The Charlotte Bobcats entered the NBA playoffs without a single national TV appearance during the 2013-14 season. In their first game in front of that wide audience, one player produced arguably the single most impressive play of the postseason so far. Less than a minute into the fourth quarter of Sunday's series-opening game against the defending champion Miami Heat, forward Josh McRoberts slipped past LeBron James, took a pass from teammate Luke Ridnour, and unloaded on Heat big man Chris "Birdman" Andersen for the emphatic posterization. (All Josh McRoberts posters are on perpetual discount, by the way.) Check out the video below: Unfortunately for the Bobcats, this play was not representative of the rest of the game. Although Charlotte held a third-quarter lead, Miami took control with an 18-4 fourth-quarter run to grab a 99-88 win and a 1-0 series advantage. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade combined for 50 points on 18-of-32 shooting, while Al Jefferson was the Bobcats' top performer with 18 points, 10 rebounds, and two blocks. - - - - - - - Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter! Follow @FreemanEric Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL and "Like" BDL on Facebook for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.
The beginning of the NBA postseason is typically a joyous time around the sport, but this year's festivities have been marked by some uncharacteristic sadness. On Tuesday night, Craig Sager Jr. announced his father, TNT reporter Craig Sager, had been diagnosed with leukemia . Sager, a fixture on broadcasts for decades and known around the culture for his colorful wardrobe, will miss the entire postseason while undergoing treatment. For Sunday's opening broadcast of TNT's postseason coverage, the entire crew decided to pay tribute to their absent colleague. That included a special interview with Sager's greatest antagonist, San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. For the on-court interview between the third and fourth quarters of Game 1 between the top-seeded Spurs and their in-state rival Dallas Mavericks, Craig Sager II took the microphone to speak to Popovich. Take a look (via The Point Forward ): Popovich and the elder Sager are well-known for their testy interviews , although it's telling that Pop dropped the act and wished Sager well in his recovery. There's always a warmth there, even when they're mocking each other. As announced by Ernie Johnson during TNT's pregame coverage, the network originally wanted Sager to interview Pop before tip-off. However, Popovich requested that the interview take place during the game. The younger Sager, who walked on as a wide receiver for the University of Georgia football team, is a reporter in his own right for SCORE Atlanta . He paid tribute to his father by raiding his closet for one of his trademark sportcoats and donning orange, the color of leukemia awareness. Sager Jr. even proved that it hadn't been worn by showing the tag to TNT's Jamie Maggio in an earlier in-game interview. Shortly after the interview, Sager Jr. tweeted that Popovich had given him a special note for his father: Popovich gave me a hand written letter to give my Dad tomorrow. The whole Spurs organization is filled with class and great people. Thanks — Craig Sager II (@CraigSagerJr) April 20, 2014 The interview was not the only Sager-centric moment of Sunday's coverage. TNT's pregame show started with studio crew Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O'Neal showing off Sager-inspired outfits. Check it out below: Sager's treatment is only getting started, but this recent outpouring of support shows how beloved he is around the sports world. While best known for his clothes, Sager is a true professional with a useful sense of humor and confidence. He never lets his brash wardrobe overwhelm his sense of self. Here's hoping Sager gets back to the sidelines soon. - - - - - - - Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @FreemanEric Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL and "Like" BDL on Facebook for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.
