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With Rudy Gobert out, Clippers throw party in paint, win Game 2 99-91 to even series

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This was what the Clippers had expected this series.

With Rudy Gobert sidelined with a hyperextended knee and a bone bruise, Los Angeles threw a party in the lane — 60 points in the paint, eight offensive rebounds, and just two shots were blocked. They played downhill, to use Doc Rivers’ postgame phrasing. DeAndre Jordan thrived most of all, the Clippers’ center had 10 of his 18 points in the first quarter, he was getting dunks at the rim and dominating the glass. Clipper guards were driving the lane with impunity — heck, even Paul Pierce had a driving layup at one point.

“We just wanted to be aggressive,” Chris Paul said after the game. “DJ (Jordan) was great, Blake (Griffin) was great, but our guards were just getting in the paint.”

The Jazz scrapped and stayed within striking distance, but the Clippers held on for a 99-91 win. That evens the series at 1-1 heading back to Utah for Game 3 Friday night.

This game was what the Clippers wanted in that their three stars had big outings. Jordan was a force early and finished with 18 points and 15 rebounds, Blake Griffin led the way with 24 points including the dagger three, and Chris Paul had 21 points and 10 assists, and he owned the game in the fourth quarter.

But the key was Los Angeles attacking the vacuum left by Gobert’s absence — Los Angeles shot 27-of-33 in the restricted area Tuesday. Defensively, other Jazz players did not step up and help enough.

Utah also could not generate consistent offense. They struggled mightily early, shooting just 29.4 percent in the first quarter, and while that improved the Jazz were rarely efficient for longer than a short stretch. Gordon Hayward led Utah with 20 points on 5-of-15 shooting, while Joe Johnson became the guy the team leaned on to create shots and he finished with 13 points on 15 shots.

Derrick Favors, who was so crucial for the Jazz in Game 1, had 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting but didn’t have the same impact.

The Clippers came out of this game both even in the series and with something to build upon. They were the aggressors and will look to carry that over, plus they didn’t have a great shooting game from the outside (6-of-20 from three), and that should change with time. Los Angeles would like to get J.J. Redick going next game, he hasn’t had a lot of space to work in the first two (it’s not like the Jazz are worried about Luc Mbah a Moute, so they have stuck tight with Redick and helped).

For the Jazz, they fought and kept the game close, and going home they have to think some role players will step up (such as Rodney Hood or Joe Ingles, both of whom were okay but not great in Game 2).

Utah got the split on the road to start the series. Now they need to protect their home court.

Gobert would help with that, but it’s not known when he will return. Coach Quin Snyder said recently Gobert would be out “a week or two,” which would seem to make at least Friday unlikely. But nobody really knows.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.

How to start your Saturday night: Watching 15 minutes of best plays from NBA season

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There are no NBA playoff games Saturday night, the first night since the start of the postseason there hasn’t been one game. Don’t worry, there are two games on Sunday, including Game 7 between the Jazz and Clippers.

But if you need a Saturday night fix, this will have to do: 15 minutes of the best plays from last season, as compiled by NBA.com.

Go ahead, watch it. You’ve got nothing better to do.

 

Paul Millsap says the expected, he will “most likely” opt out of contract

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This is ranked right next to “overeating can lead to weight gain” on the list of surprising things, but we will dutifully report it anyway:

Paul Millsap is going to opt out and officially become a free agent this summer.

Atlanta’s owner as well as Mike Budenholzer, the coach and head of basketball operations, have both said they plan to do whatever it takes to re-sign Millsap with the Hawks. Millsap didn’t sound like someone eager to leave after the Hawks were eliminated from the playoffs Friday.

“It’s been great. I’m looking to expand this and see where the franchise can go. These last four years has been great. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Even with both sides singing Kumbaya, keeping Millsap in Atlanta likely means a five-year contract at or near the max, which for a 32-year-old player means the Hawks would regret the last year or two of that deal.

Not that the Hawks have much of a choice here, they have to come in big and keep him. For one, they can’t afford to lose Al Horford and then Millsap for nothing in back-to-back years. If they were going down the rebuilding road, they needed to trade Millsap at the deadline (or last summer) to make sure they got something in return. Atlanta explored trade options at the deadline, but then pulled back (rumored to be because of an edict from ownership, which didn’t want to see the team blown up after the Kyle Korver trade).

By not making that trade the Hawks signaled their intention to remain a good team — a 43-win team this season that got them the five seed — with Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard, one that draws well at an arena that historically has not been that full, and see if they can add on. They strike me as a team that will win between 42-50 games a year and be middle of the pack in the East for the next few years, unless they can find a way to add an elite player (which is incredibly difficult).

But if the Hawks can’t re-sign Millsap, then the plan gets blown up. So expect them to come in with a big offer come July 1.