NBA Playoffs: Hawks look to bounce back in game two

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Like the Bobcats before them, the Hawks couldn’t do anything against the defense of the Orlando Magic in game one. The Hawks were a top-five team in offensive efficiency in the regular season, but that number was more the product of a low turnover rate and high offensive rebound rate than it was the product of effective shooting by the Hawks. As John Hollinger pointed out earlier today, the Hawks are an isolation-heavy team in the half-court — that approach worked for them in the regular season, but it isn’t going to get it done against Dwight Howard and Co. 

The Hawks only managed 71 points in game one, and what makes it even worse is that they got 20 points off of Magic turnovers. That means they scored 51 points against the Magic’s half-court defense in 48 minutes of play. They couldn’t defend the Magic either, allowing Orlando to score 114 points on 52.4% shooting from the field. Atlanta got embarrassed in game one. Here’s what needs to change if they even want to be competitive in game two:
-Move the ball. Try to move the ball. Maybe get out in transition more. Anything that isn’t holding the ball and letting Dwight Howard prepare for a drive would be an improvement. Someone needs to get more than three assists, and the team’s assist:turnover ratio has to be better than 12:15.
-Do something different on Howard. Bring immediate doubles. Foul him. Call him bad names. Anything but continue to give him easy dunks in the paint. 
-Get something out of Jamaal Crawford. He might be the best shooter on the team, and he’s certainly the best shooter off the dribble. He can get points without needing to venture into the paint, which is a must against the Magic. He needs to do better than 1-11. 
-Attack Lewis in the post with Josh Smith or Horford, depending on who Lewis is guarding. Posting up Lewis keeps Howard from being able to alter the shot unless he commits to an extreme double, which will leave somebody free. If there was ever a great time for Josh Smith to realize he’s a power forward, it’s now. 
Even if the Hawks manage to do all those things successfully, the Magic could still win easily. This is a horrible matchup for the Hawks, and the Magic look unstoppable right now. Still, there’s a reason they play the games. 

Marcus Smart on Game 7: ‘It’s not going to be pretty’

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Game 7s are not pretty basketball. Everyone is tight, shots clank off the front of the rim, and players tend to think rather than just react, sucking the flow out of the game. It’s a game for grinders.

Marcus Smart is good with that, and he told Chris Forsberg of ESPN the team is preparing for this style.

“It’s not going to be pretty. You got to be able to get down and get dirty. You can’t go out and try to look pretty. You have to be ready for a dogfight. We got to be ready to come up with our nose bloodied. We got to be ready to come out with our mouth bloodied. We have to come out ready to fight.”

If Boston is going to win this game, they will do so with the physical, smart, and unrelenting defense that carried them all season. That’s their grit. Without Kevin Love (out with a concussion) the Celtics have one less scorer to worry about, but things do not necessarily get dramatically easier — LeBron James is going to get his buckets, but can the Celtics keep George Hill, Kyle Korver, J.R. Smith and the rest of the role players from helping out with big nights of their own.

Which one of these teams is better positioned to win a grinding, sloppy game? Who is willing to dive on the floor and give that little extra effort? A case can be made either way, but Sunday night will decide it.

Report: Warriors’ Patrick McCaw cleared, will be available for Game 6

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We haven’t seen Golden State’s Patrick McCaw on an NBA court since March 31, when he was undercut by Sacramento’s Vince Carter and took an ugly, nasty spill.

McCaw is finally cleared by the team doctors and will be active on Saturday night for Game 6 against Houston, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Golden State Warriors are planning to activate swingman Patrick McCaw for Game 6 of the Western Conference finals against the Houston Rockets on Saturday night, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

McCaw, on paper, would help the Warriors — he’s a 6’5″ switchable defender who can provide some offense in transition. That’s especially true if Andre Iguodala is out for Game 6 (his status is a game-time decision). McCaw played about 17 minutes a night for the Warriors during the regular season.

However, the idea of taking a second-year player who has not been on a court in six weeks and throwing him into Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals — a win-or-go-fishing game for Golden State — is risky, at best. Don’t expect him to get on the court unless this is a blowout.

Kevin Love in concussion protocol, listed as out for Game 7

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As if winning a Game 7 on the road against a younger, more athletic team that has not lost on its home court all playoffs was not difficult enough, things just got harder for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Kevin Love has a concussion and is not expected to play in Game 7 on Sunday.

While it is technically possible for Love to clear out of the concussion protocol in 24 hours, it is highly unlikely. He would have to pass a rigorous physical test and have no concussion-related symptoms, something cleared by both the team doctor and a league-approved neurologist. This is something that tends to take days if not weeks to get over.

Love was injured just five minutes into Game 6. Love had set up position in the midpost and was setting a screen for George Hill, who was curling out to the arc. Jayson Tatum was trailing Hill and he banged heads with Love. It wasn’t pretty.

Love spent a few minutes on the ground, went straight to the locker room, and did not return to the game.

LeBron James is going to have to carry even more load in Game 7, and now more pressure falls on George Hill (the bellwether for this Cavs team), J.R. Smith, Tristan Thompson and others to step up without Love there to space the floor and get buckets.

Report: Raptors interview Spurs’ assistants Ettore Messina, Ime Udoka for coaching job

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It’s not officially a coaching search until some Spurs’ assistants are interviewed.

So it looks like the Toronto Raptors’ search is underway.

Raptors’ president Masai Ujiri fired Dwane Casey right after Casey’s peers voted him Coach of the Year for leading the Raptors to 59 wins and the No. 1 seed in the East. That said, after several frustrating years of running into the brick wall that is LeBron James in the East, maybe the Raptors did need a new voice and some changes to try to take the next step (especially with Boston and Philadelphia coming on fast in the East hierarchy).

But if you’re going to fire a 59-win Coach of the Year kind of guy, you better have an impressive replacement in hand or at least a clear plan.

Ujiri reportedly wanted Mike Budenholzer, but the former Hawks’ head coach took the job in Milwaukee after meeting with Toronto.

The leading candidate for the job is still considered to be Nick Nurse, the Raptors’ assistant who was in charge of their changed and improved offense last season. The Raptors also interviewed two other internal candidates, assistant coach Rex Kalamian and G-League coach Jerry Stackhouse.

Casey, by the way, is the target of the Detroit Pistons.