The Extra Pass: Vince Carter had a front row seat for the “Miracle on Hudson” plane crash

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LOS ANGELES — “They have to be shooting a movie or something.”

That was Vince Carter’s first thought.

Five years ago yesterday, the morning of Jan. 15, 2009, Carter woke up in the bedroom of his home in Edgewater New Jersey, and was lazily sitting on his bed just looking out the window of his home with a view of the Hudson River, when into his peripheral vision he sees a plane flying entirely too low and looking like it was going down.

That turned out to be US Airways Flight 1549 out of LaGuardia Airport — the “Miracle on the Hudson” plane. It had taken off like thousands of other flights out of that airport when a couple geese flew in front of the plane, got sucked into the engines and sent the plane down. Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III became a national hero that day for safely landing the plane on the water in a way that all of the 155 passengers and crew survived.

Carter had no idea what he was witnessing at first.

“I was sitting in my bedroom looking out the window, and all of a sudden, like not a minute later a freakin’ plane lands in the Hudson,” Carter said before his current team the Mavericks took on the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday night.

“I was sitting in my bed and it was literally right outside my window,” Carter said. “So when the plane lands, I see the current turning the plane, I see the door open and the first two people jump out, and it was cold that day, and they start swimming, swimming, then they turn around because it’s a little too cold and the next thing you know everybody is on the wing.”

Within a couple minutes Carter was outside talking to his neighbors, they heard the sirens of the first responders racing to the scene, and they saw the rescue efforts first hand as ferries started to swing by and pick up the stranded passengers.

You can put Carter in the Sullenberger fan club, one a lot of people were in after that day.

“When it hit the water it was a smooth landing, like he was landing on a runway…” Carter said while using his hands to show how it came in relatively parallel to the Hudson, like a seaplane landing. “He put it right down, smooth. I mean of course that big ol’ plane hitting the water was loud, there was a ‘boom’ but the plane was intact. It was amazing.”

Carter called the Nets’ trainer and said he was going to be a little late to shootaround that day, and this was a pretty good excuse. Carter said he tried to offer tickets to Sullenberger for the game that night, but as you might imagine by that point the pilot had a few other things going on.

“I was in awe that it happened and I got to witness it.”

So how did that impact a guy whose job has him flying around 100 times a year?

“You’re a little leery of course when you get on planes,” he said with a laugh. “I’m like, ‘he’s not flying? I’m nervous.’ It was just amazing, he saved a lot of lives.”

—Kurt Helin

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Wizards 114, Heat 97: Maybe it was the trade, maybe it was the distraction of Greg Oden being activated for the first time this season. But whatever it was, Miami was nowhere near ready to compete when the ball was tipped in Washington on Wednesday. The Wizards scored 43 points in the first quarter, and led by as many as 34 points before the end of the first half. The only thing relevant in this one was Oden, who dunked almost immediately after entering the game, and finished with six points and two rebounds in just over eight minutes of action. — Brett Pollakoff

Bulls 128, Magic 125 (3OT): Triple-overtime games can make for some gaudy stat lines, and this one was no different. Magic rookie Victor Oladipo scored a career-high 35 points, to go along with eight assists in 57 minutes of action. Jimmy Butler played over 60 minutes for the Bulls, the most anyone’s played since Jalen Rose played 61 for the Pacers back in 2001. — BP

Sixers 95, Bobcats 92: Thaddeus Young hit a three-pointer with a few seconds remaining that allowed the Sixers to snap a four-game losing streak. Spencer Hawes finished with 17 points, 14 rebounds, and seven assists in 38 minutes, and Michael Carter-Williams added 20, eight, and seven to the winning cause. — BP

Celtics 88, Raptors 83: Go ahead, try to predict this league. The Raptors had recently emerged as the third best team in the East, and had been playing much better as of late, while the Celtics came into this one riding a nine-game losing streak. So naturally, Boston came away with the victory. Toronto shot just 38.5 percent from the field and got crushed on the boards, thanks largely to the work of Jared Sullinger who finished with 25 points and 20 rebounds. — BP

Grizzlies 82, Bucks 77: Milwaukee has the worst record in the league, and managed just 10 points in the first quarter and 17 in the fourth, yet the Grizzlies will take the win nonetheless, as it gets them back to .500 on the season. Marc Gasol went scoreless with five rebounds in under 15 minutes in just his second game back from injury, and Mike Conley was the only Memphis starter to finish in double figures scoring. Brandon Knight continued his stellar play for the Bucks, and led all scorers in this one with 27 points. — BP

