It was still anybody’s game — Atlanta led by 5 with 3:10 left when Josh Smith took a three against the Pacers Monday night and you could hear the entire Phillips Arena do the same thing:
Smith made that shot and that’s what he’ll remember. So he’ll shoot it again and again. And miss the vast majority of them.
After the game Al Horford admitted that the Hawks players shake their heads at Smith’s shot selection sometimes, as reported by Sekou Smith of NBA.com.
“This was definitely one of those ‘ooh, aah’ moments with Josh,” Al Horford said. “He gives you those ‘oohs’ and then those ‘aahs.’ It’s kind of a ‘Yes’ and then ‘No’ thing going on. That’s the way it is. I think [the fans] obviously want Josh to be successful. Everybody loves him here. Sometimes we do question his shot selection. But tonight he hit some big shots down the stretch, made some huge plays for other guys down the stretch and made plays to help us win this game. I know it might drive some people a little crazy. But it works for us and that’s just the way it is.”
It works for them sometimes.
The numbers paint a very clear picture: inside 8 feet this season Smith shot 62.2 percent; from 8 to 16 feet out he hit 23.3 percent; from 16 to 24 feet 32.4 percent. He shot 72 percent at the basket in the restricted area this season and not better than 32 percent in any area outside it. He shot 30.3 percent from three this season but still took 2.6 shots per game from there, a career high.
Smith doesn’t play to his own strengths and it’s frustrating. But the he puts together a string of play like he did at the end of the Hawks win over the Pacers Monday night and you are reminded there are not many players like him out there — 6’9” with athletic gifts that let him run the floor, good court vision and the ability to make plays. He had 29 points and was key to the Hawks tying the series.
But if he wants to take threes, the Pacers will let him do that all night long in Game 5.
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:
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.
The Rockets bought themselves margin for error by earning home-court advantage and taking a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals.
They’ll need it.
Chris Paul will miss Game 6 against the Warriors tomorrow with a strained hamstring.
The Houston Rockets announced today that guard Chris Paul will miss Saturday’s game at Golden State with a right hamstring strain that occurred during the fourth quarter of last night’s game against the Warriors. He will be re-evaluated after the team returns to Houston.
Golden State was already heavily favored at home. This will tilt the odds even further in its favor.
But the Rockets aren’t completely incapable without Paul. They went 15-9 without him this season. James Harden and Eric Gordon can assume extra playmaking duty.
Still, this is a massive loss. When Harden is overburdened offensively, his defense suffers. Gordon is already playing a lot of minutes, so greater responsibility will come in role, not playing time. To fill Paul’s minutes, Mike D’Antoni will have to expand a rotation he had masterfully tightened. Gerald Green could play more. Luc Mbah a Moute could return to the rotation.
A Game 7 looks increasingly likely. Will Paul return for that? The 2018 NBA title might hinge on that question.
Given how quickly the Rockets announced Paul would miss Game 6, there isn’t much reason for optimism about Paul’s availability three days from now, either.
The question looming over the Western Conference finals: How is Chris Paul?
The Rockets revealed little last night about Paul’s hamstring injury. Time to see how his body responded would provide clarity.
Tim MacMahon of ESPN:
That stinks. It’s also a fairly expected development. Paul appeared to be in rough shape before leaving the court.
The Rockets have bought themselves margin for error, but a sidelined or even hobbled Paul would sap a lot of it.
If Paul can’t play in Game 6 tomorrow, expect Eric Gordon and James Harden to receive a larger offensive roles (though not necessarily more minutes). Gerald Green could play more, and maybe Luc Mbah a Moute gets back into the rotation.