Mateo’s Hoop Diary: The Celtics mowed down the Mavericks in Game 1 of the Finals at TD Garden

The Mavericks hung around for 10 minutes, courtesy of Luka Dončić’s early burst of action, but the hosts doubled up their output midway through the second frame and continued to ravage them in the last two quarters at TD Garden. The guests refused to cover the arc, and their main two, Kyrie Irving and Dončić, were outperformed by Jaylen Brown and Kristaps Porziņģis.

Early, Dončić was defended by Brown before the switch. He dribbled to the nail, hitting a 12-foot shot, breaking a double team to finish an acrobatic layup between four Celtics and connected on a step-back triple over his old teammate, Porziņģis.

Irving helped out, canning two mid-range jumpers on the right side, yet the rest of the Mavericks downed four of 12 baskets in the interval.

For the Celtics, Jayson Tatum was operating as an unsteady setup man, picking up three dimes and three turnovers on drives plus poor passes. The Celtics made seven of 15 trays in the period, but the tide shifted when Porziņģis checked in for Al Horford. The visitors were then overwhelmed by Gang Green as KP blocked two shots and tore up mismatches with his mid-range jumper. He also posted up Dereck Lively II and turned the corner on him to get inside for a dunk, and swished a trailing trifecta on the left side.

The Celtics closed the first quarter on a 24-7 run and led 37-20 at the end of it.

Subsequently, Brown targeted Dončić twice, dribbling left to the rim for a basket and blowing by a double team, resulting in a vicious dunk. His other two scores in the sequence were a corner banger and dunk after stripping Dončić at midcourt. Brown didn’t miss in the second quarter.

Porziņģis added three of four buckets, bringing his output to 18 points on 78% accuracy in the first half.

On the Mavericks side, making three of nine attempts to start the quarter had them behind 29 points with four minutes left until intermission. But Dončić and P.J. Washington sliced the deficit to 21 to end the half.

At the break, the Celtics were up 63-42 and ahead on the glass by eight. Additionally, the group had 22 paint points, eight in the open court, two via second chances, nine off turnovers and 24 from the bench.

The Mavericks had 24 interior marks, four in the open court, six on extra tries, six off turnovers and four from the reserves.

Next, the Mavericks came out of the break making nine of 17 shots through seven-and-a-half minutes. Irving tallied six points, including an impressive blow by Horford on the baseline. And Dončić dribbled to the cup twice past Tatum and Horford and swished two step-back triples to cut Boston’s lead to eight points. Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla followed up with a timeout.

Defensively, the Celtics locked up the visitors for the rest of the quarter, allowing two points from the line and forcing eight consecutive misses. In that span, Brown had three blocks, denying Derrick Jones Jr.’s lob, then his follow-up dunk and swatting away Irving’s layup as the low help protector. And on offense, Porziņģis, Tatum, Brown and Horford scored 14 points.

The fourth quarter began with the Celtics on top 86-68.

The hosts went on a 14-7 run through nearly seven minutes. It compelled coach Jason Kidd to surrender, subbing out Dončić and Irving for Jaden Hardy and Dante Exum.

The Celtics won 107-89 and outrebounded the Mavs by four. Furthermore, the Celtics racked up 28 paint points, 10 on the break, 10 via second chances, 18 off turnovers and 32 from the bench.

Brown had 22 points on seven of 12 looks, with six rebounds, two assists, three steals, three blocks and two turnovers. Porziņģis tallied 20 marks on 62% shooting, with six boards and three denials. The other double-digit scorers were Tatum (16), White (15), Jrue Holiday (12) and Horford (10).

The Mavericks had 46 interior points, six in the open court, 16 on extra tries, 13 off turnovers and 20 from the reserves.

Dončić put up 30 points on 12 of 26 tries, with 10 rebounds, one assist, two steals and four turnovers. Washington logged 14 points on 45% accuracy, with eight boards and one dime. The other double-digit scorers were Hardy (13) and Irving (12).

Tatum handled the on-court interview. He said the team’s job was to suppress the players around Dončić. The other Mavericks made 39.6% of shots.

At the postgame presser, Porziņģis was asked about coming off the bench for the second time in his career. He said, “From day one, I came here (Boston) and said I’ll do whatever it takes to help this team win… I stepped into that role and embraced it and had a good game.”

