Wizards pull away from Hawks in high-fouling Game 2

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The Wizards glared. They talked trash. They flexed. They skipped. They pumped their arms. They high-fived fans. They popped jerseys.

This wasn’t MMA, double or otherwise. The refs wouldn’t let it be.

This was showmanship of professional wrestling – and a very real win.

Washington preened at every opportunity – not many between a seemingly unending cascade of foul calls – in a 109-101 Game 2 victory over the Hawks on Wednesday. John Wall (32 points and nine assists) matched a career playoff scoring high, set in Game 1, and unofficially led his team in swagger outbursts.

The Wizards capitalized on their first home-court advantage since 1979, winning twice in Washington before heading to Atlanta for Game 3 Saturday. Teams up 2-0 with two home wins in a best-of-seven series have won 94% of the time.

The Wizards and Hawks grinded through eight ties, 14 lead changes and 55 fouls – a foul every 52 seconds. For perspective, refs called a foul every 2:26 during the regular season.

Paul Millsap (27 points on 14-of-15 free-throw shooting) needed no adjusting to the style he sought and hunted fouls relentlessly. For a while, it seemed it’d work, with the Hawks turning a 10-point deficit into a seven-point lead in the third quarter.

But Brandon Jennings (10 points on 4-of-5 shooting with four rebounds and two assists in 17 minutes) got hot at the right time, and Bradley Beal (31 points) finally warmed up in the fourth quarter.

There will be moments Atlanta wishes it had back. Kent Bazemore committed a two costly turnovers when the Hawks tried to play just a couple minutes without a traditional point guard. Dwight Howard (six points, seven rebounds, three turnovers and four fouls) looked ineffective, and he played fewer than 20 minutes, none in the fourth quarter. Dennis Schroder (23 points) kept attacking the rim, faring better with Ersan Ilyasova and Mike Muscala spacing the floor. Will Atlanta deemphasize the paint-clogging Howard in Game 3?

And will the Hawks stop drawing so many fouls? After taking 39 free throws in Game 1 (to Washington’s 17), they attempted 38 (to Washington’s 33) in Game 2.

No team has taken so many free throws (77) in the first two games of a series and lost both since the 2008 Mavericks, who eventually lost to the New Orleans Hornets in five games in the first round.

If you don’t win like this, when will you?

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.

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry: Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo will both start

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After signing Jrue Holiday to a massive contract, the Pelicans added Rajon Rondo while putting out word that the two point guards would play together.

They won’t just play together. They’ll start together.

New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry confirmed the plan on Dunc & Holder then expanded (hat tip: Mason Ginsberg of Bourbon Street Shots):

I like Jrue off the ball to start the game as a scorer. I like Rondo being on the floor as a leader. Now, obviously, Jrue is going to play some where he’s the primary ball-handler. I spoke to Jrue at length about this, and I think it’s something that can really help us.

Holiday’s value is maximized at point guard. He’s better than Rondo, and it’s generally better to give the ball more often to the better point guard.

But Holiday can defend multiple positions and work off the ball. Rondo can’t. New Orleans is short on wings, so shifting Holiday there is a reasonable option.

Rondo is a minus shooter for his position, but Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins have improved their range immensely. This won’t necessarily be a prohibitively cluttered starting lineup. Paying a starter just $3.3 million is a bargain – one the Pelicans needed considering their self-inflicted constraints. They couldn’t afford someone who’d create no complications. I just think the difficulties causes by starting Rondo are manageable.

The bigger question is what New Orleans does on the wing beyond E'Twaun Moore. Solomon Hill and Dante Cunningham (who’s unsigned but whose Bird Rights are still held by New Orleans) are better at power forward. Darius Miller is far from a proven NBA commodity. Quincy Pondexter can seemingly never get healthy.

If Quinn Cook is ready for the rotation, that could help. He could play when Rondo sits and allow Holiday to spend all his time at shooting guard. But I’m not sure Holiday is ready to cede all his minutes at point guard, the higher-profile position. (I’m also unsure Cook is ready to play regularly.)

Starting Holiday at shooting guard mitigates the wing problem, but it doesn’t solve it. There are still too many wing minutes to go around, and New Orleans is running out of money to spend – both with exceptions and below the luxury-tax line.

76ers second-rounder Jonah Bolden signs in Israel

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Jonah Bolden – No. 16 on my draft board – slipped all the way to the 76ers at No. 36 in the NBA draft. An impressive summer league has raised his stock significantly.

But Philadelphia won’t reap the rewards this season.

Bolden signed a three-year contract with Maccabi Tel Aviv, the team announced. The club also said the deal contained NBA outs and the 76ers helped facilitate his move from his previous team, Red Star in Serbia.

This is a helpful arrangement for Philadelphia, which is running out of roster spots. Bolden will develop elsewhere while allowing the 76ers’ to maintain his exclusive negotiating rights.

Bolden must get stronger and more adept at handling physicality. The athletic stretch four can also continue developing his burgeoning perimeter skills.

Then, next year, maybe the 76ers will have room to sign him themselves.

Anthony Davis does #DriveByDunkChallenge (video)

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If you’re not up with what the kids are doing, the cool thing this summer is the #DriveByDunkChallenge – driving to random houses, running out of a still-running car, dunking on their basketball hoop, running back into the car then driving off.

It sounds like a lot of fun for those who can dunk (and don’t get accosted by startled homeowners). An example:

Pelicans star Anthony Davis took his turn: