Associated Press

In Game 7 Rockets go frigid from three, massive Warriors third quarter sends them to Finals. Again.

12 Comments

In the regular season, the Houston Rockets made an NBA-record 1,256 threes on a record 3,470 attempts — that’s 15.3 threes per game on 36.2 percent shooting. It was the lifeblood of their offense.

In Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals, the Rockets missed 27 threes in a row at one point.

For the game the Rockets were 7-of-44 from three (15.9 percent). With a trip to the Finals on the line, that’s not good enough.

“It’s like they say, it’s a make or miss league. They made them and we missed them,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said.

For the second straight game the Rockets gave a heroic effort in the first half on both ends to lead the Warriors by double digits, only to look tired and miss shots in the second half, miss defensive rotations, and just wear down.

And once again, as it has been all series, the third quarter is when the Warriors come alive — they outscored the Rockets 33-15 in the quarter, led by Stephen Curry’s 14 points. He was doing Curry-like things.

The result was a 101-92 Warriors victory on the road in Houston.

With the win, Golden State advances to its fourth straight NBA Finals. Those Finals start Thursday in Oakland, where the Warriors will be heavy favorites in the fourth straight matchup against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

For the second straight game, the Rockets showed amazing grit in the first half, playing physical defense and attacking the rim — the Rockets had 56 points in the paint on the night. They played like a contender. They forced the Warriors into mistakes, and they made a lot of them — 10 turnovers and 11 offensive rebounds given up in the first 24 minutes.

“I was thinking of resigning,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of his reaction to the first half. “I walked in at halftime and said I didn’t recognize this team.”

He did in the second half. The Warriors found another gear while the Rockets showed how much they missed Chris Paul. They missed CP3s defense, and they missed his stabilizing presence on the offensive end.

Not that the Rockets gave up, they make a 7-0 fourth-quarter run to keep it close, but it’s hard to make up ground when Kevin Duran is making contested shots like this.

Like most Game 7s, it wasn’t pretty.

It was a first quarter neither team could particularly like — Steve Kerr called it the “one of the worst quarters of basketball we’ve ever played” in his TV interview — the Rockets were up five and it felt like it should have been more. Neither team shot well, it felt like a Game 7 with guys intense but it’s sloppy.

The Rockets really brought that energy on defense. In the first quarter, with Thompson sidelined with foul trouble for 10 minutes, it put another non-shooter on the floor (Jordan Bell, Shaun Livingston, Draymond Green) that the Rockets could help off of. With that, the Rockets defense looked much sharper

In the second, that energy led to the Rockets being up by 15 thanks to turnovers and offensive rebounds. Houston grabbed the offensive rebound on 38 percent of their missed shots in the first half, and the Warriors turned the ball over on 21.7 percent of their of their possessions — that led to 11 more shot attempts. Not coincidentally the Rockets were up by 11, 54-43 at the half. The Rockets got 30 points on 27 shots combined from James Harden and Eric Gordon in the first half. They were making it work.

Then came the onslaught in the third. While Golden State played well, Houston shot 0-of-14 from three in the third.

At that point, it was just too much ground to make up.

Just a reminder, after draft and free agency Wizards have still not named official GM

Rob Carr/Getty Images
Leave a comment

When Wizards owner Ted Leonsis finally ended Ernie Grunfeld’s run as team GM back in April — to the joy of Wizards fans everywhere — it was expected they would have a new head of basketball operations in place by the draft.

Nope.

So by the start of free agency, to guide the Wizards through this tumultuous summer?

Nope.

Tommy Sheppard has been doing the job on an interim basis, and as Jeff Zillgit of the USA Today points out a lot of league talk in Las Vegas was about why Leonsis just hasn’t given Shepard the job.

Team executive after executive had the same question when the Washington Wizards’ unresolved top front-office job opening came up. “Why not just give Tommy the job?”

Tommy is Tommy Sheppard, the Wizards’ longtime exec, who has been running basketball operations since owner Ted Leonsis decided not to bring Ernie Grunfeld back. Sheppard ran the draft, free agency and the Wizards’ Summer League team, but he doesn’t have the full-time job.

