Watch Paul George score season-high 39 points in Pacers’ win over Hornets (video)

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Paul George couldn’t have picked a better time to take over a basketball game and lead the Pacers to a much-needed win.

During the second half of the second night of a back-to-back, George played like someone on three days’ rest.

George made six 3-pointers and scored 27 of his season high 39 points in the second half, and the Pacers knocked off the Hornets 98-77, keeping Indiana in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Charlotte and Indiana went into halftime knotted at 42. Less than 24 hours earlier, the Pacers blew a lead on the road and lost to the Knicks. Now, it appeared Indiana was on the verge of losing a second consecutive game and sliding to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.

“There are times we lose focus out there,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. “I thought they responded tonight. They were all business from start to finish. We know we gave one away (last night) and they responded by playing hard, coming off (the first night of a) back-to-back and I think we were locked in every possession on what we needed to do.”

Jeff Teague added eight points, eight rebounds and 11 assists, Myles Turner finished with six points, 11 rebounds and three blocks. Monta Ellis scored 16 points for the Pacers.

Indiana led 50-47 in the third quarter when it looked as if both teams would trade the lead until the final minutes. But the moment George decided to put the game in his hands, so, too, did the rest of the Pacers decide to put the game away for good. Indiana used a 15-0 run to extend the lead and ultimately shut the door on the Hornets.

Charlotte outscored Indiana in the paint 42-18, but the Hornets shot just 40 percent (32 of 80) while the Pacers finished shooting 53 percent (39 of 73). 26 of Indiana’s 39 field goals came by way of an assist on Wednesday night. Frank Kaminsky finished with 20 points and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored 10 points.

George was just too much for the Hornets to handle. The four-time All-Star made 15 of his 21 field goal attempts in addition to his six 3-pointers.

“Things came easy because of the offensive flow,” George said. “Also, playing a team for the fourth time, I knew how they were going to guard me and I tried to take advantage of it.”

The Hornets would make one last attempt at a comeback, opening the fourth quarter with an 8-2 run that would pull them within 10 points. But Indiana answered back with a run of its own, using a 14-2 spurt to go ahead by 22. Indiana’s largest lead of the game was 25 in the fourth quarter.

Wednesday night’s loss to Indiana was Charlotte’s third straight and its fourth in its previous five games. Indiana (35-33) is trying to maintain its hold on the Eastern Conference’s sixth seed, while the Hornets (29-39) sit four games out of the final playoff spot.

“You could see it right from the beginning of the game (George) had a look in his eye. Once he got into a rhythm, it’s hard to stop him,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. “When we play well at both ends of the floor, we’ve been a good team. Tonight, our defense was good enough – except for the Paul George stuff – (but) we were poor offensively.”

TIP-INS

Pacers: Have won only two of their last seven against Charlotte. … Since the All-Star break, the Pacers have held nine of their 11 opponents to fewer than 100 points. … Indiana has also outrebounded its opponents in nine of its 11 games since the All-Star break. … Indiana made four times as many 3-pointers as Charlotte did Wednesday night, finishing with 12, compared to the Hornets’ three.

Hornets: Are 4-11 this season when trailing after the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Hornets: host Washington on Saturday

Pacers: visit Toronto on Sunday.

Report: Spurs re-signing Pau Gasol to three-year contract

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Even after Pau Gasol opted out, there it nearly certain he’d stay with the Spurs.

Now, a deal is done.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

I’m a little surprised San Antonio guaranteed Gasol’s salary next season. By rule, it must be within 5% of what he’ll earn this year.

The Spurs could have major flexibility to chase free agents next summer, making keeping the books clean a priority. Their only constraints with Gasol this year are paying him up to 120% of his prior salary (which comes out to $18.6 million), the hard cap ($125,266,000) and whatever expense ownership would endure. So, if Gasol were willing to play ball, San Antonio could have paid him a sizable salary this year and far less – the room exception or even the minimum – next year.

Instead, Gasol’s compensation will be more balanced between the seasons. We’ll see how much he’ll earn.

Gasol remains an effective scorer, in part because he increased his range beyond the 3-point arc. He rebounds well in his area, and his length and basketball intelligence make him a passable defender given his other skills. His immobility can be a major defensive liability in certain matchups, though.

He’s also 37, an age where players can drop off quickly – another reason a one-year deal would’ve been preferable. At least the partial guarantee in the third year will help San Antonio.

Report: Kyrie Irving asked Cavaliers to trade him, blindsiding LeBron James

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Kyrie Irving said the Cavaliers were in a “peculiar place.”

We didn’t realize quite how peculiar.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

Kyrie Irving is ready to end his run with the Cleveland Cavaliers, as league sources told ESPN that the guard has asked the team to trade him.

The request came last week and was made to Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert. Irving has expressed that he wants to go play in a situation where he can be a more focal point and no longer wants to play alongside LeBron James, sources said.

James was informed of Irving’s request and was blindsided and disappointed, sources said.