Mazzulla was asked about the Mavericks cutting the Celtics’ lead to eight points in the third quarter. He said he was pleased with how his group handled the burst. “That’s going to happen. You’re not going to stop that. We just have to have the poise and toughness to work through it. I thought our guys did that.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Indiana Fever early season observations

The Indiana Fever are a rebuilding outfit with nice pieces, but they have been a major disappointment for a quarter of the season. The effort on defense is not adequate. Caitlin Clark’s teammates have not reached the same court wavelength as her. Players miss open looks. The bench is inefficient, logging 16.1 points on 39.6% shooting per game. And Aliyah Boston, last campaign’s top rookie, hasn’t been herself.

But they have the tools to change the narrative.

Let’s review the story through approximately 28% of the season…

The defense isn’t sharp:

The Fever are last in the WNBA in defensive rating (111.8), eleventh in opponent paint marks (38.2) and concede the third-most second-chance points (14.5).

One of the weakest areas of protection is the 3-point line because defenders overreact to a pass or drive and don’t guard snipers closely enough.

Kristy Wallace and Aliyah Boston have been terrible:

Wallace has wasted open looks. But more concerning is Boston being a shell of the powerhouse she was last season.

Boston is recording 4.5 attempts in the restricted area yet converting 49% of tries. In 2023, she shot 5.9 times at zero to three feet, making 65.8% nightly.

Boston hasn’t looked as fluid around the paint, is fouling slightly more than last season and she is recovering two fewer rebounds. As a result, she’s had her minutes slightly gashed (3.5).

When Boston rediscovers her game, the Fever will have an easier time scoring in the half court.

 

Kelsey Mitchell’s impact is greater than her field goal percentage:

Mitchell is logging decent numbers on an inefficient field goal percentage- 15.1 points on 37.8% shooting, with 1.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists – but this production doesn’t do her justice. She is the second-best option the Fever has off the dribble and no.2 in dependability this season.

Additionally, Mitchell is second in the WNBA in fast break points (31), catching passes from Kristy Wallace, Erica Wheeler, Temi Fagbenle, Katie Lou Samuelson, Boston, and Clark in the open court. Some of the Fever’s best offense is outletting to Mitchell.

In the half court, she works well getting open off-ball on cuts and has an explosive first step with the rock.

Considering how Clark is relentlessly blitzed up top, the Fever should consider running more pick-and-roll sets with Mitchell as her screener. Despite Mitchell shooting 31.8% from long range, she’ll have quality looks because of Clark’s gravity for a jumper, or she can use the space to get to the rim.

Mitchell is also ninth in marks off turnovers (33).

NaLyssa Smith’s strong play:

Smith had some tough outings to start the year but elevated her game. She is the Fever’s top rebounder (7.1) plus the leader in efficiency, and she is a developing shooter, making 57.1% of above-the-break triples on 1.3 attempts per game.

Smith had her best showing of the season in the Fever’s win over the Sky in the first Commissioner’s Cup game, putting up 17 points on seven of 12 looks, with nine rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block. The next night, she and Mitchell, again, were the Fever’s strongest performers despite getting blown out by the Liberty.

Clark is LEGIT

Clark’s been plagued by inefficiency- averaging 15.6 points on 35.7% accuracy, including 29.7% from deep, with 5.1 rebounds and 6.4 dimes- but she catches a high volume of defensive schemes. To boot, she is eighth in usage percentage, counting players who have registered at least six matches.

Being a deep threat is a large part of her game, as 63.6% of her shots are from behind the arc. But some of the trifectas she hoists are tough off the dribble. For example, unsuccessfully shooting over DiJonai Carrington and Moriah Jefferson from the logo against the Connecticut Sun, bricking a pull-up three with Carrington all over her, and misfiring a step back, facing the New York Liberty’s Sabrina Ionescu, who stuck close to her.

Yet, of her 27 made threes, 18 have been off the dribble, and nine were catch-and-shoot. Clark likes to stop on a dime and fire, but her team needs to look for more ways to get her open off-ball through staggers, flares and misdirection.

Her other correctable problem so far has been that she is a turnover machine. She makes bold passes in the open court, but some are picked off, and blitzes have given her trouble.

Her top strength is her vision. Even when she shoots poorly, CC impacts the game as a playmaker or decoy.

 

Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Don Luka and the Wild Horses turned the Wolves into pelts

The Dallas Mavericks won the Western Conference gauntlet, earning a trip to the NBA Finals with their Game 5 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves in hostile territory.

The celebration at center court was rained over by boos plus cheers, and Dončic was named Western Conference Finals MVP. He said the award represented the team’s work.

