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Rockets sound divided on offensive solutions

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The Rockets’ biggest problem was defense in their Game 1 loss to the Warriors.

But Houston’s offense wasn’t performing at peak levels, either.

Running an isolation-heavy attack, James Harden scored 41 points (9-of-15 on 2-pointers, 5-of-9 on 3-pointers, 8-of-10 on free throws). But the Rockets scored just 102.7 points per 100 possessions.

What should they do about that? Depends whom you ask.

Houston coach Mike D’Antoni:

Q. You’re not worried at all about the iso ball wearing him down both ways?
MIKE D’ANTONI: I don’t think so. I mean, that was the best thing we had. I don’t know why it’s bad. Perception is not reality. Reality are numbers. Numbers are, that’s good. Numbers are, yeah, we had a couple 24-second violations and everybody goes, oh, and everybody goes crazy and our guys do sometimes. We can’t do that. We can’t do that. Yeah, it’s going to happen. We’re not going to be perfect. But the numbers show it’s pretty good.
Now, having said that, we’ve got to get into transition. We’ve got to get Trevor [Ariza] and those guys shots. We’ve got to get the ball moved up a little bit quicker, and we can do that. We control that.

Q. Are there things you can shore up offensively that will help you defensively?
MIKE D’ANTONI: Yeah. Well, one thing we can shore up is be sure to keep all the noise out. We talked about that. There are just too many, and rightfully so, I’m not complaining — but we play the way we play. When we’ve played that way, we’re pretty good. Again, we get a little upset on offense, as we did on defense, because we weren’t as good on offense. So we have to be able to understand where we have to do this a little bit longer, a little bit better, and up the ante a little bit.
Our pace has got to be up a little bit. There are things that we can do and we will do. That’s why I just expect us to be a lot better on Wednesday.
Q. What noise are you talking about?
MIKE D’ANTONI: Just everybody. I mean, just from ourselves. Like, oh, my gosh the iso, that’s all we do. No, it isn’t. That’s what we do best. We scored like 60 percent of the time on that. Oh, really? Oh, they don’t pass, everybody’s standing. Really? Have you watched us for 82 games? That’s what we do. We are who we are, and we’re pretty good at it. We can’t get off who we are. Embrace it. Just be better of who we are and don’t worry if somebody else solves the puzzle a different way. Fine, that’s how they solve it. We solve our puzzle this way. We’ve got to play at our strengths. We know our strengths and we’ve just got to do it better.

Q. There were questions afterward for James about kind of the comfort level of some of the guys on the offensive end. There were people asking questions about Eric Gordon and other players. Do you agree there were times that they looked a little uncomfortable? What you have to do to get the rest, not James and Chris, going and feeling good about what you’re doing offensively?
MIKE D’ANTONI: Like I said, this is how we play. It’s how we played all year. I don’t know why you wouldn’t be comfortable. Wee got some shots up there. I don’t know how many layups we just missed and they turned them into fast breaks. You just take that away, make the layups and defend a little bit better. We’ve just got to get in transition and we’ve got to defend better. A lot of things — up the ante.
But like I said, how are we going to get comfortable? We can put some blankets out there or something, but that’s not happening. You know what? Play through it. So be it. This just comes down to a dogfight. It doesn’t come down to feeling comfortable. Everybody’s feeling uncomfortable. Your hair should be on fire, and you should be playing and spitting blood out there.
This is hard stuff to overcome, one of the better teams ever in the history of the NBA. They’ve got to embrace the situation.

Eric Gordon, via Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated:

“I definitely would like to get the ball more for me to be aggressive and get good looks,” said Gordon, who took 13 shots. “Offensively with everybody, we really don’t get real good looks. … We can’t isolate as much against a good defensive team. I don’t care who you are. We have some of the best isolation players out there. But against a team like that, it’s going to be too tough.”

Clint Capela, via Sam Amick of USA Today:

“We’re just out here waiting on (Harden and Chris Paul) to make the decisions,” Capela said. “This is what they do. This is what they’ve been doing all season long, so it’s something that is harder to do right now. Maybe we’re going to have to be more aware on the weak side, maybe (use) flares to get guys open, to get more movement, so all the focus won’t be on the guys on the weak side.”

In Game 1, the Rockets played the offensive style they used all season. They can’t simply overhaul their identity in two days.

That there’s even talk of them doing so speaks to the Warriors’ hegemony. Golden State instills panic in its opponents.

The Rockets shouldn’t panic, but they should make tweaks.

Attack in isolation quicker, so if the initial plan stalls, they can get into another action with more time before the shot clock expires. Use Chris Paul more in isolation with an eye toward Harden saving energy for defense. Play Clint Capela more than 30 minutes, because his lob-finishing ability limits the Warriors’ ability to rotate a rim protector toward the Houston isolationist.

