212

Rockets defy critics and stick to the plan in Game 2 win

The call came in a little after 1 a.m. early Tuesday morning. PJ Tucker saw the caller ID and shook his head. James Harden was calling to talk about the Houston Rockets’ demoralizing loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Monday. Tucker wasn’t sure if the MVP front-runner was calling to vent or cheer him up. Either way, he was in no mood.

“I was so mad I didn’t answer the phone,” Tucker told ESPN on Wednesday night after the Rockets righted the ship to win Game 2 127-105 and salvage a split on their home court. “James was mad I didn’t answer. But it wasn’t one of those where we had to talk it out. We all knew what happened.new nike nfl jerseys for sale cheap

“We played like the Rockets tonight. The first game, I don’t know who that was.”212

To a man, the Rockets insisted they didn’t change their approach in Game 2 after being criticized for playing such an isolation-heavy game Monday night. If anything, they seemed to double down on that approach and way of being Wednesday night. They just did it a whole lot better.

Houston’s passing in Game 2 led to much better shots than it did in Game 1. On Wednesday, for example, the Rockets created 12 uncontested 3-point shots off assists and made six of them. In Monday’s loss they created only five uncontested 3-pointers off assists and made two of them.

“I had better opportunities. We moved the ball better. Everybody was knocking down shots. Once we do that, how can you stop us?” said Rockets guard Eric Gordon, who scored 27 points including six 3-pointers Wednesday.

“I think this game was a matter of the Rockets bringing the force that’s necessary to win a game and we didn’t,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “We had seven turnovers in the first quarter. We set the tone early with our own play, and allowed them to get some confidence and some easy buckets in transition. We let guys get going.

“We got what we deserved. They kicked our butts. No other way to say it.”cheap nfl jerseys nike china

The only Warrior who seemed to be sharp Wednesday was Kevin Durant, who basically carried his team when nobody else could hit a shot or find a rhythm. Durant had a game-high 38 points on 13-of-22 shooting, but noticeably no assists as the Rockets forced him into isolation situations and decided to live with the results so long as he didn’t get anyone else involved.

211

Stephen Curry: Warriors need more aggressiveness, discipline on D

The Rockets targeted Curry on 23 possessions in Game 2, the most he has been targeted in a game this postseason, as they routed the Golden State Warriors 127-105 on Wednesday night to even the series at one game apiece. He was the primary defender on 20 plays in Game 1.

According to Second Spectrum, Curry defended 15 isolation plays in Game 1 and 13 in Game 2. nfl replica jerseys cheap Both were more than he had defended in the past four seasons, regular season and playoffs.

“They made shots,” Curry said about the Rockets’ high point total. “We were just a step slow on our rotations and our switches. Guys got into the paint. We know their M.O. is isolation, trying to get dribble drives, get the ball in the paint. … We’ve got to respond with some more aggressiveness and more discipline on the defensive end.”

Asked about how relentlessly the Rockets are zeroing in on Curry, coach Mike D’Antoni said, “It’s obviously one of our things we like to do.”

In the series, James Harden and Chris Paul are consistently calling for screens from the teammate Curry is guarding to get the two-time MVP to switch onto them. Once Curry switches to the primary ball handler, the Rockets attempt to penetrate to the basket.211

Houston shot 7-of-15 from the field on those 23 possessions Curry was the primary defender. Curry was beat off the dribble frequently and too often allowed Harden to drive to his stronger left side.

“We were trying to be too cute with our [defensive] exchanges and our switches and all that stuff instead of just manning up and playing one-on-one defense,” Curry said. “Whether they score or not, as hard as we’re working on the defensive end, they’re working as hard on the offensive end to get shots up. That was the difference between Game 1 and Game 2. They made a concerted effort to turn those one-on-one situations into a little bit more ball movement, and we were just a step slow, myself included.”

Many are questioning whether Curry is fully healed from his left knee injury that forced him to miss five weeks.new nike nfl jerseys for sale cheap

“I physically feel fine,” he told ESPN. “I’m playing without really any limitations so I can just go play basketball.”

155

Tony Parker wants to play 20 NBA seasons, even if not with Spurs

Tony Parker remains committed to completing 20 NBA seasons, even if it means playing for a team other than the San Antonio Spurs.

Parker, who is set to be an unrestricted free agent, has long maintained that his preference is to remain in San Antonio, but the 17-year veteran made it clear Thursday in an interview with RMC Sports that he understands his tenuous standing on a San Antonio roster in transition.

“It is not yet sure that I’ll stay with the Spurs,” Parker said. “I am open to all proposals. I would like to make my entire career in San Antonio. The sport remains a business, and we will have to make choices. I have been 17 years with the Spurs.nike nfl cheap jerseys I would always be nostalgic, but it’s not the end of the world if I change my club. I say two or three years more [I can play if] I can go somewhere else, I’m 50-50. I do not see myself outside of basketball yet. I want to stay three more years to do the 20 seasons.”

