Hall of Famer Reggie Miller and former NBA player Kevin McHale took part in a conference call with global media to discuss the NBA Playoffs 2017. Among other things, the two talked about Russell Westbrook and James Harden meeting in the first round, about the NBA Champions Cleveland Cavaliers and about the Golden State Warriors’ playoffs expectations.
Reggie Miller on Russell Westbrook and James Harden meeting in the first round: “If there’s any first-round matchup that I’m sure all eyes will be on, it is, as you mentioned, the two guys who are [leading the MVP race]. As great of a season as LeBron [James] and Kawhi [Leonard] have had, the two main guys on the card – the main draw – have been James Harden and Russell Westbrook. To have those guys go at one another in the first round…former teammates, great friends, the two leading scorers in the Association…from our side, this is a dream matchup, to sit and have a chance to watch these two great players and teams go at one another. To me, [it’s about] who can outscore the other, and not necessarily in a one-on-one matchup, but teams-wise – because really, Houston just wants to outscore you, they’re not going to stop you. So, can you get to their weapons? Can you run those guys off of that three-point line? It’s going to be about building a wall around Russell Westbrook. Can you keep him out of the paint? Can you stop him from penetrating? He doesn’t have the weapons that James [Harden] has on that Houston team, so to me, taking away those dynamics from each team [are the keys to the series].”
Miller on how the Cavaliers season ended: “I don’t know if this is coach talk, because Kevin [McHale] has been a coach as well as a Hall of Fame player, but you hear this all the time: the game of basketball or any sport, it can’t be a light switch, you can’t turn it on and off. If you look at the recent play of Cleveland, it’s kind of head-scratching, because there is so much ability and talent on that team. I know they had a rash of injuries throughout the course of the year, but the inconsistent play – especially at the defensive end, from the World Champions – has been a little [bit] head-scratching. If you’re Paul George and you’re Indiana, maybe you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. You just hope there isn’t a train down there, that train being LeBron James. To beat the Cavs and LeBron James four times it is such a tall order. But, I love the matchup of Paul George and LeBron James…we just saw 10 days ago the matchup in Cleveland in overtime when both guys put up ridiculous numbers. To me, it’s about supporting casts: I don’t like seeing Jeff Teague going down with the tweaked ankle. He will need to be 100 percent going against Kyrie Irving; that’s an advantage right there for the Cavaliers. How healthy will Jeff Teague be throughout this whole series? But again, beating LeBron James, Kyrie, Kevin Love four times? It’s a really tall order for Indiana. But I love the matchup of Paul George versus LeBron James.”
McHale on the differences between last year’s Warriors and the current team: “[I wonder if] Golden State burned a lot of mental energy last year going for 73 [wins]. The one thing I thought was when they had to make plays late in a quarter [this year], they let Kevin Durant make a shot. I thought that was what was missing last year… Kevin Durant makes them better, he’s a closer. The Golden State offense equates to [taking advantage of] mistakes by the defense. They hit three or four threes, it just kills you because it’s so fast. They are better team with Kevin Durant in my opinion.”
Miller on what it takes to challenge Golden State: “Let’s think about this…there are only two – maybe three – teams who can stick to their principles defensively against the Warriors. Not a lot of teams can match up defensively against that high-octane offense of the Golden State Warriors. Championship or bust – that is what it comes down to.”
“As for the MVP, it’s a toss-up. You could make a case for both guys. It really is tough. To me, the run that Russell [Westbrook] has had – this historic run, something that has not been done in 55 years – to me, that kind of trumps everything. So, I’m leaning towards Russell Westbrook.”
The NBA Playoffs 2017 begin on Saturday 15th April. You can follow all the action live on BT Sport or via NBA LEAGUE PASS at www.nba.tv.
Source: Pitch London