NBA Playoffs: Atlanta shocks Chicago in Game 1

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It’s time to go back to the drawing board, NBA world. These Atlanta Hawks apparently aren’t ready to crumble under the Chicago Bulls’ might just yet, as the underdog club — predicted by most to win but a single game in this series (or less), and predicted by yours truly to be overrun by Derrick Rose — stole Game 1 on the road, 103-95.

Although the focus will largely be on how the top-seeded Bulls fell short in the inaugural game of their second round series, let’s not forget that the Hawks won this thing. Atlanta was the unmistakably better team on Monday night, and though the sustainability of the Hawks’ offense will understandably be questioned, public doubts don’t make Joe Johnson’s jumpers count for any less. So long as Johnson and Jamal Crawford and the entire Hawks crew can continue to hit their shots, the reliability of Atlanta’s methods is a non-issue. For now, the Hawks were good enough on both ends to control their first game against the Bulls, and each contest from here on out will have to be examined on a case-by-case basis. Atlanta can’t and won’t win them all, but we should be past the point of devaluing the Hawks’ makes for probability’s sake. Their weaknesses are well known, and there’s no use reinforcing them until the clock finally does strike midnight.

Like it or not, Johnson was spectacular. He took some tough shots and broke free from the offense at times, but he scored 34 points on 18 shots, and went a tremendous 5-of-5 from beyond the arc. Johnson helped build the lead in the first quarter, hit timely shots that broke the Bulls’ momentum in the third, and closed despite facing plenty of traps down the stretch. Call it the hot hand, call it random chance, or call it a quality shot maker converting on his tough looks, but Johnson was far and away the game’s most effective offensive player. The fact that Tom Thibodeau saw it fit to run aggressive ball pressure at Johnson in the fourth at all speaks volumes, as does the Hawks’ victory in spite of that pressure. Crawford also connected on half of his field goal attempts — in spite of his shot selection — and finished with 22 points.

Atlanta deserves a ton of credit for their collective defense against Derrick Rose. Jeff Teague worked his tail off to stay in front of Rose, but it was a team-wide effort that forced the league’s MVP into bad passes and deterred his drives into the lane. When Rose did manage to get to the basket, the Hawks contested effectively; Atlanta pestered Rose into 4-of-9 shooting in his attempts at the rim without fouling him in the act of shooting a single time, an even more impressive accomplishment when considering the boost to Rose’s shooting from transition and semi-transition opportunities. In the halfcourt offense, Rose had no means to create efficient shots, and he settled for too many threes (seven attempts with just two makes) as a result. Honestly, Rose is as deserving of blame as the Hawks are of praise; both contributed to Rose’s inefficiency with their decision-making in Game 1, but it should be interesting to see the Game 2 response from both parties.

Larry Drew has to be pleased with Teague’s work on offense in addition to his defensive work against Rose. Five assists to just one turnover is pretty solid for a young guard seeing his first meaningful action of the playoffs, but Teague also impressed with his creative intermediate game. Teague’s 10 points were mostly off of floaters and runners, carved out from that fluffy middle ground between the protected interior and the preventative perimeter front. Being able to manufacture makes in that space is quite valuable, and Teague’s patience was essential in creating those opportunities.

The rest of the series will write its own story, but this first game belonged to Atlanta. They held their own on the boards despite the surrendering a considerable advantage to Chicago in that regard during the regular season. They took a nice performance from Luol Deng (21 points, 8-12 FG, six rebounds) in stride, and still won regardless. They kept Derrick Rose out of the paint, and scored at a rate of 118.4 points per 100 possessions. That — along with the shooting of Johnson and Crawford, and the sturdiness of Teague, for that matter — could change overnight, but this is the world as we know it. The Atlanta Hawks are up 1-0, and everything that will be, will be.

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NBA may play 2019 preseason game in India

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The NBA has been working to make inroads in India — it’s nation far more fixated on Cricket, field hockey, and soccer, but it has a lot of youth playing basketball at schools, and it has the second largest population of any country in the world (nearly 1.4 billion people).

The NBA sees another big potential overseas market, one the league wants to cultivate. They have done that with an NBA Academy and Basketball Without Borders has been multiple times, including this past June.

But if the NBA really wants to grow the game in India, they need to bring the product there. That could happen during the 2019 preseason, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said at the Jr NBA World Championships, via the HindustanTimes.

“We are potentially looking to play a game in Mumbai, may be next year. It would be a pre-season game,” Silver told PTI on the sidelines of the Jr NBA World Championships.

“If we do a pre-season game, we can build time and our players and their families can spend time, learn about the country’s culture,” he said… We are very focused on the Indian market.”

The NBA has played preseason games all over the world, including this season in China (plus the league has regular-season games in London and Mexico City).

It’s easy to envision the league sending the Sacramento Kings — which is owned by Vivek Ranadive, who was born in Mumbai — and another team to India for an exhibition game. Don’t be surprised if that happens in the next couple of years.

Reports: Shabazz Muhammad to come to Bucks training camp, compete for final roster spot

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Shabazz Muhammad was buried on Tom Thibodeau’s bench last season in Minnesota and wanted out so he could get on the court — and he got his wish. Sort of. He was waived by the Timberwolves and a few days later signed with the Bucks. The problem was he only played 117 minutes the rest of the season in Milwaukee, mostly taking on the role of an unrepentant gunner in the chances he did get on the court.

It worked well enough that the Bucks are bringing Muhammad back for training camp, where he will try to grab the last roster spot.

The Bucks have 14 guaranteed contracts, plus the non-guaranteed deal of Tyler Zeller (and with Brook Lopez, John Henson, and Thon Maker on the roster it’s hard to imagine Zeller getting a lot of run). It is possible someone can beat Zeller out at a position of more need, such as on the wing (where Muhammad plays).

But is Muhammad the guy who can make this squad?

The Bucks hired Mike Budenholzer as coach this summer, and what does he want in players? Guys who can shoot the three, are unselfish, and can defend. Muhammad is a career 31 percent shooter from three who wants to attack off the dribble — last season 72 percent of his shot attempts came within 10 feet of the rim. He’s not a passer — a career 5.5 assist rate — and he’s not much of a defender.

That said, he’s got an invite to camp and is going to get his chance.

Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma trolling now in ad for Wish shopping app

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The Lakers asked Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma to back off on their social media trolling battle.

However, they made an exception for this new Wish.com app ad (Wish is the Lakers’ jersey ad sponsor).

Well played guys.

Miami bringing Briante Weber into camp with chance to make roster

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For three seasons, Briante Weber has bounced around the fringes of the NBA. The defensive-minded point guard has played in short stints (often 10-day contracts) for the Grizzlies, Heat, Warriors, Hornets, and last season he got in 13 games for the Rockets (plus five in Memphis). He’s spent most of his career in the G-League, working for his chance to get in the door.

Miami is bringing him into training camp, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

This is apparently camp invite.

There is roster space in Miami if Webber blows them away. Miami has 12 fully guaranteed roster spots and, with Webber, two partially-guaranteed deals (Malik Newman, who was undrafted out of Kansas, is the other).

The problem for Webber is Miami is deep at the point guard spot: Goran Dragic will start, and if Tyler Johnson is healthy (as expected) he will get a lot of minutes behind him, and then there is Newman. The Heat also have in the guard rotation Dion Waiters, Wayne Ellington, Rodney McGruder, and possibly Dwyane Wade if he returns (all of those guys are more two guards).

That’s a lot of guys for Webber to beat out and find a spot. On the other hand, his defensive style is something different from what the Heat have on the roster.

Webber is a longshot, but he’s at least going to camp.