TrueHoop: Mickael Pietrus
- NBA stars are severely underpaid vis-a-vis their market value to their sport. They're not the only ones. From Paul Doyle, a track and field agent, via Sports Illustrated and Forbes: "'Bolt is the highest-paid athlete in the history of track and field, but he’s also probably the most underpaid athlete in the history of track and field.' ... His appearance at the Penn Relays in 2010 resulted in the highest single day attendance (54,310) in the event’s 118-year history."
- Younger (and newer) Clippers fans need to appreciate that if some of the longstanding fans of Clipper Nation seem cautious headed into 2012-13, they have their reasons. From John Raffo of Clips Nation: "I'm old enough (and grey enough) to have seen this before. Twice before. While, admittedly the long winter of the nineties is not nearly as interminable as the distance between 2005-6 and now, but I believe I've learned my lesson. Unless the Clippers are very very careful, unless they commit to inspired coaching and visionary management."
- As Rob Mahoney writes at The Two Man Game, teambuilding is rarely a linear process. And at Red94, Rahat Huq wonders if most "young cores" are destined to fail.
- Philadunkia's Tom Sunnergren chats with new Sixer Nick Young. If anyone in Philly has a place to lease, Swaggy P is looking.
- Former Atlanta Hawks standout Dan Roundfield tragically died while swimming in Aruba. Roundfield was a pro's pro -- a dogged defensive player and a three-time All-Star while with the Hawks. Danny Solomon, a Hawks ballboy during the 1980s and my classmate at the Hebrew Academy of Atlanta, told the AJC's Michael Cunningham that Roundfield was “the nicest dude in the world," but that, "[b]ack then, all the centers were very, very strong. That’s back when it was ‘real’ basketball and if you tried to go to the hole against a guy like Roundfield, you would go straight down to the floor. He was known for being really rough. He was a stud down low."
- Chris Bernucca of Sheridan Hoops runs down the remainders in the free agent market. The list isn't void of useful players: Carlos Delfino, Anthony Tolliver, Mickael Pietrus and Jannero Pargo might not be world-beaters, but worse players have been signed to guaranteed deals this offseason.
- When economist Tyler Cowen hosts a talk, he often has the audience write out questions in advance. Cowen says that, at one recent event, "I was asked about Jeremy Lin, and whether he or LeBron James did more to maximize global wealth. I suggested that Lin did more to maximize utility, as his fame in Asia did not much detract from the fame of any other NBA player, but that LeBron did more to maximize wealth, in part through endorsement income."
- Get ready for the "Obama Classic" with Michael Jordan, Carmelo Anthony and Patrick Ewing.
- A man from central Illinois is picking up and moving his family to Haiti to build a basketball court and to teach.
- Attention Phoenix press corps, especially those in the locker room: Kendall Marshall values his personal space.
Mickael Pietrus performed the most consequential flop of the season.
HoopIdea wants to #StopTheFlop. To spotlight the biggest fakers, we present Flop of the Night. You can help us separate the pretenders from the defenders -- details below:
This one might be the Flop of the Year.
There were 155 seconds left in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals as Kevin Garnett let fly with a baseline jumper. As the ball swished through the net, Mickael Pietrus sprinted in from the opposite wing, looking for a potential offensive rebound. Instead, he ran straight into a boxout from Mario Chalmers, who put up his forearms, but did not extend his arms, to ward off the much bigger Pietrus.
On contact that he receives and doles out dozens of times each game, Pietrus’ body went rigid and he flopped over onto his back (video), right in front of Derrick Stafford, who rewarded the act with a technical foul.
It wasn’t much of a collision to begin with, but a run-of-the-mill foul would have been nearly inconsequential as the Heat were nowhere near the penalty. But the technical sent Ray Allen to the free throw line, where he calmly drilled the freebie.
One undeserved point.
It doesn’t sound like much, but in the context of the final moments of Game 5 in the Eastern Conference finals, it matters.
To Jeff Van Gundy, who was calling the game for ESPN along with Mike Breen, it mattered quite a bit:
Van Gundy: It just drives me crazy we're in the playoffs, Game 5, tied ... and Ray Allen goes to get an extra point!
Mike Breen: And the technical on Chalmers. You know we talked about how in a game like this, one point can be the difference.
Then, tongue planted firmly in cheek, Van Gundy offered a deterrent to flopping:
"Pietrus tricked the referee and should be fined $1 million tomorrow for it!"
Van Gundy may have strayed into hyperbole, but he wasn't kidding about the magnitude of the play.
Pietrus and Chalmers both hit huge 3-pointers on the following possessions, and then Paul Pierce drilled a contested 3 right over LeBron James to give the Celtics a two-possession lead they would never relinquish.
Of course, without that free point from the Chalmers technical, it would have been a one-possession game. That isn’t to say things would have turned out any differently -- the Celtics had a decided advantage either way.
But it’s a shame that a flop had any bearing on the final moments of an otherwise fantastic game.
When you see an egregious flop that deserves proper recognition, send us a link to the video so we can consider it for Flop of the Night. Here's how to make your submission:
First, a Kevin Garnett 15-foot jumper put the Celtics up 81-80 with 2:54 remaining. Then, Mickael Pietrus drained a 3-pointer with 2:11 left to put the Celtics back ahead after a Mario Chalmers 3-pointer.
It was Pietrus’ first field goal this postseason in the final five minutes of a five-point game.
Finally, it was perhaps the biggest shot for the Celtics this postseason. Clinging to an 87-86 lead, Paul Pierce hit a contested 3-pointer with LeBron James defending to extend the Celtics' lead to four with 52 seconds remaining.
That proved to be the difference in the Celtics’ Game 5 victory in Miami.
In the final five minutes of the past two games, when the score is within five points, the Celtics are 10-21 from the field, including 2-of-6 on 3-point attempts.
The Heat, meanwhile, are 7-24 on field goal attempts in those same situations (called “clutch” or “crunch time”) over the past two games, including 2-of-11 from beyond the arc.
It wasn’t necessarily that the Heat couldn’t execute offensively down the stretch -- Chalmers hit a clutch go-ahead 3-pointer followed by a game-tying Dwyane Wade layup in the final three minutes. But the Heat couldn’t stop the Celtics from executing offensively down the stretch, and they weren’t able to in Game 4 either.
