Zaza Pachulia

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Warriors had eight first-half blocks on Pistons (VIDEO)

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Golden State was throwing a block party in Detroit.

And JaVale McGee was the center of attention.

The Golden State Warriors started McGee at center (Zaza Pachulia is still out injured, as is Stephen Curry) and he took up the paint and protected the rim well, making life difficult for the Pistons. The Warriors blocked eight shots in the first half alone.

Detroit still led at the half 50-46. In the third quarter, well, the Warriors gonna Warrior at some point.

Enes Kanter: I told Knicks teammate, if you fight, I’ll pay fine

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The Knicks trailed the Trail Blazers by 26 in the fourth quarter last night.

But New York center Enes Kanter, on the bench with a back injury, had a solution.

Kanter, via Ian Begley of ESPN:

“I’m not going to tell who, but I told somebody, ‘Hey man, go out there and fight with somebody. It will get the energy up.” No, I’m serious. If you go out there and just hit somebody or just fight with somebody, get a technical foul, I will pay for the fine, I don’t care. Just go out there and do your thing. Because we need that energy, we need that fight. It doesn’t matter if we’re down by 25, a fight, get a technical foul, the crowd is in it, and they’re gonna get nervous.”

Midway through the fourth quarter, Knicks forward Michael Beasley started an altercation by forearming Jusuf Nurkic in the chin. Frank Ntilikina then pushed a held-back Nurkic.

This is comical on a couple levels:

1. Kanter spent all of last season riding for Russell Westbrook, but when Warriors center Zaza Pachulia laid out the Thunder star and stood over him, Kanter did nothing. Essentially paying a teammate to fight only increases Kanter’s reputation as a faux tough guy.

2. The Knicks were on a 14-1 run when Beasley tried to agitate Nurkic. A lengthy review to determine the penalty – technical fouls for Beasley and Ntilikina – killed momentum, and the resulting free throws gave Portland three points. New York never seriously challenged again in a 103-91 loss.

Tony Snell got a flagrant foul for sliding under Jayson Tatum (VIDEO)

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Thanks to the infamous first round playoff series between the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors last year, we now have what most will refer to as the Kawhi Leonard rule.

The NBA has made it possible for referees to make a judgment call on reckless closeouts. They can now assess technical fouls or flagrant fouls for plays they deem dangerous.

This comes after Warriors big man Zaza Pachulia stepped under Leonard in a playoff game last season, ending his series and indeed the hopes of San Antonio in the postseason.

Thursday night’s contest between the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks included an interesting interpretation of the rule early in the game as Tony Snell was assessed a Flagrant 1 for sliding under rookie Jayson Tatum.

You can watch the play in the video above, but it certainly didn’t look as malicious or reckless as Pachulia’s attempt on Leonard.

There’s also something to be said about responsibility on the part of Tatum. Sweep and Sway is important and all, but that technique doesn’t include jumping from behind the line to in front of it like a goober. Some drift is fine, but Tatum’s form is definitely in need of some tuning. Perhaps we will see players using gamesmanship from here on out, purposely widening their halo by launching themselves forward on 3-pointers a la Steve Nash in transition?

I digress.

The odd Flagrant 1 was not the most offensive thing in Milwaukee tonight. History notwithstanding, that MECCA court is one of the grossest designs put in the NBA sphere in the last 20 years. Twitter loves it, so you know it has to be terrible.

Other ugly court designs I assume Twitter would love: a bar graph of student loan asset backed securities over time, a photo of Staph infection surgery, the Atlanta Hawks court.

Anyway, never foul a jump shooter (even if he jumps into you).

Three questions the San Antonio Spurs must answer this season

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The NBC/ProBasketballTalk season previews will ask the questions each of the 30 NBA teams must answer this season to make their season a success. We are looking at one team a day until the start of the season, and it begins with a look back at the team’s offseason moves.

Last season: 61-21, advanced to the Western Conference Finals, where Kawhi Leonard rolled an ankle (thank you Zaza Pachulia) and they got swept by the Warriors.

I know what you did last summer: They kept the status quo going. The Spurs re-signed Patty Mills (probably overpaying, but they had to with Tony Parker injured to start the season). Pau Gasol opted out and re-signed, again for maybe more than the market would have given him. The Spurs brought back Manu Ginobili. They signed Rudy Gay, who is coming off an Achilles injury. The losses were solid bench players Dewayne Dedmon and Jonathon Simmons.

THREE QUESTIONS THE SPURS MUST ANSWER

1) Is Kawhi Leonard healthy, and can he stay that way? We saw in the playoffs last season what happens to this team when Leonard goes down, and it’s not pretty. Leonard is a top five NBA player who is both the focal point of the Spurs offense and the best perimeter defender in the NBA (that’s not just my opinion, the NBA GMs voted him that). The Spurs ask a lot of Leonard and he answered last season with an MVP-level performance.

That’s why it raised a few eyebrows that Leonard is sitting out the preseason to rest his right quadriceps tendinopathy (an inflammation of the tendon just above the kneecap in the thigh), especially after Gregg Popovich said it was something he battled last season. Is Leonard going to miss time at the start of this season because of it? Will it require him getting more rest days during the season?

We know what the Spurs are going to do — defend well, move the ball, not beat themselves. San Antonio is going to have a hard time getting near that 61 win total of a year ago in a loaded West, but without the full Kawhi Leonard treatment they could slide a little further down the board. Nobody is betting on the Spurs to collapse, but did the Rockets and Thunder pass them by?

2) Is playing big the antidote to a league going small? It seems like the entire NBA is going smaller, trying to emulate the Warriors and their death lineup. Cleveland will be starting Kevin Love at the five this season. Houston will play fast and small.

“Golden State is an anomaly, with the group of players they have,” Popovich said last preseason. “And they’re a monster. Definitely the toughest team in the league to guard. But the rest of us poor fools, 29 of us, are kind of a hybrid. Everybody tries to be flexible. Not team is going to be all big or all small. Every game, teams play small for a while, they play big for a while. That’s the way it is. That’s the truth.”

The Spurs zigged when the league zagged — they are a big team that starts Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge up front and have real size in their defenders such as Leonard or Danny Green. This is not an accident. The Spurs have some versatility, but they want a lineup that can give small lineups trouble and push them around a little. It worked last regular season, and we didn’t get a real chance to see how it would have worked against the Warriors in the playoffs. But as those big men age and get a little slower, will going big still work as well.

3) Can the Spurs bench again be the NBA’s best? Or, to put that another way, what guy we don’t recall them drafting is going to come out of nowhere and impress us this season?

Once again last season the Spurs bench was the best in the NBA, outscoring teams by 8.9 points per 100 possessions over the course of the season. That is a key reason they win 55+ games every season — their bench comes in and executes at a high level, extending leads.

This season that bench will be a little thinner without Dewayne Dedmon and Jonathon Simmons, two guys who brought real athleticism off the bench. Still they have the legend that is Manu Ginoboili, Rudy Gay (who is playing in the preseason but may be slowed for a bit coming off an Achilles injury), plus guys like Dejounte Murray, Kyle Anderson, Davis Bertans, and now Joffrey Lauvergne. For the Spurs to keep on winning like we expect, Popovich needs to work his magic and turn these guys into one of the league’s most formidable benches. Again.

Zaza Pachulia on Warriors: “I think we’re going to be even better this year”

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Jeff Van Gundy said it out loud, but most NBA observers were already thinking it: The race for the 2018 NBA title is over, just give it to Golden State.

It’s not just that the core of a team that has won 67 games last season and the NBA title last season is back, it’s that they will be even better this season than a year ago. That’s what Warriors starting center Zaza Pachulia told Mark Medina of the San Jose Mercury News.

“I think we’re going to be even better this year with the confidence, the trust factor and knowing for ourselves we won a championship with that team, with that personalities on the team and the chemistry we have,” Pachulia said. “We can be even better with the focus we have with better details in how to improve…

“We got Nick Young. We got Omri Casspi. We got Jordan Bell,” Pachulia answered.”

Pachulia is right.

There are a couple of reasons for this, and Pachulia hit on them.

First, there is the comfort level factor. Remember last season, the Warriors didn’t exactly stumble out of the gate, but when challenged and put into close games it took them a while to figure things out. Around Christmas Steve Kerr told Stephen Curry to start being himself and not deferring to Kevin Durant so much, and with that the team found an equilibrium. Now they have that — and a ton of confidence — from Day 1.

Second, as Pachulia mentioned, the Warriors made some good off-season acquisitions. I’m particularly high on Casspi, who has played well when not asked to do too much or create too much. Plus, he has ridiculous shooting range which will fit right in with what the Warriors like to do. Look for his minutes to climb as the season moves along.

I’m not sure the Warriors will get or chase 73 wins again, they don’t necessarily want to focus on it, plus the West is very deep this year so they will pick up a few more losses to quality teams on a hot night along the way.

But no team is beating a healthy Warriors squad in a seven-game series. Sorry Houston, sorry Cleveland, you’re very good, but the bar is set ridiculously high.