Today’s Best NBA Reporting And Analysis 4/18/18

Jrue Holiday Is A Big Reason Why Pels Lead 2-0 (from Wes Goldberg, The Step Back):
Film Breakdown: This Is A Different Raptors’ Team (from Jacob Mack, Raptors HQ):
Film Room Breakdown: Rockets Tactics Against The Wolves (from Alykhan Bijani, The Athletic):
Rockets: Capela Could Be Front & Center (from Stefano Fusaro, The Undefeated):

From Jackson Frank, Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/posts/18258136
Thibodeau’s Derrick Rose Gamble (from James Blancarte, Basketball Insiders):
CLE-IND Game Two Preview (from Zach Lowe, ESPN):

From Chris Barnewall, CBS Sports: https://www.cbssports.com/nba/news/2018-nba-playoffs-the-cavaliers-case-for-and-against-using-jeff-green-in-the-starting-lineup/

Film Sessions: UTA & OKC Prepare For Game Two (from Dylan Murphy/Steve Jones, Jr, Cleaning The Glass):
Physical Play Is Key As OKC-UTA Series Continues (from Brett Dawson, newsok.com):
The Heat-Sixers Chess Match (from Mo Dakhil, The Jump Ball):
Sixers: Game Two Loss Showed Effect Of Embiid’s Absence (from Liberty Ballers):

The Bucks’ Flaws Were Exposed In Game Two (from Zach Harper, FRSHoopz):

Jaylen Brown Has Improved By Leaps And Bounds (from Gary Washburn, Boston Globe):

Bucks And Sixers: Pushing The Boundaries Of Small-Ball (from Jonathan Tjarks, The Ringer):

Iguodala Has A Knack For Big Playoff Performances (from Janie McCauley, Associated Press):

Warriors’ Assistant Mike Brown’s Selective Head Coaching Aspirations (from Mark Medina, Mercury News):

Nets: Full-Time Duties At The 4 Helped RHJ Make Big Leap (from Anthony Puccio, Nets Daily):

Becky Hammon Is Just The Start Of A Revolution (from Howard Megdal, The Step Back):


2018 Draft: Biggest Questions For Projected Lottery Picks (from Jonathan Wasserman, Bleacher Report):

Is A Bet On Bamba A Bet On Athletic Development? (from JZ Mazlish, The Stepien):

Today’s Best NBA Reporting And Analysis 4/17/18

How The Pacers Contained LBJ & The Cavs In Game 1 (from Scott Rafferty, The Step Back):
“Closing Speed” Makes Oladipo Great (from Mike Prada, SBNation):
All The Ways Oladipo Sliced & Diced The Cavs’ Defense (from Caitlin Cooper, Indy Cornrows):
What The Cavs Need To Fix Before Game Two (from Kevin Nye, Hashtag Basketball):
Can’t Play Whiteside? (from John Gonzalez, The Ringer):
Sixers Learn Playoff Realities (from Jack McCaffery, Delco Times):
Game 2: Warriors Answer Spurs’ Physical Counterpunch The Only Way They Know How (from Colin Ward-Heninger, CBS Sports):
Iguodala Is Showing How Valuable He Is (from Dieter Kurtenbach, Mercury News):
Don’t Blame Kawhi For Taking Control (from Vincent Goodwill, Bleacher Report):
Welcome To The Paul George Playoff Experience (from Jonathan Tjarks, The Ringer):
Read it here:  https://www.theringer.com/nba-playoffs/2018/4/16/17242298/paul-george-thunder-jazz

