The Extra Pass Tuesday roundup: Doc Rivers talks Clippers defensive woes

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LOS ANGELES — The long grind of the NBA season is about building habits, building sustainable ways to win that can carry a team through the playoffs.

For the Clippers this season, that building focus is on defense (their offense is going to score plenty). Before his team’s opening night game Tuesday the Clippers’ Doc Rivers said his team was a pretty good defensive team last season, they just needed to defend the three point line better and defend better in transition.

Well… the Lakers hit 14-of-29 from three (48 percent) and ran past the Lakers to get the win Tuesday.

“I thought we lost our compure a little bit, I thought we lost our discipline maybe more, so we got a lot of work to do,” Rivers said.

That much was painfully obvious to anyone who saw the game. But okay then, what kind of work builds a defense? Rivers called it the “boring process.”

“Just with repetition,” Rivers said. “It’s not that hard, it really isn’t. Trust first, then repetition. I thought we broke our trust early, I thought we dodged a ton of bullets in the first half… they were shooting 42 percent and our defense wasn’t very good. And I kept saying guys, every time we break down eventually they are going to make some of those shots and I think in the second half they did.”

As he has all preseason, Rivers was careful to prop up his pet project for this season — DeAndre Jordan — while taking a little shot at a Clipper star.

“I thought DJ was sensational, I thought him in particular. Blake, we have to get him better defensively, but everybody,” Rivers said. “But I thought DJ was sensational… I would love to say (the breakdowns) was the bigs, but it wasn’t a lot of times. Our guards pulled in at the wrong time, going for steals, gambling, breaking coverage. It’s just like in football, if you break coverage you better hope the quarterback doesn’t see it, and tonight I thought they passed the ball great and saw everything.”

Rivers other postgame message to his team? You better get used to this kind of effort to beat you.

“Good lesson for us. The good thing is we have 81 more games, the bad thing is everybody is going to play us that way,” Rivers said. “When you’re anointed before doing it people are going to attack you. And we’re going to have to get used to that type of energy every night. “

The Clippers need to fix their defensive trust issues quickly — they play Golden State Thursday. If you think the Lakers bench could knock down threes, get a load of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

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Pacers 97, Orlando 87: Indiana’s defense did what you expect — Roy Hibbert blocked 7 shots, the Magic shot just 38.7 percent as a team (and 37.5 percent inside 8 feet) and Orlando ended up scoring just 84.1 points per 100 possessions. Still the Magic hung around in this one until a 15-1 ending the third quarter and opening the fourth by the improved Pacer bench put the game out of reach.

Heat 107, Bulls 95: That score makes this look a lot closer than it was — Miami took control of the game in the second quarter, led by 25 and while the Bulls tried to make it interesting with a late run there just wasn’t that much doubt how this would end. While the big three for was solid, it was the bench that really won this for Miami — Shane Battier was 4-of-4 from three on his way to 14, Mario Chalmers had 13, Ray Allen hit three from beyond the arc, Norris Cole was a team best +17.

Lakers 116, Clippers 103: The Lakers bench scored 76 points on the above-mentioned pourus Clippers defense and played like a Mike D’Antoni team — the ball found energy. Xavier Henry had a career high 22 points, Jordan Farmar had 16 and the Lakers got an improbably — but for them very satisfying — win.

LeBron James admits Warriors pose one of biggest challenges he’s faced in Finals

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LeBron James is used to being the underdog in the NBA Finals. It started with the first time he got a team there, the 2007 team where after LeBron the two leading scorers were Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden — that team was not really Finals worthy and the Spurs showed that with a sweep.

Entering his seventh straight NBA Finals in 2017, the Cavaliers are again heavy underdogs. When asked about the challenge these Warriors — now with Kevin Durant — pose LeBron was nothing but complimentary, speaking to Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“It’s probably up there,” James said after the Cleveland Cavaliers’ practice. “I mean, it’s up there. Obviously, I’ve played against four Hall of Famers as well too, with Manu [Ginobili], Kawhi [Leonard], Tony [Parker] and Timmy D [Tim Duncan] on the same team. And if you add Pop [Gregg Popovich] in there, that’s five Hall of Famers.

