Month: May 2018

Community Shootaround: Game 7 Prediction

It seems like Boston has fielded two teams in the postseason. There are the Home Celtics, who have been unbeatable, and the Away Celtics, who can’t beat hardly anyone.

Fortunately for Boston fans, it’s the Home Celtics who will be playing the Cavaliers tomorrow for a spot in the NBA Finals. Boston is 10-0 at the TD Garden during the postseason, but just 1-7 on the road. The Celtics have an offensive rating of 107.7 in their home games, about 10 points higher than away from home.

“I truly believe it’s our fans,” Al Horford explained to Jack McCluskey of The Ringer. “I feel like our guys feed off of them and it really just drives us as a group. … You get on the road and you’re just out there against everybody else. Here, I just think that our guys just feel comfortable and good. It’s a credit to the atmosphere that’s here.”

On the other side is LeBron James, who has been brilliant no matter where he has played. James is averaging close to a triple double with 33.9 points, 8.9 rebounds and 8.8 assists in 17 playoff contests and kept Cleveland alive with a 46/11/9 performance in Friday’s Game 6.

The Cavs will be short-handed for tomorrow’s game with Kevin Love already ruled out because of a concussion. Love has been one of the few reliable scorers alongside James, averaging 13.9 points per game in the postseason.

The edge in playoff experience easily goes to the Cavs, who have been to three straight Finals [eight straight for LeBron], while the Celtics field a young roster with few players who have ever experienced this level of postseason pressure.

There are many things that could decide Game 7, but we want to get your take. Who pulls out what James called one of the best two-word phrases in sports and represents the East in the NBA Finals? Please leave your responses in the comments section below.

Wolves Notes: Butler, Towns, Thibodeau, Wiggins

Last summer’s Jimmy Butler trade was a good move for the Timberwolves even though they parted with several promising young talents, writes Britt Robson of The Athletic. Minnesota swung a draft night blockbuster with the Bulls, giving up Kris DunnZach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen for Butler and Justin Patton.

The deal paid dividends for the Wolves, who reached the playoffs for the first time in 13 years, and Robson contends that Butler has already become the second-best player in franchise history, trailing only Kevin Garnett.

On the down side, Butler missed 23 games because of injuries and was a steadfast defender of coach Tom Thibodeau, creating a rift with some of his young teammates. Robson advises the front office to delay renegotiating Butler’s contract, which pays him nearly $20.5MM next season with a $19.8MM player option for 2019/20, to see how the situation plays out.

Robson passes along more info from Minnesota in his mailbag column:

  • Rumors that Thibodeau could get fired this summer are premature, although the locker room has become increasingly divided between loyalists who previously played for Thibodeau in Chicago and younger players who are turned off by his abrasive style. However, replacing Thibodeau now would anger Butler and Taj Gibson and leave the team at a disadvantage heading into the draft and free agency. Robson believes Thibodeau, who still has three years left on his contract, could be in danger if the Wolves don’t move up the Western Conference ladder next season.
  • It will be surprising if Karl-Anthony Towns is put on the trade market this summer, even if the rumors about his unhappiness in Minnesota are true. Towns is just 22 and is under team control for at least two more seasons. A suggested deal for the Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard wouldn’t work for the Wolves because there’s no good way to replace Towns in the middle. Towns reportedly wants a bigger role in the offense and less “tough love” from Thibodeau and Butler.
  • Minnesota probably should have passed on an extension for Andrew Wiggins last summer and dealt with him as a restricted free agent. Robson suggests Thibodeau may have been forced into the move by owner Glen Taylor, but adds that a trade is unlikely now because it would be difficult for the Wolves to get equal value in return.
  • The team would almost certainly have to surrender a first-round pick to unload the contract of Gorgui Dieng, who is owed more than $48MM over the next three years. Thibodeau lost confidence in Dieng during the season and his playing time was cut nearly in half.

Eastern Finals Notes: Tatum, Horford, James, Love

Cleveland will have to play Game 7 without Kevin Love, but Boston’s Jayson Tatum came away from Friday night’s collision relatively unscathed. Coach Brad Stevens told reporters that doctors checked on Tatum today and said he’s in “great” condition, tweets ESPN’s Chris Forsberg. Tatum will continue to be monitored up to tomorrow’s game, but right now the team isn’t worried about his availability.

Tatum was defending Love when they bumped heads in the first quarter and said it took him a while to shake off the effects, relays A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston.

“They asked me if I was dizzy, if I had a headache,” said Tatum, who underwent concussion testing on the sidelines. “I’m fine.”

