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Three Things to Know: Boogie’s night too much for Rockets, Warriors win

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Boogie’s night too much for Rockets, Warriors win. In building a team to challenge the Warriors, the Rockets didn’t think big. Actually, they got even smaller this season, which made some sense because Golden State has been most feared when its “death lineup” with Draymond Green was the center was on the court. Houston put its faith in 6’10” center Clint Capela, who is athletic enough in the middle to counter to all things Warriors.

That was until Golden State went out and got DeMarcus Cousins.

Wednesday night Boogie was too strong inside, was finding cutters and shooters with his passing, and carved up the Rockets to the tune of a season-high 27 points, plus eight rebounds, and seven assists. Cousins led the Warriors to a 106-104 win in Houston, snapping the Rockets’ nine-game win streak. And they did it without Kevin Durant (tweaked ankle).

Two key areas stood out with Boogie. First, the Rockets tried to go at Cousins defensively, an area where he has had his struggles since joining the Warriors. Not Wednesday night. When switched onto James Harden or Chris Paul, Cousins contested shots but did not foul. He did not get exploited, and Cousins even drew a charge on Harden.

The other was posting him up. The Warriors in the Curry era have not had a big they could just post up and watch him go to work on the block. Cousins did that to Capela. They also took advantage of Boogie’s passing skills, with cutters moving to the rim and shooters spotting up at the arc. Cousins even found Curry when he was not in the game.

Don’t read too much into this game, regular season matchups are a poor predictor of postseason outcomes. (Same with the Rockets’ three wins against the Warriors this season.) The Rockets made mistakes and missed shots we haven’t seen from them during their recent nine-game win streak, while the Warriors were without Kevin Durant. What you can take away is the Rockets look like the second best team in the West right now.

The playoffs have a different flow because it becomes more about matchups, more about exploiting weaknesses or covering them up. What Cousins gives Steve Kerr and the Warriors is another weapon. They can post Boogie up and not many teams can do anything about it. Just more versatility for the two-time defending NBA champs.

2) Russell Westbrook owns the second half, gets another triple-double in Thunder win against Nets. The tradition in Oklahoma City is the fans stand until the Thunder get their first basket. Legs were getting tired on Wednesday night — OKC started 0-of-8 from the field and it took 4:04 of game time before Russell Westbrook hit a three and fans could plop themselves down. The Nets were up 11-1 by the time it happened. That’s pretty much how the entire first half went, Brooklyn was in control and led by 10 after 24 minutes.

Then Russell Westbrook woke up. He had 14 points and 10 assists in the second half and led a 21-4 run that sealed the win, while Paul George pitched in 13 points on 8 shots in the half. The Thunder won 108-96 and Westbrook had his 26th triple-double of the season with 31 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists. Westbrook and George combined for 56 points.

The win, combined with Houston’s loss, ties the Thunder and Rockets for the 3/4 seeds in the West (both teams are 42-26). Both would rather be the three seed, which will put them on the other side of the bracket from the Warriors.

3) Heat go on 21-0 run to start the second half, blow out Pistons, give their playoff chances a big boost. How about if Dwyane Wade’s “last dance” has an encore? A few playoff games?

Miami got closer to that Wednesday night with a critical win, 108-74 against the Detroit Pistons. The game itself wasn’t that interesting, the Heat led by five at the half, went on a 21-0 run to start the second half, and that was the ballgame. Detroit scored just  25 points in the second half. Miami did have some flashy highlights.

The win, coupled with Washington beating Orlando, gives eight-seed Miami a two-game lead over Orlando and Charlotte, who are tied for the nine seed (Washington is still alive 3.5 games back as the 11 seed). The Heat’s cushion matters because the Magic have a much easier schedule the rest of the way, which is why fivethirtyeight.com gives Orlando a 57 percent chance of making the playoffs while the Heat are at 35 percent (Washington and Charlotte each are at 12 percent). The numbers are the numbers, but I think with this win Wednesday Miami’s chances are actually much higher.

But maybe that’s just because I want to see Wade in the playoffs one more time.

NBA veteran Jason Terry takes job as assistant coach at Arizona

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Jason Terry played four years for the legendary Lute Olsen at Arizona, winning a national championship in 1997 and averaging 21.9 points a game his senior year. The Jet went on from there to play 19 years in the NBA, winning a Sixth Man of the Year award in 2009, and he was part of the 2011 Dallas Mavericks championship team.

