J.R. Smith, how would you assess your game right now? ‘Horsesh-t’

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J.R. Smith has been a key contributor for the Cavaliers for the bulk of the season.

But he’s been dismal in a reserve role during the NBA Finals, at the time his team needs him the most.

LeBron James has been desperate to find help on the offensive end of the floor in this series, but only Matthew Dellavedova (at least before Game 4) had provided it on anything resembling a consistent basis. Cleveland needs Smith to do much better than the 29.7 percent he’s shooting in the Finals, but to this point he’s been unable to find his way.

Smith owned up to his poor play postgame, with a colorful, honest description of how things have been going.

Q: You aren’t shooting the way you want to throughout The Finals. How can you change that?

Smith: Stop thinking so much and just go out there and play. Be more than just a shooter, go out there and defend, rebound and create plays for everyone else. …

Q: How would you assess your own game right now?

Smith: Horses—.

Smith’s father believes his son will break out of his slump soon, and do so in thrilling fashion.

Howard Beck of Bleacher Report:

After a string of maddening, Bad J.R. nights, he seems overdue for another J.R. joyride.

“Oh, it’s coming,” Earl Smith said with a chuckle. “It’s coming.”

The Smith family is nothing if not confident.

“He’ll be all right,” the elder Smith said. “He’s just got to keep shooting.”

Shoot ’til you’re hot, shoot ’til you’re cold is how the saying goes, and there’s no question that will be J.R.’s mindset.

But his nerves in Game 5 will need to be as cool as he looked during his Game 4 entrance in order to have a chance at turning things around.

Watch Jerry West’s emotional memories of trading for/his relationship with Kobe Bryant

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Jerry West has never understood why people thought he was brilliant for recognizing the talent of a 17-year-old Kobe Bryant coming out of high school. To him it was obvious.

If it had been obvious (and if that era had not frowned on the development that came with drafting high school players), Kobe wouldn’t have been a Laker, and NBA history might be very different.

For West, Kobe was not just another player, he was like a son. West talked about it on the well done TNT special commemorating Kobe Tuesday night.

What those neatly packaged TNT clip does not show is just how difficult and emotional it was for West to talk about Kobe.

West has had a life of incredible highs, but also more lows and pain than many — abused by his father and battling depression his entire life — and this is another emotional tax on the NBA legend.

Joel Embiid returns to Philadelphia rotation after nine-game absence

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When you saw the image of Joel Embiid‘s dislocated ring finger facing a direction no finger should face, you knew he was going to miss some time (even though he had it taped up and returned to that game). Embiid had surgery to repair a torn radial collateral ligament on the ring finger of his left hand. Ultimately he missed nine games while he recovered.

Tuesday night against the Warriors, Embiid will be back.

He will have a soft wrap on his left hand that has been cleared by the league.

Philadelphia went 6-3 while Embiid was out.

Ben Simmons stepped up — in his last five games (before Tuesday) he averaged 24 points a game on 70.6 percent shooting, plus 10 rebounds and 8.6 assists a game. Without Embiid in the paint or taking up touches, Simmons took over the offense and looked much more comfortable in his role.

However, the Sixers’ offensive rating in those nine Embiid-less games was 104.9, 29th in the NBA (even in the last five it was 103.2, still 29th in the league). Simmons may have been playing better but the offense was not.

When Simmons and Embiid share the court this season, their offensive rating is 106.7 — not great, but better than without Embiid playing.

Victor Oladipo returns to Pacers Wednesday, likely off bench with minutes limit

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Indiana has gone 30-17 this season and sits as the five seed in the Eastern Conference — and Wednesday they get their best player back.

Victor Oladipo — the former Most Improved Player and All-NBA team member who has been out for most of a year with a right quad tendon rupture — practiced with the Pacers on Tuesday and, as expected, will make his return to the court Wednesday night against the Bulls.

Coach Nate McMillan would not say how he planned to use Oladipo but, considering the minutes limit, off the bench seems the most likely move. McMillan said the team would revisit the minutes and role after the All-Star break.

While Milwaukee has separated itself atop the East, the next five teams — Miami, Boston, Toronto, Philadelphia, and Indiana — are all within 2.5 games of each other and could end up in any order. If Oladipo can return close to the All-NBA form he was in prior to his injury, the Pacers become a big threat to break out of that group. If nothing else, they become a much tougher out in the postseason.

Giannis Antetokounmpo out for Bucks-Wizards (shoulder)

Giannis Antetokounmpo
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Giannis Antetokounmpo is on track to repeat as Most Valuable Player.

So, any game he misses is notable.

Bucks:

Expect to see more Ersan Ilyasova and D.J. Wilson. With the trade deadline approaching, this could even be a showcase game for Wilson.

Milwaukee is still favored over the Wizards. The Bucks have outscored opponents by 7.8 points per possession without Antetokounmpo this season. They’re deep.

Of course, anything can happen. It’s only one game in a long NBA regular season.

Which might something to do with Antetokounmpo sitting. Even if he plays in Milwaukee’s next game, vs. the Nuggets on Friday, he’ll get six straight days off. That’s a nice break.