Tuesday Summer League Notes: Gorgui Dieng trying to find his groove, McLemore finds his

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LAS VEGAS — Summer League is more than just coaches in cargo shorts, although it is a lot of that. There’s a lot more going on, so here are some notes from Tuesday….

• Minnesota didn’t draft Gorgui Dieng because of his offense, still it feels like his footwork and overall game has regressed since he helped lead Louisville to the national title. That said, he looked a little better on Tuesday, shooting 3-of-4 for six points and five rebounds with only three fouls in 13 minutes (that may be below his Summer League pace). His defense has been okay but he showed a midrange and made some plays in college that have not been seen in Vegas.

“I think I’m getting adjusted,” to the NBA style game as opposed to college. “My first two games I was kind of lost, there were too many plays (to remember) and I was just thinking too much. Yesterday the coach sort of looked at me and said, ‘just play.’ I think I’m adjusting, a started running again. But it’s very different than the college game…

“I just need to get used to it, it’s a very different game. That’s why pros are pros.”

• Ben McLemore was getting good looks, his form is beautiful, you knew his shot would come around. In the second half Tuesday it did in a big way — 22 points on 7-of-10 shooting with 3-of-5 from three and he was perfect on all five attempts from the charity stripe. He struggled finding his range first couple games but coach Chris Jent told us after the first game the Kings coaches were not worried. They didn’t need to be.

• Portland’s Thomas Robinson (yes, that’s where he landed now) went hard to the glass in Tuesday. He’s not a guy who just rebounds his space but has the athleticism to go after balls other guys should get. He had nine rebounds in the first half alone Tuesday.

• Jonas Valanciunas continues to be the veteran who has shown the most improvement this Summer League — and the most physical change, he has gotten much stronger in the upper body. He had 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting plus 8 boards against the Kings Tuesday, he is putting that larger frame to use to be physical inside. Of course, that also led to 9 fouls Tuesday (you can’t foul out of Summer League).

• In Summer League you see so many guys with great crossovers or other moves that can get them to the rim — then most of them can’t finish. It’s the most Summer League of things. NBA moves and Summer League finishes. So many guards recklessly barrel into the lane looking for contact with no idea how to close other than to just yell “and one.”

• Along those lines, Shabazz Muhammed struggled to finish around the rim Tuesday, continuing a trend all Summer League. He shot 3-of-9 in a win over the Heat, he clearly made a point of trying to get his looks closer to the rim and when he was contested he struggled to finish. He also got stripped cleanly in transition at least once when he didn’t really protect the ball from a defender.

He is now 9-of-25 overall and 3-of-8 from three in three Summer League games. It’s something to watch because he was drafted to be a scorer and so far he has struggled some in that role.

• John Henson was back on the court for the Bucks, he had taken a game off due to a sore groin, and grabbed nine rebounds in the first quarter. So I guess the groin is fine.

• Here is a link to a great story at Ridiculous Upside about the financial grind of most of the guys playing in the NBA Summer League. Outside a handful of high draft pick exceptions, these guys are not doing this for the money.
http://www.ridiculousupside.com/2013/7/16/4528594/examining-the-financial-grind-of-playing-in-nba-summer-league-trying

• The soundtrack of the Summer League in the Cox Center is like the soundtrack to the summer of 1998. “Bust A Move,” “Get Jiggy With It” and so on. I just gotta throw my hands up in the air sometimes….

• Portland’s Will Barton was held out of Tuesday’s game against the Bulls due to a sore right knee.

• Toronto released Ricky Harris and Mark Lyons from their Summer League squad.

Despite injury scare, LeBron James will be ready to go in Game 7

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It was the kind of injury that has felled many players — think of Rudy Gobert this season. Twice. A player falls into the side of another player’s leg, putting a strain on the ligaments.

That’s what happened in the fourth quarter of Game 6 in Cleveland Friday night, Larry Nance Jr. falls back and LeBron James‘ knee bent in a way it should not.

“After the game, I didn’t know who got me,” LeBron said. “But after the game, Larry asked me if I was I OK, so I’m guessing he was the culprit of it. I just felt someone fall into my leg and my leg kind of went in. I felt some pain throughout my entire right side of my ankle into my leg. I was just hoping for the best, obviously, because I’ve seen so many different injuries, and watching basketball with that type of injury, someone fall into one’s leg standing straight up. Luckily, I was able to finish the game.”

James scored 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting with a couple of dagger threes to secure the win after that scare, but he didn’t seem to have the same lift after that and was seen favoring his leg walking out of the building.

Of course, LeBron will be good to go for Game 7 in Boston Sunday. If Friday night was any indication, he’s not going to be slowed by it at all.

“As soon as I leave here, I’ll start to prepare (for Game 7),” LeBron said from the podium postgame. “I’m going to get in the car and head back to Akron. As soon as I get home, I’ll start my treatment. I’ll do the same all day tomorrow from before we leave to go to Boston, and then once we get into Boston I’ll do that as well. Try to get as much sleep as I can with tonight and with tomorrow and even on Sunday before the game. That’s the best recovery that you can possibly get, is when you’re sleeping. It’ll be around-the-clock treatment, and we’ll see what happens.”

What’s going to happen is a dramatic Game 7 in the Garden, and we know that for Cleveland to have any chance LeBron has to be superhuman. Again.

