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Three questions the New Orleans Pelicans must answer this season

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The NBC/ProBasketballTalk season previews will ask the questions each of the 30 NBA teams must answer to make their season a success. We are looking at one team a day until the start of the season, and it begins with a look back at the team’s offseason moves.

Last Season:
34-48, missed the playoffs.

I know what you did last summer: Signed Frank Jackson, Tony Allen, Rajon Rondo, Martell Webster, and Ian Clark, among others.

THREE QUESTIONS THE PELICANS MUST ANSWER:

1) Will we see a spark from Boogie and AD together? The pairing of Davis and Cousins together does make a lot of sense on paper. They are two of the NBA’s premier big men, and both have talent on both sides of the ball.

In limited minutes together last season, the two struggled to find something that would work from a wins perspective for New Orleans. That, of course, has a lot to do with the roster around them, and the interplay between Davis and Cousins did at least seem to be something that could flourish given more time together.

There is some specific lineup data that suggests that Cousins and Davis are some of the best 2-man lineups for the Pelicans when it comes to net points. What we need for New Orleans to survive out West is to see a spark that pushes both players past the level of play they’ve shown individually before. That’s the only thing that will be able to make up for the weaker roster that New Orleans will be trotting out against conference opponents every night.

2) What will the offense look like with Rajon Rondo? Rondo was not good last season for the Chicago Bulls even if he did have the support of some of his younger teammates in battling against Dwyane Wade. What the Pelicans need from Rondo is competent pick-and-roll, and we just aren’t sure that he can provide that anymore.

That is exacerbated by the fact that New Orleans does not have many 3-point shooters, which severely impact who Rondo can navigate to either directly or via hockey assist while operating the off screens.

It’s possible that there will be some interplay here between Jrue Holiday and Rondo which could benefit both players. Holiday shot 39% from 3-point range last season for New Orleans, so that will be something to watch in terms of how the offense works this season.

3) Can this team finally find some dang offense? This has been the question for New Orleans since they brought in head coach Alvin Gentry in 2015. The team has struggled to be a good offensive team, and hasn’t put much of a modern offense around Anthony Davis.

Having two hard-rebounding stars in Davis and Cousins should help them during the course of 82 games, and they did add some players they are hoping it will be good 3-point shooters, Ian Clark in particular.

The Pelicans finally have two years under their belts of playing with some pace, something they were previously hampered by. But that change in pace hasn’t helped their offense much, and they have remained in the lower part of the league in terms of offensive rating.

Good NBA rosters do tend to be somewhat top-heavy, and the Pelicans have three stars in Cousins, Davis, and Holiday. It seems like that should be enough to give them an offense that is better from some of the young and developing teams in this league. This will have to be the final chance for Gentry, and he has a lot of talent on the roster to try to get it done.

Fast start, LeBron James enough for Cavaliers to hold on to win, even series

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For the first time in 11 days, we had an NBA playoff game that finished with a single-digit margin. Barely.

It didn’t look like it would be early — Boston missed lay-ups and dunks all through the first quarter, LeBron James was being LeBron James, and the Cavaliers had a 16 point first quarter lead. It was 15 at the half.

But these Celtics would not go quietly.

Boston started to find it’s offensive groove — hunting Kevin Love incessantly — but in the end couldn’t get enough stops because, well, LeBron James. He finished with 44 points on 17-of-28 shooting, his sixth 40-point game of these playoffs. He got wherever he wanted on the floor all night, carving up the top-ranked regular season defense of the Celtics like a surgeon. No other Cavalier had more than 14 points (Kyle Korver), but the supporting cast played enough defensive and made hustle plays to hang on.

@realtristan13 with the swat and @kingjames with the finish!

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Cleveland got the win, 111-102, and evened the series at 2-2. Game 5 is Wednesday night back in Boston.

What Celtics fans can feel good about is their team’s resilience and grit. Down big for the second-straight game on the road in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics fought back from as much as 19 down earlier in the game to get it to single digits and make the fans in Quicken Loan Arena nervous in the fourth quarter. That is something the team can carry over to Game 5, as they can some defensive tweaks that shut down opportunities for Korver and the rest of the supporing cast.

