April 30, 2018, 4:07 pm
The first round is finally done after a pair of Game 7s and the second round has already kicked off out west.
In the West, we’ve got two heavy favorites against two surprise teams being lifted by superstar efforts. In the East, there are two highly anticipated matchups featuring what could be the greatest player of all-time playing at the peak of his powers having just eked out a series victory taking on a familiar foe and a couple of young guns looking to make a splash in their first playoff experience against an undermanned but tough-as-nails squad with a winning pedigree.
This could be four very entertaining series all transpiring at once. Let’s have some fun:
Eastern Conference – Celtics vs. Sixers
This week’s schedule:
Monday: Game 1 in Boston
Thursday: Game 2 in Boston
Saturday: Game 3 in Philadelphia
The Celtics survived one of the NBA’s many unicorns, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and the Bucks with an easy Game 7 win in Boston on Saturday. Their reward? A matchup with a pair of unicorns. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid dispatched the Heat in five games and are now 20-1 since March 13. Boston has homecourt advantage for the series, which certainly came in handy in the first round, winning each of their four games. But Philly is a different animal, having won every road game they’ve played since March 8. The Sixers have a clear talent edge with two of the best youngins the league has seen in quite some time. The key to this series is how much of a chess match Brad Stevens can turn it into. Can he come up with a scheme that forces Ben Simmons into jumpshots, almost eliminating him offensively? That could be the only way that the Celtics take four of these seven games.
Eastern Conference – Raptors vs. Cavs
This week’s schedule:
Tuesday: Game 1 in Toronto
Thursday: Game 2 in Toronto
Saturday: Game 3 in Cleveland
This is the moment all of Canada has been waiting for. The Raptors earned the 1-seed in the East with what could be their best team in franchise history. Awaiting them in round two is the team that sent them packing the last two seasons. But this isn’t the Cleveland Cavaliers of previous seasons. This, much like a decade ago, feels like a one-man team. How hard could it be to beat one guy? Toronto should ask the Pacers who saw LeBron James drop 34.4 points, 10.1 rebounds, 7.7 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.0 blocks with 55/35/82 shooting splits over seven games. You have to wonder if the existence and threat of LeBron is enough to get in the heads of the Raptors after he averaged 36 points per game in last year’s second round sweep of Toronto. That said, it honestly could be the Raptors best strategy to let James have whatever he wants and make absolutely sure that nobody else contributes. If Toronto can limit the Cavs’ shooters, especially when they have their LeBron plus four shooters lineups, the Raptors can position themselves well. At that point, with Toronto’s efficient offense, stingy defense and strong depth, LeBron may need to average 50 per game to get the job done. The scary part is – if anybody can do it, it’s him.
Western Conference – Warriors vs. Pelicans (GS leads 1-0)
This week’s schedule:
Tuesday: Game 2 in Oakland
Friday: Game 3 in New Orleans
Sunday: Game 4 in New Orleans
This became a hot matchup to talk about after the Pelicans’ impressive first round showing where they demolished the Blazers in a sweep. Helped by the fact that the Warriors didn’t exactly look like the Warriors in their five-game first round win over the Spurs, people began to whisper about what Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo could do to the defending champs. We’re only one game in but those whispers already feel like an overreaction. The Warriors used their offensive avalanche to dismantle New Orleans in Game 1 and that was without Stephen Curry who could be back as soon as Tuesday night for Game 2. If Curry isn’t quite healthy, the Pels shouldn’t be counted out just yet. It was the typical perfect Golden State storm as Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson combined for 53 points while Draymond Green tossed up a triple-double. The biggest key though – Green’s defense on Davis and Durant taking defensive duties on Holiday. The Pelicans need to get Durant switched off of Jrue as often as possible in these next few games and Holiday showed a versatile offensive attack in the Portland series that can be a major help in this one. If Curry’s side-to-side quickness isn’t quite up to snuff yet, that’s who the Pelicans need to get Jrue in front of. While there are strategies that exist that favor New Orleans, if Steph is 100 percent and good to go, none of it really matters. We saw the Warriors flip the switch on Saturday. If the Pels can’t find a way to turn the switch off, this series could be over before week’s end.