Parker played in a total of 55 games last season and averaged 19.5 minutes, 7.7 points, 3.6 assists and 1.7 rebounds after losing his starting job in January to Dejounte Murray. Parker has said he would be fine with returning next season to play a backup role.155

Spurs general manager R.C. Buford told ESPN that the club would make a decision on Parker at the appropriate time. It’s expected Parker will have to accept a contract worth significantly less than the $15.4 million he earned during the 2017-18 season.

San Antonio’s longest-tenured player, Parker, 35, suffered a torn quadriceps tendon during the 2016-17 Western Conference semifinals and believes the recovery process from such an injury requires two years before he’s fully healed.

“I’m almost back to 100 percent,” Parker said. “There are ups and downs, times when we’re not feeling well. It takes time, and this summer it’s going to be important to do some rehabilitation. We’re always better the second season.”

As for Parker’s potential return to San Antonio for an 18th season,cheap nike nfl jerseys from china the veteran has answered such questions since April with similar responses.

“We’ll see,” Parker said in April. “I said already I want to keep playing. I’m happy I don’t have those retirement parties. I want to keep playing, and we’ll see if it’s in San Antonio. Everybody knows I would love to stay here. But free agency is always crazy, so we’ll see.”

153

Stephen Curry reflects on longtime link with Chris Paul

Over the past five years, Stephen Curry and Chris Paul established a bit of a point guard rivalry whenever the Golden State Warriors and LA Clippers linked up.

However, Curry said there was a time early in his career when he considered Paul — now a member of the Houston Rockets and the Warriors’ opponent in the Western Conference finals — to be a mentor of his.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

The two All-Star point guards worked out together in the summer when Curry was taken seventh overall out of Davidson in the 2009 NBA draft.

“He was a great mentor when it came to understanding how a guy on his level prepared over the summer for an NBA season,” Curry said after practice Friday. “How disciplined he was, his work ethic, and I got to see that firsthand after summer league through the beginning of the season. And obviously, we got a Carolina connection.”

Paul, who played collegiately at Wake Forest, was 24 when he worked out with Curry. In an interview that year, he revealed some of the advice he gave the young Curry.

“I just told him to be aggressive, as aggressive as possible,” Paul said then, almost nine years ago. “And as you watch games, because you’re not sure if you’re going to start when you come in as a rookie, I told him when you watch, learn different things. The best thing you can do coming in as a rookie is to watch. Watch basketball. When your team’s not playing, watch another team play, because that’s how you learn.”153

The two are not as close as they once were, but a mutual respect remains.

Paul is in the conference finals for the first time in his career, and Curry is seeking to advance to the NBA Finals for the fourth consecutive season.

Both players are likely future Hall of Famers, and despite their battles on the court,cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal Curry said he appreciates the foundation Paul instilled in him.

“He demonstrated firsthand what it takes to be great in this league, and it was a nice little eye-opener for me that summer,” he said. “Work out with him, compete against him and take that confidence I had into my rookie year [to] get off on a good foot.”

96

How Rajon Rondo used team dinners to bring the Pelicans together

No matter what city the New Orleans Pelicans are in, the script remains the same: A group text goes out and then player after player responds, showing up to that night’s outing when they could be somewhere else during a night off in the midst of the unforgiving NBA schedule.

“I guess it’s like hanging out with your boys, new nike nfl jerseys for sale cheap really,” Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday said. “Camaraderie, just being able to talk about things other than your job or basketball. Finding interests in other people, getting to know them, really, this is going to sound … making them feel like you care. I mean actually really caring — being friends.”

A major reason for one of the most successful seasons in franchise history — the Pelicans’ series against the Golden State Warriors marks just the second time they’ve reached the Western Conference semifinals — is the chemistry that has developed between a group of talented young players and hungry veterans, thanks in large part to the power of those group messages.

“We all feel like we’re here together, like we should be able to have a core and be able to, I guess, hang out, and be with [each other],” Holiday said.

It’s a formula that has worked for past championship teams, as veteran point guard Rajon Rondo knows well.96

“It’s kind of like my Boston days,” said Rondo, who dished out a franchise-postseason-record 21 assists in the Pelicans’ Game 3 victory. “It’s hard to say because the personalities are different, but at the end of the day I love the unselfishness of the group. And I think what we’re finding out is that when we play together, we’re a better team. The only thing that matters — the locker room and culture is different when you’re winning, and when you win it’s a great feeling.”

Holiday, who averaged a career-best 19.0 points per game in the regular season and has upped that to 23.9 PPG in the playoffs, knows the vibes around this team are different, not only because it has had significant success, but because the players enjoy being around each other.cheap nike jerseys nfl

“It’s fun,” he said of the team dinners. “It’s usually a free meal.”

