Dan Feldman

Watch Paul George score season-high 39 points in Pacers’ win over Hornets (video)

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Paul George couldn’t have picked a better time to take over a basketball game and lead the Pacers to a much-needed win.

During the second half of the second night of a back-to-back, George played like someone on three days’ rest.

George made six 3-pointers and scored 27 of his season high 39 points in the second half, and the Pacers knocked off the Hornets 98-77, keeping Indiana in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Charlotte and Indiana went into halftime knotted at 42. Less than 24 hours earlier, the Pacers blew a lead on the road and lost to the Knicks. Now, it appeared Indiana was on the verge of losing a second consecutive game and sliding to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.

“There are times we lose focus out there,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. “I thought they responded tonight. They were all business from start to finish. We know we gave one away (last night) and they responded by playing hard, coming off (the first night of a) back-to-back and I think we were locked in every possession on what we needed to do.”

Jeff Teague added eight points, eight rebounds and 11 assists, Myles Turner finished with six points, 11 rebounds and three blocks. Monta Ellis scored 16 points for the Pacers.

Indiana led 50-47 in the third quarter when it looked as if both teams would trade the lead until the final minutes. But the moment George decided to put the game in his hands, so, too, did the rest of the Pacers decide to put the game away for good. Indiana used a 15-0 run to extend the lead and ultimately shut the door on the Hornets.

Charlotte outscored Indiana in the paint 42-18, but the Hornets shot just 40 percent (32 of 80) while the Pacers finished shooting 53 percent (39 of 73). 26 of Indiana’s 39 field goals came by way of an assist on Wednesday night. Frank Kaminsky finished with 20 points and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored 10 points.

George was just too much for the Hornets to handle. The four-time All-Star made 15 of his 21 field goal attempts in addition to his six 3-pointers.

“Things came easy because of the offensive flow,” George said. “Also, playing a team for the fourth time, I knew how they were going to guard me and I tried to take advantage of it.”

The Hornets would make one last attempt at a comeback, opening the fourth quarter with an 8-2 run that would pull them within 10 points. But Indiana answered back with a run of its own, using a 14-2 spurt to go ahead by 22. Indiana’s largest lead of the game was 25 in the fourth quarter.

Wednesday night’s loss to Indiana was Charlotte’s third straight and its fourth in its previous five games. Indiana (35-33) is trying to maintain its hold on the Eastern Conference’s sixth seed, while the Hornets (29-39) sit four games out of the final playoff spot.

“You could see it right from the beginning of the game (George) had a look in his eye. Once he got into a rhythm, it’s hard to stop him,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. “When we play well at both ends of the floor, we’ve been a good team. Tonight, our defense was good enough – except for the Paul George stuff – (but) we were poor offensively.”

TIP-INS

Pacers: Have won only two of their last seven against Charlotte. … Since the All-Star break, the Pacers have held nine of their 11 opponents to fewer than 100 points. … Indiana has also outrebounded its opponents in nine of its 11 games since the All-Star break. … Indiana made four times as many 3-pointers as Charlotte did Wednesday night, finishing with 12, compared to the Hornets’ three.

Hornets: Are 4-11 this season when trailing after the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Hornets: host Washington on Saturday

Pacers: visit Toronto on Sunday.

Report: Pelicans likely to fire Alvin Gentry if they don’t finish season better

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Since trading for DeMarcus Cousins, the Pelicans have gone 4-7 – and one of those wins came with Cousins suspended. New Orleans has scored just 91.1 points per 100 possessions when Cousins and Anthony Davis share the court – nine points worse than the 76ers’ league-worst offensive rating. The Pelicans are 5.5 games and four teams out of playoff position.

New Orleans needs a scapegoat.

Enter coach Alvin Gentry.

Sean Deveney of Sporting News:

A league source told Sporting News that though no definite decision has been made on the future of the tandem of Gentry and general manager Dell Demps with the Pelicans, failure to secure that playoff spot (which has been all but lost) or at least to show “significant progress with this roster as it stands” likely will move the Pelicans to oust Gentry. Demps is more likely to stay, but that’s not a certainty, either.

The only question the Pelicans should ask: Would the best replacement coach they can hire do better than Gentry next year? If the answer is yes, fire Gentry. If no, keep him.

Gentry prefers an up-tempo offense, which will be hard to instill with Cousins and Davis. Perhaps, with an offseason to design and a preseason to implement a new offense, Gentry could get New Orleans on track. He has a sharp offensive mind, and Cousins’ and Davis’ talent could get the coach to find creative solutions outside his comfort zone. But I’d want to hear a concrete plan from Gentry before retaining him.