Western Conference – Rockets vs. Jazz (HOU leads 1-0)
This week’s schedule:
Wednesday: Game 2 in Houston
Friday: Game 3 in Salt Lake City
Sunday: Game 4 in Salt Lake City
It may not be fair to judge the Jazz for their 110-96 loss in Sunday’s Game 1 against Houston. They were less than 48 hours removed from a highly-emotional series clincher at home against the Thunder and the Rockets are one of the two most difficult teams to prepare for in the NBA. Luckily for Utah, they have some time to get ready for Wednesday’s Game 2 but that still may not be enough time to come up with a way to stop James Harden who poured in an easy 41 points in Game 1. Utah’s defense is strong but one of their strong suits is forcing guys to take deep 3-pointers. The Rockets are the worst possible team to take that approach against. If the Jazz force Houston to drive to the rim where the best defensive player in the league, Rudy Gobert, awaits, Harden and his crew are salivating at the thought of getting the Stifle Tower in foul trouble. This Jazz team is feisty and among the toughest in the league and that comes from head coach Quin Snyder. But Snyder is looking at his toughest task yet. This series has the makings of a long story but Houston’s versatility and all-around math problem could make life miserable for Snyder’s Jazz.
Jaylen Brown (hamstring) is doubtful for tonight’s Game 1 tilt with the Sixers. Brown did tell Brad Stevens that he felt better this morning and Stevens said, “He’ll go through whatever he can in shootaround and then, if he can play, he’ll play,” so Brown shouldn’t be fully ruled out for this one.
Stephen Curry (knee) is expected to play in tomorrow night’s Game 2 against the Pelicans.
Ricky Rubio (hamstring) missed Game 1 of the series with the Rockets and is likely to miss Game 2. The original report suggested that Rubio could miss10 days or more with this injury.
April 23, 2019, 12:23 pmDonovan Mitchell - G - Utah Jazz
On the way home from practice prior to Game 4, Donovan Mitchell stopped to help as he witnessed a two-car crash in downtown Salt Lake City.
Mitchell saw the accident and stopped driving to run over and assist a woman who's airbags went off and was falling out of the car. Mitchell called 911 and waited until the police and ambulances arrived. Maybe this good karma is what the Jazz needed for Mitchell to have his best game of the series and get their first win.
Source: Yahoo Sports
April 23, 2019, 12:03 pmTyronn Lue - Team - Cleveland Cavaliers
The Lakers have scheduled a second meeting with Tyronn Lue for Wednesday.
The Lakers are closing in on their search for a new head coach, and it seems that the two likeliest choices are Lue and Monty Williams. With the Suns also expressing interest in Williams for their head coach vacancy, the Lakers have some incentive to move quickly with their decision.
Source: LA Times
April 23, 2019, 11:46 amAndrew Bogut - C - Golden State Warriors
Andrew Bogut plans on returning to the Sydney Kings of the NBL for the 2019-20 season, regardless of what happens the rest of the way during the NBA playoffs.
Bogut agreed to a two-year pact with the Kings last April and he intends to honor that agreement and return to his native Australia, even though other NBA teams may be interested in his services. “The be all and end all is that I gave my word to the Kings,” Bogut said, via the NBL. “Someone outside of the Warriors could offer me a deal that would be pretty lucrative and a decent one-year deal. But I’m sold and locked in on coming to the Sydney Kings again to try and better what we did last season.” Bogut’s time in Australia has made wonders as he lost the extra weight and looks to be in tremendous shape for his age while averaging 4.7 points, 8.0 boards, 2.7 dimes and 1.0 blocked shots in 14.7 minutes against the Clippers. The Warriors will continue to rely on him and Kevon Looney with DeMarcus Cousins expected to remain sidelined throughout the playoffs.
April 23, 2019, 11:16 amJuwan Howard - Team - Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavs have scheduled meetings this week with Mavs assistant coach Jamahl Mosley and the Heat’s Juwan Howard, a person familiar with the team’s plans told the Associated Press on Monday.
Mosley has some connections with the Cavs, spending four seasons as an assistant with the club before joining the Mavs in 2014. He just completed his fifth season with Dallas, who promoted him to the position of defensive coordinator before last season. Mosley has risen through the coaching ranks and has extensive background in player development, an essential for the Cavs, who have a young roster. After a 19-year NBA playing career, Howard joined Erik Spoelstra’s Heat staff in 2013. He has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the Lakers’ vacancy while he interviewed for the Pistons’ opening last year. General manager Koby Altman has not put any timeline on a search that he promised would be expansive. The Cavs intend to speak with many assistants currently in the postseason, with the Nuggets’ Jordi Fernandez, the Jazz’s Alex Jensen and the Blazers’ David Vanterpool among the coaches expected to be contacted by Cleveland in the next few weeks.
