Blake Griffin

New night, same problems haunt Clippers in loss to Hornets

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Three games in three nights. Three losses. Each seemingly uglier than the last.

Right now, the Clippers are not a good basketball team, and coach Vinny Del Negro could pay the price for that.

A night after Del Negro’s postgame tirade at his team after it was blown out by the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Clippers came out with a new energy in New Orleans on Thursday but were haunted by the same old problems — they don’t defend well (the Hornets shot 57.6 percent), they foul too much (the Hornets had 34 free throws) and when Chris Paul and the offense can’t bail them out they struggle.

The Clippers’ offense failed them late with 11 fourth-quarter points and the New Orleans Hornets won 97-90.

What has to turn the stomach of Clippers fans — and likely Clippers management — is how the less talented Hornets played with far more fire and passion. That is a feisty team that coach Monty Williams has executing to its strengths — Jarrett Jack (17 points, 9 assists) and Chris Kaman (20 points, 10 rebounds).

The feistiness got a little out of hand in the fourth quarter when Jason Smith put a full on body check on Blake Griffin as the Clippers star went up for a layup. Four Clippers including DeAndre Jordan and Chris Paul ran over to Smith (who went back by the stands, which had to make David Stern queasy) but cooler heads prevailed.

Smith was ejected for a flagrant 2 foul and you can bet a multi-game suspension is coming. This hit was more reminiscent of something the Saints got in trouble for than the Hornets.

But while that put a new fire under the Clippers, it didn’t solve their execution problems.

Which may well tie into a report that Del Negro has lost the locker room. From Chris Broussard of ESPN:

Most of the players, according to sources, believe it’s time for a change. They cite the uncertainty of Del Negro’s rotation as a major problem…

Beyond that, players have complained that Del Negro’s offensive and defensive schemes are too basic and predictable and they say he plays favorites when handing out criticism, according to the sources. They say while he refuses to harshly criticize stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, he does not hold back in jumping on the team’s lesser players.

“That’s a big problem,” one player said. “The best coaches jump on whoever deserves it, no matter who it is.”

Del Negro’s job changed when the Chris Paul trade happened before the season — they instantly went from a young team that Del Negro was supposed to help grow to a contender. There were questions in Clipper camp then if he was the right coach for that job, but he was going to be given a chance. He was going to get the season (his contract has a team option for next season).

“Vinny has lost the team,” one source said. “They don’t want to play hard for him.”

Even when they do, their flaws and execution betray them.

Something needs to change with the Clippers. They are 7-12 in their last 19 games and while they are still going to make the playoffs in the West they are fast becoming the team everyone hopes to draw.

It’s hard to see how that changes without a major shakeup.

Terrence Jones scores 36, leads Pelicans past Cavaliers 124-122

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Terrence Jones filled in brilliantly for injured All-Star Anthony Davis, scoring a season-high 36 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and blocking LeBron James‘ dunk attempt in the fourth quarter, and the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 124-122 on Monday night.

Jrue Holiday added 33 points and 10 assists for the Pelicans, and Langston Galloway capped a 12-point night with a clean steal on James’ drive in the final minute, preventing the Cavs from erasing a deficit they had trimmed from 22 late in the first half to three with 1:32 left in the game.

Kyrie Irving scoring 35 of his 49 points in the second half, but the Cleveland fell to its fifth loss in seven games. James had 26 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds.

Two of Cleveland’s recent losses came against Western Conference leaders Golden State and San Antonio, but two others have come against teams currently outside the playoff picture in the West: New Orleans and Portland.

Kevin Love had 22 points for Cleveland, which could not quite keep pace with a Pelicans squad that tied a season high for 3-pointers with 16 and shot 49.4 percent (43 of 87).

Donatas Moteijunas scored 14 for New Orleans, while Dante Cunningham scored 11. Each hit a pair of 3s.

The Cavs drained 15 3s, eight by Irving, whose step-back jumper from long range had Cleveland within three with 21 seconds to go, but the Cavs got no closer until Love’s anticlimactic 3 in the final second.

Embarrassed in a 29-point loss to NBA-worst Brooklyn at home on Friday, the Pelicans were eager for a chance to redeem themselves with a competitive showing against the defending champs. That did not appear likely when New Orleans announced less than an hour before tip-off that Davis would be unable to play because of his right leg bruise lingering from a collision with the Nets’ Spencer Dinwiddie.

Coach Alvin Gentry inserted Jones for Davis as the starting center, and he responded with arguably the most dynamic half of play in the fifth-year veteran’s career. He hit all eight of his shots in the first half, scoring 22 points on an array of jumpers – including two 3s – weaving drives and feisty put-backs.

Holiday, meanwhile, got into an equally prolific rhythm, hitting three 3s and highlighting several impressive drives to the hoop with a two-handed dunk. Holiday’s pullup jumper from just inside the 3-point line with 6 seconds left in the second quarter gave him 22 points and New Orleans a 22-point lead, and Holiday pumped his fist while one of the biggest crowds of the season went wild.

In the last second of the half, James executed a long inbound pass to Love, who converted a quick-release layup to make it 70-50.

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: Coach Tyronn Lue was assessed a technical foul by official Leroy Richardson after the coach chastised Richardson for a late whistle giving Moteijunas free throws following a missed layup. … The Cavs won the teams’ only other meeting this season, 90-82 in Cleveland on Jan. 2. … Irving slung in what would have been a sensational, off-balance, one-handed shot from about 30 feet, but it didn’t count because it came too late after Irving was fouled by Tyreke Evans as the pair pursued a loose ball near mid-court.

Pelicans: New Orleans improved to 2-2 without Davis in the lineup. … G E'Twaun Moore, who is 6-foot-4, delighted the crowd by rejecting the 6-8 James near the basket in the first half. … New Orleans shot 60.5 percent (26 of 43) in the first half.=

 

Heat’s Dion Waiters drains game-winning three to knock off Warriors (VIDEO)

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Last week Golden State crushed Cleveland, Oklahoma City, and Houston.

But none of those teams had Dion Waiters.

The final three of Waiters’ 33 points came on a deep pull-up three with 0.6 seconds left to give Miami a 105-102 upset of the Warriors. Waiters shot 13-of-20 overall and 6-of-8 from three.

This was a night the Warriors just could not get the three ball to fall, shooting 8-of-30 (26.7 percent) from deep. This ended Golden State’s seven-game win streak and extended the Miami win streak to four.

Joakim Noah with as ugly a free throw as you’ll see. And he knows it. (VIDEO)

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Joakim Noah used to be a good free throw shooter, he’s hit 70 percent for his career. But he’s shooting just 42.9 percent this season.

And no miss was uglier than the one Monday night against the Pacers.

The best part of this airball was Noah’s reaction — he knew it was bad the second he let it go.

If you want to draw parallels with the Knicks’ season, go for it.

Stephen Curry finds Kevin Durant for tomahawks slam in transition (VIDEO)

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The Warriors in transition can be beautiful basketball.

And if you don’t stop the guy with the ball from getting a straight line to the hoop, there will be highlights. In the first half Monday night, the Heat did a good job making Stephen Curry give up the ball in transition (not letting him just pull up for a three), but he found Kevin Durant, who found a lane to the basket, and… highlight tomahawk dunk.

It was a two-point game at the half between the Heat and Warriors, after what was a second quarter both teams probably want to forget.