Daily Zap: April 23

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  •  After LaMarcus Aldridge torched Terrence Jones and the rest of the Rockets for 46 points and 18 rebounds in the Trail Blazers’ Game 1 victory, Houston center Dwight Howard and coach Kevin McHale both said they expect Howard and fellow center Omer Asik to guard Aldridge on a greater percentage of Portland’s possessions during Game 2 on Wednesday. Aldridge also posted three dominant performances in the four regular-season meetings between these clubs, and McHale admits his team desperately needs to come up with an effective formula for limiting the All-Star forward’s impact. “We’re going to do some stuff differently,” McHale said. “Hopefully, Omer doesn’t catch foul trouble the way he did. We wanted to try to go big [in Game 1], and we had a helluva problem with Aldridge, so we’ll see if we can’t keep him out of that post a little more with some bigger bodies.”
  • Rockets guard Patrick Beverley has been cleared to play with no limitations and will start after suffering a right knee sprain during overtime of Game 1, when the 6-foot-1 point guard collided with Aldridge while Aldridge attempted to set a screen in the backcourt. Beverley’s availability cannot be understated, considering he is Houston’s top perimeter defender and the only Rocket capable of frustrating rising Portland star Damian Lillard.
  • The Blazers were at their worst in Game 1 when Aldridge rested on the bench at the beginning of the second and fourth quarter, allowing Houston to put together runs of 24-6 and 7-0, respectively. Instead of considering a change in the timing and length of Aldridge’s breaks, Portland coach Terry Stotts said it is up to Aldridge’s teammates to play with more composure and execute when their best player is not on the court. “I think we need to … get the ball moving a little bit better,” Stotts said. “One of those things with that lineup, when we’re able to space the floor, is we should be able to penetrate and create shots better. That would kind of keep [the Rockets] on their heels. … You have to make adjustments with matchups and foul trouble and things like that. I brought LaMarcus back in a little sooner than I wanted to one of the times [in Game 1] because the game was going sideways, so you have to be able to adjust a little bit. But you want to have an idea of who is in your rotation, because you can’t keep the starters out there. You got to sub.”
  • The Blazers will continue to attack the defensively challenged James Harden by posting him up with Wesley Matthews. Stotts said this strategy can take a toll on the Rockets on both ends of the floor not only because it isolates the weak link of Houston’s defense, but also because it forces Harden to expend energy that he would prefer to use on offense to close out games for the Rockets. “I think it’s important to make Harden work at the defensive end,” Stotts said. “We have to withstand his energy burst at the beginning of the game and settle in. … One of the things that we preach is take what the game gives you. It’s just important that you do the things that are there rather than trying to grind something out that isn’t there.”
  • Houston guard Jeremy Lin has been battling flu-like symptoms and did not practice Tuesday, but Lin said today he is feeling much better and will play.

Matt Miller



  • Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said he did not consider starting Devin Harris to begin the second half of Game 1, and he’s sticking with his same starting lineup tonight with Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Samuel Dalembert, Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon. “We want to keep making it hard on them on defense as much as we can. We have to play a scrambling type game to make it difficult on them. That’s our goal for the whole series.” Harris, who scored 19 points with five assists, played all of the fourth quarter while Calderon stayed on the bench.
  • The Spurs, up 1-0 in the series, report that Tim Duncan appears to have no trouble with the left knee that bothered him to the point that he had to foul to get off the floor and get pressure off it during Game 1 on Sunday. Duncan, who came back to play nine minutes in the fourth quarter and score nine points on 4-for-5 shooting, said it was a charley horse. “He’s fine,” coach Gregg Popovich said.
  • Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is known for a casual T-shirt and jeans appearance along the bench during games, but his players must be a bit more extensive with their threads prior to games. Most of them showed up in jackets and ties before Game 2. “It’s a team dress code,” Carlisle said. “We amp it up in the playoffs to represent our franchise well.”

Tim Price



Bobcats at Heat, 7 p.m. ET


  • Bobcats center Al Jefferson is expected to play despite dealing with a strained left plantar fascia. Jefferson wore a protective boot before the  morning shootaround. The training staff has kept him off his feet since Sunday’s Game 1 loss. 
  • Even with Jefferson, the Bobcats will likely alter their offensive approach. Coach Steve Clifford said they will become more a pick-and-roll team. How much depends on Jefferson’s mobility. He was hobbled by the injury in the second half of Game 1.
  • Heat guard Mario Chalmers is a game-time decision. Chalmers strained his left shin in the second half Sunday. He went through a light workout during shootaround.
  • If Chalmers is unable to play, the Heat will likely turn to Norris Cole or Toney Douglas at the point.

