Three Stars of the Night: All you need is Love

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So the Mayans had it wrong, and The Beatles had it right. To end the Thunder’s winning streak, all the Wolves needed was Love (of the Kevin variety) and maybe some bruising play from Nikola Pekovic, some serious playmaking from Alexey Shved, and a pinch of J.J. Barea. Having Russell Westbrook join Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club with 28 shot attempts and 8 turnovers didn’t hurt either. The Nuggets, meanwhile, had a hard day’s night, setting a record for NBA futility. As for The Heatles (ugh) against the Mavericks? They had a ticket to ride. How about you say goodbye to all the Beatles stuff, and I’ll say hello to Three Stars:

Third Star: J.J. Barea – (18 points, 14 in the 4th quarter)

With Ricky Rubio’s minutes still being limited, the Wolves turned to J.J. Barea in the fourth period against Oklahoma City. Barea regularly shifts from truly awful to absolutely fantastic on a nightly basis, but luckily for the Wolves, they got good Barea against the league’s best team. Barea’s irrational confidence was off the charts against the Thunder, and the impossible 3-pointers he fired up just seemed to keep falling. I don’t know if “irritating” can be considered a positive trait in a player, but Barea has it in spades. After he baited Kevin Durant into an offensive fall with his signature flop move, Durant lost his cool and picked up a technical foul. How often does that happen? Probably about as often as a J.J. Barea offensive explosion does, but it’s certainly not a coincidence that it came in the same game.

Second Star: Dwyane Wade – (19 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds)

After a slow start to the year, Wade is getting back in the groove of things and making the same plays only he makes. There are only a few players who control their bodies on drives as well as Wade does (Manu Ginobili is one, Brandon Roy was the other), so it was nice to see Wade get six field goals right at the rim and help keep O.J. Mayo from getting there on the other end. As a nice little bonus, Wade recorded the best single game plus/minus number of his career at +40. With Wade firing on all cylinders, Miami is climbing back into the upper echelon on both ends of the ball.

First Star: Kevin Love – (28 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists)

Kevin Love is a shotblocker’s worst nightmare. Not because of his vertical leap (obviously), but because he makes rim protectors betray their instincts every time down the floor. Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins are conditioned to protect the rim. In transition, they run to the rim. When someone else gets beat, they run to the rim. It’s who they are as basketball players. But when you’re guarding Kevin Love, you just can’t do those things. Oklahoma City’s bigs got caught cheating off Love far too often (4-for-9 from 3-point land), and they allowed him too much of a window to throw some nice dimes (7 assists). With Pekovic doing his bull in a china shop routine and Love demanding attention on the perimeter and on the offensive glass, Minnesota is a handful for any frontcourt.

Pistons hire Ed Stefanski to advise owner on searches for general manager and coach, with Dwane Casey reportedly top target

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After interviewing Kiki VanDeWeghe, Ed Stefanski, Gersson Rosas, Trajan Langdon, Brent Barry and Shane Battier, the Pistons picked Stefanski… to help pick the head of basketball operations.

Pistons release:

Detroit Pistons Owner Tom Gores announced today the hiring of Ed Stefanski as a senior executive reporting directly to Mr. Gores with responsibility for helping reshape the team’s basketball operations infrastructure and strategy. In this new role, Mr. Stefanski will assist in the searches now underway for a new head coach and new head of basketball operations; conduct a broad review of the existing structure in which the two jobs were previously combined;  recommend enhancements and improvements to that structure; and act as a long-term strategic adviser to Mr. Gores and the Pistons’ ownership team. His contract has a three-year term.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The Pistons’ top target in the coaching search is former Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey, according to league sources.

Gores loves his consultants. He hired former Knicks and Jazz president Dave Checketts as an advisor shortly after buying the Pistons in 2011. That led to keeping Joe Dumars as president of basketball operations for three more, nearly doomed-to-fail, years. When Gores set out to replace Dumars in 2014, the Pistons trumpeted their use of search firm Korn/Ferry. On the recommendation of Korn/Ferry, Gores hired Stan Van Gundy as president-coach.

Now, with Van Gundy out and Detroit untangling those roles, Gores has turned to Stefanski.

Stefanski ran the 76ers from 2007-10, and he worked for the Grizzlies the last few years. Maybe his many years of experience will help in the latest general-manager search.

