Lakers hire Luke Walton – Look for a fresh start

Reports came out tonight that Luke Walton has accepted the job as Head Coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. Walton has served as an assistant under Steve Kerr for the past couple of years, gaining a lot of praise for his performance coaching the Warriors while Kerr was absent. Walton was coaching when Golden State went on their 24 game winning streak.

There has been a lot of speculation surrounding Walton’s future employment prospects. It was reported that Walton talked with Phil Jackson about taking over the Knicks coaching job. I had my doubts that Walton would leave the Warriors bench this year, but the news of his signing in LA was exciting, but not entirely unexpected.

In a story that made plenty of headlines this week, Bill Walton advised his son not to take the Lakers position, and it’s hard to blame a father for advising his son not to take a job in what seems to be a toxic work environment.

The Lakers have won just 38 games in the last two seasons. Byron Scott was the worst possible person to coach the rookie and second year players that will make up the core of this team. Now it will be up to Walton to repair the damage that has been done.

I don’t want to get carried away with this hiring, but if nothing else it is proof that the Lakers front office are capable of making rational basketball decisions. The praise for this hire has been alarmingly unanimous with NBA writers around the internet. Walton was the number one name floating around when it came to possible head coaching hires and the Lakers got him.

The Lakers! The same team that hired Byron Scott not too long ago.

There’s going to be a huge learning curve going from being an Assistant Coach for one one of the best run organizations in the league to taking over a team that is the midst of a Game of Thrones-esque family power struggle for control. Not to mention the disparity in talent between Golden State and LA.

As of this writing the dollar amount has not been reported, but I hope Walton was rewarded handsomely for taking over this rebuild, because there’s going to be a lot of work to do, and Lakers fans are not exactly known for there patience when it comes to the Purple and Gold being contenders.

I wrote a little bit yesterday about the Celtics being able to rebuild their franchise on the fly by stock hoarding draft picks and getting the right coach in place to take over a young team. Walton spent two years studying under Steve Kerr, the second best coach in the NBA, a disciple of the All Knowing, Greg Popavich. Walton has a good understanding of how the modern NBA works on offense and defense, and had a couple of months to learn how to balance players minutes – something that is vital in today’s game, yet so many head coaches in the league still struggle with this so much.

Walton has also been praised as being a great players coach. The guys in Golden State swear by him. It’s going to take a deft touch in repairing the broken chemistry in the Lakers locker room, and having a head coach that can have some reliability with the guys in the locker room will be a new, sorely needed development.

With a team as bad as the Lakers, it’s all about making one good move at a time. They have a ton of cap room, and a chance at a top three pick. Let’s see if they can get the pick right, and hopefully with this hiring they can draw some actual NBA level veterans who can help their young core grow. I’m not expecting any super stars to head to LA right away, but the next couple of years is all about building the brand back up to a point where they are able to land stars, hopefully while doing a better job of grooming their young players.

This is asking a whole lot out of Jimmy Buss – and/or whoever is calling the shots now – but hopefully these last couple of years of being a laughing stock has made it clear he/she needs to turn things over to people who know what they are doing.

The Celtics are eliminated from the Playoffs, but the Future looks bright in Boston

In a game that took a backseat to the NFL Draft, and all of the insanity surrounding Laremy Tunsil, the Atlanta Hawks beat the Boston Celtics 102-94 to advance to the second round.

The Hawks came in with a single goal – do not let Isaiah Thomas beat us. Thomas was greeted by multiple defenders every time he came around a pick or drove into the lane. He finished the game with 25 points, but was only 9-24 from the field and 1-7 from deep.

Atlanta’s defense was stout, blocking 12 shots and holding Boston to 36 percent from the field on the night. A lot of the Celtics shooting woes were a result of missed three pointers from players who did not look comfortable taking wide open shots.

This game exposed the Celtics’ fatal flaw – a lack of shooting in their offense. With Thomas getting so much defensive attention, it was up to players like Jae Crowder (5-15), Evan Turner (4-17) and Marcus Smart (4-11) to pick up the slack. There comes a point when too much can be asked out of role players, and as much as I like the guys I mentioned above, you can’t count on any of them to carry an offense over an extended period. The Hawks were aware of this, and devised their entire game plan around forcing the Celts offense to overextend.

