Notes from NBA on TNT Playoff Coverage ­ Thursday, April 23, 2015

nba-on-tntTNT’s NBA coverage of the playoffs continues Saturday, April 25, with doubleheader action featuring the Atlanta Hawks @ Brooklyn Nets at 3 p.m. ET and the Chicago Bulls @ Milwaukee Bucks at 5:30 p.m.

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TNT NBA Tip-off presented by Autotrader 

Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith

Barkley on the idea of Cleveland intimidating the Celtics: “The words ‘intimidation’ and ‘bulletin board material,’ I think that’s always overused.”

O’Neal on the effect of intimidation: “For me, intimidation was my whole thing.  The guys I couldn’t intimidate, I had trouble with; Hakeem [Olajuwon] and Tim Duncan on certain days.  The guys I could intimidate, it made it easier for me.”

O’Neal on LeBron James’ ability to intimidate opponents: “LeBron, to me, is more on the Magic [Johnson] side of things; great player, Hall of Famer, first ballot..but he’s not really intimidating.  Guys are not really going to fear him.”

Smith on how intimidation factors into the game: “At the beginning of the game, you’re not intimidated, but as the game goes on and you realize you can’t stop them, that’s intimidating.”

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Cleveland Cavaliers (103) @ Boston Celtics (95); Cavaliers lead 3-0
Marv Albert (play-by-play) Chris Webber (analyst) with Rachel Nichols (reporter)

Webber on Cavaliers’ center Timofey Mozgov: “I love Mozgov.  He just does his job…He cut down the lane and finished like a big guy’s supposed to.”

Webber on a big man’s job on offense: “As a big man, you have to be two things – aware and ready to catch the ball.”

Webber on Kevin Love’s all-around offensive game: “Everyone in Cleveland should be excited when Kevin Love gets it in the post.  He’s a great passer and more than capable in the post.”

Webber on Tristan Thompson and teams intentionally fouling below-average foul shooters in the playoffs: “If you want people to quit hacking you, make your free throws.”

Webber on LeBron setting the pace for the Cavaliers’ offense: “He wanted to make sure he led by example, and the example was getting to the basket.”

Webber on Kevin Love’s impact: “It’s how he did it, not just shooting threes, but being in the post and also getting back on defense.”

Webber on LeBron’s minutes this season: “I know a lot of Cleveland fans are worried that LeBron played almost 42 minutes a game, but this season he’s played the least amount of minutes of his career.  Coach [David] Blatt said they’ve prepared for this all season.”

Webber on the Celtics’ team depth: “In the playoffs, 90% of teams… shrink their rotation.  [Coach Brad] Stevens said he knows that’s the way it usually goes, but he thinks they have strength in numbers and depth.  They want to play more [players], as opposed less.”

Webber on the match of the Celtics’ style and the Boston crowd: “Young teams needs energy.  They need to get it from the crowd and from hustle plays… When you show the crowd, you’re in it on those hustle plays; they give you all the support that you need.”

Webber on Boston’s philosophy: “This team is known for sharing the ball and getting guys open shots.”

Webber on silver linings for Boston: “There are no moral victories if you lose, but there are building blocks.”

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Golden State Warriors (123) @ New Orleans Pelicans (119) in OT; Warriors lead 3-0
Brian Anderson (play-by-play) Steve Smith (analyst) with Tracy Wolfson (reporter)

Smith on Stephen Curry’s development: “Because of his ability to handle the basketball, show shot and drive, and take the contact, he’s a little bit stronger and more confident than in his first year.”

Smith on Curry aggressively driving to the basket: “He uses his speed and ability to get the rim and he’s a tough puppy.”

Smith on Klay Thompson: “That’s the next evolution for Klay Thompson…putting some pressure on little guards and get to the free throw line and also be effective with his size at the two-guard position.”

Smith on the Warriors needing to cool off the Pelicans offense: “They have no problem scoring, but right now, they have to defend.”
Smith on how Ryan Anderson affects the Pelicans: “This is a different team with Ryan Anderson…[when he’s effective], it allows them to rest Anthony Davis.”

Smith on the Pelicans’ transition offense: “That’s what a missed [Golden State] three point shot does for you; it starts the fast break because it’s a long rebound and guys can’t get back.”

Smith on Anthony Davis: “That’s what makes him special.  Being able to play both ends, and with his length, he can guard you [either] out to the three point line [or] at the rim.”

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Inside the NBA presented by Kia

Johnson, O’Neal, Barkley, Smith

Barkley on match-up problems caused by Anthony Davis: “I would go to Anthony Davis every time and make [the Warriors] double [team] him, or get Draymond Green in foul trouble.”

O’Neal on Davis: “[Charles and I] love when big men come ready to play, and this kid is ready to play…he can do it all…he’s the best power forward in the game today.”

Barkley on momentum: “Once this game went to overtime, it was a rap.”

Barkley on New Orleans blowing the big lead: “If I was the coach, I would say I had a lot to do with us losing that game.”

Barkley on Golden State’s comeback: “Take your hat off to the guys from Golden State, but they had a lot of help from New Orleans.”

Smith on the Celtics effort: “I loved the way the Celtics compete, they just don’t have the talent level… They fought, they just don’t have enough.”

Barkley on Derrick Rose’s health: “I like the way he’s attacking the basket…When he doesn’t have confidence in his body, he shoots a lot of jumpers.  When he’s going forward towards the basket, he has confidence in his legs.”

Smith on Rose’s offensive versatility: “When he’s playing a mixed game, he’s one of the best guards in the NBA.”

Barkley on the Bulls this year: “This is a different Bulls teams than a few years ago, they’ve got a lot of weapons.”

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Notes from NBA on TNT Playoff Coverage ­ Wednesday, April 22, 2015

nba-on-tntTNT’s NBA coverage of the playoffs continues tonight, Thursday, April 23, with doubleheader action featuring the Cleveland Cavaliers @ Boston Celtics at 7 p.m. ET and the Golden State Warriors @ New Orleans Pelicans at 9:30 p.m.

 

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TNT NBA Tip-off presented by Autotrader 

Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith

Barkley on the Grizzlies chances in the Western Conference: “This Memphis team, I’ve always thought they were the best team in the West if [point guard] Mike Conley is healthy. If he’s healthy, they are terrific. They have the best center / power forward combo in the NBA.”

O’Neal on the firing of Thunder head coach Scott Brooks: “What he did wrong is he didn’t have all of his players. Really, he didn’t do anything wrong. It’s unfair that he got fired, but he had ample chances to get his team to the next level. It’s just one of those things where he couldn’t get past certain teams. He lost to the Spurs a couple of times, but he did an unbelievable job. I know he will be a coach somewhere else.”

Barkley: “Scott Brooks did not deserve to get fired. Plain and simple. The guy made it to The Finals, and has been in the Conference Finals two other times. He was missing an All-Star those years, and missing an MVP this year…getting fired was really unfair.”

Smith: “It was not a deficiency in skill. It was probably something with personality, between the players, ownership or management. It was probably something else, because if you look at his resume…it’s impressive.”

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Portland Trail Blazers (82) @ Memphis Grizzlies (97); Grizzlies lead 2-0
Kevin Calabro (play-by-play) Brent Barry (analyst) with Lewis Johnson (reporter)

Barry on Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard: “When he can get out there and get off the ball in attack mode, he is much more difficult to guard.”

Barry on the Trail Blazers’ lack of offense: “The Blazers are going to have to find some offense [in order to win the series], but I’m not sure where that is against this Memphis Grizzlies defense.”

 

Barry on Lillard vs. the Grizzlies defense: “Head coach Terry Stotts needs to find a way to get Damian Lillard better opportunities throughout the course of the game, and try to find fast break points. That is so difficult to do against this Grizzlies team that plays balanced offensive possessions and is able to get back on defense.”

Barry on Grizzlies center Marc Gasol: “It’s a great thing to watch. Gasol is getting into the paint and keeping his confidence going.”

Barry on Grizzlies veteran shooting guard Vince Carter: “He had so many great moments last year for Dallas in that playoff series against San Antonio, pushing them to a Game 7… Vince was brought here for some playoff basketball, hoping to find some of that magic.”

Barry on the disruption in the Grizzlies’ team chemistry with forward Tony Allen out of the lineup: “Some of the things [forward] Jeff Green was doing for them offensively were ok, but defensively they had just fallen off a cliff with Tony Allen out. It was a bit disruptive to their team chemistry to not have Allen out there, who is the heart and soul of this grit and grind team. Allen is back starting and they will get back into their rotation, tighten it up and rely on Jeff Green’s production off the bench offensively.”

Barry on Memphis guard Courtney Lee: “When you get some offense from Courtney Lee, Memphis becomes a very difficult team to stop.”

Barry on the strength of the Grizzlies defense: “The Memphis defense is so good. They are going to guard one-action. If your offense starts to get predicated on one-on-one basketball with them set, and you’re not shifting the ball from side to side, there is just no way you are going to find effective offense possessions.”

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San Antonio Spurs (111) @ Los Angeles Clippers (107) in Overtime; Series Tied 1-1
Kevin Harlan (play-by-play) Reggie Miller (analyst) with Jaime Maggio (reporter)

Miller on the strength of the Spurs bench: “It’s so huge for the Spurs to even up the series. They are hoping the longer the series goes, the more their depth is going to rise up. You are not going to get a lot of production out of the Clippers bench.”

