuggets need Gary Harris and other bench players to step up with big moments.
The Nuggets also need to find a way to slow LeBron and Davis. There may not be an answer to that question.