kemba walker
AP

Walker lifts Hornets past Mavericks, 97-87

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Kemba Walker had no nice way to describe the Charlotte Hornets’ 97-87 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.

“That was pretty ugly,” Walker said, before quickly adding that the Hornets will take the wins any way they can get them.

Walker scored 18 points, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist added 14 and the Hornets got their third win in the last four games Thursday night to remain in first place in the Southeast Division.

The Mavericks slowed the tempo of the game, but the Hornets didn’t get frustrated and never trailed.

“At the end of the day, it shows toughness,” Walker said. “It shows that we can withstand games. They really slowed it down tonight. But we really stayed with the game and won. … That’s what you have to do on some nights.”

Walker was just 7 of 19 from the field and Charlotte again struggled from the foul line at home.

However, the Hornets got a big boost from their bench, which combined for 46 points on 25 shots, led by Jeremy Lamb, who had 12 points.

“That was a hard game to play,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. “It wasn’t a conventional tempo for a NBA game to be played. It was slower. They really execute and they really changed their defenses. The tempo of a NBA game usually lets you get into a rhythm. But there was no way they would let us get into a rhythm. Bottom line is that’s a game that good teams win.”

Harrison Barnes scored 17 points and Justin Anderson added 15 for the Mavericks (3-15), who have lost 10 of their last 11 games.

The Hornets led by two when Walker drained a long 3-pointer to beat the shot clock with 3:51 to give his team the spark it needed. Lamb followed with a driving layup that resulted in a three-point play to push the lead to 86-78.

The Mavs would battle back behind Barnes to cut the lead to three, but Lamb hit two free throws and Walker buried a 3-pointer from the right wing with 41 seconds left to put the game out of reach.

TIP-INS

Mavericks: Deron Williams did not play down the stretch in the fourth quarter because he was on a minutes restriction on the second night of a back-to-back. … Dwight Powell fouled out with 1:18 left.

Hornets: Nic Batum, who received a $120 million contract this offseason, has struggled some with turnovers this season. He entered averaging 2.3 per game and had three in the first half. … The Hornets were 22 of 31 from the foul line and shot 28 percent from 3-point range.

GIANTS WRESTLING

For the most part it was a subdued, lackluster game until the middle of the fourth quarter, when Mavericks center Salah Mejri grabbed the ball after it went out of bounds and cradled it in his arms until Charlotte’s Roy Hibbert inexplicably attempted to rip it out. In a bizarre sight, the two 7-footers started wrestling for the ball well after the whistle had blown ending the play. They finally tumbled to the floor together, sending long arms and legs flying in every direction. Several players were seen trying to keep themselves from laughing at the spectacle after the play, which resulted in Hibbert getting a technical foul.

STRUGGLING FROM 3

Dallas’ Wesley Matthews was upset with himself after the game for making just 1 of 11 3-point shots.

“If I shoot halfway decent, you give me those looks, and it’s a different game,” Matthews said.

ECLECTIC SITUATION

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said his team is in an “eclectic situation” right now.

“We’ve got to get these guys healthy,” Carlisle said. “We’ve got to do it the right way. In the meantime, other guys are getting valuable experience. We’re playing some guys in some different positions and finding out some different things. We just have to keep up the fight. If we do that, things will come around.”

DEFENSE WINS

The Hornets improved to 8-0 in games in which they’ve limited their opponent to fewer than 100 points.

UP NEXT

Mavericks: Dallas returns home to host the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night.

Hornets: Charlotte concludes a three-game homestand on Saturday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Report: Kevin Love called out in emotional Cavaliers team meeting

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Having lost 8-of-11, a Cavaliers team meeting where the players got to vent seemed inevitable. There isn’t one person in that Cavaliers locker room that doesn’t deserve some blame for how things have turned.

However, Kevin Love apparently became the whipping boy.

From Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The Cleveland Cavaliers held a fiery team meeting in the practice facility locker room prior to Monday’s practice, during which several players challenged the legitimacy of Kevin Love’s illness that led him to leave Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma City early and miss Sunday’s practice, league sources told ESPN.

Several players were pushing for the Cavaliers’ management and coaching staff to hold Love accountable for leaving the arena before the end of Saturday’s game, and then missing Sunday’s practice, league sources told ESPN.

The meeting was loud and intense, only calming down once Love spoke to those gathered in the room and explained himself, league sources said.

The more things change, the more things are always Kevin Love’s fault.

