Gregg Popovich’s main adjustment: Hope his guys just shoot better

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LOS ANGELES — Gregg Popovich made adjustments to how his Spurs defended and attacked the Clippers between Games 1 and 2 of what is now a tied series 1-1 heading to San Antonio for Game 3 Friday.

For example, he tweaked how they defended that double high pick-and-roll the Clippers have gone heavily to (and still are having success with despite the adjustments). On offense, you see the Spurs using a lot of what they did against Miami in the Finals last year (because the Clippers’ defense is similar), coming off the high pick then passing back to the middle of the floor.

But his main adjustment — hope his guys just shot better.

Seriously. For all the talk of an Xs and Os chess match, Popovich said before Game 2 that the real key was just that the Spurs do what they do best better than in Game 1.

“It always gets overplayed, when you lose you need to make an adjustment or two, and if you win you just go with the flow,” Popovich said. “You have to do what you do well. For instance, we can change pick-and-roll defense and do something different on Blake (Griffin), but I’m not sure that’s going to make us shoot better. We would like to shoot better tonight, we’d like to actually get back in transition D like it mattered. So if you do that it’s got nothing to do with Os and Xs and strategy things that you do. You’ve got to get back on defense or you’re in trouble. You’ve got to make shots or you’re in trouble. You can’t turn it over or you’re in trouble. Don’t do those things and the adjustments don’t mean a whole lot. We’ll make adjustments, so you guys think I’m doing something, but I’m hoping we do that stuff better.”

They did.

The Spurs shot 36.6 percent in Game 1, 46.2 percent in Game 2. Their eFG% (which accounts for the bump from made threes) jumped from 41.9 percent to 50.5 percent. The Spurs adjustments and ball movement got them seven more uncontested looks in Game 2 (40 to 33) and they hit a higher percentage of them (45 percent to 39.4 percent). The Spurs also did a much better job of getting back in transition and taking away some of the Clippers’ easy buckets.

This isn’t just a sound bite for Popovich. Doing what they do better was a core part of his message to the team. Look at what Patty Mills said after the Spurs Game 2 win.

“That was a game of grit, and grind and competitiveness,” Mills said. “We showed competitiveness at the toughest times, which is good. We lacked that in the first game so we knew that before any Xs and Os in this game we needed to show we could come out and compete for 48 minutes — and even more tonight.”

Doc Rivers and Popovich will both make adjustments heading into Game 3, and those tweaks will have an impact on the outcome.

But so will the answer to this simple question: Which team can do what it does best, better?

Watch Kawhi Leonard dunk all over Giannis Antetokounmpo

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Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors took Game 4 against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday, 120-102.

Things started off okay for Milwaukee but started to peter off as the hometown Toronto crowd got behind their Raptors. The bench continued to show up for Leonard’s squad, and it was Kyle Lowry dueling it out with Antetokounmpo in the first quarter.

Leonard scored 19 points to go with seven rebounds and four steals, and perhaps his most impressive play of the night came early in the third quarter. Running a little two-man game with Marc Gasol, Leonard cut to the basket and wound up dunking all over the Milwaukee star.

Via Twitter:

Leonard appeared to hobble a little bit after his dunk, but he should be ready to go for Game 5 on a Thursday night. Meanwhile, the series heads back to Wisconsin all tied up at 2-2.

The victor of this series will get to take on the Golden State Warriors in the 2019 NBA Finals.

Andre Iguodala says Stephen Curry is the second-best PG ever

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The Golden State Warriors are moving on to the NBA Finals yet again, thanks in large part to the efforts of Stephen Curry. Golden State’s point guard is now heading to his fifth-straight finals, and without Kevin Durant he was a big reason why the Warriors were able to beat the Portland Trail Blazers in just four games.

Of course there is a real worry that Durant won’t be able to play in the NBA Finals, either partially or fully, thanks to a calf injury. If that’s the case, and the Warriors can take home another championship trophy, it could mean great things for Curry’s legacy.

Curry is currently chasing Magic Johnson as the best point guard ever in the eyes of many folks. What might help solidify Curry’s place in history would be an NBA Finals MVP, which he would likely wind up with if Durant is unable to impact the Finals the way he has.

At least for Andre Iguodala, Curry is already the second best point guard of all-time.

Via The Athletic:

“I think he’s the second best ever,” Iguodala said. “I always thought that about him. I knew but other people didn’t know. So I wasn’t surprised when he took over that series. But I always gave Tony Allen credit. Playing against him made you understand the grind of how hard it is to win. It’s supposed to be hard. You’re supposed to have to find another way. It’s supposed to be uncomfortable. He just embraced that. Just ingrained that into his system and it’s been there ever since.”

The real question is what Curry’s legacy will be after these Finals, particularly if they win without Durant. Some people aren’t keen to compare eras, and might never move off of Johnson for that spot. It seems reasonable to say that Curry is already the best shooter of all-time, but June could elevate him even further.

Raptors’ halfcourt defense, big games from Gasol, Lowry evens series with Bucks

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Slow your roll on “these Bucks can challenge Warriors” takes…

They are going to have to get out of the East, first. And that is proving to be more difficult than it looked after two games.

Back home in Toronto, the Raptors slowed the game’s pace down and used an impressive halfcourt defense — sure, Giannis Antetokounmpo had 25 points and 10 rebounds, while Khris Middleton had 30 points, but outside those two the Bucks shot 35.4 percent and had just 13 fast break points — to keep the Bucks offense relatively in check.

Relatively is good enough when everyone is hitting their shots.

Kawhi Leonard had a relatively quiet 19 points, although he did have the dunk of the playoffs all over Antetokounmpo.

Leonard didn’t have to carry the team because everyone in white seemed to be knocking down their shots. Kyle Lowry had 25 points on 11 shots, Marc Gasol had 17 (and his aggressive offense the last two games has stressed the Bucks defense), Nick Powell had 18, Serge Ibaka 17 points and 13 rebounds, and Fred VanVleet had 13 points on six shots.

All that led to a 120-102 Raptors win that wasn’t even that close.

The series is now tied 2-2 and heads back to Milwaukee where the best-of-three left starts.

Milwaukee and Mike Budenholzer have leaned on Nikola Mirotic more in recent games, and the Raptors are now attacking him.

Combine that with an aggressive Gasol — he has started taking the shots from three that he hesitated on in the first two games — and his 3-of-6 from deep has become a big problem for Toronto.

Toronto had this in hand much of the second half, so much so that Drake was helping Nick Nurse relax on the sidelines.

The Bucks will also need their other players — Eric Bledsoe, who had 5 points on 7 shots, and Brook Lopez, who had 8 points — to step up in the final games.

The Raptors have found a formula that works, it’s on the Bucks now to adjust.

Kyle Korver says the copier Nets bought with cash from his trade is broken

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Kyle Korver was taken by the New Jersey Nets with the 51st pick in the 2003 NBA Draft. He was traded on draft day by the Nets to the Philadelphia 76ers for cash considerations. The Nets famously — or infamously — used the cash from that trade to purchase an office copier.

More than a decade and a half later, Korver is still playing in the NBA at age 38. And now, thanks to Korver giving the commencement speech at his alma mater Creighton, we have an update on the status of that copier.

Via Twitter:

Kyle Korver does not have a depreciation expense method. He is timeless.