Aaron Brooks

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Pacers’ Lance Stephenson will get his chance, but coming off the bench

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Indiana is Myles Turner‘s team now. Gone from last season are Paul George, Monta Ellis, Jeff Teague, Aaron Brooks and more. More than just Turner, everyone on the Pacers’ roster is going to get a chance to shine.

That includes Lance Stephenson.

But he will do that coming off the bench, coach Nate McMillan told the Pacers’ website.

Coach Nate McMillan said he has a starting lineup in mind heading into training camp, but wouldn’t reveal it. He did acknowledge, however, that Lance Stephenson likely will start the season as the sixth man…

“I hope he can establish (that role),” McMillan said. “A sixth man is like a starter, and he can be a guy who can do a lot of things with that second group with his ability to handle the ball, score the ball. He’s an unselfish player.”

Stephenson was only with the Pacers for a few games at the end of last season, but he was their second best player in the postseason brought an energy and toughness the team lacked. He hit threes (62 percent for the Pacers), played hard, and looked more like the guy Indiana had years ago than the guy who has bounced around the league since. But that was a very small sample size, it’s something else to do this over the course of a season.

Indiana is rebuilding but they did not bottom out and tank, they brought in guys who can handle the ball such as Victor Oladipo (the George trade), Darren Collison, and Cory Joseph. Stephenson is going to have to accept and find a role behind and with those guys. But he’s going to get a chance, and he has played his best ball in a Pacers’ uniform.

Cavaliers’ defense unimpressive but Cleveland survives for 109-108 Game 1 win

Associated Press
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There was no switch flipped.

The Cavaliers’ defense, which has been unimpressive through the final stretch of the season, lived down to that billing — Indiana scored 108 points, shot 45.8 percent from three, had a ridiculous offensive rating of 118.9 points per 100 possessions, and with the game on the line were able to create quality looks.

That included a C.J. Miles’ potential game-winner after the Cavs forced the ball out of the hot hands of Paul George, but Miles was just short, and the Cavaliers survived to get a 109-108 win.

The Cavaliers are now up 1-0 in the first round series, with Game 2 on Monday in Cleveland.

The Pacers should go into that game with confidence that they can hang with Cleveland.

The difference on Saturday the Cavaliers had LeBron James, who scored 32 points on 20 shots, plus had 13 assists, leading an efficient offense that got the shots it wanted against a Pacers defense that had taken a big step back this season. Kyrie Irving added 23 points but on 27 shots. Take Irving out of the mix and the Cavaliers shot 60.8 percent for the game, and they were that hot through the first half (61 percent, including Irving).

The problem for Cleveland was it couldn’t get regular stops, George was making plays — he finished with 29 points — and that Cavs defense allowed the Pacers to hang around. LeBron seemed more pleased with the Cleveland defense than he should have been.

“I thought the effort and energy was there, but we’ve still got some Xs and Os to clean up,” LeBron said after the game.

The Cavaliers has started to pull away in the early parts of the fourth quarter, and it looked like they might coast to a comfortable win, but Indiana responded with an 11-0 run that had the Pacers up two, 105-103, with 3:30 left. Then LeBron answered with an emphatic dunk to tie it, and the Cavaliers were able to pull away a little. Then a beautiful Paul George three, followed by a stop, set up the chance for the Pacers to win it.

On the bright side for Indiana was the play of Lance Stephenson, who had 16 points, seven rebounds and three assists on the game. He showed up when it was time to play LeBron.

Indiana needs to make Cleveland work harder for its buckets. This struggle was more expected, the Pacers defense suffered this season. Part of that was a coaching change from the more defensively focused Frank Vogel to Nate McMillan, but part of it was personnel — when the Pacers were an elite defense they had a good defender in George Hill at the one, now there is Jeff Teague and it’s a step back at a critical position. And that’s just one example. In this game, Kyrie Irving was pumped when he saw Aaron Brooks lined up to try to stop him.

Whichever team cleans up its defense more will have the upper hand on Monday in Game 2.

Despite Paul George ejection, Pacers beat 76ers 120-111 to close in on playoff spot

Associated Press
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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Paul George scored 17 of his 27 points in the opening quarter and the Indiana Pacers inched closer to clinching a berth in the NBA playoffs with a 120-111 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday night.

Thaddeus Young added 20 points, Myles Turner scored 18 and Kevin Seraphin had 17 to give the Pacers (41-40) their fourth straight victory and push them one win away from guaranteeing a playoff spot for the sixth time in the past seven years.

The 76ers (28-53) lost for the seventh straight time and finished with a home record of 17-24. They conclude their fifth straight season out of the playoffs Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks.

Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot paced the Sixers with 24 points and Richaun Holmes had 17 points.

The Pacers ran out to a 16-4 lead and built a 21-point lead with 1:55 to play in the first quarter. George had nearly half Indiana’s 35 points.

