Dan Feldman

Giannis Antetokounmpo: I told Thon Maker, ‘If you hesitate, I’m going to punch you’

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Bucks rookie Thon Maker scored a career-high 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting, including making a couple big shots in overtime of Milwaukee’s win over the Pistons last night.

Giannis Antetokounmpo on Maker:

He brings energy. Rebound the ball. He runs the floor. He does a little bit of everything.

But the most important thing is listening, and he’s learning. And I told him, “To play in this game, you don’t have to hesitate. If you hesitate” – I told him, actually in the overtime, I told him – “If you hesitate, I’m going to punch you. So, shoot the ball whenever you get it.”

Leadership!

Cody Zeller just keeps rising over Nikola Jokic to dunk on him (video)

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Nuggets center Nikola Jokic is one of the NBA’s best young players, and he showed why against the Hornets with a triple-double (26 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists).http://nba.nbcsports.com/2017/02/26/briante-weber-charlotte-hornets-10-day-contract-warriors/

Jokic is also a unimposing rim protector. And he showed that against Charlotte, too.

Don’t underestimate Cody Zeller, either. He helped the Hornets to a 122-114 win. They’re now 32-24 with him and 3-17 without him.

Kyrie Irving stands up for pushed-down, dunked-on LeBron James (videos)

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
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Remember the reports of friction between Kyrie Irving and LeBron James last season?

Even with the Cavaliers’ recent struggles wearing on everyone in Cleveland, Irving couldn’t have looked more loyal to LeBron in the Cavs’ win over the 76ers last night.

In the first quarter, Justin Anderson bumped LeBron, who fell. I’m not sure Anderson did anything egregious to knock over LeBron, but the first chance he got, Irving flagrantly fouled the Philadelphia forward:

Then, in the third quarter, Shawn Long dunked on LeBron and yelled in celebration. “Hey, you’re down by 27, bruh!” Irving shot back:

Beating the 76ers by 17 means little. But this type of camaraderie suggests the Cavaliers might be ready for the pressure of the playoffs.

Whether their defense is ready is another question.

John Wall: ‘We didn’t lose this game. The refs made us lose this game’

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The Wizards lost to the Jazz, 95-88, last night.

At least that’s what the official scoring says.

John Wall has a different take.

Wall:

The way they’ve been officiating today doesn’t make no sense. To shoot 31 free throws to 16 – we’re an aggressive team that attacks the basket. That don’t make no sense. I had to get this bandaged up, because I’m bleeding, and the ref tells me it’s not a foul. It’s getting out of hand.

If you want us to compete at a high level like we’ve been doing – we didn’t lose this game. The refs made us lose this game.

We fought hard. We gave ourselves a chance. But you don’t shoot no 31 free throws to 16 the way we attack the basket as a team. So, that’s how I feel about it.

Certain guys are getting calls that don’t deserve it, and this is the second time of me saying this.

And fans can say I’m being rude or being disrespectful. I’m not. I’m just being bold with what I feel like our team should be getting credit for, because we’re an aggressive team. We’re a good team, and we’re not a sorry team. We’re a good team that come out and play hard every night, and we deserve certain calls.

Today I asked the ref why didn’t I get one call when I drove baseline and Gordon Hayward pushed me out of bounds. He said, “Well, I didn’t shoot the ball. You did.” So I mean, they’re saying slick stuff to me but if I go tell people about it, they’re not going to believe my word over their word.

But once I say something that they feel is negative toward them, they’re quick to run to the media. Then, I’m the one getting fined.

I feel like it should be vice-versa. If you’re going to hold the players accountable, you need to hold the refs accountable. If you’re talking to them in a respectful manner, they need to talk to you the same way.

I understand why Wall was frustrated. Washington drove 30 times against Utah and drew just three fouls (10%), per NBA.com. The Jazz drew five fouls on their 31 drives (16%).

But the Wizards have drawn fouls on 15% of their drives for the season, above the league average of 14%. And Utah is an excellent defensive team, uniquely capable of defending without fouling. Plus, four of the Jazz’s free throws came with Washington intentionally fouling late.

Wall makes a better point about his interaction with referees. Being prideful and competitive are detriments to quality officiating. Referees should not interact combatively with players. The NBA’s refs anecdotally seem to be doing better with that, but perhaps the issue isn’t completely resolved.

This mostly sounds like a frustrated player after a loss, one where Wall got a technical foul for hitting Rudy Gobert in the groin. But Wall might have also been campaigning for a more favorable whistle in the playoffs. Either way, the next step will likely be identical: a fine from the league. But, no matter his intent, if this helps Wall and the Wizards get more favorable calls in the postseason, it’ll be worth it.

Draymond Green on James Harden: ‘He pinched me. So, I punched his wrist’ (video)

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James Harden is playing through an ailing left wrist – and he wants you to know he’s still playing every game.

So, you can bet Draymond Green knew about the injury.

But the Warriors forward said there was another reason behind chopping Harden’s wrist during Golden State’s win over the Rockets last night.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

Green:

He pinched me. So, I punched his wrist.

He does it often, actually, which is kind of adolescent. But whatever.

Defenders commonly put their hands on the chest or stomach of players they’re guarding. Adding a pinch is a different twist. When a defender puts his hand on a player, the offensive player often slaps it way. This game of cat and mouse occurs numerous times through every game.

Green used a common tactic for that situation (sans pinch). His biggest transgression was getting caught and called for an offensive foul, though if Harden pinched him, that could explain why Green retaliated so aggressively.

But this definitely didn’t seem dirty on Green’s part. If Harden can’t handle having his wrist hacked away, he shouldn’t defend by grabbing the front of his man’s jersey — let alone pinching through it.