MLK Day NBA: Live updates, highlights and recaps

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The Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday is one traditionally well-celebrated in the NBA. Today features a 10-game slate, and we’ll provide live updates, highlights and recaps here as the day goes on.

1:15 a.m. ET Tuesday: Pacers 102, Warriors 94 (FINAL): The second half of this game felt like a playoff game, down to the fired up crowd (got to love the people at Oracle) and the referees letting them play. The problem for Golden State was they were never able to dig out of the first quarter hole — behind Paul George’s 14 that quarter (23 for the game) the Pacers shot 64 percent for the quarter and led by 14 when it was done. Against a team that defends like the Pacers, that’s a huge hole. Indiana did a great job of chasing Stephen Curry off the three-point line — he was 3-of-11 from deep and that includes George Hill doing a great job on him late in the game. Indiana has won five in a row and looks every bit the team Miami should fear. Golden State got a taste of what it’s going to take to contend.

12:31 a.m. ET Tuesday: Pacers-Warriors: Golden State knocked down a few threes, Stephen Curry woke up the Bay Area crowd, combine that with a 9-of-23 shooting streak from the Pacers and we have a game. Golden State is just up by 8 entering the fourth quarter — this is going to be a ball game. The referees are letting them play, letting it get physical, and we will see how Golden State handles that.

\11:20 p.m. ET: Pacers-Warriors: Golden State is never out of a game with their ability to make a run with the three ball, but they are going to have to do it over the contested arms of Indiana Pacers’ defenders and it is not going well for them so far tonight. Indiana is up 16 and shooting 52 percent on the game. If you let Indiana shoot better than 5o percent and just try to outscore them against that defense, you lose. Stephen Curry started the game 2-of-7 from the floor.

10:52 p.m. ET: Bulls 102, Lakers 100 (OT FINAL): Two teams that have had their seasons derailed by injuries played an entertaining and competitive game that required overtime to be decided. The Bulls probably should have won in regulation, but thanks no doubt to the league publicly reprimanding officials after non-calls with games on the line, Joakim Noah was whistled for a foul on Nick Young with four seconds remaining that sent Young to the line for three free throw attempts to tie it. Near the end of the overtime session, Young once again came through with a baseline jumper that tied it, and the Lakers were just 0.9 seconds away from heading to a second overtime period. But they couldn’t defend a simple baseline out of bounds play, and Manny Harris (recently signed from the D-League) horribly misplayed Taj Gibson, who sealed Harris and was able to get free for the game-winning layup as time expired.

10:43 p.m. ET: Rockets 126, Trail Blazers 113 (FINAL): Portland’s leaky defense finally faced a flood not even its league-best offense could offset. Led by LaMarcus Aldridge (27 points and 20 rebounds), the Trail Blazers scored enough to win most nights. They just couldn’t stop the Rockets. Portland hasn’t allowed so many points in a game since 2007, and that’s why its win streak is over at five games. It’s no secret the Trail Blazers defense has been lacking. Of the NBA’s top eight teams – the group commonly accepted as true title contenders – only Portland (20th) ranks outside the top 11 in points allowed per possession. The Rockets, led tonight by Chandler Parsons (31 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists), boast one of the NBA’s top offenses. But if the Trail Blazers want to win a playoff series or two in this stacked Western Conference, they must defend better. That starts on the defensive glass, where no Portland player besides Aldridge grabbed more than two defensive rebounds. Better contesting shots on the perimeter – Houston made 16-of-33 3-pointers (48.5 percent) – would be a good second step. — Dan Feldman

9:21 p.m. ET: Rockets – Blazers: One of the day’s best matchups record-wise has turned into a laugher at halftime. The Rockets have hung 71 points on the Blazers through the game’s first 24 minutes and lead by 15 at the Break. Chandler Parsons leads all scorers with 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting, Dwight Howard has 15 points and seven rebounds, and Omri Casspi has 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting in 16 minutes off the bench. LaMarcus Aldridge leads the way for Portland with 16 points and 13 rebounds, but unless the Blazers can find a way to get some stops it’s not going to matter. It’s worth noting that Houston put together a similar first half performance against the Thunder the other night, before crashing to a record-low performance in the second.