Why have the Celtics been so successful in crunch time the past two games? Well, they’ve had plenty of experience this postseason (not to mention the previous four postseasons as well).
In the final five minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime this postseason, when the score is within five points, the Celtics are shooting 48-for-96 as a team, including 11-of-24 on 3-point attempts.
To put that in perspective, the Heat have the next-most such attempts this postseason with 63, and they’ve made just 23 of them (36.5 percent). The Heat are just 4-of-19 on crunch-time 3-point attempts.
The San Antonio Spurs, who are still in the playoffs as well, have attempted just 17 crunch-time shots (made 11). That tells a lot about the different paths the Celtics and Spurs have had to get to this point, when comparing 17 attempts to 96.
No other team has made even half the amount of clutch shots the Celtics have made this postseason.
The Celtics’ clutch factor can largely be attributed this postseason to Pierce and Rajon Rondo. Pierce is 12-for-19 (63.2 percent) in the final five minutes of five-point games this postseason, the highest field goal percentage of any player who has attempted at least 10 clutch shots.
No player has made more clutch shots this postseason than Rondo, who is 16-for-31. On those same shot attempts, LeBron is just 6-for-19 (31.6 percent) and Wade is 8-for-20 (40 percent).
Statistical support for this story from NBA.com.
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Mario Chalmers stayed a step ahead of the Celtics defense in Game 2.
Dwyane Wade was stumped.
Boston had switched up its pick-and-roll coverage. Now, instead of switching or hedging on Wade, they were sending both defenders to trap him, to force him to pass to, gulp, Joel Anthony around the free throw line. The adjustment distorted Boston’s usually tight defensive “shape,” but it also radically warped Wade’s options. By staying with weakside shooters and basically leaving a limited big man wide open in the middle of the court (a role previously held by the dynamic but injured Chris Bosh), the Celtics were forcing the Heat to play through their worst player.
The maxim is that Miami will go only as far as Wade and James can take them -- that’s exactly what the Celtics were banking on. But while they loaded up on Wade, Mario Chalmers punished the distorted defense with tough drives and confident 3-pointers -- going off for 14 first half points.
One play was particularly instructive: Wade and Haslem had the right side of the court to themselves midway through the second quarter. Mickael Pietrus and Kevin Garnett played their repeated attempts to spring Wade with a pick-and-roll perfectly, forcing him to the right baseline then springing a soft trap to force a long crosscourt pass. Wade played into Boston's hands and hurled an off balance 40-foot crosscourt jump pass.
Chalmers gathered the errant pass and immediately attacked the three other Boston defenders on his half of the court, splitting two rotating Celtics then going right at Garnett for a lay up -- which he missed. But his drive had ruined Boston’s rebounding positioning, and Chalmers got his bucket on the second try.
This wasn’t the kind of play a specialist makes. It was a bold move from a role player, and it was emblematic of how the Heat’s role players have stepped up in Chris Bosh’s absence. And it makes me think of all those times when Wade or LeBron were being criticized for putting too much faith in guys like Udonis Haslem, Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers -- the same three guys who now, when the stakes are highest, are playing their best basketball of the season.
The Heat established a relationship of interdependence throughout the regular season and at times it seemed to work to their detriment. But look at Haslem aggressively popping into open space on the baseline, or Battier grinning like some evil robot as he awaits a pressure-packed corner 3-pointer with under three minutes left in the game. All told, the three combined for 44 points.
The Celtics executed their defensive game plan almost perfectly. They wanted to force those Heat role players to beat them, and they did.
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images
Kevin Love's mild concussion against Denver shouldn't be taken lightly.
I still have trouble piecing together the events of a night from 11 years ago.
From what I’ve been told and the little I remember, my rec league basketball team was up by about five or six points with under a minute to go. We had the ball and were playing Keep Away from the other team. I caught the ball somewhere before halfcourt, evaded a defender trying to foul me and began advancing the ball.
After I turned to dribble, I have no idea what happened next. The next moment I can recall is lying on the floor with a few teammates and a referee standing above me. I don’t remember getting up. I vaguely remember standing at the free throw line and have a faint recollection of how the basket looked to me as I was trying to focus in on my free throws. Nothing was in focus and I had a tunnel vision type of view as I looked toward the hoop. Miraculously, I made both free throws (or maybe my friends just told me I did to make me feel better). I honestly couldn’t tell you.
The game ended and we had our customary game recap session at a nearby Taco Bell. I don’t remember going there but I know I was there. For some reason, I drove home after this. When I pulled up to my house, an overwhelming sense of disorientation and fear came over me. I couldn’t remember how I got home, even as I was sitting in my car. I tried to figure out if I had driven myself, confused as to why I’d be in the car if I hadn’t been the one driving. I wondered if I ran any red lights or veered into occupied lanes in my 14-mile drive home.
I had a concussion. My trip to the doctor the next day confirmed this. For the next three weeks, I avoided driving because it didn’t feel safe. I couldn’t concentrate long enough to obey basic traffic laws. For a few months after the oncourt collision, I’d get splitting headaches that just randomly popped up. Before that, I’d rarely get them. It took me roughly five or six months to ever completely feel normal again, and even to this day, my short-term memory is unreliable.
Seeing Kevin Love going down in a dazed heap after JaVale McGee’s elbow accidentally implanted itself into Love’s temple was a scary sight. Whenever you see a guy on the ground, looking up at his teammates and trainer without a hint of being present, it’s an alarming and uneasy feeling. It’s also an injury the NBA is taking extremely serious.
So far this season, we’ve had a few high profile players suffer concussions. Kobe Bryant, Kyrie Irving and Mickael Pietrus have all been diagnosed with concussions to varying degrees/grades. Bryant suffered one in the All-Star Game and never missed any action after clearing the mandatory exertion tests to show he was symptom free. Irving missed three games after being accidentally kneed in the head by Dwyane Wade.
Pietrus had the most severe of these brain injuries, suffering a Grade 3 concussion when he slammed into the hardwood in Philadelphia. He missed 10 games, just coming back last night to help the Celtics in their win over Atlanta.
While Love’s concussion may not be as severe as Pietrus’, it begs the question of whether or not he should even finish the season. He was kept for precautionary measures in Denver overnight with Wolves assistant athletic trainer Andrew Tai, per Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune.