As you’d expect, the Indiana Pacers put up a brave face and consistent tone following the team’s somewhat shocking 101-93 defeat on Saturday night, a professional reaction following a disappointing home loss in the first game of their opening round playoff series to the Atlanta Hawks. The group had worked all season to earn the first seed in the Eastern playoffs bracket, purportedly to play a Game 7 in Indianapolis against the Miami Heat sometime in June, but in one two and half hour mid-April flourish the team quickly lost first round home court advantage to what some have surmised to be the worst NBA playoff team ever. The 38-win Hawks expertly attacked Indiana’s strong and weak points in the Game 1 win, though, pulling the Pacer big men away from the basket while relentlessly attacking a step-slow Indiana offense that constantly had a hand in its face. Nowhere was this more evident than a 30-16 third quarter turnout in Atlanta’s favor, one that had the Pacers completely out of sync on both ends, struggling to communicate defensively while missing the mark with cuts and misdirections offensively. Somehow, Atlanta was fantastically efficient against what was the regular season’s best defense. Kyle Korver was allowed several open looks to start the contest, DeMarre Carroll was given room to cut without much resistance, and Jeff Teague morphed into an All-Star during one isolation set after another. Following the game, Paul George compared Teague to Derrick Rose and John Wall in terms of quickness, but he was too kind and too far off in his estimation. Jeff Teague is a fine player, and he finished with 28 points in the win, but a dominating Jeff Teague shouldn’t be credited with toppling the league’s best defense on their home floor. No, that would be the handiwork of the Pacers. Even after four regular season games against the Hawks – including a 107-88 thrashing in what Indiana then regarded to be its low point in its season earlier in April – the Pacers seemed ill-prepared to handle a rather orthodox Hawk lineup. Center Roy Hibbert was charged with following All-Star Paul Millsap around, and he did a fantastic job in holding him to six points on seven shots in the first half, but it drew the rim protector away from the paint as the Hawks spun their way around his teammates. Forward David West and guard George Hill were rarely on the same page in defending the pick and roll, and Paul George was drawn out of the action while chasing both Korver and Carroll. The 50-point first half was bad enough. The 30-point third quarter was a borderline abomination. And prior to taking in media questions following the game, West, George, Hill and reserve center Ian Mahinmi had a long, spirited but mindful discussion about the footwork and positioning needed to defend that most basic of plays: a pick and roll run by a 38-win team. Of course, it’s a long series. David West reminded the media of as much after the game. As did Paul George. As did Pacer coach Frank Vogel. The team, nearly to a man, carefully spit platitudes at the microphones and tape records, and one wonders if the Pacers at this point are more or less banking on a sub-.500 regular season Atlanta Hawk team to fall apart, rather than getting Indiana’s own act together. West wasn’t exactly dismissive when he called the Hawks “a jump-shooting team” following the loss, and he’s not wrong in that summation either. Atlanta wants to play on the perimeter, it wants to draw both Hibbert and West away from the rim with Millsap and center Pero Antic (who hit two of five shots from behind the three-point arc) and it wants to find ways for Kyle Korver to work his magic. Following the game, George claimed that Indiana would be “fine” if they just managed to find a way to close out on shooters, but in reality the Pacers were lucky to finish just eight points behind – Korver and others had several missed open looks that weren’t becoming of the league’s best defense. The Pacers don’t appear to feel comfortable while playing ahead, they failed to ably close out on a Hawks team featuring a healthy Al Horford during the 2013 playoffs, and their months-long swoon can’t be pegged on one repeated worry. It’s George Hill’s inability to probe the defense. It’s Luis Scola, who missed all six shots before glumly staring silently at his locker following the contest, and his failure to provide spacing. It’s Lance Stephenson, once again pairing the sour with the sweet, forcing shots but at times looking like the only Pacer that cared to contribute. It’s West, once again struggling against a Hawk team he swore following the game that didn’t have his number. It’s Paul George, missing two-thirds of his shots, unable to work as a go-to swingman against an Atlanta lineup team that he knows far too well. And it’s Roy Hibbert, who seems to have devolved from a dominant fringe MVP candidate to a 7-foot anachronism within a few months’ time. Hibbert had his shot blocked twice by Kyle Korver, his 4-9 shooting mark was pumped up by two easy garbage time makes, and he offered little but pablum following the game. The Pacers are right. This is a long series; and while they won’t discuss as much, the Hawks are not a great basketball team. Even if the Pacers sustain these struggles, Indiana can still beat the Hawks in a best-of seven, regardless of a home court deficit. “We just have to keep playing together,” Lance Stephenson offered following the loss, “and playing smart.” It seems like a sound outlook on paper, by a guy that at times seems like Indiana’s most pivotal player. This presumes the Pacers have been playing together, though, and that they have been playing intelligent basketball. That hasn’t been the case in weeks, and if it doesn’t cost them against the relatively lowly Atlanta Hawks, it’s certainly going to cost them in the second or third rounds. Assuming Indiana gets there. - - - - - - - Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KDonhoops
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