9:12 p.m. ET: Lakers – Bulls: Thanks to 17 first half points from Nick Young, the Lakers lead 52-49 at intermission. Joakim Noah has 11 points and 10 rebounds at halftime for the Bulls, but everyone else on Chicago’s side is shooting an extremely low percentage, which led to L.A. erasing all of an early eight-point Bulls lead.

8:13 p.m. ET: Hawks 121, Heat 114 (FINAL): Though LeBron James had 30 points and six assists, Miami has lost four of six. Monday, defense was the main culprit. The Heat’s defense, still above average, has been at its worst since the Big Three came together. The 121 points allowed to Atlanta, which were led by Paul Millsap’s 26, weren’t even the most Miami has allowed this season. The Heat yielded 123 points to the Warriors earlier this month. I certainly expect Miami to get it together by the playoffs, but a chance at home-court advantage in the East is slipping away. The Heat now trail the Pacers by four games, and though that doesn’t seem insurmountable, Indiana is on pace to lose fewer than eight more games the rest of the season. – Dan Feldman

The Heat may have lost, but had at least one possession that was textbook as far as their defense leading to easy points in transition.

7:50 p.m. ET: Pelicans 95, Grizzlies 92 (FINAL): Anthony Davis had 27 points, 10 rebounds, four steals and four blocks – becoming the youngest player by nearly two years to hit those totals since at least 1985. He shot 2-for-11 in the first half, but he still made a noticeable defensive impact. In the second half, he got it going on offense, shooting 7-for-11, and his defense didn’t slip. He’s growing into a superstar right in front of our eyes, helping New Orleans end its nine-game losing streak and snap Memphis’ five-game winning streak. – Dan Feldman

6:19 p.m. ET: Nets 103, Knicks 80 (FINAL): The Nets improved to 7-1 in 2014 with an easy win over a Knicks team that didn’t look like it belonged on the same court for much of the afternoon. It was essentially over at halftime, when Joe Johnson had already scored 20 points and Brooklyn showcased what has become its signature  during this recent successful stretch — exceptional ball movement and solid team defense. It could have been a bigger margin, too, considering the Nets were just 3-of-10 shooting corner threes, and almost all of the attempts were wide-open looks.

Deron Williams returned after a five-game injury-forced absence, and finished with 13 points on 4-of-10 shooting, to go along with three assists in 27 minutes of action off the bench. Williams said afterward that the reserve role was his idea, and that he didn’t want to disrupt the team’s solid starting lineup.

The last time these two teams met, New York crushed an injury-ravaged Nets team in Brooklyn back in early December. Today, it was the Nets’ turn to bring the destruction.

“Simple payback,” Andray Blatche said afterward. “They came into our place and embarrassed us, and we wanted to come back and return the favor.”

4:42 p.m. ET: Wizards 107, 76ers 99 (FINAL): This wasn’t Washington’s most-polished performance, but its centers – Marcin Gortat (19 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks) and Kevin Seraphin (16 points, seven rebounds and a block) – dominated in a combined 46 minutes. Sometimes, out-muscling an opponent is enough. Both teams will probably take this result. The Wizards boost their playoff position, and Philadelphia continues tanking. Plus, Michael Carter-Williams (31 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals) bolstered his Rookie of the Year case. — Dan Feldman

4:38 p.m. ET: Clippers 112, Pistons 103 (FINAL): DeAndre Jordan dunked four times in the game’s opening minutes, kick-starting a riveting matchup – between Jordan and Blake Griffin for who could dunk most. Jordan held onto his early lead, besting Griffin seven to five. Los Angeles led by 20 before the Pistons made a late comeback, but this one was all about the Clippers. Whether it was Griffin’s 25 points, Jordan’s 21 rebounds or Jamal Crawford’s 26 points on 13 shots off the bench, Los Angeles had all sorts of contributions that masked the absence of Chris Paul. — Dan Feldman

4:34 p.m. ET: Heat – Hawks: Dwyane Wade told reporters he will not play in today’s game in Atlanta, which isn’t really a surprise with Miami playing a back-to-back in Boston the very next night. The Heat have been cautious with Wade all season long in terms of back-to-back sets, and Erik Spoelstra has said more than once that Wade will be essentially a game-time decision for the remainder of the regular season.