Reserves Give Thunder Reason To Celebrate (from Jenni Carlson, newsok.com):
Read it here:
Thunder Needs Defensive Detail To Continue (from Erik Horne, newsok.com):
Thunder: Maintaining What Worked In Game One (from Nick Gallo, Thunder.com):
The Jazz Miss Sefolosha (from Jared Woodcox, The J Notes):
Ibaka: Benefitting From Full Season With Raptors (from Sportsnet.ca):
Capela Completes Rockets’ Cornerstone Trio (from Sekou Smith, NBA.com):
KAT & DRose: The Good, The Bad & The Decent (from Ben Beecken, Dunking With Wolves):
In-Flight Adjustments: Wolves Pick-And-Roll Defense (from Ben Falk And Liam Flynn, Cleaning The Glass):
How John Wall Went From Fat To Six-Pack Abs While Recovering (from Candace Buckner, Washington Post):

Video: Jrue Holiday’s Defensive Brilliance In Game One (from Zak Boisvert, Pick And Pop):

In Playoff Debut, Blazers’ Rookie Zach Collins Proved Ready For The Stage (from Andrew Greif, Oregon Live):
Brandon Jennings’ Roads Not Taken (from Jordan Ritter Conn, The Ringer):
Thoughts On Opening-Weekend’s Playoff Games (from Kevin O’Connor, The Ringer):
Laker Film Room: Randle’s Breakout Season (from Pete Zayas, Forum Blue And Gold):
How Stackhouse Crafted Himself Into Hot-Shot Head Coaching Candidate (from Marc Berman, NY Post):
Get To Know David Fizdale (from Mike Vorkunov, The Athletic):
Doncic Enters The Lions’ Den (from Emmet Ryan, Ball In Europe):
Luka Doncic: Situational Analysis (from Nick Prevenas, NBADraft.net):

 

Today’s Best NBA Reporting And Analysis 4/16/18

Playoff Implications Of The Full-Strength Standings (from Ben Taylor, Nylon Calculus):
Playoffs: Day One Observations (from Zach Harper, FRSHoops):
Wizards Learn They Can’t Just Focus On Raptors’ Star Guards (from Candace Buckner, Washington Post):
Led By Holiday, Defense Was Foundation Of Pels’ Game One Win (from Jim Eichenhofer, pelicans.com):
POR-NOP: Defending The Rim Out Of Pick & Roll (from Ben Falk, Cleaning The Glass):
Playoffs: Day Two Observations (from Zach Harper, FRSHoopz):
BOS 113, MIL 107 (from Gary Washburn, Boston Globe):
Al Horford Does It All In Game One Victory (from Joshua Bateman, Hardwood Houdini):
Celtics Survive Insane Late-Game Sequence (from Ben Golliver, Sports Illustrated):
Why Fultz Remained Positive Amidst Chaos (from Zack Rosenblatt, NJ.com):
How Important Is Fultz To A Deep Playoff Run? (from Mike Schmitz, ESPN):
Ben Simmons Is Making His Opponents Look Like A Bunch Of Rookies (from Zito Madu, SB Nation):
HOU 104, MIN 101 (from Tim McMahon, ESPN):
D’Antoni’s Innovation Leads The Rockets (from Dane Carbaugh, NBC Sports):
Clint Capela: The Sky’s The Limit (from Brian T. Smith, Houston Chronicle):
OKC 116, UTA 108 (from Brad Botkin, CBS Sports):
IND 98, CLE 80 (from James Herbert, CBS Sports):
Draft Sleepers From The Portsmouth Invitational (from Jeremy Woo, Sports Illustrated):
Why Ime Udoka Should Be An NBA Head Coach (from Francis Okupa, ESPN):
How Quin Snyder & His Staff Evolved Into A Playoff Ready Team of Their Own (from Aaron Falk, Salt Lake Tribune):
Quin Snyder: From Breaking It To Making It In The NBA (from Kent Babb, Washington Post):
What Can Be Drawn From Nets’ Late String Of Wins? (from Zack Collura, Nothin But Nets):
Grading The Cavs After 2017-18 (from Adam Fromal, NBA Math):
Grading The Mavs After 2017-18 (from Adam Fromal, NBA Math):

