Clippers upend Memphis in battle of wanna be contenders

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It wasn’t the prettiest thing you’ll ever see.

No, I’m not talking about the ABA throwback uniforms…. well, those too. But I meant the game.

Doesn’t matter, the Clippers will take it. In a battle of teams trying to ascend to contender status, the Clippers executed better down the stretch and won 98-91. Nobody with the Thunder watched this game and felt nervous about a potential playoff matchup — nobody was taking a step up the contender ladder Thursday — but after losing to the Lakers because they got out-executed late the night before the Clippers turned the tables on the Grizzlies. That’s something for a growing team.

But really, we know why you were watching this game.

Los Angeles raced out to a quick double-digit lead but when Memphis stepped up the defensive pressure the Clippers turned the ball over (13 times in the first half) and that spurred some easy buckets to fuel a Grizzlies comeback. The game would be close the rest of the way.

Memphis needs those turnovers and runouts to really be efficient. However the Clippers tightened it up in the second half and only committed three turnovers, which slowed the Memphis attack. Marc Gasol had a good game, both scoring (18 points) and as a passer out of the post to cutters. But it wasn’t enough.

In the half court, both of these teams can be hard to watch. The Clippers are simplistic and predictable, but get away with it because Chris Paul is so special in the pick-and-roll — and they have so many athletes around him — that it just works.

Mo Williams had nine points in the fourth quarter, but in a key moment late the Clippers actually went away from the pick-and-roll (all that their offense seems to be for long stretches) and moved the ball from strong to weak, which opened a hole where Caron Butler was able to drive on the shifting Grizzlies defense and get points.

Rudy Gay had a game-high 24 points but he also had six turnovers, including a late strip by Butler and Chris Paul that sealed the game.

Joel Embiid upgrades himself from 69% to 81%: ‘Shoutout to Jalen Rose’

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A story in three parts:

1. After posting 46-15-7-7 in a win over the Lakers, frequently injured 76ers center Joe Embiid declared himself to be 69%:

2. ESPN analyst Jalen Rose called that joke “unprofessional:”

3. Embiid upgraded his status to 81% with a “shoutout to Jalen Rose:”

In case you didn’t get the joke.

Celtics’ Kyrie Irving: “It was a nice streak. But it was time to come to an end.”

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The Celtics established themselves as one of the NBA’s elite teams, a contender for the Eastern Conference title, during their 16-game win streak.

However, that hot streak to start the season will matter as much as Thanksgiving leftovers in the back of the refrigerator in April by the time the playoffs roll around. This is a team that still has work to do.

Which is what Kyrie Irving was getting at in this post-loss quote from Friday night, via Israel Gutierrez of ESPN.

“There’s still a lot to accomplish going forward,” Irving said. “It was a nice streak. But it was time to come to an end.”

This team still needs to get better and more consistent. The Celtics had to come from behind in the fourth quarter in eight of the 16 wins, and while the team defense was impressive the offense still can be hit and miss. Al Horford and Kyrie Irving play well off each other, but this is still the 20th ranked offense in the NBA. They are taking more long midrange jumpers than most coaches want, but the bigger challenge is they have not been finishing around the basket.

Titles are not won in November. Irving gets that. Jayson Tatum will hit the rookie wall at some point (they all do) and he needs to prove he can break through. Al Horford is playing maybe the best ball of his career and needs to keep it up. The Celtics need to keep their defensive focus (the fundamentals are there to have a top five defense). I could go on but you get the point, and so does Irving — there is a lot of work for this team to do.

Boston is off to a fantastic start, but it’s just that.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich: I’ve never seen injury like Kawhi Leonard’s

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Gregg Popovich is a basketball lifer.

He’s the NBA’s most experienced active head coach. Before that, he was the Spurs’ general manager. Before that, he was an NBA assistant. Before that, he was a college head coach and assistant. Before that, he was a college player. Before that, he was a youth player.

The San Antonio coach has seen everything.

Except the right quadriceps tendinopathy suffered by Kawhi Leonard, whom Popovich said more than a week would return “sooner rather than later.” Yet, Leonard still hasn’t played this season.

Popovich, via Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

“Never, never,” Popovich said when asked whether he has seen such a condition hampering one of his players. “What’s really strange is that [point guard] Tony [Parker] has the same injury, but even worse. They had to go operate on his quad tendon and put it back together or whatever they did to it. So to have two guys, that’s pretty incredible. I had never seen it before those guys.”

“I keep saying sooner rather than later,” Popovich said jokingly. “It’s kind of like being a politician. It’s all baloney, doesn’t mean anything.”

The 26-year-old Leonard is one of the NBA’s biggest on-court stars. He might be the league’s best defender, and he has built himself into an offensive force. The Spurs (11-7) have fared fine without him so far, but they’ll need him to accomplish their main goals – this year and beyond.

Hopefully, Leonard’s health is better than it sounds here, because Popovich’s answer sure isn’t encouraging.

Tim Hardaway Jr. calls fallen ref safe rather than defend shot (video)

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The Knicks went on a 28-0 run.

They earned the right to showboat late in their win over the Raptors last night.

Tim Hardaway Jr. called a ref, who slipped on the baseline, safe rather than contest Serge Ibaka‘s 3-pointer. Perfection!