According to the report, the majority of the team seemed to accept Love’s explanation. Love left the Cavaliers ugly, nationally televised blowout at the hands of the Thunder in the first half and did not return due to what was described only as an illness. He did not stay around for the end of the game. I’m not about to speculate on how ill he was or was not, what matters is that his teammates were not buying it. When a team is losing finger-pointing is almost inevitable, and Love has gotten more than his fair share of it in Cleveland. At least he stood up for himself.

Team meetings may allow a pressure release in a locker room, but they almost never result in any kind of meaningful change. We’ll see what if anything changes in Cleveland.

Bucks GM on Jason Kidd firing: “This is a performance-based thing”

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Last season the Bucks went 42-40 in the regular season and were up 2-1 in their first-round playoff series against Toronto before ultimately losing in six.

This season, expectations were high. Before the season there was talk from the team of a 50-win team (Las Vegas oddsmakers set the under/over at 47.5) that would finish in the top four in the Eastern Conference, hosting a playoff round. There was hope that the defense would improve, and with that the Bucks would look like a young team figuring it out.

They haven’t looked like that at all — they are 23-22 (with the point differential of a 20-25 team), and their defense is 25th in the NBA. Currently, they have just a one-game cushion for the final playoff slot in the East.

That cost coach Jason Kidd his job, first-year Bucks GM Jon Horst said Monday night at a press conference, as reported by Matt Velazquez at the Journal-Sentinel.

“At the end, this is a performance-based thing,” Horst said. “We believe in this team, we believe in our players and in the talents that they have. We’re looking forward at making playoff appearances in consecutive years for the first time in over a decade and hopefully winning a first-round series for the first time in over a decade. So we felt like at this time, this is the right decision to help this team get there.”

Around the league the move was not a total surprise, but the timing caught people off guard. Horst said it happened “relatively quickly” and explained:

“A general manager in the NHL had a statement once: ‘If something is inevitable, why wait?’ I think we came to the conclusion that this was the best thing for the future of the franchise and this was the time.”

Come this summer this will be the hottest coaching job available because of Giannis Antetokounmpo and the potential of this roster. Names such as Jeff Van Gundy and former Pelicans coach Monty Williams have been mentioned, but the ultimate list will be longer. Honestly, a few coaches with jobs might rather have the Bucks job (although the challenges between the two owners there can make things uncomfortable at times).

“We have another game on Friday and between that time we have a plan that we’ll put in place that we’ll kind of layout for the rest of the season,” Horst said. “We’ll go into the summer and have an extensive coaching search with an opportunity to hopefully find a great coach for this organization of which (interim coach) Joe Prunty has every opportunity to be a part of based on what happens going forward.”

This is going to a rough adjustment for Antetokounmpo and some of the players, who respected and trusted Kidd. There’s a lot of pressure on Horst with this hire.

That doesn’t make it the wrong move — Horst did the right thing here. The Bucks were going to be moving on, they just did it sooner rather than later.

 

Kevin Durant fires back, says Clint Capela’s job is “easy”

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“We’re confident because we know if we’re doing what we’re supposed to do, we’re going to beat them… We are better than them.”

That was young Rockets center Clint Capela after the Rockets beat the Warriors last Saturday night, feeling confident.

Asked about it, Kevin Durant shot Capela down, saying he’s not the guy that should be commenting.

There are no easy jobs in the NBA. It takes a lot of work physically, a good mental feel for the game, and the right opportunity just to get a chance. That said, some NBA jobs are simpler and more straightforward than others. On offense, Capela is not the ball handler and creator making a lot of decisions, things are simple for him — and he executes them. He’s shooting 66.6 percent this season — he does what he does well.

Houston took two of three from Golden State this season, and while that is far from doing it in a playoff series it should be a confidence boost for Houston if/when they go up against Golden State.

Jason Kidd says Giannis Antetokounmpo offered to save his job minutes before firing

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The stagnant Milwaukee Bucks shook things up by firing head coach Jason Kidd  Monday.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was not happy with the news. So much he called up Kidd and offered to help save his job, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Antetokounmpo is understandably close to Kidd — he’s been the coach who helped transform the Greek Freak into an NBA superstar. Kidd is on his way to the Hall of Fame as a player, and as a coach had the vision to put the ball in Antetokounmpo’s hands as a point guard. Antetokounmpo trusted Kidd.

However, the Bucks’ growth has been stagnant — this is a team where the players talked about being a 50-win, top-four team in the East with a strong defense, instead they are a team on the way to around .500, barely hanging onto a playoff spot, with the point differential of a team that wins 36 games. They are not taking a step forward, and the Bucks — with the approval of ownership, which was very close to Kidd at one time — approving the move.

There was nothing Antetokounmpo could have done. It’s life in the NBA. That doesn’t mean he has to like it.