– Zachary Paul 

Daily Zap: April 22

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  • Nene’s performance in Game One of the Bulls-Wizards series was still the talk of the town two days later. Getting his first start after four appearances off the bench following a return from a knee injury, Nene had 24 points and eight rebounds. But the Wizards noted that he had seven of his 11 baskets outside of 10 feet, and that was the most for him in that category this season. For the season, Nene was the team’s best shooter from 16-24 feet, making 47 percent of his shots. “Playing those four games (at the end of the regular season) got his rhythm back,” Washington coach Randy Wittman said. “He got comfortable again. It was important to get him back in before the playoffs started.”
  • The Bulls and Wizards started their season against each other with a preseason game in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, marking the first NBA game ever played in South America. During the game the fans were chanting for Bulls guard Derrick Rose to play. But Coach Tom Thibodeau held him out as he dealt with soreness in his surgically repaired left knee, just weeks before suffering an MCL tear in his right knee that sent him out for the season 10 games in. The Bulls won the game 83-81 in front of 13,635 fans at the HSBC Arena in Rio, which will be home to the basketball events in the 2016 Olympics.
  • While San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich earned his third career NBA Coach of the Year award, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau finished third in the balloting and received 12 first place votes. In his four years as an NBA head coach, Thibodeau has one award, from his first season in 2010-11, a second place finish from 2012 and this year’s third place finish. He finished eighth in balloting in 2013 and even got two first place votes. Thibodeau was very complimentary of Popovich, saying “He is one of the all-time greats. He is a great example for all coaches.”
  • Last year, the Bulls lost their first playoff game 106-89 at Brooklyn, then went on to win the series 4-3. They even lost a home game in that series, Game Six, but went back to Brooklyn to win and move on.
  • Chicago has a lot to offer tourists, and with some free time between games, the Wizards took advantage of the sights, and the flavors. But Washington guard Bradley Beal, a big fan of pizza, admitted he was not a fan of big pizza, otherwise known as deep dish pizza. “I can’t eat the fat pie,’’ Beal told Wizards beat reporters. “It will just sit there (in your stomach) and you’ll be in the bathroom for hours.”

Kent McDill









  • The Brooklyn Nets have a 1-0 series lead after taking Game 1, 94-87 on Saturday afternoon. Paul Pierce scored nine of his 15 points in the fourth quarter and Deron Williams and Joe Johnson scored 24 points apiece for the Nets.
  • One major storyline from Game 1 was the officiating. There were some that felt the Nets got the benefit of the whistle. The Raptors however, know that they can’t worry about how the game is being called and need to focus on executing on the court. “We’re not going to make excuses or anything like that,” Raptors guard Greivis Vasquez said before the game. “We just gotta play our game and at the end of the day it is going to work out for us I think, if we just execute our plan, execute what we need to do. So we aren’t really worried about the referees or anything like that.”
  • The home crowd was a hostile one for the Nets to play in during Game 1. Perhaps because of this, the Nets’ veterans seemed to relish the victory that much more. Head coach Jason Kidd attributes this to his team’s “us against the world” mentality. “When you talk about Paul [Pierce] winning a championship and most likely a lot of times you have got to find a way to win on the road to do that,” Kidd said. “So, maybe its the mentality of us against the world. You can look at it that way. When it comes down to wining the championship, you have got to find a way to win on the road no matter how hostile the environment is. There is no better feeling that winning on the road.”
  • The NBA released their voting for the Coach of the Year award on Wednesday and Raptors head coach Dwane Casey finished fifth in voting. He was recognized for his part in turning around a team that wasn’t expected to make the playoffs, never mind win the Atlantic Division. “It means a lot,” DeMar DeRozan said of his coach’s recognition. “Especially to from where we came from a season ago. He stuck with his principles with his mindset when he first came here. Nothing has changed, he’s stuck to it. We have faith in him and he has faith in us. It feels good to turn around and see him get that recognition.”
  • Center Brook Lopez (foot) and point guard Marquis Teague will be inactive for the Nets.
  • Point guards Dwight Buycks and Julyan Stone will be inactive for the Raptors.