Minnesota, like many other teams in the league, has been banged up throughout this season. They lost Ricky Rubio due to an ACL tear, Nikola Pekovic for numerous games because of an ankle injury, JJ Barea with various ailments, and currently Luke Ridnour with a sprained ankle. Since the Rubio injury, they’ve gone 4-14 and helped extend their April losing streak to 23 straight games (their last April win came against the Warriors on April 8, 2009). They’ve fallen out of the playoff race and don’t even have a draft pick to tank for.
Ultimately, it’s up to Kevin Love and the medical staff involved in assessing concussion recovery to figure out if he should get back on the court before the 2012-13 season begins. Other than pride and wanting to get back to your teammates, there really isn’t a reason that shows the Wolves should risk putting him back in the lineup if there are any lingering symptoms past today.
Nearly a month ago, LeBron James claimed he was “too tough” to get a concussion after a collision with Grant Hill in Miami. Even if we pretend that is medically and biologically possible for James, the idea for a public figure/role model to claim toughness has precedent in preventing a head injury seems reckless at best, as Tom Haberstroh wrote about here.
There is nothing wrong with taking things slowly with this Love concussion situation and being overly cautious in when you let him get back on the court. If it means he misses the final seven games for Minnesota this season then so be it. These head injuries can be a scary byproduct of this game at any level and the consequences can stick around for a long time.
I would never pretend to have been too tough for my concussion. Pietrus wouldn’t let his ego get in the way of admitting to one and LeBron shouldn’t have scoffed at the idea. Hopefully Kevin Love and the Minnesota Timberwolves will take it as seriously as each head injury potentially is.
- If Chris Paul demands his way out of New Orleans, should he be subject to the same vitriol LeBron James has received? Should the fact that Chris Paul is a point guard color our perception of his desire to play with a better supporting cast? Should Paul have known better when he signed an extension with the Hornets in the summer of 2008?
- The prevailing question when Richard Jefferson opted out of the final year of his contract was, "What is he thinking leaving $15.2 million of guaranteed money on the table?" After agreeing to a 4 year/$38.9 million deal, Jefferson's decision appears pretty savvy -- and informed -- in retrospect. Timothy Varner of 48 Minutes of Hell on Jefferson's gamble: "Turns out that Jefferson knew more than his critics: he just parlayed 15 million into 38. With a possible lockout and a more frugal CBA looming large on the horizon, Jefferson has locked himself into more guaranteed money over the next 4 years than he would have made otherwise. Credit Jefferson with a shrewd move and big score."
- Grizzlies vice president of basketball operations and general manager Chris Wallace chats with Chip Crain of 3 Shades of Blue about Hasheem Thabeet, O.J. Mayo as point guard, and testing potential draftees for basketball I.Q.
- The prospect of Hedo Turkoglu playing the 4 in Phoenix's offense has rattled some cages, but think back to 2006 postseason when the Suns got within two games of an NBA Finals berth without Amare Stoudemire. Apart from all their early drag-screens and transition pull-ups, the Suns ran a bunch of effective stuff through Boris Diaw at the high post for cutters and shooters on the weak side. Turkoglu will presumably perform a similar function in the offense. Michael Schwartz of Valley of the Suns enumerates some of his concerns about the Hedo Turkoglu-Phoenix Suns fit.
- A nice story of a summer league standout making good: Jonathan Givony of Draft Express reports that perimeter sniper Gary Neal has agreed to a 3-year deal with the Spurs. Neal set up shop behind the arc and went wild in the first half of the Spurs' final game in Las Vegas.
- Who should be the Magic's starting small forward? Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post pores over some data and concludes that the answer is not Mickael Pietrus. Eddy Rivera of Magic Basketball reached the same conclusion.
- Ben Golliver of Blazers Edge sits down with Joe Cronin, one of the Trail Blazers' lead scouts, and talks Dante Cunningham, Luke Babbitt and Armon Johnson, among others. Hey, did Cronin just call Patty Mills a "master flopper"?
- Kyle Weidie of Truth About It captured some incredible shots from the baseline of Cox Pavilion during Las Vegas Summer League. His latest target? Cal standout Jerome Randle, who played on the Wizards' squad.
- If you're having trouble finding a satisfying highlight reel of Derrick Favors at Georgia Tech, it might have something to do with the Jackets' guard play last season.
- Steve Perrin of Clips Nation writes that it appears the Clippers and Sofo Schortsanitis just aren't meant to be. After a lackluster performance for the Clips' summer league squad, that might be for the best: "Sofo did NOT acquit himself well in Summer League, even taking all of those things into consideration. Plenty of bigs looked good in Vegas -- JaVale McGee, DeMarcus Cousins, even Derrick Caracter. He didn't handle double teams well, and he didn't convert free throws when he went to the line. It was a terrible environment for him, but even considering its shortcomings, he should have done better."
- Miami rookie big man Dexter Pittman will have to fight like hell to break the Heat's frontcourt rotation. He tells Surya Fernandez of Hot Hot Hoops that he's up to the task.
- Who's Toronto's go-to guy moving forward -- DeMar DeRozan or Andrea Bargnani?
- New Zealand's national team would love to lure Kendrick Perkins. (Hat Tip: Zach Lowe of Celtics Hub)
- Part seven of Basketbawful's Pickup Diaries: Thinking too much about the 1992 Eastern Conference playoffs while taking the most important standardized test of your life. (PG-13)
- Morris Almond's morning win: "back to back Fresh Prince episodes on TBS and Mickey D's breakfast."
A soul-crushing defeat for the Magic is a faith-inspiring event for Lakers fans. When it's all over, is it possible Kobe Bryant might have played his finest postseason ever? And will these playoffs mark the moment Dwight Howard arrived as an elite big man?
Kurt Helin of Forum Blue & Gold: "In the end, it's about faith. Faith in yourself. Faith in your teammates. Faith to persevere. Faith that you will bounce back after adversity. Faith that when the game is on the line and in overtime you will execute. It's about faith rewarded. The Lakers did execute when it mattered, and Orlando was 1 of 7 in the OT. The Lakers played through the fouls on them, the fact they got zero free throws in the fourth quarter and overtime. Orlando complains about the calls they didn't get. The Lakers had faith in what they could do. They had faith in their experience. Faith that the hard lessons learned last Finals and beyond would carry them through. Their faith was rewarded."
