Knicks show their flaws, Nets get big win for franchise

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Games in November don’t have a playoff atmosphere… usually. But every once in a while there is an exception.

And this was it — Brooklyn’s first home game against the Knicks may have been in November but New York fans were treating this like a hockey playoff game. There was constant chanting like a Brazilian soccer game. The fans of both teams were into it.

And they got an entertaining, playoff intensity game. They got November execution — it was sloppy at points — but some real intensity.

And Brooklyn got a 96-89 overtime win.

For the Nets, it is really is just one-of-82 on the schedule but is a nice win for the psyche of the franchise as it works to establish its foothold in the New York market.

For the Knicks, the reasons they lost this game down the stretch are trends that have emerged at points this young season, things they need to clean up as the season wears on. These things are the difference between the Knicks as threats to the Heat and the Knicks that get in the first round again.

For one, there was bad shot selection — Raymond Felton kept gunning despite a Bargnani-like 3-of-19 shooting night. He had good moments setting up Tyson Chandler on the pick-and-roll, but as the game wore on the Nets dared Felton to take the shot and he did. And he kept missing — he was 1-of-10 in the fourth quarter and overtime.

It wasn’t just him taking and missing shots late, Carmelo Anthony had a nice line of 35 points (on 11-of-25 shooting) plus 13 rebounds for the game. But he had 9 points on 2-of-9 shooting in the fourth quarter and overtime as he went with more isolation plays that led to a couple key misses. He fell back into old habits. Oh, and he missed a couple key free throws.

The real bright spot in the Knicks offense Chandler, who had 28 points and 10 rebounds, running a great pick and roll with Felton and having a signature putback dunk. But if Chandler is your offensive bright spot it’s going to be a rough night.

Still, in the second half the Knicks shot just 7-of-24 in the paint as a team.

Then there was the Knicks defense getting exposed. The Knicks switched the pick-and-roll most of the night and Deron Williams made them pay to the tune of 16 points and 14 assists. The Nets did a great job of running a Deron Williams pick and roll with Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace, getting the switch then having those guys back down Felton and get a good look. They did that all night and made runs with it, like the 9-1 one at the end of the third quarter that got them back in it.

The other thing that killed the Knicks was losing guys who cut off the ball — all night long Nets players got good looks just by cutting away from the ball and their defender losing them. Down three inside three minutes to go the Nets got a key bucket when Brook Lopez made a run, Chandler tracked the ball and the result was an easy layup. Lopez finished with 22.

There was also some bad Knicks pick-and-roll moments and apparently Jerry Stackhouse was wearing a cloak of invisibility because the Knicks didn’t see him get open for the corner three all night long (he was 4-of-5 from three and had 14 points). There also was terrible defensive rebounding as the Nets had 18 offensive rebounds (35.5 percent of their missed shots).

The Knicks are not crisp on defense like they were last season, and if they don’t get that focus back this year’s playoffs will look like last year’s. But there is a long time between now and then.

Same with the Nets, who had a rough defensive start to the season but held the Knicks to 96.2 points per 100 possessions. They keep that up and keep scoring and the playoffs could last a while in Brooklyn.

We’re a long way from that for both teams. But the Nets got the win they wanted and both sides got some lessons to work on for the months ahead.

Kevin Durant gets into Twitter debate with reporter over White House comments

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Kevin Durant became the latest Warrior — joining Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston, that we know of — to say he would not visit President Donald Trump’s White House as NBA champion. Which is all kind of moot because it’s unlikely the White House invites them and outspoken Trump critic/Warriors coach Steve Kerr and his players any way. (The White House’s biggest concern should be that Kerr accepts the invitation and uses that platform to challenge the president’s policies and style in front of him.)

Durant’s comments led to plenty of talk on sports talk radio and around the sports world online about whether a player or team should decline an invitation from the president. It’s not a new debate, Tom Brady denied that politics is why he didn’t visit Barack Obama’s White House (although I’m not sure many believed him), but KD’s on a big stage now so it became a talking point.

Former ESPN reporter Britt McHenry questioned a player not visiting the White House, and Durant responded, leading to a little Twitter back-and-forth.

