NBA Playoffs: Dallas looks to rebound. Literally.

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Dallas learned some hard lessons and was asked some hard questions in their Game 1 loss in the NBA finals. What do they have to do to rebound from that and even their series with the Heat?

Rebound.

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said “rebound” so often during his Thursday morning meeting with the press it sounded like his meditation mantra. The Mavericks gave up 16 offensive rebounds in Game 1 — Dallas is the taller team and in theory should have the rebounding advantage. But as pointed out over at NBA Playbook, the Heat’s ball movement and dribble penetration forced a lot of defensive rotations by the Mavericks and by the second or third they lost shape and lost their rebounding position. Don’t expect that to happen again.

Also, Dirk Nowitzki has to be a bigger rebounding force. When Tyson Chandler rotates out to help on defense, Dirk has to dominate the boards. He did not in Game 1.

But it’s going to take more for Dallas to bounce back.

They are going to have to adjust to the perimeter athleticism and the speed of the Heat’s defensive closeout, then knock down their shots.

Many people point to Jason Terry and J.J. Barea missing looks they normally knock down in game 1 (they were a combined 4-of-18 shooting). That is somewhat true. But the speed of the closeouts by the Heat seemed to throw Dallas off, get them thinking and rushing a little. Dallas has to settle down, slow down and knock down those open looks to win one in Miami.

Miami shot the ball well from three in Game 1 and that will be another issue — LeBron hit 4-of-5 and he is almost impossible to defend when he can do that. As a team Miami shot 45.9 percent from three. The key reason is that 10 of their 24 three attempts came from the corner — where the shot is a foot shorter than out on the arc. The corner three is the most efficient shot in basketball and teams game plan to take that shot away (see the Spurs under Popovich if you want an example). Dallas cannot give up that shot because Mario Chalmers and others can hit it. Consistently.

There will be other keys to Game 2. Can Jason Kidd stick with Dwyane Wade, because he’ll have to down the stretch. Can Nowitzki pay for Miami helping off of him (Miami did that but Dirk did not have a monster night)? Will the Mavericks use much zone at all and can they have better success with it than they did in Game 1 (when Miami had little problem with it).

But the biggest question is can Dallas close against the Heat? This was a close game where Miami pulled away in the final five minutes. LeBron James has become a force as a closer and we all know Wade can do it as well in the biggest of games. Dallas has to prove it can win in a close one with the Heat at some point, and they had better do it sooner rather than later.

If Dallas goes down 2-0 they are in serious trouble. Even heading back home. To win four out of five from the Heat, with their stars and they way they are playing now, is nearly impossible. This is not must win for Dallas, but it’s close.

They have to rebound.

Draymond Green guarantees Warriors will beat Rockets in Western Conference finals

AP Photo/David J. Phillip
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Warriors coach Steve Kerr is confident despite his team trailing the Rockets 3-2 in the Western Conference finals.

Golden State forward Draymond Green goes further.

Green, via Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic:

“We still winning this,” Draymond Green said. “Book it.”

Of course, Green is confident. He’d never say he expects his team to lose.

But he didn’t need to frame it this way. He could’ve said he was just focused on the next game rather than make such a bold proclamation.

He’s taking pressure upon himself and putting his reputation on the line. If Golden State loses, especially in Game 6 at home with Chris Paul out, Green will be widely mocked.

If he and the Warriors pull through, he’ll probably deserve praise for setting a tone that helped them advance.

Danny Green: Kawhi Leonard told me he wants to stay with Spurs

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The Spurs are reportedly worried Kawhi Leonard‘s camp wants to get him to the Lakers, Clippers, Knicks or 76ers.

Leonard hasn’t said much himself – except apparently to San Antonio teammate Danny Green

Get Up on ESPN:

Green:

I talk to him here and there, check up on him, see how he’s doing.

I think he wants to be in San Antonio. He’s let me know that. He’s let me know verbally he wanted to be there. So, we’ll see what happens.

Green has tried playing peacemaker throughout this saga – going as far as denying tension that clearly exists. He’s not the most reliable source.

And even if Leonard explicitly told Green he wants to remain in San Antonio, I’m not sure Leonard is confrontational enough to tell Green he wanted out, even if he did.

Those caveats acknowledged, this could be a huge revelation.

If Leonard wants to stay with the Spurs, the next step is meeting with them, mending their relationship and convincing them he deserves a super-max extension (which projects to be worth $219 million over five years). No matter how Leonard feels about San Antonio right now, if the Spurs don’t trust investing so much in him, that could lead to a fractured relationship and his exit.

So, there’s still a lot to sort out. But Green saying this means something.

LeBron James flips elimination-game game on its head

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His Cavaliers down 3-2 to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, how does LeBron James assess his situation?

"I don’t enjoy being in the position where it’s you lose and go home," LeBron said before Game 6 tonight in Cleveland.

He might not enjoy this position, but he’s pretty good in it.

Since he first reached the playoffs in 2006, other teams have won 26% of their elimination games. LeBron’s teams have won 57% of theirs.

Of course, LeBron hasn’t gone 12-9 in elimination games just because he’s lucky. He has willed his team off the mat numerous times.

LeBron has scored 40 points and/or had a triple-double in six straight elimination games, winning five of them. His line in his last elimination game before that streak? Just 32 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists.

A full history of LeBron’s elimination games:

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Rockets played with fire with Chris Paul, got burned

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Chris Paul played 79 minutes in three days.

Prior to Games 4 and 5 of these Western Conference finals, he hadn’t done that in more than two years. He hadn’t done it without both games going to overtime in more than three years.

The Rockets leaned heavily on the 33-year-old Paul, and they’ll pay the price.

Paul will miss Game 6 against the Warriors tomorrow. Given how quickly Houston ruled out Paul with a strained hamstring, he seems unlikely to play in a potential Game 7 Monday.

Injuries are somewhat – but not completely – random. Players are more susceptible when worn down. After missing the close of the 2016 postseason, Paul missed 45 games the last two regular seasons. He has accumulated a lot of mileage in his 13-year career.

Yet, Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni drastically shortened his rotation, anyway. Not only did Paul play big minutes in this series, he shouldered a huge load. He took the reins of the offense at times, allowing James Harden to conserve energy for defense, while maintaining his own strong-two way play. That’s never easy, especially in these high-intensity games.

This was the risk.

We can feel bad for Paul and his predicament. We can also acknowledge Houston got this far by gambling on Paul’s health.

That’s not to say it was a bad bet. This is what you save him for, the biggest playoff series of his career and maybe one of the last before he exits his prime. The Rockets would have been far worse off to this point resting Paul extensively and protecting him. Even with such a heavy workload, an injury was never fait accompli. And Houston got plenty from Paul before he went down. He was instrumental to wins in Game 4 and Game 5 that gave the Rockets a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals.

Now, they just must hope that’s enough of a head-start into a world of playing without Paul.