Clippers do the right thing, but that's not bringing LeBron

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There were parts of this move that were still vintage classless Clippers. Like Mike Dunleavy saying he learned he was fired from the Internet and people calling him, not the Clippers (they said they called but didn’t get him). Or the players learning about it after the game just seconds before the media came in. It was announced during a Clippers road game and broadcast.

It had all the earmarks of an impulsive move. But that doesn’t make it wrong.

The Clippers needed to make an organizational change, and short of Donald Sterling selling this team (not going to happen, folks) this was it. And Sterling did it for the right reasons, he is aiming big.

The irony is Dunleavy was sacked three weeks after he did his best work as general manager (although there are reports that new GM, and then assistant, Neil Olshey, had a very big role in all that). At the trade deadline, the Clippers shoehorned their way into deals and traded oversized contracts and a good player in Marcus Camby to clear out $5.5 million, enough cap space to allow the Clippers to go after a major free agent this summer.

Sterling wants to use that money to get a name free agent – to remake the image of his Clippers. He realized that to do that he needed a sea change. He can tell LeBron James or Dwyane Wade they can come here and pick their own coach (expect neither role to be filled until after the July 1 free agency deadline). Or he can hire a recognizable basketball mind to run the organization.

That, by the way, likely will not be Larry Brown — any reaching out to the Clippers he did was because if Michael Jordan had been out as Bobcats owner Brown likely would have been as well. So he started covering his bases. Then at the last minute Jordan stepped up, and with his North Carolina ties (not to mention he’s doing a good job) he is safe.

On some levels, this has to be a tempting place to land for a general manager. The Clippers have a good lineup already — All-Star Chris Kaman at center, number-one pick Blake Griffin at power forward, Baron Davis (well, he can be good when he wants to be) at point guard, plus good role players such as Eric Gordon, Rasual Butler, Steve Blake and DeAndre Jordan. Plus they will have another lottery pick in a pretty deep draft.

If they can land a big-time swingman, they will be position to be a very good team. This move was about getting that man.

Clippers fans dream of LeBron James — as does everyone — but that remains the most pipe of pipe dreams (he likely never leaves Cleveland). Dwyane Wade is also unlikely to leave Miami.  A more likely scenario would be the Clippers getting someone such as Rudy Gay out of Memphis, who fills that swingman role. However, the Clippers likely would have to overpay to lure him in.

Any big time free agent with half a brain wants to see an ownership committed to winning. The Clippers have never had those in Los Angeles. That — well that and signing a deal to work for a guy fighting off discrimination suits at his main job, — means guys concerned with global status and shoe sales will not come to the Clippers.

If Donald Sterling’s hire is a case of “meet the new boss, same as the old boss,” someone with his hands tied by Sterling’s frugality, then this will all have been words without meaning. But if there is a genuine change, this is a team where the foundation of something good is in place. Where the Clippers can be, dare we say, winners.

The Clippers did the right thing, severing ties with Dunleavy. Whether they continue to do the right thing is the bigger question.

Hawks battle back to knot series with Wizards, 2-2

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Paul Millsap shoved Markieff Morris out of the way, grabbed an offensive rebound in the middle of the paint and pushed through a shot while Marcin Gortat bumped him to the floor.

The Wizards knocked down Atlanta. They didn’t stop the Hawks.

Millsap and Atlanta showed plenty of fight, topping Washington 111-101 in Game 4 Monday to tie their first-round series 2-2 after falling behind 2-0.

Have the Hawks seized meaningful momentum? History says no.

Teams that have won the first two games of a best-of-seven series at home then lost the next two on the road have won 81% of the time. The Wizards’ regular-season superiority still speaks loudly, and up to two more home games – starting with Game  5 Wednesday – also help.

Still, credit Atlanta for making the series competitive after digging such a big hole.

Millsap (19 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and two steals) soundly outplayed Markieff Morris (nine points on 3-of-10 shooting, -10) in the latest round of their personal feud. Millsap also got plenty of help with seven Hawks scoring double digits.

Kent Bazemore (16 points, seven assists and three steals) played meaningful defense and hit a couple big shots. Jose Calderon (10 points, five assists, +29 in 20 minutes) provided a huge spark. Dwight Howard (16 points and 15 rebounds) asserted himself for the first time this series. Taurean Prince (11 points on 5-of-7 shooting) picked his spots well. Dennis Schroder (18 points on 6-of-15 shooting) had his ups and downs. Tim Hardaway Jr. (15 points) at least offset some of his defensive shortcomings.