That might not be enough. The Warriors are great.

But the Rockets’ best bet is sticking with what got them here and hoping to execute better.

Report: Bucks will do everything they can to keep Khris Middleton

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Milwaukee Bucks star Khris Middleton has been the subject of much discussion around the NBA, both as a potential trade target and as a free agent signing in the summer of 2019. Middleton is a crucial part of a Milwaukee lineup that needs his presence on the wing, and externally there appears to be some pressure on the Bucks to win this season with some uncertainty surrounding Middleton return next year.

Middleton has a player option for next season, and Eric Bledsoe is also in need of a new deal. However, thanks to the contracts of Giannis Antetokounmpo, George Hill, and Tony Snell, it’s going to take some fancy to financial footwork for Milwaukee to keep both of their star guards.

Still, the smart thing for the Bucks to do would be to re-sign Middleton if they can and keep this core together. Milwaukee should want to avoid a backslide into the years prior, where mediocre talent surrounded a rising Antetokounmpo.

According to a new report from Yahoo Sports, at least one Bucks official says they are going to try to do everything they can to keep Middleton in Wisconsin.

Via Yahoo:

The Bucks feel Middleton can fill that role and should he opt out to hit free agency, a Bucks official told Yahoo Sports: “We’re gonna do everything we can to keep him.”

That quote doesn’t necessarily mean that Milwaukee is going to stretch past a financial limit they set for themselves to sign Middleton. “Everything they can” might be going up to a certain limit and trying to convince Middleton to take the deal in order to build something in Milwaukee.

Middleton will have plenty of suitors, and many expect teams like the Los Angeles Lakers will come calling with big offers this summer. For now the Bucks remain one of the best teams in the NBA and have the second best record in the Eastern Conference, and Middleton is a crucial reason why.

Larry Nance has buzzer-beating tip-in to beat Pacers (VIDEO)

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The Cleveland Cavaliers are not a good basketball team. Heading into Tuesday night’s game against the Indiana Pacers, LeBron James’ former squad had just seven wins.

Enter Larry Nance.

Where’s the Cavaliers down by one point with nine seconds to go in the fourth quarter, Rodney Hood took it upon himself to take what he thought would be the last shot for Cleveland. Hood danced around the defense before finally taking a jumper from the free-throw line, which bounced softly off the rim.

Nance, battling down low for the rebound, worked his way free for a tip-in as time expired.

Via Twitter:

There’s not much to cheer for in Cleveland this season but that’s a fun way to win a basketball game.

LeBron James on Anthony Davis joining Lakers: ‘That would be incredible’

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What counts as collusion these days in the NBA? What counts as tampering? It’s hard to say, but the league office takes a look at each and every comment like the one LeBron James made on Tuesday about New Orleans Pelicans big man Anthony Davis.

Speaking to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, James said it would be incredible if Davis were somehow able to make his way onto the Los Angeles Lakers. This slots into the rumor around the NBA that LA is stockpiling its young core to be able to trade for a player like Davis.

Here’s the quote from LeBron, via ESPN:

“That would be amazing,” James told ESPN on Tuesday before the Lakers’ 115-110 loss to the Brooklyn Nets. “That would be amazing, like, duh. That would be incredible.”

There’s nothing much here that LeBron said that isn’t factual. Davis is a 5-time All-Star and one of the best players in the NBA, a unicorn not unlike LeBron himself.

The NBA is certainly hoping that the Lakers can get their act together and put a powerhouse around James at Staples Center. How he does it is up for debate, although making comments about current players probably isn’t the best idea. James has been able to keep his mouth shut for the most part, but perhaps talk of Davis is just too tempting.

NBA refs admit they missed James Harden’s shuffle-step travel

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Did James Harden travel on Monday night? Obviously.

But was Harden called for a travel by officials? No. At least, not at first.

Video of Harden’s ridiculous shuffle was circulated on social media after the Houston Rockets beat the Utah Jazz, 102-97. Harden was asked about the move by media, and said that he wasn’t going to tell on himself, which is fair enough.

On Tuesday the official NBA referee Twitter page decided to comment on the play at hand, admitting that they had made a mistake and had missed a travel.

Via Twitter:

Having a Twitter account hasn’t always worked out for the NBRA. Their explanations of what many would consider to be violations have often stood in the face of common sense. To that end, they’ve sometimes been mocked on social media, which is against their goal of having the social channel in the first place. But this play with Harden was a particular sore subject with fans around the league, and it was right of them in to make a comment.

At least they got it right.