That said, let’s not pretend Gentry is primarily responsible for his 57-93 record in New Orleans.

This roster is lacking perimeter production, and the best guard – Jrue Holiday – will become an unrestricted free agent this summer. The backup bigs are even worse, especially considering how poorly lumbering Omer Asik fits Gentry’s ideal system.

One of the main reasons the Pelicans did so well in the Cousins trade: They built such a lousy supporting cast, they had little to lose in swinging for the fences with Cousins.

This plan is full of potential pitfalls. Holiday could leave this summer. Cousins could leave next summer.

New Orleans has no choice but to hope Holiday stays. Then, the Pelicans must hope they can lure back Cousins. The key with Gentry is determining whether he’s the optimal coach for that second task.

But at what point does the franchise look at the man who put Gentry in such a difficult spot? Demps’ job security should not be higher than Gentry’s.

At least Gentry says he’s not sweating this.

Kawhi Leonard throws down big dunk all over Noah Vonleh (video)

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Noah Vonleh must drink low-pH water.

Still, the Spurs lost to the Trail Blazers, 110-106.

Golden State Warrior, reportedly: ‘We’ve got problems and it ain’t basketball’

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Stephen Curry insists there’s no panic among the Warriors, who lost three straight before salvaging a two-point home win over the 76ers last night.

On the other hand…

Ethan Sherwood Strauss of ESPN on the TrueHoop Podcast, as transcribed by RealGM:

There’s one guy in particular on the team that keeps saying the same thing to me, and I can’t say who he is, but he keeps saying ‘We’ve got problems and it ain’t basketball.’

Wow! This is so juicy! It could mean anything, and it’s fun to speculate.

But a reality check: Golden State is still an NBA-best 53-14. Kevin Durant could still return in the regular season. The Warriors are still favored to win the championship.

On the other hand, if Golden State is blowing up overstated or benign problems, they become significant.

Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek: Triangle could attract free agents

carmelo anthony
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Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose have fallen from their peak levels, but they still provide a star’s perspective. And, falling short of outright rebellion, they’ve made it as clear as possible they loathe the triangle offense.

Yet, the Knicks have re-embraced it anyway.

And maybe that’s OK. Kristaps Porzingis touts the triangle. Rose might not be long for New York, and if Knicks president Phil Jackson gets his reported way, neither is Anthony. The triangle could help New York rebuild around Porzingis, prompting Anthony to waive his no-trade clause. The triangle could even improve the Knicks’ lousy defense by better positioning players to get back on D.

But a drawback to the triangle is how few current players embrace the slow-down scheme. That’s a major issue in New York, which has the market to attract major stars.

Again, that could be a worthwhile tradeoff if it gets Anthony to approve a trade. Porzingis should be the Knicks’ priority.

But, in a franchise where denial runs deep, the Knicks aren’t even acknowledging the tradeoff.

Ian Begley of ESPN:

New York Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek believes the team’s triangle offense can be a potential draw for free agents this summer.

“There might be players that think [the triangle offense is a deterrent], but there are also probably players out there that say ‘Oh man, I’d like to run something like that,'” Hornacek said Wednesday. “There are guys that may not necessarily like to run around and in [screen] staggers and all that stuff. It’s still an offense where guys, if they’re knowledgeable about the game, should like.”

“It’s a strategy that, almost every time down the court if you’re a player, you’re watching things develop. When you look at it that way, it’s actually fun to run,” he said.

Sure, there might be a good player itching to play in the triangle. But that list, already short, shrunk as Jackson tried to push out Anthony. Jackson’s championship luster has faded considerably.

Speaking of Jackson, did Hornacek have a problem with the president instructing the team’s guards on the triangle on the practice court? Hornacek, via Begley:

“No. We talk about stuff all the time,” Hornacek said of Jackson. “So when he comes out and demonstrates for the guys, he’s so used to being out on the court it’s probably fun for him to do. And the guys get another look at it from a guy who has run it for years and years, so it’s good.”

Everything Hornacek said here, on the triangle’s appeal and Jackson’s involvement, can be seen through the same lens: Hornacek works for Jackson and wants to keep his job. Will he? It’s no guarantee, but Hornacek gives himself the best shot by repeatedly publicly backing his boss.

At least Hornacek gets to speak regularly with Jackson. Not everyone gets that opportunity.