Miller on Spurs PG Tony Parker vs. Clippers PG Chris Paul: “The Spurs need a bigger defender on Chris Paul. After Tony Parker tweaked his leg in Game 1, I don’t think he’s strong enough to guard Chris Paul.”

Miller on Spurs veteran power forward Tim Duncan: “It never gets old, watching greatness. We have the best seats in the house.”

Miller on Tony Parker’s lack of offensive production in Game 2: “After the Game 1 he had, if you told me Tony Parker would be 0-5 from the field and only have one point in the middle of the third quarter, I would have guessed the Spurs would be down 15.”

Miller on the minutes played by Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili: “That’s why [head coach] Pop kept his ‘Big Three’s’ minutes down all season, for times like this… In a time of need, you need your best players.”

Miller on the focus of Clippers point guard Chris Paul: “Chris Paul is so focused and locked in for these playoffs. He is shooting the basketball great and is running this team at such a high level. He’s a man on a mission.”

Miller on Clippers power forward Blake Griffin taking advantage of matchups: “Blake Griffin has gotten the memo. He is starting to recognize matchups. When there is a smaller defender on them, he just bodies them and takes them to the paint.”

Miller on Griffin: “It’s all about power and athleticism. When there’s a taller defender he is going to use that quickness and speed. With a smaller defender, he will use bully ball. He’s a big factor for this Clipper ball club.”

Miller on Griffin: “This may be the best I’ve ever seen Blake Griffin play. He’s engaged. I don’t know why it took until the playoffs for me to see it, but he looks like a different animal. He has taken this game to another level. He gets it. He understands it.”

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Inside the NBA presented by Kia

Johnson, O’Neal, Barkley, Smith

Barkley on the one-dimensional play of point guard Damian Lillard:  “The one negative to Damian’s game is, when he doesn’t score, he has zero impact on the game. When we talk about guys who are All-Stars and superstars, what separates them is their ability to make an impact on the game when you’re not doing what you do well. Sometimes you’re not going to make shots, but if the only thing you can do is make shots, you’re going to put your team at a disadvantage. Everybody in the NBA can play. What separates guys [are] stat stuffers who can do a bunch of different things.”

Smith on Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley: What puts the Memphis Grizzlies over the top is Mike Conley. He is the most underrated point guard in the NBA.”

Barkley on Conley: “That guy is a flat-out stud.”

Barkley on the improvement of Clippers power forward Blake Griffin: “He’s always played the game strictly on talent. Now he’s learning the mental aspect of the game. You can’t let these little guys guard you down low, you have to shoot over them like they are chairs.”  

Barkley on the Clippers Game 2 loss: “[Head coach] Doc Rivers said it; they should have won this game.”

Barkley on the slow pace of San Antonio: “The key to the game was the Spurs’ ability to keep it at a slow pace. They want to walk it up and down the court and use body movement and ball movement.”

Barkley on a tired, injured Spurs team heading into Game 3: “What’s going to be interesting is it’s a quick turnaround. [Tim] Duncan played the most minutes he’s played all season. You have to worry about [Manu] Ginobili. You have to worry about [Tony] Parker. On the other hand, the Clippers have no bench. This could become a battle of attrition.”

O’Neal on Tim Duncan: “Tim Duncan is a bonafide superstar. Superstars don’t have two bad games in a row. I knew after the first game, he was going to come out ready.”

Smith on Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle’s comments regarding PG Rajon Rondo’s future in Dallas: “It’s unfortunate because he could have been what they needed. [Part of it was] his inability to conform. You still always have to be a pro in that environment, which at times I don’t think he was.”

Barkley on Rondo: “It’s best that they part ways. It just didn’t work.”

Smith on the Atlanta Hawks vs. Brooklyn Nets series: “The Atlanta Hawks are a better basketball team than Brooklyn. They have proven it all year. They won 60 games, and the Nets side-stepped into the playoffs. How could you think Brooklyn was going to play Atlanta tough?”

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ABC & ESPN Combine to Televise Seven NBA Playoff Games This Weekend

  • LeBron James, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Chris Paul, Anthony Davis, Plus the Defending NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs in Action
  • Head Coaches & ESPN NBA Analysts Jeff Van Gundy, Hubie Brown, Doug Collins, Mark Jackson, P.J. Carlesimo Providing Coverage

 ABC and ESPN will combine to televise seven NBA playoff games this weekend – Friday, April 24 through Sunday, April 26. The schedule with commentator information is below:

 Friday, April 24 on ESPN/ESPN2

The Dallas Mavericks and Dirk Nowitzki will host the Houston Rockets and James Harden in Game 3 at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN. Mike Tirico, the legendary Basketball Hall of Famer Hubie Brown and reporter Heather Cox will provide commentary.

Concurrently, ESPN2 will televise the Washington Wizards and John Wall as they host the Toronto Raptors and Kyle Lowry in Game 3, beginning at 8 p.m. Mark Jones, analyst Doris Burke and reporter J.A. Adande will have the call.  In the nightcap at 9:30 p.m. on ESPN, Mike Breen, analysts Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson and reporter Lisa Salters will cover the defending NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs and Tim Duncan’s Game 3 match-up with the Los Angeles Clippers and Chris Paul. All ESPN/ESPN2 games are also available via WatchESPN.

Saturday, April 25 on ESPN

ESPN will televise a prime-time doubleheader beginning at 8 p.m. as the Golden State Warriors and Stephen Curry visit the New Orleans Pelicans and Anthony Davis in Game 3. Dave Pasch, analyst Jon Barry and reporter Israel Gutierrez will call the action. The game will also be available on ESPN Radio. At 10:30 p.m., the Portland Trail Blazers and LaMarcus Aldridge will host the Memphis Grizzlies and Marc Gasol in Game 4 with Ryan Ruocco, analyst P.J. Carlesimo and reporter Chris Broussard.

Sunday, April 26 on ABC

NBA Countdown will tip off ABC’s NBA Playoffs coverage at 12 p.m. with host Sage Steele and analysts Doug Collins and Jalen Rose. At 1 p.m., the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James will visit the Boston Celtics and Isaiah Thomas in Game 4. The commentators will be Mike Tirico, analyst Hubie Brown and reporter Heather Cox. At 3:30 p.m., the Los Angeles Clippers and Chris Paul will visit the San Antonio Spurs and Tim Duncan in Game 4. Mike Breen, analysts Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson and reporter Lisa Salters will have the call. This match-up will also be available on ESPN Radio.

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 Media contacts: Ben Cafardo at 860-766-3496 or ben.cafardo@espn.com (@Ben_ESPN);

Gianina Thompson at 860-766-7022 or gianina.thompson@espn.com (@Gianina_Thompson).

Notes from NBA on TNT Playoff Coverage ­ Tuesday, April 21, 2015

nba-on-tntTNT’s NBA coverage of the playoffs continues tonight, Wednesday, April 22, with doubleheader action featuring the Portland Trail Blazers @ Memphis Grizzlies at 8 p.m. ET and the San Antonio Spurs  @ Los Angeles Clippers at 10:30 p.m.

 

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TNT NBA Tip-off presented by Autotrader 

Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith

Smith on Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving: “He’s electric. His ability off the dribble is second to none in the NBA. He’s the best in the business at getting to the areas of the floor he wants to go. When you allow those two guys to score, they are difficult to beat. He is a natural born scorer. It’s easy for him.”

O’Neal on the Cavaliers’ desire to keep this first round series short: “It’s advisable not to mess around. Go out and take care of business so you can get a couple days of rest.”

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Boston Celtics (91) @ Cleveland Cavaliers (99); Cavaliers lead 2-0
Marv Albert (play-by-play) Chris Webber (analyst) with Rachel Nichols (reporter)

Webber on the Celtics aggressive play: “The Celtics aren’t backing down. They are saying, ‘We deserve to be here too.’

You have to love how the Celtics are not afraid…not afraid to be embarrassed.”

Webber on the Celtics as a road team: “[I] love the energy of the road team. You want to see how young teams come out after a loss on the road. It seems as if this team is coming out and not thinking about the loss.”

Webber on the potential of the Celtics: “I know we are supposed to be focused on the series, but this young team is going to be really good in a few years.”

Webber on guard Isaiah Thomas: “One of the most exciting little players in the league.”

Smith on the Celtics against the Cavaliers: “You [the Cavs] are going to have to play ‘playoff basketball’ to win.  Typically 2-7 or 1-8, you don’t have to play ‘playoff basketball.’ They are forcing Cleveland to play ‘playoff basketball.’

Webber on point guard Kyrie Irving under forward LeBron James leadership: “It’s so great for Kyrie Irving to have a leader, mentor and big brother [in LeBron James]. He is making the most of it.”

Webber on power forward Kevin Love: “One thing we haven’t been seeing from Kevin Love is his passing ability because he hasn’t been getting the ball in areas where he is a triple threat.”

Barkley on the impact of center Timofey Mozgov: “Mozgov is the guy that turned around their season. They were too small with [Kevin] Love and [Anderson] Varejao down low. Mozgov is the guy.”

Webber on Irving: “Kyrie’s passing is so underrated because his dribbling is so spectacular.”

