Spurs will rest Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili in nationally televised game, Tony Parker also out

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Gregg Popovich is making a habit of tempting fate.

First, he confronted Stephen Jackson. Even if that was done in a joking manner – and it was – you can never be certain how Jackson will react.

Now, the Spurs coach is challenging another one of the NBA’s most strong-willed figures: David Stern.

Of course, Stern fined the Spurs last season for resting their starters in a nationally televised game with the Heat. Will tonight’s game, televised on TNT, yield a different result?

Maybe.

Last year, Stern said “the totality of the facts in this case” led to the fine. He cited:

  • Four players missing the game
  • One of those players being 26 years old
  • San Antonio not making its plan clear in a timely manner

This time, it’s only three players. And considering Parker missed the previous game, the Spurs should be clear on that. It’s really only two players.

Duncan is 37, Ginobili 36 and Parker 31. The Spurs certainly aren’t resting a young player this year.

The game doesn’t tip off for another six hours. I’d think this qualifies as timely notification.

But left unsaid by Stern last time was the fact that the game, like this one, was nationally televised. Did that factor into his decision, even if he didn’t say so publically? If it did, it will be a factor again tonight.

The Spurs could have just made up injuries for Duncan and Ginobili – back soreness or something – and avoided the whole issue. But it seems, once again, Popovich wants to push his luck.

Tyronn Lue says he has secret plan to fix Cavaliers’ defense for playoffs

AP Photo/Phil Long
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Only one team that ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed per possession during the regular season won an NBA title. The 2000-01 Lakers, who were 21st in defensive rating, are the lone outlier.

The Cavaliers rank 22nd in defensive rating this season and have been even worse lately.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue says he has a plan. He just won’t reveal it yet.

Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“We’ve got to hold back. We can’t show our hand early because … these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to come into a series and be able to adjust to what we do. We just have to be able to play our normal defense until we get there and then we will see what happens.”

Also:

“I think the rebounding hurt us. Rebounding. But it will be different once some other things happen. … Their two-guards, their threes, they still crashed the boards. But we have something to fix that. Just not right now.”

What precisely those plans are, Lue wouldn’t tell us. And here’s the other part — he’s not exactly sure they’ll work.

“I’m not confident, but we’ve got to” get the defense fixed, Lue said. “We have to.”

The Cavs ranked just 10th in defensive rating last season, among the worst marks for an eventual champion. But they cranked up their defense in the playoffs, especially late. Cleveland held the Raptors 4.8 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season scoring rate and the Warriors 7.8 below theirs.

Lue also unleashed a 3-point-heavy attack in the playoffs last year after sitting on the strategy through the regular season.

So, I have some faith Lue will implement a better defensive gameplan when it counts. It also helps to have LeBron James, who can still play elite defense when not in the slog of a long regular season.

But the Cavaliers’ defensive deficiencies right now are glaring. This roster appears to lack defensive potential, and their many miscues keep them well below whatever that potential is.

The challenge in elevating this defense to championship-caliber will be immense, maybe even unprecedented.

Mavericks’ Salah Mejri dunks while getting shoved in the gut (video)

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The Mavericks built a 13-point lead over the Thunder with 3:30left thanks to plays like this Salah Mejri dunk on Nick Collison.

Unfortunately for Dallas, Russell Westbrook happened.

Willy Hernangomez dunks on Andre Drummond, Pistons’ playoff chances (video)

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Andre Drummond and the Pistons couldn’t slow down anything.

Not Willy Hernangomez. Not the Knicks. Not Detroit’s plummeting playoff hopes.

After a 109-95 loss to the Knicks last night, the Pistons — who’ve lost four straight and seven of eight — are 1.5 games and two teams out of playoff position.

Terrence Ross 360 dunks his way back into Raptors fans’ hearts (video)

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In his first appearance in Toronto since the Raptors traded him to the Magic, Terrence Ross did what he has done best throughout his career: Delight Toronto fans with a dunk.

And of course the fans appreciated it, because their Raptors cruised to a 131-112 win.