Kurt Helin

How we know NBA games are back: Chris Paul to DeAndre Jordan alley-oop (VIDEO)

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If you want to know how the Clippers just keep on winning during without Blake Griffin, it’s all right here.

They run a little more spread pick-and-roll with Griffin gone, using Chris Paul‘s decision-making skills to carve up defenses — Thursday night against San Antonio he finished with 28 points and 12 assists. They run that pick-and-roll with DeAndre Jordan, who rolls hard and finishes well — he stays in his offensive lane and in that lane there may be nobody better. Put some shooting around that and it all works.

Danny Green read this play, got in position, and there was nothing he was going to be able to do to stop it.

The Clippers won handily 105-86. It was a quality win for the Clippers, but the Spurs were without Kawhi Leonard, and they clearly missed him.

Clippers overwhelm Spurs in 4th quarter for 105-86 victory

Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul, left, shoots as San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Chris Paul had 28 points and 12 assists hours after attending a funeral in Oklahoma, and the Los Angeles Clippers led all the way to beat San Antonio 105-86 on Thursday night, snapping the Spurs’ six-game winning streak coming out of the All-Star break.

Reserve Jamal Crawford added 19 points and J.J. Redick had 17 points for the Clippers, who saw their 20-point lead whittled to five in the fourth quarter before they exploded offensively.

Paul scored 18 points in the quarter when he also set up some nifty assists on a 3-pointer by Crawford and a monster dunk by DeAndre Jordan. Just before the game, Paul returned from Oklahoma City where he attended the funeral of Ingrid Williams, wife of Thunder assistant coach Monty Williams. She was killed in a car accident at age 44.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers and his son Austin, along with Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan and David West also traveled to the funeral.

NBA Trade Deadline Winners/Losers: Detroit should celebrate, Houston not so much

<>during the fourth quarter at TD Garden on January 6, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Pistons defeat the Celtics 99-94. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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Let’s be up front: Picking winners and losers immediately after a trade is a bit of Roulette. We know what we think will happen based on history with these players and organizations, but things change and we all miss on these (fans, media, and GMs).

Second, there are disagreements on what is a good or bad move. For example, from our PBT Podcast breaking down the trade deadline, I kind of like the Clippers getting Jeff Green in a “let’s make a run at this with our core, and he improves a weak spot” kind of way. (Not that it’s enough to vault them near the top of the West.) Green is a clear upgrade from Lance Stephenson, but Dan Feldman (and most media) panned the move because L.A. gave up a lottery-protected 2019 first round pick to the Grizzlies for Green, they see the price as too high. 

I don’t think there were huge gains or huge falls this time around. All that said, here are my winners and losers from Thursday’s trade deadline.

Winner: Detroit Pistons. This goes back to the Tobias Harris trade a couple of days ago and extends through them getting Donatas Motiejunas and Marcus Thornton this deadline — the Pistons look like a dangerous team on the rise. They already had their core of Andre Drummond in the paint and Reggie Jackson at the point (a pair with good pick-and-roll chemistry), now they have Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Harris, Stanley Johnson, and Thorton on the wing, plus Motiejunas is a great fit when healthy. The core of this team is all in their early 20s. This team may make the playoffs this year, but under Stan Van Gundy they are set up to be very good in a couple of years now. What they gave up to get all this was nothing much, Brandon Jennings was the biggest name and he was leaving as a free agent this summer.

Loser: Houston Rockets. They desperately wanted to unload Dwight Howard. They desperately wanted to unload Ty Lawson. It’s going to be an awkward reunion when those two walk back into the locker room after not being traded by the organization at the deadline — two guys who very well could walk away from the Rockets this summer for nothing. J.B. Bickerstaff called the team “broken” before the All-Star break, after this deadline what are they now? It’s not a huge loss in that they didn’t make a panic move, but Daryl Morey assembled a disappointing team with terrible chemistry and his efforts to fix it at the deadline fell flat.