But then what?

Once the Pistons hire a general manager, what will Stefanski do? How will Gores distribute power so the new general manager and Stefanski aren’t stepping on each other’s toes or, worse, undercutting each other?

Locking in on Casey before hiring a general manager also seems like a mistake. Casey is a good coach and would be a good hire based on his acumen. But that should be the next general’s call. Forcing a coach onto a general manager usually goes poorly – though there might be a selection bias, because the type of team that does that usually has wider problems, too.

Which, yeah.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue on Kyle Korver’s playing time: Brad Stevens ‘threw us for a loop’ by not playing Semi Ojeleye

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LeBron James is obviously the Cavaliers’ best player. Cleveland’s second-best player? Usually Kevin Love, but Kyle Korver has made a case lately.

So, how did Korver play just 19 minutes, including none in the first quarter, in the Cavs’ Game 5 loss to the Celtics last night? That was his playoff low, besides Game 1 against the Pacers, when he was still recovering from injury.

Blame Boston coach Brad Stevens removing Semi Ojeleye from his rotation.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue:

Well, initially, he’s been putting [Semi] Ojeleye in, so that’s been kind of Kyle’s matchup when he comes in the game. He didn’t play him tonight, so it kind of threw us for a loop.

This won’t slow the talk of Stevens being a genius. He neutralized one of Cleveland’s best players simply by not using a limited rookie.

Still, Lue’s strategy held some merit. Korver is a defensive liability, but Ojeleye’s offensive limitations make it hard to take advantage. Ojeleye’s biggest strength, his physical strength, is of limited utility in trying to stick tight to Korver on the perimeter.

In Games 1-4, Cavaliers with Korver on and…

Ojeleye on:

  • Offensive rating: 111.9
  • Defensive rating: 102.1
  • Net rating: +9.9

Ojeleye off:

  • Offensive rating: 97.0
  • Defensive rating: 109.5
  • Net rating: -12.5

That said, Korver is too good to plant on the bench. Other perimeter options – J.R. Smith, George Hill, Jordan Clarkson and Jeff Green (who actually played fine last night) – are just so unreliable. Lue shouldn’t just wait for the perfect matchup to use Korver.

But will Lue get it, anyway?

Stevens:

We believe in Semi and we think he’s a big, huge part of our team. It would not be a shock if he plays a ton for us in Game 6.

Lue better develop a plan for using Korver in Game 6 Friday, with contingencies based on Stevens using or not using Ojeleye. I wouldn’t trust Stevens’ declaration one bit, and Lue doesn’t want to get thrown for a loop again.

PBT Extra: Rockets showed defense, resilience, can Warriors show same in Game 5?

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Game 4 was an epic game, and the Houston Rockets proved they are a serious threat to knock the Warriors off the top of the mountain. They took Golden State’s big punch to start the game (a 12-0 run) and Stephen Curry haymaker in the third, cranked up their defense, got a great game from Chris Paul, and evened the series at 2-2.

Heading back to Houston, we can expect more of the same out of the Rockets Thursday night — they know a win in Game 5 puts them in a very dominant position in the series.

The question is, do the Warriors have another gear? That’s one of the topics I get into in this PBT Extra. For a few seasons now, the Warriors have been able to play lockdown defense and hit tough shots in the clutch, with Kevin Durant making them especially hard to stop, but in Game 4 when it got tight they looked tired and slow. Houston’s ball pressure threw Golden State off its game, and fatigue had set in for the Warriors. Can they not only go on big runs but slow down Chris Paul, James Harden and the Rockets’ attack?

Thursday night is going to be interesting.

LeBron James recalls six turnovers with striking precision (video)

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LeBron James showed off his memory after the Cavaliers’ Game 1 loss to the Celtics, detailing every play of the beginning of the fourth quarter:

He was at it again after Cleveland’s Game 5 loss to the Celtics last night.

Asked about his six turnovers, LeBron perfectly described six turnovers:

The turnover LeBron very noticeably said went off Jeff Green‘s hands was actually assigned to Green. So, that meant LeBron omitted one of his own:

Still, this was incredibly impressive. It was also maybe a little passive-aggressive, the way LeBron notes the ball going off Green’s and J.R. Smith‘s hands.

So, it was quintessential LeBron.