4:26 p.m. ET: Bobcats 100, Raptors 95 (FINAL): This score would have been a bit of a surprise anyway, considering that the Raptors had largely been playing much better and the Bobcats even with the win are still seven games under .500 on the season. But it’s even more of a shock considering that Toronto no-showed for the early part of this one, and trailed by as many as 30 before staging a furious comeback that fell just short.

Kyle Lowry was the one who sparked the Raptors, scoring 14 fourth quarter points and having a chance to tie it at the free throw line with under 25 seconds remaining. He missed the chance to complete the three-point play, however, and the Bobcats finished the game by hitting seven free throws to seal it. Ramon Sessions finished with 23 points on just 10 shots for Charlotte, and Al Jefferson had a monster game with 22 points, 19 rebounds, seven assists and two blocked shots.

4:18 p.m. ET: Wizards – Sixers: Here’s Jan Vesely with a violent rejection of a shot attempt from Michael Carter-Williams. Wizards cruising late, however, up 100-88 with 3:51 to play.

3:58 p.m. ET: Nets – Knicks: Brooklyn leads 52-38 at the half, behind 20 points from Joe Johnson, who has been killing teams early over his last several games. The key for the Nets has been ball movement, which has created wide open looks that the team has been able to convert at a clip of 51.2 percent. Carmelo Anthony is leading the way for New York with 15 points, but the Knicks as a team are shooting just 33.3 percent and have committed 11 first-half turnovers.

3:40 p.m. ET: Mavericks 102, Cavaliers 97 (FINAL): This was a game that Dallas led by as many as 24 points, but the Cavaliers managed to come all the way back to have a chance to tie with 2.8 seconds remaining. But Mike Brown isn’t exactly known for his ability to draw up anything remotely competent offensively, and the Cavs couldn’t even inbound the ball to get the tying shot off, and were whistled for the rare five-second call that sealed it.

Kyrie Irving finished with 26 points (albeit on 27 shots), and Anderson Varejao ended up with a game-high 21 rebounds in the losing effort. Monta Ellis had nine points in the final period for Dallas, but missed two critical free throws that gave Cleveland the final opportunity to tie, which was ultimately squandered.

3:14 p.m. ET: Clippers – Pistons: L.A. is firmly in control, leading 103-85 with 6:52 to play. We told you earlier about the dunking of DeAndre Jordan, and apparently the trend continued as the game went on. [Hat tip to our friends at Basketball Insiders]

3:06 p.m. ET: Wizards – Sixers: Michael Carter-Williams is feasting for Philly, even as the Wizards maintain a 57-47 lead with 1:45 to play in the first half.

3:01 p.m. ET: Knicks – Nets: Brooklyn got Deron Williams back after a five-game absence, but went with its same starting lineup and brought him off the bench. The Knicks started small (much to their fans’ delight) with Pablo Prigioni similarly returning today from injury. Joe Johnson has been lighting teams up in first quarters lately, and today has been no different — he has 10 points early, and the Nets lead the Knicks 21-12 with 3:24 remaining in the opening period.

Shaun Livingston had a nice block that led to a transition slam in the game’s opening minutes.

2:52 p.m. ET: Raptors – Bobcats: Toronto was coming off of a disappointing home loss to the Lakers on Sunday, and were looking to bounce back against a Bobcats team that just lost Kemba Walker for the next two weeks or so with a sprained ankle. So, naturally, Charlotte is up by 18 with 4:39 to play in the first half. Al Jefferson has 12 points early for the Bobcats.

Wizards – Sixers: Washington is up nine on the Sixers early in the second quarter, behind 10 points from John Wall, and seven apiece from trevor Ariza, Marcin Gortat, and Bradley Beal.

2:04 p.m. ET: Here’s the league’s Dream Big spot to get us started, featuring Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat.

