Chris Paul powers Clippers to 112-100 victory over 76ers

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Once Chris Paul stepped up his play for the Los Angeles Clippers, it was all over for the pesky Philadelphia 76ers.

Paul scored 20 of his 30 points in the second half, leading Los Angeles to a 112-100 victory Saturday.

“We were just trying to figure things out, because all game long we couldn’t get much separation from them. They’re a gritty team,” Paul said. “It’s going to be like that some nights, and luckily we started to get some stops and made some big shots down the stretch to get separation.”

DeAndre Jordan had 19 points and 20 rebounds, helping the Clippers (40-26) to their fourth win in five games. Paul also had seven assists, and Blake Griffin added 15 points and 10 rebounds.

“If you show up and expect to beat them like you did three years ago, you are going to get beat,” Griffin said.

The Clippers trailed 79-75 after three quarters but opened the final period with a 10-0 run. Los Angeles has beaten Philadelphia in 10 of their last 11 meetings.

“We were able to get stops when we needed to and then we executed offensively,” Jordan said. “It was energy and effort down the stretch and throughout the game that got us back in it and spread the lead out for us.”

Richaun Holmes led Philadelphia with 24 points and nine rebounds. Dario Saric added 16 points, and Jahlil Okafor had 14.

The Sixers (23-42) have lost four in a row and seven of eight overall. They haven’t beaten the Clippers in Los Angeles since March 2011.

“CP showed his veteran leadership and pretty much took over the game,” said T.J. McConnell, who had nine points and 10 assists for Philadelphia. “We’re playing hard but we couldn’t get stops.”

Both teams had 41 rebounds, and Los Angeles improved to 31-8 this season when it equals or outrebounds its opponent.

The Sixers, who shot 47.6 percent from the field, fell to 8-23 on the road this season.

“We competed, I thought at a high standard,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “We were ahead at halftime. We were ahead going into the fourth period. We stuck with a nine-man rotation and I thought our guys fought to the end. We came up short these last two games but we’re competing and that’s what we have to do the rest of the season.”

With the win and Utah’s loss to Oklahoma City on Saturday, Los Angeles trails the Jazz by one game for the fourth playoff spot. The teams play Monday night at Utah.

TIP-INS

Sixers: In 13 games dating to Feb. 8, Saric is averaging 19.6 points, 8.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists and shooting 48.6 percent. Only Giannis Antetokounmpo, DeMarcus Cousins, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook have registered similar numbers during that span. … Robert Covington had 13 points.

Clippers: After starting the season 14-2, the Clippers are 26-24. They are just 5-5 since the All-Star break.

ROOKIE SENSATION

Saric has nine 20-point games to his credit this season, second among NBA rookies, trailing only his teammate Joel Embiid. Entering Saturday’s game, Saric led all rookies with 403 rebounds.

“He’s had an excellent year,” Brown said.

CAMEROON CONNECTION

Embiid and Clippers forward Luc Mbah a Moute are two of three active NBA players from Cameroon. Countryman Pascal Siakam plays for Toronto.

EMBIID UPDATE

Embiid met with doctors in Los Angeles on Friday to discuss options on repairing his torn meniscus in his left knee.

 

Report: Pelicans picked up Alvin Gentry’s option for next season before sweep

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Last summer the buzz was all over the league: Pelicans GM Dell Demps and coach Alvin Gentry were given a “playoffs or bust” mandate by management. If the Pelicans were not in the postseason — and just barely getting in and then blown out in the first round might be good enough — there was going to be a housecleaning.

The Pelicans made the playoffs as the six seed with 48 wins despite losing DeMarcus Cousins to a torn Achilles midway through the season.

That alone was good enough to get Gentry another season in New Orleans, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

As noted, this happened before the Pelicans swept the Trail Blazers out of the first round and into a summer of re-evaluation. This option season is the last of Gentry’s original deal with the Pelicans.

Gentry has the Pelicans playing fast, using the elite defense of Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday to get stops, and right now Davis is leading an offense that is just getting it done, with guys such as Nikola Mirotic stepping up. Gentry has earned another year, and a shot to integrate Cousins into this style and level of play, to see where that could take New Orleans next season.

It will be interesting to see if Demps can add more shooting and versatility with a capped out roster.

Report: Suns talk to Jason Kidd, Vinny Del Negro about coaching job

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Mike Budenholzer is out (and may be thinking New York). Suns’ interim coach Jay Triano and former Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale are still in the mix.

