J.R. Smith hits the step-back jumper at the buzzer to help Knicks beat Bobcats (VIDEO)

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The last few possessions of this game were pretty crazy, so it’s only fitting that things ended on a shot like this.

The Knicks beat the Bobcats on Wednesday in a game that was closer than expected, likely due to the fact that it was a look-ahead contest for them with a nationally televised game against the Heat in Miami on the horizon Thursday night.

But New York managed to keep it close enough to have a shot, and the youth and inexperience of the Bobcats ended up being their downfall in the game’s closing minutes.

And yes, there was this shot from J.R. Smith — a brilliant step-back jumper over the outstretched arm of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist that hit nothing but net as time expired.

Charlotte had its chances, with possession of the ball in a tie game with under a minute to play. Ben Gordon turned it over on a traveling violation up top, and then after Raymond Felton missed a jumper, Kidd-Gilchrist threw a brutal pass that was semi-cross court, and that had no chance of being received by his teammate.

Smith deflected it into Felton’s hands, and after Felton passed up a chance to go to the basket in a two-on-one situation, he kicked it out to Smith, and it was comic relief time as he couldn’t decide what to do next.

Smith first dribbled out toward the time line to reset the play, but with precious seconds ticking away, Jason Kidd nearly tackled the referee in calling for timeout before disaster struck, and the opportunity to win in regulation was lost.

Smith was able to compose himself once play resumed, and this beautiful game-winner was the result.

Watch Pacers fan boo Paul George during introductions (video)

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Paul George – who told the Pacers he’d leave in free agency, prompting them to trade him to the Thunder – expected boos in his return to Indiana.

Pacers fans delivered.

They’ve also booed him every time he has touched the ball, which will certainly persist.

John Wall returns for Wizards-Grizzlies

AP Photo/Nick Wass
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Point guard John Wall was in the Washington Wizards’ lineup Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies after missing nine games with a sore left knee.

Coach Scott Brooks said Wall would play in the mid-20-minute range, perhaps a bit more.

The Wizards (14-13), currently in first place in the Southeast Division, went 4-5 in Wall’s absence.

“He such a force offensively,” Brooks said of Wall. “He’s a two-way player and he’s one of the few guys in the league that can find open 3-point shooters going 100 miles an hour in transition.”

Wall, 27, is averaging 20.3 points and 9.2 assists per game.

Pacers president Kevin Pritchard likes tweets critical of Paul George trade

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Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard was widely panned – including by me – for trading Paul George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.

Oops.

Oladipo and Sabonis are killing it while George has underwhelmed.

Upon George’s return to Indiana, Pritchard took the opportunity to gloat. The Pacers general manager recently liked these tweets (hat tip: Matt Ellentuck of SB Nation):

This is petty – and I love it. Pritchard earned the victory lap.

Report: Rival executives still expect Paul George to leave Thunder for Lakers

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Paul George has been pretty open about his plans.

He told plenty of people – including the Pacers – he planned to leave for the Lakers in the summer of 2018. Even after the Thunder traded for him, George spoke of the lure of playing for his hometown team.

Of course, George also left the door open to re-signing with Oklahoma City. He proclaimed he’d be dumb to leave if the Thunder reached the conference finals or upset the Warriors.

So far, Oklahoma City (12-14) doesn’t even look like a playoff lock, let alone a team capable of knocking off Golden State or reaching the conference finals. So, cue the inevitable speculation.

Sam Amick of USA Today:

Rival execs still expect Paul to head for the Lakers in free agency

Do these executives have inside information into George’s thinking, or are they just speculating based on already-available information? Some executives are incentivized to drum up the Lakers threat, because they want to trade for George themselves now. If these executives insist George will leave for Los Angeles regardless, they might pry him from Oklahoma City for less.

There’s also a theory George is hyping his desire to sign with the Lakers so a team would have to trade less for him. That got him to the Thunder for what looked like a meager return (but hasn’t been). It might get him to a more favorable situation before the trade deadline without hampering his next team long-term. Of course, this theory isn’t mutually exclusive with George actually signing in Los Angeles. It could just get him better options to choose from this summer.

Surely, the Thunder are trying to parse all this noise. If their season doesn’t turn around, they should explore flipping George rather than risk losing him for nothing next summer. But they should also be wary that he’ll bolt for Los Angeles at first opportunity just because rival executives predict it.