Around The World: May 2, 2014
Trail Blazers: Lillard Takes Top Spot In Grantland Power Rankings
“Andrew Sharp over at Grantland.com posted a power ranking of players and coaches in the 2014 NBA Playoffs, though it doesn’t exactly adhere to the usual ranking script. Rather than ranking every player and coach, which would be futile, he starts by naming Indiana’s Roy Hibbert, who most would consider the biggest disappointment of the postseason, No. 20 and works his way down from there. Rockets coach Kevin McHale and his starting shooting guard, James Harden, come in at No. 19 and No. 18, respectively. Meanwhile, unheralded Rockets D-League guard turned hero Troy Daniels comes in at No. 10 while Dwight Howard is a few spots behind at No. 12.”
Trail Blazers: Four Of Five ESPN Analysts Pick Blazers To Win Game 6
“If your a Trail Blazers fan, I think you’d rather see at least one expert pick against Portland closing out. Less of a jinx. Then again, the Trail Blazers are 8-0 all-time in close out games at home according to Fran Blinebury of NBA.com, so maybe jinx doesn’t matter in this case.”
Trail Blazers: Thorpe: LaMarcus Aldridge Still MVP Of The Postseason
“Aldridge’s offensive performances, particularly in the first two games, has forced Houston’s defense to pay so much attention to the 6-11 power forward that plays are opening up for his teammates. That’s incredibly valuable.”
Trail Blazers: Team Spells 'We Are Rip City' With Rally Towels
“But before that, the Rockets will hold shootaround at the Moda Center this morning, and when they do, they’ll be greeted by 20,000 rally towels spelling out “We Are Rip City” courtesy of Les Schwab Tires. Between these towels and the red LED glow sticks, fans in attendance at tonight’s game are going to have their hands full. And if the first fives games were any indication, so will the Trail Blazers”
Trail Blazers: Trail Blazers Vs. Rockets Game 6 Preview
"I think we may have underestimated how desperate they were going to come out," he said. "I'm excited for Game 6 and I know that they will come out with a greater level of intensity and confidence and we will have to try and match it, overcome it."
Trail Blazers: What 2 Watch 4 - Trail Blazers Vs. Rockets: Game 6
“This Portland-Houston series has plenty of stars – five NBA All-Stars, in fact (LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard, Mo Williams, James Harden and Dwight Howard). And those stars are shining bright in what has been a highly competitive and entertaining series. But that doesn’t mean other players haven’t played starring roles themselves, and you have to look no further than the small forward position. After five contests, Nicolas Batum ranks among Portland’s top three players in points (17.2, 3rd), rebounds (6.6, 3rd) and assists (4.8, 2nd). And once the series shifted to Portland the first time, Batum topped his previous playoff career high in scoring (18 points) not just once (26 points in Game 3), but twice (25 points in Game 4). But just as the teams have matched each other nearly point-for-point and rebound-for-rebound, so too has Chandler Parsons in relation to Batum. The Houston small forward ranks third on his squad in scoring (20.0) and fourth in rebounding (5.8) as the series heads for Game 6 in Portland. That means at least one more chance for these two players to enjoy the spotlight. Of course, that also means another 48 minutes where each needs to guard the other. ”
“As a permanent salute to the memory of legendary Portland Trail Blazers Coach Dr. Jack Ramsay, the Trail Blazers and City of Portland Commissioner Steve Novick are partnering in a resolution to rename a street in the Rose Quarter in Ramsay’s honor. North Winning Way, a feeder street just north of the Moda Center and Veterans Memorial Coliseum, would be renamed “Ramsay Way” in honor of Ramsay, who passed away earlier this week at age 89. Commissioner Novick plans to introduce the resolution at the next Portland City Council meeting on Wednesday, May 7.’’
“I just watched a little bit of Game 6 of the 1977 (NBA Finals) and closing it out,” Stotts said during his meeting with reporters at the Moda Center, the team’s only media availability Thursday. “Now we’ve got Game 6 here. In light of the passing of coach (Jack) Ramsay, I think it would be pretty nice to close it out tomorrow.”
"Portland must scheme better looks for LaMarcus Aldridge. Instead of all those pick-and-pops, he's going to need to roll to the basket once in a while. He seldom does it, but getting him moving toward the basket when he receives the ball is a way to get him into the paint for easier shots. Aldridge has not shown he can get quality shots inside just by tossing the ball to him at the low block with his back to the basket. He'll do it against small players, but Howard and Asik have taken that away.’’
