Serge Ibaka wasn’t suspended for groin hit on Blake Griffin because the league viewed it as ‘unintentional’

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When Serge Ibaka caught Blake Griffin with a violent shot to the groin near the end of the Thunder’s win over the Clippers last Sunday, most watching at the time expected the play to result in an ejection.

After review, the refs called a flagrant foul, but allowed Ibaka to remain in the game.

In the days that followed, many expected a suspension to be handed down from the league office, but Ibaka was merely fined $25,000 for his actions.

It can be frustrating at times to understand the league’s position on plays like these, and even the game’s players — most notably, LeBron James and Blake Griffin in this case — can find themselves in disagreement with the league over its decisions.

The NBA rarely comments publicly or explains its thinking, but thanks to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, we have a little insight into what went into this one.

Some checking with the league office this week revealed that Stu Jackson & Co. deemed Ibaka’s contact with Griffin’s, uh, groin area to be unintentional. The league view, I’m told, is that Ibaka was slapping at an arm that Griffin unexpectedly pulled away, leading to the painful connection and thus distinguishing the play from the “groin altercations” that earned Wade and DeMarcus Cousins suspensions earlier this season.

Most agreed that Ibaka wasn’t aiming to hit Griffin below the belt, even as the play unfolded in real time. Intent shouldn’t matter, however, as players need to be held responsible for their actions.

Ibaka should have been ejected at the time, or suspended a game in the days that followed. Both penalties would have been excessive, but one or the other would have been just right.

PBT Extra: Disciplined Celtics highlight bad habits of Milwaukee Bucks

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Giannis Antetokounmpo has been every bit the top five NBA player in the postseason — 32.5 points per game on 63.2 percent shooting, plus with 11 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game.

Yet the Bucks are down 0-2 to Boston.

The Celtics have had a strong series from Al Horford and Terry Rozier, but the real difference is in the discipline this team has shown all season — Boston knows who it is. Clearly, Milwaukee does not. They turn the ball over too much and make too many mistakes.

I get into all of that in this PBT Extra, and I wonder if that’s something the Bucks can really turn around mid-playoffs.

Ettore Messina to coach Spurs in Game 3 following death of Gregg Popovich’s wife

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s wife, Erin, died yesterday.

That sad news was felt throughout the NBA, and it obviously affects San Antonio most closely. That includes for tonight’s Game 3 against the Warriors.

Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:

Ettore Messina was a longtime head coach in Europe. The Spurs lead assistant also took over for a few regular-season games Popovich missed. So, making – rather than advising – coaching decisions won’t be a brand new challenge to Messina.

But down 2-0 to defending-champion Golden State is a tough place to make an NBA playoff debut.

On the bright side, there will be no pressure. Not only has San Antonio been outclassed the first two games of the series, focus is rightly on the Popovich family. A win would be a pleasant surprise and help Messina – who’s up for the Hornets job – in his pursuit of a head-coaching position. A loss would be quickly forgotten with more important matters at hand.

To that end, hopefully the time away allows Popovich the space he needs to grieve. That matters far more than a basketball game.

Report: Knicks to interview Kenny Smith for head-coaching job

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The Knicks are casting a wide net in their coaching search.

It’ll apparently include a familiar, though surprising, name.

ESPN:

TNT analyst Kenny Smith will interview for the New York Knicks’ head-coaching job on Friday, a source told ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith.

A quality organization, the Rockets, interviewed Smith (in 2016, before hiring Mike D’Antoni). So, this isn’t proof of the Knicks’ oddball thinking. (There are plenty of better examples, if you wish).

Steve Kerr opened the door for former players to go straight from TV to being an NBA head coach without having any coaching experience. He’s been a smash hit with the Warriors.

But Kerr was also the Suns’ general manager before Golden State hired him. Smith has no front-office experience.

So, it’s tough to judge Smith, whose role on television is more to entertain than inform (though he does both). He’ll have to really wow in his interview to get the job.

But at least he has that opportunity.

Pacers coach Nate McMillan slips and falls while arguing call (video)

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Nate McMillan slipped up in his handling of Victor Oladipo‘s early fouls during the Pacers’ Game 2 loss to the Cavaliers last night.

Then, the Indiana coach literally slipped while arguing that LeBron James should have been called for offensively fouling Lance Stephenson.