That’s the Clippers who look like a contender, win by 40 in rout of Warriors

12 Comments

After dropping Game 1, the feeling around the Clippers was more “that wasn’t us out there” than thinking they were in trouble and Game 2 was a must win. Even though it pretty much was.

Those Clippers that showed up on Monday night certainly were better than the ones from over the weekend — they had all their players on the court (no silly foul trouble), exploited mismatches, shared the ball and generally just looked dominant.

Los Angeles raced out to 15-4 lead, Golden State started the game shooting 2-of-11… and it pretty much continued like that for three-and-a-half more quarters. The Clippers reached Lawler’s Law — first team to 100 wins — before the end of the third quarter. The Clippers as a team shot 56.6 percent on the night. Look at it this way: Stephen Curry scored 20 third quarter points and the Clippers still expanded their lead by six. The fourth quarter was garbage time.

By the time it mercifully ended the Clippers on by 40, 138-98.

That evens the series at 1-1 heading up to Golden State for the next two. The only good news for the Warriors that it’s mentally easier to flush and move on from this kind of loss than it is a heartbreaking close one.

Clippers fans, don’t think this is a statement — playoff history is littered with teams that won in a blowout one game then lost the next one. If the Clippers want to make a statement they need to win Game 3 on the road in convincing fashion.

Tuesday night the Clippers stuck with many of their plans from Game 1 — defensively that meant get ball out of Curry’s hands. Smart plan. But in Game 1 Clippers did a terrible job of rotating after Curry’s pass, allowing Klay Thompson good looks from the outside and a host of backdoor cut layups. In Game 2 the Clippers kept up the pressure on Curry but made vastly better rotations that pressured the Warriors into turnovers — 26 turnovers. Also DeAndre Jordan had a much better game protecting the paint.

Offensively, Blake Griffin ate David Lee’s lunch. He was the bully. He was aggressive going to the rim (9-of-11 shooting inside 8 feet) and when the defense focused on him and doubled he moved the ball to the open man. Griffin had a career playoff high of 35 points, and he did it in 30 minutes of play, getting to rest the fourth.

Chris Paul had 12 points and 10 assists. Danny Granger had 15, Matt Barnes 13. The only Clipper not to score on the night was Ryan Hollins.

Golden State has to feel better that they are not going to shoot 4-of-19 from three again next game.

Stephen Curry, who finished with 24 points, was frustrated with the contact he absorbed and the lack of calls that he picked up a third quarter technical for throwing his mouthpiece at the scorers’ table. Jermaine O’Neal picked up a technical, too, as did Clippers’ coach Doc Rivers, when Rivers started jawing at O’Neal over his defensive tactics.

The Warriors still got a split, they go home with a chance in this series, Andrew Bogut or no (and it’s still no). That’s a good start, now they just need to find their game by Thursday night.

The Clippers just need more of the same, and more Blake Griffin.

Report: Dennis Smith Jr. planned to have J. Cole dunk in dunk-contest routine

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Mavericks rookie Dennis Smith Jr. seemed pretty steamed about getting eliminated in the first round of the dunk contest:

The dunk-contest scoring system – five judges ranking dunks on a scale of 6-10 – is plenty flawed. There should have been a larger difference between the Smith and Victor Oladipo dunks the Dallas point guard mentioned. But Oladipo didn’t advance, either. Personally, I thought the right two players – eventual-winner Donovan Mitchell and runner-up Larry Nance Jr. – advanced.

Maybe Smith was more upset about the missed opportunity – dunks (plural!) involving rapper J. Cole.

Amin El-Hassan of ESPN on Black Opinions Matter:

If Dennis had made it to the finals, Cole was going to throw him the alley-oop. But then the plan was, he was going to throw him the oop, Dennis would dunk it, and then Cole would catch the ball, and then he’d dunk it too. That was going to be the ill, craziest dunk-contest use of a prop or a person ever. But we never got to saw it, because they were holding out until the final round. They didn’t want to bring it out in the first round.

This certainly would have been unprecedented and cool. But unless Smith had something amazing planned for the alley-oop, the best element would have been Cole dunking. That would have upstaged Smith, who’s presumably the one being judged.

For what it’s worth, Cole can dunk. We’ve seen it in the celebrity game:

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich says he’d be surprised if Kawhi Leonard returns this season

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
1 Comment

When announcing last month Kawhi Leonard was out indefinitely due to a lingering quad injury, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich dismissed the idea his star forward would miss the rest of the season:

Apparently, Popovich’s expectation has changed.

Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

The Spurs (35-24) are third in the West despite Leonard playing just nine games. Popovich has done a great job (maybe Coach of the Year-worthy). LaMarcus Aldridge is having a bounce-back season in a leading role. Pau Gasol leads a supporting cast of players good in their roles.

But San Antonio’s ceiling is so much lower without Leonard.

He’s an elite defender who shuts down opposing scorers on the perimeter and can comfortably switch inside. He can isolate offensively to score efficiently, and he spaces the floor off the ball with strong 3-point shooting. Those are all skills that translate to the playoffs.

Without him, the Spurs rely too heavily on older, slower defenders. That’s ripe to be exploited in the postseason.

Teams might even jockey to match up with San Antonio – the most vulnerable-appearing Western Conference team in line to get home-court advantage in the first round.

Of course, this doesn’t eliminate the possibility of Leonard returning. Popovich could just be trying to shut down speculation. He clearly doesn’t like discussing this issue.

But the Spurs are the most cautious team on injuries. If Leonard risks further injury, they’ll keep him sidelined.

This injury has already caused tension. This won’t help.

Mark Cuban’s fine third-largest known fine in NBA history

Bryan Steffy/Getty Images
5 Comments

While explaining how he told his players the team was better off losing this season, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said “I’m probably not supposed to say this” and “Adam would hate hearing that.”

Cuban was right.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver fined Cuban $600,000 for “public statements detrimental to the NBA.” The league doesn’t announce all its fines, but that’s the third-largest known fine in NBA history.

The leaderboard:

1. Timberwolves, $3.5 million in 2000 (signing under-the-table agreement with Joe Smith)

2. Clippers owner Donald Sterling, $2.5 million in 2014 (making racist comments)

3. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, $600,000 in 2018 (saying he told his players the team is better off losing)

4. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, $500,000 in 2002 (criticizing officiating)

4. Knicks, $500,000 in 2006 (fighting Nuggets)

4. Nuggets, $500,000 2006 (fighting Knicks)

4. Vladimir Radmanovic, $500,000 in 2007 (injuring his shoulder while snowboarding)

4. Pistons general manager Joe Dumars, $500,000 in 2010 (leaking confidential league memos)

4. Heat owner Micky Arison, $500,000 in 2011 (tweets during the lockout breaking rank with other owners)

I’d be on Cuban (and/or the Mavericks) getting yet another spot on this list following the investigation of the franchise for a culture tolerant of sexual harassment and domestic abuse. That one will probably be deserved – not just the league trying to preserve the illusion of pure competition amid a system that incentivizes losing.

Mark Cuban fined $600,000 for telling team “losing is our best option”

Getty Images
13 Comments

Of all the hot water Mark Cuban is in right now with the Mavericks and the NBA league office, this is probably the smallest tub. And the least expensive fine.

Cuban recently went on Julius Erving’s podcast, House Call with Dr. J, and said:

“I’m probably not supposed to say this, but I just had dinner with a bunch of our guys the other night. And here we are, we weren’t competing for the playoffs. I was like, “Look, losing is our best option.” Adam would hate hearing that, but at least I sat down, and I explained it to them. And I explained what our plans were going to be this summer, that we’re not going to tank again.”

You were not supposed to say that — the NBA Wednesday fined Cuban $600,000 for “for public statements detrimental to the NBA.”

Cuban’s not wrong, it’s just a matter of perception. The NBA has worked very hard to lessen the image that teams are tanking for draft position (why do you think there was pressure on the Sixers to replace Sam Hinkie?), they don’t need an owner saying it’s the smart thing to do. Even though it is. Teams tank — it is still the only way for a small or medium market team to get a superstar, get high in the draft and hopefully pick one (it’s not that simple, ask the Magic) — but the league wants at least the facade that all of its teams are competitive. All the way through the end of the season.

As you read this, the bottom eight teams in the NBA are within three games of each other for the worst record — and a higher lottery slot. Does anyone think any of them are not going to roll out young, less-talented rosters in the name of development when the real goal is to lose as many games as they can the rest of the way? Most scouts think there is some real talent at the top of this draft, and teams are going to try to get up there and get it.

Just nobody can talk about it.