Kings 111, Timberwolves 108: The narrative surrounding Rudy Gay throughout his career just hasn’t held true during the short amount of time he’s played for the Sacramento Kings. Instead of a high-volume chucker, Gay has been the model of efficiency since being traded from the Raptors, and his performance against the Timberwolves was yet another example of his transformation. Gay finished with a game-high 33 points on 12-of-19 shooting, to go along with five rebounds and six assists. — BP

Rockets 103, Pelicans 100: James Harden hit a jumper with 28 seconds remaining that ultimately gave the Rockets the victory, but he may have pushed off on Austin Rivers to create the space to shoot it, so purists may not have been thrilled with the game’s ultimate result. Harden is talented, but he’s also skilled in using the rules of the game to his advantage; often times, the way the game is officiated will determine whether or not Harden has a strong showing. He finished with 26 points and seven assists in this one, and negated a strong performance from Eric Gordon, who finished with 35 points on just 17 shots, to go along with six assists. — BP

Spurs 109, Jazz 105: San Antonio was in control of this game from when they went on a 20-5 run in the third quarter, and in typical Spurs fashion you expected them to coast in for the victory. But just like when the Spurs blew a big lead to the Grizzlies last week, Utah came back from 10 down inside the last two minutes thanks to 11 fourth-quarter points from Trey Burke and 14 in the final frame from Enes Kanter. Utah’s size made you realize how much San Antonio misses Tiago Splitter. Tony Parker had 25 points and 9 assists for the Spurs. — Kurt Helin

Suns 121, Lakers 114: The Lakers made a push after Nick Young got ejected in the second quarter and pushed their lead up to 13. However, the Suns closed the first half on an 11-2 run and for much of the second half it was close. Channing Frye had 10 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter and the Suns held on for he win. Gerald Green led the way for the Suns with 28 points, Markief Morris added 24. The Lakers got 18 from Chris Kaman. — KH

Trail Blazers 108, Cavaliers 96: The score deceives that this game was close for 45 minutes, but in the final 2:31 Portland went on a 12-0 run to make it look like they were in more control than they were. LaMarcus Aldridge scored nine straight points in that window and he finished with 32 points. Damian Lillard chipped in 28. Portland is now a ridiculous 29-9 on the season. Luol Deng had 25 points to lead the Cavaliers, Kyrie Irving had 21 points but needed 20 shots to get there. — KH

Nuggets 123, Warriors 116: Rule number one in basketball is the team that shoots better wins — Denver shot 54.2 percent Wednesday night, Golden State 43.3 percent. That’s your ball game. The Nuggets went on a 13-4 run to take the lead at the end of the first quarter then answered every Warriors’ run the rest of the way. Ty Lawson continued his run of strong play finishing with 22 points (his ability to finish through contact is amazing) and 11 assists. Good Nate Robinson showed up and had 24 off the bench. Mostly, Denver is good when Randy Foye is good and he was this night with 21. David Lee had 28 points and 13 rebounds, Stephen Curry added 24 for Golden State. — KH

Clippers 129, Mavericks 124: This felt like a mid-80s Denver Nuggets game — fast paced, lots of threes, not a lot of defense but a whole lot of entertainment. Doug Moe would have loved it. The Clippers got the win and we broke the game down in more detail here. — KH

Chris Paul shimmied on Stephen Curry, and Curry is okay with that

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In Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals, Stephen Curry was feeling it and broke out the shimmy after draining a step-back three over James Harden.

In Game 5 Thursday night, Chris Paul hit a ridiculous three over Curry and returned the shimmy favor.

How did Stephen Curry feel about that? As your mom used to say, if you’re going to dish it out you had better be able to take it.

First, can we just admit neither Curry nor CP3 can shimmy like Antoine Walker?

The question for Paul and Curry is which one will be shimmying after Game 6 (especially considering CP3’s hamstring issue)?

Rockets have sucked Warriors into their style of game, then been better at it

Associated Press
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Through an 82-game regular season, the Golden State Warriors averaged 322.7 passes a game — the ball flew around the court with energy, found the open man and he buried the shot. For the season, 63.1 percent of the Warriors’ buckets were assisted. It was egalitarian. It was modern NBA basketball. It was “the beautiful game.”

