Knicks predictably drop Game 4 to Pacers, fall behind 3-1

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George Hill tried to call timeout as he was falling out of bounds, but the official didn’t realize and instead called a foul Amar’e Stoudemire, who protested to no avail.

Sorry, Knicks, nobody is stopping this runaway series – at least not since Frank Vogel made that mistake in Game 2.

The Pacers beat New York, 93-82, tonight to take a 3-1 series lead. If anyone thinks this is a fluke, they haven’t been paying attention.

The Knicks changed their starting lineup, but not their results. Kenyon Martin started for Pablo Prigioni in an attempt to match Indiana’s physicality, but the switch didn’t result in much more than a few comical fouls that illustrated how overmatched New York is even when going big.

The matchups in this series play to Indiana’s favor, but simply, the Pacers are better than the Knicks. Even in the regular season, Indiana had a better Pythagorean win percentage – historically a better indicator of postseason success than actual win percentage – than New York. And despite their tweaks, the Knicks, who trailed by as many as 18, couldn’t overcome that.

The Knicks were a mediocre rebounding team during the regular season, and they were outrebounded, 54-36, tonight. The Pacers are an elite rebounding team, and New York just can’t keep up.

The Knicks took great care of the ball during the regular season, and they had just nine turnovers tonight. But that’s partially the result of an offense that doesn’t take enough calculated risks to find good shots.

The Knicks set NBA records for 3-pointers made and attempts during the regular season, and they attempted 28 tonight. But a game after taking  a season-low 11, New York forced too many long looks, shooting just 8-for-28 (28.6 percent).

Carmelo Anthony led the NBA in scoring, and he led the Knicks with 24 points tonight. Of the 11 players who scored 20 points per game and reached the playoffs, Melo had the worst-shooting teammates, and that didn’t change tonight, either. J.R. Smith (7-for-22), Iman Shumpert (0-for-6), Martin (0-3) and Jason Kidd (0-for-2 to push his scoreless streak to eight games) were particularly loathsome for a group that shot 34 percent.

The Pacers, on the other hand, had excellent contributions from all their starters. George Hill scored 26 points on 14 shots. Paul George (18 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists) and David West (10 points and 10 rebounds) had double-doubles. Roy Hibbert (11 rebounds and three blocks) played splendid defense. Even Lance Stephenson, the fifth starter, played about as well as any Knick aside from Melo.

As I wrote after Game 3, Indiana has a stronger identity than New York right now – and the Knicks are straying even further from theirs. New York hasn’t used a single lineup in all 10 of its playoff games, and tonight’s starters – Raymond Felton, Shumpert, Melo, Martin and Tyson Chandler – hadn’t played together all season.

Shumpert played just 4:49 and missed all four of his shots before Smith replaced him, the earliest either team has gone to its bench in this series.  But Smith picked up right where Shumpert left off and missed his first four shots, too.

The Knicks can keep tweaking, but the fundamental truths of this series haven’t changed.

Josh Jackson’s first pitch is… just a bit outside

Associated Press
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Josh Jackson is not going Bo Jackson on us and playing baseball in the offseason.

The highly-rated forward out of Kansas who was the No. 4 pick of the Phoenix Suns was invited to throw out the first pitch before Friday night’s Diamondbacks game.

To quote Bob Uecker, he was just a bit outside. He tried the corner and missed.

Lonzo Ball was able to make his first pitch, ergo, he will turn out to be a much better NBA player. Obviously, these skills correlate.

Report: Re-signing Nerlens Noel Mavericks’ top off-season priority

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This is a Mark Cuban owned team, you don’t think the Mavericks are going to make a serious run at a free agent come July 1? Pelicans’ point guard Jrue Holiday has long been known to be a target, but there will be others.

But keeping their new core together, including restricted free agent Nerlens Noel, is the top priority, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Rumors like this are out there in part from Dallas to hope to chill the market for Noel. While he could be a defensive force who provides some scoring around the rim, with Noel’s injury history they may be able to get him at less than max money — because if he’s at the max the Mavericks are flirting with the luxury tax (and Cuban isn’t going to want to pay the tax for a borderline playoff team at best).

What Dallas fears is what Brooklyn did last season to Allen Crabbe in Portland and Tyler Johnson in Miami — some team to come in with a max or near-max offer sheet that drives up the price. Dallas will match, they will keep the young core together, it just gets more expensive.

Next season in Dallas will be a deserved big farewell to Dirk Nowitzki. He will be the focus, but behind him Dallas will try to be building for the future. They made the trade deadline move to make sure Noel is a part of that, the only question now is how much it costs them.

Magic Johnson on drafting Lonzo Ball: “what I needed was a leader”

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Nobody, not even his critics with the Lakers, question that D'Angelo Russell had talent. What they questioned from the start was his work ethic and maturity. I was told by sources with the team he often was the last one to team meetings, often one of the first out of the gym, and the whole Nick Young thing spoke to the maturity question. Byron Scott took a lot of heat as Lakers’ coach for benching him, and Scott’s communication skills were lacking, but he had reasons. Russell also just 21 and maybe he finds his way, but the Lakers weren’t willing to wait anymore.

Which is why the Lakers were willing to move him to Brooklyn in the Brook Lopez trade, and why the Lakers went after Lonzo Ball in the draft, Magic Johnson said, via Baxter Holmes of ESPN.

Is Lonzo Ball a leader? Only time will tell, he has the potential.

Will players want to play with him? Yes, if the passing skills he showed in college transfer to the NBA. If guys know they will get the rock if they run/cut, then they will do just that. It’s some simple B. F. Skinner stuff here — if players are rewarded they will keep doing it. Get them the rock in transition and they will get out there every time.

Ball has flaws in his game, there are certainly questions about his defense, and how that awkward shot translates remains to be seen (it goes in but his time to get it off will decrease at the NBA level)? Will he be a scoring threat in the half-court? He’s got work to do. But answer those questions and the Lakers may have the key piece to help anchor a franchise he’s been looking for.

Sacramento Kings waive guard Arron Afflalo

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) The Sacramento Kings have waived guard Arron Afflalo one year after signing him as a free agent.

The Kings cut ties with Afflalo on Friday before his entire $12.5 million contract for 2017-18 would become guaranteed. Afflalo will get $1.5 million instead.

Afflalo averaged 8.4 points and 2 rebounds in 61 games this past season for Sacramento. He has averaged 11.3 points per game in his 10-year career.