JaVale McGee has spectacular dunks, would impress Flip Saunders more with a few rebounds


Thumbnail image for jmcgee_dunk.jpgJaVale McGee can throw it down. He and John Wall showed a connection during Summer League because Wall likes to run and throw ally-oops and McGee loves to run and catch ally-oops.

But Wizards coach Flip Saunders knows a little secret — you can’t get out and run if somebody doesn’t grab the defensive rebound.

Okay, not much of a secret. But with Andray Blatche sitting out the start of the season McGee was expected to start at the five so he could run with Wall. But Saunders told Michael Lee of the Washington Post there needs to be more.

“Hilton Armstrong’s had a really solid camp,” [Saunders] said. “He’s actually played better than JaVale has through camp right now. We’ve got to get JaVale defensive rebounding right now. With him, we need more substance than style. He has a tendency – he’s always been a style guy, and we got to get some substance out of that position.”

When asked if Armstrong would be the starter, Saunders said, “That’s what preseason is going to do. I don’t decide who is going to play, the players tell me.”

McGee said he has made a concerted effort to get better with defensive rebounding. “I feel like I’m doing better. I’m boxing out, trying to find bodies. If I’m not getting the rebound, I’m just making sure my man is not getting the rebound. That’s what I’m trying to do,” McGee said. “I just don’t want anything for them to be like, ‘Oh, he’s not doing this. He’s not doing that.’ I’m doing every thing they say and try to throw my little stuff in, as long as I’m doing what they want me to do.”

This may be more words than substance — get the player to do what you want by talking to the media and embarrassing him. Phil Jackson coaching 101. McGee’s defensive rebounding numbers are not that bad (he grabbed 18.7 percent of the available defensive boards when he was on the floor last season).

The fact remains that McGee is a better player than Armstrong right now and a better fit with what the Wizards want to do. If McGee doesn’t start, he will have played his way out of the job.

Utah’s Donovan Mitchell with shot of night to force OT with Spurs


One of the factors to consider in the Rookie of the Year race: clutch plays.

Down three with less than 10 seconds to go Friday night, the Utah Jazz put the ball in the hands of their rookie playmaker Donovan Mitchell — and he made the play, draining a three to force overtime. It’s an impressive play.

In the clutch this season (last five minutes of a game, within five points), Mitchell has averaged 3.2 shots per contest (by far the most of any rookie) and has a true shooting percentage of 51 percent. Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons, the other front-runner in the ROY race, averages less than a shot per game in those clutch situations (0.8) and has a true shooting percentage of 66.7 percent.

Mitchell made the big shot, but the Spurs made plenty too, had 45 points on the night from LaMarcus Aldridge, and got the win.


PBT Extra: Who is coming out of the Eastern Conference?

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The Toronto Raptors will finish with the No. 1 seed and all the best metrics in the East, but they have a history of playoff flameouts. The Boston Celtics’ have been hit hard by injuries. And the Cleveland Cavaliers have LeBron James but also a dreadful defense, this is the most vulnerable a LeBron led team has been since he bolted Cleveland seven years ago.

So what team is coming out of the East?

We get into that in this latest PBT Extra. A poll on Twitter found most of you think the Cavaliers, but personally, I think the Raptors — who have been better defensively all season than the Cavs — may finally have their year.

LaMarcus Aldridge drops career-high 45 points, Spurs beat Jazz in OT

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — LaMarcus Aldridge had a career-high 45 points, helping San Antonio overcome Donovan Mitchell‘s 35-point performance for Utah in the Spurs’ 124-120 overtime victory over the Jazz on Friday night.

The Spurs won their sixth straight and beat the Jazz for the first time in four meetings this season.

Utah’s 12-game road winning streak came to an end, but only after Mitchell had 14 points in the fourth quarter, including three 3-pointers in the final two minutes to force overtime.

San Antonio remained sixth in the Western Conference with the same record as fifth-place New Orleans, a half-game behind Oklahoma City for fourth. Utah remained eighth in the West.

After free throws by Spurs guards Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills and a dunk by Jazz center Rudy Gobert put San Antonio up 114-111, Mitchell drained his third 3-pointer of the fourth with 3.6 seconds remaining to force overtime.

Mills, who finished with 23 points, had six points in overtime as the Spurs capped an undefeated six-game homestand.

Aldridge averaged 32.2 points and 9.0 rebounds during the winning streak, including two double-doubles.

Aldridge scored 28 points in the first half on 12-for-16 shooting, including a 3-pointer.

Utah missed its first six shots and was 4 for 14 as San Antonio grabbed a 19-8 lead midway through the first quarter. Mitchell settled the Jazz, scoring six points to cut the Spurs lead to 29-21 heading into the second quarter.

Mitchell was 14-for-35 shooting while falling six points shy of his season-high.

Derrick Favors added 22 points for Utah and Ricky Rubio had 20.

Ginobili finished with 18 points for the Spurs.


Stephen Curry leaves game with knee injury


In his first night back from an ankle injury that forced him to miss six games, Stephen Curry limped off the court not to return after in third quarter Friday night after JaVale McGee fell into his knee.

He limped to the bench then eventually to the locker room after the injury.

The severity of the injury is not yet known and should become clear on Saturday after an MRI.

Curry scored 29 points and grabbed seven rebounds before being forced to leave the game, and the Warriors held on to win the game.

Obviously, if Curry is out heading into the playoffs, that changes the dynamic in the West, where the Houston Rockets were already right on the heels of the Warriors.