Paul Pierce misses game-tying three, Hawks hang on to even series with Wizards

10 Comments

Lightning couldn’t strike twice.

Paul Pierce hit the game-winner at the buzzer to give the Wizards a Game 3 victory, and got a clean look at a three in Game 4 that would have tied things up with less than six seconds left.

But the shot rimmed off this time, and the Hawks held on for a 106-101 victory to even the best-of-seven series at two games apiece.

Pierce had hit his first five three-pointers of the night, so looking for him late, especially after his Game 3 heroics, was a logical choice. Nene set a rigid screen on DeMarre Carroll, who made it into the game this time, and Pierce was somehow left all alone with the ball in his hands. Carroll diving at his feet may have provided enough of a distraction, and the fact that Pierce couldn’t land cleanly with Carroll in his way was enough to look to the closest referee for a late foul call plea.

But it wasn’t to be. Pierce had a solid night regardless, and finished with 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting, to go along with five rebounds and three blocked shots.

The Hawks took control of this one from the opening tip, with an aggressive and attacking style of offensive basketball we’ve rarely seen from them in the postseason. Atlanta scored 16 of its first 19 points in the paint or right at the rim, thanks to dribble penetration from Jeff Teague and the signature ball movement we had come to expect from this Atlanta team over the first half of the regular season.

Paul Millsap didn’t start Game 3 due to flu-like symptoms, and was largely ineffective in 22 minutes off the bench. But he came to play in this one, and put together a dominating first half with 15 points and six assists, which helped get his team clicking on the way to scoring 65 points over the game’s first two periods.

Teague dueled with Bradley Beal for most of the second half, with the Hawks remaining in control after staving off a couple of Washington surges. Beal scored 19 of his 34 points over the game’s final two periods, while Teague scored 14 of his 26 in a little over 15 second-half minutes.

The final Wizards run began with 1:12 to play, as they were trailing by seven points. Two quick buckets out of excellent timeout plays drawn up by Randy Wittman — a driving layup by Beal, followed by a dunk from Nene — had the game back within a single possession. Dennis Schröder, who largely played well in finishing with 14 points and eight assists off the bench, took it upon himself to score on a drive, missed, got his own rebound, and then missed again.

That set up the potential for Pierce to rain down terror on the Hawks with his shooting once again. But lightning wasn’t ready to strike twice.

Harden on fit with Westbrook: ‘When you have talent like that, it works itself out’

Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images
1 Comment

It was the question everybody asked about 30 seconds after they heard Russell Westbrook had been traded to the Houston Rockets for Chris Paul (after the initial shock of the deal wore off):

Do Westbrook and Harden, two of the most ball-dominant, isolation heavy players in the NBA, actually fit together?

Harden says yes. Of course, what else is he going to say, but he was earnest about it in comments to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle at the Adidas and James Harden ProCamp event last Friday.

“When you have talent like that, it works itself out. You communicate. You go out there and compete possession by possession. You figure things out. Throughout the course of the season, you figure things out. That’s just what it is. When you have talent, you have guys with IQ, you have guys willing to sacrifice, it always works itself out.”…

“It works,” Harden said. “It’s that trust factor. I trust him; he trusts me. And with the group that we already have and the things we already accomplished, it should be an easy transition for him to be incorporated right in and things are going to go.”

That is essentially is what Mike D’Antoni said, and what Rockets GM Daryl Morey is betting on.

Will Westbrook, and to a lesser degree Harden, be willing to make sacrifices and adjust their games? It is the question that will define the Rockets’ season.

My prediction: The duo works it out on offense and becomes one of the hardest teams to stop in the NBA. They will work it out. However, having to play Harden and Westbrook together on defense for extended stretches will cost Houston in the playoffs earlier than they planned.

George King, Suns two-way player last season, signs to play in Italy

Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

For players on the fringe of the NBA, there is a choice to be made at some point:

Keep the NBA dream alive and close by making less money (the base salary for most is $35,000 a year) and play in the domestic G-League, where teams have ties to NBA organizations and scouts are watching. Or…

Go overseas, where the money gets better (six figures for most, seven figures for the best) and they will be one of the best players on a team, putting up big numbers and playing a starring role.

George King, who spent last season on a two-way contract with Phoenix — but played just six total minutes with the Suns — has chosen overseas.

George spent most of last season in the G-League with Northern Arizona, where he averaged 15.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 2.6 assists a game. He was on the wrong end of a numbers game on the wing with the Suns at the start of the season, but when injuries hit he had not earned enough trust with the coaches to get a real opportunity.

So he went where there is an opportunity.

Same with former NBA player Tyler Cavanaugh, who spent most of last season with the Salt Lake G-League team and is now headed to Berlin.

Plenty of players spend time overseas then come back and are ready for the NBA — Patrick Beverley was in the Ukraine and Greece before coming to the NBA, for example — while others find a very good career playing overseas.

James Harden broke one of his youth camper’s ankles (VIDEO)

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
3 Comments

It’s around the time of summer when NBA players (and coaches, and college coaches, and a whole lot of other people) are holding youth basketball camps.

I went to them as a kid (John Wooden’s was the best) and like me, these youth will have the memories of a lifetime, even if they move away from playing hoops someday. Especially this boy, who will forever be able to look back at this video from camp of James Harden breaking his ankles. (Via Houston Rockets Instagram)

View this post on Instagram

Meanwhile at @jharden13’s camp…😅

A post shared by Houston Rockets (@houstonrockets) on

Meanwhile, over at Dwyane Wade‘s camp, he was reminding some young children he is the best shot blocking guard of all time.

 

Could Anthony Davis someday play for hometown Bulls? ‘I’d definitely consider it’

AP Photo
2 Comments

Not every player wants to go home.

LeBron James returned to Cleveland (for a while). Kawhi Leonard and Paul George pushed to get back to Southern California. However, plenty of players see the return to their home town as more curse than blessing — it takes a maturity to be the face of the city, to not let hanging with your old buddies get in the way of off-season workouts, to handle everyone you went to high school with asking you for tickets to the game. A player has to be ready for a lot to go home.

Would Anthony Davis consider a return to Chicago to lead the Bulls?

He wouldn’t rule it out. Someday. Here’s what Davis said to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.

“I mean, (this is) definitely hometown,” he said. “If the opportunity ever presents itself and when that time comes, I’d definitely consider it.”

That does not mean next summer. Technically Davis is a free agent next summer, however, he is all but certain to re-sign with the Lakers (it’s possible things go Dwight Howard/Steve Nash bad in Los Angeles and Davis wants out, but it’s highly unlikely). Davis pushed his way to Los Angeles to win and lead the biggest brand in basketball down the line, to have his name in the rafters with legendary big men (Wilt, Kareem, Shaq). He’s not bolting that after one season.

Could he finish his career in Chicago? Maybe. I’d say the same thing about Stephen Curry with Charlotte, but we are too many years from that to make any kind of prediction.

However, Davis didn’t slam the door shut. Maybe someday that will be good news for Bulls fans.