The Hawks did a great job of moving the ball around on offense. Six players scored in double figures, and Atlanta finished the night shooting over 50 percent from the field. The combination of Korver’s shooting, Teague’s driving and the ultra solid duo of Millsap and Hortford proved to be too much for Boston. The Hawks were able to get and convert open looks on a more regular basis than the Celtics.

As Boston goes into the off season armed with with the Nets and Mavericks first round pick as well as four second rounders, the mission will be to make a deal for a second playmaker. As great as Isaiah Thomas has been, he is more suited to be a microwave shooter who can come off the bench and wreak havoc on opposing teams’ second units than a starter. Thomas is not a guy you want to have carry a team offensively as well as guard starting quality opposition. The Celtics GM, Danny Ainge has done a brilliant job of assembling this core of great young players, and is not afraid of making a big move to to put his team into championship contention.

As much as it pains me to say this being a Lakers fan, the Celtics are most promising young team in the NBA. While they lack the big name stars of a Timberwolves or Trail Blazers, they are organizationally in a place to be competitive for the foreseeable future. There are no certainties in the NBA, but Ainge has seemingly done the improbable in rebuilding a franchise from top to bottom in less than three years.

The Hawks will move on and try to slay the dragon that is the Cleveland Cavaliers in round two. Game one will take place in Cleveland on Monday night. There are a lot of intriguing match-ups to consider in this series.  Will the Hawks try to throw the bigger Millsapp on LeBron James, or will they unleash their junk yard dog, DeMare Carroll on the King. Can Bazemore stay in front of the increasingly lethal Kryie Irving, or will the Hawks turn to another option to keep the Cavs version of Isaiah Thomas from torching them. I will look at this series closer on Monday, but for now congratulations to Atlanta for beating one hell of a feisty team in the Boston Celtics.

Tonight we get three games. The Pacers look to stave off elimination at home agains the Raptors, in a game that will air on NBA TV and ESPN News (?). The Miami Heat will try to find their offense, which has been M.I.A. in the last couple of game agains the Charlotte Hornets. That game starts at 7:00 PM CT on ESPN. The night cap is between Portland and LA, as the Trail Blazers look to finish off the M.A.S.H. Unit that are the Clippers. I don’t know about everybody else, but I am ready to get into the second round where the match-ups become a lot more interesting, and we can shed some of these teams that are fatally flawed.

Warriors put Rockets out of their misery

At least it was a quick death.

The Warriors were not concerned with who was or was not playing in their 114-81 embarrassing of the Houston Rockets.

The champs shot close to 55 percent from the field and hit 11 of their 19 three point attempts. They had 30 assists to only 9 turnovers. I’m not sure there has ever been a team that can so brutally destroy a team when they smell blood in the water.

Golden State outscored Houston 37-20 in the first quarter, and the lead quickly jumped to 30 points in the second half which is where it stayed. What we watched tonight was a team hungry to prove they can compete for a title no matter who was their starting point guard. On the other side of the court was a team that looked relieved that their long nightmare of a season was finally coming to an end.

Shaun Livingston found himself wide open under the basket for easy layups. Livingston scored 16 points in 28 minutes, and only turned the ball over once. His play has been exactly what the Warriors have needed out of him in Curry’s absence. Both Livingston and Kerr seem to know exactly what is needed out of the veteran for this offense to keep firing on all cylinders.

In what seems like a preview for what we will see in the next series, Draymond Green was running the offense a majority of the time he was on the the court. Green almost had a triple double scoring 15 points, grabbing 9 rebounds and dishing out 8 assists tonight. He finished the game with a plus/minus of +32 in the 31 minutes he was on the court, a number will probably not be reached again for a long, long while.

The player who looked like he was having the most fun out there tonight was Klay Thompson. The lone splash brother had the hot hand, shooting 7-11 from three in a 27 point in 29 minute performance. There was no better time to get Thompson’s confidence up than tonight, and Klay was shooting – and making – shots from ranges that are usually reserved for Steph.