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Dallas Mavericks (99) @ Houston Rockets (111); Houston leads  2-0
Brian Anderson (play-by-play) Steve Smith (analyst) with Rebecca Haarlow (reporter)

Smith on guard Raymond Felton: “We know he can come in and play and that he’s not scared of the moment.”

Smith on guard Rajon Rondo: “Rondo has to be more engaged offensively. He’s a guy that can dominate in his position.”

Smith on guard James Harden: “He’s so strong, has the ability to read you and go through your shoulder. He’s the best at the Euro-step and laying it up.”

Smith on the Houston Rockets: “With this game you see how deep and talented this team is.”

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Inside the NBA presented by Kia

Johnson, O’Neal, Barkley, Smith

Barkley on the Mavericks: “I’ll take my hat off to Dallas. They did compete tonight.”

Barkley on the friction between head coach Rick Carlisle 

 and Rajon Rondo: “If you are not engaged in a game, how are you going to help my team? Clearly, they have something going on. My obligation (as coach) is to the other players.”

Smith on playing without guard Rajon Rondo:  “You are not going to win this series with JJ Barea and anyone else at the point guard position. You need Rondo. When he makes great decisions, he’s a great basketball player. So we need to figure out what’s going on to get him engaged.”

Smith on the Rockets errors: “The errors that they had were because of effort. Their errors weren’t because of negligence.”

Barkley on power forward Josh Smith: “This was probably one of the best games I’ve ever seen him play. He was fantastic.”

O’Neal on center Dwight Howard: “If he can get 28-15 and be engaged and dominate offensive and defensive rebounds, they can definitely win; but I need him to play like that all the time.”

Barkley on Josh Smith: “This guy has All-Star type talent. He was fantastic tonight. We are in the second round of the playoffs, so let’s not overreact, but if he plays like that they can beat anyone.”

Barkley on being surprised by the Wizards: “This is the Wizards team that we thought we were going to see all year.”

Barkley on the Wizards backcourt: “They have one of the best backcourts in the league. They are second behind those guys in Golden State.”

Barkley: “The next true great tandum is [John] Wall and [Bradley] Beal.”

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Transcript: ESPN 2015 NBA Playoffs First Round Conference Call with Jalen Rose and P.J. Carlesimo

Earlier today, ESPN NBA analysts Jalen Rose (NBA Countdown) and P.J. Carlesimo (SportsCenter, NBA Tonight) discussed the 2015 NBA Playoffs first round on a media conference call. Rose will join the rest of the NBA Countdown crew on Sunday, April 26 at 12 p.m. ET to preview the Los Angeles Clippers at San Antonio Spurs game. Carlesimo will be the game analyst for Saturday’s Memphis Grizzlies-Portland Trail Blazers telecast on ESPN at 10:30 p.m.

For more details on ABC and ESPN’s multiplatform NBA Playoffs schedule, visit ESPNMediaZone.com.

Here is the replay of today’s conference call.

Q.  Do you think there’s any chance the Bucks can get back in this Bulls series, and if you’re Jason Kidd, what would you try?

P.J. CARLESIMO:  Yeah, I think it’s just too early to say.  I know they only won one.  They won one of the four games in the regular season, but probably the tenor of most of my answers today are going to be, ‘It’s awfully early.’  All our jobs are to comment, but what have we had? Of the eight series, only two of them have played even a second game.  So you’ve got teams that have not played at home yet.  You have a number of teams in the Playoffs with decidedly different home and road records, both ways, not just the obvious like where the team has been the visitor in the beginning has a pretty poor road record.  But some of them have really good home records and some of the teams that are even hosting there’s a marked difference between their home and away.

The Bucks biggest problem is scoring points.  That’s everybody’s problem when you play the Bulls.  The Bulls are so much better offensively this year, but they’re still very good defensively, and as good as the Bucks are defensively, they’re not going to win scoring 86 or 87 points a game.  I just think the combination of being at home is that Game 3 is going to be enormous, and somehow Jason has got to get a little more offense out of his squad, which is not easy to do against the Bulls.

JALEN ROSE:  And there’s a reason why Ben chose me to be on the call with a highest team champion and a terrific coach like PJ because we’re going to balance each other out terrific.  For me, the Milwaukee Bucks making the Playoffs, especially after trading Brandon Knight, who was their leading scorer and assist guy, and basically getting a first-round pick from the Clippers to take Jared Dudley, who’s been a knock‑down three‑point shooter for them, they all know 94 percent of the time when you get down 0‑2 in a best‑of‑seven you normally lose the series.  So for me, it’s can Milwaukee win one game.

I think from what I saw in Jimmy Butler and Noah’s 19 rebounds, I went from thinking the Bucks could win a game with Khris Middleton shooting and Antetokounmpo being able to get to the basket, but they’re keeping his perimeter oriented.  I now think the Bulls will sweep the Milwaukee Bucks.

Q.  P.J., if you’re Jason Kidd, you’re trying for offense. Any ideas of what he could try

CARLESIMO:  Well, I mean, you always like to get the easy things, but you know, in Game 1 they shot 4 for 16 from three.  In Game 2, they shot 4 for 17.  You know, I mean, the so‑called easy points, if you can get some points off turnovers, I think that would be their best method.  They got a bunch of those.  They turned the balls over 19 times in the first game and 15 in the second.  Calling them easy points is probably a misnomer, but some points off turnovers, getting to the free‑throw line, getting offensive rebounds, and I’d put ‑‑ I’d kind of tack threes on there because threes can make up for other deficiencies, but when you look at what’s happened so far, the points off turnovers, I think they’ve done an adequate job.  They have not done a great job.  They were much better in Game 1 on those offensive rebounds.

Three‑point shooting would be enormous, but you know, it’s hard to change what you are at this stage.  They’ve been so good shooting the ball all year, but again, they’re playing a team that’s exceptional.  That to me is almost one of the big numbers to look at.  Milwaukee, one of the better three‑point shooting percentage teams in the league, but the Bulls are one of the best defensive three‑point shooting teams in the league.  It just really is difficult to score against Chicago, so I mean, it’s easy for me to sit here and say, Jason has got to get his team to make some more threes and get some more offensive rebounds and blah‑blah‑blah, but it’s not an accident the way the Bulls play.

But I am putting more stock in the home court, particularly for a young team, an inexperienced playoff team.  They may get a lift from that, and if they can continue to turn the Bulls over, that can be a big thing for them.

Q.  P.J., what are your observations of the New Orleans Pelicans, the upstart Pelicans, and have they given you an indication they can tie this series playing at home?

CARLESIMO:  I don’t know about tying it, but I think a lot better.  I happened to have had the Pelicans.  I had them the last game of the regular season against San Antonio, and I had Game 1, whatever day it was, Saturday or Sunday, in Oakland.  I think the one thing, and I’m sure so much has been written, other people have probably said it, I just haven’t seen it as much, but this is one of the series that I alluded to in the beginning.  You’ve got a team with the best home record in the league against a team with the poorest road playoff record in the league. Washington and New Orleans have the worst road records.  So if anything my convoluted logic, I was encouraged by the way New Orleans played to be honest with you.  I wouldn’t have been surprised if they got smoked both games in Oakland. Based on the regular season, it was hard to evaluate because key guys missed games, but New Orleans candidly has not been a good road team, and Golden State is the best home team in the league.  So I think going back to Smoothie will be enormous for New Orleans.  Not as enormous as health.  If Tyreke and Holiday play ‑‑ not just play but play and are okay to play, are capable of getting something done, I think that would be significant.  But I’m anxious to watch them at home because I think with a healthy Drew and a healthy Tyreke and playing at home, that team is just markedly better at home.

They just beat Golden State, whatever it was, 10 days ago, 12 days ago, I don’t know, at home.  Yes, the Playoffs are a different animal, but I’ve been encouraged by a lot of the minutes that New Orleans played in Oakland.

Q.  How much has the bench been the difference in these two games, and are the Pelicans missing Ryan Anderson? How much are they missing him? 

CARLESIMO:  Well, they’re missing him, but again, it’s a strange number, and I don’t understand it.  I happen to be a Ryan Anderson fan.  His numbers mirror exactly what I’m talking about.  He’s played so much better and shot the ball so much better in New Orleans than he has on the road, not just in Oakland but in general.  So I think, yeah, that’s a big factor.  But New Orleans almost doubled him in bench points in the first game.  I think it was 25‑12 in New Orleans’ favor in the first game, and Golden State got them in the second game, but I chalk part of that off to Drew not being there.  Even the first ‑‑ the numbers in the first game were a little skewed because if I recall correctly, Tyreke didn’t play second half.  So when you look at the box score, it looks like the bench scored more than they did, and somebody had to start in Tyreke’s place in the second half.

But yeah, again, if Ryan shoots the ball the way he normally shoots it, and if the other two guys are healthy, I think ‑‑ I’m not going to say anybody is going to beat Golden State back‑to‑back, but I’ll be surprised if they don’t get a game in New Orleans.  I think they played very well in that building.