Winner: Phoenix Suns. They have been shopping the disgruntled and slumping Markieff Morris all season, but his attitude and play had teams saying earlier this season the Suns would need to throw a sweetener in the deal. Nobody wanted him, and throwing towels at his coach and on-the-bench incidents with teammates were not helping matters. But the Suns showcased Morris in recent weeks and he played much better, and that was enough to get the Wizards to roll the dice and trade for Morris. I get this deal for the Wizards — they needed more athleticism up front and a guy who could play better with John Wall, and Morris is all that. But the Suns scored on what they got in return — a top-nine protected pick in the 2016 draft (the Wizards currently would draft 12th), Kris Humphries and DeJuan Blair. The Suns are expected to waive Blair. Humphries is serviceable and they can keep him next season at a very fair $4.6 million, or cut him loose for a minimum buyout — with him and Blair gone the Suns add $7.4 million in cap space next season. That’s a great haul for a player the Suns wanted to dump for a rack of shoot around basketballs just to get him out the door.

Loser: New Orleans. Ryan Anderson is going to leave the Pelicans this summer as a free agent. The Pelicans are not going to make the playoffs and need Anderson. The Pelicans phone lines were flooded with offers for Anderson — some of them lowball offers no doubt, we don’t know exactly what was on the table. But the Pelicans thought about moving him last trade deadline, then again this summer, and now this trade deadline (at a discount, because of the pending free agency and his play taking a step back), and at the end of the day Anderson is still a Pelican. And he will walk for nothing. This was a chance to help start reworking the roster around Anthony Davis, and it did not happen.

Winner: Golden State Warriors. The balance of power in the NBA did not change — nobody made a trade that made you say “that team just became a serious contender.” The Spurs didn’t move at the deadline (they rarely do). The Thunder added Randy Foye, but he’s not better than some of the shooting guards they have on the roster already. Channing Frye gives the Cavaliers some versatility and is a nice pickup, but he replicates some of Kevin Love‘s job and doesn’t do it as well. The Clippers added Jeff Green and he’s an upgrade over Lance Stephenson, but he’s not putting the Clippers over the top. Honestly, there may not have been a trade out there that struck fear in the hearts of the Warriors (or even made them double take), but nobody made a move that should prevent parade planning in June in Oakland.

Loser: Toronto Raptors. The Cavaliers are not invincible. The Raptors are the clear second best team in the East, but with a glaring hole at the four where Luis Scola starts and Patrick Patterson comes off the bench. Make a key upgrade at the four and the Raptors are the team with a real shot to push Cleveland come May. It wasn’t for lack of effort — Raptors GM Masai Ujiri was on the phone trying to get in on Al Horford, Ryan Anderson, Taj Gibson, P.J. Tucker and everyone else that’s an available power forward. The Raptors were offering some combination of a first-round pick (the lesser of the Knicks or Nuggets this June) and Patrick Patterson, but they could hot get a deal done. This is not a huge loss — there was no panic move that sets the franchise back. But the Raptors didn’t seize the day, either. They may well come to regret that. Hopefully what they’ve got can get them out of the first round of the playoffs, and maybe the second. That will at least appease frustrated Raptors fans, who wanted to see a deadline move.

Manu Ginobili isn’t sure how anybody beats Golden State Warriors

SAN ANTONIO, TX - FEBRUARY 1:  Manu Ginobili #20 of the San Antonio Spurs against the Orlando Magic on February 1, 2016 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photos by Chris Covatta/NBAE via Getty Images)
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The moves by the Clippers and the Thunder, at least from the outside, don’t seem to change the dynamic at the top of the Western Conference — it’s Golden State on one tier, San Antonio on the next one, then everybody else. They are the two best teams in the NBA.

And the way the Warriors thrashed the Spurs last time they met, it’s fair to wonder how big the gap is between the teams.

Manu Ginobili spoke to Argentinian paper La Nacion during the All-Star Break and said he isn’t sure how to stop the Warriors, or even if it is possible. He also notes the Spurs have until the middle of May (when the Western Conference Finals start) to figure it out. Here are his quotes, as translated by Pounding The Rock (hat tip Eye on Basketball).

I know everyone is talking about how great Golden State is and we found out about it the hard way. People wonder what it would take to stop them and it really doesn’t seem possible. Obviously Curry can’t have a good night. But the rest of the team can’t have a good night either, like they had against us and in so many other games. I don’t know if there’s a way to beat them, but for now I don’t care. I would in May or June. Beating them now only counts as one win, nothing more. They are going through a great stretch, playing truly extraordinary basketball and showing tremendous confidence and team spirit. But we’ll try to figure out how to beat them only when it’s do-or-die time.

