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Tag: Al Horford

Wizards Must Overcome Road Woes to Advance, Featuring Chase Hughes & Michael Pina

The Celtics and Wizards won’t be friends any time soon, but they certainly have produced one memorable postseason series (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).

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Chase Hughes of Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic and Vice SportsMichael Pina (also host of The Big Three Podcast) deliver back-to-back interviews in which they delve deeply into the captivating Eastern Conference semifinal series between the Washington Wizards and Boston Celtics. While the Celtics lead 3-2, the home team has won every single game of the series. No love between the teams has been lost either.

Wednesday was a crazy day for D.C. sports fans as the Washington Capitals hosted a Game 7 in which they fell to the Penguins, sending the Caps home early for yet another summer. Also in the nation’s capital, the talented Nationals roared back from four runs down to defeat the Beltway rival Orioles on a walk-off single. That same night, the Wizards lost a one-sided road Game 5 to the Celtics. As the series shifts back to D.C., the Wizards hope to keep their home magic alive just long enough to get one more crack at that elusive road victory in a decisive Game 7. Our guests expertly detail what to look for the remainder of the series, beginning with Chase Hughes who is followed by Michael Pina in the final segment. Continue reading

Michael Pina: Celtics Should Keep Current Core, Resist Butler Trade

In addition to reigning over the fourth quarter most nights, Isaiah Thomas averaged 32.9 points per game in January, the fourth most prolific scoring month in franchise history (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).

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As Massachusetts readies for another Super Bowl appearance by its Patriots, the Boston Celtics are playing terrific basketball, guided by two-time All-Star Isaiah Thomas, who turned in one of the most prolific scoring months in franchise history this past January. To help us praise IT and get to the bottom of swirling trade rumors and Boston’s defensive woes, Michael Pina is on the scene. Pina, who covers the Celtics for Bleacher Report, hosts The Big Three podcast and writes about the league elsewhere, delivers a frank, spirited analysis of the team. In addition, this wide-ranging discussion hits on how Al Horford is fitting with this squad, how Brad Stevens’ coaching enhances Marcus Smart’s game, what the Celtics see in 20-year-old Jaylen Brown and why the Cavaliers and Tristan Thompson pose very specific problems for the postseason Celtics, among other topics. Oh yeah…the longtime Patriots fan also provides his Super Bowl prediction. Enjoy some excerpts below: 

7:38 – 8:04While Michael acknowledges Isaiah Thomas’ shortcomings on defense, he also highlights the diminutive point guard’s many defensive strengths:

“For all the bad things about Isaiah Thomas’ defense, I think his effort is always there despite the high offensive usage. He’s extremely tough, extremely physical, he does not die on screens, he fights over them, and really makes ball handlers work really hard, and he knows where to be. He gets up into guys, even when teams force switches and he’s up against a much larger player.”

11:47 – 12:13If Boston is able to hold the East’s No. 2 spot through Sunday’s games, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens will be coaching this season’s Eastern Conference All-Star squad:

“He deserves to coach an All-Star team. I think he’s one of the better overall coaches in basketball, let alone someone who’s that young, commands respect from everybody on the team. He’s fair to the players, and they appreciate that. He’s a great communicator. Since he was hired, he’s done a fantastic job of putting guys in positions where they can succeed, not asking too much of his players.” Continue reading

KL Chouinard: Hawks “Have a Shot Against Cleveland”

KL Chouinard (right) interviewing Hawks SF Thabo Sefolosha.

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The Hawks’ season thus far can reasonably be separated into three segments: (1) a hot start, (2) a brutal 11-game stretch, and, finally, (3) the successful period Atlanta is currently enjoying. Kevin “KL” Chouinard, digital writer for the Atlanta Hawks  and host of the new ATL and 29 podcast, graces the show with his presence, discussing how Atlanta bounced back from its miserable late-November, early-December slump, the process of integrating free-agent addition Dwight Howard, Dennis Schröder’s excellent first season as a starting NBA point guard and how Paul Millsap serves as the glue that keeps the team together. Of course, many other opinions are rendered, including why this season’s Hawks actually stand a chance against the defending champion Cavaliers who swept them one postseason ago in the Eastern Conference semifinals (not to mention the sweep in the 2015 Eastern Conference finals). Below, sample some exhilarating episode excerpts:

5:15-6:06Kevin details the keys to Atlanta’s strong recent defense:

“What’s changed recently, compared to the 1-10 stretch, is they put Thabo Sefolosha in the starting lineup, and he’s really one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA…Millsap (is) playing more minutes with the starters and so that’s a much better defensive unit they’re using to start games. And it’s not perfect, because in opting for more defense, they’ve got less offense.”
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Previewing the 2016-17 NBA Season With James Herbert

James Herbert

James Herbert picked the rise of the Utah Jazz as his most compelling storyline of the NBA season (sixersphotos/Flickr).