“So it’s going to be very challenging. Those guys are going to challenge me. They’re going to challenge our ballclub. This is a high-powered team, and I’ve played against some other [stiff competition]. I’ve played against Ray [Allen], KG [Kevin Garnett], Paul [Pierce], [Rajon] Rondo and Doc [Rivers]. So it’s going to be very challenging not only on me mentally, but on our ballclub and on our franchise.”

The Warriors bring four of the top 15-20 guys in the NBA (depending on where you want to rank Klay Thompson), with two of then in the top five with Durant and Stephen Curry. However, what makes the Warriors more dangerous is the way they buy into the offensive system, move the ball and set screens/move off it, all of which makes them greater than just the sum of their parts. Well, that and the fact they had the second best defense in the NBA this year.

Cleveland, however, is probably the team best suited to beat them. Nobody has a good answer for guarding the 1/3 LeBron/Kyrie Irving pick-and-roll, Kevin Love is one of the best power forwards in the game, they are strong on the glass and can be impressive on defense (the challenge will be doing it consistently this series, they haven’t had to up to this point). Ultimately, LeBron is the great equalizer, he is the best player in the game.

All that said, Las Vegas oddsmakers have Golden State the heavy favorites (those odds are a reflection of what the betting public thinks). If LeBron and the Cavaliers pull this off, it will be one of the biggest upsets in NBA Finals history.

Lonzo Ball will never be as good as this fan-made video of him destroying people in 2K17

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Ultimately, nobody has any idea how good Lonzo Ball will be as an NBA player. Franchise cornerstone? All-Star? Above average starter? Rotation player? He will fall somewhere on the scale, but even for NBA teams it’s a guess as to where. (His dad apparently thinks he will end his career compared to Jordan, I seriously doubt that.)

However good he ends up being, he may never be as good as he looks in this 2K17 fan video made by Shady00018. The Lakers should pray he does: Dropping Stephen Curry on a crossover, dunking over Rudy Gobert, throwing no-look passes like beads at Mardi Gras? It’s impressive, if unrealistic.

Then again, reality Lakers fans don’t always intersect.

 

LeBron James on the Finals: “I feel good about our chances. Very good.”

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If there is one team in the NBA that can knock off the Warriors in a seven-game series, it’s the Cavaliers. They are the best team in the NBA at creating mismatches and isolating them, and in Kyrie Irving and LeBron James they have two of the best isolation scorers in the game. Cleveland is strong on the boards and is capable of impressive defense. Also, they have the best player on the planet.

If nobody else is confident in the Cavaliers chances, he is.

Here is what LeBron James said his confidence level facing the Warriors in a Finals trilogy.

What else is he going to say?

And if anyone should be confident, it’s LeBron. He can change a series.

From the outside, we saw a series last year where everything needed to go right for Cleveland to win — LeBron playing the best ball of his career for the final three games, Kyrie Irving hitting big shots, Draymond Green getting suspended, Andrew Bogut getting injured, Stephen Curry being off (due to injury or fatigue or just a slump). And even then took the Cavaliers seven games and heroics at the last minute. Now the Warriors add Kevin Durant, and it’s hard not to see this ending differently.

However, LeBron James is the one guy who can alter that vision. And he’s confident he can do it, he’s done it before.

Steve Alford: LaVar Ball never meddled with UCLA Basketball

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Is LaVar Ball just a harmless loudmouth, or will he actually undermine the team that drafts his son, highly touted guard Lonzo Ball?

The Lakers, who hold the No. 2 pick, are the most likely team to find out.

President Magic Johnson said LaVar won’t affect whether they draft Lonzo, but coach Luke Walton wants the team to ask UCLA coach Steve Alford about LaVar’s involvement.

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times did just that:

Was LaVar Ball around the team much?

“Zero,” Alford said.

Was he ever at practice?

“Never at practice,” Alford said. “Never at practice; never called me.”

Did he ever try to meddle in your coaching?

“Never,” Alford said.

LaVar has said his other sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, will play for UCLA. So, Alford has incentive to maintain a productive working relationship with LaVar. The players’ high school coach had a much worse experience dealing with LaVar.

Alford vouching for LaVar means something, but the total picture is more complex.

Still, LaVar would hardly be the first difficult parent of an NBA player. He’s just the most public. Even if he’d try to meddle into the Lakers, they might be willing to handle that to get his talented son.