Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett didn’t come to the arena for Nets’ loss to Clippers

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Most of the time in the NBA, if a team’s star players are going to miss a game due to injury, they will still accompany their teammates to the arena and either receive treatment in the locker room while the game is going on, or wear a suit and represent on the sidelines.

Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, apparently, are two of the exceptions.

Neither was healthy enough to face their former head coach Doc Rivers on Saturday in Los Angeles, after playing heavy minutes the night before during an overtime win in Phoenix. And thanks to a policy Rivers himself put in place in Boston, neither player bothered to make the trip to Staples Center to support their teammates.

From J.A. Adande of ESPN.com:

It would have made for some good TV video to get shots of Garnett and Pierce hugging their old mentor before or after the game, but the individuals involved didn’t need it. They stay in touch through their cell phones (Rivers prefers texting, because he says it doesn’t allow Garnett to swear at him as much). Garnett and Pierce weren’t even in Staples Center for the Clippers’ victory over the depleted Nets. Their absence in itself was just like the old days.

“I know when Kevin doesn’t play he never comes to the game,” Rivers said. “Paul either for that matter. That’s something we set up in Boston.

Now the Brooklyn Nets have to deal with it.”

This isn’t to rip the Nets or these two veteran superstars, but it is an interesting look at the way things are handled from team to team around the league.

Rivers has always been a players’ coach, and giving veterans a perk like that on a team that has strong leadership from the head coaching position makes some sense. Gregg Popovich in San Antonio has famously flown players home after shootaround in advance of a road game where they aren’t going to play.

But on a team like the Nets that has a ton of new pieces and is trying to establish both locker room chemistry and a way of doing things under an unproven rookie head coach, one would think it might be a good idea to stick around and use that time to bond a little, even if they’re unable to play due to injury.

James Harden reveals he’s playing through ankle injury

AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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James Harden didn’t lead the Rockets in scoring in their Game 4 win over the Thunder yesterday.

He didn’t even rank second – or third.

Nene, Eric Gordon and Lou Williams each outscored Harden, who scored 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting, including 0-for-7 on 3-pointers.

What happened to the Houston star?

Calvin Watkins of ESPN:

Houston Rockets star guard James Harden said he has been hobbled by an ankle injury that occurred in Game 3 of this first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Harden made the revelation to ESPN’s Lisa Salters after the Rockets’ 113-109 Game 4 victory on Sunday afternoon.

“It was pretty tough; we don’t make excuses,” Harden said in a news conference when asked about his health. “We just try to go out there and get the job done. You build trust, and trust in your teammates all year long. When there’s moments like this, guys step up and they did tonight. We have another opportunity in a few days to go out there and win on our home court, and we’re going to have to get off to a really good start.”

Many players are grinding through injuries this time of year. Is Harden’s exceptionally bad? There’s no way of telling from the outside.

But he didn’t look quite right in Game 4, and if he’s hobbled, that opens the door slightly wider for Oklahoma City to come back from its 3-1 deficit.

Video Breakdown: Rockets launch Eric Gordon from 3-point range against Thunder in Game 4

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The Houston Rockets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday, 113-109, and now the series heads back to Texas with the Rockets in the lead, 3-1.

Houston and OKC played a weird game, with Nene scoring 28 points off the bench for the Rockets and serious mischief in the final moments. The end of the game included a purposely missed free throw by Steven Adams that allowed Russell Westbrook to grab a quick 3-pointer and a missed call when James Harden shoved Alex Abrines out of the way like an NFL tackle.

While the Rockets didn’t shoot a stellar percentage from 3-point range — just 31.5 percent — they still knocked down 11 buckets from deep. Part of that action was a play run for Sixth Man of the Year candidate Eric Gordon that included a little semi-Pistol action, and a stagger screen that allowed Gordon to work his way free.

I picked this play to go over this week because it exemplifies just how committed to the 3-point shot the Rockets are. Plus, Gordon ran around three screens just to get this one bucket, which is always fun to see.

Watch the full video breakdown above.

Jimmy Butler on Marcus Smart dustup: ‘He’s not about that life. So, he’s calming down’

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Marcus Smart and Jimmy Butler had to be separated during the Celtics’ Game 4 win over the Bulls after Smart pushed Butler, who was hounding him defensively in the backcourt.

Butler:

As far as the Marcus Smart situation goes, he’s a great actor. Acting tough, that’s what he does. But I don’t think he’s about that, and I’m the wrong guy to get in my face. So, he needs to take it somewhere else because I’m not the one for that.

Was that their first run-in? Butler:

That’s the first time. Last time, too. We’re not going to sit here and get in each other’s faces like that. Like I said, he’s not about that life. So, he’s calming down.

The Bulls, who’ve lost two straight to allow Boston to tie the series 2-2, is angling for any edge. Butler tried to intimidate Smart on the court, and the Chicago wing might actually rattle the too easily shakable Smart with his postgame comments.

The irony: Some might say Butler, who did come up hard, lost touch with his roots as he entered stardom. I don’t buy that, at least not majorly.

But even if both – or neither – are posturing to any degree, this will be a matchup to watch in Game 5.

Remembering former NBA official Jess Kersey, who passed away Saturday

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Jess Kersey, who officiated more than 2,200 NBA games, including being part of 19 NBA Finals, passed away over the weekend, losing his battle with cancer at age 76.

Kersey was a well-respected official who feared nothing. Maybe the most remembered image of Kersey is him trying to break up a fight between Mitch Kupchak and Hakeem Olajuwon, essentially trying to tackle Olajuwon with his head in Olajuwon’s chest and his arms wrapped around him. Kersey got in the middle of everything if that was what was required.

Our thoughts go out to the Kersey family for their loss.