NBA Playoffs Celtics Magic Game 3: Rashard Lewis and the last, best hope for the Magic

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Lewis_Celtics.jpgFans, the media, your local bartender, pretty much everybody is shoveling dirt on the Orlando Magic. They are not only down 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals, they lost their first two games at home. Orlando has to go into Boston and win, and the Celtics don’t have all those banners hanging overhead because they lose a lot at home in the playoffs.

But the Magic can win, it is not an impossibility. It’s a longshot, a crazy longshot, but Boston sports teams have blown plenty of sure
things over the years.. It’s just that a few things need to happen.

That starts with Rashard Lewis. And if he doesn’t start with him it will end with him.

His role in this series was to pull Kevin Garnett and his amazing help defense away from the paint — hit threes and force Garnett to come out and get him. Lewis is 1 of 9 from three in two games. By the second game, Garnett was willing to lose him in the half court and let the rotations — a couple times the not fleet-of-foot Big Baby — make the run-out at Lewis. Garnett is leaving him; the Celtics do not fear him.

It is a favorite point of Kelly Dwyer at Ball Don’t Lie and he is dead-on — if Rashard Lewis isn’t hitting shots, he hurts the Magic because he doesn’t do much else. He’s not a good rebounder for a four (something you sacrifice because he wants to be on the perimeter) and he is not a great defender. (To be fair, Garnett is just 9 of 30 shooting through two games, on that end Lewis is holding up his end of the bargain,)

Lewis needs some confidence — maybe he needs to get going by putting the ball on the floor and getting a couple layups. He needs a bucket, he needs to get going. Because if the Magic are to have any hope, Lewis has to drain the three — he is a stretch four for a reason. If he does, things open up for Jameer Nelson and Vince Carter driving the lane. If not, Game 3 will look a lot like the first two.

The other thing the Magic need to do — what they have been working on in practice — is taking away the easy transition buckets for the Celtics. Rajon Rondo loves to push the pace and probe after turnovers and misses, and the Celtics have picked up some easy buckets that way. It has been a decider in close games.

At the same time, the Magic and Nelson need to turn the tables — create some turnovers of their own and get a few easy baskets. Buckets are hard to come by against these Celtics in the halfcourt, but they struggled this season against teams like the Hawks that could create turnovers and finish in transition. The Magic need a little of that.

Do all that and the Magic can make a comeback this series. They can. Really. Thing is, the Magic need to do it today in Game 3.

If they lose this one, we can all pick up a shovel and start throwing dirt on them.

Gregg Popovich ducks Australian sideline reporter for interview (VIDEO)

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San Antonio Spurs and Team USA basketball coach Gregg Popovich is notorious for not giving interviews to sideline reporters. At this point, it’s already become a schtick that’s considered a played out.

But abroad, Popovich hasn’t done that much ducking of in-game media. Perhaps he needs to get some practice in before the 2019 FIBA World Cup starts in China?

Popovich was in attendance at an Aussie rules football match this week when a reporter from BT tried to get him on camera to say a word. Not obligated to fulfill any requirements the way he is in the NBA, Popovich quickly gave the reporter the slip.

Via Twitter:

Even if you don’t like Popovich doing this to NBA reporters, this feels like it’s forgivable. There’s no obligation for him to be on TV outside of the NBA, and media is his face all the time. Pop is just trying to enjoy a game, and the reporter didn’t seem like he was too bent out of shape about it.

Meanwhile, the legend of Pop grows internationally.

Should the Raptors use this retro floor next season? (PHOTO)

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Teens keep releasing retro floors for the upcoming 2019-20 NBA season. Retro jerseys accompanied a lot of these floor releases, and teams like the Portland Trail Blazers, Memphis Grizzlies, and Charlotte Hornets have dipped heavily into the nostalgia sphere.

This season it could be much the same for the Toronto Raptors.

In a graphic posted it to r/nba this week, a potential new floor for the Raptors showed something a bit different.

Or should we call it an old floor?

Just months after Toronto won the NBA championship, it appears that they might be looking to harken back to the team’s very first year in existence.

Via Reddit:

What do you think? Are you a fan of the old purple dinosaur look, or do you think that nostalgia has tinged of the lenses of our judgement?