This was a total team win.

Washington, on the other hand, got little outside its starting backcourt. Bradley Beal (32 points) thrived, and John Wall (22 points and 10 assists) was still good in an off-by-his-standards performance. But the Wizards crumbled when either sat – especially with both on the bench in the late third/early fourth quarters. Erasing those few minutes with staggering would’ve helped, though it wouldn’t have been the answer tonight.

This has become a far less certain series than Washington hoped, but the Wizards don’t need a wild fix. They just need their top players to play better. Maybe going home will help.

Raptors break out best game of postseason, rout Bucks 118-93 to take 3-2 series lead

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Norman Powell was draining threes, throwing down dunks that would have won the contest All-Star weekend, and he finished with a career playoff-high 25 points on just 11 shots. Plus defensively he caused Khris Middleton trouble.

The Raptors finished with 28 assists, the most in a playoff game since Dwane Casey took over as coach.

Toronto shot 57.7 percent overall, a franchise playoff best.

The Raptors bench played well pitching in 27 points and growing the lead when they were in, part of an overall strong night from the role players in Toronto.

Combine that all with the expected good nights from Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan and you get the Raptors best game of the playoffs. It looked like a different team than the one in Milwaukee.

Toronto raced out to an early lead and went on to rout the Bucks 118-93, giving the Raptors a 3-2 series lead.

This was a game where the Bucks tried to force the ball out of the hands of Lowry and DeRozan as much as they could, using their length and athleticism. However, Lowry had 10 assists, and DeRozan would get the ball off pindown screens and feel the double coming, move the ball, and another quick pass or two later the role-playing player Raptors were getting good looks and knocking them down. Or throwing it down like this.

Or this.

Toronto just looked more comfortable against the Bucks pressure, having seen it for so many games in a row, than they have all series.

Powell had 25 points for Toronto, Serge Ibaka had 19 and three blocks, Lowry had 16 points and 10 assists, DeRozan had 18 points and six assists, even DeMarre Carroll had 12 points on six shots.

The question for the young Bucks team is how does it bounce back from this kind of loss in the biggest NBA game most of them have ever played? Can they get their defensive edge back?

“We’re going to miss some shots, and we can’t let our offense dictate our defense,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said postgame. “And also the turnovers, again. Right off the bat we had three…

“Our defense kind of got hit there in the first quarter, we knew that they were going to come after us, we had to expect that. And we just couldn’t respond.”

The Bucks had some runs in the second quarter and got the lead to nine at one point, but the Raptors always seemed to be in control.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had another strong game with 30 points on 12-of-19 shooting, and rookie Malcolm Brogdon pitched in 19 points on 11 shots, but for the most part the Bucks struggled with their offense in this game. As their coach noted — and as often happens to young teams — they let their offensive woes impact the other end of the court.

At home, the Bucks will likely feel more comfortable, and they will fight for their playoff lives.

The question is, can the Raptors be this sharp again and close them out? Or will the yo-yo nature of this team continue?

 

Kevin Durant will play in Game 4 for Warriors vs. Trail Blazers

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In case you were curious how serious Golden State was about closing out Portland in four…

After missing the last two games with a strained calf, both Warriors wins to put them up 3-0 in the series, the Warriors are bringing back Kevin Durant for Game 4.

Steve Kerr is also out tonight for Golden State, Mike Brown will coach the team.

There was buzz that Durant could have gone in Game 3 if needed, but the Warriors felt confident they would win without him and they don’t want this injury to linger. There’s no more holding him back now.

Durant averaged 25.1 points a game, and thanks to the space created by the other stars on the team had his most efficient season, with a true shooting percentage of 65.1. He also pulled down 8.3 rebounds a game, dished 4.9 assists, and had his best defensive season in a long time as well. If not for an injury after the All-Star break that had him missing games, he would have made a lot of voters’ All-NBA team.

He adds to Golden State’s size advantage against Portland. The Warriors would like to close out the series tonight and get additional rest before facing the Clippers or Jazz in the next round.

Serge Ibaka is dunking and Giannis Antetokounmpo isn’t going to stop him. Twice. (VIDEO)

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The Toronto Raptors had their best half of their first-round series against the Bucks, taking an early lead and, despite a little shooting slump midway through the second they were up nine at the half.

That was all topped off by two emphatic Serge Ibaka dunks. Ones Giannis Antetokounmpo wasn’t going to stop.

Ibaka dunked around him more than over the Greek Freak, but still.