So all you have to do is hold Stephen Curry and the rest of the team in check? Four times in seven games? Why isn’t everyone doing that?

To be clear, Ginobili isn’t saying the Spurs or DOA in a series. However, the Warriors present problems not just because their players are talented, but also because they are talented and smart. This is a high hoops IQ team. And they are versatile — not just Draymond Green but as a unit. The Warriors fell behind in a couple of series last playoffs (including the Finals), but they could adjust and adapt, and once they figured out what worked they beat their opponent over the head with it until it was over. If the opponent adjusted, then the Warriors would show off their counter move.

This year’s Golden State team is a more comfortable, smarter, more confident, and just flat-out better version of that team.

In that first Spurs/Warriors meeting, Gregg Popovich threw a lot of different looks and tried a lot of different matchups at the Warriors — it was his laboratory. He was attempting to see what worked (not much that night) and what didn’t. He’s got more games this regular season against the Warriors to test other theories, and experiment. I bet the future games are closer contests, but anything Popovich learns he’s saving for May.

Because like Ginobili, he knows that’s when it matters.

But it’s fair to say, there may not be a way to beat these Warriors this year.

With 48-4 record, Warriors stand pat at NBA trade deadline

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — With a 48-4 record and last year’s NBA championship trophy in their possession, the Golden State Warriors had little need for upgraded at the trade deadline.

So while most of the other 29 teams were busily working the phones and making deals, the Warriors were more relaxed on deadline day Thursday, getting their final practice in before starting a six-game post-All-Star break road trip Friday night in Portland.

“It’s nice to know who we are and know our identity and know how were going to play and how we’re going to win,” point guard Stephen Curry said. “With the pieces we have, everybody is really well established with their roles. That’s a comfortable feeling for sure. We’ve been on the other side of it not too long ago when you never knew if you were one piece away or one move away or how a trade could impact a season either positively or negatively. I like where we are.”

There is plenty of reason for that. The Warriors followed up their first championship in 40 years by winning a record 24 straight games to open the season. They have shown few signs – if any – of slowing down since then, having won 11 straight before the All-Star break, including wins by a combined 64 points against contenders Cleveland and San Antonio.

With the league’s most efficient offense led by Curry’s 29.8 points per contest and league-leading 245 3-pointers and the second most efficient defense anchored by fellow All-Star Draymond Green, the Warriors are a team without a major weakness, leading to the inactivity at the deadline.

“We like our team,” coach Steve Kerr said. “We’re doing OK. I don’t see the need to do much.”

That’s not to say that Kerr doesn’t see room for improvement over the final 30 regular-season games to get Golden State into top form for the playoffs.

The biggest issues Kerr pointed out were being able to play a fast-paced, offensive game without turning the ball over too much and maintaining the high defensive intensity for longer stretches.

Curry likes his coach’s strive for perfection, pointing out the Kerr broke a clipboard in anger last season when the team won 67 games and a championship.

“He has a nice long rolodex of stuff no matter how we play,” Curry said. “That’s a great coach. Whether it’s nitpicking or focusing on details that might not seem important, they are important when you’re trying to win a championship.”

The major focus around the Warriors during the stretch run will be on their chase for the single-season wins record of 72 set by Chicago in 1995-96. Golden State needs to go 24-6 to tie the Bulls’ mark.

The upcoming six-game trip will be a key stretch to determine whether that will be realistic. The Warriors follow that with 17 of their final 24 games at home, where they have won 42 straight regular-season games.

The focus for the Warriors is less on the record than on remaining ahead of San Antonio (45-8) for the top seed in the West.

“I look at that as a byproduct,” Kerr said of 72 wins. “If it happens, great. If it doesn’t I don’t really care. Our goal is to be the one seed. That’s the only tangible goal we have. We never set any goals for number of wins.”

NOTES: Curry was officially presented with the 2015 AP Male Athlete of the Year award after practice. Curry joined Larry Bird (1986), Michael Jordan (1992-94) and LeBron James (2013) as the only basketball players to win the award that started in 1931. … Warriors C Festus Ezeli spoke for the first time since undergoing surgery on his left knee last week. Ezeli we be re-evaluated in late March and expects to be able to play before the end of the regular season. “I’ll be back and I’ll be better than I was before,” he said.