There’s more on the eve of Game 7:

  • Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson, who barely played when the postseason began, has helped turn the series around with his defense on Al Horford, notes Adam Himmeslbach of The Boston Globe. Cleveland is outscoring Boston by 3.2 points per 100 possessions when they are on the court together, but the Celtics have a 19.2 edge when Horford plays without Thompson. Boston’s big man was visibly frustrated after Friday’s game, which included a healthy dose of double teaming. “If you were watching the game, I was getting doubled as soon as I caught the ball,” Horford said to reporters. “Every time, I didn’t really have one-on-one position. So they did a good job of really doubling me and making it hard.”
  • As bad as the Love injury news was for Cavaliers fans, things could have been worse, relays Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Larry Nance Jr. collided with LeBron James during the fourth quarter on a play that reminded McMenamin of an incident that caused Kevin Durant to miss a significant part of last season. “I just felt someone fall into my leg, and my leg kind of went in,” said James, who was limping when he left the arena. “I felt some pain throughout my entire right side of my ankle into my leg. I was just hoping for the best, obviously, because I’ve seen so many different injuries, and watching basketball with that type of injury, someone fall into one’s leg standing straight up. Luckily, I was able to finish the game.”
  • Love’s injury means James will likely have to improve on his already-superhuman effort, writes Justin Verrier of The Ringer. Love is averaging 13.9 points and 10.0 rebounds in the postseason, but he hasn’t been especially effective against the Celtics, Verrier notes. He has a minus-7.4 net rating in the series, worst on the team other than Rodney Hood.

Andre Iguodala Out For Game 6

Warriors forward Andre Iguodala will miss his third straight game tonight, tweets Chris Haynes of ESPN.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr confirmed the decision, relays Anthony Slater of The Athletic (Twitter link). “Until he’s able to run without pain, I can’t play him,” Kerr told reporters at a pre-game press conference, adding that Iguodala’s status remains day-to-day.

The 34-year-old is dealing with a bone bruise in his left knee that he suffered when he bumped knees with James Harden in Game 3. The Rockets have won both games that Iguodala has missed and have a chance to close out the series tonight.

Kevon Looney, who has started the past two games in Iguodala’s absence, will likely get a starting assignment again tonight. Patrick McCaw was activated earlier today after missing nearly two months, but Kerr isn’t sure whether he will play, acknowledging that it’s a “tough” situation.

Iguodala was a valuable contributor before the injury, averaging 7.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 3.1 APG and 1.4 SPG in the playoffs and starting 12 of the 13 games in which he has appeared. He is an important component of the “Hamptons Five” lineup that makes Golden State so difficult to match up with.

Draft Notes: Huell, Rose, Pipkins, Caroline

With the deadline to withdraw from the draft coming on Wednesday, several players have reached their final decisions. Among them is Miami forward Dewan Huell, who will return to school for his junior season, writes Jordan McPherson of The Miami Herald.

Huell, who made a formal announcement on Twitter earlier today, averaged 11.4 points and 6.7 rebounds in 32 games this season. “I’m really excited to get back to work with my brothers so we can accomplish more than ever during the 2018-19 season,” he wrote.

Huell doesn’t appear in the list of top 100 prospects compiled by ESPN’s Jonathan Givony and would have been a long shot to be drafted.

There’s more draft-related news to pass along:

Hoops Rumors Originals: 5/19/18 – 5/26/18

Every week we strive to create interesting and original content to complement our news feed. Here are the original segments and features from the past seven days:

Patrick McCaw To Be Activated For Game 6

2:38pm: Both McCaw and Iguodala are officially listed as questionable for tonight’s Game 6, per Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post.

1:36pm: The Warriors are planning to activate Patrick McCaw for Game 6 tonight against the Rockets, reports Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports. It would be the first time McCaw has played since he injured his back in a scary fall on March 31.

The Warriors have lost both games against the Rockets since Andre Iguodala injured his left leg in Game 3, and Iguodala remains questionable for Game 6, so perhaps Golden State is hoping McCaw will be able to mimic some of Iguodala’s talents should he still not be ready to go.

Anthony Slater of The Athletic reminds us that McCaw had trouble walking and sleeping for about a month after his injury, and that recovery was slow at first, meaning it’d be a monumental ask for the Warriors to expect too much out of McCaw in his first game back.

Before his injury, McCaw was averaging 4.0 points and 1.4 rebounds in 16.9 minutes per game.

Five Key Stories: 5/19/18 – 5/26/18

In case you missed any of the past week’s top stories from around the NBA, we have you covered with our Week in Review. Below are the most noteworthy stories from the last seven days.

Rockets’ point guard Chris Paul injured his right hamstring in his team’s Game 5 win against the Warriors and has been ruled out for Game 6 in Oakland. Paul will be re-evaluated after the team returns to Houston for Game 7 or in preparation of the NBA Finals, but there is pessimism inside the organization that Paul would be ready for a Game 7.

