Los Angeles Lakers head coach D'Antoni yells as his team plays the Orlando Magic in NBA action in Orlando, Florida

Frustrated D’Antoni rants after Lakers blow 18-point lead

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The Lakers are a playoff team — they remain the 8 seed in the West, in large part because the wheels have come off the Jazz.

But they sure didn’t look like it in the second half Friday night. They looked like the Lakers that have frustrated fans and coaches all season — lazy defense and isolation offense. It wasn’t pretty… unless you’re a Wizards fan and got to watch your team show some fight and come from 18 points down to win in Los Angles.

Mike D’Antoni isn’t a Wizards fan, he’s the Lakers coach, and his frustrations boiled over into a rant in post-game press conference (which you can watch online at the Lakers Web site).

“What happened was we didn’t play hard enough. We think we can just figure things out and just point. I mean, Trevor Ariza’s got 12 attempts at three and he’s wide open. That’s inexcusable and it’s just a matter of lapses or gambling or ‘I’m not gonna play hard tonight because we’re just gonna outscore them….’

“There’s no explanation for it. I don’t know. I can’t explain it, but every time we get up 16, it’s like, ‘Oh, we’re really good and we don’t have to play hard.’ And we start messing with the game. You start messing with not moving the ball. You start messing with ‘I’m just gonna go 1-on-1 every time.’ You start messing with the basketball Gods and they get you. That ball will roll around and go in for them and it’ll roll around and go out for us, because we’re messing with the game.

“And if we don’t change that, well, obviously we won’t make the playoffs. But even if we do, then we’ll get blown out in the playoffs. …

And I told them in (the locker room), we put our hands in (the huddle), and you’ve guys have probably seen it, we say ‘Championship!” and go out there. And that’s laughable. Championship? You gotta be kidding me

“Until they understand the importance of every possession offensively and defensively, and every time, they gotta come out with some kind of determination to be a good basketball team, then we’re just fooling ourselves. And right now, that’s what we’re doing. We’re making sham-mockery of it, or whatever that is.”

Okay then.

Of course, maybe the Lakers needed another kick in the… posterior. From someone other than Kobe.

There are 12 games left in the regular season and if the Lakers are going to live up to Jerry West’s prediction of them being a playoff threat, they are going to have to find a level of consistent effort and execution lacking for much of the season. The Lakers are winning more games now than they did, you can start to see their identity be forged, but they are a ways away from executing night in and night out. When challenged — like they certainly will be in the playoffs — they simply do not impress.

Giannis Antetokounmpo called for 10-second violation on free throw (video)

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This Giannis Antetokounmpo 10-second violation was a year in the making.

Unfortunately for the Trail Blazers, it was too little, too late. Antetokounmpo still finished with 15 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists, four blocks and two steals in the Bucks’ 115-107 win.

Iman Shumpert injures hand while missing open dunk (video)

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Plenty went right for the Cavaliers in their 126-94 win over the Knicks last night, but there were a few snags.

LeBron James and his teammates repeatedly failed the water-bottle challenge in the closing moments (though Kyrie Irving eventually nailed it).

Kevin Love‘s nose malfunctioned.

And Iman Shumpert injured his hand while missing an open dunk.

If Shumpert was faking as an excuse for missing, he sold it hard. Defending 4-on-5 on the other end, Cleveland ceded a 3-pointer. Then, Shumpert remained hunched over while the Cavs brought the ball up-court. It seems Shumpert might have been popping back in a dislocated finger, which jibes with him staying in the game – and shows his toughness.

But it also doesn’t erase the shame of hurting yourself while missing an open dunk.

Gregg Popovich calls coaching Tim Duncan-less Spurs a ‘refreshing’ and ‘fun’ challenge

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 26: Head coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs argues a call against the Washington Wizards at Verizon Center on November 26, 2016 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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MINNEAPOLIS (AP)–  For so many years, the San Antonio Spurs have been defined by their consistency, an unprecedented level of stability that has brought five championships and established the organization as a model franchise in professional sports.

The colors don’t change. The coach doesn’t change. The core never changed.

After 20 years and those five titles, change has finally come to San Antonio.

Tim Duncan, the tone setter from the moment he was drafted in 1997, retired last summer. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have taken reduced roles this season, and the Spurs brought in seven new faces as part of a rare roster shuffle as they try to retool around Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge.

“It’s been at the same time a challenge and a refreshing sort of situation,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “The team is changing personnel-wise and where the ball goes and a few different players so we have to do things a little bit differently. There’s a give and take, strategy wise, to fit the group. It’s been a lot of fun. Watching some of the young guys get minutes and develop has been fun.”

Fun because while the faces have changed, the results have not. The Spurs (18-4) have navigated the bumps in the road that come with unfamiliarity and have the second-best record in the league, tied the star-studded Golden State Warriors (18-3) in the win column. They have started the season 13-0 on the road and can match last year’s Warriors for the best road start in league history with a win in Chicago on Thursday night.

It hasn’t always been pretty for these Spurs. They’re not the same ruthless, precise machine that steamrolled the league during championship runs. They have had to muddle through things, overcome mistakes and struggle while they get acclimated to one another.

Newcomers like six-time All-Star Pau Gasol, steady veteran David Lee, Argentinian point guard Nico Laprovittola and shot-blocking center Dewayne Dedmon have had to work hard to integrate into a culture that is as enduring as any.

“You could see it in our games. Sometimes our offense is stagnant, our defense isn’t moving well or in our help positions,” Leonard said. “We have a big playbook on the offensive end. It’s just hard to learn it. It was hard for me to learn it. I didn’t get it down until probably my second or third year. We’ve just got to keep giving a consistent effort and being into the game and into our playbook and just keep moving from there.”

The result has been a team that tends to start slow, fall behind and then gradually digs its heels in. They are 5-4 at home, where they only lost once all of last season. They’ve lost to the Magic at home, were thumped by the Clippers and have not recaptured the breathtaking form they showed in a 29-point win at Golden State on opening night. But the wins keep coming.

“I think the first eight to 10 games was the coaching staff trying to figure out what lineups we’re going to play and there were a lot of changes, a lot of trying what works best,” said Gasol, who signed as a free agent this summer. “But now I think there’s more consistency, there’s more defined lineups. Guys know when to come in, when they’re going to play and what’s expected of them.”

The Spurs have won 13 of their last 14 games, and Popovich has leaned on his core more than he has in years to get them off to a good start. Leonard and Aldridge both average more than 33 minutes per game, the first time San Antonio has had two players averaging that much playing time since 2008-09.

“It’s been interesting to see how the team develops and comes together and who the leaders will be without Timmy being that overriding factor for so long,” Popovich said.

Leonard, for years the ultra-quiet storm trooper of the Spurs army, has been much more vocal this season. Gasol’s personality and approach have been a perfect fit as most expected and Ginobili and Parker are still there to help filled the void left by Duncan’s retirement.

And little by little, the new guys are getting up to speed.

“They’ve done a great job of making it easy for us and for Pop to throw them into the fire and trust them to know the system,” Green said. “We’ll continue to help them and they will continue to be sponges and absorb it.”

Kyrie Irving sticks water-bottle challenge before Cavaliers-Knicks buzzer (video)

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The Cavaliers were trying the water-bottle challenge on the bench late in their 126-94 win over the Knicks last night, but the national telecast showed Cleveland players only failing to flip a water bottle and have it land upright on the floor – including an erratic attempt from LeBron James that bounced onto the court.

Thankfully, the local post-game show had an angle of Kyrie Irving nailing the bottle flip just before the game ended, his toss just leaving his hands before the final buzzer. Count it!