A couple of more prominent names were linked to the Wizards job at points. There were reportedly talks with Tim Conley, who built Denver into a real threat, but he decided to stay in the Rockies. There were rumors of Masai Ujiri, but he has chosen to stay in Toronto after winning a title.

At this point, after Sheppard has built the team for this coming season, is Leonsis really going to bring in someone else?

The Wizards have decisions to make. This is a young roster not ready to be a threat in the East, but with Bradley Beal and the injured John Wall (likely out for the season after tearing his Achilles), they also are capped out. So far they have turned away calls from other teams about a Beal trade (nobody is calling about a Wall trade with his max contract extension just kicking in).

Come July 26 the Wizards can offer Beal a three-year, $111 million extension, both sides are talking and the offer is expected to be made. That’s when the big decision comes — if Beal doesn’t sign that offer the Wizards have to look at trading him. Beal has spoken numerous times in the past about wanting to stay with the Wizards, but there was plenty of informed league speculation at Summer League that he is frustrated with the franchise and may not sign the extension, essentially forcing his way out. It’s something to watch in the coming weeks.

It probably would be nice to have a locked-in head of basketball operations by then, but who knows what Leonsis will do.

Cameron Payne reportedly agrees to partially-guaranteed contract with Toronto

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Cameron Payne was the starting point guard at one point early in the season in Chicago (until Kris Dunn returned), it didn’t last long, and by the middle of the season he was waived. The Cavaliers picked him up in a limited role at the end of the season.

Payne played for Dallas at Summer League and needed to impress there to have a shot a roster spot for next season. He did, averaging 20 points per game on 51 percent shooting, and he had one 32-point game.

The Toronto Raptors will bring Payne and let him compete to be the third point guard, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Raptors have Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet at the point, there are not a lot of minutes to be had there. However, both men are in the final year of their contracts. Plus, he brings some pregame dancing that every team needs.

The Raptors now have 16 potential NBA contracts coming into training camp, which means there will be cuts. The fact Payne has a decent guarantee his first year means he’s going to get a real look.

Payne, the No. 14 pick of the Thunder back in 2015, has struggled to find a fit in the NBA. While his skill set should fit the modern game, he doesn’t quite shoot or distribute well enough to earn a coach’s trust. He will try to change that with Nick Nurse.

Enes Kanter trolls (jokingly) Kyrie Irving on why Kanter will wear No. 11 with Boston

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Kyrie Irving is off to Brooklyn, which opened up the No. 11 jersey in Boston.

New Celtics center Enes Kanter will wear it, and his answer as to why is an awesome joke and troll of Irving.

You have to love the smile before he makes the joke, he has planned this out.

If you don’t get the “I want to be the reason no one else will” wear No. 11, you have to remember this Irving/Nike ad from Boston.

Well played Kanter, well played.

Report: Knicks’ Reggie Bullock could miss first month of season with injury

Leon Halip/Getty Images
1 Comment

On Tuesday, the Knicks made it official, they had signed sharpshooter Reggie Bullock to a two-year contract.

It had been a strange negotiation. Bullock had initially agreed to a two-year, $21 million contract with New York but after that (during the physicals) an injury of some nature came to light and the contract was re-negotiated down to two-years, $8.2 million (part of the room exception), money freed up allowed the Knicks to chase and land Marcus Morris.

Now comes a report Bullock will miss the start of the season with an injury. From Ian Begley of SNY.tv

There is no specific timetable for Bullock to be on the court at the moment. But, per SNY sources, Bullock is expected to miss at least a month of the regular season due to his ailment…

The medical issue that caused the hiccup is unclear, but Bullock has dealt with plantar fasciitis in the past.

Plantar fasciitis is something generally healed with rest, which Bullock should be getting plenty of this summer, making it a little unusual for it to extend into the season.

Bullock has a history of injury issues, having played 62 games two seasons ago in Detroit, then 63 last season between the Pistons and Lakers.

Bullock averaged 11.3 points and shot 37.7 percent from three last season. He will provide some much-needed floor spacing in New York, once he gets on the court.