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

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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.

Rumor: Portland coach Terry Stotts could lose job after being swept out of playoffs

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Regular season: Terry Stotts was mentioned as a Coach of the Year candidate after leading the Portland Trail Blazers to 49 wins and the three seed in the West, led by a top 10 defense.

Playoffs: Portland was swept out of the postseason in the first round by Anthony Davis.

The latter part of that is going to lead to some real soul searching and changes coming to the Trail Blazers. That could include Stotts losing his job, reports Marc Stein of the New York Times.

There is plenty of blame to go around for Portland’s quick exit from the postseason, Stein is right that it’s not all on Stott’s shoulders.

However, this is the third time in four years Portland is out in the first round, and it leads to the question “what is it about their style that makes them so defendable and beatable in the playoffs?” This is a little like Toronto in recent years, where despite a lot of talent they were predictable and therefore defendable in the postseason. How much of that falls on Stotts?

After a period of reflection in Portland, there are going to be changes in the wake of this sweep. Stotts’ job will be part of that discussion, no matter how good a job he did.

That said, if Stotts were to be let go he would hand on his feet very quickly.

After Ricky Rubio’s triple-double, Russell Westbrook promises to “shut that s*** off”

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Ricky Rubio outplayed Russell Westbrook Saturday night in Utah and now the Jazz are up 2-1 in that series.

Rubio did his damage from the midrange — he was 5-of-5 between the key and the arc — on his way to 26 points, to go with 11 rebounds and 10 assists. All series the Thunder have dared Rubio to shoot and to beat them, Saturday he did. It was a stark contrast to Westbrook’s 14 points on 17 shots Saturday with eight turnovers.

When asked about Rubio’s big night postgame, Westbrook was looking ahead to Game 4 and using a little NSFW language (hat tip to Ben Golliver of SI, who loves him some playoff podium video).

There you have it, a personal guarantee.

Rubio struggled some in Game 1, taking 18 shots and mostly the ones the Thunder wanted him to. However, after that he has been better at getting to his spots and taking the shots in rhythm, and it’s worked — he’s averaging 20.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 8 assists per game this series. OKC has been focused on making life difficult for rookie Donovan Mitchell (with limited success) and it’s freed up Rubio to make plays.

More than just slowing the Spanish point guard, Westbrook and the Thunder need to figure out how to get their offense back on track against a Jazz defense that was best in the NBA once Gobert got healthy last season. Oklahoma City lost Game 2 when their big three — Westbrook, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony — went 0-of-15 in the fourth quarter. In Game 3, OKC averaged 100 points per 100 possessions (well below their season average of 110.2) and Westbrook shot 29.4 percent. Do that again in Game 4 and it will not matter what Rubio shoots, what matters is the Thunder could be looking at a 3-1 deficit. The Thunder need to even this series before it heads back to Oklahoma City.

Gregg Popovich will not coach Game 4 following death of his wife, Erin

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San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will not be on the sidelines again for Game 4 Sunday following the death of his wife, Erin, to a lengthy illness.

Ettore Messina will again coach the Spurs.

Popovich also missed Game 3. His San Antonio Spurs are down 3-0 to the Golden State Warriors in the first-round matchup. None of that matters compared to the loss of a woman he loved and was married to for four decades.

Erin Popovich’s passing has cast a pall over the series, especially with Warriors coach Steve Kerr being very close to the Popovichs dating back to his playing days with the Spurs.

The reaction and sadness about Erin’s passing has reached well beyond this series.

Our thoughts are with the Popovich family in this difficult time.

Anthony Davis’ 47 points, Pelicans sweep Trail Blazers out of playoffs

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Anthony Davis scored 33 of his franchise playoff-record 47 points in the second half, and the New Orleans Pelicans completed a first-round playoff sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers with a 131-123 victory on Saturday.

Jrue Holiday capped his 41-point performance with an 18-foot pull-up jumper that gave the Pelicans a six-point lead with 40 seconds left.

Rajon Rondo added 16 assists, and Davis also had 11 rebounds and three blocks for New Orleans, which is moving on to the second round of the playoffs for only the second time since the NBA returned to the city 16 seasons ago.

C.J. McCollum scored 38 for the Trail Blazers, who responded to a blowout loss in Game 3 by keeping Game 4 close until the final minute. Al-Farouq Aminu scored 27, Damian Lillard added 18 points and Jusuf Nurkic had 18 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out.

Lillard’s difficult driving layup had just tied the game at 60 when the Pelicans briefly pulled away, going on an 11-2 run capped by Davis’ 3.

Soon after, Nikola Mirotic added step-back 3. Davis, who scored 19 in the third quarter, then added a layup while falling down after a hard foul by Aminu, after which Davis flexed both biceps while still sitting on the court.

Holiday’s transition 3 made it 87-72, prompting Portland to call timeout while Holiday walked slowly toward mid-court, nodding and smiling wide as he soaked in the crowd’s adulation.

New Orleans led by 13 to start the fourth quarter, but Portland refused to wilt, opening the period on a 15-4 run that included Nurkic’s hook shot, 20-foot jumper and dunk. McCollum’s transition layup made it 104-102 with nearly nine minutes to play.

Portland got as close as a single point on Aminu’s layup with 5:08 to go, but Davis responded with 12 points over the final 4:56, starting with a layup as he was fouled and a 3-pointer. Holiday scored six points during the final 2:52, starting with his 3-pointer. The pair combined for all but one of New Orleans’ points during that pivotal stretch.

Leading up to Game 4, Lillard spoke of the need for the Blazers to ramp up their intensity and physicality. From the tip, it looked as though they’d done so.

In stark contrast to Game 3, when New Orleans led by 18 in the first quarter, this game was tight and testy.

Anthony and Ed Davis received double technical fouls after bumping one another following one of Anthony Davis’ dunks – and that was just the beginning.

McCollum was called for a flagrant foul when he stormed into the lane behind E'Twaun Moore and grabbed the Pelicans guard by the shoulders to thwart a driving layup attempt. Moore then shoved McCollum and was assessed a technical foul.

And in the final seconds of the half, double technicals were assessed to Rondo and Portland center Zach Collins after Rondo lowered his forehead into Collins’ chest and Collins shoved back.

When halftime arrived, New Orleans led 58-56.