Today’s Best NBA Reporting And Analysis 4/14/18

Oladipo: Redefining His Career Through Biomechanics (from Wes Goldberg, The Step Back):
PHI- MIA: A Study In Contrasts (from Ben Ladner, The Step Back):
– PHI-MIA preview (from Positive Residual, Nylon Calculus):
Who Can Stop Ben Simmons? (from Kevin O’Connor, The Ringer):
Video Breakdown: Sixers’ Defense (from Ben Falk/Nick Sciria, Cleaning The Glass):
COY: The Case For Brett Brown (from Jordan Christmas, Hashtag Basketball):
POR-NOP Preview (from Jacob Goldstein, Nylon Calculus):
BOS-MIL Preview (from John Schuhmann, NBA.com):
Brad Stevens: The Celtics’ Not-So-Secret-Weapon (from Matt Chin, Celtics Blog):
The Challenge Of Defending Giannis (from Owen Pence, Boston Globe):
Celtics’ Young Core Poised To Learn Playoff Lessons (from Jay King, The Athletic):
Horford Has To Headline (from Sam Sheehan, Celtics Blog):
TOR-WAS Preview (from John Schuhmann, NBA.com):
Raptors Must Solve Beal (from William Lou, The Score):
HOU-MIN Preview (from Tyler Metcalf, Hashtag Basketball):
 – The Evolution Of Mike D’Antoni’s Offense (from Jonathan Feigen, Houston Chronicle):
The Impossible Task Of Guarding Harden, Explained By Players, Coaches (from Tim Cato, SBNation):
– Ariza Plays Understated But Key Role For Rockets (from Brian T. Smith, Houston Chronicle):
The Wolves Finally Get Their Moment, 14 Years In The Making (from Robert Mays, The Ringer):
How Can Cavs Replace Irving’s Production? (from Quenton Albertie, King James Gospel):
The Importance Of Jeff Green’s Defensive Versatility (from Chris Fedor, cleveland.com):
1st Round Forecast (from David Berri, Forbes):
WC 1st Round Preview (from Zach Harper, FRSHoopz):
EC 1st Round Preview (from Zach Harper, FRSHoopz):
The Sidekicks Who Will Decide The Playoffs (from Andrew Sharp, Sports Illustrated):
GSW-SAS Preview (from Golden State Of Mind):
Jordan Bell: Prototype Of Centers To Come (from Howard Beck, Bleacher Report):
OKC-UTA Preview (from Chris Herring, FiveThirtyEight):
Lonzo Ball’s Exit Interview (from Ohm Youngmisuk, ESPN):
Andre Ingram’s Long Road To The NBA (from Nick Agar-Johnson, Hashtag Basketball):
NBA Awards Ballot, Part Two (from Zach Lowe, ESPN):
Weeks 25/26 In Review (from Justin, Nylon Calculus):
Nuggets’ Young Core Is 100% Behind Coach Malone (from Harrison Wind, bsndenver.com):
Impact FAs Who Could Be Bargain-Bin Finds (from Dan Favale, Bleacher Report):
Grading The Hornets After 2017-18 (from Adam Fromal, NBA Math):
Grading The Bulls After 2017-18 (from Adam Fromal, NBA Math):

Best And Worst First Round Matchups

Best and Worst First Round Matchups: Eastern Conference

by Adam Spinella

Division III Assistant Coach

Less than two weeks remain in the regular season, and the Eastern Conference Playoffs appear to have eight teams that are clear favorites to make the postseason. What order these teams will arrange themselves in largely remains unknown. The two top teams all season long, the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics, have maintained enough distance between them and everyone else that almost all precincts are reporting at this point: these will be the top two seeds in the Eastern Conference.

 

Beyond that, everything is up for grabs. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Philadelphia 76ers are neck-and-neck for the three seed, with the Indiana Pacers hovering right behind. The Washington Wizards, Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks make up the final three teams, while the Detroit Pistons still have a mathematical chance of sneaking in.

