NBA Playoffs: Maybe the Hawks can use more Horford in Game 3

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Now the Orlando/Atlanta series moves on to Game 3 on a neutral court… wait, it’s in Atlanta? Interesting. We’ll see if anyone notices.

Seriously, the Hawks fans will be into it if the Hawks are into it. And in it.

Whether the Hawks are in it may depend in part on how much run Al Horford gets, which became one of the big stories out of Game 2. Horford — the Hawks best player in the regular season — picked up two fouls in 2:10 of the first quarter and got yanked by coach Larry Drew. And never put back in for the entire first half. Stat heads are down on the idea of yanking a guy with two fouls in the first place, go ahead and debate that if you wish. Nobody was down with Horford not getting back in until the second half. Or with sitting Jason Collins — the guy who bangs with Dwight Howard and allows the Hawks to single cover on the perimeter — when he picked up a second foul with 8:44 in the second quarter. Both sat the rest of the half.

The result was Orlando made a 12-2 run and a separate 14-3 run in the second quarter while the two bigs sat. The Magic grabbed a lead they never relinquished. Collins was saved for a fourth quarter he almost never played in because the Hawks needed guys who can score.

It’s not rocket science. You’ve got to play your best players to win. Horford is as good as the Hawks have inside. Give the man his run.

The Hawks best player so far this series has been Jamal Crawford, who is averaging 24 points a game and is shooting 58.4 percent from three. In general the Hawks have had stretches where their shooters — Joe Johnson, Josh Smith — have been nailing the jumpers they too easily settle for, and they have held the lead. The Hawks expect that to last, the Magic think they can close out and shut that down.

The Hawks have a real shot here — they played poorly and had bad coaching decisions in Game 2 on the road and still were in it late. They create matchup problems that Orlando struggles to solve. The Magic have nobody who can hang with Josh Smith if Mr. Smith wishes to take over. Atlanta should open up the Mike Woodson playbook and isolate the guy.

At some point, Orlando fans and players expect their shots to start falling. Atlanta thinks that they, too, can shoot a lot better against the Magic defense.

One of them will be right. And one of them will be up 2-1 in this series come Saturday morning.

Patty Mills hits game-winner in Spurs’ NBA-record fourth straight OT game (video)

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich pioneered resting players.

But San Antonio has played an NBA-record four straight overtime games, meaning the Spurs have had to play an extra 25 minutes.

Popovich, via ESPN:

“It’s awful,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich

At least Patty Mills spared San Antonio a sixth overtime period in these four games. After DeMar DeRozan missed a free throw, Mills hit the game-winner in a 121-119 victory over the Suns yesterday.

And at least the Spurs are mostly winning these longer games. In this span, San Antonio beat the Rockets in double overtime, beat the Kings, lost to the Cavaliers and now beat the Suns. I’d also argue the Cleveland result was worth it.

 

Report: Luka Doncic might return to Mavericks within a couple weeks

Luka Doncic
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Luka Doncic sprained his ankle during the Mavericks’ loss to the Heat yesterday.

Whether this timeline constitutes good news or bad news depends on your perspective.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

Doncic’s injury is a blow not just to Dallas, but the NBA. He’s one of the league’s brightest stars. In the next eight days, the Mavericks make their only appearances of the season in Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Toronto.

Though Doncic has played like an MVP candidate, the Mavericks also boast considerable depth. They’ve outscored opponents by 8.0 points per 100 possessions without Doncic.

Those non-Doncic lineups will be thrust into more difficult situations now. That net rating will likely drop, especially against a tough upcoming schedule. Dallas might have been in line for some losses, even with Doncic. So, don’t overreact to that.

But the Mavericks can remain at least competitive without their best player.

Bucks’ Eric Bledsoe out two weeks due to right fibula avulsion fracture

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The Milwaukee Bucks keep right on rolling, they won their 18th straight on Saturday night, cruising past the Cleveland Cavaliers. Now they’re going to have to keep this winning streak going without point guard Eric Bledsoe.

Bledsoe will miss at least two weeks with a right fibula avulsion fracture, the team announced Saturday. The injury happened Friday night in a win against Memphis.

An avulsion fracture is where a strain to ligament pulls a little bit of bone off where the two connect. It sounds worse than it is medically, and while it hurts rest is usually the only treatment needed.

Bledsoe is averaging 15 points and 5.7 assists per game for the Bucks, shooting 34.4 percent from three, playing solid defense, and providing another ball handler and shot creator next to Giannis Antetokounmpo. Milwaukee has been +4.1 points per 100 possessions this season with Bledsoe on the court.

George Hill, who has had a strong season for Milwaukee off the bench, will step into the starting role for now.

The injury comes at a rough time as the Buck hit a tougher part of the schedule this week, facing Dallas (which may be without Luka Doncic) and the Lakers on Thursday.

Hornets’ rookie P.J. Washington out weeks with fractured little finger

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In what has been a disappointing rookie class so far, Charlotte appears to have a steal drafting P.J. Washington at No. 12. The power forward out of Kentucky has started every game for the Hornets this season and is loving the spacing in the NBA game, scoring efficiently in the paint while shooting 40.6 percent from beyond the arc on 3.4 attempts per game, plus is averaging 5.3 rebounds a game.

Now the Hornets are going to be without him, likely for a couple of weeks, due to a fractured fifth finger on his right hand (pinkie). He suffered it in the fourth quarter against Chicago Friday night.

While the Hornets officially only list him as out for Sunday against the Pacers, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports he’s going to be out through Christmas, which would mean at least five games.

Usually this would mean more minutes for Marvin Williams, but he is out with a sore right knee. Most likely, coach James Borego slides an undersized Miles Bridges over to the four — which had been the preseason plan until Washington surprised everyone — but he has a variety of small-ball players who likely will get a little run there.

The 12-16 Hornets are hanging around the playoff picture, just 1.5 games out of the eight seed (Orlando).