Jordan Brand has specially-designed kicks that their athletes (including Blake Griffin and Ray Allen) will be wearing to celebrate the holiday, as well as Black History Month which begins in February.

source:

Mavericks – Cavaliers: Dallas is all over Cleveland late in the second quarter, leading 51-33 with 2:27 to play in the first half. Shawn Marion has 14 points on 5-of-5 shooting to lead the way for the Mavs, while the Cavaliers are shooting just 34.3 percent.

Clippers – Pistons: The Clippers are also up double-digits midway through the second, thanks to shooting almost 68 percent as a team behind a combined 15-of-18 shooting from Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and Jamal Crawford. It’s 51-41 L.A. with 4:16 remaining in the first half. It’s been a bit of a dunk-fest early, which included this reverse finish from Jordan on an alley-oop pass from beyond half-court.

Clippers’ Jerry West: ‘I did not want to leave’ Warriors

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A report emerged last spring that Jerry West was nearing a deal to stay with the Warriors as a consultant. Instead, he took the same job with the Clippers.

West, via Tim Kawakami of The Athletic, via NBC Sports Bay Area:

“Frankly it was very sad, OK? It really was. A place where I thought that if I was going to work another year or if somebody wanted me to work another year, I thought I could contribute; I did not want to leave. I did not want to leave. I was very happy there.

But those things happen sometimes. Obviously to be around a bunch of players that were as together as any I’ve seen and I think more importantly the talent that was on that team and to see the joy. There’s a lot of joy there. I think those are the kind of environments where people really prosper.”

“It was time for me to leave. I’m in Los Angeles again. For me, I’ll have a chance to go in the office a little bit and watch some of the people that have been hired, to watch our coaches coach. I’ve often said I’ve done some crazy things in my life because of the timing and maybe the timing was right.”

The Clippers’ appeal appeared to be their salary offer – reportedly $4 million-$5 million annually. And maybe that factored.

But it sure sounds as if there’s more to the story.

With Gordon Hayward and Jayson Tatum, Celtics continue ascent – just not as steeply as hoped

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NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

The Celtics landed the No. 1 pick and signed the top free agent to change teams.

Given that, it feels like their offseason should have gone better.

Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward are nice, and I won’t lose sight of that here. But…

Boston traded down from the top pick to No. 3 to draft Tatum. Count me among those who believed there was a significant drop from Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball to the next tier – and the tier after that.

The extra first-rounder the Celtics acquired has also only lost value since the trade.

It’d convey from the Lakers if they pick 2-5 next year. But they added two players, Brook Lopez and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, better than they were expected to get. Los Angeles looks less likely to stumble into a top-five pick – especially without incentive to tank.

If not the Lakers’ pick this season, Boston will get the higher of Sacramento’s and Philadelphia’s 2019 first-rounders (or lower if one is No. 1). The Kings signed a couple veterans, George Hill and Zach Randolph, to help them in 2018-19. Sacramento’s young players will be more developed by then, and mirroring the Lakers this year, there’s no incentive to tank. (Philadelphia is also on the rise, but the Celtics probably already knew that.)

There’s still a chance Boston winds up with a high pick – or even wins the trade with a middling additional selection. Tatum, as the Celtics have claimed, might be a better prospect than Fultz outright.

I originally thought the trade was about fair. Developments swing the pendulum away from Boston, though perhaps I’m overly colored by my relatively dim evaluation of Tatum. (I expected the Celtics to draft Josh Jackson when the trade was made.)

Boston’s next big move, signing Hayward, also comes with a major caveat. To get Hayward, the Celtics had to downgrade from Avery Bradley to Marcus Morris.

The reasons are clear: Bradley is earning $8,808,989 in the final season of his contract. Morris is locked up for two more seasons at $5 million and $5,375,000.

Not only was that salary difference essential for clearing max cap space now, Bradley will enter unrestricted free agency with Isaiah Thomas next summer. The raises necessary to re-sign both likely would’ve pushed the Celtics higher into the luxury tax than they’re willing to go. Thomas and Morris should be affordable.

Morris is a fine player, but it looks like he’s caught between better combo forwards (Hayward and Jae Crowder) and higher-upside/younger combo forwards (Jaylen Brown and Tatum). How much will Morris matter in Boston?