Source: Akron-Beacon Journal
April 23, 2019, 11:00 amChauncey Billups - Team - Minnesota Timberwolves
The Wolves are set to begin the next process in their search for a new President of Basketball Operations this week, as interviews will begin with four candidates.
The Wolves will be speaking with Chauncey Billups, Nuggets assistant General Manager Calvin Booth, Rockets Vice President Gersson Rosas and Nets assistant General Manager Trajan Langdon. Owner Glen Taylor will be involved in the process and will have the final say over who is hired. The Wolves did identify a fifth candidate in the process, Clippers GM Michael Winger, but he will be staying in Los Angeles.
Source: Minneapolis Star-Tribune
April 23, 2019, 10:47 amLloyd Pierce - Team - Atlanta Hawks
Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce was named to the USA Basketball Men’s National Team coaching staff on Monday.
In his first season as an NBA head coach, Pierce led the Hawks to a five-win improvement over 2017-18, working closely with rookies Trae Young, Kevin Huerter and Omari Spellman. He joins Gregg Popovich’s staff that also includes Warriors head coach Steve Kerr and Villanova head coach Jay Wright as assistants. The staff will lead the USA National Team in the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China this summer.
Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution
April 23, 2019, 10:32 amKevon Looney - F - Golden State Warriors
Kevon Looney hopes that he will be able to play for the Warriors next season when they enter into Chase Center, their brand new area.
Looney set career highs in games played (80), minutes (18.5 per game), points (6.3 points per game) and rebounds (5.2 per game), among other categories, during the 2018-19 regular season. He has averaged 11.7 points in the Warriors' three playoff games thus far and Steve Kerr made it clear on Friday that he was glad Looney did not leave upon becoming a free agent last summer. The valuable backup becomes an unrestricted free agent in July, the second consecutive summer he will hit the market. This time however, the Warriors have Bird rights on Looney, giving them considerable financial flexibility to pursue a new contract.
Source: NBC Sports
April 23, 2019, 10:06 amDevin Booker - G - Phoenix Suns
Shams Charania of the Athletic is reporting that the first two coaches the Suns will request permission to interview for their head coach opening are Monty Williams and David Vanterpool.
The Suns seem to have their eyes set to Williams as both Suns GM James Jones and VP of basketball operations Jeff Bower have worked with him in the past. Vanterpool is a former NBA journeyman who has been an assistant coach with the Blazers since 2012.
Source: Shams Charania on Twitter
April 23, 2019, 9:57 amClint Capela - C - Houston Rockets
Clint Capela, who had his worst performance of the season in the Rockets' Game 4 loss to the Jazz on Monday, told ESPN that he has been battling two respiratory illnesses during the series.
Capela, who missed a practice due to the illness days before the series started, said that he was diagnosed with adenovirus and a klebsiella infection during a Sunday visit to a Salt Lake City doctor. The big man was prescribed medication and eye drops while he was also told it would be another four or five days before he would be fully recovered. Capela had a season-worst scoring total on Monday while the Rockets were outscored by 20 points with him on the floor. The series moves to Houston now with Game 5 set to take place on Wednesday and with a quick turnaround it will be interesting to see whether Capela can return to his usual form.
April 23, 2019, 9:41 amJrue Holiday - G - New Orleans Pelicans
Sean Deveney of the Sporting News is reporting that the Suns are considered the favorite to go after Jrue Holiday, should he become available by the Pelicans.
The Magic and the Bulls could also have interest but everything will depend on what new Pelicans vice president of basketball operations David Griffin decides to do in the next few weeks. If Griffin is intent on keeping Holiday, it is a signal that he will look to bring a quick turnaround for the Pelicans rather than enter a long, slogging rebuild. And if he entertains offers for him, it is certain that plenty of teams will try and trade for the 28-year-old guard, especially after a sensational year where he finished in the top-25 in 8-cat and 9-cat leagues.
Source: Sporting News