Zach McCann of Orlando Magic Daily: "The Magic stormed ahead in the final period, scoring on several key possessions and forcing Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant into 4-for-14 shooting in the final period. They had outscored the Lakers 24-15, and the team's confidence was going to be at an all-time high heading into a two-day rest period. Instead, in the blink of an eye and the clank of a rim, the Magic were tied at 87-87. And forget everything you've heard about the home team having the advantage going into the extra overtime. The Magic had no momentum tonight. It was dead. All 18,000-plus were stunned and silent. The offense went motionless as three players stood and watched Hedo Turkoglu try to force the issue on pick-and-rolls. It wasn't there. The Magic should've gone to something else -- Dwight [Howard] in the post, Rashard [Lewis] in isolation, [Mickael] Pietrus working through off-the-ball screens… anything. It's too bad, because it could've gone down as a historic performance from Dwight Howard. No big man has ever reached a triple-double in points, rebounds and blocks in NBA Finals history, and Howard was one block away from that feat tonight."
John Krolik of Cavs the Blog: "Kobe's about to win the most important ring of his career. You know what? Good for him. Sometimes the breaks are going to go your way, and when that happens you should just be grateful. And all of a sudden the Gasol feed, the Fisher pass, and the hard foul on Howard become the plays that needed to be made for the Lakers to pull it out. He didn't do everything, he wasn't perfect, and a lot of times he wasn't even good, but somehow, some way, he did enough. And for a guy who, fairly or unfairly, has a reputation for having a tough time with the concept of 'enough,' there's at least some poetic justice in this being how Kobe, in all likelihood, is going to take a team that's unequivocally his to the promised land."
(Photos by Jesse D. Garrabrant, Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE, and Christophe Elise/Icon SMI via Getty Images)
Posted by Kevin Arnovitz
The Orlando Magic don't have an unstoppable one-on-one player who can manufacture points out of thin air. When they want something, they have to execute. And for the better part of eight months, they've demonstrated a singular ability to do that. Orlando has mastered the art of finding the open shot, and it was the league's most efficient defensive team in the regular season -- all of it predicated on execution.
The shot that will haunt Stan Van Gundy and the Magic. (Elsa/Getty Images)
That's why the final 10.8 seconds of regulation in Game 4 were so tragic for Orlando. On two consecutive possessions -- one defensive, the next offensive -- the Magic had a chance to ice the game, and all that it required was basic execution, the sort of fundamental basketball Orlando has made a living at this season.
Leading 87-84 with only 10.8 seconds remaining, the Magic needed to deny the Lakers a 3-pointer.
The Lakers opted to inbound the ball in front of their own bench. Ariza was the inbounder and he had two targets in front of him -- Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher. Stan Van Gundy had assigned Hedo Turkoglu, Mickael Pietrus and Jameer Nelson to defend the backcourt.
Ariza was able to get the inbounds pass into Bryant along the sideline, but Turkoglu and Pietrus immediately swarmed the ball. Against pressure, Bryant quickly hit Ariza with a perfect pass up the left sideline. Nelson picked up Ariza, who shuttled the ball across the court to Fisher along the right sideline. Nelson made a beeline over to Fisher but, for whatever reason, dropped back inside the 3-point arc, conceding Fisher a clean look from 25 feet.
The familiar lefty slingshot is good, and the game is tied.
After the game, Stan Van Gundy was asked whether the plan was to foul the Lakers and put them on the line:
No, we thought 11 seconds was too early, especially the way we were shooting free throws tonight. So we thought it was too early. But you know, in retrospect, we gave him so much space to shoot the ball. We played like we were trying to prevent the layup. I thought we did a good job, we denied Bryant the ball, and then we just didn't play Derek Fisher, just didn't guard him. But no, it was my decision with 11 seconds not to foul. Yes, I regret it now, but only in retrospect. I mean, normally to me 11 is too early. You foul, they make two free throws, you cut it to one. You're still at six or seven seconds ... I thought it was too early at 11, though when they took it full court, I'll have to go back and look at that. That one will haunt me forever, but we could have played that play a lot better.
However long the debate about whether to foul or not to foul when leading by three rages on, both sides of the issue can agree on one thing: When the ball comes up the floor, defend the line. Stan Van Gundy will have to live with his decision not to commit a backcourt foul, but Jameer Nelson's inability to deny Fisher the space for the shot was equally fatal. The Magic, just ten seconds away from knotting the series at 2-2, were likely staring at another overtime period ... but they still had a chance to put the game away in regulation.
The Magic isn't lacking for candidates to hit game-winning daggers, and on their first attempt to get the ball in with 4.6 seconds remaining, Hedo Turkoglu -- the inbounder -- was clearly looking for Rashard Lewis to pop out to the left corner. The Lakers defended the scheme well, and forced the Magic to try again.
On the second attempt, all kinds of things were happening:
- Rashard Lewis ran interference on the inbounds play, which freed Pietrus up to collect the ball from Turkoglu about 30 feet from the hoop. Lamar Odom, who got caught on the action, was left to cover Pietrus, while Kobe Bryant drew Rashard Lewis on the switch.
- After his solid down screen to free up Pietrus, Lewis swung around Dwight Howard in the middle of the lane to fade to his favorite spot along the 3-point line on the left side. He dragged Pau Gasol -- Howard's man -- with him.
- ...which meant that Dwight Howard now had position deep, deep, deep in the post against Kobe Bryant.
When Pietrus got the inbounds pass, Ariza and Odom immediately trapped him, which meant Turkoglu was wide open at the top of the arc. Turkoglu called for the ball, but Pietrus was undeterred. Even though Turkoglu had an open look and Howard was positioned eight feet from the rim against a much smaller defender, Pietrus continued his left-handed drive across the arc. As if those two missed opportunities for open shots weren't enough, Pau Gasol generously gave Pietrus a third option when the Lakers' big man sloughed off Lewis in the left corner to provide another line of defense between Pietrus and the basket. Pietrus wouldn't be denied. He heaved an off-balanced runner off his left leg that didn't have a prayer.
The blown opportunity on the offensive end was even more cruelly ironic for the Magic. Just as they have all season long, the Magic managed to get themselves wide open looks all over the floor -- Turkoglu as the forgotten inbounder, Howard down low on the mismatch, the sharpshooting Lewis at his favorite spot. The precision employed to get these shots has been the Magic's greatest asset. But in the closing seconds of regulation Thursday night, they abandoned what had worked for them so well for more than 100 games.
