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Actor Ethan Hawke criticized the Knicks publicly, they took away his tickets

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The Knicks like having celebrities at their games — it’s good for the buzz in the building, the brand. So, like other NBA teams, they paper the house and give tickets to celebrities in prime spots. (Not Jack Nicholson, for the record he pays for those Lakers’ seats).

Actor Ethan Hawke — Dead Poet’s Society, Reality Bites, Training Day, The Purge, and who could forget Predestination… well, a lot of people — was one of those celebrities. He had grown up in the greater New York region and was a big Knicks fan — one who got those gift tickets from the team.

Until he publicly criticized the team. From The Bill Simmons Podcast, here is a transcript of Hawke talking Knicks tickets and how he lost them after criticizing them for keeping Carmelo Anthony. (Hat tip CBS Sports.)

“I’ve been a Knicks fan for a long time, but I got kicked out of the Garden. They won’t give me tickets anymore…

“I really was vocal on some talk shows like this that I thought it was a huge mistake to let Mike (D’Antoni) go and I would have bet on Mike (D’Antoni) before I bet on Melo….

“One person who owns (the team doesn’t like him)… I called up one night and they said it would be $7,800. I was like, ‘Oh, um, oh, why is this the first time you guys are charging me?’ They said that you should have thought of that before you went on the Jimmy Fallon Show. I was like, ‘Wow, this is real.’ So I’ve apologized publicly many times to try and get my seats again.”

These were free tickets, so let’s not shed too many tears for Hawke here.

However, if criticizing James Dolan or ‘Melo or the Knicks’ decisions costs you seats, would there be anyone left in New York who could go to games?

Consider it another reminder of the rather overly controlling, image-conscious, dictatorial atmosphere Dolan has created in Madison Square Garden. Hopefully, the new front office combo of Steve Mills and Scott Perry, along with new coach David Fizdale, can navigate away from and shield the basketball side from too much of that and allow it to flourish.

Report: Raptors explored DeMar DeRozan trade options last summer

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How far are the Toronto Raptors going to go with their shakeup?

They have already fired coach Dwane Casey after a 59-win season, bringing in a new voice to a good lineup. Is a new voice and some new sets enough? Or is it time for a big roster move — trading DeMar DeRozan?

The Raptors considered that a year ago and may well consider it again, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times, in his weekly newsletter.

Word is that the Raptors quietly explored their DeMar DeRozan trade options last summer —  before they had any inkling that a breakout season was looming — and I’d fully expect Toronto to explore those possibilities again. Not just with DeRozan but with anyone and everyone on the roster.

Teams test the market for their best players more than most fans think, not because they want to make a trade but because they want to know the market value of a player. Does the team value its star more than other teams? Undervalue? It’s information a GM wants, even if he has zero intention of pulling the trigger on a trade.

We don’t know how far the Raptors went down that road. We don’t know yet how far they would drive down it now. If the Raptors want to shake up the roster, a DeRozan trade is the most likely way. (Nobody is taking on Serge Ibaka‘s anchor of a contract, and while Jonas Valanciunas provides value on the court, the Raptors would have to throw in the sweetener of a quality young player to get another team to bite.

DeRozan is their most valuable trade asset if they want to go that way, an All-Star wing who can fill up the scoreboard — 23 points and 5.2 assists per game last season. He can get his shot, a lot of teams need that. He’s also owed $55.5 million guaranteed over the next two seasons with a player option at $27.7 million the year after that. Not many teams can or would take that on, and the Raptors are not looking to rebuild so they will want players back who can help them now.

A deal is not impossible with another team frustrated with their standing and roster, looking to shake things up (there are a number of those around the league right now). Maybe they can get in on a blockbuster deal if Kawhi Leonard becomes available (he’s not now, and could the Raptors re-sign him after his contract ends in 2019?), or some other superstar.

More than likely, the Raptors will run it back with mostly the same roster. Masai Ujiri will explore his options, but outside of changing the coach they are limited.

Forget the isolation offense, Rockets’ awful Game 1 defense is much bigger problem

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The image from Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals that should keep coach Mike D’Antoni up at night is not Kevin Durant taking fadeaway jumpers right over the top of P.J. Tucker, or even Stephen Curry working hard and getting a couple of steals off James Harden as the Rockets tried to isolate him on defense.

No, Houston’s nightmares should be filled with Klay Thompson hitting wide open, uncontested three after uncontested three.

Thompson took 18 shots in Game 1 and only four were contested (according to the NBA’s tracking data). He finished with 28 points and six made threes on 15 attempts. All game long Harden — the primary defender on Thomspon much of the night — either got burned by Thompson on cuts or just lost him as he tried to switch and help on others. Nine of Curry’s 15 shots were also uncontested. Harden, despite his 41 points on one end of the floor, was a defensive mess that the Warriors targeted all night long in Game 1.

A lot was made — both on the national broadcast and in writing out of that game — about the Rockets isolation-heavy offense and how the Warriors defended that. It is worth some discussion, although that is precisely how the Rockets have played all season — slowing the pace (they were 14th in the NBA) and hunting out mismatches with Harden and Chris Paul, two of the best isolation players in the game. Points for everyone else came off those actions. That is who the Rockets are now.

The Rockets bigger problem in Game 1 was their switching defense — the Warriors had a 118.4 offensive rating for the game (points scored per 100 possessions, stats via Cleaning the Glass), with a ridiculous team true shooting percentage of 65.4.

If the Rockets can’t do a better job of getting stops, this is going to be a short series.

“When you get this deep in the playoffs, it’s all about defense. You have to be a great defensive team to win a championship,” Warriors’ coach Steve Kerr said after the game. “You just have to be.”

The Rockets had the sixth-best defense in the NBA in the regular season, but they looked nothing like that in Game 1. They couldn’t get the ball out of the hands of Durant, Curry, or Thompson.

