Kurt Helin

Paul Pierce: Golden State “choked” away 3-1 NBA Finals lead

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The Truth has said his piece.

Paul Pierce will be on Any Given Wednesday with Bill Simmons on HBO Wednesday night (10 p.m. Eastern, with multiple other showings during the week, check your local listings), and the man with the best Rick James costume in the NBA was asked about the NBA Finals. You can see his answer above.

He hesitated.

Then he said what he was thinking — the Warriors choked that 3-1 lead away. And that would never happen to a team he was on. (He was on a Celtics team that was up 3-2 on the Lakers in the Finals and lost, for the record.)

I hate the choked narrative for one key reason — it robs Cleveland of some of their due. The Cavaliers as a whole played an impressive final three games, and LeBron James played as good an NBA Finals series of games as you will ever see. They were not given this, they earned it.

That said, if Draymond Green could have kept his hands to himself and not been suspended for Game 5, we’d be talking about back-to-back Warriors’ championships. The Warriors did hunt threes too much and not try to go inside at key parts of the game. They helped out the Cavs plenty.

Anthony Davis is frustrated with Pelicans 0-4 start

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Anthony Davis has scored more points than any player in the NBA this season with 148. He’s second in points per game at 37 a contest (behind Russell Westbrook). He’s averaging 13.2 rebounds a game (third best in NBA). He’s averaging three blocked shots per game. He has been efficient doing all of this — his PER of 38.7 leads the league in this young season.

Davis has been a flat out beast.

And the Pelicans are 0-4.

Davis is getting no help, and while he wouldn’t throw his teammates under the bus, he was clearly frustrated after the loss to the Bucks, speaking to William Guillory of The Times-Picayune.

“We had too many mental breakdowns,” Davis said. “We’re not talking out there and so, therefore, we have mental breakdowns that gave them easy layups at the basket and open shots….

“It’s definitely frustrating. We can’t get a win, it’s frustrating,” Davis said. “Whatever we need to do, we need to do it fast.”

Davis wasn’t the only one frustrated.

“I thought we played hard, but we’ve got to start playing a lot smarter,” said Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry. “We just have too many defensive breakdowns…We’ve got a lot of work that we’ve got to do. We’ve got to get better defensively. It doesn’t matter, we can get 113 every night, but if we’re going to give up 117, mathematically, that doesn’t add up.”

Statistically — and it’s a very small sample size — the Pelicans have been middle of the pack defensively this season, but are 26th in the league offensively. That said, the defense hasn’t been consistent at all — with the game close late Tuesday the Bucks Giannis Antetokounmpo got a fairly easy lay-up than an uncontested three back-to-back. There are breakdowns, and the Pelican’s offense right now (without Jrue Holiday to guide it) can’t make up the ground.

It may be a frustrating season all around in New Orleans.

Damian Lillard’s words inspired best Warriors defensive game of season

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“It’s not the same. They are a great offensive team and I think they will still be a good defensive team, but it’s different than when  (Andrew) Bogut is not back there. It’s just not the same.’’

That was Damian Lillard before the Trail Blazers took on the Warriors Tuesday night in Portland — and he was right. Through their first three games this season, the Golden State defense had been terrible — the Warriors were drilled by the Spurs, but then allowed the Pelicans and Suns to score more than 100 points a game as well (and do so efficiently).

Tuesday night in Portland the Warriors defense looked more like the top five defense of the past couple seasons — Portland shot just 43 percent, turned the ball over 18 times, and scored at just a 97 points per 100 possessions pace. What changed things around for the Warriors? They read Lillard’s comments and got fired up, according to Draymond Green, speaking to CSNBayArea.com after Golden State’s best win of the season.

“It was a complete team effort,” Draymond explained. “Everybody was swarming around, getting deflections, cutting off the lane to the rim. We did a lot of things well and I think it was all based on everybody just really flying around and helping each other.

“That was great for us to really come out and put that kind of game together on the defensive end, especially when our defense has been called out — that there’s no anchor and it’s not the same and all that — I think some opinions will change sooner than later. But until then, we’ll just keep doing that. And when they change, we’ll keep doing that still. It was fun to do that.”

The reality is Portland still had success when Zaza Pachulia and the starters were on the floor — Portland went at him and he is no Andrew Bogut. The Blazers scored at a 119 points per 100 possessions pace against the Warriors starters, with Pachulia as the anchor. Portland hung with that lineup.

However, when the Warriors went small with Green at center they looked like the defensive team we remember — Kevin Durant provided rim protection, while Green and Andre Iguodala seemed to be everywhere. Ian Clark and David West played very well with the small lineups (in fact, the Curry/Iguodala/Green/Clark/West lineup held the Trail Blazers to an offensive rating of 31.3 points per 100 possession in its six minutes together).

The Warriors need another game like that Thursday night against Russell Westbrook and the Thunder. Oklahoma City’s offense has been all Westbrook and not great overall (23rd in NBA) but the Thunder do play tough, physical defense. Golden State needs to match that. Do it and we’ll talk about them being on track.

And if they are, Lillard deserves a hat tip.

Al Horford out for Celtics game vs. Bulls with concussion

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It’s just three games, but the numbers are staggering: The Boston Celtics are 23 points per 100 possessions better when Al Horford is on the court. Their offense improves some, their defense is considerably better when he plays as opposed to sits.

Which is why this is bad news: Horford is out with a concussion and will not play Wednesday night when the Celtics take on the Bulls, or the team’s next game against Cleveland, the team announced Wednesday. Horford is now in the league’s concussion protocol and will have to pass a series of physical tests without symptoms before being cleared to play, he could miss more games before that happens.

The injury occurred Monday at practice, according to the team, but Horford did not show symptoms at the time, nor did he before Tuesday’s practice. However, during Tuesday’s practice the symptoms showed up, Horford was removed from practice and placed in the concussion protocol.

The Bulls beat the Celtics the first time the two met this season, but the Celtics were on the second night of a back-to-back, and it showed. Now Chicago catches another break.

Not that anyone in Chicago will be paying attention to a basketball game tonight, not with the Cubs in Game 7.

Remembering Ray Allen: Watch his top 10 career plays

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Arguably the greatest shooter ever in the NBA. He made 2,973 three-pointers, more than any player in NBA history, and he shot 40 percent from three to get there. Two time NBA champion. Two time All-NBA. Ten time All-Star.

Ray Allen is headed to the Hall of Fame.

Allen made his retirement official on Tuesday, although he hadn’t stepped on an NBA court for a couple of years. Courtesy the folks at NBA.com, enjoy the top 10 highlights from Allen’s incredible career.