Bradley certainly did plenty, defending the better opposing guard so the undersized Thomas didn’t have to. Marcus Smart can handle some of that responsibility, but that cuts into the time he can play in relief of Thomas at point guard and the time he can defend forwards.

Getting Aron Baynes for the room exception was solid. He might even start for the Celtics, eating up minutes against big starting centers. I suspect Al Horford will play center in most pivotal minutes, though.

Signing Baynes was one of Boston’s several respectable moves – drafting Semi Ojeleye in the second round, signing 2016 first-rounders Guerschon Yabusele and Ante Zizic and paying to take a flier on Shane Larkin.

But the real needle-movers were signing Hayward, a 27-year-old versatile star, and adding a highly touted talent in Tatum. Even in the less-flattering greater context, those are huge additions.

Offseason grade: A-

Reports: Lakers, Pacers both confident in tampering case

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The Lakers reportedly expect to be cleared of the tampering allegations brought by the Pacers over Paul George.

As for the Pacers?

Bob Kravitz of WTHR on The Rich Eisen Show

They feel very strongly that there were correspondences between Lakers executives and Paul George’s representative. They had heard those rumors for quite some time. They think there’s some there there.

Wishful thinking by both sides? It sure looks like it.

The Lakers probably tampered, because everybody tampers. But teams are rarely punished for it, so they can also believe they did nothing egregious enough to become an exception.

A paper trail between the Lakers – Magic Johnson or any other executive – and George’s camp would go far. But even that must be more specific. George’s agent, Aaron Mintz, also represents Lakers forward Julius Randle and former Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell. So, he’d have good reason to communicate with the organization.

I don’t know what the NBA will do here. Tampering rules are rarely and arbitrarily enforced. That gives each team plenty of room to believe it’s right.

Only two of 38 rookies surveyed say No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz will have class’s best career

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The 76ers drafted Ben Simmons No. 1 last year, believing he’d have the best career of anyone in his draft class. This year, Philadelphia traded up to draft Markelle Fultz No. 1 for the same reason.

Their fellow rookies – Simmons missed all of last season due to injury – aren’t nearly as enthused.

John Schuhmann of NBA.com conducted his annual rookie survey, polling 39 players who weren’t allowed to vote for themselves or college or NBA teammates. Thirty-eight responded to the best-career question:

Which rookie will have the best career?

1. Lonzo Ball, L.A. Lakers — 18.4%
Jayson Tatum, Boston — 18.4%

3. Josh Jackson, Phoenix — 10.5%
Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas — 10.5%

5. De'Aaron Fox, Sacramento — 7.9%

6. Markelle Fultz, Philadelphia — 5.3%
Harry Giles, Sacramento — 5.3%
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia — 5.3%

Others receiving votes: Jarrett Allen, Brooklyn; John Collins, Atlanta; Jonathan Isaac, Orlando; Luke Kennard, Detroit; Kyle Kuzma, L.A. Lakers; Donovan Mitchell, Utah; Malik Monk, Charlotte

Simmons might not have come to mind to players at the rookie photo shoot, which was for the most recent draft class. And rookies have tended to pick someone other than the No. 1 pick for this question. Anthony Davis in 2012 was the last No. 1 pick to lead voting. Simmons tied for fourth at 6.7% last year – behind Brandon Ingram, Kris Dunn and Buddy Hield. Even Karl-Anthony Towns landed behind Jahlil Okafor in 2015.

But so few votes for Fultz – the consensus top prospect in the draft – is fairly stunning.

Dennis Smith Jr. received the most votes for Rookie of the Year, but at just 25.7%. A large majority of rookies picked someone other than the Mavericks point guard.

Lonzo Ball (71.8% for best playmaker) was the only player to receive a majority of votes in a category. Luke Kennard (48.6% for best shooter) and Smith (43.6% for most athletic), who each tripled second place, came close.

LeBron James reemerged as rookies’ favorite player after a three-year run by Kevin Durant. Maybe that Warriors backlash if finally catching up to Durant?