Emeka Okafor, New Orleans Hornets

Hornets’ defensive success cast from the Spurs’ mold

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In the last decade of basketball, there have been few forces more power than the San Antonio Spurs’ defense. That vaunted defense has regressed in recent years, but from 2000-2007 (and, for that matter, from 1997-2000), San Antonio never allowed more than 99.7 points per 100 possessions, a mark that routinely put the Spurs’ defense atop the league. Funny how that happens when the efforts of Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich are combined. Pick and rolls were smothered, driving opponents were pushed into the help, and the glass was thoroughly cleaned.

It’s a recipe that, though lacking in the specific stylings of Duncan and Pop, may seem oddly familiar to fans of the New Orleans Hornets.

In his analysis of New Orleans’ defensive success in their hot start thus far, Ryan Schwan of Hornets 24-7 expertly identified a few defensive elements that run parallel between the 6-0 Hornets and the infamous Spurs. Stylistically, New Orleans is following the San Antonio model, by opting for a limiting, reactive defense rather than a completely smothering one. The Hornets aren’t jumping every passing lanes and swarming opponents with double teams; they’re playing smart, conservative defense and forcing opponents into specific types of contested shots. The Hornets have forced their opponents into low-percentage looks, limited second chance opportunities, and kept their fouls down for good measure. All with Monty Williams and Emeka Okafor standing in for two surefire Hall-of-Famers, and an inspired team effort by the Hornets filling in the gaps.

At this stage, Chris Paul is an easy pick for MVP, but it’s New Orleans’ Spursian defensive success that has pushed them to the top of the league. It probably makes Popovich blush. Y’know, if Pop blushes.

Report: Bucks brought Jabari Parker off bench for discussing with media team’s meeting

Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker, center, looks for an open teammate as he is surrounded by Miami Heat players during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, in Miami. The Heat defeated the Bucks 109-97. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Associated Press
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The Milwaukee Bucks had lost four in a row and had slid out of a playoff slot in the East. It’s not one end of the court — in their last five games, the Bucks had the second-worst defense and fourth-worst offense in the NBA. After that fourth loss, the team held a players’ only meeting, one where Jabari Parker reportedly ripped his teammates for a lack of togetherness.

In the postgame media sessions that followed, Parker told the press he confirmed there was a meeting and said he had been “thrashed” by his teammates for what he said.

It was that speaking to the media that got him benched for a game — as decided by his teammates — reports Chris Haynes of ESPN.

Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker did not start in Saturday’s road loss to the Miami Heat for violating a team rule that prohibits disclosing locker room discourse to the media, league sources told ESPN…

Parker’s teammates deliberated and decided the appropriate punishment for the violation was to bring him off the bench against the Heat, league sources told ESPN. It was the first time this season that he did not start.

The meeting and the benching didn’t help, the Bucks fell to the lowly Heat 109-97. (Team/players meetings are overrated in how often they help teams turn things around.)

The good news for the Bucks is that in a tight East they remain just a game out of the playoffs and three games out of the five seed. It’s going to be a tough week to turn that around with the Rockets, resurgent Sixers, Raptors, and Celtics on the schedule.

 

Denver’s Kenneth Faried gets up, blocks DeAndre Jordan dunk attempt (VIDEO)

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Without Chris Paul and Blake Griffin in the lineup, the Clippers don’t have much going for them offensively. However, there is one thing: DeAndre Jordan can still run to the rim and dunk with authority.

Denver’s Kenneth Faried took that away Saturday.

Faried hustled back in transition, showed he still had some hops and swatted away a Jordan dunk attempt.

The Nuggets went on to win the game comfortably, 123-98, behind 19 points and 10 boards from Nikola Jokic.

Suns’ Devin Booker sinks three that defeats Knicks (VIDEO)

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The Knicks last three losses have come by a total of six points. The team is not good, a little banged up, and doesn’t play any defense, but New York also has just had a run of bad luck.

The latest example: Phoenix’s Devin Booker draining a three to knock off New York, 107-105. It was a mistake by Derrick Rose, who sagged down to the free throw line watching Eric Bledsoe with the ball coming off the pick, which led to the open pass. Also, notice that Booker set up three feet back of the three-point line — this is a trend a lot of teams and good shooters are following (watch a Rockets’ game) because it makes the closeout harder. Rose would have contested a shot at the arc, but Booker gets a clean look from where he spotted up, and drills it.

Carmelo Anthony got a shot to win it for the Knicks, but his rimmed out.

Kawhi Leonard drops 41, Spurs best Cavaliers in OT in what may be game of the Year (VIDEO)

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The Spurs would like you to include them in your conversations about contenders.

Without Pau Gasol (hand) or Tony Parker (foot), San Antonio went into Cleveland and beat the defending NBA champions in OT 118-115 in what was one of the wildest, most entertaining games of the season. Check out the clutch-time action above, including LeBron James hitting a three Shaker Heights.

But the real star was Kawhi Leonard, who put up a career-best 41 on 30 shots. He’s the guy who has to create and make plays for this offense, and he did it on a big stage. LeBron added 29 points. Between them, they put on quite a show.