James harden was the only Rockets player to hit a field goal in the period, scoring. Harden scored 25 points on 8-12 attempts in what was the only highlight of Houston’s first half. He finished the game with 35 points on 12-23 shooting.

In what was an odd move that could easily be seen as a FU from Rockets Coach, JB Bickerstaff to Dwight Howard, the Houston big man played over 45 minutes in the blow out. Howard was 3-13 from the field, scoring just 8 points even though he played much of the second half against the likes of Anderson Verejao and Maurice Speights.

I’m not a huge fan of criticizing head coaches in the NBA, but Bickerstaff is not up to the task of coaching an professional team. He has no control over what happens on the court, and his rotations have been horrible since he took over the team. An argument could be made that no coach would have been capable of effectively leading this group of players, but Bickerstaff failed at the basic player management, and play calling that you would expect out of a top level high school coach.

Much like the Clippers, I see the Rockets completely blowing up this team in the offseason. There is about a zero percent chance that Dwight Howard remains on this team. He and James Harden have the on court chemistry of Donald Trump and the Republican establishment.

The obvious move is to get Dwight Howard out of town as soon as possible, but given the way he has been maligned over the last few years I pity the team that thinks they can get real value of the past-his-prime center.

For a team that supposed to be built around James Harden, and his ability to drive the lane and get people wide open looks from beyond the arch, there sure weren’t a lot of players who could make standing threes on this roster. I think Harden is still very much a top five player in this league, and if he has the right players around him I think he could be the best player on a championship squad. His flaws, especially on defense are glaring, but surround him with smart defenders who can also hit open shots and you have the makings of a title team – IF – and I can’t make that if any more pronounced, Harden is as motivated as he was in last years MVP caliber season.

Up next for the Warriors will either be the Portland Trail Blazers or the Los Angeles Clippers. Despite putting up a good fight for a half the mash unit that are the Clips went down to the Blazers 108-98 to go up 3-2 in the series. The dup of Lillard and McCollum scored 49 points. Mason Plumlee added 13 points and 15 rebounds to the win.

Portland will have a shot at closing out the series at home Friday Night and if they do so will get their crack at the defending champions. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but Golden State did beat Portland five out of the seven times they played in the regular season. I would love to see how well Klay and Iggy could match up with Lillard and McCollum, but that is a conversation for another day.

Tonight the champions did what you would expect out of a 73-9 team, they delivered a knock out punch to a team that visibly teetering on the brink. Even without Steph on the court their offense was a marvel to behold tonight. Even if Houston was willing to dig in their heels and try to take one more game of the Warriors, I don’t think it would have made much of a difference. The Rockets laziness was defeated play was the difference of this being a 15 point win for Golden State or the 33 embarrassment it ended up being.

I’m sure there will not be a whole lot of celebration in the warriors locker room tonight. They know that the real challenge begins next week. This is a team that looks ready to stare down any foe that is put in front of them.

Pacers fall short at buzzer

Raps Pac game five

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of watching your favorite team hit a last second shot to tie or win a game. The same can be said when that same shot is waved off.

The Indiana faithful had to come to grips with all of these emotions after Solomon Hill drained a three pointer moments after the buzzer had gone of in the Pacers 102-99 loss to the Raptors. Just a few hundreds of a second earlier and the game would have went into overtime.

This was a complete collapse from Indiana, who led much of the way off of the strength of Paul George. George has been the best two way player of these playoffs. He finished last night with 39 points, eight rebounds and 8 assists. The Pacers were 15 points better than the Raptors when he was on the court.

Indiana was moving the ball well and finding open looks from the corners in the first half, and went into halftime with an 11 point lead.  The offense bogged down to a crawl in the second half. The Pacers offense scored just 38 points, and the torrential downfall of threes in the first two periods (11-17) slowed down to a sprinkle in the final two (2-12).

It was DeMar DeRozan who kept the game within reach for the Raptors. DeRozan has been off and on all series but was aggressive in game five, getting to the free throw line early and often and finishing at the rim at a much higher rate than games 1-4. The Raptors needed everyone of DDR’s 34 points in this one.

Kyle Lowry was not his usual self, shooting just 3-11. He was able to make a couple of big plays on defense late in the game.