Kyrie Irving said, “Boston’s in the way, in between our goal.”

Yet early, Rudy Gobert forced two successful switches, scoring at close range for the Wolves. Karl-Anthony Towns scored two putbacks. And Anthony Edwards logged a putback dunk and finished on the break.

But Luka Dončic was as unforgiving as the Terminator, outscoring the Timberwolves by himself. He connected on four 3-pointers, made an eight-foot floater, shot twice over drop coverage and powered through Jaden McDaniels to the nail for a jumper.

He also picked up two dimes in the first quarter- a lob to Lively on a pick-and-roll set and a skip pass around a blitz to Irving, who broke into the lane for a layup.

Through 12 minutes, Don Luka had 20 points on eight of 11 shots, with two rebounds and two assists. And the guests led the hosts 35-19.

Defensively, the Mavericks were slow to contest shots behind the arc. Still, the Timberwolves bricked makeable looks, downing just one in the second quarter- a pull-up by Edwards on the wing after dropping Dante Exum with his dribble, cutting his team’s deficit to 20 points.

On the other side, Dončic maneuvered to the baseline, swishing a bucket over Gobert and made a catch-and-shoot trifecta on the right wing.

Yet, Irving was the star of the period, working around traps and supplying five baskets with no misses, attacking at short and long range. He totaled 15 points in the frame.

The Mavericks were ahead at halftime 69-40. Additionally, the group had 24 paint points, six on the break, two via second chances, eight off turnovers and 10 from the bench.

The Timberwolves accumulated 22 interior points, two in the open court, eight on extra tries, four off turnovers and two from the reserves.

Then the Mavs emerged from intermission, running a pick-and-roll set with Dončic and P.J. Washington, resulting in a lob for the latter.

Dončić carried on, registering three of four baskets in the interval. The Wolves failed to realize how he devoured blitzes up top, sending two at him, and he quickly passed to Dereck Lively II in the middle, who made the read to the left wing to Irving and Jaden Hardy.

Next, Irving danced on the right side, canning a long two and step-back three over Nickeil Alexander-Walker.

Washington contributed five points for Dallas in the quarter, too.

Defensively, the Mavs couldn’t stop Towns on the go, fouling him multiple times, and he made four of 10 baskets in the third. And Edwards’ deep shot was on target, burying three triples.

Yet, the fourth period began with the Mavericks ahead 97-73.

The Timberwolves resembled a wounded fighter, backpedaling in the ring with their jaw dangling as blood drips to the canvas.

But there was no time to relent. The Mavericks closed the game, producing 11 of 20 fourth-quarter baskets, led by Irving’s seven points.

The Timberwolves outscored the Mavericks in the last 12 minutes by three points, but it was inconsequential.

The Mavericks won 124-103. Furthermore, the squad had 48 paint points, eight on the break, 11 via second chances, 14 off turnovers and 24 from the bench.

Dončić (36), Irving (36), Washington (12) and Daniel Gafford (11) were the Mavericks’ double-digit scorers.

The Wolves had 46 interior points, 10 in the open court, 14 on extra tries, eight off turnovers and 23 from the reserves.

Edwards (28) and Towns (28) were the Wolves’ double-digit scorers.

At the postgame presser, Mavs coach Jason Kidd was asked about his team’s preparation for the Boston Celtics in the championship round. He said, the Mavericks will encounter a five spread out offense. “Boston shoots the three at a high rate… they’ve been there before, they’re well coached and this is another great test.”

The Mavericks’ previous two Finals trips were in 2006, losing in six to the Miami Heat, and 2011, beating the Heat in six. For the latter, Kidd was second in minutes (35.4) and first in assists (7.4) at age 37.

 

 

 

Mateo’s Hoop Diary: East Finals MVP Jaylen Brown led the Boston Celtics over the Indiana Pacers, punching a ticket to the NBA Finals

The Pacers tried to prolong the inevitable, but the Celtics locked up the hosts in the last three-and-a-half minutes to sweep the series and advance to the NBA Finals. Gainbridge Fieldhouse was rocking like a madhouse, but most home supporters dispersed, and the cheers of rival fans echoed through the building as Gang Green celebrated at center court.

Team governor Wyc Grousbeck dedicated the win to former Trail Blazer and Celtic Bill Walton, who died of cancer on Memorial Day Monday.