 

From the vantage points in Boston and Toronto, there are some teams they’d like to see in the first round, and others they’d like to avoid. Barring unforeseen collapses from Cleveland and Philadelphia, these would be the best and worst matchups for the top seeds in the Eastern Conference:

 

Toronto Raptors

Best Matchup: Milwaukee Bucks

 

Two of the three contests between the Raptors and Bucks this season went to overtime, but that shouldn’t be enough to scare the ‘We The North’ faithful through a seven-game series. The Bucks are currently in between identities, with the vast majority of their makeup attributed to former coach Jason Kidd, while interim coach Joe Prunty has toned down their defensive aggressiveness. Milwaukee’s most dangerous attribute is superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, a legitimate MVP candidate that can take over games on both ends of the floor.

 

The issue for Milwaukee is what surrounds Giannis: a bevy of non-elite shooters. Malcolm Brogdon, who has been hurt since early February, could be available for the series, but his absence would really hurt Milwaukee’s depth in the backcourt. They are also working to inculcate Jabari Parker back into the lineup next to Giannis, Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe. Parker’s lack of defensive acumen makes him a bright target for the Raptors to attack, and it’s hard for the Bucks to get the requisite offense from Jabari to make up for that weakness when he shares the ball with other primary threats, many of whom aren’t players that provide adequate spacing.

 

Spacing is the million-dollar word for the Bucks, who have struggled all season long to open up the lane on offense or discourage opponents from taking the shots they want on the other end. There’s a ton of talent in Milwaukee, but the Bucks are 7-9 since the All-Star Break and have more questions about fit and style than a team should heading into the postseason.



Worst Matchup: Washington Wizards

 

Only one Eastern Conference playoff team has multiple victories over the Toronto Raptors this season, and they hail in our nation’s capital. The Wizards are going to be aided by the return of superstar-caliber point guard John Wall, and that would make them a dangerous group to face in the postseason. A fresh Wall would be explosive for the Wizards and could wear down the Raptors quickly.

 

Wall and Beal shoulder the heavy-lifting for Washington’s offense, which means a greater burden defensively on Toronto’s top stars, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. That in itself is a recipe for taking down the Raptors. If we’ve learned anything about watching their postseason effectiveness the last few seasons it’s that if those two are cold from the field, Toronto is in trouble. This Raptors team is much more potent on offense and has more balance than in prior seasons, so it’s not to say the Raptors are ripe for an upset. With two rounds to go before qualifying for the NBA Finals, including potential matchups with Cleveland, Philadelphia or Boston, the Raps would like to avoid tiring out their superstars in the first round.

 

Washington’s strength on defense all season has been how opponents fare against them from deep. The Wizards have the third-best defensive three-point percentage in the league – a metric that is, in large part, influenced by luck as much as scheme. If those numbers hold up in the postseason and Toronto struggles to knock down open treys, the Wizards could have a case for pushing this series deep to seven games.





Boston Celtics

Best Matchup: Milwaukee Bucks

 

For many of the same reasons as Toronto, the Boston Celtics should be crossing their fingers hoping for a duel with the Bucks later this month. The Celts have played well against the Bucks all season long, in particular finding a great way to stymie Milwaukee’s aggressive, trapping and strong-side helping defense.

 

The Celtics have solved Milwaukee’s scheme by playing a ball movement-heavy, weak side cutting offense in their matchups with the Bucks. Because Boston plays a positionless style of basketball, their personnel is able to attack Milwaukee by putting shooters in the right spots and manipulating the patterns with which the Bucks rotate.

 

On the defensive end, the Celtics have multiple long wings and pugnacious defenders that can give the litany of wings for the Bucks fits. Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart are some of the best defenders in the conference, while Jayson Tatum can use his length to collapse driving lanes from the weak-side. The Celtics weakness has long thought to be on the glass: Milwaukee is the worst rebounding team in the NBA. The only way an upset happens over the course of a long series is if the underdog can consistently exploit a weakness shown by the favorite. Since the Bucks fail to capitalize on one of Boston’s vulnerabilities, it’s hard to envision Milwaukee pulling off the upset.



