Another guy who should like the Howard trade? Pau Gasol.


Last season was not the most fun Pau Gasol has ever had in the NBA. Andrew Bynum and Kobe Bryant were soaking up his post touches, Mike Brown’s offense had him at the elbow and at other times as a glorified stretch four. He was not used well.

Gasol has to love the Dwight Howard for Andrew Bynum trade. For a whole lot of reasons.

Starting with he never wanted to leave Los Angeles. He likes living in a diverse city where there are touches of his native Barcelona — José Andrés’ The Bazaar for food, the weather — as well as a nice lifestyle near the beach. Now he stays (at least for a few years until his contract runs out). Now he has Kobe Bryant saying Gasol will be a Laker as long as he is there (which again is not a long-term guarantee).

But on the court Howard is a better fit with Gasol. Howard isn’t a guy just going to the block, he is also a very effective pick-and-roll big man — he shot 74 percent when he got the ball back rolling to the rim last year. And now it is Steve Nash running that play a lot of the time. Howard may stay out top, giving Gasol room to operate in the post at points. (Howard and Kobe will get touches there as well.)

Gasol will get mismatches at the four he can exploit. He will get runs with the second unit where the offense will go through him. If the Lakers do move to more of a Princeton offense, Gasol will get a lot of touches because of his passing skills.

And on defense Howard will make everything easier. He will clean up a lot of mistakes and shut down a lot of pick-and-rolls.

Don’t worry, at some point this season Kobe is going to rip Gasol to the media because Gasol will be coasting. Gasol does not bring Kobe’s nightly fire to the game.

But he does bring a lot of skills and a lot of things that were key to the Lakers winning two rings. And now maybe he will get the chance to use them rather than being forced out of his comfort zones like last year.

Utah’s Donovan Mitchell with shot of night to force OT with Spurs


One of the factors to consider in the Rookie of the Year race: clutch plays.

Down three with less than 10 seconds to go Friday night, the Utah Jazz put the ball in the hands of their rookie playmaker Donovan Mitchell — and he made the play, draining a three to force overtime. It’s an impressive play.

In the clutch this season (last five minutes of a game, within five points), Mitchell has averaged 3.2 shots per contest (by far the most of any rookie) and has a true shooting percentage of 51 percent. Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons, the other front-runner in the ROY race, averages less than a shot per game in those clutch situations (0.8) and has a true shooting percentage of 66.7 percent.

Mitchell made the big shot, but the Spurs made plenty too, had 45 points on the night from LaMarcus Aldridge, and got the win.


PBT Extra: Who is coming out of the Eastern Conference?

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The Toronto Raptors will finish with the No. 1 seed and all the best metrics in the East, but they have a history of playoff flameouts. The Boston Celtics’ have been hit hard by injuries. And the Cleveland Cavaliers have LeBron James but also a dreadful defense, this is the most vulnerable a LeBron led team has been since he bolted Cleveland seven years ago.

So what team is coming out of the East?

We get into that in this latest PBT Extra. A poll on Twitter found most of you think the Cavaliers, but personally, I think the Raptors — who have been better defensively all season than the Cavs — may finally have their year.

LaMarcus Aldridge drops career-high 45 points, Spurs beat Jazz in OT

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — LaMarcus Aldridge had a career-high 45 points, helping San Antonio overcome Donovan Mitchell‘s 35-point performance for Utah in the Spurs’ 124-120 overtime victory over the Jazz on Friday night.

The Spurs won their sixth straight and beat the Jazz for the first time in four meetings this season.

Utah’s 12-game road winning streak came to an end, but only after Mitchell had 14 points in the fourth quarter, including three 3-pointers in the final two minutes to force overtime.

San Antonio remained sixth in the Western Conference with the same record as fifth-place New Orleans, a half-game behind Oklahoma City for fourth. Utah remained eighth in the West.

After free throws by Spurs guards Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills and a dunk by Jazz center Rudy Gobert put San Antonio up 114-111, Mitchell drained his third 3-pointer of the fourth with 3.6 seconds remaining to force overtime.

Mills, who finished with 23 points, had six points in overtime as the Spurs capped an undefeated six-game homestand.

Aldridge averaged 32.2 points and 9.0 rebounds during the winning streak, including two double-doubles.

Aldridge scored 28 points in the first half on 12-for-16 shooting, including a 3-pointer.

Utah missed its first six shots and was 4 for 14 as San Antonio grabbed a 19-8 lead midway through the first quarter. Mitchell settled the Jazz, scoring six points to cut the Spurs lead to 29-21 heading into the second quarter.

Mitchell was 14-for-35 shooting while falling six points shy of his season-high.

Derrick Favors added 22 points for Utah and Ricky Rubio had 20.

Ginobili finished with 18 points for the Spurs.


Stephen Curry leaves game with knee injury


In his first night back from an ankle injury that forced him to miss six games, Stephen Curry limped off the court not to return after in third quarter Friday night after JaVale McGee fell into his knee.

He limped to the bench then eventually to the locker room after the injury.

The severity of the injury is not yet known and should become clear on Saturday after an MRI.

Curry scored 29 points and grabbed seven rebounds before being forced to leave the game, and the Warriors held on to win the game.

Obviously, if Curry is out heading into the playoffs, that changes the dynamic in the West, where the Houston Rockets were already right on the heels of the Warriors.