ROSE:  Playing at home, I’m with Coach.  You put Anthony Davis at the 5, you get more shooting from Anderson, the help with their backcourt, in both of these road games, you lose Evans during the first game, you lose Drew the entire second game.  Normally your role players play better at home.  Anthony Davis is going to slow down a little bit on his post moves, take advantage of his size a little bit better when he’s guarded by Draymond and use his speed better when he’s being guarded by Bogut.  I do anticipate that New Orleans is going to win one game.  That would be the only game in my opinion they win in this series, Game 3.

CARLESIMO:  Again, I don’t think Monty looks at Asik like a huge offensive production guy, but if he’s going to play ‑‑ he’s playing maybe a little bit less than he played in the regular season, and he is rebounding, but he’s got to give them some offense.  What did he get in the regular season, 7, 8 points a game?  I think they need a little offense from him, also.  It may not be a good match‑up, but if he’s on the floor getting rebounds, if I recall correctly, he’s like the top 10 or 11 offensive rebounder in the league.  So maybe he can come up with a couple more of those and get a little bit more offense for them.

Q.  Pelicans have probably played about as well as they can for two games. What do you do as a coach to put it in their heads, “Hey, you can beat this bunch,” rather than maybe having the thought that they’re just not quite good enough this year?  And Jalen, if you’re a player, does it take something from your coaches talking to you in this situation?  Do you take it upon yourself or amongst each other?  How does that work? 

ROSE:  When you’re a player in this situation, you don’t have to create fake hype because we know we have Anthony Davis, and whatever list you’re making, he’s going to be one of your top players in the game.  We know we just beat Golden State, and as a matter of fact we beat the defending world champions on our floor and knocked out the opportunity for them to go to 2nd to 6th in a game that they sorely needed.  I just think going back home, your role players’ percentages go up, their confidence, as well.  You get more benefit of the whistle, and Anthony Davis who was slow in particular in the second half, in the fourth quarter, in Game 2, is going to be a match‑up nightmare for Golden State, and he’s going to will them to Game 3.

CARLESIMO:  Yeah, I like what Jalen is saying.  I think if anything I’d have been more concerned with the confidence level going into Oakland.  Honestly, I was impressed with what the Pelicans did in the two games.  They didn’t, to me ‑‑ Golden State didn’t come close to dominating as might have been expected by a lot of us going in.  They had two ‑‑ they had two exceptional defensive quarters last night.  Was it a 16‑ and a 17‑point quarter against Golden?  That’s got to be two of the slowest quarters Golden has had all year.  They came from behind.  The injuries that Jalen and I both talked about already, I mean, I think they can have legitimate confidence coming home.

Now, Golden State can certainly play better, but I don’t think Monty has to do any kind of convincing.  They were down 25 in the first game and came back, and they’re right there in the fourth quarter last night.  I’ve got to think the team coming back from Oakland is significantly more confident than they may have even gone in.  They’re coming back to a building and an environment that they’ve thrived in all year, and as Jalen said, they just beat them a couple weeks ‑‑ they just beat them and San Antonio recently.  I think they’ve got a lot of reason to be confident.  Now, having said that, Golden State is the best team in the league, but I like New Orleans’ mindset going into these Games 3 and 4.

ROSE:  And coming out of Games 1 and 2, no player epitomizes the confidence that I think the Pelicans have going back home more than Quincy Pondexter, who’s playing really well.

Q.  I talked to Brad Stevens for a little bit yesterday, P.J., and I just wanted to get your impression of his first two seasons in the NBA, what he was able to do with the Celtics team, and what you see in him as a coach, especially under the guise of you were also a coach who had success in college and then translated it into NBA success.

CARLESIMO:  Let me preface it by saying I happened to do 15 of the Celtic games last year.  I did a bunch of their road games for Tommy when he was coaching last year, so in addition to just watching from the outside, I actually did 15 Celtic games last year.

I think I’ve gotten to know Brad very well, extremely impressed with his demeanor.  He’s had two, I think, very challenging years.  When I came in, I had really good players in Portland.  I mean, I inherited Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter and Buck Williams and the late Jerome Kersey.  So I had a totally different transition into the league than Brad had.  He had young guys, patched‑together rosters, and I thought he’s handled it extremely well.  They played much better last year than you would have any right to expect.  They got better as the year went on.  They stayed together, and they were always competitive.

You could say a lot of the same this year, and again, trades, changes, putting new guys in, key rotation players all of a sudden are playing a big factor, injuries, as has been the story with everybody this year.  He’s been great.  He’s very even keel.  I think he came in thinking, knowing he knew a lot about basketball but knowing also he had a learning curve in terms of learning the league, learning its players, learning the nuances.  It’s still basketball, but he was very, very eyes open, drank it all in.  I think he gets better every week.

I can’t be more impressed with the job that he’s done, I think, in an extremely challenging situation, and I think a big accomplishment to make the Playoffs this year for Brad and for the Celtics.

ROSE:  If you want I could take a player’s perspective and just talk about how gaining confidence for young players does mean something.  Like as I watched this year’s Playoffs, I think back to a Philadelphia team a couple of years ago that had Thad Young, Spencer Hawes, Jrue Holiday.  There’s one more ‑‑ Lou Williams.  All of these guys were playing on the Philadelphia team that was in the Playoffs the last time Derrick Rose was actually healthy enough to play in the Playoffs, and instead of that team growing on the experience, you know, the whole creative tanking, so to speak, has happened over the last couple of years.

Boston played hard the entire year last year, so players like Olynyk, Evan Turner got quality minutes, got confidence, Bass continued to play NBA professional, so now those guys become a core group of guys you can take into camp and already what understand what Brad wants to get accomplished.  And yes, they’re playing in the East where nine teams were below .500, but nobody could say that for whatever reason, Miami had to deal with the Bosh and Nick Roberts and other injury issues, the Pacers had to deal with Paul George being out until late, and then the Lance Stephenson signing wasn’t what the Hornets thought it was going to be.  Nobody could have anticipated that Boston would make the Playoffs in front of all three of those teams.

Q.  Jalen, do you still believe the Bulls are the favorite to win the Eastern Conference? I know you said that in October and again in mid‑season.  And two, have you spoken with Christian Laettner since the comments he made about the Fab Five documentary? 

ROSE:  I’ll do the second question first.  Me and Christian are brothers through the National Basketball Retired Players Association, and coincidentally we had an appearance together during the Final Four and we literally laughed that people think what they saw in the Fab Five documentary, then what they saw in the Duke documentaries, because they did one with ACL and then now they did one with ESPN.  But either way, that just shows how, I guess, good those documentaries are because people still think that we have any animosity or hostilities towards each other.  We’re old and washed up; we don’t care about that stuff.  They kicked our butt.  I know it.  I just owned it.  That’s all.

So there are zero hard feelings towards him or Coach K.  I talked to Grant and Christian.  They wanted me to participate in the doc so I did, so I was happy to be able to do so.

As it relates to the Bulls, I’m glad you’re making me own my pick.  That’s one thing I like about this job.  I did pick the Bulls.  I am owning that pick, and I’m going to look in the colored area of the floor.  If Rose is healthy, and I don’t mean MVP level healthy like he was a couple years ago, I mean like a combination of Games 1 and 2.  Jimmy Butler is their current resident All‑Star, and he played really well last game.  Pau Gasol is their other current resident All‑Star.  He’s going to give them points and rebounds.  Noah was all NBA last year.  He had 19 boards.  I’m going to have to see how LeBron, Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love and Mozgov deal with the multiple 4s and 5s for the Bulls.  That’s still a question for me, and if you’re a Chicago fan, you hope your team can take advantage of.

Q.  Doc Rivers had some interesting comments, and this question could be for both of you. Doc Rivers had some interesting comments regarding the playoff format just right before the Playoffs had gotten started.  Do you like the current playoff format or would you like to see it changed, and if so, how would you change it?  

CARLESIMO:  I don’t like the division winner being seeded 4.  I like the division ‑‑ if we’re going to have divisions, I like the division winner being in the Playoffs, but wherever their record puts them, that’s where they should be.  I’m not ready to go with the best six team yet because I’m still bothered by the difference in the schedules.  You know, whatever conference you’re in, playing 52 games in your own conference and 30 in the opposite one, and not just necessarily this year.  This year is kind of an aberration because you’ve got more good teams in the better conference, so like to argue for it, I’d be more concerned with what should happen more often when you’ve got a better record in the weaker conference, and you’ve got a team with a better record in the weaker conference possibly getting in over a team on the other side who’s penalized because of the difficulty in the conference.

I haven’t sorted that out in my head yet.  Definitely division winner in, but definitely in wherever he’s ‑‑ if he’s eighth or he would still beat out a ninth or a tenth with a better record, I think, as unlikely as that is, but I think the division winner should be wherever his win‑loss record is, and you wouldn’t get San Antonio playing Los Angeles in the first round.

ROSE:  A couple of things for me.  I’m with Coach about the division winner, that it’s basically irrelevant to everyone except the team and the local fan base.  Some teams, and I think the Spurs are one of those teams, don’t hang division banners, while there are other teams in the league that do.  That shows how much it’s irrelevant as the league is concerned.

I disagree with Coach about the open seeding.  I understand the 50‑32 split, but for me that at least allows us to keep the integrity of the east and the Western Conference but allowing them to play their 50 and 32 schedules, but either way, I definitely think we should find a way to get the best teams in the Playoffs.  No .500 teams in particular should be in the Playoffs.  That’s just all bad.

