The Extra Pass: Changes coming in threes; plus Sunday’s recaps

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If you’ve watched basketball this year and thought at some point, “Man, these teams sure are shooting a lot of threes”, you’re not alone. Firing up shots from behind the arc has become more of a standard practice for most NBA teams (except for good ol’ Memphis) and teams like the Phoenix Suns and Portland Trail Blazers have taken it to the extreme and shocked the league early on.

Whether or not the success of the Suns and Blazers is sustainable remains to be seen, but their formula will be readily adapted. More and more, we’ll see teams crank up the volume on three-point attempts. Basketball has already changed quite a bit in that regard over the last few years, but we may be in store for even more coming soon:

D.J. Foster

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Warriors 108, Cavaliers 104 (OT): Cleveland scored 64 points by halftime, yet managed just 40 in the second half and overtime session combined. No one beyond Kyrie Irving was consistently effective, and his huge three-pointer that was heavily contested by Klay Thompson was the reason that the Cavs were able to force the extra session. David Lee managed just nine first half minutes (and zero points) due to picking up three early personal fouls, but he finished the game with 19 points before fouling out with 3:31 to play. Stephen Curry finished with 29 points and 11 assists in more than 48 minutes of action, and hit the key step-back long two with 13 seconds remaining to seal it.

Magic 109, Hawks 102: Orlando got this victory by shooting 55.4 percent from the field as a team, dominating in points in the paint by a margin of 20, and seeing seven of its players score in double figures. Arron Afflalo continued to put up All-Star numbers in finishing with a team-high 21 points on 10 shots in just over 42 minutes of action.

Thunder 117, Rockets 86: This was a schedule loss for Houston more than anything else, as the Rockets were playing their fourth game in five nights and were on the second game of a back-to-back set. Considering the previous three were all victories, including one on the road against the Spurs, the team likely won’t be too crushed by this singular result. Kevin Durant was unstoppable, and finished with 33 points, 13 rebounds and five assists in just over 38 minutes of action. Dwight Howard and James Harden each finished in single digits scoring and combined for 17 points — five less than the Thunder’s Jeremy Lamb managed in 26 minutes for the Thunder off the bench.

Spurs 112, Kings 104: San Antonio needed a 31-17 fourth quarter to pull this one out, and got it thanks to 10 points apiece from Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili in the final frame. The Spurs put together a 16-4 run over the game’s final 4:58 to seal it, negating strong performances from DeMarcus Cousins (29 points, 14 rebounds), Rudy Gay (24 poiints, nine rebounds) and Isaiah Thomas (27 points, nine assists) in the process.

76ers 111, Lakers 104: Here is the bottom line — the Sixers have a deeper pool of solid NBA talent to draw from than the Lakers right now. Without Kobe Bryant or Pau Gasol or Steve Nash, and with Xavier Henry going out after a knee injury (MRI Monday), the fact is the Lakers just do not have the quality bodies to hang. Los Angeles shot 37 percent and had 22 turnovers on the night. Still, they took a lead in the fourth but a 10-2 Sixers run late sealed the win. Thaddeus Young had 25, Evan Turner 22 for the Sixers.

Giannis Antetokounmpo scores career-high 44, dedicates game to father

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MILWAUKEE (AP) — After scoring a career-high 44 points, Giannis Antetokounmpo wrote a note on the game ball.

“This is for daddy. We got a win tonight,” the 22-year-old Milwaukee Bucks player said, remembering his father, Charles, who died last month at age 54.

Antetokounmpo scored 17 points in the fourth quarter, including a dunk that put Milwaukee ahead 111-110 with 11 seconds to go.

After a timeout, Damian Lillard found Jusuf Nurkic running open down the lane, but Antetokounmpo blocked his shot at the basket, sending the 7-foot center crashing to the floor.

Antetokounmpo, starting his fifth NBA season, made 17 of 23 shots with eight rebounds and four assists as Milwaukee kept pace with a Portland team that had dominated its first two opponents. The Bucks star is averaging 38.3 points through three games, up from 22.9 last year, 16.9 in 2015-16 and 12.7 in 2014-15.

“Seventy-nine more. This is just the beginning,” he said, thinking about how many regular-season games remain.

After Nurkic was rejected at the basket, Khris Middleton was fouled and made both free throws.

