Kevin Durant, Chris Paul

Tuesday NBA Previews: What other tricks does Doc Rivers have up his sleeve?

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The Pacers can end the Wizards’ season Tuesday night, while we’re all hoping the Clippers/Thunder series goes seven because it’s by far the most entertaining series this round.

Washington Wizards at Indiana Pacers (Pacers lead series 3-1). All season, the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat appeared on a collision course to meet in the Eastern Conference Finals. Now, both teams are a win away, and the Pacers can get there tonight by beating the Washington Wizards. More importantly than beating Miami to the ECF, Indiana needs a win to maintain its rising confidence. Fall to the Wizards at home and go back to Washington, what does that do to Roy Hibbert, Paul George and crew? I don’t think that’s a bridge the Pacers want to cross.
—Dan Feldman

Los Angeles Clippers at Oklahoma City Thunder (series tied 2-2). In every series there comes a point when one coach knows he’s going to get beat going with what worked to get him this far, so he reaches for a desperation move. Doc Rivers did that in the fourth quarter of Game 4, down 16 with nine minutes to go he went to an ultra-small lineup — Chris Paul, Darren Collison, Jamal Crawford, Danny Granger, and Blake Griffin — and put CP3 guarding Durant. It worked. The Thunder offense became obsessed with trying to exploit a couple mismatches to the point they stopped executing anything else and became easy to defend. On the other end the Clippers shot 12-of-15 and went on a 33-17 run that would win them the game. It was high drama.

But is that something that really can be repeated? Successfully? If the Clippers leave Paul on Durant for any stretch on Tuesday night I sense KD will find his MVP form and just shoot over the top of Paul all night long. Does Rivers have another rotation trick or motivational tool? Because what the Clippers did all season to get here was about to go down 3-1 to OKC and if the teams go back to form the Thunder will take the lead in this series. The pressure is still on the Clippers to find something that both works against the Thunder and is sustainable.
—Kurt Helin

Report: LeBron James might not play for Team USA in 2016 Olympics because Kobe Bryant won’t

Kobe Bryant (L) and team mate Lebron James of the U.S. sit on the bench during the game against France during their men's Group A basketball match at the London 2012 Olympic Games in the Basketball arena July 29, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Segar
REUTERS/Mike Segar
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LeBron James admires Kobe Bryant.

How much?

Kobe pulling his name from 2016 Olympic consideration (perhaps an informed preemptive gesture just before the roster finalists were announced) might keep LeBron off Team USA.

Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report:

Bryant not pursuing a spot on the U.S. Olympic basketball team this summer is a very real reason James might also not join the team, according to NBA sources.

James is that disappointed the Rio Olympics will not serve as the final, ultimate celebration of Bryant’s career—and more so that James won’t have the priceless honor of being Bryant’s co-star teammate when it ends.

I don’t buy this.

Kobe said during the 2012 Olympics those would be his final Olympics. Two weeks later, LeBron said he wanted to play in 2016.

Did playing with Kobe on Team USA become more important to LeBron over the last few years?

I suppose it’s possible. Many got behind sending Kobe to Rio as a sendoff into retirement. Perhaps, LeBron got attached to the idea and became bitter once it fell through.

I just have a hard time believing LeBron would tie his decision so strongly to another player. Remember, he left one of his best friends, Dwyane Wade, in Miami to sign with the Cavaliers. Would Kobe’s presence really dictate LeBron’s outlook?

LeBron has been mum on his plans for Team USA. I’m sure the length of Cleveland’s playoff run and the toll it takes on his body will factor. He might not yet know what he’ll do.

The ball is in his court, which can be challenging. There has been backlash from media and fans against players who turn down Team USA, and LeBron could be trying to avoid that.

I trust Ding was told LeBron felt this way, but nobody – including me, including Ding – can know what’s in LeBron’s head. But this report strikes me as LeBron setting up the ability to attribute his absence to Kobe’s rather than facing the full brunt of reaction that comes to turning down Team USA.

Did the Clippers reenact Paul Pierce being stabbed during pregame introductions? (video)

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The Clippers got hyped for Paul Pierce‘s potential last game in Boston by… reenacting the time Pierce got stabbed there? If not, it sure looks like it.

Mock fighting is the norm for the Clippers’ pregame, but I haven’t seen a single player targeted like this. Whatever gets you pumped, I guess.

Markieff Morris flips off Suns fan (video)

Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris reacts to a call during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
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Markieff Morris‘ frustrations last night didn’t end with his scuffle with teammate Archie Goodwin. They didn’t end with the Suns’ loss to the Warriors, either.

As Morris was leaving the court, a fan heckled him: “Markieff, you f—ing suck. I can’t wait until you’re traded.” Though Morris probably agrees with the second sentence, he flipped off the fan:

Though it’s difficult to confirm that video was from last night, it jibes with a previous report of the incident.

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7

Morris will likely at least be fined. Considering his previous behavioral problems this season – he threw a towel at Jeff Hornacek – I wouldn’t completely rule out a suspension. But a fine seems most likely.

Dwight Howard commits ridiculously sloppy inbound violation (video)

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An embarrassing lack of focus by the Rockets? I can hardly believe it.

Late in a game against a team Houston is battling for playoff position, Dwight Howard was just careless, stepping on the baseline as he inbounded the ball. It’s a needless goof, and he’ll get plenty of deserved criticism for it.

But don’t overlook Patrick Beverley‘s frustration foul on Damian Lillard before the ensuing inbound. That was nearly as foolish and even more costly.

The sequence sparked a 7-0 run for the Trail Blazers, who seized control of the game en route to a 116-103 win.