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



  • The Grizzlies will have forward Tayshaun Prince back tonight. He played only four minutes in Saturday’s Game 1 before leaving with an illness. “He’s a lot closer to 100 percent tonight,” said Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger before the game. “He’s done a great job against the premier [small forwards] in the league this season.” Prince will defend Kevin Durant, who now has the fourth-highest playoff scoring average (28.7 points) in NBA history. Durant led all scorers with 33 points in Game 1. However, when Tony Allen guarded Durant in Game 1 KD was just 4-for-11 overall and 1-for-4 on threes. He was 2-for-3 when Prince was on him.
  • The Thunder got off to a blazing start Saturday, leading by as many as 25 points in the first half. Durant said today he and his teammates must do that again. “They wanna start stronger than what they did last game and we know that,” he told reporters after the team’s shootaround. “We gotta be able to punch them first, instead of just layin back and waiting for them to punch us. We’ve gotta be the first hitter.”
  • The Thunder had 32 fast-break points Saturday. Joerger said his players “have gotta do a better job of getting back early” to slow down some of those transition plays. They managed to do that in regular season. In the four games they played against each other the Thunder averaged 11.5 points in transition.
  • Tonight’s magic number may be 100. The Grizzlies are 63-8 over the last two seasons when scoring at least 100 points. On the other hand, when opponents get to triple digits the Grizz were just 7-20 in the regular season. With the Thunder scoring exactly 100 points in Game 1, Memphis is 0-1 in this season’s playoffs when an opponent hits that number.
  • The Thunder are 21-8 in playoff games at OKC’s Chesapeake Energy Arena.

– Randy Renner

Daily Zap: April 20

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  • Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard will make his postseason debut Sunday when Portland kicks off its playoff campaign in Houston. Although Lillard lacks experience playing under the spotlight of the postseason, Blazers coach Terry Stotts said there is no doubt that the second-year pro has the ability to thrive in the pressure-packed environment. “Damian from day one has shown that he’s poised and mature,” Stotts said. “Last year, everybody waited for him to hit a rookie wall for three months, and he never did. He’s gone on to prove this year he’s even better. Damian’s a remarkable player … so I don’t have any concerns about him being ready for this moment. He’s been ready for this moment for a long time.”
  • For all the havoc Lillard could wreak against the Rockets, Portland’s versatile leading scorer, LaMarcus Aldridge, could prove to be even more problematic for Houston. Rockets coach Kevin McHale plans to begin the series with Terrence Jones covering Aldridge, although he hinted that he may be open to experimenting with a two-centers lineup featuring Howard and Omer Asik if Jones fails to keep up defensively. McHale has not played Asik and Howard at the same time since Houston shelved the idea early in the season, when the unit proved to be highly inefficient, but Asik has limited Aldridge to 35.7 percent shooting when Asik and Aldridge have been on the floor together. “They were effective at stages, and this might be one of those games where if we’re having a heck of a time with Aldridge, we might try one of our big centers on him,” McHale said. “He’s a tough case because he’s a tough shot maker. … You’ve just got to keep on taking his temperature. You don’t want to give him open looks. You don’t want to give him feet set, 17-footers looking at the basket. We want to contest him.”
  • The big men on both sides will also play a pivotal role on the boards, as the Rockets attempt to spark their potent transition attack with defensive rebounds. Houston finished the season No. 1 in the NBA in fast-break efficiency, while the Blazers successfully stalled up-tempo offenses behind their league-best second-chance scoring. For Stotts, it’s all about winning the battle that ensues when Portland attempts a shot. “Transition is the first three steps [after someone takes a shot],” Stotts said. “If they get the first three steps on us, then we’re in trouble. So it’s about having the altertness or awareness to get back when you need to get back, or even before you need to get back, rather than wait and see what happens.”
  • The Blazers are 0-3 all-time in playoff series against the Rockets, who eliminated Portland from the playoffs in 1987, 1994 and 2009. The Blazers have lost in the first round of each of their last six postseason appearances, failing to reach the second round since they advanced to the Western Conference Finals in 2000.

Matt Miller



  • The Bulls are in the playoffs for the sixth consecutive year, and a few of the players have been with the team through those playoff seasons. The Wizards are in the playoffs for the first time since 2008. The Bulls had the No. 4 seed and challenged for the No. 3 seed to the final day, while the Wizards climbed into the No. 5 seed on the season’s last day. The Wizards ended up only four games behind the Bulls in the final standings. But Washington coach Randy Wittman said his team is not the underdog in the series. “We have proven we can play. Whether I think we are an underdog or you think we are an underdog, it doesn’t matter. It’s the first one to win four games. We have to win four games.”
  • This is Washington’s first playoff appearance since 2008. The last time the Wizards had a long break from the postseason, it was 2005, and they had not been in the playoffs since 1997. They were the No. 5 seed meeting the No. 4 Chicago Bulls, just as they are tonight, and they won that series 4-2. Oddly, the time previous to that example when the Wizards spent a long time away from the postseason was in 1997, when they were making their first appearance since 1988, and again they played the Bulls, losing the series 3-0 in a best-of-five first-round series.
  • Nene has been on a minutes restriction since returning from a knee injury with six games remaining in the regular season. He played 24 minutes in the season finale against Miami, but he reportedly will remain on a similar minutes restriction at least for Game 1 of the series. During practice Saturday he was wearing a red-white-and-blue knee brace. Nene started 37 games for the Wizards this season and there were early reports coach Randy Wittman would keep him coming off the bench, but just before the start of the game it was announced Nene would start and Trevor Booker would come of the bench.
  • Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said it is a mistake to think the Bulls have a huge advantage in playoff experience only because they have been in the postseason for six straight years and the Wizards have missed the last five tournaments. “The only players who don’t have any playoff experience are (second-year guard) Bradley Beal and John Wall,’’ Thibodeau said. “They have done a good job by adding the veterans that they have.” The Bulls have two players with NBA titles, but neither is expected to play much. Backup center Nazr Mohammed won a title with the San Antonio Spurs and third-string point guard Mike James won one with Detroit. Washington’s Trevor Ariza won a title with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Kent McDill