A couple other things I guess come to mind since you’re allowing me to get on a soapbox.  I don’t like music during plays.  I don’t want to be taking out the ball and hear Drake with three seconds to go in the game.  I want to hear that before the game or after the game.  Like how do you expect guys to concentrate?

CARLESIMO:  Didn’t we change that rule?  I thought in the old days you weren’t allowed to do stuff when the game was on, or am I not remembering correctly?

ROSE:  Well, Coach, it used to be chants like “defense” or something like that.  Now you’re taking out the ball, and you’re hearing the same music you hear in the club, and I’m like, how do you expect everybody to concentrate?  I’m not a fan of that at all.

And the other thing people have been talking about is make your free throws.  Let’s not change the rules of basketball for 12 guys to shoot 65 percent or below.  Make your free throws.

CARLESIMO:  Amen on that.

Q.  It’s about the San Antonio Spurs. I know right now being down one game here in the first of the seven game series with the Clippers, but is this the year now where we’re starting to see ‑‑ it’s only one game, but is this the year where we’re starting to see a little bit different Spurs team, or is just one game one game? 

CARLESIMO:  I think one game is one game.  They won 55 games.  They dealt with injuries, as a lot of teams did during the year.  They’re still pretty good, and if I remember correctly, and there’s a good chance I don’t, when I was an assistant there, I think we lost our first game of the Playoffs in ’03, ’05 and ’07 and won the championship in all three.  It’s awful early.  That’s a tough series for them to win, I agree, but it’s awful early to kick any dirt on them.

ROSE:  And I’ve been in the predictions business, good, bad or indifferent.  I picked the Mavs to win this series.  They’re trailing.  I picked the Raptors to win their series.  They’re trailing.  I picked the Bulls to beat the Cavs.  They haven’t played yet.  I don’t know how I got there.  And I picked the Clippers to beat the Spurs.  In order for my prediction to come true, I guess I want them to win Game 2.

But the reason why I did is I felt at the point guard spot, power forward and center, productivity‑wise, the Clippers had the most dominant player at each position, and so I just felt like that was going to be a lot for the Spurs to overcome, especially coming from a team that had an opportunity to finish second and ended up falling to sixth on the last day, especially with two of the hottest teams, Clippers winning I guess 14 of 15 as the season ended and the Spurs 14 of 16.

Q.  I know there’s been some reports about LaMarcus Aldridge now and whether or not if the Blazers win if he’d return. Are you buying into any of that or do you think LMA is pretty good to go in Portland no matter what happens? 

CARLESIMO:  I mean, I’ll tackle it.  I have zero insight.  I’m going up there on Saturday.  LA’s experience in Portland has been, I think, pretty impressive, and I think unfortunately that injury just sidetracked him.  I think you could make a case that they were right on schedule to be right where they wanted to be.  But I have no idea what’s in LA’s mind, but I think Portland has been good for him, and he obviously has been excellent for Portland.

ROSE:  I think LaMarcus’ free agency, along with Marc Gasol, and it’s going to play out with Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and also Kawhi Leonard, there’s going to be a great summary about picking a team that not only ‑‑ you’re going to get the dollars, and it’s overrated talking about going to a large market to get your face seen.  I see Damian Lillard, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, Kevin Durant on every commercial.  It’s going to show me how much all of those guys value winning because just because you go sign with a team, for example, the Lakers or Knicks, they’re a long way away from where I mentioned each one of those guys’ teams are currently placed, and also the decision makers in all of those situations have shown me they can build a winner.  Wesley Matthews is one of the best two‑way players in the entire game.  They lost him this year.  That’s a major loss.

You also have a management that’s savvy enough to pick up Arron Afflalo.  Well, you lose him, also.  If I’m LaMarcus, I’m thinking about staying with the team that got me Damian Lillard in the lottery.  Plus as a player, if I want to be selfish, why not get the extra year of 30 million as opposed to what Carmelo did where he knew that he was going into an unknown but yet he still needed to get that final year of his contract, that fifth year.

Q.  In terms of there’s a lot of talk about the “it” factor in the league this year. Jalen, I heard you talk about you kind of believe in what the Clippers were doing this year.  PJ, I was wondering if you feel the same, that the Clippers are a legitimate title contender that can go all the way. 

CARLESIMO:  There’s no question in my mind.  I’ll preface it by saying I think Golden State clearly deserves to be the favorite, but it’s the most open Playoffs we’ve had, particularly in the West.  Somebody has got to win three series in the West, and LA has just as good a chance as anybody else, I agree with what Jalen said.  Selfishly probably I still ‑‑ they’ve got their hands full right now.  If Tony Parker is healthy, I think that will still be a great series.  But I don’t think there’s any question that this could be the year that LA goes deep in the Playoffs.  I mean, that’s been the knock, and I don’t see any reason why that can’t happen this year.

Q.  Jalen, this one is for you, a couple Pacer questions here. I wanted to get your reaction to Larry Bird basically calling out Roy Hibbert, and then number two, they’ve mentioned they want to change the style, push it up tempo.  How much do you think they’re finally adapting to the evolution of the league? 

ROSE:  Well, what ends up happening is you take multiple players in the first round and they become all‑stars and you’re in a small market like Indiana, you continue to build around them, so you get Granger, Hibbert, then you get Paul George, then you get Lance Stephenson, who you obviously lose a free agent.  So as a team that’s not going to get the big blank check free agent, you want to continue to develop those players.  Roy, his style of play, he’s always been a guy that limbered up and down the floor even when he was at Georgetown, except the difference was he was more of a dominant rebounder, but in particular shot blocker, defensive presence, to where it didn’t necessarily hinder you out on the floor.  Where he’s weak, at defending a lot of pick‑and‑rolls, and his offense has really digressed, especially since last year’s All‑Star Game.

Some of the games I saw in the second half of last year, they were the worst games and the worst performances of any player that has made an All‑Star team that same year.  So it was really that bad. I was happy, though, for Larry and the Pacers’ organization that they took all of the steps needed to try to put themselves in position to win, even though their best player, Paul George, was out all year.  Wes seems to be getting a lot older, so they were going at C.J. Miles, going at a Rodney Stuckey, just doing whatever you can to try to patchwork a team to the point where during the last game of the year they had an opportunity to make the Playoffs.  Again, they were forced into the league of taking the most post‑ups, and so when you have Paul George as your best player, it’s only right that you want to play faster.  It just makes sense.

Q.  Were you surprised how bold Larry was, knowing Larry, how much he did call Roy out?

ROSE:  No, what ends up happening is if we’re going to mince words for some of these great guys that have been historic champions.  Like when Pat Riley says something, people are always going to feel like it’s a veiled shot at somebody, and maybe it was LeBron.  The same goes for Larry Bird.  Whether they was taking a shot at a person or player or not, they’ve earned the right to say what they feel, and so when you’re the only guy that’s been the MVP of the league, the executive of the league and the Coach of the Year, you have pretty much a landscape to say what you feel.  As somebody that works in the media now, I appreciate getting frank answers.

Q.  I have a specific question about a specific play. The long outlet pass that maybe Wes Unseld perfected that Kevin Love does well, LeBron James, can you guys teach that?  Is it a skill that’s taught?  Do you just have it?  Is it something you worked on in practice or did you just let the guy who was very good at it do his thing when necessary? 

CARLESIMO:  Well, we drilled it more in college than we did ‑‑ than I did in the NBA.  The guy who was the ‑‑ we were always trying to stretch out the outlet.  I’m sure Jalen heard it himself enough.  We were always on our point guards to get up the floor, to lengthen the outlet, but the one you’re talking about, the Wes Unseld, Maurice Lucas, Kevin Love, LeBron, we didn’t ever work on that.  Maybe it’s something that needs to be worked on more.  But we always wanted a quicker, longer outlet.  But the quicker and the longer the outlet pass, and a lot of times that’s on your point guard, to get your point guard deeper down the floor, that ignites a fast break.

ROSE:  The toughest thing to do in basketball is to constantly get players to run, whether it’s a dead ball, a made shot, a steal.  So to get a player to take the ball out fast is a chore, and so to do a long outlet pass is exactly what Coach said.  You have to have a player with that skill set because remember, while it’s an outlet, it’s still a pass.  So it has to be somebody that can still execute that play.  But you’re constantly trying to force tempo.  For point guards or any ball handler to get the ball, you want them to always get it on the run, especially if it’s during the flow of the game.

Q.  Can the analogy be made that it takes a quarterback’s touch to throw that one, sort of a deep ball over the secondary?

ROSE:  Absolutely.  It’s steal a pass.

CARLESIMO:  You’d better practice it.  It’s a difficult ‑‑ those guys make it look easy.  The problem is when you see a Kevin Love or LeBron or the guys that are doing it currently, they’re so good at it, it begs the question ‑‑ your question is a fair question, why don’t more teams do it.  If you saw more guys throwing those, you’d know why more teams don’t do it.  They’d be all over the place.  But maybe that’s on coaches and particularly now player development guys to drill it more.  But it’s a very, very difficult pass.  It truly is.

