NBA Playoffs Lakers Suns Game 3: Lakers will find Suns much hotter in Phoenix

20 Comments

GHill_dunk.jpgThe Phoenix Suns are not going to get well against the Lakers. Not this series, the Lakers are going to win it. Phoenix is not going to be able to do the one thing it needs to counter the Lakers — grow three or four inches a man.

But like taking a cold medication, for a few hours — one game or two — the Suns can mask the symptoms. They can simply outscore the Lakers in a shootout.

Their medicine: Going home. US Airways Center.

The Suns cannot stop the Lakers offense. Look at the Lakers big men’s numbers through three games: Pau Gasol 65.6 percent shooting, Lamar Odom 64 percent, Andrew Bynum: 77.8 percent. After Game 2, Grant Hill and Suns coach Alvin Gentry said they basically were not sure how to slow the Lakers.

But the Suns are capable of scoring a lot more points.

That the Suns do at home, and do it well. The Suns play at a faster pace at home. Like most teams, the Suns stars do not get a lot better at home but their role players do — guys like Channing Frye (who Gentry said the Suns had to start getting something out of this series) and Jared Dudley and Dragic Dagic suddenly seem unable to miss. They seem quicker, too. They play with more confidence.

We have seen the Suns do this for a spurt — the third quarter of Game 2. The Lakers “only” scored 25 that quarter but the Suns scored 34. They got some turnovers and converted them to easy buckets in transition. They drained three pointers. Grant Hill looked 25 again. The vaunted Suns offense started to really click.

It didn’t last into the fourth quarter. And let’s be clear, the “we’ll just outscore them” mentality will not carry the series for Phoenix. But it can for one game. The Suns are not going to roll over.

“You know, no one just let us get to the Western Conference Finals,” Gentry said. “We earned the right to be here. And we’ll continue to plug away.”

To a man, the Lakers said they know this. They talked about expecting the Suns to play better at home and that they need to step up. That their defense will need to be sharper, that their offense will need to continue as it has.

In the end, the Lakers have the winning hand — they are taller, they are better. But the games Sunday in Tuesday in Phoenix will be tougher than the first two, the Suns will not go down easily. The Suns still think this is a series.

Warriors’ Andre Iguodala out for Game 6

Getty Images
2 Comments

Steve Kerr has been searching for a couple of games now for his fifth guy.

With Andre Iguodala out there is no Death/Hamptons 5 lineup and Kerr is looking for a fifth guy to partner with his four All-Stars. Kevon Looney is starting, Jordan Bell is showing potential but also makes some rookie plays, Nick Young has been bad enough that Kerr trusted Quin Cook more at the end of the last game (and Cook missed his looks).

Kerr is going to have to keep searching for a guy in Game 6 because Iguodala is out again.

The Warriors are not the team heading into Game 6 with the most significant injury woes, the Rockets are without Chris Paul. That and the fact the Warriors’ backs are against the wall is the reason they are heavy favorites in Game 6.

However, the Warriors have not been the same without Iguodala. He is a playmaker who can control the ball and settle things down, makes the right decision, get the player and ball movement the Warriors have strayed too much from back, plus is one of their best defenders on James Harden. Nobody else on the roster can do that.

And if Game 6 gets tight late, the Warriors are going to miss those skills. As they have in the last two games.

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

Getty Images
1 Comment

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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

Getty Images
6 Comments

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.