Clipper defense, Darren Collison lead L.A. to win over Houston


For both the Clippers and the Rockets, the conventional wisdom is the same: If they can defend well and consistently in the playoffs they move into contender status.

Wednesday night it was the Clippers that defended when it mattered — the Rockets shot just 33 percent in the fourth quarter.

Combine that with some impressive play from Darren Collison — he had 12 points in the fourth quarter — and you get the Clippers pulling away for a 101-93 victory at home. That makes the Clippers 3-0 against the Rockets this season, but as this was the fifth game at the end of a road trip the Rockets come loaded with excuses for an off outing.

The Rockets legs looked tired late as the Clippers intensified their defense. A couple key Rockets looked flat all night — James Harden shot just 6-of-16 on his way to 18 points plus he had six turnovers; Chandler Parsons shot just 3-of-13. Without those guys the Rockets offense sputtered as they just tried to go inside to Dwight Howard without an outside to balance things.

That was part of the reason this was a lower-scoring game than expected. This game started out as a dream for the Clippers who were allowed to get in transition and raced out to a 17-4 lead. But for the rest of the first half the Rockets ground it down — Patrick Beverly harassed Chris Paul into a slow first half while the Rockets bench outscored the Clippers subs 21-10 in the first 24 minutes. The third quarter was back and fourth, with the Clippers up 74-73 after three.

Then in the fourth the Clippers went on a little run (8-3) early to give them a some cushion, and they wouldn’t give that up the rest of the way.

That’s where Collison came in — he had 7 straight in the fourth quarter (he finished with 19 points) to keep the Clippers ahead. Collison got more run, including time at the two, after Jamal Crawford had to leave the game just before halftime due to a calf injury. There is no word yet on how serious it is.

Glen Davis — you can call him “Big Baby — made this his Clipper debut in the fourth he was solid in the role 2 points (off of free throws), grabbed 2 rebounds, had 2 blocks, and gave up 3 fouls.

Blake Griffin had a huge night, scoring 23 points (on 25 shots, not exactly efficient) and adding 16 rebounds. He showed off his handles all night but Houston did a good job contesting him.

Dwight Howard finished with 23 points (on 12 shots) and 11 rebounds to lead Houston.

You can’t read much into a February game in terms of potential playoff meetings. That said, this helps keep the Clipper in a top four seed (they are currently the four seed, percentage points ahead of the Rockets) and a chance to have home court in the first round. Which is going to matter in the West.

Just not as much as who defends.

Rumor: Magic expected to fire Frank Vogel

AP Photo/John Raoux
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Magic president Jeff Weltman inherited an expensive and bad roster, limiting his options to shape it.

He also inherited coach Frank Vogel, and maybe there’s something Weltman will do about that.

Marc Stein of The New York Times in his newsletter:

Orlando’s ongoing malaise, especially after the promise of an unexpected 8-4 start, make it a widely held assumption in coaching circles that Vogel will be dismissed after the franchise’s sixth successive season out of the playoffs.

Perhaps, these people in coaching circles are doing nothing more than connecting dots. Many coaches with poor records – only the Suns and Nets have been worse during Vogel’s two-year tenure – inherited by a new front office get fired.

Or it could be something more concrete, like Orlando putting out feelers for potential replacements. That possibility gives juice to this report.

Vogel has one more guaranteed year left on his contract, according to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. Will ownership pay to oust Vogel? That seems likely. The alternative is paying Weltman to sit on his hands.

This would be a tough break for Vogel, who coached well with the Pacers. The Magic’s roster is just so lacking. Vogel hasn’t impressed in Orlando, but his opportunity to do so has been narrow.

At least it’d be more understandable if he got fired by a losing team. Last time, he got fired by a winning team.

Rumor: Bucks, Jabari Parker could part after season

AP Photo/Morry Gash

Jabari Parker is a confounding fit on the Bucks now and in the future.

Could he and Milwaukee part ways this summer, when he’ll be a restricted free agent?

Gery Woelfel on 105.7 The Fan:

At this very moment, I’d say the odds are slim to none it’s going to happen … that he’ll be on this team next year.

I just don’t see a good fit there. I didn’t bring this up, and I’ve been meaning to do so, but I haven’t. He came very, very close to being traded at the deadline. And I think that spoke volumes of they think of Jabari Parker and whether he’s a part of their future plans.

Bucks executive Alex Lasry denied it:

So did general manager Jon Horst. Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Horst made it clear both on the radio and in a separate interview with the Journal Sentinel on Wednesday that the Bucks never had any intention of trading Parker

Teams often discuss trading players then deny it to avoid offending the player. Whether or not they nearly traded Parker, the Bucks would probably respond now similarly.

As far as Parker’s future in Milwaukee, it’s unclear where the well-connected Woelfel’s reporting ends and his analysis begins. There’s a huge difference between trading Parker for value and letting him walk for nothing. Just because the Bucks came close to trading Parker wouldn’t mean they won’t re-sign him.

Shedding Parker would not open cap space without additional moves. It would probably allow Milwaukee to use the full mid-level exception and stay beneath the luxury-tax line. But that’s unlikely to land a player who combines Parker’s age and talent.

Because Parker will be a restricted free agent, the Bucks hold the cards. If he’s upset about trade talks or anything else, he can’t unilaterally leave.

Milwaukee must determine how much to pay Parker and how to utilize him with Giannis Antetokounmpo. Those are hard questions. But the Bucks throwing up their hands and letting Parker walk in free agency isn’t the answer.

Tony Parker: My quad injury 100 times worse than Kawhi Leonard’s

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Tony Parker reportedly led a players-only meeting in which Spurs implored Kawhi Leonard to return.

Leonard injured his quad last season, has played just nine games this season and remains sidelined. The Spurs have reportedly cleared him, but he got second opinions and is waiting for his medical team to clear him.

Parker injured his quad last May then returned in November – and said at the time Leonard would return in 2-3 weeks.

Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News:

It’s not hard to read between these lines.

Though some Spurs reportedly told Leonard to return only once he feels ready, Parker is clearly applying pressure. It’s not working, but he’s apparently not stopping.

These comments don’t befit a healthy organization, which is just so stunning for the Spurs, whose excellent culture has been exalted for year.

Maybe Parker will get his wish, and a shamed-into-playing Leonard will lead San Antonio deep into the playoffs. But it seems more likely these quotes will just increase tension.

Celtics: Kyrie Irving to undergo ‘minimally invasive procedure’ on injured knee

AP Photo/Jim Mone

With uncertainty surrounding Kyrie Irving‘s knee injury, the Celtics announced a course of action.

Celtics release:

The Boston Celtics announced today that guard Kyrie Irving will tomorrow undergo a minimally invasive procedure to alleviate irritation in his left knee. Further information will be provided following tomorrow’s procedure, and the team will have no further comment until that time.

This is so vague. We barely know more than we did before.

Irving reportedly might need the pins removed from his knee, so that’d be the first guess at the type of procedure. But that’s just a guess.

The Celtics look vulnerable with Irving hobbled, which is big update from yesterday, when the Celtics looked vulnerable with Irving hobbled.