Dan Feldman

Manu Ginobili attempts to intentionally miss free throw, makes it (video)

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Manu Ginobili stepped to the line for two free throws with the Spurs down three and 2.5 seconds left. The best plan: Make the first free throw, missed the second and hope for a tip-in.

Ginobili missed the first free throw. Not ideal, but not a game-ender. Ginobili could still intentionally miss the second, and San Antonio could tip out the rebound and shoot a 3-pointer. Not great odds of executing a tip out and making the shot that quickly, but it’s possible.

And then Ginobili made the free throw he tried to miss.

The head-shaking result allowed the Trail Blazers to pull out a 110-106 win.

Rudy Gobert hits cutting Gordon Hayward with between-the-legs assist (video)

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Gordon Hayward said he was cutting so hard, he didn’t even realize Rudy Gobert threw this pass between his legs.

Which makes the pinpoint accuracy of Gobert – who matched a career high with five assists in the Jazz’s 97-83 win over the Pistons – even more impressive.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich says LaMarcus Aldridge has dealt with heart issue all year

AP Photo/Brandon Dill
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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Spurs star LaMarcus Aldridge was cleared to return to full basketball activities and will start Wednesday night against the Portland Trail Blazers with no restrictions, the team announced.

Aldridge missed two games after being diagnosed with a minor heart arrhythmia, but San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich revealed Wednesday that the 31-year-old forward has been concerned about the condition all season.

“He’s dealt with this all year long, which nobody really knew about,” Popovich said. “Being a consummate pro, he was able to do everything that was necessary to bring this to some sort of a conclusion. That wasn’t easy throughout the year. He’s gone through some procedures and had to do some things that are not pleasant. He’s shown a lot of class and a lot of fortitude in the way he’s done it all.”

Aldridge was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome – an abnormality that can cause a rapid heartbeat – as a rookie in 2007. He missed the final seven games of his first season while he was with Portland and also was held out 10 days in the preseason in 2011.

This latest bout with heart arrhythmia kept him out less than a week, a big relief to the five-time All-Star as he and the San Antonio chase Golden State for the top seed in the Western Conference. The 31-year-old went through a bevy of tests and consulted with several experts before being cleared to return, giving the Spurs a much-needed post presence and scorer.

“We’re obviously thrilled about that, but more importantly thrilled that the doctors feel that he’s fine in the sense that we’re not putting him in danger or anything like that,” Popovich said. “That’s the most important part.”

Aldridge told the team’s staff that he “felt a little odd” during the second half of San Antonio’s game in Oklahoma City on March 9, which led to the diagnosis. The Spurs announced last Friday that he would be out indefinitely, not taking any chances with the situation despite Aldridge’s history of having little trouble returning to play after two previous episodes in his career.

“We are thankful that LaMarcus will be able to rejoin the team,” Spurs GM RC Buford said in a statement issued by the team. “All of us have been impressed with the professionalism and grace he has shown in dealing with this difficult situation.”

The Spurs desperately need Aldridge if they are going to leapfrog the scuffling Warriors for the top spot in the West. He is averaging 17.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game this season.

San Antonio trails Golden State, which is idle, by a half-game for the league’s best record entering Wednesday’s game.

San Antonio’s pursuit of Golden State seemed to be in serious jeopardy last weekend, when Aldridge was shelved indefinitely and Kawhi Leonard was forced to sit out against the Warriors on Saturday night while going through the NBA’s concussion protocol.

But the Spurs beat the Warriors after Golden State coach Steve Kerr rested Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala and Leonard returned on Monday after missing just the one game to lead San Antonio to a win over Atlanta.

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.