Over the course of the majority of the first half of the season, Lance Stephenson’s improved play was a huge reason that the Pacers got off to such a strong start. He was a triple-double threat on seemingly a nightly basis, and played under control and within his team’s system.
By the time Indiana’s season was over following Friday’s blowout Game 6 loss to the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, Stephenson had gone rogue, and had resorted to tactics that had little to do with basketball in the final two games of the series.
Pacers president Larry Bird condemned Stephenson’s odd decision to blow in the ear of LeBron James in Game 5, and head coach Frank Vogel expressed a similar sentiment following the whole host of things that Stephenson tried to do to mess with his opponent in Game 6.
“It’s tough to say,” Vogel said, when asked if Stephenson’s antics hurt more than they helped. “I don’t think it’s ever good … what’s everybody call it? Tug on Superman’s cape. I don’t think that’s ever good. But I’ll take Lance Stephenson’s competitive edge. Like I said, I just don’t think it’s good to tug on the cape.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra wouldn’t even discuss Stephenson afterward, saying only, “We’re playing for something much bigger than that guy” when the subject was broached.
Stephenson showed he can play this year, and could be a real asset to a team with the right amount of veteran leadership in the locker room capable of keeping him in check. He also showed why general managers around the league will be extremely leery of handing him a high-dollar, long-term contract in free agency this summer.
Foul or defend?
That’s the eternal question for teams trying to protect a late three-point lead.
While many fans believe fouling is the astute strategy, most American coaches opt to defend.
Defending is a better strategy than meets the eye, because it’s relatively easy to defend the arc when you know your opponent needs a 3-pointer. Plus, as coaches commonly believe, fouling offers too many opportunities for something to go wrong.
The Clippers almost learned that the hard way in their win over the Hornets on Sunday.
But an officiating error helped L.A. preserve its late lead, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report.
With the Clippers up three, Chris Paul intentionally fouled Kemba Walker with 2.1 seconds left. Walker made the first free throw and intentionally missed the second.
In the battle for the rebound, Blake Griffin should have been called for committing a loose-ball foul on Marvin Williams with 2.0 seconds left, per the league:
Griffin (LAC) grab Williams’ (CHA) jersey and affect his ability to rebound.
The league also ruled Williams got away with a loose-ball foul on Griffin in the same tenth of a second, but Griffin’s foul should have been whistled first.
A correct call would’ve given Williams — who’s making 85% of his free throws this season and 80% for his career — two attempts from the line with a chance to tie the game.
Instead, Griffin grabbed the rebound and was intentionally fouled with half a second left. He hit one free throw, and the Clippers won, 124-121.
The adventures of Kevin Durant‘s shoe:
- Falls off as Durant shoots a jumper
- Left on the far side of the court for an entire Warriors defensive possession
- Lightly kicked by 76ers forward Robert Covington, who should have tossed it into the crowed
- Picked up by Draymond Green, who sets a screen while holding it
- Tossed by Green to Durant
- Held by Durant as he defends and tips a rebound
- Put back on by Durant just in time for him to assist Stephen Curry
This is mostly good effort by Patrick Patterson. It’s also bad luck for Derrick Rose, who’s not accustomed to avoiding a player lying on his back.
But it’s hard to resist the jokes about Rose losing a step to the point he can no longer beat even a man who’d fallen on his back off the dribble.
Markelle Fultz is the consensus top prospect in the 2017 NBA draft, and Lonzo Ball is a strong second.
Leading the pack for third? Probably Kansas forward Josh Jackson.
But Jackson’s résumé is now tainted by a misdemeanor property-damage charge.
The incident, which allegedly involved Kansas teammate Lagerald Vick and Kansas women’s basketball playerMcKenzie Calvert, occurred just before 2 a.m. Dec. 9.
Laura Bauer and Mara Rose Williams of The Kansas City Star:
Calvert is the same female KU student who a university investigation found Vick likely committed domestic violence against more than a year ago.
Calvert reportedly threw a drink on a male patron while leaving the bar. The Star has learned that the patron was Vick.
Jackson followed Calvert to her car, according to the release, and they argued. Witnesses saw Jackson kick the driver’s door of Calvert’s car and kick a rear taillight.
The Star has learned that Calvert — a standout on the women’s team — was in the driver’s seat while Jackson kicked her car.
Investigators have interviewed several people who witnessed the reported crime. A police report categorized the $2,991 in total damage to the car as a felony. But Friday’s release listed the damage at a higher amount, $3,150.45.
“Felony criminal damage (damage in excess of $1,000) was not charged because the state cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that all the damage to the door and taillight were caused by Jackson,” the release said.
Jackson said in a statement he would pay for damage he “directly caused.” Kansas coach Bill Self, in his statement, called Jackson a “great ambassador for this university.”
NBA teams shouldn’t and probably won’t blindly accept Self’s self-interested assessment. Jackson’s conduct will likely be investigated during the pre-draft process, determining where it falls on the spectrum of a youthful transgression and the hot-button issue of domestic violence.
The better Jackson plays, the more forgiving teams will be. Right or wrong, that’s how it works. But this incident will be included in the overall assessment of Jackson.