Friday night’s Cavs-Hawks game was a treat to watch. It wasn’t really competitive, but it showcased some excellent basketball, particularly from the Hawks. Cleveland had its moments, for sure, but for the most part it was a showcase of just how good the Hawks can be when they’re firing on all cylinders.
Like the Warriors out west, the Hawks have not just a high-powered offense that can attack from any spot on the court, but a smothering defense that, on Friday, caused LeBron, Kyrie, Kevin Love and the rest of the Cavs all kinds of problems.
It particularly caused problems for Love, who was forced out of the paint by Al Horford and Paul Millsap, writes Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group:
Atlanta turned Love strictly into a stretch-four. In the 35 minutes he played, the Hawks never saw the back of his jersey, only the front. Not a single post-up opportunity was available for the three-time All-Star power forward who is one of the most versatile players in the league.
Love is launching 8.1 threes per contest in his last seven games. His highest rate of threes taken in Minnesota was 6.6 last year, and that was along with the inside touches he received. No matter what the statistics suggest, Love is not in agreement on the big-man long distance tag.
“I heard some people calling me that but I know I’m not a stretch-four,” Love told NEOMG. “I’m a post player who can shoot. Right now I’m just doing what I’m called to do. For good, bad or indifferent, I’m playing my role and doing what’s asked of me. Tonight, I stayed out on the perimeter.”
James says Atlanta’s game plan caught them by surprise, but he doesn’t foresee it being a blueprint that other teams will mimic.
“A lot of teams don’t have the ability to do it,” he said. “With their ability to have [Al] Horford and [Paul] Millsap and those guys that move their feet pretty well, and Mike Scott, they do a good job.”
If the Cavaliers want to shred the Hawks’ defense the next go-around, Love will need to be more involved in the interior on a consistent basis. Plays designed for him to get post touches have been dramatically reduced over time. The games he’s played well are due to efficient outside shooting nights.
Here’s the rest of the latest news from around the NBA:
PISTONS WILL HAVE BACKCOURT CONUNDRUM WHEN JENNINGS RETURNS
Stan Van Gundy landed the steal of the trade deadline, getting Reggie Jackson for a backup point guard and a bench player. It was a move that Detroit needed to make to stay in contention after the injury to point guard Brandon Jennings, who was in the middle of a resurgence.
But then what happens next year, when Jennings will be back and Jackson will (likely) still be around?
If Jackson signs a long-term deal, the Pistons would obviously have one starting job for two players. It’s possible they could play them together with one being the off guard but that’s not a topic Jackson wanted to address.
“That’s not for me to determine,” Jackson said. “That’s coach. I don’t do his job. Brandon is a great talent. I’m not sure what’s going to happen in the future. He’s been running his own team for years in this league. He’s proven he can do so.
“He’s one of the better scoring point guards in the league, also he can facilitate. We hope that he gets healthy and comes back to being the Brandon Jennings everybody knows. Just wishing him the best. I don’t make calls in the front office.”
Jackson has played six games with the Pistons and his biggest problem has been shooting.
He’s averaging 15.8 points and 7.0 assists but is shooting 36.7 percent.
“I don’t have any idea,” Van Gundy said when asked about Jackson’s shooting woes. “Guys go through it. It’s been (six) games. You don’t have any idea what the reason is but he has not shot the ball well.”
COULD KNICKS TARGET KENTUCKY’S TOWNS OR CAULEY-STEIN?
Phil Jackson just got fined for commenting on an upcoming draft prospect, but according to the New York Daily News’ Frank Isola, that guy (Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell) isn’t the one they need:
The Knicks have been very visible in the blue grass state. Perhaps no team watched Kentucky more in person this winter than the Knicks, who will likely select anywhere from one through five in June which would place them in a position to draft either Towns or his athletic 7-foot teammate, center Willie Cauley-Stein.
According to several sources close to the Kentucky program, the Knicks top scout Mark Warkentien has attended nearly a dozen Wildcats practices as the club prepares for the most important decision of the Jackson regime. Jackson visited Lexington last week after attending an Ohio State game to watch point guard D’Angelo Russell.
The worst season in franchise history could result in Jackson choosing between two freshman big men on the night of the draft; Towns and Duke’s Jahlil Okafor. Of the two, Okafor has been the more prolific offensive player. He has already developed a low post and mid-range game. Okafor, however, can be a liability defensively. So much so that Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski has played more zone than ever before to cover for Okafor’s inability to defend pick-and-rolls.
Towns is the more athletic player. He’s a gifted rebounder, who can run the floor and is gaining more confidence in his offensive game. His numbers are somewhat skewed because Kentucky coach John Calipari uses a “platoon system” which is a fancy way of saying he has a deep roster. However, NBA executives all agree that Towns needs to improve his lower body strength because he was easily be rooted out of the post.
“If you are looking for a guy that can help you right away, I think Okafor will have a bigger impact as a rookie,” says one NBA executive whose team is expected to have a top 12 pick. “But if you’re an owner and you’re looking for a guy that can change your franchise over the next three years, I’d say Towns.”
Towns is from central New Jersey and became a prep All-America at St. Joseph’s High School in Metuchen. Ten years ago, the Knicks had the opportunity to draft a center out of St. Joseph’s, who elected to go right from high school to the NBA. Instead, the Knicks picked Channing Frye 8th overall and two picks later Andrew Bynum was drafted to the Lakers.
LIN LIKELY DONE IN L.A. AFTER SEASON
Mike Bresnahan of the L.A. Times:
Jeremy Lin won’t say it directly, and neither will the Lakers, but the next 5 1/2 weeks seem like the final ones they’ll be together.
The point guard writing is on the Lakers’ wall, and Jordan Clarkson is holding the piece of chalk.
Lin wants a larger role than he has now, nothing he’ll admit publicly, and he’s been playing well enough to earn a solid chance with another team.
Friday was his first step backward in quite a while, a four-point, three-assist clunker against Memphis and an exception to the previous seven games in which he averaged 17.1 points and six assists.
Unfortunately for Lin, Clarkson’s rise has overshadowed him and the rookie is on the books for a relatively low $845,059 next season, making the Lakers unsure they want to spend big money on a free-agent point guard this summer.
That can still change, especially if they hear a fair offer for a top-tier point guard from an agent they can’t refuse, but the market has slimmed down with Goran Dragic possibly finding a new long-term home in Miami and Rajon Rondo stumbling a bit in Dallas.
What probably won’t change is Lin on the way out, looking for a new start with someone else.
“I’m not going to answer any of those free agency questions until after the season. I’ll discuss that later,” Lin said diplomatically after totaling three blocked shots and two steals against Memphis, part of an improved defensive effort for the 26-year-old.