Warriors, despite dropping game, historically dominant in series win over Rockets

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The Rockets stunned the basketball world.

By beating the Warriors once.

With a Game 3 upset, Houston upended the widely held assumption that Golden State would dominate a first-round sweep. But that altered only the series’ length, not the Warriors’ preeminence.

Golden State outscored the Rockets by 94 points in its 4-1 victory – a combined point difference topped by only one four-game sweep in NBA history.

Overall, the Warriors’ +94 ranks fourth among all series. The Thunder (who outscored the Mavericks by 91) and Spurs (who outscored the Grizzlies by 88) also produced historically lopsided series in this year’s first round.

Here’s every series in which a team’s combined point difference was at least 70:

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Series Scores
2009 first round: DEN d. NOH, 4-1 113-84, 108-93, 93-95, 121-63, 107-86
2010 conference semifinals: ORL d. ATL, 4-0 114-71, 112-98, 105-75, 98-84
1986 first round: LAL d. SAS, 3-0 135-88, 122-94, 114-94
2016 first round: GSW d. HOU, 4-1 104-78, 115-106, 96-97, 121-94, 114-81
2016 first round: OKC d. DAL, 4-1 108-70, 84-85, 131-102, 119-108, 118-104
2001 conference finals: LAL d. SAS, 4-0 104-90, 88-81, 111-72, 111-82
2016 first round: SAS d. MEM, 4-0 106-74, 94-68, 96-87, 116-95
1971 conference semifinals: MIL d. SFW, 4-1 107-96, 104-90, 114-102, 104-106, 136-86
2008 first round: BOS d. ATL, 4-3 104-81, 96-77, 93-102, 92-97, 110-85, 100-103, 99-65
1987 first round: LAL d. DEN, 3-0 128-95, 139-127, 140-103
1989 conference semifinals: PHO d. GSW, 4-1 130-103, 122-127, 113-104, 135-99, 116-104
1948 semifinals: PHW d. STB, 4-3 58-60, 65-64, 84-56, 51-56, 62-69, 84-61, 85-46
2013 first round: SAS d. LAL, 4-0 91-79, 102-91, 120-89, 103-82
1978 conference semifinals: PHI d. NYK, 4-0 130-90, 119-100, 137-126, 112-107
2015 first round: CHI d. MIL, 4-2 103-91, 91-82, 113-106, 90-92, 88-94, 120-66
1980 conference semifinals: BOS d. HOU, 4-0 119-101, 95-75, 100-81, 138-121
2009 conference semifinals: CLE d. ATL, 4-0 99-72, 105-85, 97-82, 84-74
1984 conference semifinals: LAL d. DAL, 4-1 134-91, 117-101, 115-125, 122-115, 115-99
1973 conference finals: LAL d. GSW, 4-1 101-99, 104-93, 126-70, 109-117, 128-118
2014 NBA Finals: SAS d. MIA, 4-1 110-95, 96-98, 111-92, 107-86, 104-87
2012 first round: MIA d. NYK, 4-1 100-67, 104-94, 87-70, 87-89, 106-94
1996 conference semifinals: UTA d. SAS, 4-2 95-75, 77-88, 105-75, 101-86, 87-98, 108-81

The Grizzlies’ injuries obviously contributed to the Spurs’ success. San Antonio probably would’ve won the series regardless, but it’s far less likely three of the games would’ve been cakewalks. Perhaps, the Mavericks could’ve put up more of a fight against the Grizzlies with more Chandler Parsons, Deron Williams and J.J. Barea.

Of course, injury also affected the Warriors. Imagine how badly they would’ve beaten Houston if Stephen Curry were healthy the whole series.

In the end, the Rockets played like a team ready for vacation, and Golden State was good enough to take – big – advantage.

(This post was updated to include Oklahoma City’s win over Dallas.)

Lakers’ Jeanie Buss: “I have 100 percent confidence in Rob Pelinka”

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Internally, the Lakers believe they are on the right track: They signed LeBron James as a free agent, they spent years acquiring assets then turned those assets into Anthony Davis, and they believe the roster that will take the court next season will bring vindication for the front office and ownership group. The Lakers believe they will be back on top, where they belong.

From the outside, um, let’s just say there are doubts around the league. Doubts about all the picks — particularly the pick swaps and deferments — that the Lakers gave up to get Davis and now that could hurt them in the future. There are doubts about the ability of Rob Pelinka to build out a roster around LeBron and Davis that is truly a threat.