Coach Joe Mazzulla said, “As a coach, the greatest gift you can have is a group of guys that trust you…”

Next, Jaylen Brown was handed the Eastern Conference Finals MVP trophy by former Celtic great Cedric Maxwell. He briefly savored the moment and made clear the objective is to “get some more.”

Yet early, Indiana’s Andrew Nembhard downed two mid-range jumpers off the dribble. Pascal Siakam swished two fadeaways in the paint. And TJ McConnell blasted through interior protections.

Nembhard continued to produce, setting up Obi Toppin, Aaron Nesmith, Myles Turner and McConnell, but the the second half wasn’t as prosperous for his top running mates. Siakam misfired a right-wing tray behind Turner’s pin down and bricked two in the corners, and McConnell converted 33% of attempts.

But Jayson Tatum and Brown were unstoppable, attacking the basket. Jrue Holiday shot efficiently and hauled in nine boards. And Derrick White ripped the ball from Turner plus asphyxiated the passing lanes with five steals and sunk the dagger into the Pacers’ chest with a corner three with 45 seconds left.

Brown accidentally clipped McConnell in mid-air in the face while going for a loose ball, sending Indiana’s guard violently to the floor on his backside. As the Pacers were up six points with seven minutes left, it was ruled a common foul when it should’ve been flagrant.

Yet Brown still had his finest moments in the fourth quarter. He canned two 3-pointers, pivoted past Toppin in the lane for an eight-foot floater, grazed Siakam’s kick out, causing a turnover and switched onto Nembhard’s drive and denied his shot at the cup as the game was tied at 102 with a minute left.

The Celtics won 105-102. On top of that, the group had 48 paint points, 14 on the break, 11 via second chances, nine off turnovers and 10 from the bench.

Brown averaged 29.8 points on 51.7% shooting, including 37% from long range, with five rebounds and three assists per game in the series. He received five of the nine votes for East Finals MVP. Tatum had the remaining four.

The Celtics will make their 23rd Finals appearance and they outscored the Pacers by 27 points through four games.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Diana Taurasi should be suspended for her dirty hit on Cheyenne Parker-Tyus

It’s taking the WNBA too long to suspend Diana Taurasi for her dangerous late-game hit on Cheyenne Parker-Tyus or, at the very least, fine her. A WNBA spokesperson didn’t respond to an immediate request for comment when asked if the league was looking into the matter.

In the last 35 seconds of a tight match, the hosting Phoenix Mercury led 86-83. Then Parker-Tyus pivoted in the lane and scored at close range against Sophie Cunningham while illegally using her left arm. If the refs were sharp, they would have flagged an offensive foul in real-time. But Taurasi subsequently jumped into Parker-Tyus’ body, leading with her arm as the ball trickled through the net. It was an obvious intent to injure, and worse yet, at a critical part of the game.

The refs initiated a review and, incomprehensibly, ruled that there was no foul. I’m convinced this crew would have checked out the Zapruder film and told JFK to take some ibuprofen.

Parker-Tyus watched the rest of the game from the bench after supplying 12 points on 50% shooting in the fourth quarter.

And the Mercury won 88-85.

Atlanta Dream coach Tanisha Wright, Allisha Gray and Crystal Dangerfield were made available to the press and neither was asked about the incident.

I suspect at least two factors are causing the WNBA to be slow on the draw. One, they don’t want to publicly embarrass the refs with a contradicting report. Two, Parker-Tyus wasn’t seriously hurt despite getting grounded.

Imagine if Parker-Tyus threw her massive body into Taurasi’s smaller frame instead. The latter would have left on a stretcher.

Taurasi should get sent home for Tuesday’s match versus the Las Vegas Aces and Thursday’s against the Washington Mystics.

The last WNBA press release was on May 16th, announcing Mortgage Matchup as the official WNBA and NBA mortgage partner.

Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Indiana’s hit squad shot up the Knicks

The Pacers whacked the hobbled Knickerbockers in Game 7 at Madison Square Garden. Vibrations of Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau’s curses could be felt at Central Park. The hosts conceded 67.1% of field goals. And supporters are still stuck with memories of greatness, and a growing number of them didn’t see it live or in person.

To make matters worse, the basketball gods showed their cruelty; Jalen Brunson fractured his left hand, and OG Anunoby lasted five minutes before the masterminds on the sideline said, “Hey, maybe he shouldn’t be playing on his mangled hamstring.”

