Tuesday night NBA grades: DeMar DeRozan is the Raptors go to guy

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Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while wishing you had watched the Winter Olympics in a snow fort…

source:   DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors. He is the guy the Raptors go to in the fourth and what’s different than the Rudy Gay era is how he gets his points — it’s not isolations. He’s coming off picks and getting the handoffs, or he’s working off what Kyle Lowry is doing, but the bottom line he is getting it out of sets. Tuesday night DeRozan delivered — he had 16 points in the fourth quarter (33 for the game) including an impressive driving reverse slam and the Raptors beat the Cavaliers because of his play. He may settle for too many jumpers but when they fall good luck stopping him.

source:   James Harden, Houston Rockets. Most players get pumped to play in Madison Square Garden or the Staples Center — James Harden was up for Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento. Harden dropped 22 points in the first quarter, pushing the Rockets out to an early 25-point lead over the Kings. From there it was basically over — Harden had 43 points and didn’t even play the fourth.

source:   DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings. DeMarcus, just between you and me, you’ve done a better job this season of letting the bad calls and injustices on the court — perceived and real — roll off your back. You really have, you’re becoming one of the game’s top big men. Call it maturity, call it needing to lead your team, call it whatever you want. But when you have setbacks like you did Tuesday night it hurts the team and you (they needed you to body up Dwight Howard to have any chance of a comeback). That’s 15 technicals now, one more this season and you get a forced vacation from the league. I know it’s not in your nature, but you can’t let the refs or opponents get under your skin like that. You can’t get in the referee’s face.

source:  Jeff Teague, Atlanta Hawks. His team lost but his 11 fourth quarter points — 10 of the team’s 13 at one point in the final frame — kept the in it at all. But then he made a couple mistakes that sabotaged the Hawks hopes — getting stripped when the Hawks were going for a tie. Or stepping out of bounds with less than 20 seconds left. Don’t let that completely overshadow a strong game — 26 points (on 10-20 shooting) and 7 assists — but he just couldn’t close and neither could the Hawks.

source:  Indiana Pacers in third quarter. Whatever it is Frank Vogel tells his team at halftime, he could make him a mint with it on the motivational speaking circuit. In the third quarters this season the Indiana Pacers have outscored their opponents by an NBA best 4.9 points on average — more than double what the second best team does (Portland at +2.2). Or to look at it another way the Pacers outscore their opponents by an average of 20.2 points per 100 possessions in the third quarter. Or, you can just ask the Lakers — Indiana outscored Los Angeles by 18 in the quarter, shooting 58 percent while holding the Lakers to 33 percent. It went from a close game to a rout where the Pacers starters got a lot of rest.

By the way, Evan Turner looked pretty good for the Pacers — 6-of-12 shooting and he was doing it within the offense.

source:

Report: Pelicans have discussed offering DeMarcus Cousins less than max over 2-3 years

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Last month, Anthony Davis said he heard DeMarcus Cousins planned to re-sign with the Pelicans. Cousins was out a torn Achilles, and New Orleans was rolling with Davis playing more center. But New Orleans’ ceiling looked higher with Cousins, and Davis made clear he wanted to keep Cousins – in itself a big deal. More important than keeping Cousins is keeping Davis, which requires keeping Davis happy.

Then, the Pelicans swept the Trail Blazers, becoming the lowest seed to sweep a first-round series.

Is everyone still sure Cousins warrants a max contract, which projects to be worth about $176 million over five years?

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

The Pelicans have broached internally the idea of offering Cousins a two- or three-year deal at less than the max, per sources familiar with the discussions. I would not expect that to go over well with Cousins’ camp. But the Pelicans have the dual leverage of winning without Cousins and a tepid market for him.

Only a half-dozen or so teams have max-level space this season, and most won’t pursue Cousins at that level, sources say.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pelicans leaked this to test the waters. Word will get back to Cousins, and they can gauge how strenuously he objects. If they want, they can deny ever considering this and try to avoid offending Cousins.

But New Orleans has leverage.