What should bother Celtics fans was another night where they struggled to generate offense in the face of more intense defensive pressure.

That came from the opening tip, with the Celtics missing a few layups and a couple of Jaylen Brown dunk attempts — all of which allowed the Cavs to get early offenses and mismatches going the other way. Those missed shots fueled a 10-0 Cavaliers run that had Cleveland up 19-10 early. The Celtics shot 3-of-10 at the rim in the first quarter, shot 26 percent overall, and trailed 34-18 after one.

The second quarter saw the Celtics start to find their offense — they scored 35 points on 50 percent shooting — but they only gained one point on the Cavaliers lead because Boston couldn’t get stops. LeBron had 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting in the first half to pace a Cleveland team that shot 61.5 percent overall and hit 6-of-11 threes. That’s why the Cavs were up 68-53 at the half.

The Celtics energy was better than Game 2, but in the first half they looked like a young team, one that made a lot of mistakes.

In the second half, the Celtics started to figure things out — they started making the extra pass, they got stops for stretches, they looked more like a young team figuring things out. They finished the night with 25 from Jaylen Brown, 17 from Jayson Tatum, and Terry Rozier had 16 points and 11 assists.

They just couldn’t completely close the gap because they couldn’t get consistent stops — the Cavaliers shot 60 percent as a team for the game, and a ridiculous true shooting percentage of 59.6. Cleveland mercilessly hunted Rozier on switches — forcing him on to LeBron or Kevin Love then attacking — and the Cavs got enough from their role players. Tristan Thompson did what he needed to bringing energy in the paint and some defense, plus he had 13 points. Korver was diving on the floor for loose balls. Larry Nance Jr. had his second good game in a row. George Hill had 13 points.

And whenever the Cavaliers needed a play, they had LeBron to turn to. He set another NBA record on Monday night, most playoff field goals made for a career.

LeBron is what needs to worry Boston most of all. The Celtics will be better at home in Game 5 — they have not lost in TD Garden all postseason — but if this thing goes seven, it’s a dangerous thing when the other team has the best player on the planet.

LeBron James passes Kareem to become all-time leader in playoff made field goals

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LeBron James is already the NBA’s all-time leading playoff scorer, having passed Michael Jordan last postseason.

However, LeBron racked up his buckets in the era of the three-point shot (as did Jordan, to a lesser extent), so Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the all-time leader in field goals made in the postseason. A lot of them beautiful skyhooks that still give Celtics fans nightmares.

Monday night, LeBron made history passing Abdul-Jabar for the top spot in NBA playoff made field goals.

Just add that to the already insane resume.

Kevin Love with insane touchdown outlet to LeBron James for bucket

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Not sure what part of this was better.

Was it Kevin Love‘s length-of-the-court outlet touchdown pass that was right on the money, where only the receiver could get it?

Or was it LeBron James, with a catch in a crowd that would make Julio Jones’ draw drop?

Either way, this first quarter bucket from the Cavaliers may well be the play of the game.

Spurs disbanding all-female dance team in favor of co-ed hype team

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Is this the wave of the future?

Since then newly-minted owner Jerry Buss started the Laker Girls’ in 1979, all-female dance teams have become standard around the NBA. However, with how things are now viewed through the prism of the #metoo movement, and reports on how NFL cheerleaders were treated in places such as Washington and Miami, a lot of professional sports teams are re-thinking the concept of female dance teams.

The Spurs are apparently doing away with theirs, to be replaced by a 35-person co-ed “hype team.”

The Spurs have not said officially that this is the end of the Silver Dancers. “Lack of interest” is an odd reason to give — is there suddenly less interest now than there was five years ago? A number of teams have both female dance teams and co-ed “spirit” or “hype” teams.

Far more likely, this is about perception in what is a conservative state and marketplace.

The question is will this become a trend, both around the NBA and professional sports. As the teams try to evolve and make more dynamic their in-arena experiences, are the dance teams going to fade from view?

Just something to keep and eye on going forward.