Josh Hart also gave a brave and dumb effort, playing with an abdominal injury. His cojones got him a standing ovation after 37 brutal minutes. In Game 7 and the series, his efforts are reminiscent of Boxer in George Orwell’s Animal Farm- the horse who worked until he couldn’t stand.

Yet early, Pascal Siakam was unleashed, downing five of six baskets on a pick-and-pop jumper, cut, and transition attacks.

Tyrese Halliburton dribbled inside the lane for a turnaround jumper and hit four trays.

And Aaron Nesmith, TJ McConnell plus Andrew Nembhard defended New York’s Brunson, holding him to three of eight first-quarter field goals.

Donte DiVincenzo was the high Knick, tallying four left-side jump shots for a dozen marks on 44.4% accuracy.

Through 12 minutes, the Pacers led 39-27, registering 76.2% of attempts to the hosts’45.8%.

Subsequently, the visitors neutralized Brunson, coming off screens downhill, and successfully contested Miles McBride’s deep shots and layup on time. But they couldn’t restrain Alec Burks from supplying 14 points, pressuring the rim and pulling up from midrange.

Yet, the Pacers’ offense feasted, producing 13 of 17 shots. Nesmith, Nembhard, McConnell and Myles Turner each logged two baskets.

The Pacers were ahead 70-55 at halftime. On top of that, the guests had 24 paint points, three on the break, five via second chances, four off turnovers and 15 from the bench.

The Pacers became the first team in NBA history to score 70 points in the first half of a Game 7 on the road on 76.3% shooting.

The Knicks showed admirable pride, cutting their deficit from 22 to 15, but they held on like a prize fighter three rounds away from getting stopped. They had 24 interior points, three in the open court, eight on extra tries, eight off turnovers and 20 from the reserves.

Then the Pacers follow up with a strong third quarter out of intermission. Nesmith added 11 more points, shooting at the elbow and driving into the lane. Haliburton finished a layup on the break and splashed two 3-pointers. And McConnell made two close-range buckets.

Defensively, the Pacers were burned for five of 11 trifectas, being slow to recover to the handoff up top, not setting a high enough pick-up point in transition and getting shot over.

In the third quarter, Brunson hurt his left hand and was subbed out with four minutes left. He didn’t return.

Next, the fourth quarter began with the guests up 101-84.

The Knicks made six of 12 baskets to open the frame, but they were still behind 17 points with five minutes left. On the other side, the Pacers powered up, notching seven of 12 looks in the same period.

The Knicks were so battered that Hart logged three fourth-quarter minutes, and Precious Achiuwa and Alec Burks had 11.

The Pacers won 130-109. Furthermore, the group had 52 paint points, 11 on the break, six via second chances, 15 off turnovers and 28 from the bench.

The Pacers’ double-digit scorers were Haliburton (26), Nembhard (20), Siakam (20), Nesmith (19), Turner (17), and McConnell (12).

The Knicks had 38 paint points, 17 in the open court, 14 on extra tries, 12 off turnovers and 38 from the reserves.

The Knicks’ leading scorers were DiVincenzo (39), Burks (26, Brunson (17) and Hart (10).

The Pacers tied the second most field goal attempts ever made in a Game 7, per NBA Communications.

The Pacers will now face the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said postgame, “When you win a Game 7 at Madison Square Garden, you’ve made history.”

Haliburton said his group is the deepest in the league and shouted out the bench. “We got five, six guys ready on the bench at all times.”

Mateo’s Hoop Diary: The touring Fever got crushed in the fourth quarter by the Connecticut Sun

The Fever rolled into Mohegan Sun Arena and got overwhelmed by the opposing outfit late. Caitlin Clark was welcomed to the league by DiJonai Carrington’s two-way play. And Connecticut’s DeWanna Bonner passed Candice Dupree for fifth place in WNBA scoring.

At halftime, turnovers had the visitors down 39-49 despite shooting 54.2% from the field and leading on the glass by four. The second half wasn’t much prettier defensively.

Clark started slowly, missing her first three tries and picking up two fouls plus a turnover. A timeout was called, and she sat until the closing seconds of the quarter. In those minutes, the Fever went on a 6-9 run.

Then Clark started contributing in the second frame. She swiped a pass and took off on the break for a layup, plus hit a left-wing triple, but had four extra turnovers. On top of that, Aliyah Boston set up NaLyssa Smith for a left-side 3-pointer and passed to Kelsey Mitchell, cutting back door for a layup.

But the visitors offered little resistance on defense.