Durant had previously Tweeted in response “by doing the opposite, I am inspiring more people” but that Tweet was deleted.

There is no one correct way to protest a person/policy/action, McHenry may see things differently, but Durant has chosen to stay away. That’s valid — traditionally these “champions to the White House” things are tedious photo ops with a few bad jokes thrown in. Having a hoops fan/player in Obama in the White House made the NBA visits more entertaining the past eight years, there was some trash talk, but still, they are largely just a public relations moment. If KD doesn’t want to play the PR game with Trump, that’s a legitimate response.

This has all been a tempest in a teapot. Until/unless the White House actually invites the Warriors to come, it’s all kind of moot.

Dwight Howard on Hornets’ coach Clifford: “It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you”

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Dwight Howard‘s game is much better than his reputation among fans.

He’s not the Defensive Player of the Year/All-NBA/MVP candidate level player he was back in Orlando, but Howard is still one of the best rebounders in the game, he’s strong defensively, and he’s an efficient scorer inside. He’s a quality center, if he plays within himself and is used well. His perception as a guy who does not take the game seriously and held back Houston and Atlanta in recent years has validity (he plays better in pick-and-roll than on the move, but wants the ball in the post), but the idea he is trash is flat-out wrong. He’s still good.

Howard wants to change his reputation, rewrite the final chapters of his career, and told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN that Steve Clifford’s Charlotte Hornets are the place that is going to happen.

“The other places I was, the coaches didn’t really know who I am,” Howard told ESPN. “I think that they had perception of me and ran with it. Cliff knows my game. He knows all the things that I can do. I’m very determined to get back to the top. It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you. They aren’t just saying it; they believe it. It really just pushed me to the limit in workouts: running, training, everything. I want to do more.

“In Orlando, I was getting 13-15 shots a game. Last season, in Atlanta, it was six shot attempts. It looks like I’m not involved in the game. And if I miss a shot, it sticks out because I am not getting very many of them. But I think it’s all opportunity, the system. I haven’t had a system where I can be who I am since I was in Orlando.”

Howard averaged 8.3 field goal attempts per game in Atlanta, which is about five a game below his peak. Last season 75 percent of Howard’s shots came within three feet of the rim — is is not there to space the floor, however, he can still move fairly well off the roll and is a good passer for a big.

Last season, 28 percent of Howard’s possessions came on post ups, and he averaged a pedestrian 0.84 points per possession on those. On the 21 percent of shots he got on a cut, he averaged a very good 1.36 PPP. When he got the ball back as a roll man (again on the move), it was 1.18 PPP. The challenge long has been Howard is better on the move but doesn’t feel involved unless he gets post touches, and if he doesn’t feel involved and engaged he’s not the same player.

Maybe Clifford can make this all work with some older plays where Howard feels comfortable.

Charlotte, with Howard in the paint and on the boards, should get back to being a top 10 NBA defensive team, not the middle of the pack as they were last season. Clifford is better than that as a coach, and Howard is an upgrade in the paint (on both ends). Charlotte should be a playoff team again in the East.

But it all will come back to Howard. Fair or not. And Wojnarowski is right, this is Howard’s last best chance to write the ending he wants to his career.

Friday afternoon fun: Watch James Harden’s 10 best plays from last season

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James Harden had a historic season in Houston.

Since it’s Friday afternoon and your sports viewing options consist of watching guys about to be cut from NFL rosters try to impress, why not check out Harden’s best plays from last season. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

Mavericks sign Jeff Withey to one-year contract

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Jeff Withey‘s ex-fiancée accused him of domestic violence, but he was not charged.

That frees him to continue his basketball career, which he’ll do in Dallas.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks could use another center, even if they re-sign Nerlens Noel. Salah Mejri is the only other true center, though Dirk Nowitzki will now play the position.

Withey is a good rim protector. Just don’t ask him to do anything away from the basket.

Dallas annually brings excess players to training camp and has them compete for regular-season roster spots. Whether or not his salary is guaranteed, Withey will likely fall into that competition.