It will be a tight market. Many of the teams with significant cap space are young and rebuilding, and they won’t want Cousins’ attitude. Even teams ready to win might not bring him into the locker room. Returning from a torn Achilles – hard for any player – will be especially difficult for the 6-foot-11, 270-pound Cousins.

That said, Cousins has leverage on the Pelicans, too. He’s extremely talented, and players that talented are hard to come by. New Orleans would still essentially be capped out if he walked, left with only the mid-level exception to replace him. Cousins and Davis play well together, and Davis – who can become an unrestricted free agent in 2020 – wants Cousins around.

Confronted with a similar situation with Jrue Holiday last summer – capped out and no mechanism to adequately replace him – the Pelicans spent big. But Holiday wasn’t hurt and didn’t have any fit concerns with Davis.

For New Orleans, it’s clearly worth securing the 27-year-old Cousins for the next couple years. The upside is too high. But, especially given the injury, guaranteeing him money into his 30s is undesirable.

On the flip side, Cousins should want long-term security. This might be his last chance to get it.

So, maybe both the Pelicans and Cousins can meet in the middle. But finding that point is never simple.

Judge grills Suge Knight – facing murder charge – on NBA-champion pick (Rockets)

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Suge Knight is facing a murder, threat and robbery charges in three separate cases.

The former rap mogul was in court yesterday to set a trial date for the murder charge.

Marisa Gerber of the Los Angeles Times:

A few minutes later, during a separate hearing in the criminal threats proceeding, another judge asked Knight to return to his courtroom in May. The judge then turned to Knight, asking who he thought would win the NBA playoffs.

“At this time…” Knight said, before the judge cut him off, saying he wanted a once-and-for-all answer.

“Houston,” Knight responded.

“Alright, Houston. Good pick,” the judge said.

Knight smiled.

What?

Milwaukee taco restaurant releases security footage showing manager greeting Giannis Antetokounmpo

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Shortly after Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks to a Game 4 win over the Celtics on Sunday, someone eating at a Milwaukee taco restaurant tweeted a photo of the Greek Freak waiting for a table. According to the tweeter, nobody helped Antetokounmpo at all.

The picture went viral.

But!

The restaurant claims a manager greeted Antetokounmpo and released surveillance footage to prove it:

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“We appreciate everyone’s passion for treating Giannis and all customers with great customer service,” Monday’s follow-up read. “It is something we strive to do every day. We reviewed the entryway footage from last night, and we are proud to reaffirm that Giannis was promptly greeted by our manager and told the wait time. Giannis has been a customer many times and he has graciously accepted our apology for not being able to seat him and other customers more quickly last night.  Our focus is now on supporting our team on this playoff run. Go Bucks.”

The release concluded with the hashtag #TacoBoutAMisunderstanding.

TacoBoutAMisunderstanding, indeed.

For his part, Antetokounmpo never griped publicly about the taco restaurant. The wait was longer then he wanted so he went elsewhere.

He has more important issues to focus on – like Game 5 in Boston tonight.

Kevin Durant: Liking anti-Russell Westbrook Instagram comment was ‘total accident’

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Kevin Durant liked an Instagram comment critical of Russell Westbrook.

Here we go again?

Royce Young of ESPN:

I’m not inside Durant’s mind. He could be lying to cover another burner Instagram snafu.

But I tend to believe him. It’s easy enough to accidentally click like, and the greater context is on his side.

Durant has always tried to downplay a feud with Westbrook. Even at the personal rivalry’s peak, Durant just seemed as if he wanted Westbrook to like him. So, it’s nearly impossible to believe Durant – even for a button-pushing moment – wanted to publicly slight Westbrook.

But maybe Durant wanted quiresultan or some other alter-ego to do so? Maybe, as beaten down as he looked by the controversy over those deleted tweets last summer, Durant didn’t learn his lesson and still uses burner accounts. I certainly wouldn’t rule that out.

Again, though, this would be a weird message. Last summer’s deleted tweets praised Westbrook while slamming the rest of the Thunder. Durant was going to have a burner account take the opposite stance now? That doesn’t really add up.