Tony Parker’s big game leads Spurs to game 5 victory over Warriors

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One thing this series hasn’t had is a blowout. Game 5 changed that as the Spurs turned up their defensive pressure and got some key performances from some role players to rout the Warriors 109-91 and get within a game of advancing to the conference finals for the 2nd straight season.

The star of the night was Tony Parker who poured in 25 points while also handing out 10 assists. Parker was aggressive and efficient (making 9 of his 16 shots), attacking the paint off the dribble where he was able to convert 5 of his 7 shots at the rim. Parker rarely settled for a long jumper, instead keeping the pressure on the Warriors’ defense and either creating for himself or drawing multiple defenders and hitting teammates for open shots.

Parker’s assertiveness was key in helping the rest of his teammates get good looks, especially the role players who struggle to create offense for themselves. A key beneficiary was Danny Green who, after struggling for the past three games, found his stride in this game by finding space from the outside for his jumper and getting out in transition to finish at the rim. Green finished the night with 16 points on 6-10 shooting (2-5 from behind the arc) and made his mark with his tireless work off the ball.

Also huge was Kawhi Leonard whose poise and patience served him well in creating good offensive looks. Leonard only missed one of his eight shot attempts, scoring 17 points in the process. Leonard did damage from inside and out, finishing at the rim in the open court (including a fantastic dunk over Harrison Barnes) while also hitting three shots from behind the arc.

While the Spurs were getting contributions from their role players, so were the Warriors. Jarrett Jack had his second straight good game, scoring 20 points on 16 shots including several big baskets that kept the Spurs from running away with the game even earlier than they did. Harrison Barnes also stepped up big, scoring a team high 25 points (10-18 shooting) and becoming the first rookie since Tim Duncan to reach that 25 point threshold in back to back playoff games.

But while Barnes and Jack had very good nights, the Warriors’ starting backcourt played quite poorly.

Stephen Curry only had 9 points on 4-14 shooting, struggling to create space on his jumper and losing his burst as the game advanced. The Spurs attacked Curry masterfully at the other end of the floor, running him off countless screens and wearing him down in the process. Having to work so hard while on that not yet healed left ankle surely played a part in his struggles.

Thompson, meanwhile, never got in a rhythm and struggled to escape the clutches of Leonard’s suffocating defense all night. It wasn’t just that he went 2-8 from the floor, failing to get to shoot a three pointer or a free throw in the process, but that he was held to such a low shot output and mostly erased as an option all evening. Thompson hasn’t been great since his game 2 explosion, but when he’s engaged and involved in the offense, good things happen for the Warriors. Tonight, though, he was mostly invisible.

And with their two key offensive performers struggling, the Warriors simply couldn’t generate the points they needed to keep pace. As the game advanced, they had to press more and more to get into their offensive sets. Their struggles devolved into sloppy, turnover prone action that enabled the Spurs to get easy buckets and blow the game open.

So here the Warriors are, facing elimination for the first time these playoffs. They’ve yet to lose back to back games in the post-season and in order to stay alive, they’ll need to avoid doing so when game 6 rolls around. It’s not a question if they have the fortitude to do so, but whether or not they’ve simply hit that wall after battling further than many thought they could.

The Spurs, on the other hand, are looking to slam the door on another opponent, finding and exploiting the cracks in their foe to advance another round. They’ll be facing a raucous crowd and a team fighting for their lives, but you get the feeling that with their experience they know exactly what they’re in for.

Report: Stan Van Gundy to meet with Pistons’ owner next week

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After a disappointing 39-43 season that has the Pistons sitting at home watching the playoffs — even after trading for Blake Griffin mid-season, — the sense around the league is that coach and GM Stan Van Gundy is going to lose one if not both of those titles. He’s expected to no longer be the team’s president of basketball operations, whether he stays on to coach the team is another question.

The meeting where Van Gundy’s fate is decided will come next week, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at ESPN.

Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores and coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy have set a meeting for next week to discuss Van Gundy’s future with the franchise, league sources told ESPN.

The two had initially planned to sit down late this week, but the meeting was pushed back, leaving the Pistons organization to await word on how, if at all, the franchise’s structure could be altered.

Feuling the speculation on Van Gundy’s status is the fact that former super agent Arn Tellem works for the Pistons on the business side. He was brought in to help transition the franchise to the new building where it plays in downtown Detroit, but with that done the sense is Gores will give him a different job, running the basketball side.

If he loses his GM title, would Van Gundy stay on as coach?

Whoever sigs in the big chair has his work cut out for him. With that Griffin trade, the Pistons are basically capped out. Making changes to the current roster will not be easy.

Report: Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer no longer considering Suns job

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There’s been a lot of talk as the coaching carousel ramps up, long before the NBA season is even over. Now, we know one coach won’t be heading to the Phoenix Suns: Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer.

Budenholzer was reportedly among one of the candidates for the Suns job, but according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowksi the Hawks coach has decided not to pursue the position after being given the opportunity to do so.

The Suns coaching search still includes current interim coach Jay Triano and former Memphis Grizzlies head man David Fizdale.

Via ESPN:

Budenholzer met with Suns general manager Ryan McDonough and owner Robert Sarver early this week, but there was never traction on reaching a contract agreement as the week wore on, league sources said.