Posted by Kevin Arnovitz
Stan Van Gundy entered the NBA Finals with a full menu of options at point guard, shooting guard, and small forward. With Jameer Nelson's return from injury, Van Gundy now has, count 'em, four legitimate options at the point: Rafer Alston, Hedo Turkoglu, Anthony Johnson, and Nelson. On the wings, Van Gundy can mix and match Turkoglu with Courtney Lee, Mickael Pietrus, and J.J. Redick. Rashard Lewis even saw some time at the three Sunday night when Van Gundy went with his twin tower offense.
Who's In? Who's Out? (Jeff Gross/NBAE via Getty Images)
Van Gundy has an embarrassment of riches, and that flexibility has been one of the Magic's principal strengths throughout the playoffs. In each series, he's calibrated his rotation based on matchups. When Lee returned to action in Game 3 of the Boston series, for instance, Van Gundy went with Redick on Ray Allen, preferring to hold Lee back to chase Eddie House. The choice seemed unorthodox at the time, but like most of Van Gundy's decisions this postseason, it panned out. Allen never got going, and the Magic shut down House after he torched them in the first two games of the series.
The Magic's stacked, versatile roster has been a blessing for Van Gundy -- but two games into the Finals, it's proving to be a curse. 101 minutes into the series, Van Gundy has yet to settle on any semblance of a rotation, and his substitution patterns have been wildly unpredictable. While Phil Jackson has established a coherent rotation -- complicated only by foul trouble -- the Orlando flow chart of substitutions looks like an unwinnable game of Tetris.
"I'm not sure I got another lineup to throw out there that you haven't seen," Van Gundy said. "I don't have another one now. We played with no point guard, we played conventionally, we had Rashard at the three, we played Hedo at the one, two and three. We played Rashard at the three and four. We played big, we played with no point guard. What do they say, just keep throwing stuff at the wall and hope something sticks?"
It might be time to start padding those walls. Let's start with the point guard spot. Alston has maintained his starting spot in the series, while Jameer Nelson has assumed the backup role, in the process bumping Anthony Johnson to the end of the bench. It hasn't been that simple. After Nelson's stint at the end of the third and start of the fourth quarters Sunday night, Van Gundy opted for Turkoglu to man the point down the stretch. Going to Turkoglu has merit, but it introduces yet another uncertainty into the Magic's increasingly unstable rotation. Does Van Gundy no longer trust Alston, who is 3-17 from the field in the series? Is he completely sold on Nelson's ability to perform at 100%? Does Nelson give them the best chance to win? Does running the show with Turkoglu make things harder for the Magic on the wings? The fact that there are no definitive answers to these questions is problematic.
"I thought Rafer was playing well, but they're just leaving him open on every post‑up, and we couldn't get the ball in the basket," Van Gundy said. "We were just searching for somebody to be able to make a shot. Obviously we didn't find anybody."
Van Gundy was similarly indecisive at shooting guard. Courtney Lee started the game for Van Gundy, but checked out with two fouls four minutes into the game. He didn't return until the start of the third quarter, then was replaced by Pietrus three minutes into the half after Kobe Bryant hit three straight shots over him. Not until Pietrus fouled out in the closing moments of regulation did Lee return, and even after overtime he finished with only 11 minutes played.
Lee said all the right things after the game. "We went on our runs and we were playing good," Lee said. "If any of our guys can step up and play well, and if coach feels they're doing the job, then that's who we're going to roll with."
Redick logged 27 minutes at shooting guard after seeing only seven minutes toward the end of the Game 1 blowout, which was preceded by five DNP-CDs. Although he drained a huge 3-pointer to tie the game with 2:20 remaining in regulation, Redick hit only two of nine shots from the field without a trip to the line. Defensively, Redick spent most of his time on Sasha Vujacic in the first half, then Derek Fisher in the fourth quarter. Did Van Gundy feel that Redick's ability to space the floor best suited the Magic's needs against the Lakers' strong-side pressure? Does he perceive Redick to be a better passer than Lee? Is it safe to assume Redick will see the lion's share of the minutes at the two ahead of Lee and, if so, has Lee's designated role in this series been downgraded to insurance policy?
Truth be told, an inch or two here and there could've given the Magic the win, and Van Gundy might have been heralded a genius for his tactics. There are sensible arguments on the pro and con sides of all of these issues. But his indecisiveness isn't allowing a team that predicates its game on rhythm to establish any. Orlando's roster gives Van Gundy tremendous flexibility and depth -- which could be just enough rope to hang himself.
Posted by Kevin Arnovitz
LOS ANGELES -- When a team like the Lakers runs such a recognizable, well-defined system like the Triangle Offense, it's always striking when they depart from it. Normally, a team makes a drastic adjustment because the defense is disrupting the offensive flow. Thursday night, the Lakers voluntarily went away from the Triangle in favor of a Kobe Bryant exhibition outside their standard system. Bryant as the focal point of the Lakers' offense isn't news, and it's certainly not rare for him to freelance over extended stretches. Thursday night, though, Kobe's independence from the offense seemed like a deliberate strategy by the Lakers.
Triangle? What Triangle? In Game 1, Kobe Bryant Beat the Magic with the Pick-and-Roll (Jed Jacobsohn/NBAE via Getty Images)
You could argue that Bryant is always a one-on-one player in the classic sense, even in the confines of the Triangle. Typically, though, he gets his shots within the system -- off handoffs at the pinch post, against weaker defenders in the low post, on cuts to the strong-side block. Game 1 was an entirely different story, as the Lakers relied conspicuously on a Give-it-to-Kobe approach, surprising Orlando with early drives, and utilizing a simple high pick-and-roll that caught the Magic off-guard.
"That was by design," Bryant said. "We saw something at that moment in the game."
That moment was with 8:32 remaining in the second quarter when Bryant checked back in to the game with the Lakers trailing by five:
- [2nd quarter, 6:33] After Luke Walton abuses Courtney Lee in the post on consecutive possessions, Orlando switches Lee back onto Bryant -- but there's no relief for the rookie. Bryant moves early to back Lee down or -- in Bryant's words from "Kobe Doin' Work" -- to put his ass in the basket. Lee has had a solid defensive postseason taking on tough wing assignments, but he looks overmatched by Bryant. Against Lee, Bryant finishes 6-11 from the field, with a trip to the line for a couple of free throws. Here, Bryant has no trouble getting inside for an easy, turnaround jumper from five feet.
