David West was big in the Pacers’ Game 6 victory, and played with a fever of 103 degrees


David West missed shootaround in advance of Game 6 on Saturday due to suffering from an upper respiratory infection, but whether or not he would play was never in doubt.

His level of effectiveness was the only thing in question, and after a slow first half offensively where he was clearly struggling, West was big for his team in the second half. He had 10 points and six rebounds on 5-of-7 shooting in the final two periods, and made a key play down the stretch as Indiana was holding off a late Heat rally to finish with the win and force a Game 7 on Monday.

And he did it all with a fever of 103 degrees, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.

That’s an incredible accomplishment, but one his head coach Frank Vogel almost didn’t allow to happen. After West’s sluggish start, Vogel was about to yank him, possibly for good during the second quarter.

“That guy is all heart,” Vogel said of West’s performance. “And it’s contagious. I don’t really have the words for it, to be honest for you. His tank was on E from the time he came into this building this morning. Tried to get the fluids and everything going, so he could feel better tonight. It was evident once he got out there that he didn’t have anything in the tank. But he was just competing and giving all he had, and he was rebounding the basketball, even if he wasn’t making shots.

“I told him I got to get him out in the second quarter, near the end of the second quarter. I said, “I gotta get you out. You have nothing tonight.” He said, “No, leave me in. I’m all right. I’m good.” So we stayed with it. We wanted to get him a little more rest in the third quarter, but he looked like he came to life. So we left him in there.”

It turned out to be a very wise choice.

As the Heat made their furious run to cut what was once a 17-point third quarter lead down to four with just under six minutes remaining, West made one of the three key plays that kept Miami at bay and sealed the win for his team. After a three-pointer from Paul George pushed the lead back to seven, West followed his own missed shot to rip the rebound from Mike Miller, and followed it up with a two-handed slam to push the lead back to nine.

Paul George, who led the Pacers with 28 points, wasn’t expecting anything less.

“David West understands what’s at stake,” George said. “You can tell at times he wasn’t fully there. He was trying to fight through and give it his all. We very grateful to have a player like that. That’s just David West stepping up to the challenge. And we still went to him, because we know David West, we’ll take David West any day. Sick or healthy. He just gave us his all. Made some huge plays for us. The shots he knocked down really was in the clutch moments, and we needed those.

“That’s just the kind of player David West is.”

Cavaliers get Nance Jr., Thompson, Hood back from injuries

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CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cavaliers are closer to being at full strength.

Forwards Larry Nance Jr., Tristan Thompson, and Rodney Hood all returned from injuries on Friday night as Cleveland, which has been riddled with injuries all season, hosted the Phoenix Suns. Acting coach Larry Drew said none of the players will start and all will be on minutes’ restrictions.

Drew, who is filling in while coach Tyronn Lue is on leave to address his own health, plans to keep his starting lineup intact and ease the returning players into the rotation.

LeBron James, Jose Calderon, George Hill, Jeff Green and Kevin Love were scheduled to started against Phoenix, which has lost nine in a row. Drew said he and Lue will talk again Saturday about lineup changes for the upcoming trip to Brooklyn, Miami and Charlotte.

“I really didn’t want to disrupt the starting five that we have out there right now and those guys will be playing limited minutes, so I wanted to get them slowly back and acclimated to what we’re doing,” Drew said. “There’s a chance that there could be some early substitutions to get the guys in there. I’m not ruling that out, but right now I just kind of want to stay with the flow, stay with what we’ve done the last couple of ballgames and then we’ll probably after tonight we’ll see as far as where we stand as far as starters are concerned.”

Thompson missed nine games with a sprained right ankle, Nance Jr. was out four with a hamstring issue and Hood was out the past three games with a bad back.

Drew said he did not know if Lue will accompany the team on its trip.

But while the Cavs are healthier than they’ve been in weeks, the team is still missing Kyle Korver, who is with his family in Iowa following the death of his brother, and rookie Cedi Osman, who is sidelined with a left hip flexor strain.

Giannis Antetokounmpo out for Bucks-Bulls with ankle injury

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MILWAUKEE (AP) — All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo will miss the Milwaukee Bucks’ home game Friday night against the Chicago Bulls with a sprained right ankle.

The Bucks ruled out Antetokounmpo earlier Friday.

Antetokounmpo got hurt in the second quarter of a 127-120 loss on Wednesday to the Los Angeles Clippers when he appeared to trip over teammate Shabazz Muhammad under the Bucks’ basket.

Antetokounmpo is fourth in the league in scoring at 27.3 points a game.


PBT Extra: What is going on in San Antonio?

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For the last two decades, there was less drama around the San Antonio Spurs than the recent Russian election. The Lakers were the soap opera, the Spurs and Tim Duncan just kept winning titles.

Not this season. Kawhi Leonard has missed all but nine games, his teammates are asking when he’s going to returnTony Parker — who is playing — says his quad tendon injury was far worse, and the Spurs organization is springing leaks like the Titanic.

What does all that mean? I get into it in this latest PBT Extra.

Short term, Leonard’s return or non-return will have a serious impact on the Western Conference playoffs.

Long term, after the Spurs offer Leonard the designated player max extension this summer (as is expected), everything will get back to normal.

The time Chauncey Billups tried to trick teams into believing he’d be a bad teammate

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In 2011, the Knicks amnestied Chauncey Billups. Unlike traditional waivers, amnesty waivers didn’t require claiming teams to pay Billups’ full salary. They could bid a partial amount – New York on the hook for the rest – and the highest bid would get Billups.

So, it was practically a forgone conclusion someone would claim Billups. The only questions were which team and for how much?

But Billups didn’t want to go to the highest bidder. He wanted to become a free agent and choose his destination – even though his contract and the Collective Bargaining Agreement put him on a different course.

So, Billups – a consummate professional throughout his career – threatened to become a problem. Adrian Wojnarowski at the time:

Wojnarowski now:

I remember talking to Chauncey on a Saturday morning one day. He was very determined that no team would put a waiver claim in on him, because he was headed to Miami. He was going to go play with the Heat. He had his bags packed. But he needed a team not to claim him. And he and I were just talking about this. I read this quote back to him recently, and we were laughing.

He went on this two-, three-minute rant about that basically, “I’m just going to be a complete asshole wherever I go if you claim me.” And so, he went on this rant. And he read that, and he kept going. And finally he stopped. I don’t even remember if I asked him a question. He just started when I called him. And at the end, there was like this pause. And he goes, “Do you think anyone is going to buy it?”

The Clippers submitted the highest bid for Billups, and he quickly got on board. Even though they traded for Chris Paul at point guard shortly after, Billups of course was a model teammate and veteran leader. Late in his career, he couldn’t stay healthy enough to contribute much on the court. But the Clippers still valued his presence. He even re-signed with them the following summer.

This was such a readable bluff – which says plenty about Billups’ character.