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On this episode, James Herbert, NBA writer at CBSSports.com, joins the show to run through the most compelling storylines for the fast approaching 2016-17 NBA season. After an offseason filled with ample player movement and coaching changes, James helps us navigate the new landscape of the NBA, including which teams he thinks improved their chances and which he believes regressed. He also opines on possible breakout players, gives his season award predictions and offers his thoughts on the increasing social activism among NBA players and in professional sports in general.

1:40-4:38 Herbert is very high on the Utah Jazz’s prospects for the season. Here’s a taste:

“I just think they’re gonna be a monster this year. I think a lot of people really expected them to be that breakout team last year — some thought it would even happen the year before, they’d make it to the playoffs — but I think this is really the year that it’s going to happen. They should have been a playoff team last year. They just barely missed out, and that was when they didn’t really have a point guard for the whole season…so I’m a bit more bullish on them than I think even most NBA hipsters are…I think they’re seen as this big team, this enormous team that plays power basketball because of [Derrick] Favors and [Rudy] Gobert, but they can put Trey Lyles and Boris Diaw there as their frontcourt with their bench unit, and they can match up with small teams too. I think it’s really about versatility in the modern NBA, not just going small, and the Jazz have the pieces to play pretty much any way.”

11:03-11:50 Like many analysts, Herbert sees a significant drop-off after the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors. Here’s what he had to say concerning the near-inevitability of another Cavs-Warriors Finals: Continue reading

The Hawks’ Tall Task Against the Cavaliers Featuring Lang Whitaker, Jacob Rosen

Jeff_Teague_Hawks

Jeff Teague, a possible x-factor for the Hawks in this series, struggled with his shooting in Game 1 against the Cavaliers. (Keith Allison/Wikimedia Commons)

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Although the Hawks put a mighty scare into the Cavaliers after storming all the way back from 18 down, Cleveland ultimately hung on to take the series opener. In a tantalizing rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, our crack guests lead us through this iteration’s nuances. Checking in for the Hawks is Atlanta sports expert and NBA.com writer and podcaster Lang Whitaker. And out of Akron, Ohio, we have Jacob Rosen, who’s an MBA student at the University of Oregon’s Warsaw Sports Marketing Center. Rosen’s also a longtime sports analytics writer for Hardwood ParoxysmNylon Calculus and Waiting for Next Year. Excerpts below:

Lang Whitaker (5:07-5:23): “[Kent] Bazemore’s a little bit more dynamic offensively than DeMarre [Carroll] was last year. There’s that saying ‘The best defense is a good offense.’ I think if you make LeBron work a little bit harder on that end, maybe that helps you in the long run as well.”

LW (5:25-5:45): “[Coach Mike] Budenholzer was trying a lot of different things. He had one lineup where Paul Millsap was playing center, where he went really small. I think he has a little more versatility with [Thabo] Sefolosha being healthy. He can go to these lineups where there’s two or three small forwards in there at the same time.”

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Lang Whitaker: Schroder’s “Got a Lot of Swag”

Lang Whitaker (left) repping the "A" with fellow hoops writer Rembert Browne (@rembert/Instagram)

Lang Whitaker, left, repping the “A” with fellow hoops writer Rembert Browne (@rembert/Instagram)

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After Jeff Teague’s ankle injury, the Atlanta Hawks have been on a bit of a slide, dropping three straight to the Nets, Jazz and Timberwolves. However, they did begin the season winning eight of 10. This week, devout ATLien Lang Whitaker, who writes and podcasts at NBA.com, joins us on our show to talk about the Hawks, who are seeking an encore performance to their memorable 60-win season from a year ago despite being overlooked coming into the season.

Notable sections include:

6:30-8:15: On Millsap’s sometimes understated impact on the team: “I thought last year, he was the most important player on the Hawks’ team. That shoulder injury he had right at the end of the regular season, he just never looked right to me in the postseason, and I thought that had as much of an effect as anything else did with the Hawks not doing well against Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Finals.”

9:25-10:30: Lang waxes poetic about Dennis Schroder’s potential and how he’s evolving: “He does a lot of stuff that I think he doesn’t know he’s not supposed to be able to do. He has a confidence that makes him a problem for other teams. Athletically there’s nothing he can’t do… He’s too young to know any better, and that’s what makes it fun to watch ‘cuz you never know what he’s gonna do. He’s got a lot of swag. He’s only 22. He’s going to be really good for a really long time in the NBA.”

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