THE NBA has been waiting all season for an expected Western Conference Finals showdown between the reigning champion Golden State Warriors and their biggest threat the Houston Rockets.
Today, both teams can lock in the match-up by taking care of business at home.
The Rockets host the Utah Jazz (10am AEST) and the Warriors welcome the Pelicans (12.30pm). Both teams hold 3-1 leads in their respective series and are expected to finish the job without too much fuss.
Cleveland player refused to play
Rodney Hood’s playoff problems now extend to off the court.
Hood, who has seen his role reduced during his first postseason with Cleveland, will not be fined or suspended for refusing to enter Monday night’s Game 4 blowout win over the Toronto Raptors in the fourth quarter, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press.
Hood feels bad about the incident that happened with 7:38 left in the fourth quarter, and he expressed remorse on Tuesday to team officials about becoming a distraction, said the person who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
The person said disciplinary actions against Hood “were never a consideration.”
The Athletic first reported that Hood had angered teammates and others in the organisation by rejecting coach Tyronn Lue’s instruction to enter the game.
With Cleveland leading 110-80 and on its way to sweeping the series, the Cavs called time-out to replace superstar LeBron James.
Lue told Hood to check in but he refused, and guard Jose Calderon peeled off his warm-up and jogged to the scorer’s table. The AP observed at least one assistant coach shouting toward Hood.
Earlier in the game, rookie Cedi Osman came in with the second unit and played the minutes that had been going to Hood in Lue’s rotation.
The 25-year-old Hood is averaging 4.6 points in 17 minutes in the postseason. His playing time dropped in the second round — he began the playoffs against Indiana in the starting line-up — as he struggled with his shot and looked uncomfortable on the floor.
Hood scored just 2 points on 1-of-9 shooting in three appearances against the Raptors.
The Cavaliers acquired Hood at the February trade deadline from Utah. A first-round pick in the 2014 draft, he averaged 16.8 points with the Jazz, but the 6-foot-8 left-hander has never found his rhythm with Cleveland, which is back in the Eastern Conference finals for the fourth straight season. Lue said he spoke with Hood at Sunday’s practice and that he understood his role.
“It’s been tough circumstances as far as the first round and playing now and getting spot minutes more than anything,” Lue said. “He could be better, he knows that. Just need him to be aggressive.”
Hood started Game 1 against Indiana, but after the Pacers beat the Cavs by 18, Lue changed his line-up. He swapped Hood with Kyle Korver and Cleveland regrouped, going 8-2 since the change.
Hood will be a restricted free agent this summer.
Embiid down 3-1 but still trash talking
Philadelphia 76ers centre Joel Embiid didn’t try to squash any bad blood with Boston Celtics guard Terry Rozier when asked about the pair’s in-game scuffle Monday night.
The 7-foot Embiid and the 6-foot-2 Rozier had to be separated after a spat late in the second quarter of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference playoff series that resulted in technical fouls assessed to both players.
“He kind of kept the ball away from me and tried to punch me twice,” Embiid told reporters at his postgame press conference, “but too bad he’s so short that he couldn’t get to my face.”
The encounter began when Embiid attempted to take the ball from Rozier after the latter was called for an offensive foul. Rozier took exception and kept the ball away from Embiid before pushing him away with his right arm, causing tempers to flare. A few light shoves were exchanged before other players on the court separated the pair.
“I didn’t understand why it was a double-technical because I was just trying to get the ball and he was the one trying to swing,” Embiid said.
Rozier downplayed the incident to reporters afterwards, but emphasised he is not intimidated by the 76ers centre.
“To set the record straight, I wake up every morning not worried about nobody, no man on this earth,” Rozier said. “We were out there having fun. It’s just part of a basketball game. That’s all it is.”
Embiid, 24, later jawed back and forth with Celtics forward Marcus Morris, who held up three fingers and a fist as a reminder that his team held a 3-0 series lead.
The 76ers won the game, 103-92, but still trail 3-1 in the series. Game 5 is Thursday (AEST) in Boston.