The Warriors three best players — three of the best shooters/scorers in the game today — were able to get up 60 of the Warriors 80 shots in this game (and a combined 26 three-point attempts). If the best scorers in the world get to take 75 percent of the team’s shot attempts, the Warriors are going to win. Meanwhile, the guys most teams want to force to shoot didn’t have too much: Andre Iguodala took just three shots, Draymond Green five, Kevon Looney one. Every game one of the Warriors’ big three is going to get up a lot of shots, but if all three of them do (and a lot of those looks are not contested) it’s going to be a long night.

“(Durant is) seven feet, shoots falling away, he’s one of the best scorers ever, right?” D’Antoni said. “I thought he was extremely good. We can withstand that. We can’t withstand turning the ball over, missing layups, Klay Thompson got up 15 threes — he can’t get up 15 threes. We’re switching everything and staying out for that reason. So we have to clean up some stuff.”

All season long the Rockets switched everything defensively — every on and off the ball pick, even when they didn’t have to — in preparation for this series. Against the Warriors’ versatility switching is needed and must be seamless. Houston did not do that in Game 1.

The Rockets did do a couple good things defensively, such as limiting the Warriors in transition. Golden State started 15.3 percent of their possessions in this game in transition, a much lower percentage than in the regular season (when the Warriors were north of 20 percent). However, when the Warriors did run they were very efficient, scoring 114.3 points per 100 possessions (stats via Cleaning the Glass).

It was not enough. The Rockets need to be much better in Game 2.

The Rockets need more Clint Capela on Wednesday night — he had a couple of blocks and played respectable defense in this game.

More than that, the Rockets need better team defense from guys like Harden, Paul, Trevor Ariza, Tucker and the rest. They need to contest shots, and they need to not let the Warriors best shooters — again, some of the best shooters in the game — take the 75 percent of the team’s shots.

The Rockets will score more points in Game 2 and going forward in this series. They will find their spots against the Warriors defense.

None of that will matter if Houston doesn’t get more stops. Defense is going to win them this series.

 

Klay Thompson blew kisses to Houston crowd after fourth quarter three

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Klay Thompson had a big night in Game 1 — 28 points, shooting 6-of-15 from three.

Thompson was in such a groove, feeling so confident, that after a crucial fourth-quarter three he turned to the Rockets’ crowd and blew kisses.

What should be more concerning to the Rockets is that Thomson got off 15 threes because if Houston’s defense had too many lapses. Do that and the Warriors will exploit it with threes and backdoor cuts leading to dunks. Thompson had all of that going in Game 1.

Golden State looks every bit the juggernaut in Game 1 win in Houston

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Golden State would like to remind you they are the defending NBA champions. For good reason.

Houston brought its MVP to the table in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals and James Harden had 41 points on 24 shots, hit five threes and had seven assists. The Rockets brought the three ball and took 37 of them (hitting 35.1 percent). They brought their switching defense aimed directly and dealing with the Warriors.

None of it mattered.

Kevin Durant looked like the MVP he once was too with 37 points on 27 shots. The Warriors hit just as many threes as the Rockets (in four fewer shots). More importantly, they picked apart the lapses in the Rockets switching defense — and there were plenty, more and more as the game wore on and players got tired. Klay Thompson kept getting uncontested threes (he had 28 points). Harden was a defensive liability and the Warriors directly targeted him.

The result was a 119-106 Golden State win in Game 1 on the road, where the Warriors were comfortably ahead through the final minutes of the game.

The Warriors now lead the series 1-0 and look in control, having won the first game on the Rockets’ home court.

The big difference in this game was the defense — the Warriors were solid, making the Rockets really work hard for their buckets on every possession. The Rockets would do that for stretches, but then have breakdowns in matchups or effort that led to layups or uncontested threes.

The Rockets tried to make Durant work for his buckets, but it usually just didn’t matter.

“Kevin is the ultimate luxury,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after the game. “A play can break down and you just throw him the ball. He can get a bucket as well as anybody on Earth.”

Harden went off in this one — as he has done in the first couple games of the first two rounds of the playoffs — and in this game the Rockets relentlessly targeted Stephen Curry, setting picks to force him onto Harden. Curry did not have a standout offensive night (18 points, eight assists), but he battled Harden as best he could on defense, gave a full effort and make Harden put in the effort. Draymond Green was able to help a lot, especially when Clint Capela sat (he needs to play more, especially late), but give Curry credit for the effort.

“If that’s the game plan they want to stick with, my job is to make it as tough as possible,” Curry said.

“We know James is an all-world scorer, he’s gonna make shots over us, we just try to stay solid,” Durant said.

Houston got the start it wanted — Harden hit a couple of stepback threes early, one over Curry. Harden opened the game with 12 fast points on 4-of-6 shooting. Green cane out over-hyped and emotional, picked up a needless technical for shoving Harden, and made some defensive mistakes. Capela was making plays on defense in the paint and held his own.

“Well, they home for Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, we knew they were going to come out with a lot of energy, especially after that long layoff,” Durant said. “We just tried to take that first punch and keep fighting.”

Keep fighting they did. The Warriors were the Warriors. They stayed steady, Kevin Durant had 17 points in the first half, Klay Thompson hit a couple of threes and Nick Young came out of nowhere to drain three more from deep in the first half.

The Rockets never pulled away, it was 30-29 Houston after one quarter, and 56-56 at the half. It felt like a blow chance.

Durant owned the third, with 13 points, and the Warriors stretched their lead out to double digits, but a late 8-0 Rockets run kept it close 87-80 after three. Still, the Rockets just could not execute well enough down the stretch.

The Warriors could. They have done this before. And unless the Rockets find another couple of gears, the Warriors are going to again.