Terry had moved into the front office side of the business and was serving as the assistant GM of the Texas Legends, Dallas’ G-League affiliate. Now, however, he is jumping back to his alma mater, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

This is a smart hire by Arizona and head coach Sean Miller. High schoolers going to a major D-1 school all have NBA dreams and having a respected NBA veteran who can say “this is what it takes” on staff is a big plus. Besides, Terry was a smart player who knows the game and had a mentality suited to coaching.

For Terry, he’s back in a place he likes, he’s young (42) and has a world of options ahead of him.

Scott Foster says it’s going to be different officiating without fans in building

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The noise from 18,000 people can cover up a lot of sounds in an NBA arena. So when a back-bench assistant coach yells “bulls****” after a call he doesn’t like, the official never hears it and the game moves on.

Not when NBA games restart in fan-less facilities in Orlando in a couple of months. Without those fans, referees are going to get to hear that coach. And a whole lot more.

It’s going to be weird for referees in Orlando, just like for players, veteran official Scott Foster said recently on NBA TV.

I know I don’t want everything that we normally say to each other going out. But normally we’re all in a professional manner out there. But it is going to be different. There’s going to be some assistant coaches that we haven’t really heard from before sitting in the second row that we’ll be able to hear now, so there’s going to be some adjustment there. And then I think we’re going to need to really talk about and analyze what is OK for the public to hear and how we’re going to go about our business.

But it’s definitely going to be a different thing. I’m definitely looking forward to it. I think it’s going to be a really unique experience for the referees, players, coaches, everybody who’s going to go through this.”

It is going to be unique. Everybody is going to hear everything, and that is going to be very different from most nights when coaches have to go to hand signals because it’s too loud just to call out a play. It’s going to lead to some awkward and tense moments.

Everyone is going to have to adjust to the new reality, and that includes the referees, too.

 

Report: NBA group stage could include 24 teams

Wizards guard Bradley Beal and Bulls guard Zach LaVine
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The initial report on the NBA resuming with a group stage presented a 20-team scenario. There’d be four groups with five teams each – one from each tier of the current standings:

  • Tier 1: Bucks, Lakers, Raptors, Clippers
  • Tier 2: Celtics, Nuggets, Jazz, Heat
  • Tier 3: Thunder, Rockets, Pacers, 76ers
  • Tier 4: Mavericks, Grizzlies, Nets, Magic
  • Tier 5: Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Kings, Spurs

Teams would play each other team in its group, and the top two finishers in each group would advance to an eight-team tournament (effectively the second round of the playoffs, though without conference splits).

But that format could apparently include four more teams.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

In brief, per several sources who have seen the league’s proposal: The NBA could take 20 (or 24) teams and divide them into groups

The simplest way to expand to 24 teams would be adding a sixth tier then forming four groups of six. That’d mean adding:

  • Tier 6: Suns, Wizards, Hornets, Bulls

Bleh.

The more games the NBA holds, the more money the league will make. But the more people involved, the more risk of someone contracting and spreading coronavirus. It’s a fine line, and the league has sought a middle ground.

Phoenix, Washington, Charlotte and Chicago strike me as too lousy to include. Those teams are well outside the normal playoff race, and there’s no good reason to believe they would’ve made a late push.

In this environment, they might have shot, though. Coronavirus increases variability. Players have had differing access to resources and differing motivation to train during the hiatus. Once play resumes, positive tests could be scattered randomly. Would anyone view the Suns, Wizards, Hornets or Bulls as deserving of a berth in the eight-team tournament? If one of those four teams qualified, that’d probably just show the setup was flawed.

The fairest way to set the playoffs is with 20 teams, depending on structure. Resuming with just 16 teams wouldn’t be that far behind. The highest financial upside comes with all 30 teams, but that seems infeasible.

Setting the line at 24 teams seems like the worst of most worlds – including four bad teams that wouldn’t generate much interest but would threaten to disrupt everything else.

Michael Porter Jr.: Pray for both George Floyd’s family and police officers involved in ‘this evil’

Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. and Knicks forward Maurice Harkless
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Several NBA players posted about George Floyd, a black man who died after being pinned to the ground by a Minneapolis police officer for about eight minutes.

Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. struck a different tone than most.

Porter:

Knicks forward Maurice Harkless:

Harkless, whose dismay was shared by many, is a seasoned veteran. Porter has made made rookie gaffes.

But I’m uncomfortable criticizing someone for calling for prayer for anyone. For some, prayer can be effective way to cope amid tragedy. Many believe prayer can change the world.

Porter didn’t say prayer alone should be the solution. In fact, he called the situation “evil” and “murder,” seemingly suggesting the need for criminal justice, too.