This result wIll be only stalling the inevitable at this point, but it makes you wonder: What if there had been no Rajon Rondo this series? What if it had been J.J. Barea and Monta Ellis in the backcourt from the start?
Barea came in and sped up the tempo of the Dallas offense. Monta Ellis clearly plays more freely without Rondo next to him. Rick Carlisle finally just went with his best lineup, and it worked.
Ellis put up 31 points, Barea had 17 points and 13 assists, Dallas owned Game 4 from the second quarter on and beat Houston 121-109, much to the delight of the Dallas home crowd.
Houston still leads the series 3-1. Game 5 is in Houston on Tuesday.
To have seen the start of this game, you would never have guessed the ending. The Rockets came out pounding the ball inside and getting the buckets they wanted — Dwight Howard was 5-of-5 in the first quarter, James Harden had 10 points on six shots (and he was attacking), and as a team the Rockets shot 68.7 percent. It was the kind of quarter where even when the Mavericks went to hack-a-Rocket and fouled Clint Capela he hit both free throws. At the end of one the Rockets were up 34-25.
Then everything changed. The second quarter started to feel like an elimination game, with some chippy play and Rick Carlisle picking up a technical for complaining to the refs. The Rockets missed five shots in a row, Howard went 1-of-9 from the free-throw line and Houston started to come apart (when teams go to hack-a-Howard he often gets passive). That plus some big plays from Monta Ellis and Barea pushing the ball in transition sparked a 28-11 Dallas run. By halftime, Dallas was up 61-53.
Then Dallas opened the second half on a 20-4 run. Houston shot 0-12 from the field to start the third quarter while Dallas hit 8-of-11.Dallas shot 67 percent in third quarter; they blew the game open and were never seriously threatened.
A lot of things went right for the Mavericks. Al-Farouq Aminu did a good job on James Harden, holding him to 24 points and a relatively quiet night. Dallas was strong on the offensive glass grabbing 37.2 percent of their missed shots. Dallas did everything well save hit their free throws (9-of-21).
The question is can they replicate all of that on the road? And can Kevin McHale make some adjustments to end the series Tuesday night and let his team get some rest while they wait for the winner of the Spurs/Clippers series?
Game 4 felt like the series we expected from these two teams, and Dallas showed Houston is going to have to earn Game 5.
PBT Extra: No Rajon Rondo, no Chandler Parsons, Dallas is in trouble vs. Houston
Houston was the favorite anyway, but the debacle with Rajon Rondo and the injury to Chandler Parsons leaves Dallas shorthanded and missing key pieces. In this PBT Extra Jenna Corrado wonders if it will be addition by subtraction for Dallas without Rondo, and in the short term it may (especially if Devin Harris can play).
But an engaged Rondo would have been a different story. Probably. We will never know.
LeBron James lifts Kyrie Irving and Cavaliers to 3-0 lead over Celtics
BOSTON – LeBron James saw Kyrie Irving, who’d just gotten decked while shooting, laying on the floor and wasn’t going to let anyone get in his way of helping up his teammate – including Jae Crowder, who stood directly between the two Cavaliers.
LeBron grabbed Crowder to move him out of the way, and Crowder took offense. LeBron looked at Crowder, pointed to a sprawled-out Irving and continued toward Irving while Evan Turner pushed LeBron.
The Celtics scratched and clawed and successfully limited Irving, but they couldn’t stop LeBron (31 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, four steals and two blocks) from lifting Cleveland to a 103-95 Game 3 win Thursday. Up 3-0 in his fourth playoff series against Boston, LeBron will seek his first sweep in Game 4 Sunday.
Asked the plan for defending LeBron, Crowder refused to divulge for a fear of giving LeBron helpful information.
“Because it’s definitely been working,” Turner said wryly.
Not only do the Celtics lack an answer for LeBron, they can’t limit enough of his teammates.
Kevin Love (23 points, nine rebounds and three assists) played a strong No. 2. J.R. Smith (15 points on 12 shots) broke out of his funk. And Tristan Thompson came up with timely offensive rebounds.
Even with Irving – who led Game 1 with 30 points and scored 26 in Game 2 – not making a shot until midway through the third quarter and finishing with just 13 points on 3-of-11 shooting, that was enough to best Boston.
Not that the Celtics made it easy.
Instead of LeBron’s old nemeses like Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo, it was Crowder, Turner and Avery Bradley providing resistance. But this group of Celtics, while pesky, couldn’t sustain it.
Boston gained momentum late in the first half. Cleveland ended it on a 12-0, capped by six straight LeBron points.
Brad Stevens opened the second half with Crowder and Jonas Jerebko instead of starters Marcus Smart and Brandon Bass, and the Celtics scored the third quarter’s first eight points to tie the game. A late 8-2 run featuring five Crowder points and Crowder assisting a Turner triple got Boston within three. The Celtics never led after halftime.
“We’ve got finishers on our team,” Cavaliers coach Blatt said.
Even when the Cavaliers were out of rhythm, LeBron isolated and scored. Boston – like most teams – just don’t anyone who can match what he does, which he rubbed in at one point:
“Boston’s not going away,” Blatt said. “They haven’t up to this point, and they won’t.”
That may be true.
But as long as Cleveland has LeBron, it probably doesn’t matter.
Report: Rajon Rondo planned to sign with Lakers before trade, will leave Mavericks if Rick Carlisle remains coach
If he panned to sign with them before, I can’t see why that still wouldn’t be the case now. Rondo remains respectful of Kobe, and other suitors will likely back off due to this disastrous run in Dallas.
The Lakers should back off, too, but this could come down to how deferential they are to Kobe. If Kobe wants Rondo, would they say no? What if Rondo still wants a max contract?
Rondo still belongs in the NBA, but the right price is far, far below a max contract. The Lakers – and all teams – should proceed with caution.