Tyasha Harris splashed jumpers in the corner, the wing, and above the elbow. Carrington logged 14 points on five of 10 attempts, including a steal on Clark at midcourt then taking off for a fast break layup. Bonner swished shots off the dribble and behind picks. And Brionna Jones poured in two baskets at close range.

The Fever was down 39-49 at halftime. Furthermore, the team had 18 paint points, nine on the break, six via second chances, seven off turnovers and 14 from the bench.

The Sun had 18 interior points, three in the open court, seven on extra tries, 16 off turnovers and four from the reserves.

Carrington guarded Clark out of intermission, and the Sun added in traps. As the sequence progressed, Clark drained a trifecta against Jones in drop coverage and showed her open court gifts with a connecting pass for a layup, and a direct feed for a deuce.

Erica Wheeler made a left-wing tray and dribbled into the paint for a layup.

Yet, the rest of the unit put up three of nine baskets in the third quarter.

Connecticut’s Jones and Thomas made it difficult for Boston to initiate post offense.

The fourth quarter started with the Fever behind 57-65, but they couldn’t hang the rest of the period, getting outscored by 13 points.

Clark scored eight more points, downing two freebies, nailing a left-side 3-pointer over Olivia Nelson-Ododa, and canning another falling away deep shot at the same spot.

Wheeler broke into the lane for two points on a pick-and-roll set with Temi Fagbenle.

And Kristy Wallace scored quickly on the break, fed by Clark.

The rest of the Fever dispensed one of five baskets the rest of the way.

On the other side, Thomas cut through Indiana’s defenses for a layup and logged a putback. Harris and Rachel Banham made 3-pointers. And Carrington was a defensive pest.

The Fever lost 71-92, were outrebounded by two and committed 10 more turnovers than the Sun. Additionally, the group scored 30 paint points, 14 on the break, six via second chances, 14 off turnovers and 21 from the bench.

Clark finished with 20 points on five of 15 attempts, with three assists, two steals and 10 turnovers. NaLyssa Smith had 13 points on 41.7% accuracy, with nine rebounds, one assist, two blocks and two turnovers. Wheeler totaled eight marks on a perfect three attempts and recovered one rebound and two assists.

The Suns recorded 32 interior points, 10 in the open court, 15 on extra tries, 29 off turnovers and 19 from the reserves.

Thomas registered a triple-double, 13 points on four of eight looks, with 10 rebounds, 13 assists, three steals and seven turnovers. Bonner had 20 points on 57.1% shooting, with six rebounds, one assist, one steal and two turnovers. Harris put up 16 marks on six of 11 attempts, with two dimes and one steal. And Carrington had 16 points on six of 15 tries and picked up five rebounds, one assist and two steals.

Postgame, Clark said she had too many turnovers and that she didn’t have a great start. “Like we said in the locker room, we play on Thursday, you gotta learn from it and move on and be ready to go.”

Fever coach Christie Sides said the team has a lot to work on.

Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Pat Riley’s State of the Heat press conference

Vintage Pat Riley emerged from his cave for his end-of-the-season presser, criticizing and praising his group. He also rebuked the idea of a rebuild because he thinks a healthy Jimmy Butler can be a 1A player in the Postseason.

He started with an indication that there must be a change to the team’s approach to winning. Player availability is a big deal to the Heat and so are tweaks to the offense and defense. Which means he expects more from coach Erik Spoelstra and the trainers.

When asked about the shelf life of the Heat’s build as it approaches its sixth season together, Riley initially told a story about telling LeBron James in a meeting after the 2011 Finals about “going to work on the roster” by adding depth. Yet that team hadn’t burned itself out by playing so long together.

As an anti-rebuilder, he doubled down and said his goal is to keep the ride going. “You start talking about the Draft more than anything else right now.” But on the current squad, he said everyone is bothered by not having claimed a title despite its success over the last five seasons.

Regarding Butler’s second extension, Riley said, “We don’t have to do that for a year. We have not discussed that internally right now, but we have to look at making that kind of commitment… We’ll see.”

Butler, who will be age 35 in September and who has played in 74.4% of the Heat’s regular season games since 2019-20, is on notice that the Godfather expects his top earner to be on the court more often. Riley also shared that he had spoken “thoroughly” with Butler’s agent, Bernard Lee, before last season about attendance.

Answering about his feelings on rest and missed time, Riley said, “This whole injury reporting stuff… I can remember when there was a time we never reported any injury because you then became a target.”