Jeanie Buss has no such doubts. Speaking to Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times (and other reporters) at the NBA Awards show Monday, Buss expressed nothing but confidence in Pelinka and the Lakers’ staff.

“I’ve always had confidence in Rob, whatever the speculation is out there,” Buss said. “We don’t need outside media to validate the things that we do. I’m very happy and I think we’re on the right path.”

“I have 100% confidence in him in running his basketball operations,” Buss said. “He’s brought us a great new head coach in Frank Vogel, whose teams have had a lot of success in the playoffs and who have played consistently ranking high in defense, which means not only does he emphasize defense but the players buy into his defensive schemes.”

The question isn’t Vogel’s credentials, although how a staff with Jason Kidd, Lionel Hollins, and other veteran coaches with big egos will mesh together is going to be interesting.

The question is talent.

The Lakers have the high end of that with LeBron and Davis, but when you think about the Laker title teams of the past it wasn’t just Shaq and Kobe, it was also Derek Fisher and Robert Horry and Rick Fox and a host of others. The same thing was true in this past Finals — the deeper team won because the Raptors could adapt and handle their star not being 100 percent.

Are the Lakers going to chase another star and then complete the roster with minimum salary players? Or, get two or three quality role players with their cap space to have a deeper team? Has this all been planned out and thought through? Maybe Rob Pelinka builds this roster out beautifully, but we only have one year of experience to judge him on, and that did not go well.

Buss may have confidence, she should, the rest of us are in wait and see mode.

The Greek Freak has arrived, Giannis Antetokounmpo wins NBA MVP

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Mike Budenholzer came in with a plan — an offense built around the fact no one man on the planet can guard Giannis Antetokounmpo.

It worked. The Bucks won 60 games and had the best record in the NBA. Budenholzer picked up Coach of the Year hardware for his efforts.

Now Antetokounmpo has won the NBA MVP award, edging out James Harden (who chose not to attend the NBA’s awards show in Los Angeles Monday). He was emotional in thanking teammates for helping him reach this point, then talking about his father.

Antetokounmpo averaged 27.7 points and 12.5 rebounds a game, but it was his ability to destroy any defender one-on-one that made the Bucks offense work. Either the Greek Freak got to the basket and finished, he drew a foul, or he drew so much attention the shooters that surrounded him on the floor had clean looks of their own. He also was the Bucks best defender, a guy tasked with tough assignments nightly.

Antetokounmpo was the best player on the best team.

Antetokounmpo won the award handily with 941 points to Harden’s 776. The Greek Freak had 78 of the 100 first place votes.

James Harden — who averaged 36.1 points, 7.5 assists, and 6.6 rebounds per game — finished second in the voting, Paul George of Oklahoma City was third. Harden has finished first or second in the voting for four of the past five seasons. Harden believed he deserved to win and was frustrated with another second.

Antetokounmpo is the first player from Europe to win the MVP award since Dirk Nowitzki in 2007.

Nikola Jokic came in fourth in the voting, Stephen Curry was fifth. Here are the full results:

 

 

Rudy Gobert wins NBA Defensive Player of the Year for second straight season

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Rudy Gobert owns the paint for the Utah Jazz.

And he owns the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award.

Gobert won his second straight DPOY award Monday night, beating out the other 2019 finalists Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George.

The Jazz had the second best defense in the regular season and it is completely built around Gobert and his abilities in the paint, which is what separated him for this award. Utah’s defense was 20.1 points per 100 possessions better when Gobert was on the court and gave up less than a point per possession with him as the anchor.

This was a deep field with players such as Myles Turner of the Pacers, Joel Embiid of the 76ers and others getting votes as well.

Bucks’ Mike Budenholzer named NBA Coach of the Year

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Mike Budenholzer unleashed Giannis Antetokounmpo and from the start that made him the Coach of the Year favorite (and maybe Antetokounmpo MVP).

It was a wire-to-wire win for Budenholzer, who was the frontrunner for this award from early on and was named the NBA Coach of the Year Monday night, the second time he has won this award (Atlanta in 2015).

Budenholzer was the favorite with good reason. The Bucks won 16 more games than the season before and had the best record in the NBA, they improved their net rating by +10.1, and became a top-five team on both ends of the floor. To be fair, part of Budenholzer’s success was a contrast to how poorly the previous coach handled this roster, but give Budenholzer credit for utilizing players well.

He beat out Doc Rivers of the Clippers and Mike Malone of the Nuggets in what was a very deep field for this award.