Both Phil Jackson and Bryant are unerringly methodical, and it's unlikely they'd redraw their offensive blueprint without cause. Following the game, Bryant offered one reason. "They were backing up and giving me a jumper, so I took them," he said.
We saw an illustration of this on the very next possession:
- [2nd quarter, 5:58] The Lakers move quickly into a screen-and-roll high on the right wing. Bynum offers a pick, freeing Bryant from Mickael Pietrus. Whether he's afraid to foul Bryant, or he feels Bryant is going to attack, Dwight Howard drops back into the lane, yielding Bryant an open 18-foot jumper which fall through.
The Lakers realized that by drawing Dwight Howard out to defend a perimeter screen-and-roll, they left him with two lousy choices (and two promising outcomes for themselves):  Howard could switch onto Bryant and try to deny him space for an open shot -- but putting himself at great risk of fouling in the process.  Howard could drop back and leave Bryant with open mid-range jumpers.
"I think both our coaching on how to play the pick-and-roll and our execution were poor," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "I thought we were giving him too much space on pull-up jumpers, particularly on pick-and-rolls."
The Lakers tested Van Gundy and the Magic defense again on the next possession:
- [2nd quarter, 5:22] A facsimile of the previous possession. Once again, Bynum steps out to give Bryant a screen on Pietrus to drive left, and again Howard drops back apprehensively. The big man looks besieged. Pietrus tries to run over the screen, but can't possibly catch up to Bryant, who gets to about 15 feet where he buries another jumper.
Usually, when we characterize the Lakers as versatile, it's a nod to players like Gasol, Lamar Odom, Walton, and Bryant who have broad skill sets and play multiple positions in the offense. Game 1 demostrated that the Lakers' versatility extends beyond the sum parts of their roster, and is manifesting itself in their overall game plan. Most nights, the Lakers aren't an isolation or pick-and-roll team, but a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. Sometimes being opportunistic requires a break from orthodoxy. Great teams are flexibie enough to do that.
Posted by Kevin Arnovitz
- What constitutes a "lopsided trade"? "Generally, lopsided trades require two conditions: 1. a team that needs to dump salary, either because they are cheap, because they want to get under the luxury tax line or because they want to create cap space to target a free agent in the future. In some cases, this team must also be willing to withstand media criticism and fan anger for making what might appear to be an unfair trade ... 2. a team with cap space willing to take on new contract(s) and sacrifice some flexibility."
- The Kamenetzky Brothers marvel at the bifurcated tasks Pau Gasol will have to perform guarding Rashard Lewis one minute, while dealing with Dwight Howard the next: "This is like playing guitar in an Andres Segovia revue one day then ripping for a death metal band the next night."
- Given all the events surrounding Luol Deng's injury, the NBA's choice for "Team Physician of the Year" raised some eyebrows.
- Who on Orlando's roster is going to guard Kobe Bryant? In addition to spelling Mickael Pietrus' name with
an umlauta diaeresis, Kevin Pelton contrasts Pietrus and Courtney Lee's defensive styles: "Mickaël Pietrus has gotten the toughest defensive assignments for the Magic the last two rounds, making both Paul Pierce and LeBron James work for their points. It remains to be seen whether Pietrus or rookie Courtney Lee will spend more time on Bryant in this series. Lee's style of defense, more technical than Pietrus' use of his athleticism and physicality, may be a better match for Bryant."
- Is there a legitimate case for Jeff Van Gundy to recuse himself from doing color for the NBA Finals? Kelly Dwyer says it's a whole lot of nothing: "First, we're big boys and girls. We can handle this. We're grown up enough to understand what Jeff Van Gundy is going through, where his loyalties lie (even though they've only been in place for, quite literally, 24 months), and how it's is going to shape his broadcasting style. That is to say, it's not going to have much of an impact when he's discussing Trevor Ariza."
- A footwear substitution for Mickael Pietrus: "While Pietrus has been rockin' the Nike Zoom Kobe IVs for the majority of the season, now that he's going up against Black Mamba means Pietrus is changing his kicks."
- The All-Time Blazer Fantasy Draft at Bust a Bucket. With the number 9 pick, Scottie B selects...Zach Randolph?!
- Celtics assistant Clifford Ray, who taught Dwight Howard how to operate in the post and was a cog in the Warriors 1975 championship team that upset the Washington Bullets, is picking the Magic. Did you know that Ray once rescued a dolphin at Marine World by sticking his long arms into its stomach and pulling out a screw?
- Zaza Pachulia: Worth holding onto: "Beyond his value on the glass, both absolutely and in consideration of the relative weakness his teammates in that crucial facet of play, Pachulia plays sound position defense when able to establish position and forces opponents to make free throws when he's caught out of position. Furthermore, though his offensive role has shrunk since Al Horford's arrival, Pachulia rebounded from his injury-plagued 2007-08 season to post career highs in both FG% and FT Rate"
- The Starting Five has a solid interview with Sekou Smith, the beat writer at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Among other topics, Smith delves into the uncertain future of the newspaper model: "I would like to think that we're resilient enough to reconfigure and stay relevant for a long time, certainly as long as I'm in the business. I don't know exactly where we fit in the traditional model. I know there's a place for what we do. It's just a matter of finding that place."
- Are the Clippers suckers for the bad offseason trade? Clips Nation pores over the evidence and says, "Think Again."
- Joey at FreeDarko breaks down Mike Breen's game: "Listening to Breen call a basketball game is like hearing someone new to Judaism intersperse oddly pronounced Hebrew among his usual idiolect: you know what he's doing, but it doesn't sound right, and you question its authenticity, not least of all because it already seems borderline obnoxious when you hear it from rabbis."
Posted by Kevin Arnovitz
The Cavs and Magic each came into the series with a full playbook of good offensive material that worked all season -- which is why they're playing basketball in late May. The difference came down to which team better executed its stuff. Saturday night, it wasn't even close.
Dwight Howard: Turning Defenses Inside Out (John Raoux/NBAE via Getty Images)
As dominant as Howard was -- he chalked up twice as many points as Orlando's second-highest scorer -- the Magic's clincher was a collective effort offensively. What's striking about Orlando is how many different things they execute well offensively -- to say nothing of their top-ranked defense. Orlando gets a lot of praise for its pick-and-roll game, which is spearheaded by Hedo Turkoglu and Dwight Howard. Orlando is special in that everyone in their rotation can perform this part of the offense.
