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.

Watch the Knicks and Lakers make every shot for 2 straight minutes of game clock

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Tuesday night’s game between the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers was a good one, with the teams going-back-and-forth all night. In an OT game that came down to the wire, a sequence in the third quarter was perhaps indicative of the kind of contest it was in Madison Square Garden.

Starting with a little more than six minutes to go in the third the teams traded eight consecutive baskets while MSG rose to an accompanying fever pitch.

The whole sequence was pretty hilarious, and lent to that feeling you get sometimes while watching competitive NBA games of complete exhilaration.

Via Twitter:

The gap spanned from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope‘s missed 3-pointer with 6:21 left to Brook Lopez‘s missed shot with 3:51 to go.

New York wound up winning in OT, 113-109.

Joel Embiid says he thinks people are about to start hating him

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Philadelphia 76ers have been the Twitter darlings of the NBA for the past few years. Thanks to former general manager Sam Hinkie and the tanking process, guys like Joel Embiid have become even more admired now that the team is in the hunt for a playoff spot.

Of course, players like Embiid are part of the generation that is always online, and the fact that they play in the NBA doesn’t keep them from participating in social media with their contemporaries. Embiid has a great Twitter feed, and is often out on it trying to get dates from the likes of Rihanna while trolling other NBA stars on Instagram.

Of course, as we’ve seen with players in the past, good fortune does not always shine forever. Indeed, conscious of this fact, Embiid as much to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne during a recent interview.

Via ESPN:

People love you at the beginning,” Embiid explains. “But at some point they’re gonna start hating you. LeBron. Russell Westbrook. All the superstars. Even Steph. He’s so likable. He does nothing wrong, but some people still hate him. It just comes with the nature of it. I’ve seen it.

“I feel like I’m about to go through it. I think it’s coming. People always want something new.”

The ups and downs of how NBA fandom changes the perception of certain players is fascinating, and some even try to directly manipulate that. And indeed, while Embiid is certainly hilarious on social media, the best thing to keep fans at bay will be him staying on the floor and playing games for the Sixers.

Let’s hope that keeps happening and nobody turns on him anytime soon.

Gregg Popovich says he was ‘guilty of over-coaching’ LaMarcus Aldridge

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LaMarcus Aldridge has been much better for the San Antonio Spurs this season. This comes after a tumultuous offseason in which it became clear that Aldridge was unhappy with his time in Texas.

That information came to light over the summer, and indeed both Aldridge and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich sat down to have a discussion to work out their differences in preparation for the upcoming season.

The results have been stupendous, with Aldridge playing better than ever in San Antonio despite the team lacking star Kawhi Leonard. Aldridge is averaging career highs in points per-100 possessions, which makes sense given his career-high 119 offensive rating.

Apparently part of Popovich’s change in dealing with Aldridge was how he coached him. Popovich told NBA.com recently that he made the mistake of over coaching Aldridge, saying that the veteran didn’t need as much guidance as young star players did when they came to him in the past.

Via NBA.com:

“We broke bread a few times, talked about it, laughed about it, discussed what we thought needed to happen, and frankly 95 percent of it fell on me because I made an error in trying to change him too much. That might sound odd, but he’d been in the league nine years and there’s one way he plays on the offensive end and feels comfortable with. I tried to turn him into Jack Sikma, told him I was going to teach you how to play on the elbow, go on the wing, face up. It was confusing for him. It really didn’t fit his style of play. I was guilty of over coaching in a sense.

“We came to an agreement on what had to happen. Well, on defense, I told him ‘I’m going to get on you like I do everyone else. But on offense, I don’t even want to talk to you. When they double you, kick it. Other than that, you be LaMarcus Aldridge.’ You see the result right now. He’s happy, confident and kicking everybody’s butt.”

Now that everything is sorted for the Spurs, we just have to watch out for them as they gain momentum heading into 2018. Leonard made his debut for the season on Tuesday night against the Dallas Mavericks, and as a publication time he had nine points in 10 minutes.

God help us if Gregg Popovich has finally found a way to make the mercurial LaMarcus Aldridge happy and pair him with a fully healthy Leonard.

Raptors’ Jonas Valanciunas offers advice to Ball brothers on Lithuania

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Lithuania is a hoops-mad country.

The Baltic nation has fewer people in it than the Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area, yet it has three players in the NBA right now — Jonas Valanciunas, Donatas Motiejunas, and Mindaugas Kuzminskas — and has put 11 players in the league total (such as Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Arvydas Sabonis, and Sarunas Marciulionis). The country has won three bronze medals in the Olympics ( 1992, 1996, and 2000). It’s Lithuanian league also has been the launching pad for Celtics’ Aron Baynes to make the NBA.

Now the Ball brothers LiAngelo and LaMelo are headed there on professional contracts.

One of those players — the Raptors’ Valanciunas, had advice for the Ball brothers, speaking to ESPN.

“They’re getting themselves into a great opportunity. Lithuania is beautiful country… We have great basketball history. We’re such a small country, but we have many, many great players. Our basketball school is good., so they chose a really good school. They just gotta work hard — it’s all about working. You can be as good as you can be by working. Talent is one thing, but work you put in, that’s gonna show up.

“If they have any problems, let me know. I can help them out.”

Good luck finding anyone around the NBA who thinks this ends well, especially those who know the Ball family. They are sending a college freshman and a high school junior to a small city in a former Soviet bloc country with a very different culture, that will be a major adjustment. The coach doesn’t speak English and his former American players have not spoken highly of him. The Lithuanian league itself has men — far more physically developed than the Ball brothers — and is known for a physical style of play. It’s also known as a league where the players have a reasonably high hoops IQ and don’t like undisciplined players.

But if LiAngelo and LaMelo have any problems, they can call Valanciunas.