Kurt Helin

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 17: Chris Paul #3 of the Los Angeles Clippers scores a basket against Ed Davis #17 of the Portland Trail Blazers during the second half in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center April 17, 2016, in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
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Behind pressure defense, Chris Paul, Clippers pull away for 20-point win against Portland

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LOS ANGELES — First rule of playoff defense: Take away your opponent’s option No. 1. Followed by take away option No. 2. Make someone they don’t trust as much beat you.

The Los Angeles Clippers did that in Game 1 against Portland. During the regular season, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum combined to take 41.3 percent of the Trail Blazers shots, on Sunday night that fell to 33 percent. The Clippers aggressively trapped the pick-and-roll and forced Portland’s backcourt to get the ball to other players — Al-Farouq Aminu and Gerald Henderson both had more shots than McCollum. The Clippers will take that every game this series.

Meanwhile the Trail Blazers’ defense — just 22nd in the NBA after the All-Star break — could not get the ball out of the hands of Chris Paul (28 points and 11 assists), Blake Griffin (19 points) or DeAndre Jordan (18 points, 12 rebounds). The guys the Clippers wanted to shoot were getting shots, and exactly where they wanted them.

The result was Los Angeles pulling away in the second half for a comfortable 115-95 Clippers win to take a 1-0 lead in their playoff series.

There was good news for the Clippers besides the win — this was the best Blake Griffin game since his return from injury and suspension late in the season.

“I felt good. I felt really good,” Griffin said postgame. “Our offense was really clicking. I thought we were doing the things we wanted to do and that helps when you’re getting easy shots. I got some right at the basket early, so that helps. But pretty close, pretty close to how I want to feel.”

Portland’s defense allowed the Clippers to shoot 53.8 percent on the night as a team and have an offensive rating of 122 (points per 100 possessions, via NBA.com) — and that may be the most difficult thing for coach Terry Stotts to adjust, just because there are no good matchups.

“We got to get back in transition, we’ve got to rebound and prevent offensive rebounds, especially on free throws,” McCollum said. “I’ve got to get back and watch the film, but they got middle a couple times on the pick-and-roll and that always creates a lot of problems because you’ve got a shooter like J.J. (Redick) on the weak side or you’ve got Jamal (Crawford) on the weak side so it’s hard to help.”

The Trail Blazers switched a lot of pick-and-rolls in this game, but the Clippers responded by posting up Blake Griffin (with Aminu or someone else smaller on him) and taking advantage of their size. The Trail Blazers may move Aminu or Maurice Harkless to guard Paul (they needs to do something, Lillard was torched much of the night), but either McCollum or Lillard would still need to guard Redick and his constant motion. Stotts is a fantastic coach, but his is limited with how he can match up defensively and keep his playmakers on the floor.

Portland’s other adjustment will be how to deal with the aggressive pick-and-roll traps Los Angeles used on Lillard and McCollum.

“It’s obvious they were really pressuring Damian and C.J., on pick-and-rolls, doubling them and forcing them to pass out,” said Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts. “We had some threes on the weak side, we had some rolls to the basket and weren’t able to finish them. But if they’re going to double-team Damian and C.J., then other players are going to have to make plays for us.”

“They trap a lot of ball screens and switch a lot of ball screens, similar to Golden State….” McCollum said after the game. “It was a tough game but we’ve got to move forward, figure out different ways to score in pick-and-rolls, figure out different ways to get guys shots when they’re trapping and when they are switching out off ball screens.”

“They were physical, they were ready every time, they communicated,” Lillard said. “It was tough to deal with. We had to make the play and get the ball in the middle to a big, and find a weak side guy. Just as a team we didn’t have a great offensive night.”

The big adjustments for Game 2 Wednesday fall on Stotts, who needs to both improve his team’s defense and also find a way to make the Clippers pay for their aggressive traps (just getting Aminu and Harkless to hit their shots would help). He didn’t have any answers during Game 1. He’s got until Wednesday when Game 2 tips off in Los Angeles to figure it out.

Kawhi Leonard leads Spurs to 32-point victory over Grizzlies

SAN ANTONIO, TX - APRIL 17: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs dunks in front of the Memphis Grizzlies in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center on April 17, 2016 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. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Kawhi Leonard had 20 points and the San Antonio Spurs beat Memphis 106-74 on Sunday night in Game 1 of their Western Conference first-round series, handing the Grizzlies their worst postseason loss.

LaMarcus Aldridge added 17 points, and Tony Parker had 15 points and six assists for San Antonio. The Spurs sat their starters in the fourth quarter to rest them for Game 2 on Tuesday night in San Antonio.

San Antonio shot 68 percent in the third quarter, outscoring Memphis 33-14 to break open what had been a relatively close game against the short-handed Grizzlies.

Memphis matched a postseason low in the first quarter with 13 points, and only Xavier Munford‘s 15-foot jumper with 46.1 seconds remaining kept it from matching the worst output in any quarter.

Vince Carter had 16 points to lead Memphis. Zach Randolph was held to six points on 3-for-13 shooting.

Memphis’ largest previous losing margin was 27 points against Oklahoma City on May 11, 2011.