Irving has admitted playing with LeBron has sometimes been rocky. It paid off with a championship in 2016, and I’m sure Irving found the tradeoff worthwhile then.

But the Warriors are so dominant with Kevin Durant. Even a team with LeBron, Irving and Kevin Love is a major underdog. If Irving would prefer to lead a team, it’s much easier to reject a supporting role when it’s so unlikely to culminate in a championship. (It’s also easier with a title already under his belt.)

This shouldn’t quiet the alarms of LeBron leaving next summer. Just because Irving doesn’t want to play with him doesn’t mean LeBron wants to play without Irving. This could push LeBron further out the door.

I also wouldn’t read too much into this signaling LeBron’s intent to stay in Cleveland. Though it’s possible Irving has a read on LeBron’s plan, a trade is the only sure-fire way to escape LeBron – and do it without playing another year with him.

I wouldn’t  tell Irving what would make him happiest. Cleveland is not a premier market, and playing in LeBron’s shadow isn’t always ideal for another star.

But I’m leery of Irving’s ability to lead a successful team. The Cavs stunk before LeBron returned and have stunk when he sits and Irving plays. Irving’s shortcomings – defense, distributing – become more pronounced as his team’s best player.

Maybe Irving is up for the challenge. He clearly wants it.

Then again, Cleveland doesn’t have to grant him the ability to try. He’s locked up for two more years. He can request, but not force, a trade.

This is a difficult time for the Cavaliers, who need visionary leadership. Their general manager has his hands full.

Oh, right.

NBA: Cleveland won’t get 2020 or 2021 All-Star game unless arena renovation begins by Sept. 15

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Cavaliers CEO Len Komoroski said Cleveland had been promised an NBA All-Star game if it upgraded its basketball arena.

The city committed taxpayer money to arena upgrades.

So, the Cavaliers are hosting an All-Star game?

Not so fast.

A group has opposed the city spending taxpayer money on arena so the billionaire who profits off the arena doesn’t have to pay for upgrades himself. That money could better serve a wider section of Clevelanders, and the group has tied up the plan in court.

Now, NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum wrote in a letter that Cleveland might not get an All-Star game.

Kevin Cleps of Crain’s Cleveland Business:

The letter was included in a 276-page summary that was filed with the Ohio Supreme Court on Thursday, July 20.

In the letter to Gilbert, Tatum confirms that the NBA has received the sports commission’s bid packet to host the All-Star Game in Cleveland, and says the league will be awarding the 2020 and ’21 events in the near future.

But, he adds, the league “will not be able to consider Cleveland as the host city for NBA All-Star 2020 or 2021 unless construction of The Q’s ‘Transformation’ project begins on or before September 15, 2017.”

Tatum says that the NBA has “already delayed the awarding” of those showcase events to “accommodate Cleveland, and unfortunately we cannot ask the other NBA cities that have held these dates open to wait any longer.”

The NBA is dangling a carrot in front of Cleveland, urging the local government to spend taxpayer money on the billion-dollar business’ arena. It might work. It often does. But Cleveland will be fine without an All-Star game, the economic effects of which are often exaggerated.

As Sept. 15 nears, it appears increasingly likely other cities will get the next couple All-Star games to be assigned. Still, there’s a chance the Cavaliers prevail in court in time.

J.J. Redick: Clippers lost joy

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J.J. Redick and the Clippers seemed done with each other before free agency even began.

Redick – who signed a one-year, $23 million contract with the 76ers – gave Uninterrupted a behind-the-scenes look into his free agency. In the above video, he revealed plenty about his situation in L.A.:

It’s s—y to say this, but I think I’ve had a loss of joy. I look at our team and how we play, and it’s just there’s no joy in it. That bothers me.

On June 29th at about 10 p.m., I got a call from Lawrence Frank from the Clippers. I jokingly call it my breakup call. He just told me they weren’t going to offer me a contract. I wasn’t going to be back.

There’s plenty of blame to go around.

Blame Chris Paul for not relenting enough in his grating perfectionism and being petty. Blame Blake Griffin for being aloof about weight of his actions. Blame Paul and Griffin for waiting too long to get serious about bonding. Blame Doc Rivers for bringing in Austin Rivers and inviting accusations of nepotism. Blame Doc Rivers for too long setting a tone of whining.

Blame a tough Western Conference and injury for keeping a team with championship aspirations from never advancing past the second round. Blame familiarity, which bred contempt over several years with the same core.

Whomever or whatever you blame, the outcome seems tough to dispute: The Clippers looked joyless by the end of their run. Redick saying it only confirms the perception.

I’m curious whether he’ll find more joy in Philadelphia. A new situation will be refreshing, and the 76ers – young and talented – are hungry. Expectations are low after years of tanking, so even modest gains will be celebrated. But they’re also worse than the Clippers were, and losing more often will be an adjustment.

To get a better idea where Redick is coming from as he begins in Philadelphia, I recommend watching the video in full. It’s quite illuminating.