The Indiana Pacers and Orlando Magic have played 12 quarters in this series. The first six the Magic seemed to control.
But the last six have been all Pacers, which is what we expected. They are the longer, deeper, more talented team, and it showed Wednesday night. Danny Granger showed up looking like an All-Star with 26 points on 16 shots. Roy Hibbert dominated the paint defensively in the third quarter. The Pacers owned Game 3, winning 97-74, and now are up two games to one in the best of seven series.
Orlando is going to have to find a way to change a lot of things — or just get red hot shooting — because this series feels like it is on its way to a quick end. Which is what we expected even if it didn’t feel like it after Game 1.
Indiana jumped out to a 23-14 lead in the first quarter but to the Magic’s credit they keep it in single digits early and were down just six at the half. Glen Davis played well and had 22 points.
Then the Pacers owned the third quarter — 32-17 — due to good shooting and Hibbert’s defense (he also had 18 points). The game was all but over. Plus, Orlando is a team that needs the three pointers to fall in bunches to win, and they were just 5-for-15.
If Orlando is going to change anything, it needs to be the energy after halftime — Indiana has won the third quarters in this series 80-43.
Mathematically, this series is not over. But the last six quarters have made it feel like what everyone expected — without Dwight Howard this series is all Pacers.
The Magic need to change that perception (and the third quarter) around in Game 4 or it is all over but the streamers falling from the rafters.
Only high schoolers who would’ve been consensus draft candidates to receive $125,000 minor-league offer
The NBA is limiting eligibility for the professional path program to prep players who would be considered consensus candidates for the draft if there were no early entry rule to prohibit them. Feaster will work with a group that includes Strickland and the NBA’s basketball operations and player development staffs to evaluate the potential players.
“It will be elite prospects with a readiness for a professional league,” Feaster told ESPN. “We want to target players who would not be going to a university if it weren’t for the NBA eligibility rule. That’s more or less what’s going to dictate this.”
Feaster expects a “handful” of players to be part of the initial group in the professional path. Feaster and Strickland emphasized that the program will be judicious in choosing those eligible for the pro path opportunity.
For reference, 17 high schoolers were picked in the final two drafts (2004 and 2005) before the NBA implemented its one-and-done rule. So, that suggests about 8-9 players annually will get offered the $125,000 deal.
That still leaves the other question: Who will take it?
Then, Fultz’s agent, Raymond Brothers, informed the 76ers the guard wouldn’t play or practice until visiting a specialist Monday. Fultz will miss at least three games – against the Pelicans, Cavaliers and Nets.
76ers coach Brett Brown:
It’s kind of the first real sort of red-flag-type news.
This news about his shoulder, it did catch me off guard. But if it’s that real that he needs to go seek further consultation, then we support him. In my eyes, it’s not complicated. If that’s what it is, then we’ll support him.
76ers general manager Elton Brand:
We thought it was the regular bumps and bruises.
There’s nothing that we saw medically that didn’t allow him to play.
It’s also hard to take the 76ers seriously when they suggest it seemed like business as usual. Fultz’s shot is disturbingly broken. There is clearly a problem. Maybe letting Fultz play without fretting over the issue was the right course, but how surprised can Philadelphia be that he took a more drastic measure?
Hopefully, the specialist helps Fultz identify and fix this issue.
Bulls’ Denzel Valentine likely to miss entire season
A lottery pick two years ago, battled ankle injuries during his rookie year and underwent ankle surgery after the season. He stayed mostly healthy last year, but his season still ended early for knee surgery. Then, over the summer, he got torched in the Drew League by Frank “Nitty” Session, who questioned how Valentine was in the NBA:
Denzel Valentine was originally expected to miss one to two weeks after suffering a sprained ankle on the second day of training camp. One setback led to another, and on Monday the Bulls announced that the third year guard will undergo surgical reconstruction on that left ankle. He’ll miss four to six months, the team announced, effectively ending his season.
The long end of that timeline will keep Valentine sidelined the entire season. The short end would allow him to return late in the year, but with Chicago so dismal, there’s little incentive to rush him back.
Valentine is under contract next season, the final year of his rookie-scale deal. He might need to prove himself to make Nitty’s question still relevant.
Report: J.R. Smith and Cavaliers separating as they seek trade
“I can’t do that to the city and the fans,” Smith said. “A lot of people have been backing me since I’ve been here. I feel like it’s been a new start since I came here. The way the fans embraced me, the way that I’ve embraced the city, my teammates, I can’t do that to them.”
But Smith also said Cleveland is tanking and reaffirmed his desire to be traded. That probably set wheels in motion.
Joe Vardon of The Athletic:
JR Smith will no longer be actively with the Cavs, a league source tells me. He is working with the team to trade him, and in the meantime will work out on his own
Smith – who’s guaranteed $18.59 million on a contract that will surely end after this season – carries negative trade value. The Cavs shouldn’t attach the sweetener necessary to dump him. They’re better off just paying him for now.
Because just $3.87 million of his $15.68 million salary for next season is guaranteed, Smith’s contract could prove useful in a trade.
If Smith would reduce his guarantee with a buyout, let him go. But Smith probably shouldn’t do that without a new job lined up.
So, the stalemate continues.
If everyone is happier apart, all the better. Smith wasn’t making a difference on the court for a team he correctly identified as tanking.