Kings’ Carl Landry smacks coach Paul Westphal

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Paul Westphal has struggled to get along with his best big man (DeMarcus Cousins), has struggled to get everyone on the same page on offense, and he has struggled with rumors of losing his job. (He’s not getting fired, if you take the word of a team owner.)

Wednesday, Carl Landry was willing to publicly compare Westphal to his previous coach Rick Adelman. Adelman wins as Landry fondly remembers an offense with motion, picks and actual scoring, as he told the Sacramento Bee (via Sactown Royalty).

“We ran and everybody shared the ball,” he said, “and when we didn’t have anything on the break, we’d run pick and rolls. We won 22 straight games (in 2007-08) without Yao (Ming) and mostly without Tracy McGrady. We could do that here, but that’s not what we do, and you have to play the system the coach (Paul Westphal) wants.”

Landry smacks not only Westphal but also past coaches (Eric Mussellman and Reggie Theus) for where this team stands right now.

“The basketball IQ on this team is not very good,” Landry said, “and that (knowledge) takes time. If you look at J.T. (Thompson), he’s had three or four coaches in his four years, coaches that probably weren’t that good. Everybody in this league can play. But it’s about spacing, having the right guys on the floor, running the right play. Move the ball. Set back screens, down screens, and play together. Our shooting percentage is so low because everything is one-on-one.”

This is not the 1990s, what Westphal has drawn up as the Kings offense has spacing and screens and plenty of motion. But that’s not what the Kings do. Tyreke Evans breaks out of the offense for isolation plays, they clear out the post for Cousins and it all goes away. NBA teams can defend isolation fairly well if that is the steady diet.

As Ziller notes at Sactown Royalty — that is where Westphal fails. It’s not the system, it’s that nobody is buying into the system and he cannot get them to do so. Blame the players if you want, but the best coaches in the league are the ones that can get the guys to buy in — Rivers, Jackson, Van Gundy, Popovich, you don’t see their players just constantly blowing off the system. Not even Kobe.

Landry admits he’s part of the problem, chucking up shots rather than moving the ball and making the smart play.

“When players don’t know when they’re going to touch the ball again,” he said with a sheepish grin, “you tend to shoot it when you get it.”

James Harden, Rockets again leave Jazz in the dust

AP Photo/David J. Phillip
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After turning the ball over late in the fourth quarter, James Harden meandered near halfcourt as the Jazz pushed for a fastbreak layup. But that put him in perfect position to receive a long inbound pass after Utah scored. Harden caught the ball and whipped it ahead Kenneth Faried, who dunked to give Harden a triple-double-clinching assist.

You’ll have to forgive Harden for not hustling back on defense. He did most of his heavy lifting far earlier.

By late in the first quarter, Harden created 28 points (17 scored, 11 assisted) to the Jazz’s 13 total points. The Rockets never looked back.

Houston crushed Utah 118-98 in Game 2 Wednesday to take a 2-0 series lead. It seems the Jazz – who lost Game 1 by 32 points and a 4-1 second-round series in this matchup last year – have no answer for the Rockets, particularly Harden.

Harden finished with 32 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. He was a game-high +24.

Here are the best-of-seven series with the most-lopsided first two games. The 2-0-leading teams that won the series are in red. The 2-0-leading teams that lost the series are in blue. This Houston-Utah series is in silver. This Bucks-Pistons series is in cream.

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Teams that outscored their opponents by at least 50 in the first two games have never lost a best-of-season series. The Rockets, +52, might have built an insurmountable advantage.

Especially the way the Jazz guard Harden. They’re trying to overplay him but wind up just giving him lanes into the paint. The talented guard is picking them apart.

Until Utah solves that, secondary matchups won’t matter. Houston is content winning through its superstar.

Bucks wallop Pistons. Again.

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The Pistons fought harder. Luke Kennard moved into the starting lineup and provided a spark. Detroit defended more actively.

But the result was largely the same: A Bucks blowout.

Milwaukee routed Detroit 120-99 in Game 2 Wednesday. Following a 35-point Game 1 victory, the Bucks have outscored the Pistons by 56 points in the series. Every team to outscore its opponent by at least 50 in the first two games of a best-of-seven series has won it.

Here are the best-of-seven series with the most-lopsided first two games. The 2-0-leading teams that won the series are in green. The 2-0-leading teams that lost the series are in red. This Milwaukee-Detroit series is in cream.

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The Pistons can’t stop Giannis Antetokounmpo (26 points, 12 rebounds and four assists). With Kennard (Detroit-high 19 points) starting for defensive specialist Bruce Brown, the Pistons also couldn’t contain Eric Bledsoe (27 points). Khris Middleton (24 points) provided his usual steady production.

Meanwhile, without Blake Griffin, Detroit lacks a difference-making star. Andre Drummond (18 points and 16 rebounds) had nice individual moments but was -32 (another terrible plus-minus for him).

The Pistons are just overwhelmed by the superior Bucks, and it’s hard to see that changing.

Kyrie Irving torches Pacers for 37 points in Celtics win

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In what had been a tight game, the Pacers built a four-point lead over the Celtics with four minutes left in the third quarter. From there:

Irving scored 37 points and dished seven assists, leading Boston to a 99-91 Game 2 win Wednesday. The Celtics now lead the first-round series 2-0. Teams that have won the first two games of a best-of-seven series at home have won the series 93% of the time.

The Pacers just can’t muster enough offense – not against this sound Boston defense. Indiana went nearly nine scoreless minutes in the fourth quarter. Even after ending that drought, the Pacers’ final five possessions: miss, miss, miss, turnover, turnover.

This is why the Celtics got Irving. His ability to create shots sets them apart in these slogging playoff games.

Jayson Tatum added 26 points. But Al Horford struggled while playing through illness. Marcus Morris shot 0-for-8. Jaylen Brown didn’t really get going.

This wasn’t the prettiest game for Boston, but because of Irving, it was a win.

LeBron James named one of TIME’s 100 most-influential people

AP Photo/Mark Duncan
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LeBron James couldn’t even influence the Lakers into the playoffs.

But as a businessman and philanthropist, his reach is only growing.

LeBron remains the NBA’s biggest star. He’s still an elite player (when healthy), and his name resonates with casual fans and even non-fans. Add his off-court interests – more accessible to him in Los Angeles – and his importance can’t be denied.

That’s why LeBron made TIME’s 2019 list of 100 most-influential

Warren Buffett wrote about LeBron:

I’ve been impressed with his leadership skills, his sharp mind and his ability to stay grounded. People in LeBron’s position get tugged in different directions and have a lot of chances to make bad decisions. He’s kept his head, and that’s not easy.

There is so much on LeBron’s plate – production, acting, his school, even basketball. His ability to handle it all is incredible.

Having such varied interests might not lend itself to LeBron dominating on the court. But it makes him even more deserving of this list.