Team USA plays down loss to Australia: The real thing doesn’t start until China”

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It was the first time Team USA has lost an international game since 2006 — 78 straight wins. That seemed like a big deal.

It absolutely was huge for the 52,000 in attendance in Melbourne, where Australia was the one that upset the USA. This was validation for a strong basketball country and program — remember in the 2016 Olympics they lost by just 10 to a USA team with Kevin Durant, and it took a late push from Kyrie Irving and Carmelo Anthony to secure that win — that has never quite gotten the huge win on the international stage.

But after the loss, members of Team USA chalked it up as a learning experience. Coach Gregg Popovich said that, and the players followed suit. Quotes via Eric Nehm of The Athletic.

Kemba Walker: “Teams lose. We are just going to take this loss and build from it, that’s all we can do is continue to try our best to get better. The real thing doesn’t start until China, so we’ve got one more game. We’re going to head to Sydney and focus on Canada and from that point out the real thing starts. That’s all we are worried about, just continuing to get better, continuing to learn each other.”

Donovan Mitchell: “To be honest, this game doesn’t mean anything. Obviously it hurts to lose, but I look at this and we look at this as more of a learning experience as opposed to we just lost. That’s the mindset. If you think of this as a loss, you start to get carried away with all that.”

Technically, all of that is true. If the USA goes on to win gold at the World Cup, this will be but a blip on the radar.

But the loss also showed just far Team USA is away from that goal and how much work there is to do. Watch the game and what stood out — besides Patty Mills getting red hot and dropping 30, with 13 of that in the fourth quarter — was the difference in cohesion and chemistry. The core of this Australian squad has been playing together for a decade, and with Andrew Bogut as the offensive fulcrum (and Joe Ingles playing that role some) guys were cutting, moving with purpose, and seemingly always in the right place to get an open look or layup.

The Americans are trying to build chemistry on the fly and it comes and goes. Particularly on the defensive end. Team USA members lose guys on cuts, don’t help the helper consistently, and for stretches look like a team just thrown together. Especially under pressure, when the ball movement stops and there is too much one-on-one on offense.

This American squad still has the talent to overwhelm and beat most of the world. However, with some of the USA’s top talent staying home, there are a handful of teams out there — Serbia, Spain, Australia, France — with the talent to hang, and then it becomes about chemistry and execution. Team USA was beaten badly in those hard-to-quantify categories by Australia. The American’s margin for error is much smaller in this World Cup.

Maybe the loss galvanizes Team USA in a way nothing else could. Maybe. And the players are right that things don’t really matter for the USA until the games in China.

But Team USA still has a lot to prove.

James Harden working on one-legged step-back three for next season

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As if James Harden wasn’t unstoppable enough.

Harden’s step-back three has become probably the most unstoppable shot in the NBA. Now video has gone viral in NBA circles of Harden working on a one-legged, step-back three. Think Dirk Nowitzki’s one-legged jumper, but from three and with a little more side-to-side to it. (You can see the video above.) Harden talked to Tim MacMahon of ESPN about it.

“I’m not sure; it’s something that I work on,” Harden said when asked if he’ll use the one-legged, step-back 3 this season. “But you know how Mike [Jordan] has his fadeaway and Dirk [Nowitzki] has his one-leg and [Kareem Abdul-Jabbar] had the sky hook, I want my step-back to be one of those moves that last forever. So when I travel around the world and I see little kids that [say], ‘Hey James, I got a step-back!’ — I love to see that.

“It’s me being a creator and me being an innovator and paving the way in basketball in my own way, doing it how I want to do it, and that’s what it’s all about. As a little kid playing in these parks, that’s what I imagined, that’s what I dreamed of. Now it’s coming to reality, so it’s pretty cool.”

Harden is going to score a lot of points… or, maybe the better way to say that is he’s going to score even more points if he gets to a point he unleashes that in a game.

The challenge this season for Harden will be balance — he’s got to share the court and the ball with Russell Westbrook. Both of them are at their best with the ball in their hands, creating in isolation, but they need to be more than that. While coach Mike D’Antoni can do some things to help with that balance (staggering their minutes as much as possible) for the Rockets to become the contenders they want to be Harden and Westbrook have to be more than “your turn, now it’s my turn” on offense.

But when it’s Harden’s turn, that one-legged step back will be fun to watch.