Pau Gasol out, Dwight Howard a game-time decision Sunday vs. Cavaliers

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Mike D’Antoni knew that beating the Thunder on Friday without Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol would be asking a lot of his reeling Lakers. That’s why he placed the emphasis on beginning the team’s potential run at turning things around on Sunday night’s home game against the 9-29 Cleveland Cavaliers.

“I told the team, the biggest thing is our season starts Sunday,” he said. “We’ve got to make a run. We’ve got one shot at it, and everybody needs to get ready mentally and physically.”

If the Lakers are to begin to put together a streak beginning Sunday, they’ll have to do it without Gasol, and possibly without Howard, as well.

From Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times:

Howard will be reevaluated before tip-off, and if he is able to go, his mere presence inside should ensure that Cleveland will have major difficulty offensively outside of the guard play of Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters.

The Cavaliers won the first meeting of the season between the two teams back on Dec. 11 in Cleveland, and while Gasol missed that one with knee tendinitis, the Cavaliers got 20 points, nine rebounds, and five assists from Anderson Varejao, who is now out himself due to a knee injury that required surgery.

With or without Howard, and definitely without Gasol, D’Antoni is right — the Lakers need to start piling up wins very soon if they’re going to begin to turn it around, and Sunday night against the Cavaliers would seem to be the right time to start.

Dwyane Wade says Bulls’ showers had no hot water in Boston

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The Bulls suffered a rough loss in Boston last night.

It didn’t get better afterward.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

Celtics general manager Danny Ainge – who played for Boston in the 80s – pleaded ignorance to any nefarious plumbing:

I think the idea that teams plot to shut off the visitor’s hot water is often overstated. Arenas have complex infrastructure, and things can go wrong on their own. Sometimes, the home team loses hot water, but that never gets remembered.

But reasonable excuses don’t make a cold shower in the moment any more tolerable.

Robin Lopez pushes short floater over backboard (video)

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Robin Lopez had reason to be upset from the Bulls’ Game 5 loss to the Celtics last night.

This miss was all on him.

Dwyane Wade plays the laziest defense you’ll ever see (video)

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Dwyane Wade (26 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists) was the Bulls’ best player in their Game 5 loss to the Celtics last night.

But the 35-year-old guard clearly didn’t go all out on every possession.

Players can justify not closing out by claiming they were prioritizing rebounding position. Wade clearly has no such excuse.

Video Breakdown: Clippers use JJ Redick in split cut to fool Jazz at 3-point line

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The Los Angeles Clippers dropped Game 5 to the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night, and find themselves down 3-2 as they head back to Salt Lake City for Game 6. The Clippers have had to deal with Utah’s formidable defense, so much so that they’ve built in counters to Jazz defenders overplaying shooters like JJ Redick.

One example of this countering method could be found in Game 3, when the Clippers ran a split cut for Redick. Instead of fighting endlessly around screens for a 3-point shot as you might expect, LA took the easy route and simply cut Redick to the basket for an easy layup as a means to take advantage of an overeager defender.

We’ve talked about the Split Cut here on NBA Playbook before. The Los Angeles Lakers used it earlier in the season to beat the Golden State Warriors, the team that uses the split cut perhaps the most out of any team in the NBA.

Other teams, including the Portland Trail Blazers, have adapted the Warriors’ use of the split cut as a counter for their own offense this season, which is a testament to just how useful it is.

If you need a reminder, a split cut all about a screener coming up to screen, then cutting toward the basket before his screen action fully takes place. It’s about timing, and catching defenders off guard when they go to set up their recover positions for screens.

For a full breakdown on the split cut and how the Clippers used it, watch the video above.