The Extra Pass: Motown’s meltdown and Sunday’s recaps

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What’s going on with the Detroit Pistons? D.J. Foster breaks down the unexpected issues hampering the team early on this season.

Video courtesy of My Synergy Sports, stats via NBA.com/stats. 

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Trail Blazers 118, Raptors 110 (OT): Portland is now 8-2 on the young season because their offense is lighting up opposing teams — and that got them another win Sunday. They put up 108.5 points per 100 possessions thanks to three players with more than 20 points — LaMarcus Aldridge (25), Damian Lillard (25) and Nicolas Batum (24) — plus they hit 15-of-32 from three. Portland played better defense in the third quarter when they packed the paint and was up 10 entering the fourth quarter when Rudy Gay the gunner (12-of-27 shooting on the night) got hot, put up 11 points in the quarter and with a layup at the buzzer forced OT. Then in the extra period the Blazers kicked up the offense and it was over.

Grizzlies 97, Kings 85: Sacramento coach Mike Malone was so frustrated with the effort and play from his starters in the second half benched every one of them at 4:22 of the third quarter for the rest of the game. Sacramento promptly went on a 22-9 run thanks to the bench. Unfortunately, that was not going to be enough. Memphis won the fourth thanks to their starters and got strong nights from their leaders — Zach Randolph had 22 point and 10 boards; Marc Gasol had 19 and 9; Mike Conley finished with 19 points and 9 assists.

Lakers 114, Pistons 99: Both teams decided to run on the other team’s rather unimpressive transition defense and that led to an occasionally entertaining (with some great dunks, see above) but otherwise sloppy first 30 minutes or so, but one where the Pistons shot 62 percent. Then in the third quarter the Pistons went cold (15 points on 28 percent shooting, Brandon Jennings was 0-of-6) and Nick Young and Jordan Farmar came in and changed the completion – the Lakers closed the third on a 10-0 run and pulled away from there. Jordan Hill had 24 points and 17 boards, simply outplaying the vaunted Pistons frontline; Young had 19 off the bench.

Report: Clippers take Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumor ‘very seriously’

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Want to laugh off that Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumor?

The Clippers aren’t joining you.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The Clippers should be concerned. Losing Paul would unravel their entire foundation, dropping them from the fringe of championship contention to out of the title picture completely. It could even help usher out Blake Griffin, who will also be an unrestricted free agent this summer. (To be fair, Paul leaving could also help convince Griffin to stay.)

About a month ago, the Clippers reportedly expected Paul to stay. They even reportedly struck a verbal agreement with him to re-sign before that. But they can’t officially sign him until July, and that leaves the door open for him to leave.

The Clippers should be heartened by their advantages – a prime market and a projected max offer of $205 million over five years.

The most another team projects to be able to offer is $152 million over four years, and San Antonio will have a hard time doing that. Even if they trim their roster to Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Danny Green and Tony Parker, the Spurs would still have to shed two of those players to clear max cap space.

So, never say never, but the Clippers’ concern might be rooted more in the dire consequences of Paul leaving rather than the likelihood of it.

Report: Raptors, Magic can’t trade with each other for a year

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The Magic will send the Raptors a 2018 second-round pick for hiring Jeff Weltman, who was Toronto’s general manager.

But that’s not the only consequence of hire.

Yahoo Sports:

The move invoked the NBA provision that Toronto and Orlando are not permitted to trade players with each other until the earlier of May 24, 2018, or the conclusion of the 2017-18 season for either organization, league sources told The Vertical’s Shams Charania.

The NBA made a similar ruling when the Clippers sent the Celtics a first-rounder to hire Doc Rivers, and I don’t like it now, either. It’s needlessly restrictive, preventing talent from flowing to the optimal locations.

At least Orlando isn’t a logical destination for the Raptor most likely to be dealt: Jonas Valanciunas. The Magic already have enough centers with Nikola Vucevic and Bismack Biyombo – a lesson that influenced their last trade with Toronto, dealing Serge Ibaka.

2017 NBA playoffs have been historically uncompetitive

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The NBA Finals so many wanted to see – Cavaliers-Warriors III – is here.

At least it will be.

Today is the first of six off days before the 2017, which begin June 1 in Oakland.

The lengthy delay is the product of an underwhelming postseason featuring few competitive series and numerous blowouts.

Golden State swept its way through the West, and Cleveland dropped only one game (to the Celtics in the conference finals) while winning the East. There have been only two Game 7s, but considering the magnitude, neither felt that compelling. Blake Griffin‘s injury undercut the Clippers against the Jazz, and Celtics over Wizards felt inevitable with home teams winning each game of the series. Between, there have been several lackluster games and series.

There have been just 74 playoff games this year – the fewest before the Finals since since the NBA instituted a best-of-seven first round in 2003:

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That’s 74 of a possible 98 games – 76%, the lowest since 1999 and seventh-lowest ever.

Even if the Finals go seven games, it will be the fewest games in a postseason since 2007. If the Finals go five or fewer games, it’ll be the shortest postseason in this playoff format.

And it hasn’t just been quantity. The quality of games has been lacking, too.

Though there were more blowouts last year by nearly any measure, the 2017 postseason’s average margin in pre-Finals games (13.5) is fifth-highest all-time and second-highest since 1959 (behind 2016, 14.2).

Combine the two factors, and these are the drabbest playoffs in nearly 50 years. Here’s each postseason plotted by average margin in pre-Finals games and percentage of possible games pre-Finals:

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This probably just confirms what you’ve seen: The 2017 playoffs have been in a rut.

We’re all counting on the Cavaliers and Warriors to salvage this postseason, but considering how deep the hole is, anything less than an epic Finals probably won’t cut it.

Kyrie Irving crosses over Avery Bradley, hits 3-pointer (video)

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Avery Bradley got around one screen then, thanks to Kyrie Irving‘s excellent ball-handling, lunged at another that wasn’t coming as Irving hit a 3-pointer.