Red-hot Clippers put on a show at Rockets expense, win big

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LOS ANGELES — This happens a few games a season.

It was a perfect storm of the already explosive Clippers offense really finding its flow in an up-tempo game, a Rockets defense that was just floundering, some foul trouble to the Rockets defensive anchor, and to top it all off Chris Paul had the Midas touch.

The result was a highlight-filled blowout, a 137-118 Clippers blowout win that the fans in Staples Center could really savor. They got to boo Dwight Howard lustily — when he wasn’t on the bench with foul trouble — and they got the full compliment of highlight alley-oops, impressive handles and long-range threes.

“It was one of those games,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “Everything. We were making everything. They were in foul trouble. It was for us tonight, a lot of things went right.

The Clippers have the best offense in the NBA this young season — they are averaging a ridiculous 116.6 points per 100 possessions after this game. They have been hot all season on that end but the 125 points per 100 they put up this game — they shot 52.1 percent overall and hit 15-of-38 from three — bolstered that number.

“They had 15 threes and a ton of paint points (50), they had the best of both worlds,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “We wanted to keep them out of the paint and shoot long jump shots. We didn’t do that.”

The route started started from the opening tip, where the Clippers came out sharp and the Rockets looked like they enjoyed the night out in Los Angeles the night before a little too much. Early on the Clippers started running J.J. Redick off screens like he’s vintage Ray Allen and James Harden did not want to fight through them. Harden was a few steps slow and the result was 15 first quarter points for Redick as the Clippers just kept going to his hot hand.

“I’ve always been a guy who bases his game on movement and moving without the ball,” Redick said.

Pretty soon everyone on the Clippers got a hot hand — Los Angeles put up 42 points on 69.6 percent shooting (4-of-6 from three) in the first quarter. CP3 had 9 assists in the first 12 minutes and the Clippers were so hot even Blake Griffin nailed a couple midrange jumpers. The Clippers put up a franchise record 78 points in the first 24 minutes, and check out their shot chart from the first half.

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The Clippers were up 17 after one and while the Rockets tried to make a game of it with some runs, all that was left was to put on a show. Which they did.

In the end Chris Paul had 23 points and 17 assists, Redick had 26 points, Jamal Crawford 21 and seven Clippers were in double figures.

Credit the Rockets for not giving up, they cut the lead down to 10 or 8 a few times, but each times the Clippers responded.

CP3 abused Jeremy Lin with a stepback then drove past him. Redick just took Harden off the dribble. The Clippers would get out and run and the Rockets transition defense was nonexistent.

While it was not the team he played for Howard’s return to Los Angeles still got him getting booed from the opening introductions, followed by a rough night. He picked up two quick fouls and three in the first quarter, limiting him to 6:27 in the first half.

“The foul trouble messed me up a little bit but I just tried to have a better second half,” Howard said. “I missed a lot of easy shots tonight.”

As for the booing?

“I don’t care, they can boo me a million times and I’ll still play,” Howard said, who went on to repeat his standard lines about moving on from his decision and feeling happy now.

Just not so much after that loss.

What exactly was on the table for Bulls in Jimmy Butler trade?

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It’s been the cry since the Bulls’ front office traded Jimmy Butler for Zach LaVine (coming off an ACL surgery), Kris Dunn, and the No. 7 pick (Lauri Markkanen):

Why didn’t the Bulls get more?

I’m in the camp they didn’t get enough, starting with the question why did they give Minnesota the No. 16 pick in the deal? Even if the Bulls keep that pick, it doesn’t feel like they got enough for an All-NBA player, a top-flight wing defender who can also get buckets with the ball in his hands. The Bulls could have been patient and waited out a better offer, one of this quality would always have been on the table.

However, the deals for Butler may not have been as rich as fans assume. Here is part of what ESPN’s Zach Lowe wrote breaking down the trade.

It’s not as if Chicago didn’t canvas the league, either. The Bulls talked to Phoenix about a package centered around Eric Bledsoe and the No. 4 pick, but nothing came close, according to league sources. (Those talks may have been linked at one point to Cleveland’s pursuit of Butler, which apparently fizzled Thursday as Dan Gilbert, the Cavs’ owner, tried to hire a new president of basketball operations on the freaking day of the draft.)