The NBA announced the 2017/18 All-NBA Teams, with James Harden and LeBron James both unanimously selected to the First Team. They were joined by Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, and Kevin Durant. The Second Team was made up of Russell Westbrook, DeMar DeRozan, Giannis Antetokounmpo, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Joel Embiid, while Stephen Curry, Victor Oladipo, Jimmy Butler, Paul George, and Karl-Anthony Towns rounded out the Third Team.

The NBA announced the 2017/18 All-Defensive Teams, with Jazz center Rudy Gobert receiving the most votes. He was joined on the First Team by Oladipo and Sixers forward Robert Covington, as well as Pelicans’ teammates Davis and Jrue Holiday. The Second Team consisted of Embiid, Butler, Draymond GreenAl Horford, and Spurs’ guard Dejounte Murray.

The NBA announced the 2017/18 All-Rookie Teams, with Sixers forward Ben Simmons and Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell both voted as unanimous First Team selections. Celtics forward Jayson Tatum almost joined them, receiving 99 out of a possible 100 First Team votes. Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma and Bulls power forward Lauri Markkanen rounded out the First Team, while the Second Team consisted of Mavericks point guard Dennis Smith Jr., Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball, Hawks big man John Collins, Kings guard Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Suns swingman Josh Jackson.

The Raptors conducted interviews with several candidates for the team’s next head coach, with Raptors 905’s Jerry Stackhouse (link) and Spurs’ assistant coaches Ettore Messina and Ime Udoka (link) all meeting with front office personnel. Stackhouse took over the head coaching job with Raptors 905 two seasons ago, leading the G League team to two straight championship game appearances, while Messina or Udoka would be the second Spurs’ assistant to receive a head coaching job this Spring after James Borrego was hired by the Hornets.

Here are 11 more headlines from the past week:

Kevin Love Placed In Concussion Protocol; Out For Game 7

MAY 26, 12:57pm: Vardon has now tweeted that Love has been ruled out for Game 7.

MAY 26, 12:53pm: Love was placed in the NBA’s concussion protocol today and his status for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals tomorrow night is uncertain, reports Joe Vardon of The Plain Dealer.

Vardon adds that Love will travel to Boston, but will have to pass a series of tests before being cleared to play.

MAY 25, 9:15pm: Kevin Love left Game 6 of the Cavaliers‘ Eastern Conference Finals matchup against Celtics on Friday after a collision with forward Jayson Tatum.

The injury occurred about five minutes into the first quarter after Tatum’s shoulder struck Love in the head. Love remained on the floor for several minutes before being helped to the bench and later evaluated in the locker room. He was ruled out for the remainder of the game for precautionary reasons. Love grabbed four rebounds before exiting due to injury.

Love’s status for Game 7 on Sunday remains unclear as a source tells ESPN that his prognosis will depend on him getting rest. There is cause for concern as Love has a documented history of concussions. The Cavaliers All-Star left a March 28 contest against the Hornets after an errant elbow knocked a tooth loose and caused him to feel concussion-like symptoms. Love also suffered a concussion during Game 2 of the 2016 NBA Finals.

While he has struggled at times, Love is still a vital piece to the Cavaliers’ lineup. In the postseason, he has averaged 14.8 PPG and 10.4 RPG for the club.

And Ones: Hinkie, Mental Health Program, RFA, Wear

Sam Hinkie, who is often credited for the current success of the Sixers, has reportedly landed a consultation role with the Denver Broncos of the National Football League, per Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic (subscription required). Hinkie served as the Sixers’ general manager from 2013 until 2016 when he stepped down from the role.

Hinkie is viewed as a pioneer for analytics use in the NBA and using data to build a team. The 40-year-old was at the helm for several poor seasons for Philadelphia but his strategy helped the organization stockpile several top picks, which led to a rejuvenation, culminating this season with a 52-30 regular season. Hinkie previously was the youngest vice president in NBA history when he landed the title with the Rockets in 2007.

In his role with the Broncos, Hinkie will be an analytics consultant that helps with the team’s strategy for years to come. Jhabvala examines all of the top Broncos personnel Hinkie met with and their expectations from his respected acumen.

Check out more news and notes from around the basketball world:

  • The National Basketball Players Association announced a new Mental Health and Wellness program on Friday. The program will be available to all NBPA members to assist with any mental health issues. Former NBA player Keyon Dooling, who has served as a mental health counselor since January, will oversee the program.“I am thrilled to be a part of this new program within the NBPA,” Dooling said in a statement. “I look forward to serving the needs of our players and to continue normalizing the conversation around mental health in the NBA.”
  • Lang Green of Basketball Insiders looks at which upcoming restricted free agents will be impacted this summer due to the NBA’s salary cap situation. Rodney Hood, Marcus Smart, and Julius Randle are among the players Green writes could be impacted.
  • Former Kings player David Wear with the Sydney Kings of the National Basketball League (via Sportando). Wear appeared in two games with the 2014/15 Kings team. He is the twin brother of Travis Wear, who appeared for the Lakers this season.