Just look at how Orlando amassed its first double-digit lead:
- [2nd quarter, 7:41] It's not the patented 3-5 Turkoglu/Howard screen-and-roll. Howard isn't even in the game, nor is starting point guard Rafer Alston. Rotund backup point guard Anthony Johnson is at the controls. Rashard Lewis steps out to the top of the floor, and slips a screen to Johnson's right. When Johnson recognizes that Wally Szczerbiak and Daniel Gibson have gotten crossed up on the switch, he shuttles the ball over to Lewis, who has an open driving lane to the hoop. Varejao challenges Lewis underneath, but Lewis puts the ball in his off hand, contorts himself, then lays it in.
There's nothing ingenious about what Orlando does. It's the flexibility of the team's personnel that makes the Magic impossible to defend. Everyone is an interchangeable part in the offense. Each of the six guards and forwards can shoot the three, pass the ball, and put it on the deck. Howard appreciates this, and has gotten very shrewd at letting his teammates make plays for him. He checks in immediately after Lewis' hoop, and converts on the very next possession:
- [2nd quarter, 6:20] Johnson is still at the point. He gets a strong screen up top from Lewis, then penetrates into the paint. Howard, meanwhile hangs out just off the mid-post on the left side. The instant Cleveland's interior defense collapses on Johnson, he pitches the ball off to Howard, who now has a huge amount of space to muscle his way to the rim. Anderson Varejao tries to reestablish his presence underneath, but Howard is too quick. By the time Varejao shifts his attention back to the big man, Howard is already into his drive. His running hook from five feet is soft.
This is the Howardized variation of the drive-and-kick, only with the ball ending up in the hands of the big man near the basket rather than a shooter out on the arc.
Orlando uses its bread and butter to establish control of the game just before halftime, and Howard gets the assist:
- [2nd quarter, 4:55] The Orlando 4-out/1-in: The single most effective offensive scheme we've seen from any team in the postseason. Everyone on the floor and on both benches knows it's coming.
When Howard gets the ball off the left block, the Cavs promptly send a double-team, as Delonte West joins Varejao on the cover. Howard has gotten so good at sizing up the backside of the defensive zone in this situation. He takes a looks at his four shooters spread around the arc. At first glance, there isn't much there. For all of Cleveland's problems this series, they're still one of the best defensive teams in basketball, and they rotate very well early in this set. Orlando realizes that in order to work itself an open shot, someone has to scramble the defense.
That's when Courtney Lee dives hard for the basket from the top of the arc. LeBron James, who has been monitoring the top of the floor, has no choice but to pick up Lee on the cut. When Lee cuts, Lewis fills that open space up top, where Howard finds him for the wide open three-pointer. Lewis drains it. He finishes with 18 points on the night, capping off a solid series.
This is just a sampling. Roll through the game tape, and you can find possessions like these everywhere: Another set run through Howard on the left block that results in a full swing of the ball around the perimeter for an open three-point shot by Alston [2nd quarter, 1:27], a Turkoglu/Gortat screen-and-roll that produces a kickout to a wide open Mickael Pietrus [2nd quarter, 8:04], Howard doing his best Pau Gasol imitation with a pass over his shoulder out of the block to Pietrus on the basket cut [3rd quarter, 0:22].
All season, skeptics questioned whether Orlando played a style of basketball that was conducive to winning a championship -- as if winning is a question of aesthetics. In modern basketball, we've seen fast teams, slow teams, motion offeneses, pick-and-roll outfits all win NBA Championships. No matter what their offensive agendas, these teams had one thing in common: They executed.
Is it really as simple as "LeBron up top in isolation" for the Cavs? If so, how does Orlando adjust? Is "Carmelo up top in isolation" a blueprint for Denver? And if you're weary from playoff basketball, there's always the draft combine.
John Krolik of Cavs the Blog: "Where do you want to start? 37/14/12 against the best defense in the league? Are you joking me with that line? Is that real? Led the game in points, assists, rebounds, and offensive boards? Had as many assists AS THE MAGIC? (A note for those who think the Cavs were the team with stagnation problems in this game). Scored or assisted on 61% of the team's points. And the team scored 112 on the Magic. And with the team a quarter away from elimination ... the Cavs outscored the Magic by 14 with LeBron taking the ball at the top of the key and scoring or assisting on every Cavaliers basket. Step-back jumpers. Move after move to the basket. Ridiculous feeds. The whole thing. That's absolutely unheard of. In an elimination game, in the conference finals, against the league's best defense. That is absurd ... The TNT guys were absolutely in awe. When Kenny asked Charles Barkley, who's only one of the best scorers of all time and loved the ball from the free-throw line extended for face-up drives, if he'd ever been leaned on like that, Charles looked at Kenny like he'd just asked him where Ernie could score some PCP. They said 'eventually LeBron will get tired,' which to Magic fans must sound like someone telling Roy Schneider in Jaws 'Well, eventually we figure he'll get full.'"
Zach McCann of Orlando Magic Daily: "Tonight's momentous performance from LeBron James once again made it clear: when LeBron is on, truly playing at the top of his game, it doesn't matter what Mickael Pietrus, Hedo Turkoglu, Dwight Howard or a variety of other help defenders do - James cannot be stopped. He can go over, under, around and through any defender that comes his way. The Magic can only keep their arms up, hope he misses and pray they don't hear a whistle ... LeBron was just in another world, fluidly penetrating the lane and seeing the play develop an instant before any defender did. A couple years ago, LeBron scored the final 25 points of Cleveland's Game 5 victory over the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals, saving the Cavs' season and eventually leading them to the NBA Finals. His performance tonight was of the same grain, as he took over and made sure the Cavs would head back to Orlando for Game 6."
