New York Knicks v Boston Celtics

Dallas sags off Rajon Rondo for the win

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O.J. Mayo said recently that Rajon Rondo is the player he’d most want to play with because of how he sets teammates up. During the Nuggets broadcast last night, Kenyon Martin came on for a while and during that time said that Rondo is a better point guard than Derrick Rose.

But Dallas didn’t fear Rondo Monday night.

When it came time for a chance for Boston to tie or win the game last night against Dallas, the Mavericks dared Rondo to shoot the ball. On the Celtics final play Paul Pierce set a screen for Rondo to force a switch — it worked, Shawn Marion was now on Rondo, Jason Kidd on Pierce, but those are matchups Dallas is fine with — then Dallas backed off, hedged other options and dared Rondo to shoot. Which is what the Lakers did in the finals last season, try to make Rondo the shooter.

It worked, Rondo’s three to win it clanged off the rim. Mavericks win.

The question is, was it a bad shot?  Paul Pierce told the Boston Globe no, that’s a shot Rondo has to take.

“He’s wide open,’’ forward Paul Pierce said. “He was open two or three seconds before he even took it. We were begging him to shoot it. Hey, we’ll take that, a wide-open look. Rondo, he’s showed he can make those shots, especially under pressure situations. I take it. I told him after the game, I’ll take that shot.’’

As the Globe points out, what may be the biggest key is that nobody in the Celtics locker room criticized the shot — they wanted Rondo to take it. They can live with the miss, it was the best shot available. They know that down the line, in games that really matter this spring, they will need Rondo to take that shot with confidence.

This season Rondo has hit two of the five three-pointers he has taken, but that is one basically every other game. Rondo is averaging just shy of 10 shots per game, but he is getting half of those at the rim. His game is to drive and kick, to set up teammates because he is surrounded by scorers. He still prefers not to shoot unless he’s driving the lane.

The jumper remains a weakness, one seeming of confidence as much as accuracy, and one other teams will try to exploit. He is practicing and getting better at it — on long twos he is hitting 42 percent this season, up from 33 percent last season.

But if the issue is confidence, Rondo has to feel gook knowing he rest of the Celtics have his back. We’ll see, as the season moves on he’ll get many more chances to prove he has that shot down.

LeBron James says he doesn’t see Cavaliers-Warriors as rivalry

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 25: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers passes while under pressure from Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors during the first half at Quicken Loans Arena on December 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Tyronn Lue said Cavaliers-Warriors could eventually match Celtics-Lakers as a rivalry.

First, if you ask LeBron James, Cleveland-Golden State would have to become a rivalry at all.

LeBron, via Joe Vardon Cleveland.com:

“We don’t look at it as a rival,” James said. “They’re a great team. They’ve been the best team the last couple years, last three years.”

“It’s just the next game, it’s Golden State,” James said. “They’re a helluva team, like I said the best team in the league and they’ve been that way the last three years, four years, however long it’s been, I’m not quite sure. But, listen, you guys know, we don’t put all our eggs in one basket for one game.”

Of course, Cavaliers-Warriors is a rivalry. These teams have met in the last two NBA Finals, played each other with relentless intensity, talked plenty of trash and remained elite.

LeBron just doesn’t want the Cavs to become comfortable. They’ve beat Golden State in four straight games – the last three of the 2016 Finals and on Christmas – and could extend the streak to five today. Beating a rival that frequently is a cause for celebration, and celebration leads to contentment. LeBron would rather keep Cleveland focused and hungry. Hence, saying the Warriors aren’t a rival.

Andre Drummond hits 3-pointer from inside Pistons’ own 3-point arc (video)

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Andre Drummond is really good at these deep heaves.

His 3-point percentage (44%) is even better than his free-throw percentage (38%) the last two years, though that says too much about his work from the line.

Drummond wasn’t the only Pistons player converting to end quarters. Ish Smith and Tobias Harris also stepped up in the Pistons’ 102-97 win over the Lakers:

NBA: Suns got away with offensive foul before key points in win over Spurs

Phoenix Suns Devin Booker acknowledges a foul as San Antonio Spurs Tony Parker lies crumpled on the floor, in the second half of their regular-season NBA basketball game in Mexico City, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell
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Devin Booker scored 39 points in the Suns’ 108-105 win over the Spurs on Saturday in Mexico City.

But Booker’s last four – which put Phoenix up for good – came directly after incorrect calls, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report.

First, Booker drew a (legitimate) foul on Pau Gasol with 1:08 left and made both free throws. The problem: One second before that, Suns center Tyson Chandler should have been called for offensively fouling Tony Parker, according to the league:

Chandler (PHX) sets the screen on Parker (SAS) and makes leg to leg contact that affects his ability to defend the play.

That would’ve ended Phoenix’s possession rather than allowing Booker to get to the line.

The other missed call in the two-minute report is trickier, because it directly benefitted the Spurs but indirectly benefitted the Suns.

Manu Ginobili got away with travelling with 59.1 seconds left, according to  the league:

Ginobili (SAS) moves his pivot foot.

But he coughed up the ball moments later anyway, and – thrilled to gain possession with a live-ball turnover rather than a dead-ball turnover – Booker turned the miscue into a fastbreak dunk.

Rather than debate how to evaluate San Antonio getting away with a travel and it ultimately helping Phoenix more, let’s stick to just the uncalled Chandler offensive foul. That netted the Suns two points. Their lead when the Spurs began intentionally fouling? One.

Russell Westbrook puts up 20th triple-double of season, lifts Thunder past Kings (VIDEO)

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Through 41 games — half the season — Russell Westbrook is averaging 30.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.5 assists a game. Those numbers are insane, particularly considering his 42 percent usage rate. He has to put up numbers and do so fairly efficiently or the Thunder stand no chance of winning — and he has the Thunder on pace for 48 wins this season.

The Thunder picked up another of those wins Sunday night knocking off the Sacramento Kings behind Westbrook’s 20th triple-double in 41 games — 36 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. The video highlights are above.

It’s going to be fun watching him and James Harden go back-and-forth in the MVP race for the next few months.