Norman Powell came up big in the Raptors comeback – playing good defense, including a steal and thunderous dunk that capped of a 17-2 run that tied the game up in the fourth.

I feel bad watching Paul George try to drag this team to wins night after night. The Pacers bench unit is the worst I’ve seen out of all of the playoff teams this year. The only player that I would take off of this team besides George is Myles Turner, the seven foot tall rookie who has shown nice range and an ability to make great passes out of the high post. The rest of this roster is not suited to make a deep playoff run.

I’m getting really tired of watching Monta Ellis make five or six terrible decisions from the point guard spot, Ellis can at this point is nothing but a streaky scorer who is not consistent enough with his shot to justify his bad defense and poor decision making.

Rodney Stuckey has never been a great player, but he is currently shooting just north of 30 percent from the field, and is missing an unacceptable amount of shots from point blank range for Indiana.

Then there’s the case of Ty Lawson, a player who was much talked about when Houston brought him on last offseason to be a key piece in the Rockets run-back to the Western Conference finals. Well – that did not work out for anyone involved. Lawson never found his place on that Rockets’ blown up chemistry experiment. Since coming to the Pacers he has been relegated mostly to third man duties at point guard and his averaging just two points in 11.6 minutes in this series.

This all to say that Paul George deserves better. The former ALL NBA player is under contract with the Pacers for two more years, and has a player option for the 2018/2019 season. I have no doubt that George will continue to add to his game in the next couple of years, but I would hate to see all that talent wasted on a team that has no sense of identity.

Let’s hope that the Pacers front office can get at least one more championship caliber player around him so we can watch one of the leagues best players get out of the first round, because this team is not going anywhere until they do.


Speaking of teams that are not going anywhere, anytime soon – news broke yesterday that Blake Griffin will miss the rest of playoffs.

Griffin was noticeably in pain at the end of game four, it obvious that he was not fully ready to come back from his quadricep injury. Blake was averaging just 38% from the field in the first round, and there has not been the same kind of crazy athleticism in his game.

There is very little change that a Clippers team without Chris Paul or Blake Griffin can get past the Trail Blazers, to say nothing of the Warriors – Curry or no Curry.

There’s a very good chance that the Clippers break up this team in the post season. Griffin is owed a little over $20 million next year and has a player option for 2017/18, but LA was able to play at a really high level without Blake in the regular season and we all know about the baggage the All Star has with the team.

Of all the pieces the Clippers have to move, Griffin is clearly the most enticing. Blake is only 27 years old, and when he is healthy there are few power forwards who are better. Even though Griffin doesn’t hit a lot of threes, a growing necessity for big men in the league, his passing and mid-range game are more than enough to make him capable of being the second best player on a championship team.

The problem with Blake Griffin, when it comes to way this Clippers team in constructed, is that they already have a max player who can not hit threes and spends a lot of time clogging up the lane in DeAndre Jordan. Both players work best when they are featured in the pick-and-roll with Chris Paul, and both are too good to want to come off of the bench. DeAndre Jordan is $40 million over the next two years, and that is a hefty contract to move for a guy whose free throw shooting at the end of games is so bad that he is unplayable.

There’s a lot to be said about keeping a strong contender together, even if they are not one of the best two teams in the league. When Stephen Curry went down with his injury it looked as if the Clippers were finally going to have their shot at making a real title run, but with the injuries to Paul and Griffin I feel like their windows has slammed shut.

I could be wrong. The Clips could run this team back next year, but this has the feel of a organization that needs to shake things up.

The NBA Playoffs are dark and full of terrors

game of thrones nba

The NBA is a bit like Game Of Thrones, with less nudity (mostly) and dragons.

You have multiple contenders for the throne, some who are fighting to recapture old glories and others who starved for a first shot at the crown.

No one is safe. We saw this last year with the Durant, Irving and Love injuries – and of course with recent events we are reminded how much of a moving target the chase for a title truly is.

Then there are the White Walkers, a seeming inevitability that are the San Antonio Spurs. Their stifling defense and cold, machine like precision on offense are enough to send chills down anyone’s spine.