“They committed two guys to Dame, so somebody was going to be open,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said, referring to Lillard. “Turned out to be Nurk but they made a really good defensive play.”

Lillard scored 26 points, including 16 in the fourth quarter. CJ McCollum also scored 26, and Nurkic had 17 points and 11 rebounds. Tony Snell scored 17 points and Middleton added 16 for Milwaukee.

 

Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant ejected at end of loss to Grizzlies

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Stephen Curry is going to get fined for this.

The former MVP was frustrated, his team losing and thinking he was fouled by Mike Conley as he attacked the rim late in the Warriors loss in Memphis Saturday night. Curry threw his mouthpiece at the referee, which deservedly got him ejected instantly.

Durant followed him to the locker room, making a gesture that will earn him a fine as well.

The Warriors are 1-2 to start the season and there are a lot of factors at play. The China trip does this to teams, and throw in three straight trips to the Finals on top of it and it has an impact. The team is a little banged up. However, the biggest issue is their defense is a mess right now.

The Warriors will straighten it out eventually, but the start of the season could be a rough one for them.

Pacers owner says team not for sale, will not be moved from Indianapolis

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There are more than a few NBA owners who are seeing the prices teams are being sold for — the Rockets just sold for a record $2.2 billion — and considering their options. Some other billionaires are looking for teams, several with the goal of packing up the franchise and moving it to their respected hometowns.

Those billionaires need not call Herb Simon. The Pacers owner said the team is not going anywhere, speaking to Gregg Doyel of the IndyStar.

“I want to leave my legacy: This team permanently in Indianapolis,” Simon told IndyStar Friday in an interview at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. “That’s my No. 1 goal.”

Simon bought the Pacers in 1983 with his older brother, Melvin — who died in 2009 at age 82. He told IndyStar the team someday will be owned by his 53-year-old son, Steve. Behind the scenes, Steve Simon has been working closely with Pacers Sports and President Rick Fuson for five years — “He knows more about the dollars and cents than I do,” Herb said of his son — and met this week with several department heads.

“If anything happens to me, he’d be taking over,” Herb said, adding that father and son are on the same page: The Pacers are staying in Indianapolis.

Good. That is as it should be.

Indiana is part of America’s basketball heartland, and it should have a team. Pacers fans are smart and loyal, and the team has a long history going back to the ABA, running from Mel Daniels and George McGinnis through Reggie Miller and up to Myles Turner (hopefully he can be on the level of the rest of them someday). They play in the coolest basketball building in the league, one with the history of the sport wolven in.

Indy is the nation’s 27th largest television market, bigger than San Antonio, Salt Lake City, Oklahoma City and other successful NBA franchises. There is no reason the Pacers cannot thrive, so long as ownership is committed.

They are. Which is excellent news for Pacers’ fans.

Stan Van Gundy speaks out again in support of protesting athletes

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy used his team’s trip to Washington to again voice his support for athletes who kneel during the national anthem and his opposition to President Donald Trump.

Van Gundy was asked before Friday night’s game against the Wizards what he hoped would result from the president’s criticism of NFL players who refuse to stand for the anthem and the resulting national dialogue about political activism by professional athletes.

“I don’t know what good can come out of anything the president has said,” Van Gundy said. “As far as the athletes’ protest, I hope people would pay attention to the issues that caused the protest in the first place and realize that we have problem disproportionately with police brutality towards men of color.”

Van Gundy also criticized fans who have booed those athletes because they believe the gesture is disrespectful to the United States military.

“I thought that one of the things the military is fighting for is the American way of life and our values, which I think starts with freedom of speech,” Van Gundy said. “Our country was founded on protest. Otherwise, we would still be a colony of England. You would think people would appreciate non-violent protests that will be made.

“If you don’t stand for freedom of speech and you don’t think those players have the right to freedom of speech, what American values are you for?”

It was not the first time Van Gundy has spoken out on these issues. When Trump was elected last November, Van Gundy told the Detroit Free Press it was the first time he had been “ashamed” of his country.

Last month on the team’s media day, he read a prepared statement in support of athletes who use their visibility for political purposes, including protests during the anthem. The NBA has a policy requiring that players stand for the anthem.

The Pistons’ visit to Washington was their first since Jan. 21, one day after Trump’s inauguration.

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