Kurt Helin

Five Takeaways from NBA Wednesday: Frustrated Alvin Gentry goes off. For him.

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A full slate of games around the NBA, not many upsets but at least one very upset coach. Here is what you need to know from around the league.

1) Frustrated Pelicans’ coach Alvin Gentry: “We are not a good team.” If you were a Pelicans fan, the last few weeks you could talk yourself into “maybe, maybe they could come back and make the playoffs.” They had played a little better, other teams were banged up, so maybe if New Orleans got on a little run. Then Wednesday night happened. The night after playing double overtime, Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle decided to rest four starters Wednesday. Didn’t matter. The Mavericks still took control of the game in the third quarter and thanks to a dozen points from Raymond Felton in the fourth quarter (22 on the night) Dallas won 100-91.

That set Alvin Gentry off. Well, as much as the player-friendly coach is going to go off in front of the media. But he was ticked.

More, from the Times-Picayune:

“I don’t really know, to be honest with you. I wish I had answers. I don’t have answers, but we’re going to come up with answers. It’s not fair to the fans. It’s not fair to anybody for us to come out and have that kind of effort. It really isn’t. And when I say ‘us’ I mean all of us: coaches, players, everybody. It’s just not good. I’m really disappointed in the way we approached the game. We tried time and time again to say that it doesn’t matter who is playing and who is not playing. Usually in these kinds of situations, guys try to step it up anyway because they are trying to earn extra minutes. And we didn’t react. I wish I knew, but I don’t.”

The Pelicans started the season looking like a M*A*S*H* unit and never have gotten right, their offense has been pedestrian on the season and down from a year ago (when it was top 10). But last summer Gentry gave a lot of lip service to improving the defense, he brought in a defensive-minded assistant to lead that charge, and the Pelicans are worse defensively than a year ago. This team is worse. Certainly the blame starts with Dell Demps and the roster he put together (conventional wisdom around the league is his job is in danger). No doubt starting this summer there needs to be a roster overhaul. But Gentry is far from blameless here — he has put in his philosophy of ignoring the offensive glass (something Anthony Davis does well) to get back in transition defense and be better set on that end, and it hasn’t mattered. The Pelican defense is still a sieve. There needs to be some real soul-searching in New Orleans this offseason.

2) C.J. McCollum sits out Blazers game because of “clerical error.”
It is fairly common with teams for the team trainer to handle the official roster — the trainer has the final say on if a guy can or can’t play due to injury, so he fills out the roster sheet in consultation with the coach. Then the coach signs it, and away we go. Except the Blazers messed up and accidentally listed C.J. McCollum as inactive when he was set to play. That’s the sheet they turned in. Once the mistake was realized the Blazers tried to correct it, but Doc Rivers would not let them off the hook (and I’m okay with that, this isn’t U8 soccer where everybody plays nice).

The Clippers went on to a comfortable 109-98 win. Would Los Angeles have won if McCollum played? Probably. But the question is moot, the Blazers turned in the form saying their second best player was out and they had to live with the consequences.

3) Kyrie Irving is all the way back, watch what he does to Nene.
We told you the other day Kyrie Irving was all the way back, but if you need further proof we submit this:

4) Tweet of the night: Boris Diaw is awesome. From Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:

5) LeBron James can still get do nasty things. Lest you thought the Cavs were all Kyrie right now, LeBron had 34 and owned the Wizards on Wednesday night.

Duncan scores 18, Spurs rout Jazz to move to 21-0 at home

San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan (21) drives around Utah Jazz center Tibor Pleiss (21) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Tim Duncan scored a season-high 18 points and the San Antonio Spurs had eight other players in double figures, rolling to a 123-98 victory over the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night that kept them unbeaten at home.

San Antonio (31-6) matched its best start in franchise history by winning its 21st straight home game to open the season.

Kawhi Leonard had 15 points in 23 minutes. David West and Manu Ginobili added 14 points apiece, with West grabbing a season-high 13 rebounds.

The Spurs set a season best with 68 points in the first half, enabling San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich to sit Leonard and Danny Green to start the third quarter.

It was part of an easy night for San Antonio, which sat LaMarcus Aldridge to rest for the first time this season.

Trey Burke had 21 points for Utah and Gordon Hayward had 18 on 6-for-16 shooting.

Unlike the teams’ previous matchup on Dec. 14, when the Spurs never trailed in a 37-point victory, the Jazz led for 15 seconds after Trey Lyles made the game’s opening basket.

It was one of the few highlights for Utah (15-18), which dropped to 5-11 on the road.

Duncan was resurgent in his third game back after missing two games due to a sore right knee.

The 19-year veteran made his first two shots and twice tapped a missed shot over Hayward and Jeff Withey to secure a rebound that he immediately fired to Leonard under the basket for a layup.

Duncan was 8 for 13 from the field and sat out the fourth quarter after playing 26 minutes.

TIP-INS

Jazz: Utah players have missed a total of 69 games this season due to injuries or illness. … Utah is 3-3 since losing Alec Burks to a fractured left fibula. Burks was hurt on Dec. 26 in the second quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers. The Jazz are hopeful he will be back after the All-Star break in February after undergoing surgery in late December.

Spurs: Tony Parker missed the game with right hip soreness. … Green had two 3-pointers, giving him 662 with San Antonio to surpass Bruce Bowen (661) for second in franchise history. Ginobili is the Spurs’ career leader, raising his total to 1,311 with two 3-pointers against Utah. … Aldridge missed the Spurs’ victories on Nov. 21 and Nov. 23 with a mild sprain of his left ankle. … San Antonio extended its franchise-record home winning streak to 30 straight regular-season games dating to last season.

