Damian Lillard, Portland trail blazers

Tuesday night NBA grades: Damian Lillard is clutch


Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while salivating over the idea of a “Rounders” sequel. Or wincing at the idea. (Count me with the latter group.)

source:  Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers. Two clutch game winners in a row. Tuesday night he had 23 of his 36 points in the second half and helped spark a 22-7 run that seemed to have Portland in control midway through the fourth — then Kyrie Irving helped spark changed everything. The Cavs went on a 12-2 run and tied it all up with 7.1 seconds left.

All of which set this up. Dagger.

source:  Andre Iguodala, Golden State Warriors. Yes, Stephen Curry was carrying the offense (30 points), but do you think it’s a coincidence that Iguodala returns to action after 26 days off and the Pelicans only shoot 37.5 percent on the night? Iguodala himself only played 17 minutes and had 2 points on 1-of-4 shooting (finishing an alley-oop from Stephen Curry), there certainly was rust. But the simple fact is Golden State’s ball movement was improved as was their focus on defense. And that all ties to Iguodala.

source:  Denver Nuggets’ pick-and-roll defense. Brian Shaw set out a strategy of switching on the pick-and-roll Tuesday, especially when Kevin Durant had the ball. Not many doubles, just switches. Durant ended up with 30 points and would just shoot over the top of whoever came at him or back poor Randy Foye down in the block. Durant is going to get his, you just need to make him work for them. Denver didn’t. Next meeting Shaw needs a new strategy.

source:  Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters (Cleveland Cavaliers). It was in a losing effort but the two guys who reportedly are not tight off the court looked good together on it — they combined for 50 points and both had key roles in the Cavaliers fourth-quarter comeback that made it a game at the end. This was what the Cleveland front office had in mind with this pairing, but with Waiters on the trade block we may not see many more nights like this.

Hawks’ Thabo Sefolosha on not guilty verdict: “Justice was served”

Thabo Sefolosha
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Friday morning, a New York jury found Atlanta Hawks guard Thabo Sefolosha not guilty of misdemeanor obstructing government administration, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest. The charges stemmed from the night in the final weeks of last season when Sefolosha and then teammate Pero Antic went to a New York club after arriving in town, and while there Pacers’ player Chris Copeland was stabbed outside the club. In his clash with police, Sefolosha suffered a broken leg that required surgery and kept him out of the playoffs.

The New York prosecutor tried to make this go away with a plea deal of just day of community service and six months probation. But Sefolosha had the means and mind to fight the charges, got his day in court and won. This is what he said in a statement after the verdict, released by the Atlanta Hawks.

“This morning’s verdict ended a long and emotional period for me.  Justice was served and for that I am eternally grateful to the judge and jury for their quick and deliberate decision….

“It’s troubling to me that with so much evidence in my support that this case would even be brought to trial and that I had to defend myself so hard to get justice. It pains me to think about all of the innocent people who aren’t fortunate enough to have the resources, visibility and access to quality legal counsel that I have had.

“It was important to me as a man, a father to two young girls and as a role model, to stand up for what I believe in and have my name cleared of any wrongdoing.  Today’s verdict will not make up for the pain and trauma my family and I have suffered over the past six months or bring back the opportunity to have played in the Eastern Conference Finals and have a shot at an NBA title, but it does bring me some peace and closes a painful chapter in my life.

“Now I look forward to returning to the team and focusing solely on my rehabilitation for the upcoming season so that I can get back to playing the game I cherish so much.”

While Sefolosha says he is focusing “solely” on his rehab, the win in the criminal case would bode well for a potential civil case if he wanted to sue regarding his treatment and the broken leg.

Hawks’ coach Mike Budenholzer — who testified at the trial and was amused by parts of it — released this statement:

“Thabo is a man of great character and we are proud that he took a principled approach to proving his innocence. We are extremely happy for him and his family, and we are very pleased with today’s verdict in his favor.”

Byron Scott doesn’t care about exhausting Lakers in preseason

Byron Scott
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The Warriors use wearable technology to track players and have rested them when the data revealed fatigue. Gregg Popovich is holding relatively healthy Spurs out of practice. Heck, Popovich doesn’t even send himself to every preseason games.

Meanwhile, with the Lakers…

Lakers coach Byron Scott, via Baxter Holmes of ESPN:

“I don’t necessarily care about tired legs in preseason,” Scott said. “I think everything that we’ve done thus far will pay off at the end of the day. You’ve got some guys that might have tired legs and [are] a little worn out, but all the running as far as getting into that physical condition that we need to get into, I think in December and January, it will pay off.

“So I’m not necessarily worried about guys having tired legs in preseason. They’ll just have to kind of fight through that fatigue part of it. And I think mentally it gets them a little stronger anyway.”

Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times:

The Lakers coach has a reputation for demanding a lot of running in the preseason. It’s important in his mind because the Lakers will be better conditioned than other teams down the road.

Players, predictably, aren’t as enthused about it.

Bresnahan quotes just two players, Brandon Bass and D'Angelo Russell, and neither expressed much resistance to Scott’s methods. But I trust Bresnahan to read the team’s pulse.

I also think Scott is right: Fighting through fatigue builds mental toughness. But it also makes players tired, and it’s not the only way to instill toughness. The Warriors are tough. The  Spurs are tough. They didn’t have to run their players into the ground to get that way.

Scott loves to project himself as old-school and anti-analytic. Thankfully for the Lakers, his actual methods aren’t as bad as he conveys. For example, he said the Lakers would take an absurdly low 10-15 3-pointers per game last season. In reality, they hoisted nearly 19 per game, 25th in the league. That might not have been enough for that roster, but at least it wasn’t leaps and bounds below the norm.

So, I’m not convinced Scott is pushing the Lakers as hard as he wants everyone to believe. But he’s  clearly giving them a bigger workload than many teams.

If the Lakers are playing relevant games late in the season, this could come back to bite them. On the bright side, they probably won’t have to worry about that problem.