Holiday hasn’t had to pay despite signing a $126 million contract last summer because only two people have picked up the tab for the team meals all season: All-Star center Anthony Davis and Rondo.

95

Draymond Green’s 4 a.m. text elicits ‘I got you’ reply from Kevin Durant

Throughout the night, he got so agitated by his team’s performance that he sent Durant a “long-ass text message.”

The All-Star power forward wouldn’t divulge his message in its totality, nfl cheap nike jerseys but he said he had to let his teammate know how he felt at that moment.

“I just challenged him to be who he is. I had to tell him,” Green told ESPN. “I didn’t see him attacking or being aggressive enough on both ends of the floor like we need him to be. You know, I don’t hold back. When I see something’s wrong, I have to voice my opinion. There were no hard feelings. We’re just trying to win a ballgame.”

When Durant woke up hours later, his reply to the text message was “I got you.”95

Durant said he was a little surprised to have a text waiting for him, but he wasn’t surprised by Green’s viewpoint. A stat line of 22 points on 8-of-18 shooting in 35 minutes of a 19-point loss won’t do for a player of Durant’s caliber.

“In short, [Green] said don’t worry about s— else but playing with force and being aggressive,” Durant told ESPN. “And I tried to do that as much as possible today. I wasn’t aggressive in Game 3, and I knew that. It’s good to know that teammates got your back. It was good to hear that from him.”

The series shifts to the Bay Area for Game 5 on Tuesday. new nike nfl jerseys for sale cheap Golden State hopes to close out the series at home. There is no desire to return to New Orleans, and that was the reason behind Green’s early-morning text message.

On and off the court, Green is producing for his team.

“This place is a crazy environment,” Durant said of the Smoothie King Center. “So I wanted to start off settling us down a bit. I was able to attack in different ways, and it helps when your teammates are motivating you, urging you to go to work. Draymond is one of my biggest supporters. He’s a team-first guy, and you can’t do nothing but respect that.”

58

Pelicans show up for Game 2, but so does Stephen Curry

The Stephen Curry Show at Oracle Arena remains one of the most exciting spectacles in sports.

The two-time MVP, who hadn’t played since March 23 because of an MCL sprain in his left knee, custom nfl jerseys cheap electrified the sellout crowd of 19,586 by dropping in 28 points and grabbing seven rebounds in Tuesday’s 121-116 win over the New Orleans Pelicans in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals. The Warriors lead the series 2-0.

In what came as a bit of a surprise before tip off, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr decided to bring in Curry off the bench in his return game, limiting him to only 27 minutes — but the point guard still made the biggest difference for the veteran group by registering a plus-26 plus/minus — while reinforcing that the Warriors appear to be hitting their stride at the right moment.

After racking up a triple-double in Game 1, Draymond Green had another big performance Tuesday night scoring 20 points, dishing out 12 assists and grabbing 9 rebounds. As much as the Warriors fed off the emotion of Curry’s return, it was Green who provided an important energy jolt at various points in the game when his team needed one. Kevin Durant led all scorers with 29 points (on 11-of-23 shooting) and added 6 rebounds and 7 assists.58

The Pelicans can take solace in the fact that they had an answer for each of the Warriors’ runs throughout the majority of the game. But as was the case in Game 1, the Warriors proved to have too much talent — beating the Pelicans at their own up-and-down game.

After a poor offensive performance in Game 1, Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday responded with a solid night of 24 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists, and Anthony Davis chipped in with 25 points and 15 rebounds of his own. Rajon Rondo had 20 points, 12 assists and 7 rebounds, but the Pelicans’ trio didn’t have an answer as Curry and Durant made plays in the waning minutes.

The scariest part for the Pelicans is that they did a solid job defensively for most of the night nike nfl jerseys for cheap — especially on Klay Thompson who finished just 4-for-20 from the field — but they still lost.

To find a victory in this series, the Pelicans are going to have to play close to a perfect game because their margin of error is so slim. Curry’s presence back in the Warriors’ lineup gives Golden State the type of championship swagger that has defined it over the past four seasons.

57

How Harden-to-Capela became the NBA’s most-feared connection

The raw kid from Switzerland, the center with soft hands, springy legs and open ears, offered James Harden reason for optimism during the roughest year of the Houston Rockets superstar’s career.

It was 2015-16, the final season of Harden’s failed marriage with former All-Star center Dwight Howard. nfl jerseys cheap authentic As their relationship fizzled due to differences in basketball philosophy, a major factor in a catastrophe of a 41-41 season, Harden saw potential in 21-year-old Clint Capela.

Capela’s physical tools caught Harden’s eye. His work ethic earned Harden’s respect. His willingness to listen — the word Harden uses most often when discussing Capela’s development — planted seeds of trust, allowing the bearded face of the franchise to believe he could help groom the project big man into an impact player who would perfectly complement his MVP-level game.