The Houston Rockets, on the other hand, averaged 253.3 passes per game, fewest in the NBA. What they did lead the league in was isolation sets — 14.5 percent of their offense was the old-school style that the Warriors shunned. It worked for the Rockets, they scored an impressive 112 points per 100 possessions on those plays, but it looked more like a 1990s slog than a Mike D’Antoni offense.

In Game 5, the Warriors had 257 passes and 56 percent of their buckets were assisted (the first time that number got over 50 percent in a couple of games). In turn, isolations were the third most common kind of play the Warriors ran in the game (which was better than they did in Game 4, but still not who they normally are). Add in post-ups, which are essentially isolations just down on the block, and you get 25.7 percent of the Warriors plays in Game 5 being one-on-one.

The Warriors have been sucked into the Rockets’ game, and Houston is better at it.

The Rockets are up 3-2 in the Western Conference Finals and in the last two games have been the better clutch team. The better fourth quarter team. The team imposing their style on the game when it matters. For years the versatility of the Warriors allowed them to win regardless of the style of play — slow it down and be physical, play fast and up-tempo, whatever teams tried to do — but not against these Rockets. Not in this throwback, isolation-heavy style.

If the Warriors can’t change that dynamic nothing else will matter, and they will be watching the Finals on television for the first time in four years.

For the Rockets, imposing their will and style starts with their defense. Since the first game of the season — which was against these Warriors back in October — the Rockets have switched everything on defense. It was assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik’s plan, his counter to the ball movement of Golden State and the many teams trying to emulate their style. Everybody in the NBA is switching more on defense, but nobody was doing it as much or with the gusto of the Rockets. For example, Utah switched a lot against Houston in the last playoff round, but with Rudy Gobert at center they tried to switch less with the big men, wisely preferring to keep Gobert back as a rim protector. That opened opportunities for the Rockets to attack.

Houston switched everything. All the time. Even when logic dictated they shouldn’t. Big man Clint Capela has the athleticism and instincts to guard on the perimeter, so they let him. Other teams try to tag out quickly from the mismatches switching can create (scram switches behind the play are trendy now), but the Rockets tend to live with the switch and just send help. What the Rockets became doing this all season is smooth and proficient with switching, and it has shown in this series.

Kevin Durant is supposed to be the counter to this — he is the Warriors best one-on-one player, and switch or no there is no good matchup to defend him. So the Warriors lean on him in these situations, they get him the rock a lot.

Durant had 10 isolations and six post-ups in Game 5 — 16 of his 29 plays were mano-a-mano contests. KD can excel at them, but as the Warriors start to slow it down and hunt out those mismatches they move the ball less, and they play into Rockets’ hands. They have slid into Houston’s style. Part of this was missing Andre Iguodala, both a good defender and a guy who keeps the ball moving on offense. Without him decisions change — there was a fourth-quarter play where Stephen Curry drove past his man, got into floater range, the Rockets brought help off the man from the corner, but now that is Kevon Looney, and Curry looked then decided to take the floater rather than make that pass to a non-shooter. Curry’s shot hit the back of the rim and bounced out.

The Rockets have slowed the game down, muddied it up, and they are comfortable playing this way. The Rockets have thrived in this style despite the fact James Harden has struggled (Chris Paul has had a couple of big fourth quarters). The Warriors can beat 28 other teams four times in seven games playing this style, too, because they have the talent. Just not Houston. The Rockets have plenty of talent too, their bench guy Eric Gordon is knocking down seemingly every shot he takes, and this series is being played on their terms.

Houston is just better at this style.

Golden State is not dead in this series — they go home for Game 6 and are expected to get Iguodala back. More importantly, the health of Chris Paul and his hamstring are up in the air.

But the Warriors need to get back to being themselves — playing faster, sharing the ball (despite pressure), and using that to get the open threes or driving dunks they use to bury teams. It will not be easy — the Warriors played their game for stretches in Game 4 at home, but like a cheesy horror movie villain, these Rockets refuse to die. They are relentless, and they’re aggressive with their switching. The Rockets are incredibly good, and they know who they are. They have been themselves this series (just with more missed threes).

If the Warriors don’t get back to being themselves, if they keep trying to beat the Rockets at Houston’s game, they will be on vacation in Cabo before June for the first time in years.

Chris Paul injures right hamstring, status unclear for Game 6 vs. Warriors

AP
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Houston Rockets guard Chris Paul played the part of the hero for the home team on Thursday night as Houston beat the Golden State Warriors in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals to take a 3-2 series lead.

