NBA Monday Morning Shootaround: LeBron James, the Hunger Games and More
Welcome to the "Monday Morning Shootaround," Bleacher Report's recap of the weekend that was in the NBA. Along with getting you caught up on the weekend’s playoff action, we’ll give you a sneak preview of what could potentially be the greatest basketball book of all time, show you the best 70-year-old playground superstar ever, and tell you about a young star that just might choose religion over the fame and fortune of the NBA.
The Opening Tip
* ABC cameras caught LeBron James reading The Hunger Games before the Miami Heat played the Indiana Pacers on Sunday. Shortly thereafter, the Miami Heat small forward proceeded to go into full Katniss Everdeen mode to the tune of 40 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists as the Heat pulled out a hard-fought 101-93 victory.
After a slow start, Heat guard Dwyane Wade finished with 30 points, nine rebounds and six assists of his own. But Sunday afternoon was all about James and his gaudy numbers, virtually all of which were needed as the series now heads back to Miami tied at 2-2. To put his feat in the proper context, no NBA player over the past 25 years has put up a line like James had yesterday. So there's that.
* The San Antonio Spurs finished off their sweep of the Los Angeles Clippers with a 102-99 victory on Sunday night. If you’re counting, it’s now 18 wins in a row for a Spurs team that will face the winner of the Thunder-Lakers series in the Western Conference Finals.
Unfortunately, the Clippers’ playoff defeat means that we’ll get no more tweets like this one from Mo Williams on Nick Young’s post-game attire.
* Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined for 68 points as the Thunder pushed the Los Angeles Lakers to the brink of elimination with a 103-100 win on Saturday. The Game 4 victory was capped off with a 22-8 Thunder run, highlighted by a deep Durant three-pointer with 13.7 seconds left.
Lakers' guard Kobe Bryant (38 points, eight rebounds, five assists) was extremely frustrated after the game, calling out teammate Pau Gasol (10 points, five rebounds) for his lack of assertiveness. Gasol and Lakers' center Andrew Bynum combined for only two points and one rebound in the crucial 4th quarter.
* Staring a 14-0 first quarter deficit directly in the face, the Philadelphia 76ers pulled out a highly improbable 92-83 victory over the Boston Celtics on Friday. As the two teams get ready to do battle in Boston tonight, the 76ers and Celtics are all square in their Eastern Conference semifinal series at two games apiece.
The 61 second-half points completely negated Philadelphia's terrible shooting performance in the first two quarters (9-for-39, 23.1 percent), and Boston is now the team that is searching for answers. The key stat to look for in Game 5? Total rebounds. The team that has won the battle of the boards has won each game of this series so far.
As part of a promotional campaign, Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving put on makeup that made him appear 50 years older, went to a pickup game in Bloomington, NJ, and proceeded to school everyone on the opposing team.
And as 76ers head coach Doug Collins so eloquently explains at the 2:10 mark in this clip, we should all be entitled to a "Lavoy Allen Day" just once in our lives.
The Full-Court Press
* B/R Lead NBA Blogger Ethan Sherwood Strauss gives his thoughts on why head coaches get the lion's share of the blame when their teams don't perform well in the postseason.
* Former Portland Trail Blazers center Greg Oden recently underwent the same super-secret knee procedure that Kobe Bryant had in Germany last summer.
* After Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook wore a pair of Sally Jesse Raphael-style glasses with no lenses in them to a postgame press conference, SOMEONE had to address the latest trends in NBA fashion. Fortunately, the great Bethlehem Shoals did just that.
* If Joakim Noah's offensive skill set matched his defensive intensity, the Chicago Bulls center would be a perennial All-Star. In an effort to rectify the situation, Noah plans to work out with former NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar this summer.
* More Kyrie Irving: In this interview with GQ, not only does the NBA Rookie of the Year give his playoff predictions, but he informs the world that he's a huge fan of musicals.
* In other interview news, oft-maligned Orlando center Dwight Howard sits down with ESPN's Ric Bucher to respond to some of those who criticized him this year.
* An arbitrator will soon rule whether or not a handful of NBA players—including Jeremy Lin, J.J. Hickson and Chauncey Billups—will receive "Bird" or "Early Bird" rights under the new collective bargaining agreement. If so, their current teams will be allowed to exceed the salary cap in order to re-sign them.
* Do age and postseason experience equate to playoff success? The New York Times' "Off the Dribble" blog concludes that...it's too soon to come to a conclusion on the subject.
* Who is that eccentric-looking man that you've seen at courtside just about every night of the playoffs? Why, it's Jimmy Goldstein: multi-millionaire NBA "superfan" and Lakers’ season ticket holder for the past 50 years.
* A 12-year-old Spurs fan that was suspended from school after getting the greatest haircut in the history of mankind was given tickets to a San Antonio game last week. No word on what his barber received, but it should have been something fantastic.
The Four-Point Play
* Former NBA star Penny Hardaway had a long and storied 14-year career. But it’s what he’s busy doing away from the court that will have a much larger impact.
* Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated writes about the safe bets in the upcoming NBA Draft.
* Legendary sportswriter Jack McCallum is writing a tell-all about the Dream Team. If this prologue is any indication of the book's quality, we're all in for a treat once the hardcover drops on July 10.
* Jabari Parker of Chicago's Simeon Career Academy could quite possibly be the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. But instead of chasing his hoop dreams, he may instead choose to embark on a two-year Mormon mission.
The Tweet of the Week
Now that his incredible season in China is in the books, Stephon Marbury has been offering running commentary throughout the NBA playoffs. Here's one of his more controversial tweets:
LeBron's three MVP awards and two NBA Finals appearances seem to refute that claim, but we won't debate Marbury's basketball knowledge or acumen. After all, he has had a statue of himself erected in a foreign country.
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