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Media contact: Gianina Thompson at gianina.thompson@espn.com (@Gianina_ESPN)

Notes from NBA on TNT Playoff Coverage ­ Monday, April 20, 2015

nba-on-tntNotes from NBA on TNT Playoff Coverage – Monday, April 20, 2015

TNT’s NBA coverage of the playoffs continues tonight, Tuesday, April 21, with doubleheader action featuring the Boston Celtics @ Cleveland Cavaliers at 7 p.m. ET and the Dallas Mavericks  @ Houston Rockets at 9:30 p.m

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TNT NBA Tip-off presented by Autotrader 

Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith

O’Neal on the Bucks’ ability to shut down power forward Pau Gasol in Game 1: “Pau is ok with that. When he gets double teamed, he is a great passer. They won’t slow him down the whole series. He has a championship pedigree. He knows what to do to get himself going.”  
Barkley on the Chicago Bulls’ place in the Eastern Conference: “I think they are the best team in the Eastern Conference if they’re healthy.  No disrespect to the Cleveland Cavaliers, but the Chicago Bulls have the highest ceiling. We’ve seen the Cavaliers play as well as they can play. If [point guard] Derrick Rose is healthy, the Chicago Bulls are the team to beat.”
Barkley on the most important question surrounding the Bulls: “They have terrific guards, a great bench and Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol down low. They have it all. It’s just the same question we’ve had all season; are they going to stay healthy?”
Smith on the playoff expectations of the Milwaukee Bucks: “They are happy to be there. This is an opportunity for his young players to gain some playoff experience. This is a great opportunity for Milwaukee.”

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Milwaukee Bucks (82) @ Chicago Bulls (91); Bulls lead 2-0
Brian Anderson (play-by-play) Steve Smith (analyst) with Allie LaForce (reporter)

 
Smith on Bulls point guard Derrick Rose’s Game 1 success: “All eyes are on Derrick Rose. He came out and played extremely well in Game 1. The gear in which he played was flashes of the old Derrick Rose.”

Smith on Bulls guard Jimmy Butler: “He is one of the elite two-way players we have in the game.”

Smith on Butler’s strengths on both ends: “Back in the day, we would label him one of those players that just doesn’t let you off the hook. Offensively he’s going to drive the basketball extremely hard, he’s going to cut, he’s going to keep his body moving. On the defensive end, he does not give up on plays. He’s a fabulous player to watch and I would love to be his teammate, the way he relentlessly keeps attacking on both ends.”

Smith on Butler: “You talk about setting the table. I love the way he approached this game. He didn’t take a lot of out-of-character shots. Defensively, he was fantastic. Beautiful job by the Bulls backcourt.”

Smith on Bulls center Joakim Noah: “You talk about the heart and soul of a team. Physically he looks much better [than the regular season]. He is locked in to these playoffs.”
Smith on the struggle for Rose to remain healthy: “He’s gone through three years of everybody breaking down his game and breaking down his body. He hasn’t been on the court that much. We understand his talent is there, but he has to get comfortable. I just look at the way he’s moving. He missed shots in the first half, but he’s moving well. That’s a good sign for the Bulls.”

Smith on the pace of the Milwaukee Bucks:  “[Head coach] Jason Kidd is happy. The pace is to his liking. They are moving bodies, moving the basketball and moving around. They aren’t making shots, but their pace is wearing down the Chicago Bulls, which is what Kidd is trying to do.”

Smith on the defensive-minded coaching style of Jason Kidd: “Jason Kidd has this team on a string defensively.”

Smith on the experience the young Bucks team is gaining in the playoffs: “As a young team, you just want them to be consistent, knock down shots, make the right basketball play and move the basketball side to side.”

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New Orleans Pelicans (87) @ Golden State Warriors (97); Warriors lead 2-0
Kevin Harlan (play-by-play) Reggie Miller (analyst) with Tracy Wolfson (reporter)

Miller on the defense of shooting guard Klay Thompson: “Look at his body frame. He’s 6’7 with long arms. We know about his shooting, but to me, what has separated him as a shooting guard is his on-ball defense.”

Miller on the Warriors’ home court advantage: “Can the Warriors win a championship? Absolutely. All they need to do is win all their home games. Who cares what they do on the road?”

Miller on the dangerous shooting prowess of the Warriors: “They are just too good and too lethal when they get good looks.”

Miller on why Stephen Curry deserves the 2014-15 MVP: “He’s the best player on the best team, and there were six or seven games where he didn’t even play in the fourth quarter. His numbers would have been even more inflated if he had.”

Miller on the pressure surrounding the top-seeded Golden State Warriors: “The last two years the Warriors were the underdogs in the playoffs. Now they have a bullseye on their back”

Miller on Warriors veteran Andre Iguodala accepting his role as a bench player for Golden State: “How about a veteran being able to accept the role, and be the consummate professional coming off the bench. He’s No. 2 in the NBA in taking the charge, and he’s a role player on this Warriors team. It’s the type of player [head coach] Steve Kerr was…he was one of those role players. Yes, he made a lot of big shots in San Antonio and Chicago, but he did all the little things as well.”

Miller on Warriors forward Draymond Green: “I love me some Draymond Green. This guy gives you everything.”

Miller on the defensive approach by the New Orleans Pelicans: “New Orleans does a wonderful job of wanting you off that three-point line. The problem is, once they did that it was a layup drill [for the Warriors] in Game 1. They have to have multiple efforts on the defensive end.”

Miller on the Pelicans’ playoff inexperience: “Everyone is talking about the playoff inexperience of this young team. Yes, they scratched their way to get into that eighth spot, but they are here now. They were a little bit shell shocked in Game 1, until they came alive in the fourth.”

Miller on Pelicans guard Norris Cole: “He does have two rings last time I checked. He’s used to this kind of playoff atmosphere, playing on the road in hostile environments.”

Miller on Pelicans star Anthony Davis: “This kid is too good, too skilled and starting to understand the game. I think playing last summer for Team USA with all of those other great superstars really did a lot for his game.”

Miller on how the Pelicans should use Davis to punish opponents: “When you have such a prodigy and young talent in Anthony Davis… I know he’s young and this is his first time in the playoffs, but I would come down and make every single possession would have to run through Anthony Davis. He doesn’t have to shoot the basketball, but he makes the defense react in such a way where it would make the game so much easier for the other guys on the floor.”

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Inside the NBA presented by Kia

Johnson, O’Neal, Barkley, Smith

Barkley on the Warriors bench: “The difference in the game was the Golden State bench. That’s when they made their run in the second quarter. Barbosa was great.”

Barkley on why the Warriors are beatable: “People think I dislike the Golden State Warriors, but that is totally wrong. They have the best backcourt in the NBA, but Steve Kerr is concerned. They turn the ball over and they are great shooters who take bad shots. When they play against Memphis, Portland, teams like that…their flaws are really going to show. They don’t put fear in your heart. That’s the problem they are going to have in the long run when they start to play elite teams.”

Smith on the fear the Warriors Splash Brothers [Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson] put in opposing backcourts:  “They could get punished. They might not put fear into guys like [Clippers center] DeAndre Jordan or [power forward] Blake Griffin, but I bet you there is fear in [Trail Blazers PG] Damian Lillard, [Clippers PG] Chris Paul and everyone who is in the backcourt. They will run a play, but they keep their dribble alive when most guards would have to pass. That causes the most unconventional defensive effort. That’s fear.”

Smith on the Bucks improvement in Game 2: “Did you not expect the Bucks to come out and play well? They lost Game 1. They are going to be focused in. This was a do or die type atmosphere.”

Barkley on Bulls power forward Nikola Mirotic: “He’s going to come in second for Rookie of the Year. They can’t afford to lose him. He’s a stud.”

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Notes from NBA on TNT Playoff Coverage ­ Sunday, April 19, 2015

nba-on-tntNotes from NBA on TNT Playoff Coverage – Sunday, April 19, 2015

TNT’s NBA coverage of the playoffs continues tonight, Monday, April 20, with doubleheader action featuring the Milwaukee Bucks @ Chicago Bulls at 8 p.m. ET and the New Orleans Pelicans  @ Golden State Warriors at 10:30 p.m

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TNT NBA Tip-off presented by Autotrader 

Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith
Smith on whether the Brooklyn Nets have a chance to win the series: “To me, this will be an Atlanta smacking… They are not better than the Atlanta Hawks. The Atlanta Hawks have been playing great basketball all year and they are mentally focused. They have heard all of the…not whispers…the are yelling that they are not good enough. Atlanta will smack Brooklyn.”

Barkley on the Hawks’ chance for success in the playoffs: “I’m concerned about the Hawks coming down the stretch. They took their foot off the pedal. I think they will win the series, but I don’t think you can turn it on and off.”

O’Neal on the Hawks: “No one expected them to win that many games. They are No. 1. They have never made it to the Conference Finals. I wonder if they really believe they can win a championship in their locker room. If they do, then they really have to take care of business.”

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Brooklyn Nets (92) @ Atlanta Hawks (99); Hawks lead 1-0
Marv Albert (play-by-play) Chris Webber (analyst) with David Aldridge (reporter)

Webber on Hawks guard Dennis Schroder: “He’s the longest short guy I’ve ever seen in my life. He uses his quickness very well. This team actually ups their pace when he comes in the game.”

Webber on the secret weapon of the Hawks offense: “So much has been made of this Atlanta Hawks offense. Their secret is they have two big guys in [center] Al Horford and [forward] Paul Millsap that can get out, play the pick-and-roll, contest jump shots and knock a few into the stands.”

