Knicks’ tired legs leading to fourth-quarter collapses

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It happened again Wednesday night — the Knicks had seized a lead with a 15-6 run just before halftime then solidified it with a 7-0 spurt early in the third quarter. They had a shot at a big win over Orlando.

Then it fell apart, as it has so often lately for the Knicks. The Magic were even by late in the third quarter and then went on a 9-0 run of their own early in the fourth and never looked back, winning by a dozen.

It’s a pattern. The Knicks have been giving up a lot of leads and playing terrible defense in the fourth quarter, notes NBA.com’s John Schuhmann.

The Knicks have led 10 of their 17 games since the trade at the end of the third quarter, and have lost four of those 10 games. They’ve been outscored in 11 of the 17 fourth quarters they’ve played, including each of the last four. They’ve give up 26 or more points in the fourth quarter in 12 of the 17 games, and 30 or more in seven.

Since the trade the Knicks have given up 109.4 points per 100 possessions (26th in the league) overall, but in the fourth quarter that has jumped to a 121.8 per 100 possessions — which is about the defense you get out of a set of orange traffic cones.

There are a number of factors at play here, but one is that is when the tired legs of the Knicks seem to be catching up with them.

After the loss to the Magic, Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said Amar’e Stoudemire was tired, having been worn down by the weight he carried this season and a lot games recetly.

Stoudemire agreed when talking to the New York Times, noting the Knicks had 18 games in March.

“I don’t think I’ve played in a month this hectic in probably my career,” Stoudemire said. “So it’s putting a toll on us a little bit.”

A toll like four straight losses and a 1-7 record in the Knicks’ last eight games, complete with some ugly fourth quarters. Which in the pressure cooker of New York leads to people thinking the trade was a mistake, the coach stinks, and that Raymond Felton is way better than Chauncey Billups. None of which is true. The Knicks have a long way to go to get to a contending level, but the team is not this bad, either. It just needs some rest, some practices and some more time together.

There are no vacations coming for the Knicks, but in April the schedule becomes more reasonable — they might even be able to fit in some of those practices. By the playoffs, things should look a little better. Not good enough to win a round, but better. But this is all about the long term for the Knicks, not the now.

No matter how ugly those fourth quarters look.

Reports: Pelicans to sign Jameer Nelson with Rondo out

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With Rajon Rondo out 4-6 weeks with a sports hernia, the New Orleans Pelicans were looking for a solid backup point guard.

This week, to make room to sign Richard Jefferson, the Denver Nuggets waived veteran Jameer Nelson.

While other teams such as the Rockets were calling, the Pelicans and Nelson have reached a deal, reports both Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports added this.

Nelson, in his 14th NBA season, became the top free agent on the market and received interest from contenders such as the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder and several other franchises that hoped to add the respected and accomplished veteran. But for Nelson, the Pelicans represent an opportunity to play significant minutes and provide leadership.

The Pelicans had a full roster of 15 players, they could have waited until next Tuesday and gotten a disabled player exception to add a 16th player, but they decided to go with something more permanent.

Jrue Holiday starts at the point for the Pelicans but with Rondo out — he was supposed to start next to Holiday — there is no depth at the position. The Pelicans can have Nelson step in and get minutes from the first time he steps on the court.

Nelson is still a solid pick-and-roll point guard, but what he brings to the table the Pelicans need more is shooting — he shot 38.8 percent from three last season and is a good spot up player. He can penetrate and make plays off handoffs as well, but it’s his shooting on a team that needs it that will be most valued.

The Pelicans have started the season 0-2 with losses to Memphis and Golden State. They take on the Lakers in Los Angeles Sunday night.

DeMarcus Cousins fined $25,000 for cursing at fan

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Near the end of New Orleans’ season-opening loss in Memphis, DeMarcus Cousins started getting into a war of words with a female Grizzlies fan, an exchange where allegedly “F-bombs” were dropped in both directions.

That’s going to cost Cousins.

Saturday the league announced that the Pelicans’ center has been fined $25,000 for “directing inappropriate language towards a fan.”

Cousins got a technical foul during this exchange, and that has been rescinded.

Cousins has averaged 31 points and 10 rebounds a game through two games this season, but it hasn’t been enough as New Orleans has started the season 0-2.

It’s not about the shoes: Kevin Durant loses his, blocks two shots anyway

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Shoes? Kevin Durant don’t need no stinkin’ shoes.

Early in the second quarter of the Warriors win in New Orleans Friday, Durant came out of his shoes on a layup in the lane. He then picked up his shoe, carried it to the other end, flipped it to the bench, and played defense without it, and while he got moved out of the way allowing an offensive rebound for the Pelicans he then proceeded to block Tony Allen twice at the rim.

Durant — after deciding to play the rest of the game in shoes — had seven blocks on the night, to go with 22 points.

Joel Embiid frustrated, wants more post touches, to play back-to-backs

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Joel Embiid remains a frustrated man.

He wants to be unleashed on the NBA, and he feels he’s being held back.

Part of that is not playing in back-to-backs — Embiid started Friday night against Boston but will sit out by plan Saturday night against the Raptors in Toronto. Embiid knows the plan to help protect a body that has played only 31 games in three seasons before this one and was not cleared for most of training camp, but that doesn’t mean he likes it, as he told Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia.

“I just want to feel like an NBA player,” Embiid said.  “I feel like I’m not an NBA player because I can’t play back-to-back.”

I get his frustration, but can you blame the Sixers for treating the guy like he’s made of glass at this point? Hopefully, later in the season, he can be cleared to play on both ends.

His second frustration came from the loss to the Celtics on Friday — he wants more post touches. In the video above he is clear, “I didn’t get the ball enough in the post.”

He’s right here. Embiid had three post-ups all game, one in each of the game’s first three quarters (stat via Synergy Sports). Embiid is efficient in the post — he has shot 9-of-12 on those plays overall this season and the Sixers score 1.33 points per possession when he does. That will work especially well against teams going small (for example, the Cavaliers with Kevin Love at the five), although Friday night Boston had big man Aron Baynes starting at center (in part because of Embiid, in part because Marcus Smart was out injured). Still, Embiid can score on Baynes.

Take a look at Embiid’s shot chart from Friday night.

Part of this is on him with all the threes, but they have to utilize him better. It’s part of the Sixers growing pains that will come this season.