Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while worrying about our national clown shortage…
Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks. New York picked up a win in New Orleans because of Carmelo Anthony (who seems to play well in that city as he had monster numbers in the All-Star Game, too). He poured in 13 of his 42 points on the night in the fourth quarter, but it was the way he was getting his points that you had to like — he was driving towards the basket then pulling up just before the help defender came over. The result was 5-10 footers rather than contested 20 footers. Plus he was hustling on defense. Just a great all around night.
Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves offense. Minnesota put up 104 on the best defense in the NBA. Part of that was some sloppy imposters showed up in Pacers uniforms, but Minnesota played fantastically. Kevin Love shot lights out (14-of-22) on his way to 42 points. Ricky Rubio played maybe his best NBA game — he attacked the Pacers defense off the pick-and-roll and made them pay, mostly with his 17 assists. There were brilliant Kevin Love outlet passes to Corey Brewer (the king of the leak out), Just everything Minnesota did worked.
Charlotte Bobcats. They went into the All-Star break just half a game ahead of the Pistons and clinging to the eight seed in the East. With Wednesday’s 116-98 win the Bobcats took both ends of a home-and-home with Detroit to give themselves a little cushion in the East. Al Jefferson was a beast with 29 points, outplaying the vaunted Detroit front line for a second straight night. Kemba Walker had 9 of his 24 in the fourth to make sure the door stayed shut on Detroit. For back-to-back nights the Bobcats showed what team discipline can do to an undisciplined team.
Cleveland Cavaliers. Six straight wins — maybe Dan Gilbert will get his playoff wish after all. Kyrie Irving continues to play well, Luol Deng is making plays, Anthony Bennett is contributing off the bench, it is just a team effort. Wednesday they raced out to a 15-2 lead and led by as many as 21, but the impressive part was they held on when Orlando made a third-quarter run and the Cavaliers hung on for the 101-93 win. They are playing good team ball right now.
Patty Mills, San Antonio Spurs. No Tony Parker, no Tim Duncan, second night of a back-to-back against top teams in the West (Clippers Tuesday, Trail Blazers Wednesday) and the Spurs just keep on winning thanks to Patty Mills and his 29 points. The Spurs just continue to do this: You think they should fall apart and they keep on winning. Mills has been playing like this most of the month of February, give the guy Player of the Week honors. Are you listening league office?
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) The Sacramento have picked up the 2016-17 option on guard Ben McLemore‘s contract.
General manager Vlade Divac announced the move Saturday.
McLemore was Sacramento’s first-round pick in 2013. He averaged 12.1 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists last season.
In the Pacers first exhibition game of the season Saturday against the Pelicans, Paul George started at the power forward spot and looked healthy — that should be the big takeaway. He also showed off his offensive game in the first quarter, eventually finishing the night with 18 points on 7-of-15 shooting. He forced some shots in the second half and had some defensive challenges, but it was a solid outing for a first preseason game.
George did not see it that way, and that will end up being the big takeaway.
He complained about playing power forward during training camp and given the chance after this one game he did it again, as reported by Candace Buckner of the Indy Star.
“I don’t know if I’m cut out for a four spot,” George said after the Pacers’ 110-105 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, a game in which he started matched up against 6-foot-11 All-Star Anthony Davis.
“I don’t know if this is my position. We’ll sit and watch tape and I’m sure I’ll talk with coach (Frank Vogel). I’ll talk with Larry (Bird) as well to get both their inputs on how the first game went but…I’m still not comfortable with it regardless of the situation. It’s still something I have to adjust to or maybe not. Or maybe it’s something we can go away from.”
George sees himself as a wing, where he has played his entire career. He doesn’t like defending traditional fours, as a scorer he doesn’t like expending all that energy defending pick-and-rolls and banging with bigger bodies. He’s been clear about that.
He still needs to be open to the idea. How much time George gets at the four on any given night should depend on the matchup — and Anthony Davis is about as rough a matchup as he is going to see. Davis scored 18 points in 15 minutes, and the Pelicans controlled the paint against the small-ball Pacers. George had a hard time defending Davis — welcome to a rather large club, PG. That said, George scored 12 points in the first quarter mostly with Davis on him, he pulled the big out in space and got what he wanted.
Back to the matchups point, George will struggle defensively against the best fours in the game (most of whom are in the West). But what about the nights in the East when George would be matched up on Thaddeus Young from Brooklyn, Jared Sullinger (or David Lee, or whoever) from Boston, or Aaron Gordon with the Magic, or Carmelo Anthony with the Knicks when they play small? There are a lot of lineups the Pacers will see where George at the four makes sense.
The Pacers are transitioning from a plodding and defensive-minded squad to a more up-tempo style, and that’s going to take time— a lot more than one preseason game. However, if George is throwing cold water on the plan after this one effort, it might take a lot longer and be a lot bumpier to make that transition than we pictured.