Now, the question is whether Paul will be able to play in Game 6 on Saturday night.

After a game in which the Rockets were not particularly offensively impressive, Paul came up with some clutch baskets despite struggling overall. Paul got the better of the Golden State defense several times from beyond the arc, including one instance in which he gave a shoulder shimmy to Stephen Curry, allowing the Warriors guard a dose of his own medicine.

But Paul appeared to injure his right hamstring on a play with 51 seconds to go in fourth quarter as he was shooting a floater in the lane. After his shot, Paul remained on the ground and down at the Houston end of the floor as possession changed sides. Paul left the game some 30 seconds later, and was unable to finish the game.

The Rockets point guard had already been battling a right foot injury and had to get lots of treatment just to be able to play in Game 5. It’s not entirely surprising that Paul injured himself on his right side. A weakened link in the kinetic chain tends to force other muscles and joints to compensate for injured areas. When overused or improperly used, the chance for a new injury in another part of the kinetic chain — say, up the leg and into the hamstring — is entirely possible.

That seems like what happened to Paul on Thursday night, but we will have to wait for official word from the team before we know whether he will be playing on Saturday. Hamstring issues can the nagging and despite lots of treatment there is also the swelling that will occur when Paul has to fly to Oakland.

As expected, Chris Paul said he will be good to go (players are the worst at providing a timeline for their injuries).

Houston coach Mike D’Antoni says that Paul will be evaluated tomorrow and will be continuing to get treatment but he is not worried about someone being able to fill Paul’s shoes. That’s certainly the right thing to say for D’Antoni but we know how Game 6 might go if CP3 is unable to play.

Chris Paul plays the hero as Warriors devolve to iso ball in Game 5 loss

AP
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I personally thought a Western Conference Finals game couldn’t get any uglier after I watched Game 4 between the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets.

Boy, was I wrong.

Thursday night’s Game 5 matchup between the Rockets and the Warriors two teams produced three heinous quarters of NBA playoff basketball, made even more unbearable by the fact that we know how good these two teams can be when they’re really humming.

Much as it was in Game 4 it was Houston’s defense that was on display, ironically forcing the Warriors to play much in the way the Rockets do when they lose. Golden State battled the shot clock with isolation ball much of the game, with Kevin Durant getting the ball at the top of the arc as some of the league’s top players — including a two-time MVP in Stephen Curry — widened the floor in a 1-4 flat set for the 7-foot wing.

To their credit, both Curry and Durant were in good shooting form through the first half but as the periods ground on they started to slow. Draymond Green was Draymond-y, scoring 12 points while grabbing a game-high 15 rebounds with four assists. Statistically, it’s hard to understand how the Warriors lost. Golden State shot better from the field, from the arc, and from the charity stripe. But their scoring was concentrated and their offense predictable at just the wrong moments.

Houston’s attack was nothing to shake a stick at, either. James Harden‘s scored just 19 points on 5-of-21 shooting, and as a unit the Rockets doled out 12 assists. Incessant switching and a tendency to hound the ball on defense allowed Houston to force a whopping 18 turnovers from Golden State. It was the most important statistic of the game for the Rockets, who scored 18 points on those turnovers despite being outpaced in 3-point shooting, points in the paint, and in fastbreak buckets.

Then, the fourth quarter happened. Everything changed, and as we are wont to do, the game felt much cleaner. Both teams had their energy up, they traded baskets, and the lead went back-and-forth.

Enter Chris Paul.

Houston’s point guard was the savior, scoring 20 points on a piddly 6-of-19 shooting performance. But Paul’s box score did not tell the tale of his impact on the game. Several times with the shot clock winding down, Paul came up with big beyond-the-arc buckets, at one point hitting one over Curry, giving him back a shoulder shimmy much the way the Warriors point guard did in Game 4.

Paul’s leadership pushed Houston forward, but his commitment during Game 5 might get overlooked after the Rockets point guard was forced to check out of the game after a play with 51 seconds remaining. On a floater in the lane, Paul appeared to hurt his right hamstring. Unable to play, Paul had to watch the final minute from the Houston bench, and his availability for Game 6 is currently up in the air.

It was ugly and it was gritty, but the Rockets beat Golden State on Thursday night, 98-94, to take Game 5 and a 3-2 series win as the Western Conference Finals heads back to Oakland.

Now, we look toward Game 6 in California on Saturday, May 26 at 6:00 PM PST.