Webber on the Hawks defense: “That chemistry they have on offense translates to the defensive end where they play for each other as well.”

Webber on the Hawks’ ball movement: “This is what they do and who they are. It’s also why they are so efficient defensively. They score, can set up their half-court defense, they don’t waste possessions by being careless and getting turnovers. You have to love how much this team values the ball.”

Webber on the Nets: “Regardless of how the Brooklyn Nets got in the playoffs, you better respect them.”

Webber on the size of the Nets: “Even though Coach Hollins said his team doesn’t have an advantage over the Hawks, I disagree. I believe size is their offensive advantage.”

Webber on Nets guard Jarrett Jack: “Sometimes it’s just about heart. He’s not the most athletic or the quickest, but this is when he loves to shine and try to prove himself…in the playoffs.

“He’s ready to play. He’s a [Trail Blazers guard] Wesley Matthews type player. He has a lot of heart, does it on both ends, is aggressive and gives the offensive rebounders a chance to get a bucket even when he doesn’t make the shot.”

Webber on the body language of the Brooklyn Nets: “What’s disappointing to me about the Nets is their body language. They are acting too cool. You want to see [point guard] Deron Williams start to get mad and be aggressive.”

Webber on Brooklyn forward Joe Johnson: “He is always going to be an underrated superstar because he never talks about himself. The worst thing you ever hear about Joe Johnson is that he’s quiet.”

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Portland Trail Blazers (86) @ Memphis Grizzlies (100); Grizzlies lead 1-0
Kevin Calabro (play-by-play) Brent Barry (analyst) with Lewis Johnson (reporter)

Barry on guard Tony Allen: “Tony Allen is hugely important to Memphis, especially for what they do on the defensive end of the floor.”

Barry on Vince Carter’s role with the Grizzlies: “He’s replacing last year what Mike Miller meant to Memphis in that first round with OKC. It’s been a low year for Vince in terms of shooting. They just hope that Vince finds a little bit of confidence for one more go.”

Barry on guard Beno Udrih’s importance to Memphis: “It was just a matter of accepting what he was in this league in terms of coming in, backing up and finding a home. Memphis gave him his shot…and this is where he is going to make his living. A free agent at the end of this year but an important part of what they are going to do this offseason… He’s just an offensive spark. He’s very good and very aggressive. “

Barkley: “[Marc] Gasol and [Zach] Randolph are the best center / power forward combination in the league.”

Barkley on Mike Conley’s health: If Conley is healthy, I’ve always thought that Memphis has had the most complete team…the addition of Jeff Green has made them a totally different team.”

Barry on the Gasol brothers: “I believe that Marc and Pau [Gasol] have the best career that siblings have ever had in this league.”

Barry on power forward Zach Randolph: When he’s playing good, the team is pretty much unstoppable.”

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San Antonio Spurs (92) @ Los Angeles Clippers (107); Clippers lead 1-0
Kevin Harlan (play-by-play) Reggie Miller (analyst) with Jaime Maggio (reporter)

Barkley on the Clippers: “This is the year that the Clippers go deep in the playoffs. Chris Paul is on a mission. DeAndre [Jordan] is on a mission. This is the year that people are starting to criticize them. The guy that really has to step up is Blake.”

Barkley on the future of the Clippers: “If they don’t beat this old school Spurs team, they are going to have to break this team up.”

Miller on the pressure on forward Blake Griffin this series: “A lot of people are talking about Blake Griffin having to have one of those series if the Clippers are going to move on to the Western Conference Semis.  He has so much potential and athleticism, in a series like this going against [San Antonio forwards] Boris Diaw and Tim Duncan, he’s going to need to use all those skill sets to raise his level of play.”

Miller on the point guard battle between Chris Paul and Tony Parker: “It’s almost a wash.  Offensively, both know how to put the ball in the basket, and it’s going to be interesting to see who can stop the other on the defensive end.”

Barkley on forward Blake Griffin: “He’s the key to the entire series.  They can’t guard him.  When they put [Boris] Diaw on him, he can take him down low.  Blake has to understand, your move is dictated by who’s guarding you.  I want him to go to the basket more.”

Miller on forward Blake Griffin: “He can do so much. Not only can he score and rebound, but he’s a fabulous passer. That’s why people are expecting so much from him.”

Miller on Chris Paul: “He’s been so efficient with this shooting, not just in the playoffs but in all 82 games. Such balance and flow.”

Miller on the importance of bench play: “As this series goes on, it’s all about the benches. In my opinion, that’s how the Spurs won their last championship.”

Smith on the Spurs: “When Miami beat the Spurs, they had such superior talent in LeBron, [Dwyane] Wade and [Chris] Bosh.  However, they weren’t a smarter basketball team than San Antonio.  I’m not sure if Blake, DeAndre [Jordan] and Chris Paul are that level of talent over the Spurs, while the Spurs are still just as smart.”

Miller on the Spurs: “They don’t complain, they just go out and play; they are a machine.”

Miller on Coach Rivers and Coach Popovich: “This is a chess match. These are arguably the two best coaches in our game right now, going head to head in this first round.”

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Inside the NBA presented by Kia

Johnson, O’Neal, Barkley, Smith

Smith on the Spurs entering Game 2: “They are (very rarely) going to sweep people. They just weren’t making shots. They have had that happen before. They are the masters of the six, seven game series…You can’t say by one game the Spurs are the best team or they are going to lose a series.”
Smith on the flow of the game: “The Clippers did a great job of increasing the pace after halftime.”

O’Neal on the Clippers: “The key for the Clippers is, you’ve always been a good team, are you a great team?  Are you going to come out in Game 2 and put this team away or are you going let them hang around?”

Barkley on Blake Griffin’s impact: “The key was Blake’s rebounding.  If you can jump like that, you gotta average 10, 11, 12 rebounds a game.”

Smith on the Hawks passing: “This is called [true, redefined] ‘Hero Ball,’ when you have a wide open three or a wide open lay-up, EVERY time you take the lay-up.”

Barkley on Nicolas Batum on being the x-factor: “When he plays well, the Portland Trail Blazers have a good chance of winning. He’s the guy that can make up the difference.”<

Barkley on the Nets: “I like Deron Williams, but if he can’t play healthy, they have to go to Jarrett Jack.”

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NBA Playoffs on ABC: Cleveland Cavaliers-Boston Celtics Delivers Third-Highest Rated First Round Game 1 Ever

ABC’s Sunday broadcast of the Cleveland Cavaliers 113-100 victory over the Boston Celtics delivered a 4.5 overnight rating, according to Nielsen. This is the third-highest overnight rating for an NBA Playoffs first round Game 1 ever. The 4.5 rating is also up 13 percent versus the comparable game in 2014 (Miami-Charlotte, 4.0). The game peaked with a 5.3 rating in the fourth quarter.

Local numbers

In Cleveland, Game 1 posted a 20.9 rating, which is the fourth-highest rated NBA Playoffs first round game ever in the market. In Boston, the game drew a 7.5 rating, which also ranks fourth-best for an NBA Playoffs first round game in the market.

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Media contacts: Ben Cafardo at 860-766-3496 or ben.cafardo@espn.com (@Ben_ESPN);

Gianina Thompson at 860-766-7022 or giainina.thompson@espn.com (@Gianina_ESPN).

Notes from Today’s Turner Sports 2015 NBA Playoffs Conference Call

nba-on-tntTNT is the exclusive home to more NBA Playoff games than any network including first and second round action and the exclusive presentation of the 2015 NBA Eastern Conference Finals. In addition to its full slate of NBA Playoff games, the network also features the multiple-time, Sports Emmy Award winning Inside the NBA studio team of host Ernie Johnson and analysts Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal.

Coverage on TNT will begin this Sunday with a tripleheader featuring the Brooklyn Nets at Atlanta Hawks at 5:30 p.m. ET, Portland Trail Blazers at Memphis Grizzlies at 8 p.m. and San Antonio Spurs at Los Angeles Clippers at 10:30 p.m.

Additionally, NBA TV – co-managed by the Turner Sports and the NBA – will feature up to nine originally produced telecasts during the first round of the NBA Playoffs. The network will also provide comprehensive studio coverage via its NBA GameTime studio show throughout the entire playoffs, including on site at The Finals (including integration with the Inside the NBA team). NBA GameTime is the definitive show for comprehensive playoff coverage including highlights, analysis, player interviews and live press conference coverage.

NBA.com and NBA Mobile will also be ‘playoffs central’ with series breakdowns, live video coverage, highlights, scores, stats, social interaction, press conferences and more.

Notes from today’s media conference call featuring Turner Sports NBA analysts Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith:

Charles Barkley on this year’s championship favorites: “I have no idea who’s going to win the championship.  I’ve been in the NBA for over 30 years and I’ve never seen a year where there’s no clear cut two or three teams… This year, there’s probably seven teams that can win the championship and I wouldn’t be surprised they won it.”

Barkley on the favorites in the Eastern Conference: “Cleveland and Chicago are the best two teams in the Eastern Conference, and when they play in second round, that will be the Eastern Conference Finals.  Cleveland would beat Golden State in The Finals if they played, but I’m not sure they’d beat San Antonio, Portland, Los Angeles or Memphis.”

