TSN's Jack Armstrong offers his thoughts on the agressiveness of Paul George, the struggles of LeBron James in Game 5, the prospects of Billy Donovan as an NBA head coach, the swagger of Cory Joseph and the maturation of Russell Westbrook.
1. Paul George (Pacers): Brilliant fourth quarter Wednesday night as he saved his team from elimination. Unfortunately, we haven't see that from him enough in the playoffs and surely in the second half of the regular season. He let it rip in Game 5 and loved his aggressiveness and the attack mode that he took. When he plays like an elite player, it settles the rest of the roster down and guys are able to play their games. Still don't like their chances though; their bench has been a huge bust and though the defence was a bit better Wednesday, it hasn't been up to par in this series. I like Miami to close in Game 6 at home.
2. LeBron James (Heat): Played less than 25 minutes due to 'foul trouble!' How often do you ever hear or see that? An aberration to say the least. Obviously, that helped the Pacers immensely. I tend to doubt you'll be hearing that phrase too often the rest of the playoffs for Mr. James. When it's time for the spotlight to shine brightest, he'll be out there.
3. Billy Donovan (University of Florida): Where there is smoke, there is fire. Keep hearing his name when you talk about NBA jobs. He's a terrific head coach and has done a wonderful job with the Gators. Already took the Orlando Magic job and then backed out years ago when Stan Van Gundy ended up taking it. Worked out great for both guys. Talking to a number of college coaches of late, many of them are getting tired of the 'one and done' mentality that many players have and the concept of the 'free agent' mentality that many players have today regarding transferring out each offseason. I know, I get it, it's a two-way street for both sides yet I think when you coach at the highest level in top-notch leagues and have constant movement each year, you say to yourself, might as well get to where everyone's trying to get to and not have to deal with recruiting and academics and the goofy NCAA rules and deal totally with why you do it in the first place: basketball - the game - and not the other nonsense. Like many college coaches, I'm sure Donovan has had those thoughts. If he comes to the NBA, I have no doubt he'd be good.
4. Cory Joseph (Spurs): Loved the swagger he played with in Game 4. Came in and looked like he belonged. Love the dunk on Serge Ibaka; posterized him! He's a passionate competitor and you can't discount that playing in San Antonio has greatly helped his development as a young player. He's had nice stints of play at times this year and with a guy like Patty Mills in front of him behind Tony Parker, minutes are tough to come by. When you're called upon, be ready. He has shown me that when that happens, he's ready to get after it. Good for him.
5. Russell Westbrook (Thunder): What a Game 4 performance with 40 points, 10 assists, five rebounds and five steals. When you look around the NBA right now, there aren't many more talented guys than this guy out there. Yes, at times, he can drive you crazy with his self-absorbed play but you can't discount his ability. Hopefully, the consistent maturity and professional/team-oriented approach becomes a part of his daily persona. I see a young guy that is maturing and still figuring it out; a guy you definitely stick with because there is so much there and he really wants to win. Just still learning how to go about it the right way, but it's coming.