Rockets try to adjust to life without Nene, Spurs try to bounce back in Game 5

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The first four games of the Western Conference semifinal series between the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs have seen the best and worst of both teams, with each winning twice.

That’s why Game 5 of the best-of-seven series, set for Tuesday at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, is so crucial.

Game 6 will be on Thursday in Houston, with a seventh and deciding game — if necessary — scheduled for Sunday in San Antonio.

The Rockets, who had looked lost in Game 2 on the road and Game 3 at home, stormed back to claim a 125-104 win in Game 4 on Sunday in Houston to tie the series.

Houston point guard and MVP candidate James Harden scored 28 points and dished out 12 assists in the win. The Rockets’ bench stepped up, getting 22 points from guards Eric Gordon and 13 from Lou Williams after the entire reserve unit scored just 10 points in their Game 3 loss.

It helped too that Houston canned 19 3-point shots in the victory Sunday, the second time in the series it had reached that number — the Rockets had a franchise-high 22 3-pointers in their Game 1 win in San Antonio.

“We did a great job of having patience with our drive-ins,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “Drive, kick, drive, kick, instead of just throwing up a quick floater, which is kind of what San Antonio wants you to do. We were able to keep moving the ball, or keep moving our people and keep driving until we found the easier shot and it worked.”

After recording just four fast-break points in Game 3, the Rockets managed 13 in the first quarter alone in Game 4.

“Our defense was pretty defective,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.

Rockets reserve center Nene logged just two minutes before departing with an injury. The team announced on Monday that he would miss the rest of the postseason with a torn left adductor. Nene had averaged 10.8 points and 5.3 rebounds in 19.9 minutes during the playoffs before Sunday’s injury.

“Nene is a big part of what we do,” Harden said. “Guys have to step up. It’s an opportunity for guys who don’t play big minutes and for guys who haven’t really played and might get some opportunities. Whoever it is, we’ve got to try to fill that role.”

Reserve guard Jonathon Simmons tallied a team-high 17 points for the Spurs in Game 4 while forwards Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge scored 16 apiece and reserve guard Patty Mills added 10 points for San Antonio, which never led in the game.

“Houston made a few adjustments that we just couldn’t cope with them on the fly,” Mills said. “And it ended up leaving us (playing) soft and exposed our individual (defense), which they took the chances and just drove (on) us.”

Although San Antonio would potentially have two of the final three games on its home floor, Spurs venerable guard Manu Ginobili said the team needed to treat Tuesday’s contest like it was a Game 7, not a Game 5.

“We had a great opportunity (in Game 4) to go back to San Antonio up 3-1 and in a better situation,” Ginobili said. “Now it’s 2-2 and we have to go in knowing that every possession is a game-winning possession.”

Since moving to the AT&T Center in 2002, the Spurs are 81-28 (.743) in home playoff games, giving them the most such wins by any team in the league since that year.

Draymond Green’s civil suit accuser speaks, Green’s attorney issues statement

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The civil suit against Draymond Green starts off this way: “Draymond Green is a bully.”

As we noted was coming, on Tuesday former Michigan State University football player Jermaine Edmondson and his girlfriend Bianca Williams filed a lawsuit against Green stemming from an incident a year ago in East Lansing, Mich., bar. Green was back in the town of his alma mater and ran into Edmondson at a bar, and some kind of altercation followed.

Green allegedly slapped him during this, although the plaintiffs say the men with Green shoved first Edmondson against a wall, then when Williams came over to intervene another man did the same to her, putting his hand around his throat. Green was arrested, but the prosecutors didn’t see it the same way and Green’s charges were reduced to a noise violation, where Green had to pay a $500 fine and $60 restitution fee. Because it was a civil infraction, there is no “guilty” or “not guilty” plea entered.

Here is Edmondson speaking.

Green’s attorney Katherine Grubaugh, issued the following statement:

“This lawsuit relates to an incident that occurred in East Lansing, Michigan over a year ago, for which Draymond paid a noise violation fine. Draymond looks forward to defending himself and clearing up the misinformation put forth today.”

As I said previously, I’m not about to speculate about the motives for the suit or what actually happened in the bar that night. I don’t know those things. What I do know, as someone who spent years as a young reporter covering courts and police, it is challenging for the plaintiff to prove their case and get paid in these kinds of lawsuits (if this actually gets to trial). While in a civil case the standard to reach drops to “a preponderance of the evidence,” the plaintiff has to prove damages. That is not easy, especially in a disputed bar fight (where the clarity of memory of any witness can be called into question) a year later.

Report: Suns inform Josh Jackson he will not be part of any Kyrie Irving trade

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The Cleveland Cavaliers want an elite young player back in any trade of Kyrie Irving.

The Phoenix Suns have come up as a trade partner, because of Eric Bledsoe‘s salary, fit with Cleveland if Irving is gone, and the fact he and LeBron James share an agent.

And those suns have an elite young player — Josh Jackson. Taken fourth in the last draft, Jackson showed fantastic athleticism at Summer League, disruptive defense, the ability to make plays around the rim, and while his jumper needs some work there is genuine promise.

Which is why the Suns are not going to include Jackson in any Irving trade.

If the Suns are involved in an Irving trade, it’s likely as part of a three-team deal. Bledsoe would still go out, and Phoenix might be willing to throw in young players such as Marquese Chriss or Dragan Bender, depending on what they got back.

That is the key — the return. Phoenix is rebuilding, Bledsoe is their best trade chip, and if he is going out the door, they are going to want real quality back in return. They are not in this to be a salary dump location, the Suns are going to want young players who can make a difference and picks. Most of the trade scenarios floating around in public forums use Phoenix as the dumping ground in the three- or four-team deals, just know that is not going to happen. The Suns want value for their best trade asset.

Rumor: Are these the new Cleveland Cavaliers Nike uniforms? (PHOTOS)

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Nike will be taking over the NBA uniforms for the 2017-18 season, and now it looks like we have some leaked photos of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ new look.

A photo posted to Twitter on Tuesday showed a mannequin dressed in what appears to be Cleveland’s new wine-colored uniforms.

Nike released some information about their new uniforms recently, including the naming conventions which will be associated with certain editions of team uniforms. Those editions are called The Association, The Icon, The Athlete’s Mindset, and The Community.

The wine edition of the Cleveland uniform would fall under the category of the Icon.

Via Twitter:

Those certainly seem to go along with some of the uniforms that were released during Nikes original release. It’s also hard understand why someone would have a full dress mock up on a mannequin with the Nike logo on it, especially as it is so close to what we have seen from Nike.

Conrad over at Sports Logos has been kind enough to mock up what the Cavaliers uniforms should look like for both the icon and association additions.

Via Sports Logos:

What do you think? I am liking them so far.

Mike Muscala signs 2-year, $10 million deal to remain with Hawks

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ATLANTA (AP) The Atlanta Hawks have re-signed power forward Mike Muscala to a two-year, $10 million deal.

The 6-foot-11 Muscala, who was an unrestricted free agent, could play a bigger role as he returns for his fifth season following the departures of Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard.

Muscala set career highs by averaging 6.2 points and 3.4 rebounds in 70 games, including three starts, last season. He scored in double figures in 20 games and ranked second on the team by making 50.4 percent of his shots from the field.

The team announced the signing Tuesday.

More AP NBA: https://www.apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball