Pacers assert themselves (as do referees), take charge of series with easy win over Hawks

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The NBA’s conventional wisdom is that star players are good everywhere but role players tend to be better at home.

In the case of the Pacers and Hawks, the entire team persona seems to flip depending on where the game is played.

Game 5 was back in Indiana and after a couple dismal performances on the road the Pacers played their best game of the series on their way to a 106-83 win behind 63 points from their starting front line.

The Pacers lead the series 3-2, with Game 6 back in Atlanta Friday night. Based on how this series has gone, expect a huge night from the Hawks.

Also, let’s hope the referees aren’t as whistle happy as they were Wednesday night. The third quarter took nearly an hour (58 minutes) thanks to the constant whistles. And nobody was playing hack-an-anybody. But we’ll talk more about that later.

Indiana finally made some adjustments to the Hawks starting Johan Petro (moving Al Horford to the four and Josh Smith to the three). The Pacers put the ball in Paul George’s hands and ran him off pick-and-rolls —Smith, normally playing the four, isn’t used to having to cover the ball handler coming off that pick and he was getting knocked out of position all night. In the first half George shot 4-of-4 with 4 assists (he finished with 18 points).

Then in the second quarter the Pacers just pounded it with their big men inside — David West had 12 in second quarter as he just was more physical than the Hawks front line. Roy Hibbert had 14 in the first half, mostly by going 8-of-8 at free throw line as he was aggressive and attacking again. He does that at home.

Meanwhile, the Hawks went back to struggling against the Pacers defense, shooting just 37.5 percent in the first half. The Pacers led 50-43 at the break.

Indiana came out in the second half on an 18-5 run to put the game away. The Hawks shot 4-of-14 in the third quarter, and by the time the quarter ended the game pretty much has as well.

Of course, it took forever for the third quarter to end. Thanks to the referees.

The game had started to get a little chippy as playoff games will, and the referees decided to control that by whistling down everything — 13 fouls were called on the Pacers, 5 on the hawks and there were another 3 technicals. As noted before, it was a 58-minute quarter. It took longer than a soccer half with 5 minutes of injury time tacked on.

West finished with 24 points, George had 21 on 7-of-8 shooting, Roy Hibbert had 18 and George Hill 15. All of them outscored the Hawks leaders, Smith and Horford with 14 a piece.

Before you draw concussions about how the Pacers’ varied attack sets the tone for Game 6, just remember it goes back to Atlanta and that game will likely look nothing at all like this one.

Wizards’ Markieff Morris to have sports hernia surgery, miss start of camp

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When the Washington Wizards open training camp next Tuesday, starting forward Markieff Morris will not be on the court.

That’s because he will have surgery to repair a sports hernia, a story broken by Candice Buckner of the Washington Post and since confirmed by Chase Hughes at CSNMidAtlantic.com.

While we don’t have details on the surgery, often recovery time for this is just a few weeks, and Morris could well be ready for the start of the season.

Morris averaged 14 points and 6.5 rebounds a game last season, and the Wizards offense was 5.7 points per 100 possessions better when he was on the court last season. With him out, coach Scott Brooks can lean on Jason Smith or Mike Scott for traditional lineups, but don’t be shocked if he tries a little small ball with Otto Porter and/or Kelly Oubre at the three or four.

Morris also is in the midst of a felony assault trial in Arizona (one where he does not need to attend).

Sixers enter camp with Joel Embiid not cleared for 5-on-5, Jahlil Okafor on trade block

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This is the season the 76ers make the leap from team with potential to playoff team fast on the rise.

Maybe.

That’s the plan in Philly, but there are a lot of questions for this team to answer. While a couple of these issues are answered already — Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz are cleared to play and practice with teammates — a couple big ones still hang around. At the top of the list is “how healthy is Joel Embiid?” Coach Brett Brown doesn’t even have that answer yet, reports Derek Bodner of The Athletic.

It’s this simple: The Sixers outscored opponents by 3.3 points per 100 possessions when Embiid was on the court last season, he was a dominant force defensively who scored 20.2 points a game. When he was off the court the Sixers were 11.5 points per 100 possessions worse. They need him to play and play consistently if the Sixers have playoff dreams. It’s unclear when Embiid will return, but know that the Sixers will be cautious with his minutes again when he does get cleared (he has played just 31 games in three seasons).

Does that mean more Jahlil Okafor? Maybe not, the Sixers are still willing to trade him.

The Sixers have shopped Okafor for most of a year and found no deal they like. Okafor battled knee issues last season and, after a summer working to get healthy, other teams will want to see him play a little before talking trade. If he comes to camp slimmed down and his knee looks right, it could revive trade talks. Using a back-to-the-basket game, he averaged 11.8 points a night shooting 51 percent last season, he’s efficient, and some teams could use what he does (off the bench).

It’s going to be an interesting season in Philly. Are they playoff bound?

Report: Warriors “perplexed” by Kevin Durant’s offseason fighting old battles

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Kevin Durant made his move to Golden State last summer — it was an emotional, wrenching decision for him — and it went as well as he could have dreamed. He felt at home. He’s got a ring (or will have one on opening night), he was Finals MVP, and he not only strengthened his legacy with a title, but also helped it out by taking a paycut that made it easier for the Warriors to keep their core together this summer.

So why is he living in the past? Why release a shoe line taking shots at his detractorsWhy did he blast his former organization on Twitter? Sure, he apologized, but why slide back down that rabbit hole? For that matter, why take a shot at Stephen Curry’s shoe line?

Chris Mannix at The Vertical at Yahoo Sports said some with the Warriors are wondering the same thing.

But make no mistake: Many in Golden State, team officials and players alike, have taken note of Durant’s oddball offseason and are perplexed by it. They see a bright future for Durant in Oakland, league and team sources told The Vertical, and are bewildered as to why he is still addressing his past.

Oklahoma City will always be in Durant’s DNA, but it’s time for him to move on. Slapping around a team that was loyal to him, even in rejection, is a bad look. He’s a Warrior, and the possibilities for this Golden State team are endless. He can win championships, can win awards, can build one of the great dynasties in NBA history. The Thunder are doing their thing. Durant should forget about them, and do his.

This will all blow over. Soon the season will start, Durant and the Warriors will look dominant, and this will all seem like a minor distraction in the deadest part of the offseason. The focus will be on the rings.

But if you want an answer as to why, Durant’s response to a YouTube comment to someone who told him “who cares what other people think, just do you.” (Hat tip For the Win.)

…of my stature, I play basketball, I got acne, I grew up with nothing, in still figuring myself out in my late 20, I slide in DMs, I make fun of my friends, I drink beers and play Xbox. I’m closer to you than u think

Durant still can be a little immature, still wants to be a regular guy, and just like a regular guy he wants to be liked. And like a lot of people, he snaps at people when he knows he should just let it go and rise above. Maybe that will come with the lessons of this offseason.

Despite revoked passport, Enes Kanter says Thunder have arranged his travel to Mexico City, Toronto

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Thunder center Enes Kanter – who had passport revoked by Turkey – lacked documentation to travel for a December game against the Nets in Mexico City and a March game against the Raptors in Toronto.

Apparently, that issue has been resolved.

Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman:

Kanter said on Sunday that the team has worked out an arrangement to allow him to travel to games in Toronto and Mexico City even without a passport.

It always seemed highly likely Kanter would get to Toronto and Mexico City. He’s a high-profile millionaire working for a billion-dollar company.