They poked around with Denver, but the Nuggets drew a line at Jamal Murray, sources say. Those teams had to weigh the possibility of Butler bolting in 2019, which cooled the market a bit, sources say.

Boston has danced around Butler for almost a year now, and would not include the No. 3 pick in any package for him as the draft approached, sources say. Other reports suggest they refused to offer next year’s Nets pick, or the Lakers-Kings pick they snagged from Philly in the Markelle Fultz deal.

Boston’s Danny Ainge wanted a deal, a bit of a discount, and the Bulls were not going to give it. Those pick requests are reasonable for a Top 15 player, but Ainge knows he can be patient and the Celtics will still win more than 50 games next season and be a contender in a couple of years. Ainge knows he has a real shot at Gordon Hayward as a free agent this summer. He knows it’s not Butler or bust, so he didn’t go all in. He can afford to be patient right now, but eventually he will have to make a move.

The lack of a better market for Butler speaks to a couple of things. Phoenix, Denver, and other teams are correct to worry about overpaying for a player that could leave in a couple of years. Maybe they can win him over with their culture, maybe a team like Denver becomes very dangerous with Butler in the mix with Nikola Jokic, but is that enough. This is also where the looming shadow of Golden State, the Mount Everest looming over all things in the West, comes into play — how much do teams want to pay to try to contend right now?

Still, the Bulls could have done better. At least know a direction is set, the Bulls are rebuilding. Can Gar/Pax pull that off is another question entirely.

Klay Thompson goes up for 360 dunk in exhibition… and he’s not a dunker (VIDEO)

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Klay Thompson has an amazing skill set — one of the best pure shooters in the league, he can put the ball on the floor and create, and he’s a very good perimeter defender.

He’s not a dunker. Oh, he can dunk, but he’s not the guy you’re inviting to the Dunk Contest.

Case in point, this video out of China where Thompson was part of an exhibition and tried to show off his dunking skills.

Thompson’s shoe sponsor is China-based Anta, which explains why he’s there playing some exhibition ball. In case you missed it, Thompson had a Finals shoe released.

Those are about as good as the 360 dunk.

Sixers will talk contract extension for Joel Embiid this summer, want to lock him up

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Could Joel Embiid be Philadelphia’s Stephen Curry?

No, I don’t mean taking 30-foot bombs that demoralize opponents (although, no doubt Embiid is game for trying it). I mean in having a contract extension off his rookie deal for less than the max, a value contract that allows the Sixers the cap room to secure a title contender around him.

After three seasons in the NBA, Joel Embiid is eligible for a contract extension this summer (one that would be negotiated now but not kick in until the 2018-19 season). Teams lock up their stars at this point, and Embiid is that — he was dominant in the 31 games he played. But it’s 31 games in three seasons, how much do the Sixers want to pay here?

Sixers owner Joshua Harris said extending Embiid is a priority for the team this summer, speaking at a press conference, via the Courier Times.

“Look, I’d just say we want Joel to be on the team for a long time,” Harris said. “We want us all to grow old together. That’s the way I would put it.”

A max contract for Embiid would be five years at about $130 million, an average annual salary of $26 million. Because of his injury history, would he be willing to sign five years at $100 million, maybe with an opt-out after four? That extra cap space may not sound like a lot, it’s not a Curry-level savings, but it would help the Sixers’ team building.

If the two sides can’t reach a deal by Oct. 31 (the deadline), Embiid will play out this season then be a restricted free agent next season. If he stays healthy, he will get a max deal from another team that the Sixers would just match (the Sixers and Embiid could also reach a deal).

The Sixers are not about to let Embiid go, they have their young core they believe they can contend with in a few years. Plus he is a fan favorite. The only question left is cost.

Josh Jackson’s first pitch is… just a bit outside

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Josh Jackson is not going Bo Jackson on us and playing baseball in the offseason.

The highly-rated forward out of Kansas who was the No. 4 pick of the Phoenix Suns was invited to throw out the first pitch before Friday night’s Diamondbacks game.

To quote Bob Uecker, he was just a bit outside. He tried the corner and missed.

Lonzo Ball was able to make his first pitch, ergo, he will turn out to be a much better NBA player. Obviously, these skills correlate.