Worst Matchup: Miami Heat

 

On the opposite end of the spectrum from the Bucks are the Miami Heat, a balanced offensive group with immaculate spacing, several good shooters and a strong defensive identity. Defensively the Heat can protect the rim with Hassan Whiteside while maintaining flexibility to switch other defensive assignments and actions. The Heat took two of the three regular-season matchups between them, while none of the games have come since the team re-acquired their franchise’s leader and postseason hero Dwyane Wade.

 

A staggering nine players on Miami’s active roster are averaging double-digit points this season, signifying the tremendous offensive balance that lies at Erik Spoelstra’s arsenal. Brad Stevens has earned a reputation as a great defensive tactician that can take away opponent’s top strengths. But when a team like Miami has so many points of attack and such balance, it would be intriguing to watch how the Celtics plan on stifling their offense.

 

The Celtics haven’t topped the 100-point mark in any of their three meetings against Miami this year, due in part to Miami’s excellent team defense. Miami features the eighth-best defensive rating in the league, a rare and high number for a group on the tail end of the playoff chase. Mainly the Heat are aggressive at running players off the three-point line, forcing them to either finish in the mid-range or over the length of prowling shot blocker Hassan Whiteside. It’s an interesting clash with the Celtics, who are one of the best three-point shooting teams, both in terms of volume (sixth-most attempts) and accuracy (third-highest percentage).

 

A first-round matchup between the two sides would be a treat for all involved. Boston’s postseason success largely hinges on the health of Kyrie Irving and if he can recover from the knee troubles he’s faced of late. Even with Kyrie in the lineup, a best-of-seven series with Miami would be no walk in the park.






Best and Worst First Round Matchups: Western Conference



For the first time since Steve Kerr took the job in the Bay Area the Golden State Warriors appear vulnerable. Limping to the finish line with injuries while trailing the Houston Rockets for home-court, first-round matchups could be more important than ever for the two elite teams that look to run through the Western Conference. Each team has a defined identity and certain opponents that would be matchup nightmares if they saw them in the first round.

 

Today we dive into some of the best and worst matchups for the top two teams in the West, examining just what situations they should be rooting for and against. The playoff race out West is fluid, with five teams more than two games apart, and another two that are within striking distance of a postseason berth but on the outside looking in. From the perspective of the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors, we look at just how these juggernauts might fare if they draw certain matchups.

 

Due to the overall uncertainty surrounding Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs, their team has been omitted from this list. Either the Rockets or Warriors would dread a matchup with San Antonio and a healthy Kawhi, but that possibility cannot be counted on.



Houston Rockets

Best Matchup: Denver Nuggets

 

The Rockets were the NBA’s first to reach the 60-win plateau, and they feature the best offense in basketball. Chris Paul and James Harden are offensive juggernauts, and the spacing the Rockets provide around them make for an incredibly difficult defensive matchup for whoever sneaks into the playoffs at the 8 seed.

 

Frankly, the Rockets won’t be scared of any team they draw, but the Nuggets would be an ideal choice for the organization. Houston has averaged nearly 125 points per game against Denver this season, sweeping the season series 3-0 with an average margin of victory over 20. The Nuggets are in the bottom-third of the NBA in defensive rating, an area they’ve struggled all season long. Denver big man Nikola Jokic has seen his effort and conditioning fall short late in the season; if Houston can push the pace and attack the Nuggets’ lack of rim protection, they should be able to get plenty of easy buckets.

 

Denver is currently on the outside looking in for a playoff berth, but are limping towards the finish line. The Nuggets’ final eight games are against teams currently slated to make the postseason, so there will be no easy wins on their schedule. It would be an uphill climb for Denver to make the playoffs, but that would be a welcome ascent from Houston’s perspective.