“I knew it wasn’t going to happen right away,” Harden recently told ESPN, “but I continued to work with him, and now look where he is.”57

Now, the 23-year-old Capela stands right in the middle of the Rockets’ success, a blossoming star for a team that had the NBA’s best record in the regular season and has won five of its first six playoff games. He embraces his role alongside Harden and appreciates the perennial All-NBA guard’s guidance.

Capela has come a long way in a few short years since he was a wide-eyed rookie who missed the first 11 field goal attempts of his NBA career, a streak of futility that fittingly ended when he finished an alley-oop from Harden.

Count Harden as one of the first to see this coming from Capela, the 25th pick in the 2014 draft, who spent most of his rookie year with the G League’s Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

“James is very smart,” said Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, custom nfl jerseys cheap who has turned over the entire roster with the exception of Harden, Capela and glue guy Trevor Ariza in the past two years.

“[Harden] saw the potential — [Capela’s] ability to get off the ground quick, his ability to apply what he learned quick, his ability to finish around the rim, all that. I think James saw that early and really helped develop that.”

10

How Kevin Durant, Warriors have adjusted without Steph Curry

The Golden State Warriors were embarrassed in Indiana late in the season, suffering a 20-point defeat that resulted in coach Steve Kerr calling their effort “pathetic” and questioning their desire to win that night.

Some of the veterans took exception.nfl authentic jerseys cheapĀ  When Kerr got wind of it, he apologized personally to the players and then publicly through the media before their next game. But an apology wasn’t the cure for their woes. Five days later, the Utah Jazz hammered the Warriors by 40 in Golden State’s season finale — the biggest loss in Kerr’s coaching tenure — and players were visibly upset with their performance.

The defending champs were entering postseason play on a 7-10 skid, and Kevin Durant was taking the bulk of the blame for not stepping up with Stephen Curry out of commission with a knee injury.

“I’ve got to play better to help my team,” Durant told ESPN at the time. “This is obviously not the way we want to finish this, but we have to move past this and focus on what’s ahead. We don’t have Steph right now, so we have to go out there and get it done until he gets back.”10

When Curry was out with a sprained ankle in March, Durant explained some of the team’s struggles by saying that “Steph is the system here.” The point Durant intended to make was that the free-flowing offensive system implemented by Kerr is tailored to Curry. Essentially, it’s a V10 engine and Curry is the motor oil. So in his absence, it’s a challenge for the team to run the same system.

It’s similar to why the Cleveland Cavaliers struggle when LeBron James is sidelined. So much is run through James that when he’s off the floor, it puts players in uncomfortable roles when attempting to execute the same system.

With Curry in the lineup this season, the Warriors went 41-10 while averaging 120.4 points per 100 possessions, nfl jersey wholesale which would be the best offensive rating over the past 20 seasons. With him off the floor, however, the Warriors were only 17-14 in the regular season and had an offensive efficiency that was right around the league average.

9

On his back, Giannis carries Bucks to force decisive Game 7

After taking only 10 shots in a Game 5 loss on Tuesday night, Antetokounmpo knew he had to be more aggressive and assertive in finding ways to lift his team’s offense — so that’s exactly when it mattered most late in a 97-86 victory over the Boston Celtics.official nfl jerseys cheap The 23-year-old superstar finished with 31 points, 14 rebounds and 4 assists, carrying his team down the stretch. The visceral performance helped even up the series at 3-3 and forced a winner-take-all Game 7 in Boston on Saturday night.

As evidenced throughout the series, Antetokounmpo continuously showed why he was the most talented player in the series. When the Bucks needed to find a way out of a rut, the Bucks’ phenom was there with a crucial play. Khris Middleton continued his huge series going 7-for-8 from the field and chipping in with 16 points, and Bucks point guard Malcolm Brogdon had 16 points of his own.

One of the key differences all night was the Bucks’ ability to get out in transition — they finished with 34 points on 13-of-19 shooting, compared to just six for the Celtics (2-of-3). And Milwaukee’s defense remained stout throughout the game, never allowing the Boston to find the kind of offensive rhythm it desired. Celtics guard Jayson Tatum finished with a team-high 22 points, but the Bucks maintained the edge down low, outscoring the Celtics 50-36 in the paint.9

As the game came to a close, Bucks fans gave their team a rousing standing ovation, chanting “Bucks in 7!” as the final horn sounded in what could be the final game played at the Bradley Center. If the Bucks want to keep their current home open for a couple of more weeks,nfl authentic jerseys cheap they must find a way to win at TD Garden — something they have yet to do in this series. Does Antetokounmpo have another monster night left in what has been a grueling series for both teams? The Bucks certainly believe he does as they walk into the most important game of their season knowing that the best player on the floor wears Milwaukee cream and green.