Game 1 of the NBA Finals will see the Boston Celtics at the Houston Rockets starting May 31.
Or, at least that’s what the historic odds favor.
Most fans (and media/analysts) expect the Finals will still be Cleveland vs. Golden State, those are the two proven teams. However, as our own Dan Feldman noted, historically in a 2-2 series the team with two home games wins four out of five times.
Tuesday night, Houston looked every bit the kind of team that can stand up to the defending champion Warriors. Down 10 entering the fourth quarter, Houston’s improved ball-pressure defense wore down a Golden State team and took Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson (and in the fourth Stephen Curry) out of their rhythm. The Warriors couldn’t get the shots they wanted, didn’t get to the rim, went 0-of-6 from three and 3-of-18 overall in the fourth quarter. They looked like they were replaying the final games of the 2016 NBA Finals again (just with Durant). Meanwhile, Chris Paul was efficient and James Harden made plays that got Houston the comeback win. It was the kind of victory that can define a championship run.
Still, they need two more wins against a Warriors team that is loaded with All-Stars and has been to three straight Finals for a reason. Golden State believes it has another gear, now it needs to find it.
Out East, Boston heads home for Wednesday night’s game — the Celtics are 9-0 in the postseason and 22.4 points per 100 possessions better than on the road. Boston’s young role players have just been vastly superior on the parquet on both ends of the court. Plus, while the Cavaliers won Game 4, the Celtics won the last three quarters and seemed to find some defensive setups and plays that work for them.
Cleveland, however, has LeBron James.
Finally, we’ve got the kind of playoff drama we have wanted out of these conference finals.
From the moment it became clear Carmelo Anthony was going to join the Rockets — which was a long time before he actually signed the contract on Monday — the questions started:
Would he accept a reduced role with the Rockets? Maybe come off the bench? Be Olympic ‘Melo and blend in with the team?
Coach Mike D’Antoni said he spoke with Anthony and said the player is open to coming off the bench, but he’s not sure what ‘Melo’s role will be. When ambushed by TMZ trying to walk to his car, Anthony said basically the same thing.
“Let’s just let it play out, though. I don’t even know what’s going on. I just signed, let it start first.”
Anthony coming off the bench, being the fulcrum of the offense when James Harden and Chris Paul are on the bench makes some sense (CP3 and Harden are better and more efficient shot creators than Anthony at this point). It’s a chance for Anthony to get his touches and help the other two rest. However, the idea of Anthony starting the first and third quarters and getting heavy touches then but sitting more later is not out of the question.
At the end of close games, D’Antoni is more likely to lean on James Ennis — a long, switchable defender who can shoot threes in the Trevor Ariza mold — than Anthony. It will be just a better fit. Will Anthony roll with that? Will it cause problems in the locker room?
Let’s just let it play out.
Remember when the NBA cracked down on hazing?
It was 2013, and the Miami Dolphins were in the midst of a bullying scandal. The NBA wanted to avoid similar problems.
But enforcement of the NBA’s guidelines was clearly fleeting, a temporary overreaction to the Dolphins’ issues.
By the very next season Andre Drummond and the Pistons were hazing rookie Spencer Dinwiddie.
Kristian Winfield of SB Nation:
Thankfully, Dinwiddie appears to take this in good fun. Context matters, and if the team welcomed him overall, this could be just a harmless prank.
And Dinwiddie has gotten revenge – flourishing with the Nets, including hitting a game-winner at Detroit last season.
LeBron James sent Magic Johnson an ardent happy-birthday tweet last year. Then, LeBron eventually provided the best gift imaginable – signing with Johnson’s Lakers.
I think Johnson is having a good 59th birthday today. But I can’t say for certain – because the video he posted is pixelated and has distorted audio:
That prompted Lonzo Ball to tweet:
That’d be a pretty nice gift. But I don’t think it’ll endear Ball over LeBron.
There’s reportedly friction between Jimmy Butler and his Timberwolves teammates, Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.
It’s not hard to see why. Butler pulled himself up from the bottom and has developed an understanding of how he got here. He has shown little patience for those who don’t match his work ethic and competitiveness. The younger Wiggins and Towns are former No. 1 picks who seem too content at times.
Anyway, Butler posted this photo to Instagram:
Butler appears to be talking – almost certainly in jest – about his trainer (Chris Johnson), agent (Bernie Lee) and chef (Christian Bowman). After all, those three are behind him in the picture.
A commenter brought up Wiggins and Towns, saying Butler should lead those two, and Butler shot back:
This has gotten spun into evidence of strife in Minnesota. I don’t see it. That strikes me as a retort to the commenter, not a shot at Wiggins and Towns.
Besides, if you’re looking for evidence of the Timberwolves’ internal problems, there’s more than enough elsewhere.