Graydon Gordian of 48 Minutes of Hell: "The Draft Combine media sessions can be a bit tedious. After the tenth player tells you he wants to 'work hard' and his 'defense needs improvement,' you can start to lose interest. So when the opportunity to entice a bit of intrigue out of a player arises, you take it. For me, that moment came while speaking with Omri Casspi ... Given that Omri may be the first Israeli to play in the NBA, I asked him about the Israeli-Palestinian situation and, as his popularity back home grew, whether he would take the chance to comment on the matter publicly. 'I'm playing basketball. I don't want to involve sports and politics.' Thinking he had nipped the question in the bud, I prepared to return to the day's standard subject matter. But before I could revert back to banalities, he took a slightly different tact. 'Israel is beautiful. People don't understand it. Many Jews and Arabs live together in peace. I want to be an ambassador for Israel.' As he spoke, he began to glance downward and his tone became more severe. I grew worried that I had hit a nerve. But as he neared the end of his comments, he seemed relaxed. I think I may have been imposing my own anxiety about the question itself onto him."
(Photos by Gregory Shamus, Seffi Magriso/NBAE, Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images)
A huge night for the Magic, after a pulse-pounding Game 4 win to go up 3-1. The Magic can sniff the Finals. The Cleveland Cavaliers -- everybody's favorite heading into the playoffs -- are on the ropes.
To many, the game was marred by the referees. But watching the video, the referees got the big crunch time calls right, even though in real time many such calls looked bad. The exception? A travel call that went against the Magic. Some thoughts:
- Possibly my favorite moment of the game came in overtime, when Rafer Alston -- playing vastly more down the stretch than usual -- used a big bucket of hustle and grit to turn a LeBron James would-be open-court assist into a key Magic possession. When people say "you have to want it more" this is the kind of thing they are talking about.
- Non-LeBron James Cavaliers (Mo Williams, Delonte West, Wally Szczerbiak, Daniel Gibson) made two of 12 from downtown. They're excellent shooters. Just one more of those shots goes in ... Meanwhile, the Magic made 17 of their 38 3s.
- In the closing minutes of the fourth quarter, Hedo Turkoglu was called for a travel. Slow motion instant replay reveals Turkoglu gathered his dribble as he stepped onto his left foot. He then stepped onto his right foot, launched, and shot. Not a travel. (Well it could be, by the rulebook, depending exactly when he gathered the ball, but not the way NBA referees are instructed to call it, and you see it dozens of times a game.)
- The call that appeared the weakest was at the end of regulation. His team down two, James drove the lane, fell down, and Mickael Pietrus was called for a foul. It seemed like the classic case of a superstar bailout call, and didn't we all get a little sick at the thought that such a big game would be decided in such a manner. Looking at the replay, though, it's undeniable that James fell because Pietrus's foot tangled with James'. It might not get called that way every time, but it was a trip.
- LeBron James almost missed his second free throw with 0.5 left in the fourth quarter. It was very fortunate for Cleveland that it went in. At least it seemed fortunate. On the other hand: Anderson Varejao's hand was right there. If the ball had rolled out, it looked like he would have had a putback for the regulation win.
- With 0.5 left in regulation, the game tied at 100, and Orlando inbounding the ball, Varejao and Howard got tangled and fell. The whole arena was irate. I got a dozen texts, voicemails, and e-mails from people telling me the league was a sham. But I watched it a dozen times in slow motion. Probably a good no-call, but you could make a case it should have been a foul on Howard, who twice grabbed Varejao in the sequence.
- In the closing seconds of overtime, I think everyone was sure Dwight Howard would be called after he bit on a LeBron James fake, and made contact while James released the shot. It looked like a play we have all seen called a foul a zillion times. But replays revealed that at the time of contact, Howard was upright on the ground, and James jumped into him.
- Already I can feel the most paranoid of Cavalier fans amping up the worry, thinking that an exit from this series would not be a title, and that title was supposed to be the glue sticking LeBron James in Cleveland for the long-term. Too soon to worry about that.
One shot. The 1 spot for the Lakers is a concern. And is Gregg Popovich still The One in San Antonio?
John Krolik of Cavs the Blog: "On Friday, the funeral was a second away. The Cavs had blown the biggest lead of the playoffs, and were about to lose two in a row on their supposedly infallible home floor. LeBron's lack of a reliable jumper had been exposed down the stretch when he was forced to drive into a waiting defense and got absolutely stuffed, and then, with the season on the line, he did, of all things, travel. (Even worse than the crab-dribble; LeBron took about 7 steps. That was less a walk than a hike.) If Hedo Turkoglu takes literally one second longer to make his move, King James' coronation takes another year, at least. But he didn't. And Hedo bit down to cover the possible lob instead of preventing a run-out to the three-point line at all costs. And LeBron hadn't made a three all night. For that matter, he'd only made two jumpers. And he'd only made one buzzer-beater in his career. And never in the playoffs. And never from three. None of that mattered when the ball went through the net and landed. Lights on. Wrist extended. Game over. Series tied. Season Alive."
Zach McCann of Orlando Magic Daily: "Really, this game wasn't much different from Game 1 -- early deficit, furious comeback, closely-played fourth quarter and a game-winning 3-pointer. Only this time, it will be LeBron James' off-balance, awkward, rim-rattling heave that will surely be shown on highlight shows and Ultimate LeBron for years to come. Sure, there are certain elements of the play that Magic fans can question. The Magic could've double-teamed LeBron or put Mickael Pietrus on him, for starters. But at the end of the day, it was just an incredible shot - in all honesty, one of the greatest shots I've ever seen and what will likely be a major building block in the legend of LeBron James. According to the stats, James will make that shot about four out of ten times in a super-clutch situation. The Magic will generally take those odds, particularly on a road playoff game against the NBA's No. 1 seed. But when it left his hand, you knew it was going in."
Kurt Helin of Forum Blue and Gold: "I'm frustrated by the guard play. I'm not frustrated by the missed last second shot by [Derek] Fisher ... What is frustrating was Fisher's play in the third quarter, when the Lakers had a big lead and he kept driving into a forest of defenders looking for…. a foul I guess. A parting of the Red Sea. Whatever. Doing it once and not getting it is one thing, the two subsequent times when the same thing happened is very frustrating. But Phil Jackson trusts Fisher because they have a history. Because he is stable. Because he has hit big shots in the past. All the reasons that we Lakers fans love Fisher. But at some point in these playoffs that trust has to bend to the new reality that Fisher is not getting the job done. He is a defensive liability. He is not hitting his shots. He is just not the same player ... Laker guards outside of Kobe were 6 of 24 in game two. That simply will cost the Lakers games. It's frustrating because I want someone to grab the opportunity and play so well they demand the minutes. It hasn't yet happened."
(Photos by Gregory Shamus, Ronald Martinez/NBAE via Getty Images)