– Scott Campsall 



  • Both coaches were holding their cards close to the vest in advance of tonight’s critical Game 2. Indiana’s Frank Vogel hinted Monday he might assign Paul George to defend Jeff Teague, could alter the second unit rotations and would even consider rolling out his little-used zone defense in an effort to keep Roy Hibbert close to the rim. But in his pregame press briefing, his only answer to questions about those possible moves was, “We’ll see,” though he did acknowledge the starting lineup would not change.
  • Atlanta’s Mike Budenholzer was less interested in possible changes by the Pacers than keeping his team performing at a consistent level. “Either way, we just want to continue to play the way we play,” he said. “That’s been our message all year and we’re just more focused on ourselves and making sure we do all the little things, defensively, offensively. That’s what’s most important to us.”
  • Vogel said the Pacers’ points of emphasis for Game 2 would remain unchanged. “Not a whole lot different than we’ve been talking about,” he said. “Teague containment, dealing with (Paul) Millsap’s versatility, ability to pick-and-pop and also post, alertness to (Kyle) Korver and ball movement on the offensive end.”
  • Budenholzer said he called to congratulate his former boss, San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich, on winning the NBA Coach of the Year award. “I’m a little biased,” Budenholzer said. “I think he’s the coach of the year every year so I’m not probably the right person to ask or vote.” Vogel did not receive a single vote for the award despite guiding Indiana to the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
  • Indiana is 2-18 in postseason series when losing Game 1.
  • In three wins over the Pacers (including two in the regular season), Teague has averaged 22.7 points and 16.7 shots. In two Indiana victories, the numbers drop to 8.5 and 8.0.
  • Indiana’s vaunted interior tandem of Roy Hibbert and David West has been outscored 88-39 by Atlanta’s Pero Antic and Paul Millsap in the three games Antic played – all Hawks victories.
  • Hibbert has totaled 17 points on 7-for-37 shooting (.189) in his last five games. In three games against Antic, the Pacers have been outscored by 51 points in Hibbert’s 61 minutes on the floor.
  • Indiana will start its usual lineup of George Hill, Lance Stephenson, George, West and Hibbert. Andrew Bynum and Solomon Hill are inactive.
  • Atlanta counters with Teague, Korver, DeMarre Carroll, Millsap and Pero Antic. Gustavo Ayon, Al Horford and John Jenkins are inactive.

- Conrad Brunner

Daily Zap: April 21

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  • The Warriors will try to take a 2-0 series lead for the first time since 1989 when they visit the Clippers for Game 2 of their Western Conference first-round series tonight. Golden State won a foul-plagued Game 1 on Saturday afternoon at Staples Center, grabbing its first 1-0  lead since 2007. The Warriors will have to get by without starting center Andrew Bogut once again, as the 7-footer is still in Oakland recovering from a fractured rib suffered eight days ago. Jermaine O’Neal did a solid job as his replacement in the series opener, particularly in the third quarter, when he scored eight of his 13 points.
  • Clippers point guard Chris Paul grabbed at his right hamstring a couple times during the Game 1 loss and was seen receiving treatment while on the bench, but he’s a go for tonight, according to L.A. coach Doc Rivers. That’s about all Rivers wanted to reveal about Paul, who struggled with a strained hip flexor during his first playoff run with the Clippers two seasons ago. “I don’t want to talk about that,” Rivers responded when asked about his concern level with Paul.
  • Keeping leading scorer Blake Griffin on the floor will be a priority for the Clippers as they look to even the series. Griffin was limited to 20 minutes on Saturday because of foul trouble, scoring 16 points and taking just three rebounds. In the four previous games against the Warriors this season, Griffin averaged 25 points and 10.5 rebounds. Interestingly, it was the third consecutive postseason game that Griffin has played 20 minutes or less, as he was limited in the final two games of last season’s playoff loss to the Grizzlies because of a sprained ankle. Golden State guard Andre Iguodala will also need to do a better job adjusting to the officiating, as he fouled out in just 21 minutes in the series opener.
  • The Clippers also need a bounce-back game from sixth man Jamal Crawford, who shot 2-for-11 in Game 1 for nine points, half his regular-season average. Crawford still needs to prove he can excel this time of year, as he’s shooting just 37.4 percent from the field in 30 career playoff games, compared to 41.1 percent in the regular season. Crawford, who is usually on the floor to close out games, gave way to Darren Collison for most of the final five minutes on Saturday.

– Dan Arritt