"Rebounding has been, to me, the overriding factor in the series so far," Stotts said. "They've done a very good job getting offensive rebounds. I don't know if winning the battle, but we have to certainly do a better job of containing it."
Rip City Project: Wesley Matthews: The Most Underrated Player In The NBA?
“This playoff series for Matthews has been nothing out of the ordinary box-score wise. He’s still averaging his 16 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 1 assist per game. He’s been the Blazer spark, however, which is so much more important than what is seen on a basic level. Those post-moves on the defensively-inept James Harden, the hustle on the loose ball, the suffocating defense, the chest-pumping. No matter the situation, Matthews has found a way to bring his team back into game-relevancy.”
"The next piece of the puzzle is on-ball defense from Wesley Matthews, with assistance from Nicolas Batum. Both players have aggressively denied Harden the ball and done a good job of keeping him in front of them defensively. Matthews' strength has been particularly effective in this matchup."
“Among the more curious developments in these playoffs: Damian Lillard’s fairly dramatic improvement as a finisher. During the season the area immediately around the basket proved uncomfortable for Lillard; while athletic enough to get to the rim, Lillard converted just 46.9 percent of his shots from the restricted area — a pitiful percentage relative to other star guards. In this series, though, Lillard has converted 63.6 percent of his attempts from that same range, many over the likes of Dwight Howard and Omer Asik. This version of Lillard is more confident in attacking the basket than any we’ve seen previously, which in Portland’s case has helped steady a jumper-heavy offense.”
“I’m sure there will be Kevin Durant votes, but Tony Allen has always presented a difficult matchup for him, and Scott Brooks hasn’t done much to help. I’ll go with Durant’s former teammate, James Harden, who went to Houston because he wanted the stage in situations like this. Harden is reprising his forgettable performance in the 2012 Finals with Oklahoma City, shooting just 34.7 percent, 25 percent from three-point range, and failing to exploit a Portland defense that ranks last in the playoffs. Harden is getting shots — 118 total for the series — but many are contested, off isolation plays, and he’s not converting. Meanwhile, his assist numbers are also down, and he’s presenting little resistance on the other end of the floor.”
“LaMarcus Aldridge has been incredible in this series and he could very well help the Portland Trail Blazers close out the series Friday night in Portland. It's a match-up like this why the Houston Rockets went out and got Howard this past summer. They needed a star big man to combat the other big men in the West. They needed a guy to step up and play great defense when their backs are against the wall. They needed the Orlando Magic version of Dwight roaming the paint and squaring up against someone like Aldridge.”
Grantland: Avoiding NBA Extinction
"The Trail Blazers are also feasting in transition. Portland has shot 46 percent from deep and scored nearly 1.35 points per possession, a mark that would have led the league by a long shot in the regular season, per Synergy Sports. During early stretches of the second and fourth quarters, Houston has tried to junk up the game by going small, switching a ton, and scrambling Portland’s offense."
Ball Don't Lie: Pacers Stay Alive, Score 95-88 Game 6 Win Over Hawks
"With Hibbert staying put on the bench to start the third quarter, the Pacers continued to both harass Atlanta's shooters and get higher-quality looks themselves, extending their lead to nine at 57-48 with just over 5 1/2 minutes remaining in the frame. Shortly thereafter, though, George — who had been instrumental in stifling Teague's penetration — picked up his fourth foul and headed to the bench. Right away, Teague scored four quick points and got the Hawks back in the business of attacking the rim.”
"Westbrook enacted a more substantive change in approach. After averaging 7.6 three-point attempts in the series' first five games, Westbrook attempted only two in Game 6 (with his only make coming on a banked shot from the wing). Instead, Westbrook focused on getting to the rim and serving in his typical role of all-world catalyst. His 9-of-21 shooting on the night doesn't exactly inspire, but the way he got those shots served the Thunder well. He looked like a player with a more thoughtful approach, even if he expressed with his typically chaotic energy."
SLAM: Post-Up: Mr. Big Time
"Game 6 is exactly what the Oklahoma City Thunder needed—a stellar night from superstar Kevin Durant and an overall powerful win to propel the team into a smooth Game 7 at home come Saturday night."