Hawks cruise to underwhelming Game 1 win over Nets

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The Atlanta Hawks surprised everyone by posting 60 regular season wins, and finishing as the top-seeded team in the Eastern Conference.

But after winning 40 of their first 48 games, Atlanta largely cruised in the second half of the season. And, without Thabo Sefolosha — who missed 23 games with a calf injury before being ruled out for the season with a leg fracture — the Hawks posted a record of just 17-13 in the 30 games he missed.

Facing a Brooklyn Nets team that needed the Pacers to lose on the final day of the regular season in order to sneak into the playoffs (with a sub-.500 record), Atlanta took Game 1 as expected. But it wasn’t as easy as it should have been, and that should be cause for concern .

The Hawks won by a final of 99-92, but allowed the Nets to creep back within contention far too often in this one to come away feeling at all satisfied.

Atlanta led by as many as 16 points in the second quarter, but saw the lead whittled down to just seven before the halftime intermission. Brooklyn closed to within three in the third, before the lead ballooned to 16 points once again.

It was a 14-point Hawks lead with under nine minutes to play, but Brooklyn had it down to just four with 1:33 to play, and made Atlanta work to the end to close the game out.

The Nets are not a good basketball team, even by the most objective of standards. When the Hawks were at their best, they moved the ball to create open looks for their shooters, just as they’ve been able to do all season long. Kyle Korver led all scorers with 21 points on 6-of-12 shooting, which included going 5-of-11 from three-point distance. That’s honestly unconscionable from a defensive standpoint, yet even with Atlanta’s fifth leading scorer getting loose to that extent, Brooklyn still managed to close the gap and make a game of it on multiple occasions.

The Nets don’t have the athleticism to stop the Hawks defensively, especially during the stretches when Atlanta expertly moves the ball as it had during the pinnacle of its regular season success. But the lack of a killer instinct the Hawks displayed in Game 1 could be telling, and if they can’t correct it in the first round of the playoffs against a substandard opponent, it doesn’t bode well for their chances in later rounds against elite teams like Cleveland or Chicago who seem to be peaking at just the right time.

Heat: Bam Adebayo, Goran Dragic doubtful for Game 2 of NBA Finals

Heat players Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic
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Bam Adebayo‘s and Goran Dragic‘s injuries… not looking great for the Heat approaching Game 2 of the NBA Finals.

Heat:

This is a disaster for Miami. The Lakers dominated Game 1, and now the Heat have two starters hobbled at best. At worst and more likely, Adebayo and Dragic are out.

Adebayo would be the bigger loss. Miami was completely overmatched when facing Anthony Davis without a center. Kelly Olynyk and Meyers Leonard can try to keep up, but they’re far from great solutions.

At least the Heat have more options at point guard. Kendrick Nunn can get an elevated role (especially after excelling in garbage time of Game 1). Jimmy Butler can become the de facto point guard. Tyler Herro can also play the position. But Dragic was playing so well during Miami’s run through the Eastern Conference. This is also a major setback.

 

Report: Tyronn Lue ‘early favorite’ to become Clippers head coach

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Doc Rivers is gaining momentum in the 76ers’ coaching search.

As for the job Rivers left behind with the Clippers… Clippers assistant and former Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue, unsurprisingly, has the inside track.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The Clippers are planning to interview other candidates, starting soon, sources said.

The New Orleans Pelicans are planning to interview Lue in the near future too, sources said.

Lue would be a sensible hire. He has championship experience, which would help the Clippers hit the ground running in a make-or-break season before Kawhi Leonard and Paul George can become unrestricted free agents. Lue managed stars in LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. The Clippers must improve their chemistry around their stars. And the last time Lue got promoted from assistant to head coach, his team won a title.

New Orleans also has an appealing job. But the Clippers are far closer to championship contention. And if both teams want Lue, I bet Clippers owner Steve Ballmer would outspend Pelicans owner Gayle Benson.

Still, the Clippers are conducting a coaching search. Other candidates could emerge. This isn’t necessarily Lue’s job for the taking.

How long would he wait on L.A. if the Pelicans make an offer? Lue has shown he values being entrusted.

Report: 76ers focused on Doc Rivers and Mike D’Antoni in coaching search

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The 76ers appeared focused on Mike D’Antoni in their coaching search.

Then, Doc Rivers surprisingly became available.

The former Clippers coach met with the 76ers and is now in the center of the conversation.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

For the Sixers now, the focus is on Rivers and D’Antoni, a source told ESPN. A decision is expected this week.

Rivers would be an easier fit with this roster than D’Antoni, whose style doesn’t appear to work as well with both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Rivers also looks like he’d help Philadelphia take the next step.

But that seemed like it’d be true with the Clippers and wasn’t.

Tyronn Lue’s candidacy with the 76ers has clearly faded. Could he join the Clippers, Rockets or Pelicans? If Philadelphia hires Rivers, maybe D’Antoni still lands with the Pacers?

Rivers’ availability has definitely thrown a wrench in the coaching carousel.

Victor Oladipo denies trade rumor he wants out of Indiana

Victor Oladipo
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It was a trade rumor that kind of came out of nowhere — maybe more as a thought exercise for Celtics fans hoping to move on from Gordon Hayward — but it got traction: Victor Oladipo reportedly wanted out of Indiana.

Not true, Oladipo said.

Oladipo jumped on Instagram Live with rapper Fat Joe and shot down the rumors (hat tip Clutch Points):

“I’m a Pacer. I’m a Pacer…

“Those rumors on the internet, I don’t know where they’re coming from, I’m just focused on getting my knee right for next year.”

He said later in the interview he wants a ring, he wants “hardware” because that is needed to show you are one of the greats, and he would consider leaving the Pacers to get it. But that wasn’t a short-term thing. (Also, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Allen Iverson, Steve Nash, John Stockton, Elgin Baylor and a lot of other guys would like to talk with you about that attitude.)

Oladipo returned mid-season from his knee injury to a Pacers’ team that finished as the four seed in the East but got bounced in the first round of the playoffs by the eventual Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat.

Oladipo never quite returned to his All-NBA form after coming back from injury and averaged just 14.5 points a game in the 19 regular season games he did play. Oladipo is owed $21 million next season, the last year of his current deal.

Whether he wants out of Indiana or not, at $21 million and with questions about just what level of player he is post-injury, there is not much of a trade market for Victor Oladipo. Indiana more than likely runs it back under a new coach — who has yet to be chosen — and banks on a healthy Oladipo helping the team make the next step.