Warriors facing elimination but undaunted entering Game 6

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HOUSTON (AP) — If the Golden State Warriors are worried as they head into Game 6 of the Western Conference finals on the brink of elimination, they aren’t showing it.

“We have a chance to tie the series at home. That’s a pretty good position to be in,” coach Steve Kerr said. “We’ve got to win two basketball games and we’ve done that an awful lot, so we’re very confident.”

The defending champions trail Houston 3-2 in the best-of-seven series after consecutive wins by the Rockets, capped by Thursday night’s 98-94 victory. Now the series shifts to Oracle Arena, a place where the Warriors have lost just one time in their last 17 playoff games.

Stephen Curry said the Warriors are encouraged despite falling behind in the series because they believe both games could have gone their way and that a few simple corrections will get them back on track.

“We have an opportunity to re-establish ourselves at home, get a big win, keep ourselves alive, and then roll the dice into Game 7,” Curry said. “Not all is lost.”

Houston’s big win in Game 5 was tempered by a hamstring injury to star Chris Paul which will keep him out of Saturday’s game. It’s a major blow for a team which is looking to reach the NBA Finals for the first time in more than two decades.

The Rockets believe they can absorb this loss and don’t seem daunted by the setback, noting that they found ways to win in the regular season in many games where Paul sat out with injuries.

“I don’t have a doubt,” D’Antoni said. “They see the challenge … whether CP’s there or not, it’s a heck of a challenge, and they’re up to it. They’re looking forward to it.”

James Harden, who has struggled offensively in the last two games and went 0 for 11 on 3s in Game 5, rolled his eyes when asked if Paul’s injury puts more pressure on him.

“Pressure for what? It’s Game 6 of the Western Conference finals,” he said. “There is pressure on everybody.”

While that may be true, the onus is on Harden to step up and deliver an MVP-caliber performance if the Rockets hope to close out this series. Harden has had plenty of playoff disappointments in the last few years and embraces the chance to get Houston back into the finals.

“It’s an opportunity that a lot of people never had and probably won’t ever have,” he said. “It’s our job to go out there and have fun with it and do the same thing we’ve been doing. We want to take advantage of it.”

While the Rockets will be down a starter, the Warriors could get one back if Andre Iguodala can return on Saturday. The Warriors have missed the defensive presence of Iguodala who has missed the last two games with a bruised left knee.

Iguodala is listed on the injury report as questionable for Game 6 and Kerr said he didn’t have an update on his condition on Friday. But he did address what it would mean to Golden State if he’s healthy enough to go on Saturday.

“He’s a great player,” Kerr said. “He’s one of our keys, and we’ve missed him the last two games. But we can’t count on it. Injuries happen, and you’ve just got to play with whoever’s out there. So we’re hoping he’s back, and we’ll see what happens.”

Iguodala’s absence has been magnified in this series that has morphed into a defensive slugfest instead of the high-scoring shootout that most expected when it began. The Rockets take great pride in the fact that they’ve limited Golden State to less than 100 points in the last two games and think continuing to play great defense is the only way they’ll advance.

“It’s something we talked about building up all year,” Houston’s P.J. Tucker said. “To see our defense now be as good as it is, we still think it could be a lot better. We watched film, and honestly … we didn’t play great defense last night. Everybody will talk about how good a defense we played, but we really don’t feel like that. So just keep working and trying to get better.”

Kerr said the experience of his team, which is trying to reach the finals for the fourth straight year, will be valuable as the Warriors try and climb out of this hole and force Game 7. He referenced the conference finals in 2016 when they fell behind Oklahoma City 3-1 before winning the next three to take the series.

“We’ve been here before,” Kerr said. “We’ve faced elimination on the road before – this team has – a few years ago. We faced series deficits before. We’ve won all of those series. Our guys have the ultimate confidence that we can get it done this time, too.”

PBT Extra: Pressure falls on James Harden, Rockets’ bench with Chris Paul out

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Chris Paul is out for Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals with a strained hamstring, and that almost certainly will sideline him for Game 7 as well.

That changes the feel of this series.

The Rockets still just have to win one of the next two games to advance to the NBA Finals, and one of those is at home. However, without CP3 a couple of things need to happen. James Harden needs to find his shooting stroke. Gerald Green and the Rockets’ bench needs to step up. And Houston has to keep defending the way they have the last two games.

It’s not going to be easy (especially on the road in Game 6), but the Rockets still have a real opportunity to advance to the NBA Finals.

Watch all of LeBron James’ 46 points in Game 6

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There is going to be a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals Sunday because of LeBron James.

George Hill had a strong game (20 points), Jeff Green and Larry Nance Jr. had their moments, but it was all about LeBron — 46 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists in 46 brilliant minutes.

Rather than try to describe his game to you — including the dagger threes late — just watch.

And enjoy. There are still some people out there (mostly on Twitter, it seems) who just want to tear LeBron down for some reason. I pity them. Not just because they are wrong, although they are. Rather, it’s because they are depriving themselves of enjoying one of the greatest players ever to lace them up. LeBron can bully people in the paint, hit step back threes, is as gifted a passer as the game has seen, and just plays a smart, high-IQ game we have got to watch grow over the years. If you can’t enjoy that, you don’t love basketball.