Isaiah Thomas scores 41 for Celtics in 113-109 win over Pistons

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BOSTON (AP) — Isaiah Thomas scored 24 of his 41 points in the fourth quarter and the Boston Celtics held off the Detroit Pistons 113-109 on Monday night to extend their winning streak to four games.

Jae Crowder added 21 points and Al Horford scored 13 for Boston, which had to rally after Detroit surged midway through the fourth quarter and the teams traded the lead.

Andre Drummond had 28 points and pulled down 22 rebounds for the Pistons, who outscored Boston 60-38 in the paint and outrebounded the Celtics 51-44. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 18 points for Detroit, which lost its third straight.

Thomas extended his run of games with at least 20 points to 32 in a row and carried Boston down the stretch, making nine free throws in the fourth quarter while going 15 for 15 from the line.

Boston led 109-107 with 31 seconds left and gave the Pistons a chance with a backcourt violation. Reggie Jackson drove for a layup, but missed and Jonas Jerebko pulled down the rebound for Boston, then held on tight. The Pistons ended up fouling Thomas, who hit both free throws and added two more with 7.5 seconds remaining.

Boston led 54-46 at halftime and 79-70 after the third quarter, which was full of missed shots and big bounces off the rim.

The Pistons came out strong in the fourth, capitalizing on some sloppy plays by Boston and pulling within reach on a 9-2 run. Morris hit a 3-pointer, just the second of the game for Detroit, to pull the Pistons within 88-86 and the Pistons regained the lead a few minutes later when Boston sent Caldwell-Pope to the line by fouling him on a 3-pointer.

Caldwell-Pope made all three to put the Pistons up 91-90 – their first lead since going up 27-26 in the second quarter.

The lead went back-and-forth until Thomas’ three-point play with 4:13 left put Boston up 99-98.

Detroit got within a point again when Drummond’s two free throws with 2:46 left made it 104-103, but Thomas answered again with another 3-pointer and Boston held off the Pistons the rest of the way.

TIP-INS

Pistons: Detroit was 1 of 15 on 3-pointers in the first half. … Coach Stan Van Gundy called President Donald Trump’s travel ban “scary” when asked about it before the game, saying the policy reminded him of Japanese internment camps and Hitler’s treatment of the Jews. “It’s starting to get really, really scary stuff now. We’re getting into the days of, now we’re judging people by their religion – trying to keep Muslims out.” … Detroit sent F Henry Ellenson and guards Michael Gbinije and Darren Hilliard to Grand Rapids of the D-League.

Celtics: Marcus Smart hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer that gave Boston a 26-25 lead after the first quarter. … Horford returned after missing the previous two games with a strained groin. … G Avery Bradley (sore right Achilles’ tendon) missed his seventh straight game. Coach Brad Stevens said Bradley is getting closer to being able to practice, but was not sure how soon he could play again.

 

Report: Other NBA executives believe Pacers not seriously shopping Paul George

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 12:  Paul George #13 of the Indiana Pacers in action during the NBA match between Indiana Pacers and Denver Nuggets at the O2 Arena on January 12, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
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The Pacers are reportedly shopping Paul George, trying to line up a trade if they can’t get him help in another deal.

But it’s hard to find anyone who believes Indiana is genuinely looking to trade George before the upcoming trade deadline.

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

If the Pacers are serious about trading George, they better convince other teams quickly. That’s the only way to draw out the best offers.

But it makes sense Indiana is only in the exploratory stage.

The Pacers — and only the Pacers — could offer George a designated-veteran-player contract extension (projected to be worth about $209 million over five years) this offseason if he makes an All-NBA team.

That’s probably a longshot. Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James are locks for three of the six forward spots. Anthony DavisJimmy ButlerDraymond Green and Giannis Antetokounmpo should also rank ahead of George. Gordon HaywardPaul MillsapKevin Love are firmly in the mix, too. That’s a lot of ground to make up and other contenders to fend off.

But it’s likely worth it for the Pacers to keep George past the deadline and let him try. The upside is so high.

If George doesn’t make an All-NBA team, Indiana could always trade him at any point before the next trade deadline. He could also qualify as a designated veteran player by making a 2017-18 All-NBA team and re-signing as a free agent in 2018, but by then, it’d be too late for the Pacers to trade him if they don’t have the major financial advantage.