As a point of reference to Riley’s mentality, when he was coach of the Lakers in 1988, he permitted James Worthy to play in the All-Star Game with left knee tendinitis after the team’s public relations department said he would not. And his brother Len passed away at age 52 of an illness the Friday before the exhibition he coached for the West stars.

He isn’t a fan of the 65-game rule either because he thinks it gives players an excuse to miss 17 outings.

Furthermore, the Don said Tyler Herro is fragile and needs to make some adjustments but highlighted his work ethic. Then he said Herro is a starter when asked if he agreed with Udonis Haslem, the former Heatles’ captain and current vice president of basketball development, who recently commented on ESPN that the group is better with him as a sixth man.

Bam Adebayo needs to “expand his game.” Riley cited Magic Johnson making changes to become a better shooter and post up player to pick up his scoring.

PS: Terry Rozier is still using a neck brace and is “feeling good,” according to Riley.

Riley wasn’t thrilled with Butler’s comment about an alternative first-round outcome with the Boston Celtics had he been healthy enough to play. He said, “If you’re not on the court playing against Boston or on the court playing against the New York Knicks, you should keep your mouth shut and [stop] your criticism of those teams.”

And he’s trying to get away with blaming the 2011 Finals loss on not having enough depth, like LeBron James recently has on episode three of the Mind the Game podcast. The real reason was James getting outplayed by Jason Terry.

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Mateo’s Hoop Diary: The Timberwolves put the Nuggets in a chokehold, taking a 2-0 lead in the series

The Timberwolves wiped the floor of Ball Arena with the defending champs so badly that Jamal Murray threw a heating pack on the court while seated on the bench, which should have got him tossed and deserves a suspension. Additionally, Nuggets coach Michael Malone and his staff were disturbed on the sideline, and the hosts’ supporters were crestfallen as the squad went down 0-2 in the west semi-finals.

The Timberwolves were absent Rudy Gobert (childbirth). And the Nuggets were missing their hearts.

Aaron Gordon supplied 13 first-quarter points, attacking through an inverted pick-and-roll set with the Joker, making a putback, and logging three jumpers in the lane and at long range. But the rest of the Nuggets converted three of 12 baskets in the first quarter.

On the ‘Wolves’ side, Kyle Anderson, who filled in for Gobert, absorbed three offensive rebounds early.

Karl-Anthony Towns scored on a handoff roll on the left side, nailed two jumpers at 19 and 27 feet away, pump-faked Murray to get loose on the baseline for a layup and powered through him for another scoop shot.

And Anthony Edwards sliced through the lane twice, dropping in a reverse layup with Jokić on his tail and pulverizing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at the cup for another. The latter caused Malone to lose his mind by getting into referee Marc Davis’ face as if he were looking for a fade. He wasn’t given a technical foul for his insolence.

The Nuggets were down 20-28 at the end of the first, shooting 42.1% from the field and 37.5% from 3-point distance.

Then it got worse as the visitors forced eight consecutive misses. They contested deep jumpers produced by the drive and kick on time, shut down Murray’s rim and distance attack and stayed in front of the ball, plus had help come in the back line.

In total, the Timberwolves conceded 15 points on six of 24 shots in the second quarter. Notably, Jokić and Murray were held to a combined two of 12 ventures.

Defensively, the Nuggets were incapable of stopping Naz Reid from nailing two top-of-the-key triples on pick-and-pop sets. Towns contributed another five points. And Edwards finished twice on the break, dribbled past Gordon from the right wing to the cup for a layup and dunked via a give-and-go with Kyle Anderson on the right side.

The Nuggets were down 35-61 at halftime, shooting 32.6% to the Timberwolves’ 54.5%. On top of that, the squad had 20 paint points, three on the break, two via second chances, none off turnovers and six from the bench.

The Timberwolves picked up 32 interior points, 18 in the open court, eight on extra tries, 10 off turnovers and 19 from the bench.

Next, the Nuggets emerged from the intermission rattled and off-target, making two of nine shots to start. Yet, four straight makes by Michael Porter Jr., KCP, Jokić and Murray plus Jokić’s two trips to the charity line prevented the crew from having its offense wiped out in the third quarter.

On the other side, Edwards and Reid were the only Wolves to make multiple field goals, but the latter was inefficient (28.6%).

The fourth quarter started with the Nuggets behind 60-82.

Jokić, Murray and Porter were useless, adding nothing to the scoreboard the rest of the way.