Barkley on the most compelling first round match-ups: “There are some magnificent first round series in the West that are toss-ups for me; Clippers/Spurs, Dallas/Houston and Portland/Memphis, depending on health.”

Kenny Smith on the Warriors’ title chances: “I feel they are [legitimate title contenders].  When [2013-14 NBA MVP Kevin] Durant didn’t come back [for the Oklahoma City Thunder from his foot injury], that made [Golden State] a title contender.  Oklahoma City being the eighth seed would have hurt [the Warriors].  That opened the door… This is their biggest year of opportunity to get to the Western Conference Finals.  After that, too many things can happen and there are too many variables.”

Barkley on the Warriors regular season success: “They’ve had a terrific season.  It’s between Steph Curry and James Harden for MVP.  Steve Kerr is probably going to get Coach of the Year.”

Barkley on the playoff outlook for Golden State: “They’re going to beat the New Orleans Pelicans, but they have some match-up issues and I think they’ll struggle against big teams.  They are a legitimate contender, I just think bigger teams can beat them up down low.”

Barkley on Golden State’s offensive style of play: “I don’t like jump shooting teams; I don’t think you can make enough jumpers to win four series, and I’ve said that for 25 years.”>

Barkley on James Harden’s season and MVP chances: “I have said that if Houston ends up a top-three seed in the West, I have no problem if he wins MVP.  It has to be him or Steph Curry.  You can have other guys three-four-five, but if you don’t vote for Steph or Harden, you need to check yourself.”

Barkley on Chris Paul’s impact on the Clippers: “When the Clippers lose, it has nothing to do with [All-Star point guard] Chris Paul.  In the last five years, he has been the best point guard in the game along with [the Spurs’] Tony Parker… He’s the best leader in the NBA.”

Barkley on the Grizzlies’ health going into the playoffs: “I thought Memphis had a real chance before their injuries.  I thought they were going to win the Western Conference, but I have no idea how healthy those guys are going to be.  [Point guard] Mike Conley is the most underrated player in the NBA and Memphis won’t win without him.”

Barkley on San Antonio ending up the No. 6 seed instead of the No. 2 in the Western Conference: “The Spurs screwed up last night; no team is good enough to win three straight series in the West on the road.  These teams are really good.  You might win one series on the road, but I don’t think you can win two more.”

Smith on the challenge San Antonio faces: “I think they could do it for sure.  I don’t think [center Tim] Duncan, [point guard Tony] Parker, [guard Manu] Ginobili, [forward] Kawhi [Leonard] and [guard/forward] Danny Green are worried to play on the road.  It doesn’t bother them, and that’s the first key.”

Barkley on what makes Dallas a tough match-up for Houston: “Their best player is Monta Ellis, followed by [power forward] Dirk [Nowitzki] and [point guard Rajon] Rondo.  They will be a better playoff team because [head coach] Rick Carlisle will make adjustments from game-to-game.  He won’t let [James] Harden beat them four times in seven games.”

Barkley on the domination of Anthony Davis: “Anthony is going to be best player in the world in the next three years when LeBron gets a little older.  Anthony has a mismatch every night, and this will be huge against Golden State no matter who they put on him.  I want to watch that.”

Barkley on the outlook for Oklahoma City next season: “I said this earlier today to somebody, if Oklahoma City [gets back a healthy Kevin Durant] and they keep the team the way it is to go with [center Enes] Kanter, [center Steve] Adams, [forward Mitch] McGary, [forward Serge] Ibaka, in my opinion, they should be the championship favorites next year.  They are only not in playoffs because of injuries, and they almost made it without last year’s league MVP [Durant].

Barkley on Scott Brooks’ job security: “For some reason, people keep wanting to fire the coach and I don’t know why.  Scott Brooks has done a good job.  If you lose the MVP and are still fighting at the end, it’s a good job.”

Barkley on the Hawks’ series against Brooklyn: “I don’t think Brooklyn can beat them, but I think it can be a very interesting series.  What’s going to be real interesting is the Joe Johnson factor. I can promise you that [former seven-year Hawk and current Net combo guard] Joe Johnson is going to try to win that series by himself… The Nets won’t beat the Hawks, but I’m not sold on the Hawks because they are too little.”

Smith on Atlanta’s chances in the Eastern Conference: “[The Hawks and Warriors] both won 60 games for a reason, and [the eight seeds] squeaked in for a reason.  After the first round, with the best eight teams left, a lot can happen.  Atlanta and Golden State have proven that they are more than jump shooting teams, they have good defenses and will have a good chance to finish it out.”

Barkley on the lack of playoff experience for Cleveland’s young stars: “I think [talk of that is] a little overrated.  The Cavs [didn’t miss the playoffs last year] because of [point guard] Kyrie [Irving].  The Timberwolves [didn’t miss the playoffs last year] because of [power forward Kevin] Love.  Both of those guys are perennial All-Stars, and they have LeBron James, the best player in the world.  [Irving and Love] will both play well. They have an easy series the first round against Boston and the second round match-up with Chicago will be tough.  They won’t lose because of inexperience [if they do lose to Chicago], they’ll play well.”

Barkley on the positives of some of the Bulls’ injuries: “Derrick Rose’s injury and Joakim Noah’s injury make them fresher than most guys going into the playoffs.  We don’t know Chicago’s ceiling as a team since they haven’t played together for more than a few weeks.  I think they have the highest ceiling in the Eastern Conference.”

Barkley on the Bulls’ size advantage:  “If they could ever get healthy, they’re the best team in the Eastern Conference.  No disrespect to Cleveland, but [the Bulls] have more weapons.  They will have hands full with Noah and [center Pau] Gasol down low.”

Smith on the Bulls team approach: “Chicago has every element.  Derrick Rose doesn’t have to be playing at an MVP-level for them to be great.”

Barkley on the Raptors’ as a potential second round problem for the Hawks: “The second round will be some terrific series.  Toronto has played great against Atlanta all year, they won the season series.”

Barkley on the Wizards’ season: “I thought they came together and were looking great for the future last year.  They regressed this year. I thought they were going to take that next step and say ‘we’re here, you have to beat us.’  They were inconsistent and I don’t think they can turn it back on when the playoffs start.”

Barkley on the Wizards’ John Wall and Bradley Beal: “They have an elite backcourt.  Beal will be one of the best [shooting] guards in the league in the next few years.”

Barkley on head coach Jason Kidd’s impact on Michael Carter-Williams: “[Carter-Williams] has been playing great lately.  It takes a while, people think you show up and play.  It took a while to adjust [after the trade], and he’s played great the last few weeks.  Having what I call the ‘Point Guard Whisperer’ coaching there is huge.  Jason Kidd was best leader we had in the NBA, now it’s Chris Paul.  Kidd will turn Michael Carter-Williams into a perennial All-Star and that team into a perennial playoff team.  Without [rookie] Jabari Parker, I thought there was no way they could make the playoffs, but Kidd is so smart that anyone that listens to him becomes a better player.”

Barkley on the short-term outlook for the Celtics: “[Head Coach] Brad Stevens, everyone knew he’d be successful.  The problem we have now… is that no one has patience.  [President] Danny Ainge has done good job drafting, they’ve gotten better every year… The have something like 102 first round draft picks the next few years… I give them credit for being patient.”

Barkley on his expectations for the Nets-Hawks series: “The Nets won’t go out quickly, they have a good chance to make it a competitive series.”

Smith on the Nets’ season: “Brooklyn was so inconsistent this year, it won’t be a terribly difficult series for Atlanta.  But if Brooklyn had gotten it together, this could have been a series I’d think they could win.

Barkley on the 2015-16 outlook for Miami: “They won’t be a top-four team in the Eastern Conference next year.  You don’t go from out of the playoffs to being in the top four, unless they can get LeBron to move back there.  They need some more building blocks, even if they re-sign [guard] Goran Dragic.”

Smith on how injuries impacted Miami this season: “They definitely would have been a playoff team if [10-time All-Star forward] Chris Bosh was playing, probably around the sixth seed.”

The Black Eyed Peas & ESPN Collaborate to Make 2015 NBA Playoffs ‘Awesome’

Grammy Award-winning recording artists The Black Eyed Peas (@BEP) and ESPN (@ESPNNBA) have collaborated for a special 2015 NBA Playoffs broadcast open, which will debut this Saturday, April 18, on ESPN and ABC. The broadcast open stars The Black Eyed Peas members’ will.i.am, Taboo and apl.de.ap and features their hit single ‘Awesome,’ which they wrote for the NBA Playoffs and to capture the energy and excitement of the action.

In the video, The Black Eyed Peas celebrate the start of the NBA Playoffs with several of the NBA’s top superstars as they head towards the postseason: Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors), James Harden (Houston Rockets), Tim Duncan (San Antonio Spurs), Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers), Paul Millsap (Atlanta Hawks), John Wall (Washington Wizards), Klay Thompson (Warriors) and more.

For the ESPN NBA Playoffs ‘Awesome’ preview: ESPN Front Row vimeo

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Media contacts: Ben Cafardo at 860-766-3496 or ben.cafardo@espn.com (@Ben_ESPN);

Gianina Thompson at 860-766-7022 or giainina.thompson@espn.com (@Gianina_ESPN).