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.

Warriors say Kevin Durant doing non-contact drills, could return before end of season

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Kevin Durant has been working out on the court before the last couple of Warriors road games, and people watching have taken note — he was moving well, shooting, and generally looking healthy for a guy coming off a grade 2 MCL sprain and a bone bruise.

Reports were out that Durant was on target to return before the end of the season.

Wednesday the Warriors confirmed that.

Teams are vague, realistically what is that timeline?

Durant likely would be on a minutes restriction for those game, but just getting to shake the rust off and work on his conditioning in a real game would help Golden State heading into the playoffs.

Not that they need much help, having won eight in a row. The Warriors have a 2.5 game lead over the Spurs for the top seed in the Western Conference heading into the game between the two Wednesday night.

Check out Lakers’ stretch of hitting 15 straight shots to end third quarter (VIDEO)

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The Lakers lost to the Wizards because they are young, inconsistent, and defend like traffic cones at times.

But that young Lakers core also has its moments.

Los Angeles strung together 15 straight made buckets to end the third quarter Tuesday night. Some of it was flukey, like Corey Brewer driving and finishing contested layups like he’s Kyrie Irving, but there were things Lakers fans should want to see such as D'Angelo Russell draining threes, Jordan Clarkson working hard off the ball and his teammates finding him, and Julius Randle just attacking.

After this run the Lakers led by 13 going into the fourth, but lost the game.

It’s official: Joakim Noah cleared to play, 20-game suspension starts tonight

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What this ultimately means is next season the Knicks should have Joakim Noah available just before Thanksgiving.

Noah has been suspended 20 games for testing positive for a banned substance, but because he was out due to knee surgery the suspension did not start until he was “physically able to play.” Noah said on Tuesday that he had been cleared, but that was just by the team doctors. He also had to be cleared by the NBA’s doctors (because if teams could cheat they would).

That happened Wednesday, according to Ian Begley of ESPN.

Noah’s first season in New York after signing a four-year, $72 million deal has been a disappointment. To put it kindly. He’s not been completely healthy, and any observer of him the past few years had to wonder if he would ever be fully healthy again. He had lost a step from the 2014 Defensive Player of the Year before the Knicks signed him. The Knicks don’t need him to necessarily be that dominant a force again (although it would be nice), but they need to get more out of him and see if he is a fit next to Kristaps Porzingis for now as the Knicks try to build a roster for next season that can play a little defense. And the triangle.

Report: Pacers bring back Lance Stephenson in time for playoffs; deal for three-years, $12 million

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The Indiana Pacers need healthy bodies for their playoff run, and they had three rotation guys injured between Al Jefferson, Glenn Robinson III, and Rodney Stuckey. Wednesday, the Pacers waived Stuckey to create an open roster spot to bring in some help (they were not going to pick up his option for next season anyway).

Who are they bringing in? The prodigal son Lance Stephenson returns, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

The surprising part of the deal was the security Stephenson got, as first reported by Adam Zagoria at his blog — three years, $12 million, with a player option for the final year. (This has since been confirmed by other sources.) Other teams were looking at giving Stephenson a 10-day contract, the length of the Pacers’ offer is a surprise.

Stephenson played in six games for Minnesota recently, averaging 3.5 points per game off the bench, but an ankle sprain kept the Timberwolves from really having to decide whether to keep him for the season. Stephenson knows how to create shots for himself and can be a good defender when focused, something we saw with the Pelicans at the start of this season — he became a key part of their rotation averaging 9.7 points and 4.8 assists per game until he tore his groin.

It’s a little strange to see him back in Pacers colors. It will be particularly strange if the Pacers stay in the seven seed and the Cavaliers remain the two-seed setting up a first-round playoff series. Because I don’t think any of us need to see this again.

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