Jeremy Lin comes back to earth, but inspires Knicks win

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The Knicks would not have won this game two weeks ago.

And that is the true measure Linsanity — it is not just the points and assists that Jeremy Lin brings anymore, it’s about the energy and fight he has brought out of this roster. Two weeks ago the Knicks would have rolled over and taken their loss on the second night of a back-to-back. They would have would all have been gunners and when the shots didn’t fall they would have accepted their fate.

Not now. Now they stage comebacks.

Jeremy Lin came back to earth some on Saturday night — hounded by Ricky Rubio he needed 24 shots to get his 20 points, he had eight assists but six turnovers.

But the Knicks — looking tired on the second night of a back-to-back — had other players step up, closed the game on a 5-0 run by making key plays and escaped Minnesota with a 100-98 win.

Oh, and Lin did hit the go-ahead free throw. So you can add that to the legend.

But this game was about the other Knicks. Down six with 3:30 left it looked like this was just not the Knicks night. For the six minutes before that the Knicks scored just two points, courtesy Tyson Chandler. Nothing worked. But they fought hard on defense (and the Timberwolves didn’t take advantage of some good looks and nifty plays by Rubio).

Then Steve Novak drained a three (he finished with 15), then Landry Fields and Iman Shumpert knocked down shots and suddenly the Knicks were ahead 95-94. Shumpert had 20 points off the bench and was New York’s best offensive player of the game.

Minnesota is a young team learning how to win, too. Kevin Love drew a foul and knocked down a couple free throws (he finished with a ridiculous 32 points and 21 rebounds), then Rubio made an impressive driving layup and the Wolves were up 3 with :39 seconds left.

Then, another Novak three. It was tied. Rubio had an ugly turnover, then soon Jeremy Lin was in the lane and drew a foul from Luke Ridnour (who didn’t need to foul, Nikola Pekovic had played Lin well on the drive). Minnesota had time for one clean look, but Rubio dribbled the ball off his foot and you kind of had a feeling how this was going to end.

The Knicks have found something more than just a point guard in Lin, they have found some passion and identity. The return of Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony can make that better. The Knicks can start to live up to the preseason promise of the squad. And that is the real meaning of Linsanity. Because two weeks ago that seemed impossible

Report: Clippers take Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumor ‘very seriously’

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Want to laugh off that Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumor?

The Clippers aren’t joining you.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The Clippers should be concerned. Losing Paul would unravel their entire foundation, dropping them from the fringe of championship contention to out of the title picture completely. It could even help usher out Blake Griffin, who will also be an unrestricted free agent this summer. (To be fair, Paul leaving could also help convince Griffin to stay.)

About a month ago, the Clippers reportedly expected Paul to stay. They even reportedly struck a verbal agreement with him to re-sign before that. But they can’t officially sign him until July, and that leaves the door open for him to leave.

The Clippers should be heartened by their advantages – a prime market and a projected max offer of $205 million over five years.

The most another team projects to be able to offer is $152 million over four years, and San Antonio will have a hard time doing that. Even if they trim their roster to Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Danny Green and Tony Parker, the Spurs would still have to shed two of those players to clear max cap space.

So, never say never, but the Clippers’ concern might be rooted more in the dire consequences of Paul leaving rather than the likelihood of it.

Report: Raptors, Magic can’t trade with each other for a year

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The Magic will send the Raptors a 2018 second-round pick for hiring Jeff Weltman, who was Toronto’s general manager.

But that’s not the only consequence of hire.

Yahoo Sports:

The move invoked the NBA provision that Toronto and Orlando are not permitted to trade players with each other until the earlier of May 24, 2018, or the conclusion of the 2017-18 season for either organization, league sources told The Vertical’s Shams Charania.

The NBA made a similar ruling when the Clippers sent the Celtics a first-rounder to hire Doc Rivers, and I don’t like it now, either. It’s needlessly restrictive, preventing talent from flowing to the optimal locations.

At least Orlando isn’t a logical destination for the Raptor most likely to be dealt: Jonas Valanciunas. The Magic already have enough centers with Nikola Vucevic and Bismack Biyombo – a lesson that influenced their last trade with Toronto, dealing Serge Ibaka.

2017 NBA playoffs have been historically uncompetitive

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The NBA Finals so many wanted to see – Cavaliers-Warriors III – is here.

At least it will be.

Today is the first of six off days before the 2017, which begin June 1 in Oakland.

The lengthy delay is the product of an underwhelming postseason featuring few competitive series and numerous blowouts.

Golden State swept its way through the West, and Cleveland dropped only one game (to the Celtics in the conference finals) while winning the East. There have been only two Game 7s, but considering the magnitude, neither felt that compelling. Blake Griffin‘s injury undercut the Clippers against the Jazz, and Celtics over Wizards felt inevitable with home teams winning each game of the series. Between, there have been several lackluster games and series.

There have been just 74 playoff games this year – the fewest before the Finals since since the NBA instituted a best-of-seven first round in 2003:

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That’s 74 of a possible 98 games – 76%, the lowest since 1999 and seventh-lowest ever.

Even if the Finals go seven games, it will be the fewest games in a postseason since 2007. If the Finals go five or fewer games, it’ll be the shortest postseason in this playoff format.

And it hasn’t just been quantity. The quality of games has been lacking, too.

Though there were more blowouts last year by nearly any measure, the 2017 postseason’s average margin in pre-Finals games (13.5) is fifth-highest all-time and second-highest since 1959 (behind 2016, 14.2).

Combine the two factors, and these are the drabbest playoffs in nearly 50 years. Here’s each postseason plotted by average margin in pre-Finals games and percentage of possible games pre-Finals:

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This probably just confirms what you’ve seen: The 2017 playoffs have been in a rut.

We’re all counting on the Cavaliers and Warriors to salvage this postseason, but considering how deep the hole is, anything less than an epic Finals probably won’t cut it.

Kyrie Irving crosses over Avery Bradley, hits 3-pointer (video)

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Avery Bradley got around one screen then, thanks to Kyrie Irving‘s excellent ball-handling, lunged at another that wasn’t coming as Irving hit a 3-pointer.