As the Suns kept interviewing candidates — including David Fizdale and interim coach Jay Triano — Budenholzer informed the Suns on Thursday that he would no longer be a candidate for the job, sources said.

Phoenix fired Earl Watson just three games into the season. Budenholzer had a hefty resume to consider — he won 60 games in Atlanta in 2014-15, heading to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Suns need someone to guide their young star in Devin Booker. Who they choose will influence the direction of their franchise for longer than the next coach may even be around.

Warriors beat Spurs in glum Game 3

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The Spurs were playing with heavy hearts following the death of Gregg Popovich’s wife, Erin. Kevin Durant and Shaun Livingston appeared to injure their left ankles on back-to-back plays late.

Everyone seemed ready for the Warriors’ 110-97 Game 3 win Thursday to end well before it did.

Soon enough, the first-round series will. Golden State is up 3-0, and all 127 teams to win the first three games of a best-of-seven series won it – most of them via sweep. Game 4 is Saturday in San Antonio.

There’s hope neither Durant’s nor Livingston’s injury is serious. Durant walked off on his own, though gingerly. Livingston shot his free throws before exiting.

Durant (26 points) and Klay Thompson (19 points) have carried the Warriors’ offense with Stephen Curry sidelined by his own injury. If Durant isn’t at full strength for Game 4, Golden State could really struggle to score.

But it still might not matter, as the Spurs are overmatched against the Warriors’ dialed-in defense. Draymond Green (10 points, seven assists, six rebounds, four blocks and two steals) led tonight’s effort.

After two losses in Oakland to start the series, returning to San Antonio didn’t do much for the Spurs, who were 33-8 at home and 14-27 on the road this season – the NBA’s largest home-road disparity in a half decade. It’s just had to see San Antonio – whether Popovich returns or Ettore Messina remains acting coach – finding enough sources of offense.

Pelicans move one game away from sweep after bashing Blazers in Game 3

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But for a moment, the Portland Trail Blazers felt as though they could turn the series. For half a quarter, the Blazers had hope. Then, Nikola Mirotic dropped a career-high 30 points, Anthony Davis added a double-double of 28 points and 11 rebounds, and the New Orleans Pelicans moved one game away from completing a sweep of the third seed after a big win on Thursday night, 119-102.

Under the guidance of Mirotic, the Pelicans unleashed a barrage of 3-pointers starting midway through the first quarter. The game was close to being a contest, but Jrue Holiday and Mirotic started to pour it in after being uncorked, with New Orleans taking a 16-point lead going into the second period.

Running up and down the court in a panic, Portland looked nervous in the spotlight. The Blazers racked up 12 turnovers by halftime, all while rattling 3-pointers off the back iron. Portland rushed its offense in the face of unlikely success by the Pelicans, who continued to rain down from deep. New Orleans hit four big shots in the final 1:47 of the half, including three from beyond-the-arc.

Never one to back down, Blazers star Damian Lillard tried to force the issue. He would finish with 20 points on 5-of-14 shooting, but most evidentiary of his night was Lillard lobbing up a wild 28-footer with 24 seconds left in the half as he tried to answer a gutshot 3-pointer from E'Twaun Moore from a moment before. It didn’t work, and the Pelicans took commanding 64-45 lead to start the third quarter.

So went the story of the rest of the game, as Portland couldn’t fully tamp down the New Orleans offensive attack for longer than a few minutes at a time. Even after one 10-0 run for the Blazers in the third, the Pelicans ended it in the most deflating way possible — a wide open dunk for Mirotic on a cut after Portland’s defense fell asleep.

It was an electric atmosphere at Smoothie King, and the sellout crowd that gave us a glimpse of what kind of homecourt advantage the Pelicans could have in the second round. The New Orleans fans were in a back-and-forth with the players, with Smoothie King working to such a fever pitch it felt as though every shot hoisted by the team in red and gold was destined for the nylon.

Demoralized, Portland battled — flailed, really — but the Blazers couldn’t make up any ground as the momentum continued for New Orleans. Finally Blazers coach Terry Stotts relented and waived the white flag for Portland with 7:55 left in the fourth quarter as he subbed in his bench.

Even with a 49-win season under its belt, the questions surrounding the Blazers become more serious. The team that had a 13-game win streak this season now will face rumblings about whether Stotts will remain with the team. An exit for Stotts would be unwise for Portland — he did wonders with a team that didn’t play up to its potential most of the year — but it’s not out of the ordinary for a team looking to break through to look elsewhere, especially after Lillard’s meeting with owner Paul Allen.

Although their work isn’t done yet, New Orleans looks as though it’s a team to be feared in the playoffs. What it needs to do is concentrate on sweeping the Blazers, not only to give themselves confidence heading into the second round but to show their second-round opponent (likely the Warriors) that they aren’t to be taken lightly.

How Porltand can counter in the deciding Game 4 isn’t clear. The Pelicans have looked like the better team for nearly every quarter of the series, and the Blazers clearly don’t have an answer for them on either side of the ball.

Happy New Orleans fans will pack Smoothie King on Saturday for Game 4 at 2:00 PM PST in Louisiana. Davis will look to win his first playoff series, and Portland will try to avoid their most embarrassing sweep since they lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the 1999 Western Conference Finals.