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Is it a travel? Andrew Wiggins says James Harden’s step back is ‘a legal one’ - http://travelporn.info | luxury travel sites

April 18, 2018 9:08 pm
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James Harden killed the Timberwolves in Game 1, with the presumptive MVP tallying 44 points and eight assists.

But the legality of how he did it was up for debate on social media after Sunday’s game. Four of Harden’s 15 makes were listed as “step-back jump shots.” The step back is one of Harden’s most effective moves, and he goes to it often. It gives Harden enough space to get his shot off over any defender.

“There’s not too much you can do (against it),” Wolves guard Andrew Wiggins said.

But is it legal? Or should it be ruled a travel? That was the debate on social media shortly after Houston’s 104-101 playoff victory Sunday night.

Retired NBA official Ronnie Nunn looked at a specific Harden step back on Twitter and noted it was a travel, but previously has said most of Harden’s step backs, when properly executed, are within the rules.

Wiggins agrees.

“I just look at it as a normal step back,” Wiggins said. “It’s a legal one.”

When questioned about the move Wednesday morning, Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau deflected.

“He’s a great player, hard to guard,” Thibodeau said. “The travel is called differently in some games, so we’ve got to be ready for everything.”

But Thibodeau did suggest Harden gets away with some things on the court, referring to Harden as “very smart.”

“He sells what he does,” Thibodeau said. “He’s grabbing and holding a lot, but it’s what he does. He’s a great player.”

RUN, WIGGINS, RUN?

Thibodeau loved Wiggins’ aggression in Game 1 of the series. The fourth-year guard led the Wolves with 18 points on 7-for-15 shooting, scoring eight points in the first quarter alone.

Color Taj Gibson impressed.

“You can’t go into the first playoff game trying to feel it out. You’ve got to go out there and just play, go out there and be aggressive,” Gibson said. “He did a good job for us, especially in the first half, creating a spark for us, being aggressive getting to the basket. A lot of things weren’t going our way right away, but that’s the kinds of things we needed from Wiggs, and he did a good job.”

Thibodeau wants Wiggins to maintain that aggression, particularly in transition. He noted that when Wiggins grabs a defensive rebound, he wants him to push the ball up the court.

“When he attacks the rim in transition, it’s impossible to guard,” Thibodeau said. “When he’s running up the floor and Jeff (Teague) throws it ahead to him, it’s going to be a score or foul 90 percent of the time.”

Wiggins scored four fast-break points Sunday after averaging less than two a game during the regular season.

“Try and get easy baskets,” Wiggins said. “Playoffs, a lot of it is halfcourt defense, so try to get out and run, try to get some easy baskets and get something going.”

BJELICA BRICKS

Nemanja Bjelica seemed to find a rhythm during his time in the starting lineup late in the regular season while Jimmy Butler was out with a torn meniscus in his right knee.

In that 17-game stretch, Bjelica shot 45 percent from the field and 41 percent from 3-point range while averaging 34 minutes a game. But with Butler’s return came Bjelica’s return to the bench. In the four games since he departed the starting lineup, Bjelica is just 2 for 15 from the field, including 1 for 8 from 3-point range, in 14 minutes per game.

“He just provides space, and that’s what he has to do,” Thibodeau said. “Play hard on every play. There’s a physicality to these games that when you drive, you’re going to get hit. I think if a couple of those layups went in, you feel differently. But just play. He’s been in a lot of those situations. Don’t hesitate. When you’re open, shoot. All his teammates believe in him, we all believe in him. When you’re open, shoot the ball.”

Bjelica played just six minutes in the Wolves’ postseason opener, going 0 for 2 from the field.