Skepticism of The Brooklyn Nets, Harden deserves some credit, Ryan Saunders fired, and much more.
Ben Golliver and Michael Pina check-in with the Brooklyn Nets, who are on a six-game winning streak and starting to win over some skeptics, including one Open Floor Globe member. After wins over the Lakers and Clippers, is Michael still sure that Brooklyn's defense will be a fatal flaw? Is it possible for James Harden to get appropriate credit for his recent work given his ugly exit from Houston? From there, they shift gears to the .500 Boston Celtics and their catastrophic collapse against the New Orleans Pelicans. Does Boston have a path to a third star? What should they do with their trade exception and should they part with future picks to land Harrison Barnes? Can any buyout candidates help balance their rotation? Ben and Michael close with a discussion of the Minnesota Timberwolves' decision to fire Ryan Saunders. Why did Saunders have to go now? Was it shady to line up Toronto Raptors assistant Chris Finch as his replacement so suddenly and did David Vanterpool deserve a shot? What constitutes a successful season for Minnesota now?
Ben Golliver: I watch these guys [Brooklyn Nets] almost every single night. And I don't know if I expected that when they first got Harden, but I can't take my eyes off them, Michael. I sense that you're not having the same experience.
Michael Pina: No, I'm not. After they lost to the Detroit Pistons in an embarrassing fashion. They came out and they beat the Indiana Pacers the next day. And I think Steve Nash made some comments about how that loss in Detroit was a turning point for them defensively. So I look at some of the scores from this West Coast road trip. They give up 117 to the super small warriors in their first game. They give up 125 to a Sacramento Kings team that's just like not able to win basketball games anymore, which is a shame. They gave up 124 to the Phenix Suns and they had a great comeback. Harden was magnificent in that basketball game, but they were down 25 or something early in the third quarter. They beat the Lakers ... Cool AD isn't there, Schröder did not play in that game, so 'congratulations' I suppose.
Ben Golliver: So say it with your chest, they're frauds, Michael. Is that what you're saying?
Michael Pina: Haha, they're not frauds, I'm just not ready to necessarily put a crown on top of their head. I think the regular season is really built for a team like this, that can coast off of superior talent like incredible star power. But in a playoff series, I'm just very interested to see how it goes for them.
Ben Golliver: Totally fair. Let's highlight that game between the Nets and the Clippers. It comes right down to the final minute. Did you think Kawhi Leonard should have had a flagrant on that last play when he shoved off on James Harden? They only gave him the offensive foul call. Should the refs have taken in an extra degree further?
Michael Pina: I've been refreshing my email waiting for the notification from NBA PR to let me know that Kawhi Leonard has been kicked out of the NBA. Yeah, that was very violent. I can't believe that happened. [15
Ben Golliver: OK, what was your biggest takeaway from that game? Was there something that gave you pause? Because it's kind of a strange game. Paul George doesn't close it. I think Beverly is in foul trouble again if I'm not mistaken, Kawhi Leonard had a nice night. Harden went nuts again and I'm just going to continue banging that drum because I know there's a lot of people out there who still are really caught up in his ugly exit in Houston. I don't necessarily want to erase that from the history books, but this guy is writing a new chapter as we speak. And I think it's important that we keep an eye on that as well. What did you see in that particular game? What was your biggest takeaway on Brooklyn's side?
Michael Pina: That's a good question. I think that they had a 15 point lead like midway through the fourth, and they should have lost the game, so that's not superb. But when I look at my box score take away, and box score takeaways are always kind of useless in one-game sample sizes. But something intrigued me, which is one team played nine guys—The Los Angeles Clippers, Serge Ibaka played 20 minutes, Lou Williams played 20 minutes. It was a regular season game for them. As you said, Paul George plays 32 [minutes] and then he leaves with three minutes to go despite being like an erupting volcano throughout the entire game. What he have? Like 34 [points] or something like that? He just couldn't miss. They would have won the game if he played the last three minutes, I think that's obvious for anyone who was watching. But the other team, The Nets, Mike D'Antoni's substitution pattern here, they play basically seven guys. And I know that some people are out because of injury. And I know that obviously, KD was out, which changes the rotation a little bit, but they treated it basically like a must win playoff game. And it's the middle of February. Like, who cares? The Clippers are basically behaving like a team that is slowly building itself for a playoff run. Just they're tinkering with their rotation. Luke Kennard has been out of the rotation for the past few games which is really interesting. Terance Mann has played really well. But Ty Lue dysfunctionally is just treating the rotation, treating the playing style, mixing things up on the fly a lot. And it looks like a team that's trying to prepare itself for having to play a lot of different ways. And the Nets are just like, this is who we are, and we are stone-cold, committed to beating you on this given night with Harden and Kyrie playing forty minutes. And they should have lost the game.
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