Chris Paul makes sure the Clippers leave with a win over Pacers

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The Clippers probably thought they had sealed a quality road win over the Pacers much earlier than they had, getting out to a lead of as many as 17 points with 5:38 remaining in regulation.

But as they’ve done all season long, the Pacers refused to quit, and went on a furious 13-0 run in less than three minutes of game time to cut the L.A. lead to just four with 2:45 to play.

Chris Paul took matters into his own hands from there, however, and scored his team’s final eight points to give the Clippers the 99-91 victory over one of the East’s top-tier teams.

It wasn’t as though the Pacers didn’t have their chances. Even without Roy Hibbert, who was forced to miss this one due to serving a one-game suspension for his role in the altercation with the Warriors on Tuesday, Indiana remained close, especially in the first half, by defensively trading the Clippers’ three-point shooting for points in the paint instead.

As L.A. opened 1-14 from three-point distance in the first half, the team managed to do its damage inside, outscoring the Pacers 32-14 in the paint. Indiana stayed close by shooting better than 52 percent from the field as a team and 60 percent from three-point distance, but the 15 first-half turnovers left the Pacers trailing by two at intermission even after a buzzer-beating three-pointer from David West went down as the second quarter game clock expired.

The Pacers’ shooting cooled considerably in the second half, and they fell behind big as a result. Just as they closed the gap to four, however, Paul made sure that was as close as they would get.

Paul hit a 15-foot jumper, before getting to the rim and scoring on driving layups on his team’s next two trips down the floor. His final points of the night came at the free throw line with the game having already been decided.

The Pacers without Hibbert were challenged inside, and the Clippers got the better of the matchup all night long. But really, this game came down to star power when the contest was hanging in the balance — the Clippers have one of the game’s most competitive players in Paul who can score almost at will down the stretch, while the Pacers rely on more of a team dynamic to get the job done.

On this night, the star beat the team concept when things mattered most.

LeBron James: ‘I still got Pandora with commercials’

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Dwyane Wade revealed last year that LeBron James refuses to use his phone internationally unless he’s on Wi-Fi.

LeBron’s friend and new Cavaliers teammate again brought up that claim, and LeBron confirmed – then went even further about his own cheapness.

LeBron in a joint interview with Wade on ESPN:

No. I’m not doing that. I’m not turning on data roaming. I’m not buying no apps. I still got Pandora with commercials.

LeBron – he’s just like us!

As funny as that line is, keep watching to see LeBron hilariously explain how his hairline affects his interviews.

PBT Extra: LeBron as MVP and other NBA postseason award predictions

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Last year, Russell Westbrook had a historic season on his way to the MVP award, with James Harden and Kawhi Leonard right on his heels. But heading into this season, the dynamic for MVP — and many of the NBA awards — feels very different and wide open.

In this latest PBT Extra, I lay out my preseason predictions for every award — LeBron James for MVP, Ben Simmons for Rookie of the Year, and on down the list. There are a few leaps and surprises in there (predicting Most Improved or Sixth Man before the season is a crap shoot, so why not gamble).

Now the predictions season is over, let’s get on to the games.

Jazz: Dante Exum undergoing surgery after shoulder injury

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Jazz point guard Dante Exum hurt his shoulder in a preseason game – an injury that immediately looked like it could be season-ending.

Though Utah doesn’t outright say Exum is done for the year, this doesn’t engender much hope.

Jazz release:

The following is a medical update on Utah Jazz guard Danté Exum who suffered a separated left shoulder on October 6 vs. Phoenix.

After further evaluation, Exum (6-6, 190, Australia) has elected to undergo surgery to stabilize the AC joint of his left shoulder. The surgery is scheduled to take place Tuesday, October 24 in Los Angeles. Further updates will be provided when appropriate.

Exum (obviously) didn’t receive a contract extension before today’s deadline, so he’ll become a free agent next summer. After one full missed season already and two years of limited effectiveness, it’s not even clear Utah will extend Exum a qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent. The former No. 5 pick almost certainly won’t meet the starter criteria, which means his qualifying offer would be worth $4,333,931 (down from $6,619,903 based on his draft slot).

The Jazz will start Ricky Rubio, and Raul Neto will be the primary point guard behind him. Wings Rodney Hood, Alec Burks, Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles can all share facilitating duties.

Utah will probably be just fine without Exum this season, which speaks to his marginal place long-term.

Sprained ankle has LeBron James questionable for opener vs. Celtics

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — LeBron James‘ playing status for Tuesday’s season opener against Boston remains unclear.

James has been slowed by a sprained left ankle for more than two weeks and it’s still not known whether he’ll be on the floor when the Cavaliers take on the Celtics and Kyrie Irving, who asked to be traded by Cleveland this summer.

Following Monday’s practice, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said “I really don’t know” when asked if James will play.

James took part in some post-practice shooting drills with teammates. He did not speak with the media as the Cavaliers prepared for their opener, a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference finals.

James has never missed an opener in his NBA career, and teammate J.R. Smith doesn’t expect him to miss this one.

“Oh, he’s going to go,” Smith said. “He’s going to go, trust me that. I don’t care what he’s got to do, he’s going to play.”