ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Paul George scored 37 points and Myles Turner added 23 points and 10 rebounds to help the Indiana Pacers move a step closer to a playoff berth with a 127-112 victory over the Orlando Magic on Saturday.
The Pacers pulled a game ahead of Chicago for seventh place in the Eastern Conference and climbed back to .500 with their third straight victory.
Terrence Ross had 29 points for the Magic, while Evan Fournier had 23 and Aaron Gordon added 17. Orlando has lost six of its last seven.
Elfrid Payton had 10 points and 10 assists, but Orlando’s perimeter game was no match for the Pacers’ strength around the basket.
Indiana’s starting frontcourt of George, Thaddeus Young and Turner was a combined 20 of 24 (83.3 percent) in the first half, when the Pacers took a 68-59 lead.
Gordon and Ross helped the Magic cut the deficit to 84-80 with just under 4 minutes left in the third quarter, but that was as close as Orlando would get in the second half.
Indiana nailed three 3-pointers and got a three-point play from Kevin Seraphin to close the quarter on a 15-2 run. When CJ Miles hit another 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter, the Pacers’ lead was 102-82 and the issue was decided.
Pacers: Indiana had lost eight straight road games by an average of 11.9 points before beating Orlando. . The Pacers have won six straight road games in Orlando. . Young is averaging 14.6 points in the last six games. . The Pacers outscored the Magic 38-20 in the paint in the first half and 64-38 for the game.
Magic: Payton is averaging 15.2 points, 10.6 assists and 6.6 rebounds in the last five games. . Gordon is averaging 21.1 points and 9.2 rebounds in the same stretch. . Orlando shot only 41.1 percent in its meetings with Indiana this season.
Russell Westbrook is your NBA MVP, coming off a historic season where he averaged a triple-double.
Westbrook also could see a massive pay raise this summer. Yes, you remember correctly that Westbrook signed one last summer after Kevin Durant left, but the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that kicks in July 1 grandfathered him (and James Harden, who also signed an extension last summer) in to get the “designated veteran” max contract. That would start at about $34.7 million (if the cap is at $99 million as expected) and go up from there.
Thunder management’s first call at midnight July 1 will be to Westbrook to offer the deal, and he may well take it reports Royce Young of ESPN.
Those close to Westbrook fully expect him to take the Thunder’s offer, quite possibly at 12:01 a.m., and stabilize the franchise and present a clear road map. Westbrook signed an extension last summer and invoked the word “loyalty” for a reason. He wanted to make a statement — a public declaration — and take on the burden of leading the franchise forward.
He likes the existing roster and has a close relationship and confidence in Presti and Weaver. He has built a strong bond with head coach Billy Donovan. He knew what he signed for and, with the Thunder coming off a successful first post-Durant season and with pieces in place to improve the team, there are a lot of reasons to commit again.
If Westbrook signs this, the Thunder can get on with the business of improving this roster — which will be next to impossible. The Thunder are capped out and have to re-sign restricted free agent Andre Roberson. Sam Presti is a smart man, but his hands are mostly tied due to some of the big contracts on the roster (ones that would have been no issue if Kevin Durant had stayed). The Thunder will make moves around the edges, but it’s going to take time to do anything substantial.
If Westbrook doesn’t sign this, more than just red flags will go up in OKC — this will be sirens and flashing red lights. The Thunder will be forced to think about trading Westbrook, or finding a way to keep him happy and in house. They will basically be right back to where they were last summer.
If Westbrook signs it — and he likely will, that’s a lot of money to leave on the table — it at least gives the Thunder a clear direction. Which is about all they can hope for this summer.
CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Bulls are not ready to say whether veteran point guard Rajon Rondo will be back for a second season.
Vice president of basketball operations John Paxson says that “is still to be determined.” The Bulls can pay Rondo $13.4 million or buy him out for $3 million by Friday’s deadline.
Paxson spoke Tuesday during a news conference to introduce newcomers Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and rookie Lauri Markkanen, who were acquired from Minnesota for Jimmy Butler on draft night. The Bulls were planning to meet Tuesday with Rondo’s agent Bill Duffy, who represents LaVine.
Paxson also says a buyout on Dwyane Wade after he exercised his $23.8 million option “has not been broached.” Paxson says the Bulls, at least for now, assume Wade will play for Chicago.
Chris Paul is going to talk to a lot of teams this summer, but if you ask people around the league, most seem to think he will re-sign with the Clippers. The ultimate reason is money: As president of the players’ union he helped steer the new CBA negotiations, which included changing the “over 36 rule” — limiting max contracts to players who turn 36 during the time of the deal — into the “over 38 rule.” That meant 32-year-old Paul could sign one more five-year max contract.
Paul also wants to win, and it’s hard to see how the assembled team in Los Angeles — which is certainly a top 5-7 NBA team, maybe a little higher when healthy — picks up a ring. Especially with the Golden State juggernaut not going anywhere.
Paul has started talking to the Clippers, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.
I doubt that discussion was much about money — the Clippers will offer a five-year max contract. That’s not even up for debate.
The discussion was how to build the Clippers into a contender. Will Blake Griffin, also a free agent, be back and be part of that? What about J.J. Redick? Can the Clippers get the cap space to lure huge free agents in 2018? LeBron James reportedly wants to come to Los Angeles, although whether he wants to be a Clipper is another question. (For the record, I don’t buy the idea LeBron would “never” be a Clipper. While it may be highly unlikely, people I have spoken to around the league closer to LeBron’s thinking say he wants to keep every option open, play out next season, then see where things stand. He would not fully rule out playing with Chris Paul, who could still be in L.A.)
The Clippers have backed themselves into a corner by trading away picks for veterans, and not developing young players into guys who can contribute in the rotation. When was the last time the Clippers had their Patrick McCaw or Dewayne Dedmon? Without those young, affordable players, it becomes hard to put a good roster together and keep it together. It’s part of what Jerry West — with some help from GM Lawrence Frank — need to bring to Doc Rivers’ Clippers.
That’s likely part of the discussion, too.
There’s a lot for the sides to talk about.
Russell Westbrook is one of the biggest stars in the NBA, he’s now an MVP, and he wears Jordan Brand Nikes.
Still, it has to be a bit humbling to get a personal, signed note from Michael Jordan himself.
Which is exactly what he got on Tuesday, a congratulatory note from the GOAT.
The note said (in all caps):
I got buy first MVP award before my first ring, too… keep going!
It was then signed by Jordan.
Westbrook could probably fill a second home with memorabilia from his career, but this is one he’s likely going to keep safe.