Associated PRess

Pacers boost playoff hopes with comeback over Raptors

5 Comments

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Paul George scored 18 of his 35 points in the third quarter Tuesday night and the desperate Indiana Pacers rallied from a 19-point, first-half deficit and blew out Toronto 108-90.

The Pacers ended a four-game losing streak that saw them slide from a tie for the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference to the very real possibility of missing the postseason.

DeMar DeRozan scored 27 points and Jonas Valanciunas had 10 points and 10 rebounds for Toronto, which had won its previous two.

It was an astounding comeback for Indiana, which was so lethargic in the first half it needed an 8-2 spurt just to get within 51-40 at halftime.

The game was marred by a shoving match between Indiana’s Lance Stephenson and DeRozan with 3.3 seconds left. The melee spilled down the sideline and into the Pacers’ bench, where Toronto’s P.J. Tucker was still jawing with Pacers players.

Stephenson, Tucker and DeRozan all received technical fouls.

But it couldn’t taint one of the Pacers’ biggest turnarounds of the season – a game they hope will help them make a final push into the postseason.

Indiana took its first lead on Jeff Teague‘s 3-pointer with 5:48 left in the third, then watched George close out the quarter by scoring 14 of the Pacers’ last 19 points.

Toronto never challenged again after the Pacers opened the fourth quarter on an 11-2 run to make it 88-77.

With four games left and already down tiebreakers to Chicago, which started the night in the No. 7 spot, and Miami, which was tied with Indiana for the last playoff spot, Indiana knew what it needed to do: Win.

George took that responsibility upon himself after a conversation with coach Nate McMillan, and he delivered with a huge third quarter that turned around the game and perhaps Indiana’s season.

The Pacers were 9 of 13 on 3-pointers in the second half.

TIP-INS

Raptors: Now trail Boston by 3 1/2 games in the Atlantic Division with four games to go. … Despite Tuesday’s loss, Toronto has won nine of the last 11 regular-season games and three straight season series against Indiana. … The Raptors finished with 11 assists, ending a streak of five straight games with 20 or more. … DeMarre Carroll had 11 points, Cory Joseph scored 10 and Serge Ibaka had eight points and 10 rebounds.

Pacers: Teague had 20 points and six assists, and Stephenson received a standing ovation when he entered the game in the first quarter. Stephenson finished with 12 points. … Thaddeus Young scored 15 points, his fifth straight game in double figures. … McMillan said Al Jefferson (sprained left ankle) was off crutches and out of the boot and is doing light jogging. Glenn Robinson III (sore left calf) still has not returned to practice.

This story has been corrected to show that the shoving match started between Lance Stephenson and DeMar DeRozan, not DeMarre Carroll.

Reports: Knicks, Bucks, Nuggets among teams calling about Eric Bledsoe

Associated Press
Leave a comment

Eric Bledsoe is done with the Suns. His excuse that his “I Dont wanna be here” Tweet was about a hair salon is as believable as myself, Bruce Willis, and Andre Agassi Tweeting about our time in hair salons. The Suns have told him to go home, and they will work to trade him. Most likely, the Suns are going to get crushed in this deal — they have no leverage, Bledsoe is a free agent in less than two years (2019), plus most teams are not looking for another point guard. But he is being shopped, and he’d like to go to a winning team.

Where will Bledsoe get traded?

A few names have come up — the Knicks, Bucks, and Nuggets are the ones out in public now. There are more, but let’s take a look at those three.

The Knicks have one of the two worst backcourts in the NBA (the Bulls are in that mix, too) so they certainly could use Bledsoe short term. However, long term he doesn’t fit on the Kristaps Porzingis timeline so how much would New York give up to get him.

That price is too high, according to Ian Begley of ESPN.

The Suns have asked about young Knicks such as Frank Ntilikina and Willy Hernangomez in trade talks about guard Eric Bledsoe, sources confirm. But New York have been opposed to trading either young player, sources told ESPN. Hernangomez has not been in head coach Jeff Hornacek’s regular rotation in the first two games of the season, which has left the second-year center frustrated. But Hernangomez’s lack of playing time isn’t a sign that the club is looking to move him. Ntilikina has dealt with several injuries early in his career but the point guard remains part of the young core New York wants to build around and management, as of Monday afternoon, did not want to move him in a Bledsoe deal.