At some point, Indiana could ask George to pledge to stay for his max, whatever that winds up being. That wouldn’t be binding, but his response could be telling.

For now, if I were the Pacers, I’d hope he makes All-NBA this year and dare him to reject the designated-veteran-player extension. If he qualifies and turns that down, that would absolutely be telling.

But I’d also be exploring the trade market now, hoping for an offer that knocks my socks off but more realistically gaining understanding for when dealing George is more logical.

Report: Clippers’ Chris Paul cleared, could play against Warriors on Thursday

Los Angeles Clippers' Chris Paul shoots as Portland Trail Blazers' Al-Farouq Aminu watches during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
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Chris Paul tore a ligament in his left thumb last month, and the Clippers announced he’d miss 6-8 weeks.

He could return just over five weeks after injury, when the Clippers face the Warriors on Thursday.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers, via Andrew Han of ESPN:

“He looked great. He went through the whole practice [on Tuesday]. You know, so it was good. Really good,” Rivers said before practice on Wednesday. “He could play tomorrow. I mean, I can’t tell you if he will or not, but he’s been cleared medically. But we just want to make sure that he’s comfortable playing.”

The Clippers have slid to fourth in the West, leading the fifth-place Jazz by just half a game. It’s probably too late to catch the third-place Rockets, who are five games up. But maintaining home-court advantage in the first round is important.

Paul should help.

The Clippers remain dangerous when healthy. They’ve outscored teams by 15.1 points per 100 possessions when Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and J.J. Redick share the court. With those four, they score and defend at rates that would lead the league if it weren’t for Golden State’s historic offensive rating.

DeMarcus Cousins on trade from Kings: “I’m not sour”

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DeMarcus Cousins met with the press for the first time in New Orleans, and they got a vision of the relaxed and happy side of the big man.

He was cracking jokes, saying he thought himself and Anthony Davis would blend perfectly, and being engaging.

One of the best parts was Cousins being asked how competitive he is, and Cousins replied “About 17 technicals worth.”

Cousins also talked a fair amount about how he and Davis would work together.

Cousins talked a good game, now he has to show it started Thursday on the court against the Rockets.

Report: Wizards trade first-round pick to get Bojan Bogdanovic and Chris McCullough, unload Andrew Nicholson

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 30: John Wall #2 of the Washington Wizards battles Bojan Bogdanovic #44 of the Brooklyn Nets for a loose ball during the first half at Verizon Center on December 30, 2016 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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John Wall has been so good, he made himself right.

The Wizards’ starters have been awesome, and their bench has been about equally bad. With Washington surging to third in the East, and the fourth-place Raptors making their move with Serge Ibaka, this was no time to idle.

So, as Wall predicted, the Wizards traded for bench helpBojan Bogdanovic and Chris McCullough from the Nets.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Andrew Nicholson, with three years and $19,911,007 remaining after this season, had negative value. He was part of the reason the Wizards’ bench stunk. Likewise, Marcus Thornton provided little in reserve. A 29-year-old on an expiring minimum contract, he was likely included only so Washington didn’t exceed the roster maximum of 15 players.

Essentially the Wizards traded a first-round pick for Bogdanovic, McCullough and shedding Nicholson.

Bogdanovic will provide wing scoring for a reserve unit badly in need of juice. He has been an ineffective defender, but his 6-foot-8 frame offers a path to improvement on that end.

The 27-year-old will be a restricted free agent next summer. Assuming re-signing Otto Porter is the priority, keeping Bogdanovic could push Washington into the luxury tax — likely a non-starter. This could win up just a rental, but there’s plenty of time to evaluate Bogdanovic’s (and everyone else’s) long-term fit.

The Nets drafted McCullough No. 29 in 2015 as a project, and he remains one. The 22-year-old has spent far more time in the D-League than the NBA this season. It’s unlikely he contributes this season, as lower as the bar is for the Wizards’ bench. He has two additional seasons left on his rookie-scale contract, time for Washington to figure out what it has.

Now, Brooklyn has a couple first-round picks this year — the Celtics’ and the Wizards’. That doesn’t amount to much, but the Nets are so far from relevance, getting even younger is a wise path forward.