Worst Matchup: Utah Jazz

 

If pace is what’s most important to the Rockets, the defensive juggernaut that’s taken shape in Utah is a matchup nightmare for Houston. The Jazz are one of three teams to hold the Rockets below 100 points per game, and the only team in the Western Conference playoff picture to do so. While Houston swept the Jazz in their regular season meetings, the two teams have only met once in 2018 since the ascent of Donovan Mitchell and the healthy return of Rudy Gobert. That game was a 96-85 win for the Rockets in which they trailed at the half and only had 15 assists.

 

Utah, on the other hand, got one of their worst performances from Donovan Mitchell on the night: the rookie was 1-of-9 from three and had eight turnovers. With a more regular performance from Mitchell, the Jazz become a formidable foe for the Houston. The frontcourt pairings that Utah can throw on the floor could change the speed that the Rockets like to play with. Jazz coach Quin Snyder could force the Rockets to match their size with a Rudy Gobert-Derrick Favors frontcourt tandem. Those two have been a force over the Jazz’ ascent into the playoff picture.

 

Utah also has a great deal of multi-positional defenders on the wings that can match Houston’s wing-heavy lineups. Joe Ingles, Jae Crowder, Royce O’Neale and Jonas Jerebko are all plus defenders that can not only win their individual matchups, but could survive for smaller stretches if they must switch onto Harden or Paul. Because of Utah’s defensive potential and ability to force the Rockets to play at a slower pace, the Jazz are a team Mike D’Antoni and company should hope to avoid in the opening round.




Golden State Warriors

Best Matchup: New Orleans Pelicans

 

While the Warriors are likely without superstar Steph Curry for the first round of the postseason, a series against the New Orleans Pelicans could lighten that blow. New Orleans is without All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins, a potent inside-outside threat that combined with Anthony Davis to form the scariest frontcourt in the league. Now Davis is on his own, and while flanked by the sharpshooting Nikola Mirotic up front, the Pelicans are simply missing enough offensive balance to contend with the defensive greatness that the Warriors are capable of.

 

Golden State has several players they can throw at Davis, ranging from Kevin Durant to Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala to Jordan Bell. With length, athleticism and strong individual defenders at all frontcourt spots, the Warriors can devote a lot of attention to Davis, sagging off others on the perimeter and forcing The Brow to become a jump shooter. Because New Orleans plays two point guards and several non-shooters, Golden State’s switching could be a great attribute against an offense that isn’t known as highly dynamic.

 

Of course, the Warriors need their starting lineup to get healthy, as all four All-Stars are currently banged up. If all but Curry are healthy for the playoffs, as expected, then the Warriors should have a comfortable series against New Orleans.



Worst Matchup: Oklahoma City Thunder

 

The Thunder have plenty of issues in their own right. Carmelo Anthony has been struggling of late and isn’t fitting into a complementary role, their best defender Andre Roberson is done for the year and they’re relying on late-season acquisition Corey Brewer to fill his absence in the starting lineup. But Oklahoma City has taken two of their first three games against Golden State this year, and the Warriors may struggle to find an answer for Steven Adams on the glass.

 

Simply the raw emotion of a postseason series between these two rivals would be enough to wear down Golden State as they seek a fourth-straight NBA Finals appearance. Think about it: many of the Warriors’ players have logged heavy minutes in over 100 games for three years running, have battled a long and injury-filled regular season this year and would face a potential juggernaut in the Western Conference Finals in the Houston Rockets. The mental anguish of facing a motivated Russell Westbrook and hostile Thunder team would wear on this group.

 

If Curry is out for the series, his absence compounds those issues. Now the Warriors are down one of their elite spacing and shooting options, while Klay Thompson draws the unenviable assignment of checking Russell Westbrook for most of the series. Paul George is as good of an individual defender on the wing as Durant could face in this wing, while the poor shooting of Draymond Green gives Carmelo Anthony a comfortable defensive matchup. No team that a top-seed could face in the first round has as much star power as Oklahoma City, and if that’s something to be feared in April, the Warriors would hope to avoid a potential series with the Thunder.