The Sixers used a 14-2 run late in the second quarter, including an alley-oop dunk by Holmes and a 3-pointer from Luwawu-Cabarrot, to draw within seven points.

That was as close as Philadelphia would get until 3:36 remained in the fourth quarter, when a 3-pointer by Alex Poythress cut it to 111-104. The Pacers then ran off five of the next six points to regain control.

The Pacers shot 61.4 percent to the Sixers’ 45.2 percent to carry a 64-54 lead into the half. Overall, the Pacers shot 56.7 percent to the Sixers’ 46.7 percent.

George finished the first half with 19 points on 7-for-11 shooting.

TIP-INS

Pacers: Guard Aaron Brooks left the game in the first half with a sore right knee and did not return. He played 7 minutes, making a 3-pointer. … Guard/forward Glenn Robinson III (left calf strain) sat out his ninth straight game. Veteran center Al Jefferson (sprained left ankle) missed his seventh in a row. Jefferson was in uniform and on the bench and is expected to be back in the rotation for the playoffs.

76ers: The Sixers will end the season with six players on the injured list: Joel Embiid (left knee surgery), Jahlil Okafor (right knee soreness), Ben Simmons (acute fracture, right foot), Sergio Rodriguez (left hamstring strain), Robert Covington (right knee injury) and Jerryd Bayless (left wrist surgery).

DRAWING A CROWD

The Sixers saw a sizeable bump in attendance this season. Heading into their home finale they were averaging 17,398 fans at the Wells Fargo Center, about 2,500 more than last season. “They’ve cheered for us throughout some of the toughest circumstances, just kept us going, kept us fighting,” Holmes said.

WHERE HE STARTED

Young was selected by Philadelphia with the 12th overall pick of the 2007 NBA draft and played seven seasons with the Sixers, appearing in 516 games and averaging 13.7 points and 5.5 rebounds in 30.1 minutes per game.

 

Three Things we learned Sunday: Warriors break out of “slump,” or just beat Knicks

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A key thing to life going the way you want and hope is to be prepared. Know what you’re doing, be prepared for the moments you have to go off script. For example, if you’re going to steal a car, know how to drive a stick shift. (Not that we recommend stealing a car, don’t do it.) If you need to be prepared for today by knowing a little more about the NBA and what happened Sunday, we’ve got you covered.

1) In Madison Square Garden things were quiet. Too quiet? If you want to know what people are talking about around the NBA, it was the quiet of Madison Square Garden for the first half Sunday against the Warriors. Knicks game operations were turned off for the first half — no music played (even during timeouts), no sound clips, no dance teams or T-shirt giveaways. Nothing. Just the sounds of hoops. No “every body clap your hands” to be heard.

The reaction? Mixed. Draymond Green for one hated it (although if you watch the video he was being at least semi-facetious). Here is a sampling of the reaction to the move on Twitter.

Whether this comes back for other games or not, know the Knicks will still be the Knicks.

2) As for the game at Madison Square Garden, Stephen Curry makes some noise and out of shooting slump. Warriors win. If the Warriors are going to hold off the Spurs and maintain their No. 1 seed, they are going to need MVP level Stephen Curry to show up for the team’s final 20 games. Then put him in a lot of pick-and-rolls so he can do damage.

Cold-brewed Curry played in the quiet first half at MSG Sunday, scoring 12 points on 4-for-13 shooting. Then in the third quarter, he found his stroke, scoring 15 points on 6-for-8 shooting (3-of-4 from three), and with that the Warriors pulled away for a victory (ending a two-game losing streak that had been overblown). Curry finished with 31 points, Klay Thompson had 29, and while not exactly a dominant performance, after losing two in a row picking up a road win is all that mattered.

The Warriors now head to Atlanta for the second night of a road back-to-back that would have been tough even with Kevin Durant.

3) Sunday was “Day of the Game Winners”: Rudy Gobert, Glenn Robinson III, Tyler Ulis all knock them down. You want game winning shots? We got ’em.

Utah’s Rudy Gobert forced OT hitting a driving layup off a pick-and-roll with Gordon Hayward in regulation, then in OT he tapped in the game winner.

Paul Goerge had a monster game against the Hawks with 34 points, so not surprisingly when he drove the ball looking to force OT Sunday the Atlanta defense collapsed on him, so George whipped the pass to Aaron Brooks, who found Glenn Robinson III wide open in the corner and… splash.

Usually, it’s Boston’s “little man” Isaiah Thomas who comes up big in the fourth — and he certainly made some plays — but it was the Suns’ undersized point guard Tyler Ulis who knocked down the game winner in Phoenix.

6-foot Aaron Brooks blocks 7-foot Robin Lopez at rim (video)

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If you told me Aaron Brooks and Robin Lopez met at the rim and the result was a blocked shot, I wouldn’t have been at all surprised.

But this is some role reversal.