We even have our own Jon Snow is the form of Stephen Curry. Everyone knows he’s the rightful heir to the crown, but there’s this little hinderance getting in the way of him taking it.

Curry does not need a resurrection to save his team’s season, but Golden State may have gotten some luck from the old gods and new with the events of the last 24 hours.

Be careful out there NBA fans, the night is dark….


Just hours after the Golden State Warriors were hit with the news that Stephen Curry will miss around two weeks with a Grade 1 MCL sprain, Chris Paul broke his hand in the third quarter of the Clippers’ 98-84 loss to the Trail Blazers.

This is brutal. Chris Paul was in the midst of one of the best season’s in his Hall of Fame career. Paul had been averaging 24 points, 7 assists, and over 2 steals in the series. In any other season, Paul would have been a top contender for MVP, carrying a Blake Griffen-less to the four seed in the Western Conference.

I had been thinking all day about how Paul had to be chomping at the bit to finish off the Trail Blazers and get a chance to take out the defending champs before Steph Curry could get back in the lineup. Now the Clipper face an uphill challenge of beating a confident Blazers squad without their court general.

It’s not just that LA is losing one of the great offensive minds in the game, they are also left having to find an answer on defense to the two headed dragon of C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard. The two have been improving every game of these playoffs.

There was a lot less isolation out of Portland’s offense last night. The ball has been moving around, and players like Al-Farouq Aminu who scored a career high 30 points, were key in the Blazers win. Mason Plumlee is showing that he one of the best passing big men league, doling out 10 assists, while grabbing 14 rebounds and blocking four shots.

The Clippers still hold home court advantage in this series that is now tied up at 2-2, but the advantage has swung decisively in Portland’s favor. As much as Austin Rivers has improved in the last year, he is a huge step down from Chris Paul, especially on offense. Jamal Crawford will see increased minutes for the Clips, but his defense is brutal and he is playing against the best backcourt currently in the playoffs (given Steph’s status).

It feels a little twisted to think about how all of these series are going to pan out given the current rash of injuries, but if the Portland/LA series goes to seven games the Warriors get a couple extra days of rest. Curry’s timetable for return is not set in stone, there is a chance that he could return by game two or three of the next series. That’s if they can dispose of the Rockets tomorrow night without Curry.


The Oklahoma City Thunder advanced to the second round last night by disposing of the Dallas Mavericks, in a 118-104 game that was filled with pregame drama.

Before the game Dallas’ enigmatic owner, Marc Cuban said of Russel Westbrook, “I think he’s an All-Star but not a superstar.” This led to much conversation on the interwebs, and served as a great interlude to Westbrook’s dominating 36 point, 9 assist, 12 rebound outing.

I’m not sure if Cuban is off base with his comments. When I think of the word superstar, I tend to think of NBA players who transcend the game like LeBron James and Stephen Curry, but if my team was playing for their playoff lives the last thing I would want to do is rile up Russell Westbrook. Westbrook may not be a superstar in the conventional sense, but he is an absolute X-Man on the court. He’s one of the handful of players I’ve watched in my lifetime that has no parallel.

Westbrook was two rebounds a game short of averaging a triple-double on the season. He has the best first step in the game, and delivers a couple of moments in every game that are awe inspiring. Watch him go up for an offensive rebound, land, then take off like a Sonic Boom back towards the basket. He attacks the basket with such ferocity that you would think it was holding his kids hostage. Russell may not be a “Superstar” but he is the closest thing to a shooting star we have in the game.

 

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Durant took the opportunity to call Cuban an “idiot” in the post-game press conference. The former MVP has definitely been a bit prickly as of late. There was the flagrant two in game four, the litany of mean mugs after made baskets, and now this. There is an incredible amount of pressure on this team to get back to the NBA Finals, especially given Durant’s upcoming free-agency.

The Thunders two super… stars definitely have their phasers set to kill right now.

The OKC will start their series with the San Antonio Spurs next Monday. Get your popcorn ready. It’s going to be savage.

Curry’s injury looms large over NBA Playoffs

Stephen Curry suffered a right knee sprain in the third quarter of the Warriors 121-94 win over the Houston Rockets. The severity of the injury is not known at this time, an MRI is scheduled to take place later today.

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The shadow that Curry’s injury casts of the entirety of the NBA Playoffs is enormous. Even if the MRI results come up negative and Curry is only dealing with a slight knee sprain, it leaves the MVP at less than 100 percent and the Warriors are going to need Curry to be spectacular if they hope to finish off their historic season with a championship.

As much fun as it is to have a completely open field in the Playoffs, their are no narratives that carry as much import as the Warriors quest for the greatest season in NBA history. This is not to knock the other teams in the league, but if Curry’s injury proves to be serious it will be one of the greatest lost opportunities in the history of professional sports. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed that Steph will be able to come back this year and compete at a high level.

The irony of all of this is that the Rockets were playing well until Curry’s injury. The duo of James Harden and Dwight Howard were keeping the game close, and Houston was playing better basketball than Golden State for much of the first half of the game. After Curry left things completely fell apart for the Rockets. The Warriors scored 41 points in the third quarter, and took what was a tie game at half time and made it a 97-76 trouncing going into the final period.

It’s hard to see Houston winning game five whether or not Curry plays. There is a palpable uneasiness around the Rockets players. A lot was made out of the benches reaction to Harden’s game winning shot in game three, but I think more telling is the look on Harden’s face whenever Dwight Howard misses a free throw or when another of his teammates misses a wide open three on one of his passes. This has the feel of a team that is desperate need of breaking up, and I think that starts sooner rather than later.


The San Antonio Spurs and Cleveland Cavaliers both completed their sweeps yesterday, and are looking in top form as they now start their long wait to see who their opponents will be in round two.

I fully expect the Thunder to finish off the long suffering Mavericks tonight at home. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were both handed some hefty fines after Russ berated a fan and Durant’s flagrant two foul in game four, but neither were given suspensions. I don’t think this will be Dirk Nowitzki’s last game, but if it is I hope the big German scores 40. Long live the one legged jump shot!

 

Both the Clippers/Trail Blazers (2-1) and Pacers/Raptors (2-2) have the makings of six or seven game series. I think the keys in both series is whether or not the Trailer Blazers and Raptors can get their second best players (DeRozan/McCollum) going. McCollum had a huge three for the Blazers, scoring 27 points and carrying his squad when Lillard was not on the court. DeRozan had another off night (8 PTS, 4-15 FG, 0-2 3PT) in the Toronto’s game four loss to Indiana. The Raptors do not have enough threats on offense to win series with DeRozan getting his usual 20 PTS a game.


The best series of round one has been the Celtics and Hawks. Game four last night ended in spectacular fashion, as Boston was able to rally late and win 104-95 in overtime. The game came down to Celtics coach Brad Stevens finding the right answer on defense to Paul Millsap, who was torching Boston.

Millsap scored 45 points in the loss, doing damage from in close and from deep. Steven’s put Marcus Smart on Millsap in the fourth quarter and Smart played brilliantly, completely stifling the big man in the final minutes while making big plays on offense in the Celtics comeback. Smart is a really fun player to watch, he is inconsistent of offense, and does not always make the right decision, but his defense and energy make up for whatever he may be lacking in basketball I.Q.

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Isaiah Thomas continued to hit big shots for Boston, scoring 28 points in the win with five of coming in the overtime period. This coming off of his heroic 42 point performance in game three. He is the reason that this series is now tied up at two games apiece. Thomas is quickly becoming a household name in Boston, and will a focal point for Atlanta in the all important game five that will take place in Atlanta tomorrow night.


 

In news that will make any educated basketball fan rejoice, the Lakers have chosen to let Bryon Scott walk. Scott has been one of the worst coaches in recent history, showing little knowledge of how the modern NBA works in terms of personnel decisions, and when it comes to basic principles of offense and defense. He was not the right coach for a rebuilding team in any sense other than the Lakers were a terrible team that will be in the lottery for the third year in a row.

It burns a little as a Lakers fan that Tom Thibodeau expressed interest in taking the Lakers coaching job, but was turned away because Thibs reportedly wanted control over personnel decisions. Thibodeau would have been a great coach for guys like Clarkson, Russell and Randle, and would have provided some legitimacy to the franchise as they chase free agents in these next two all-important off seasons.