The Suns also have reached out to Jason Kidd — who was let go by the Bucks mid-season — and former Bulls and Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro, reports Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic.

This is still early in a lengthy search process, there is a long way to go before anyone gets offered this job.

Kidd now lives in Phoenix. He’s considered a smart coach but one who falls in and out of love with players fast, pushes hard for the players he wants (and against those he doesn’t), and didn’t utilize the talent on the Bucks to its best advantage. The Suns have to ask if he is the right guy for a rebuild. He can coach, he’s going to get another chance, but do the Suns want to give it to him?

Mentioning Del Negro will lead to howls from the Suns’ fanbase, but to be fair he gets a bit of a bad rap as a coach. Del Negro won 53.3 percent of his games as a coach, and no team he coached ever finished below .500. He’s had some success developing players, starting with Derrick Rose. All that said, there are reasons Suns’ fans are right to howl: simplistic offenses, a heavy reliance on pick-and-roll sets, and remember he broke the confidence of DeAndre Jordan (Doc Rivers had to build it back up).

Phoenix fired Earl Watson just three games into the season and are looking to replace him. The new coach will have a very good young scorer in Devin Booker on the roster and after that a lot of young question marks. This is a development job where the Suns need to hire a guy who can put in a system, then bring in more talent and stay out of the new coach’s way. We’ll see if the Suns can do that.

Hours after game-winning tip, restaurant told Giannis Antetokounmpo he had to wait

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Giannis Antetokounmpo was the toast of Milwaukee Sunday night: With the game on the line after a Boston comeback, he tipped in a missed Malcolm Brogdon lay-up that proved to be the game winner. (Jayson Tatum was in good position for Boston, he tried to move Antetokounmpo out of his rebounding spot, it just didn’t matter.)

Well, you would have thought Antetokounmpo was the toast of the town, but when he went to BelAir Cantina (a chainlet of Mexican restaurants in the area) he was told he had to wait. And wait. To the point he eventually left.

As you might imagine, the 6’11” Antetokounmpo walking into a restaurant a couple hours after tying up the series with the Celtics drew fast attention on social media. So did the fact he couldn’t get service.

First, good on Antetokounmpo for not pulling the “do you know who I am?” line. He was reportedly unassuming and just left after a while. No hard feelings, his girlfriend later tweeted this out.

As for BelAir Cantina, I kinda get it — I worked my way through college as a waiter and bartender. The restaurant got slammed, everyone working there was in the weeds, and things fall through the cracks. It happens.

But when the 6’11” toast of the town walks in, he cannot slip through the cracks. Cannot. Rather than social media posts about him not getting served and walking out, there would have been pictures all over of him eating the lamb barbacoa or whatever. It’s good for business. If you give the man a little special treatment after the game, nobody is going to complain (except the people who were going to complain about everything anyway… in that sense working in a restaurant was good preparation for me to use Twitter someday).

 

 

Kevin Durant apparently likes Instagram comment critical of Russell Westbrook (photo)

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Last summer Kevin Durant tweeted and deleted that the Thunder’s surrounding cast around him and Russell Westbrook was lacking when he played for Oklahoma City. Those tweets – another criticized Thunder coach Billy Donovan – appeared to be intended to come from a burner account, but Durant said he actually meant to send them from his own account.

Now, he apparently liked an Instagram comment with the opposite message about Westbrook. (I say apparently, because I can’t verify the authenticity of these screenshots, but they at least pass the initial smell test.)

“Like” is Instagram’s word. Maybe Durant uses the function for a different purpose – to note a comment, rather than endorse it.

Perhaps, Durant misread the conversation. The comment he liked rejected the notion that the Thunder were “subpar,” but it criticized Westbrook for them not living up to their ability. Perhaps, Durant focused on the comment sticking up for Oklahoma City overall and missed the part about Westbrook being the shortcoming. Skimming that conversation, it’s a plausible mistake.

Maybe Durant just actually hit the like button. It’s easy enough to do.

Or maybe Durant and Westbrook haven’t really gotten less hostile toward each other. Maybe Durant meant to like this from a burner account.

Those nefarious possibilities are the scintillating ones.

After getting crushed for those tweets last summer and repeatedly downplaying his feud with Westbrook, the Warriors star clearly wanted to move on from these storylines. But all those questions have suddenly reemerged. Perhaps for legitimate reasons, perhaps for benign ones. But we won’t know more about Durant’s intent until he answers to this.