DeAndre Jordan

Clippers 103, Blazers 90: DeAndre Jordan and Jamal Crawford get the job done

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After dismantling the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday, the Clippers trip to Portland the very next night would seem to be a vacation by comparison — and it certainly started out that way. But Portland fought back from a 26-point first-half deficit to get within four in the final period, before L.A. stabilized and pulled away to take it by a final of 103-90.

The Clippers entered Thursday night’s game in Portland with one of the top four offenses in the league, while the Blazers were in the bottom four in team defense. The numbers certainly didn’t lie early, as L.A. seemed unstoppable in the first half, putting up 60 points by the break and leading by as many as 26 in the process.

Portland just came out with a lack of energy and zero urgency against a Clippers team that has much more talent and is built to score at will, especially when they aren’t challenged in the slightest. The Blazers settled for jumpers and three-pointers possession after possession, while being slow to get back in transition and rotate defensively.

Things changed a little for the Blazers during the big third-quarter run that got them back in it, but only in the sense that the outside shots started to fall, which fueled the energy to play defense on the other end. Portland shot 53 percent from the field in the second half to make up for the 35 percent it shot in the first, but the team isn’t deep enough to dig its way out of that kind of a hole against one like the Clippers, who are loaded with veteran depth and talent.

DeAndre Jordan had a monster game for L.A., and finished with 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting, while grabbing eight rebounds in just 28 minutes of action. He showed excellent footwork inside, and seems more comfortable playing within his athleticism this year than last.

Former Blazer Jamal Crawford really killed Portland in this one, and led all scorers with 25 points off the bench. He was attacking and aggressive all night long, and the boos from the crowd in Portland he was hearing likely had something to do with that.

The Blazers continued to see good things out of rookie Damian Lillard, who plays under control with confidence and poise while initiating his team’s offense. Myers Leonard got loose for a couple of nice lob dunks at the rim, one of which came as he cut baseline and threw it down over Ronny Turiaf late in the game.

But any effort from the Blazers came far too late to matter. L.A. showed why it’s an upper-echelon team in the Western Conference, and Portland will need to play with maximum intensity from the opening tip to have a legitimate chance most nights this season.

Kyle Lowry to critical DeMar DeRozan: ‘Every shot you shoot is a bad shot, analytic-wise’ (video)

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Your reminder that Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are the best together.

DeRozan was asked about Lowry’s long 3-pointers after the Raptors’ win over the Timberwolves last night.

  • DeRozan: “”Them shots be lucky. โ€ฆ To me, it’s a bad shot.”
  • Lowry (off camera): “Every shot you shoot is a bad shot, analytic-wise.”

That’s not quite what the analytics say, but I won’t let the facts get in the way of a superb diss.

Gregg Popovich pins Spurs’ effort problems on players: ‘I don’t remember playing tonight’ (video)

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich gives instructions against the Detroit Pistons in the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game in Auburn Hills, Mich., Monday, Oct. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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The Spurs fell behind by 18 and eventually lost to the Bulls, 95-91, last night โ€“ which begged the question:

Does San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich bear any responsibility for his team’s lack of early intensity?

Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News:

Popovich:

I don’t remember playing tonight. I didn’t play. Guys get a lot of money to be ready to play. No Knute Rockne speeches. It’s your job. If you’re a plumber and you don’t do your job, you don’t get any work. I don’t think a plumber needs a pep talk. If a doctor botches operations, he’s not a doctor anymore. If you’re a basketball player, you come ready. It’s called maturity. It’s your job.

Like it or not, motivation is part of an NBA coach’s job.

But that’s also precisely what Popovich is doing.

His credentials dwarf any other coach’s. He can play to his own ego and absolve himself of responsibility โ€“ and players will seek to please him. His years of success have earned him the ability to motivate this way, a method no other coach could use without alienating his team.

Donatas Motiejunas signing four-year, $35 million contract with Rockets

DENVER, CO - MARCH 07:  Donatas Motiejunas #20 of the Houston Rockets is helped to his feet by teammates James Harden #13 and Patrick Beverley #2 of the Houston Rockets at Pepsi Center on March 7, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockets defeated the Nuggets 114-100. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Once the Rockets let Donatas Motiejunas back into free agency, this was only a matter of time.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

This sounds remarkably similar to the salaries and incentives set in the original offer sheet from the Nets. But remember, the Rockets didn’t match some of those bonuses that Brooklyn would have been bound to.

So, why not hold Motiejunas to what became a four-year, $31 million offer sheet once matched? Houston got something in return โ€“ a later trigger date on guaranteeing Motiejunas’ 2017-18 salary. Originally, that decision had to be made March 1 โ€“ which would’ve meant dropping Motiejunas from the team this season to prevent his salary from counting next season. Now, the Rockets can make that call in July, after this season is complete.

The following two Julys, Houston will also have a choice on guaranteeing Motiejunas’ upcoming salary or dropping him.

Essentially, Motiejunas is signing the most lucrative Hinkie Special in NBA history. If he plays well and stays healthy, the Rockets have Motiejunas at an affordable rate. If he struggles or his back injuries flare up, they can drop him with little to no penalty.

After they backed themselves into this corner, Motiejunas and his agent, B.J. Armstrong, didn’t do so bad. Considering the similarity between this contract and the Nets’ original offer sheet, it seems Houston helped Armstrong save face after a bungled free agency (which is easier to accept when you’re adding a talented reserve to a formidable team).

But for how little is guaranteed and how much control the Rockets hold over the next four years, wouldn’t Motiejunas have been better off accepting the $4,433,683 qualifying offer?

Report: Rockets return Donatas Motiejunas to restricted free agency, working on new contract with him

Donatas Motiejunas, Kenneth Faried
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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The Rockets had Donatas Motiejunas in a bind.

He was beholden to them on a four-year, $31 million deal and unable to sign with other teams. Motiejunas’ choices: Report for a physical or wait in limbo.

But apparently Houston has allowed him out of that constraint.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

This means Motiejunas can’t sign with the Nets, who signed him to the original offer sheet, for one year.

I bet it also means Motiejunas and Houston have agreed to a new contract. Otherwise, why release him from the offer sheet? The Rockets would be giving up a tremendous amount of leverage out of the goodness of their hearts โ€“ unless this is just a prelude to a new deal with Houston.