 

Knicks end streak of 8 straight losses to Heat, 98-90

New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony (7) smiles during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016, in Miami. The Knicks defeated the Heat 98-90. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Associated Press
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MIAMI (AP) — The New York Knicks have already surpassed their win total for all of last season, and the latest victory was especially sweet.

Carmelo Anthony scored 25 points and the Knicks shot 56 percent to snap a streak of eight consecutive losses to the Miami Heat, beating their rivals 98-90 Wednesday night.

Robin Lopez added a season-high 19 points for the Knicks, who won their third game in a row, and their second on the road in as many nights.

The Knicks (18-19) are way ahead of their pace a year ago, when they had the worst record in the Eastern Conference (17-65).

“We’re still trying to find our identity,” Anthony said. “These past three games we’ve shown something. And it wasn’t just me.”

Coach Derek Fisher liked what he saw.

“We were intense, but there was a relaxed look, as if we were in control of what we wanted to do,” Fisher said. “It takes a while to develop that, and it’s hard to keep that.”

Playing a team ranked second in the NBA in scoring defense, the Knicks found plenty of open shots – and made them. New York’s shooting percentage was the best by any team this season against the Heat, who came into the game allowing opponents to hit only 43 percent.

“They didn’t have an explosive offensive night,” Miami’s Dwyane Wade said. “It was just very efficient.”

By contrast, the Heat shot 45 percent and went 2 for 17 from 3-point range. They were in danger of being blanked from beyond the arc for the first time in nearly four years until Chris Bosh hit a 3 with 3:22 left.

Bosh scored 28 points for the Southeast Division leaders, who fell to 11-12 against the Eastern Conference. Wade scored 18.

Hassan Whiteside, back in the starting lineup after missing one game with a sore right knee, had eight points and eight rebounds but was a minus-18.

“My knee was bothering me, but I still went out there and rebounded,” he said.

Anthony shot 9 for 12 and was a plus-19. In his first two games against Miami this season, Anthony shot 10 for 29 and totaled 32 points.

Derrick Williams led New York’s productive bench with 13 points and eight rebounds in 18 minutes.

“When we play the way we should be playing, we can beat any team that’s out there,” Anthony said. “We’re showing these past couple of games. We just have to keep that.”

The Heat won their first two games against the Knicks this season by 17 and 19 points, but New York led for the entire second half, and the margin reached 15 points midway through the fourth quarter.

“You’ve played a team twice already, the third time they figure it out a little bit,” Wade said.

STREAK ENDS:

For the fourth time in as many tries this season, the Heat lost when attempting to extend a three-game winning streak. All of the streak-ending defeats have been by at least eight points.

“We’ll just have to try to do it again,” Wade said.

 

TIP-INS:

Heat: F Josh McRoberts missed his 15th consecutive game he has missed with a bruised right knee. … The Heat play 11 of their next 12 – and 14 of their next 16 -on the road. Starting Thursday night, they’re expected to spend 20 nights in hotels in a 22-night span, and 24 nights in a 29-night span.

“This is going to be our biggest challenge of the season,” Wade said.

Knicks: New York had lost 13 of its past 16 games in Miami.

Tony Parker, LaMarcus Aldridge out for Spurs Wednesday

San Antonio Spurs' LaMarcus Aldridge (12) talks to teammate Tony Parker, of France, during the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets, Friday, Oct. 23, 2015, in San Antonio. San Antonio won 111-86. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)
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The San Antonio Spurs may be 30-6 with a better point differential than the Golden State Warriors, none of that is changing how they approach the season. Guys will get rested.

For Wednesday night, that will mean Tony Parker and LaMarcus Aldridge will be sidelined against Utah.

Patty Mills and David West will get the starts.

In their last 15 games, the Spurs have outscored opponents by 21.1 points per 100 possessions — that’s 11.2 better than the Warriors over that same stretch. The Spurs are stride-for-stride with Golden State this season.

Just don’t expect that to change how Gregg Popovich is going to approach things.

Antetokounmpo admits he’s still getting comfortable with jump shot

New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) guards Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Nov. 6, 2015, at Madison Square Garden  in New York. (AP Photo/Kevin Hagen)
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Giannis Antetokounmpo prefers to put the ball on the floor and drive. This season he has driven to the basket 200 times and he is shooting 51.4 percent when he does, generating points on those drives (via basket, foul or assist) 71 percent of the time.

Antetokounmpo has taken 170 jump shots this season and is shooting 28.2 percent on those.

As the Bucks struggle through a season of regression (not something uncommon for a young team like this), Antetokounmpo admitted to Ian Thomsen of NBA.com that he’s not entirely comfortable with his jumper yet.

“I don’t think I can say it is my safer option,” Antetokounmpo said of his driving. “I think it is my strength. Coach wants us to play to our strength, so that’s what I try to do. I know sometimes I might be open but I don’t feel it — I don’t feel like I’m going to make this jump shot, so I don’t take it. Because if I don’t feel like I’m going to make it, (that’s when) I don’t make it. So I just try to play through my strengths.”

One of the reasons for the Bucks’ regression is the lack of spacing on offense — and that ties to the shooting of Antetokounmpo and point guard Michael Carter-Williams. Those two want to drive, center Greg Monroe wants to operate close to the basket, and suddenly defenses can pack it in on the Bucks and nobody is making them pay from the outside. (The bigger reason for the Bucks’ regression is on defense, their offense as a team is slightly better but their defense dropped to one of the league’s worst. But that’s another discussion.)
It’s part of the growing pains for a young team. It takes time. But if Antetokounmpo wants to be the franchise cornerstone player he can be, he needs a confident jumper that falls with regularity.