And smelling the blood of his vulnerable prey, Minnesota’s conquering star, Edwards, swished a right-wing banger over Justin Holiday, spun past KCP in the post for a layup and drove left from the top to the rim for another deuce.

The Nuggets lost 80-106. The squad had 34 paint points, 10 on the break, eight via second chances, two off turnovers and 23 from the bench.

Gordon had 20 points on eight of 14 attempts, with four rebounds, two assists, one steal and a turnover. Jokić had 16 marks on 38.5% shooting, with 16 rebounds, eight assists, one block and four turnovers. Holiday put up 13 points on four of six tries, with two rebounds and one dime. And Murray logged eight points on three of 18 looks, with 13 rebounds, two assists, two steals, one block and four turnovers.

The Timberwolves accumulated 52 interior points, 18 in the open court, 14 on extra tries, 19 after turnovers and 37 from the reserves.

Towns (27), Edwards (27), Reid (14) and Nickeil Alexander-Walker (14) were Minnesota’s double-digit scorers.

Malone said, “They kicked our ass.”

Later he said that his priority is trying to win Game 3 and its first quarter. On the Murray situation, Malone said he wasn’t aware of it when a question about him facing league discipline was asked.

Jokić said the Nuggets didn’t help themselves, citing poor ball movement.

Mateo’s Hoop Diary: The Heat were gutted by Gang Green and eliminated from the Playoffs

The Celtics destroyed the outgunned Heatles at TD Garden, eliminating the visitors from the Playoffs. The Celtics’ defense, the disparity on the glass, 56-29, in favor of the hosts, and the Heat’s lack of outside offense sums up this massacre.

The Heat was absent Jimmy Butler (knee) and Terry Rozier (neck).

Bam Adebayo scored off an inverted pick-and-roll set with Tyler Herro, successfully shooting thrice over Al Horford and dunking through the middle in the first quarter for the Heat. But it took them nowhere as the rest of the guests converted five of 13 baskets and they were down 23-41 at its end.

For the Celtics, Derrick White swished two freebies, finished in transition, drove from the left wing to the cup for a dunk and made three trays. Jaylen Brown produced four shots in the restricted area. And Jayson Tatum made two 3-pointers.

It was already a lost cause for the Heat in the second quarter.

Brown triumphantly shot over Herro, hooked at close range while covered by Adebayo, jammed from the dunker spot and supplied a 3-pointer. Jrue Holiday contributed seven points, and Tatum put up six more.

On the Heat side, Herro finally got on the board with three baskets after five fruitless ventures in the first. And Adebayo logged four shots, rim rolling and canning two jumpers.

The Heat was down 46-68. Additionally, the team had 30 paint points, three on the break, none via second chances, five off turnovers and six from the bench.

The Celtics had 26 interior points, zero in the open court, five on extra tries, two off turnovers and eight from the reserves.

Then the Heat were stuck in second gear coming out of the break, failing on all six 3-point attempts because the Celtics contested on time or let Adebayo shoot. Furthermore, Adebayo was off-target inside the arc, making one of seven baskets in the frame.

The only Heatles to record multiple field goals in the third quarter were Delon Wright and Herro. The former drove from the wing to the cup for a layup and cut up the baseline for a scoop shot. The latter got the hole twice and made a shot at the elbow over Horford to cut the deficit to 32 points.

For the hosts, Brown and White put up eight more points apiece. Horford overpowered Patty Mills and Wright near the rim to score. And Sam Hauser got by Nikola Jović on the baseline for a dunk and hit a right-side triple.

The Heat entered the fourth quarter down 66-98 and never got the deficit below 30 points the rest of the way. Adebayo didn’t play in the sequence and Herro was in fewer than three minutes.

The match was so out of hand and in garbage time that only two Celtics starters- Tatum and Holiday- played in the quarter and none longer than four minutes.

The Heat lost 84-118 and got beat on the glass by 27. To boot, the team had 58 paint points, three on the break, none via second chances, 15 off turnovers and 20 from the bench. On top of that, the group never had the lead in Game 5.

The Celtics put up 52 interior points, five in the open court, 11 on extra tries, 10 off turnovers and 34 from the reserves.

White (25), Brown (25), Hauser (17), Tatum (16) and Holiday (10) were Boston’s double-digit scorers.

At the postgame presser, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra credited the Celtics as a top-tier outfit and said, “We’re not going to put this on the fact that we had some injuries.”


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