Then there is Milwaukee.

On the court, this makes some sense. Giannis Antetokounmpo is the point forward who has the ball in his hands, but Bledsoe is adept off the ball and can hit the three. The move would send Malcolm Brogdon back to the bench, which he may not like but is a good thing for a team looking to bolster its depth.

The trade likely would involve Jabari Parker going West, along with salary filler such as Matthew Dellavedova. Parker is coming off multiple injuries, but he still knows how to score inside and in the right system has value. Whether that system is in Phoenix depends on what kind of system they want to run and roster they want to build.

Then there is Denver.

Denver likes Jamal Murray at the point guard spot and is ready to move on from Emmanuel Mudiay, so there could be a point guard swap but with some more salary coming back to Phoenix (Denver likely would want to dump Kenneth Faried but the Suns will want something that helps them out more than that). This makes some sense as it gives the Suns a young point guard with some skills to try out, while the Nuggets get deeper at a spot of need.

Other deals are lurking (yes LeBron James and Bledsoe are tight, but that deal is a long shot), and the Suns rightfully are going to take the best deal they can find, regardless of whether Bledsoe wants to be there or not. The only questions are how fast do they get it done, and what are teams offering?

J.R. Smith replacing Dwyane Wade as Cavaliers’ starting shooting guard

Stacy Revere/Getty Images
2 Comments

The Cavaliers are 2-1, but their starting lineups have been outscored by 19 points in 32 minutes. Dwyane Wade has been so bad as the starting shooting guard, his struggles have overshadowed J.R. Smith‘s miserable play as the backup.

But at least Wade volunteered a solution to this predictable problem.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

Dwyane Wade is headed for the Cavaliers’ bench at his own request and J.R. Smith is returning to the starting lineup.

Wade, 35, a 12-time All-Star who struggled in his first three games with Cleveland, asked coach Tyronn Lue to make the change, Lue said. But this wasn’t exactly Wade’s idea, either.

Lue told him when he signed with the Cavs Sept. 27 that the second unit may be the best fit for him.

“I just decided, earlier than later, just to get to the unit where I’d be more comfortable in and can probably better with this team in that lineup,” Wade said. “Why wait? Three games in, why wait? Wanted to get in there with those guys.”

Cleveland’s starting lineup needs more shooting and defense around LeBron James – especially with Derrick Rose starting over an injured Isaiah Thomas (though Rose is out a couple games with his own ankle injury). Smith provides that.

Bench-heavy units need more playmaking. Wade provides that.

This was a tricky situation given Wade’s status as a future Hall of Famer and friendship with LeBron. Whether Wade simply suggested the change or Lue is trying to give Wade public credit after coaxing it behind the scenes, the result is the same.

The Cavs can now use their most logical rotation, and they should be better for it.

Suns GM Ryan McDonough: Eric Bledsoe hair-salon claim about tweet was unbelievable

Getty Images
2 Comments

Eric Bledsoe reportedly requested a trade from the Suns before the season then tweeted yesterday:

Clear message?

Apparently not.

After sending home Bledsoe today, Suns general manager Ryan McDonough explained his rationale:

The hair salon! What a wonderful excuse.

Is it true? I’m not going to call Bledsoe a liar. It might be.

It’s also probably true that Bledsoe isn’t long for Phoenix.

Report: Suns send Eric Bledsoe home, expect to trade him

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
9 Comments

In a shocking twist, the Suns firing Earl Watson did not end the dysfunction in Phoenix.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7:

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Bledsoe:

That is a first-rate tweet by Bledsoe. It’s great that he’s having fun with the wild situation, because the rest of us sure are amused peering in.

This was always going to be a long season in Phoenix, but things got out of hand in a hurry. The 0-3 Suns have been outscored by 92 – the worst three-game start in NBA history by 16 points. Now, comes the fallout.

At 27, Bledsoe was getting to be a little too old for a rebuild centered on Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender and T.J. Warren. The Suns could have dealt Bledsoe in the offseason. Now, they’re negotiating from a position of weakness.

Bledsoe is a good starting point guard when healthy. He’s earning a reasonable $14.5 million this season and due $15 million in the final year of his contract next season. There should be suitors, and Phoenix can gain long-term assets while stepping up its tank.

But this sure seems like a crisis-control move more than anything else.