The other obvious candidate for the job is Luke Walton, who played his entire Career for the Lakers and is the hottest person left in the market. Walton has not expressed outright his interest in leaving his assistant job with the Warriors, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he stays for a least one more year under the tutorage of Steve Kerr.

This is an important off season for Los Angeles. If the Lakers are fortunate enough to land a top two pick and do well in free agency, they will have the foundation of a team that can compete in the Western Conference for the foreseeable future – that’s if they can find a coach with the talent and patience to build up the team’s young core. I’m not sure if that coach is out there, or if Jim Buss (president of basketball operations) has the wherewithal to pick the right guy, but getting rid of Byron Scott was the best decision this organization has made in a long while. Here’s to hoping it’s the start of a better era for the purple and gold.

Rockets best Curry-less Warriors

We did it everybody!

It took the MVP sitting out of a road game, but we finally got a fun game out of round one of the NBA Playoffs!

James Harden played one of his best games of the season, and hit a beautiful step back jumper to give the Rockets a one point lead with seconds to play.

On the ensuing inbound Draymond Green fumbled a pass off of his leg and the Rockets took Game 3, 97-96.

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The Beard broke out all of his old tricks last night, driving into the lane with full intentions of either getting fouled or making a pass to wide open teammate.  Harden finished the night with 35 points, 8 rebounds and 9 assists. He got to the free throw line five times and made 9-11 shots from the stripe.

Dwight Howard had a dominant first half for the Rockets, getting himself into great post up position on many possessions, and was a force coming of pick-and-rolls. There are moments when Howard still looks like the All World Center that he was five years ago, but he spent much of the second half as an afterthought on offense, and had to be pulled when Golden State started to play Hack-A-Howard late in the game.

The Warriors were struggling to come up with consistent offense, Klay Thompson and Green both struggled with their games. Klay only shot 7-20 from the field and Green finished the game with 7 turnovers and struggled with his shot as well.

Maurice Speights was the best player for Golden State Thursday night, his 22 points were what kept the champs in the game. He was even able to extend past his regular mid-game range, making three of six three point attempts.

Ian Clark also made some great plays down the stretch for the Warriors, Steve Kerr has shown a lot of faith in the rookie this year and it paid dividends last night. Clark hit a couple of layups late in the contest, including one that put Golden State up one point before Harden’s heroics.

It took every last bit of fight for the Rockets to hold of the Warriors. To be honest, I didn’t think this team had that much fight left in them. When Harden and Howard are both playing hard this is still a tough out for any team in the league.

The question now becomes how bad is Curry’s ankle really bothering him? It has been an easy decision to keep Steph out of these games given the Warriors have been cruising to wins, but now that Houston has a win will Steve Kerr push to have the MVP back in game four?

My hunch is that Curry will sit in the next game if he is still feeling considerable pain, and is not able to play at close to 100%. The Warriors had an off game in almost every metric and were still one shot away from winning Game Three. There’s no need for the World Champs to put there best player at risk.


OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER 131 – DALLAS MAVERICKS 102

All of the usual suspects showed up for the Thunder last night. Westbrook started the game off by getting his teammates involved (15 AST) and became more of a scorer late (26 PTS). Durant came out shooting early and often, and did a good job of getting to the foul line. He finished the night with 34 points, with nine points coming from the FT line. The Thunder got excellent production from their role players; with Ibaka, Kanter and Waiters combining for 56 points.

TORONTO RAPTORS 101 – INDIANA PACERS 85

With the minutes restriction lifted off of DeMare Carroll, the Raptors super utility man flourished. Carroll played stifling defense on Paul George, holding the All Star to only 6-19 shooting. He was also a factor on offense, scoring 17 points in 35 minutes. DeMar DeRozan had a a comeback game of sorts, scoring 21 points, getting to the foul line plenty and playing more like his regular self. Kyle Lowry had another strong game scoring 21 points and dishing out 8 assists. I’m becoming more and more of a fan of Corey Joseph whose play off the bench for Toronto has been outstanding, he finished last night with 10 points, 4 assists, and a steal in 24 solid minutes of play.