Argentina grinds down Brazil for win, wants another shot at USA

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Argentina’s “golden generation” will be playing for a London Olympics medal.

And (barring a major upset) they are going to get one more crack at the United States first.

Argentina beat Brazil in an emotional South American rivalry game Wednesday thanks to their savvy team play and defense. That team play turned out to be too much for the high-scoring guards of Brazil, so Argentina won 82-77.

If you didn’t think this game mattered to them, you should have seen them celebrating like they won a medal after it was over. They cared a lot about it.

Argentina next will face the winner of USA vs. Australia. Brazil will head one.

Argentina came out from the start in this game doing what they do — two man game, pick-and-roll at the top of the key, moving the ball and spacing the floor — all of which means good looks because they execute so well. And when they get good looks they will hit them — Argentina shot 60 percent behind balanced scoring in the first half.

Still, they were up just 46-40 at the break, in large part because Marcelinho Huertas was keeping it close for Brazil. He is not some guy who came out of nowhere, Huertas plays for Spanish powerhouse Barcelona and is an experienced international point guard. Huertas finished the game with 22 and got almost all his points in the first half.

However in the third the Argentinian defense tightened up and they started to pull away, stretching the lead out to 15 at one point. Brazil only scored 14 points in the third quarter while Argentina continued to score — Manu Ginobili finished with 16 as did Carlos Delfino, while Luis Scola had 17.

Brazil would not roll over — they cam back and made it a game late in the fourth quarter. Mostly because Leandro Barbosa started nailing threes and making plays (he finished with 22). But it never really felt like the veteran Argentinians would let this one slip away once they had control of it.

Argentina has lost both times they faced the USA this year. In a tune-up game they let the Americans get out to a huge lead then ground the game down and ended up losing by just six. The second meeting in the final day of group play it was close for a half but the USA went on one of it’s big runs in the third and Argentina kind of walked it in during the fourth.

Argentina has played the Americans well and they have the talent. If they can just control the American’s runs a little and make it a half-court, grinding game it could get interesting.

Even if Argentina were to lose that game, they would play for a bronze medal on Sunday.

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.