The Starting 5: A look at some of the best hoops content from around the internet
1. “DeRozan Going Cold For Toronto” – Alex Wong of Sports on Earth
DeMar DeRozan had a breakout regular season for the Raptors in 2015-16, cutting down on inefficient mid-range jumpers and getting to the rack more consistently to take advantage of his athleticism. Now, he just needs to transfer his recipe for success to the postseason.
The Pacers’ Paul George has had his way with DeRozan in the first two games of their first-round series. DeRozan’s offensive inefficiency combined with his mediocre defense even caused head coach Dwane Casey to sit him the entire fourth quarter of Game 2.
With DeRozan’s free agency coming up, Wongs notes that he must get better and prove that he’s an indispensable piece to the Raptors for Toronto (or any of his other suiters) to determine that he’s worth a max contract.
2. “Luc Mbah a Moute a defensive machine for Clippers” Robert Morales of the Long Beach Press-Telegram
With Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, J.J. Redick and DeAndre Jordan making up 80 percent of the Clippers’ starting lineup, the final 20 percent of that group needs to be a low-maintenance guy on offense who can play tough defense.
And that’s why Mbah a Moute is so crucial to the Clippers. He’s a guy who can guard wings and smaller big men, and he does both of those tasks well. He averaged only 6.5 points per 36 minutes this season, but he doesn’t shoot enough to be a liability.
Morales highlights how underrated the former UCLA standout is, including quotes from teammates and both Doc Rivers and Terry Stotts. Mbah a Moute is a key reason why the Clips have made such easy work of the Trail Blazers so far in their first-round series.
3. “Don’t Overlook LeBron James’ 1st-Round Dominance in NBA Playoffs” – Greg Swartz of Bleacher Report
The NBA community makes a big deal out of LeBron’s Finals appearances (six, and five in a row). But a key part of getting that far is making sure the early rounds are as painless as possible.
After last night’s victory over the Detroit Pistons, James has now won 15 consecutive contests in the first round of the playoffs and hasn’t lost a series yet. Overall, his winning percentage is an amazing 85.7 (42-of-49) in the opening round.
If you’re a LeBron hater, you’ll probably point to the East’s lack of depth as the main reason for this. However, James deserves a lot of credit for not messing around against inferior teams.
4. “30 Years Ago Today, Michael Jordan Really Did Score 63 Points in the Playoffs” Sean Keeley of The Comeback
So MJ’s legendary 63-point performance was actually 30 years ago yesterday (assuming you’re reading this Thursday), but it was so awesome that there’s no shame in stretching out our reminiscence over a few days.
Keeley recounts the circumstances behind the performance, which makes the performance all the more impressive. Yes, MJ did use two overtimes to total his 63, but it also came against a 67-win Celtics team that’s probably one of the top five squads in league history. Not to mention, MJ had already tallied 49 points earlier in the season and the Celtics were determined to not let him break loose again.
5. “Stephen Curry’s ankle shouldn’t worry the Warriors — but other teams shouldn’t be so lucky” – Hunter Felt of The Guardian
The best (and most valuable) player in the NBA is injured! Time to go into panic mode!
Not so fast, says Felt. Not only is Curry’s injury minor, based on what we’ve heard so far, but Golden State can afford to be really conservative with his recovery. The Warriors’ opponent, the Houston Rockets, are the second-worst team in the playoffs (the Grizzlies are No. 1), which means they could probably still win in five or six games with Curry sitting out the rest of the series.
Other injuries are affecting series, though. Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk are sorely missed by the Celtics, the Grizzlies are without almost everybody, the Mavs have Dirk’s knee to worry about, Chris Bosh is out indefinitely and Nicolas Batum’s fourth-quarter ankle injury in Game 2 could loom large for the Hornets.