Spurs sweep Jazz in Game 4: the Plague moves on as the youngsters have a lot to learn

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Thank God that’s over with. Spurs win 87-81.

The Spurs swept the Jazz Monday night in a contest where the Spurs controlled the entire game. The Jazz made a late run based mostly on the hustle of DeMarre Carroll, but it fell short went the Spurs picked off a pass and Manu Ginobili daggered the Jazz with a layup. It was the same stuff you’ve seen in the other three games. The Jazz missed a ton of looks at the rim, couldn’t hit from the perimeter, and got lost in the dizzying array of Spurs rotations. Oh, and Tony Parker sliced and diced the Jazz to pieces. The end.

Where Utah goes from here: How much better could the Jazz have been had they drafted anyone else in the first round? Kawhi Leonard would have given them a versatile wing to put on Manu Ginobili (and they wouldn’t have been facing him). Tristan Thompson would have given them more concerted effort and a bigger big with better hands. But most importantly, Brandon Knight would have given them a shooter point guard to pace Devin Harris with some legs. So Utah goes forward, trying to figure out where to go from here. Obviously Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap is a great combo, but the problem is, neither one is likely to get considerably better at their age. So do you stick with that combo or go elsewhere and try and upgrade? Do you trade in Millsap for a few upgrades at a few spots, knowing Gordon Hayward will improve?  Point guard is going to be another area they have to look at.

In other words, the Jazz have some work to do. But this year was a good year of progression for them. They gained some experience, and learned that they have a core to go forward with. Now it’s just a matter of being smart with how they construct from here.

Where San Antonio goes from here: Home, to rest. The semi-finals will feature back-to-backs, so getting this rest is crucial for San Antonio. They’ll face either the Clippers or Grizzlies who will be coming off a tough, physical series, even if the Clips close out Memphis in five. Getting healthy so they can dispatch their next opponent in due time is crucial for the. The Spurs can run, but they can also get banged up. They need to stay ahead of the schedule. This was step one, and it was crucial.

Beyond that, San Antonio proves that last year’s Memphis series was a fluke. They get the ghosts off their back and get back to dominating first-round opponents like they traditionally have done. The Spurs made a statement. They were not built for the regular season, they are deadly, and they are coming. The Plague is coming.

NBA reacts to Suns’ Devin Booker dropping 70 on Celtics

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Devin Booker was the story of the NBA Friday night.

The 20-year-old Suns’ guard — who never scored more than 19 points in a game at Kentucky in college — dropped 70 on the Boston Celtics in a losing effort. He becomes only the sixth player in NBA history to score at least 70 in a game. At the end the Suns were fouling and calling time outs to stop the clock and get the ball back to Booker, but as Phoenix coach Earl Watson said to those who complained, “You got a problem with that? Do something. Simple as that.”

NBA Twitter exploded at what Booker did.

Booker himself responded this way.

Lonzo Ball makes expected official, declares for NBA Draft

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There was no hesitation. None was expected.

After UCLA was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the Sweet 16 by Kentucky, the Bruin’s Lonzo Ball — who is expected to be a top-three pick — declared for the NBA draft this June.

Ball is expected to go second or third in the upcoming NBA draft. Speaking with people around the league Washington’s Markelle Fultz is a clear No. 1, but after that if the Lakers — the team with the second-worst record in the league — have the No. 2 pick they are expected to snap up Ball. Depending on how the lottery shakes out the top of the draft, Ball could fall a little — there are teams that like Josh Jackson — but not much.

Ball is a 6’6″ point guard who averaged 14.7 points, 7.6 assists and 6.1 rebounds a game for UCLA last season. He has fantastic passing vision, impressive shooting range (although he can take some questionable shots), and a great sense of floor spacing and how to run an offense, particularly in transition. However, his weaknesses were exposed in his final game some as De’Aaron Fox of Kentucky completely outplayed Ball. Defensive pressure took Ball (and the Bruins) out of rhythm, forced them to play in the half court (where Ball is not as strong), and it’s one of the things Ball is going to have to adapt to at the next level where everyone is more athletic. Also, he’s going to need to get more consistent defensively.

The potential for Ball to be special is there, which is why he will go high in the draft.

And no, the rantings of his father will not change that. Teams see the father as a distraction that can be handled, they aren’t going to let him get in the way of drafting talent.

Watch highlights of Shaquille O’Neal’s statue unveiling outside Staples Center

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Kobe Bryant said “Thank you. I learned so much from you as a player.”

Jerry West said he loved him like a son.

Jeanie Buss said “No one celebrates a championship like you, but please no more asking Mark Madsen to dance.”

The Lakers unveiled a new statue for Shaquille O’Neal Friday night, one flying high over a Staples Center entrance, and the stars were on hand for the event. Phil Jackson was there making Snoop Dogg jokes. Shaq and Kobe were sharing laughs. It was a big night for a big man with a big personality. And a big heart.

Check out the highlights above.

Report: Knicks’ Joakim Noah to be suspended 20 games for violating league drug policy

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Joakim Noah hasn’t set foot on an NBA court since Feb. 4, and his season was all but ended when he had knee surgery at the end of February. Last summer, Phil Jackson took a $72 million gamble on an aging Noah that has not worked at all, and left New York with an anchor of a contract for three more seasons after this one.

Tomorrow it will be official Noah is done for this season, but not because of the Knicks or his injury.

During his recovery, Noah violated the NBA’s drug policy and will pay for a 20-game suspension, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Noah tested positive for an over-the-counter supplement that is prohibited under the outgoing Collective Bargaining Agreement, league sources said.

Noah, 32, is expected to serve 10 games of the suspension to finish out the 2016-17 regular season and 10 games to start the 2017-18 season, league sources said.

The National Basketball Players Association’s investigation concluded that Noah hadn’t “knowingly or willingly” violated the policy and cooperated fully with the league’s probe, league sources said.

According to reports, this is not a substance banned in the new CBA that kicks in July 1, but was covered in the previous CBA. Over-the-counter supplements could be something put in his regular workout recovery drinks that he was unaware of, although we are unsure of the details.

Traditionally, the player has to be healthy enough to play before the league starts the suspension. Noah has been out for more than a month, but if a league doctor says he is healthy enough to play the then the clock on the suspension can start. The 10 games this season is no big deal for the Knicks, he wasn’t going to play anyway, but the 10 at the start of next season could sting (depending on how they plan to use him).