Kawhi Leonard had 20 points and the San Antonio Spurs beat Memphis 106-74 on Sunday night in Game 1 of their Western Conference first-round series, handing the Grizzlies their worst postseason loss.

LaMarcus Aldridge added 17 points, and Tony Parker had 15 points and six assists for San Antonio. The Spurs sat their starters in the fourth quarter to rest them for Game 2 on Tuesday night in San Antonio.

San Antonio shot 68 percent in the third quarter, outscoring Memphis 33-14 to break open what had been a relatively close game against the short-handed Grizzlies.

Memphis matched a postseason low in the first quarter with 13 points, and only Xavier Munford’s 15-foot jumper with 46.1 seconds remaining kept it from matching the worst output in any quarter.

Data curated by PointAfter

Vince Carter had 16 points to lead Memphis. Zach Randolph was held to six points on 3-for-13 shooting.

Memphis’ previous largest losing margin in the playoffs was 27 points against Oklahoma City on May 11, 2011.

Memphis was able to keep the game close in the first half despite being without starters Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, but San Antonio closed the second quarter on a 9-0 run leading into its dominant third.

The Spurs also ran a series of defenders to harass Randolph. He had a shot blocked by Leonard in the first quarter, had Leonard step in front of him for a steal, and was stripped of an inlet pass by Tim Duncan.

TIP-INS

Grizzlies: Memphis is 2-3 in the postseason against teams that have won at least 60 games in the regular season. San Antonio entered the 2011 playoffs as the West’s top seed with a 61-21 record but was upset in the opening round by the Grizzlies in six games. Memphis also beat Oklahoma City in five games in the 2013 West semifinals. …The Grizzlies’ postseason low in any quarter was 11 in the fourth quarter against the Spurs on April 19, 2004. … Memphis used an NBA-record 28 players this season. … Grizzlies coach David Joerger was assessed a technical foul with 7:51 remaining after arguing a non-call on a turnover that led to Leonard’s fast-break dunk.

Spurs: Duncan played in his 242nd postseason game, the third-most in league history. He trails former teammate Robert Horry by two games and former Lakers guard Derek Fisher by 17. … San Antonio’s largest margin of victory in the postseason is 40 points against Denver on May 4, 1983. … The Spurs outscored Memphis 406-356 during the regular season, winning by an average of 12.5 points. … Parker averaged 16.3 points, 4.3 assists against the Grizzlies during the regular season. … San Antonio is in the postseason for the 19th consecutive season, the league’s longest active streak. Atlanta is second with nine consecutive appearances.

Blake Griffin posterizes Mason Plumlee with left-handed dunk (VIDEO)

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That is some old-school Blake Griffin.

He backed down the smaller Damian Lillard — good job by the refs with the no-call on Lillard’s flop (yes Blazers fans, that was a flop) — and Griffin went to the rim with authority. Mason Plumlee tried to come over and help, but he just ended up in the poster.

From the start, the Clippers tried to post-up Griffin, especially if they could go at Al-Farouq Aminu. To Griffin’s credit, he was not settling for jump shots he was using his power to get to the rim. This was as good as he’s looked since his return from quad injury/broken hand/suspension. 

Heat bench reaction to Hassan Whiteside and-1 dunk is real highlight (VIDEO)

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This Hassan Whiteside and-1 dunk was impressive, part of Miami’s high-energy Game 1 beatdown of the Charlotte H0rnets.

But the Miami bench reaction was far better than the dunk itself.

Report: Phil Jackson has already spoken to Luke Walton about Knicks coaching job

Luke Walton
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Coaching searches work a lot like free agency in the NBA: There is a lot of behind the scenes reaching out, assessing of interest, and preliminary legwork done long before the formal interviews start. To put it another way, teams that have not even fired their coaches yet have reached out to Scott Brooks and other elite coaches to judge potential interest and talk fit.

So the fact Phil Jackson has reached out to Warriors’ assistant Luke Walton shouldn’t be a shock. Marc Berman of the New York Post has the details.

Warriors assistant coach Luke Walton already has interviewed with several teams about their head-coaching vacancies, including the Knicks and Nets, according to multiple NBA sources. Walton had pulled himself out of consideration for the Nets before they announced the hiring of Kenny Atkinson on Sunday.

According to a source, Knicks president Phil Jackson has spoken with Walton in a phone interview…

A league source said Walton could stay with the Warriors another season, and he isn’t close to deciding what to do.

The Warriors are not going to stand in the way of Walton taking a head coaching job anywhere he wishes to go, and Walton certainly will have options. But know that the Warriors are not terribly concerned about losing Walton to the Knicks where Jackson wants him to run the triangle offense. If you just spent the last couple seasons with a front row seat to the Stephen Curry and the small ball revolution, would you want to run the triangle?

Walton is going to take his time with any decision — remember Alvin Gentry didn’t make his decision to leave Golden State for New Orleans and the lure of Anthony Davis and great gumbo until the Finals in June. Walton may be on a similar timeline, if he decides to leave Golden State at all. But you can be sure that a number of teams — including the Lakers, if and when they make a coaching change — will be putting in a call. If they haven’t already.