Kurt Helin

DeMarcus Cousins dunk crushes Robin Lopez, Knicks

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If you give DeMarcus Cousins space, he will destroy you.

The Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis didn’t want to come out to the arc to guard Cousins, so when the pass swung to him he had a runway to get up some steam. Porzingis made a half-hearted reach for the ball, but it was Robin Lopez who took the brunt of the Cousins attack. It was a huge dunk.

The Kings led comfortably most of the way then held on at the end to beat the Knicks 99-97.

Five Takeaways from NBA Thursday: Durant, Westbrook look fearsome

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - OCTOBER 18:  Kevin Durant #35 and Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder talk during the first quarter of a NBA preseason game against at the Chesapeake Energy Arena on October 18, 2015 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 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 J Pat Carter/Getty Images)
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There are so many good options on television these days. Personally, I’m just finishing up season three of House of Cards, am just a couple of episodes behind on The Knick (my current new favorite), Fargo is brilliant, and I’m a Top Chef addict. I fall behind on all of that because League Pass dominates my television this time of year, I even watched some of Nets/Sixers, so you don’t have to (and I’m not going to subject you to a recap). If you chose other shows, here’s what you missed on an NBA Thursday.

1) Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook should be striking fear into the heart of the league. There are still a lot of things Billy Donovan and the Oklahoma City Thunder are trying to work out — from the spacing Andre Roberson is on the court to the inconsistent bench play of Dion Waiters, Enes Kanter, Anthony Morrow and others — but they have the ultimate trump cards: Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. When those two are on the court together the Thunder outscore their opponents by 17.6 points per 100 possessions.

The Thunder played that trump card beautifully in beating the Hawks Thursday. Durant came out facilitating — he had five assists and took just one shot in the first quarter. The ball was moving for the Thunder — the team had 24 assists and Westbrook and Durant had 20 of them (10 each). Durant had his first triple-double of the season (25 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists), and Westbrook had 23 points and 10 assists. What was impressive was they got those numbers in the flow of the offense, being efficient and getting everyone involved. If that keeps happening those other questions become almost moot.

2) Chicago keeps winning in spite of their offense. The Chicago Bulls beat the Los Angeles Clippers 83-80 — it was all because of their defense. The Bulls had an offensive rating of 90.2, which pulled their season average down to 97.1 — only the Philadelphia 76ers are worse this season. Pau Gasol was his usual efficient self (24 points on 19 shots) but Jimmy Butler was 4-of-14, Joakim Noah 1-of-5, Nikola Mirotic‘s slump continued he was 2-of-8, Doug McDermott was 0-of-5. It wasn’t all the Clipper defense: Chicago shot 33 percent on uncontested looks, according to NBA.com. The Bulls are 12-8, but their point differential is that of a team barely over .500. The Bulls need Derrick Rose to pick his spots, they need to find offensive rotations that work, and they need to start knocking down their looks, or they will slide fast in an improved Eastern Conference. 

3) Rajon Rondo is back. The Rondo playing for the Sacramento Kings — the one that helped lead them to a 99-97 win over the Knicks — is the best Rondo we have seen since his days in Boston. He’s healthy, he still knows how to dish the rock, averaging 11 assists per game. But I wasn’t sure he still had this in him.

4) All-Star voting open. In case you missed it, voting is open for the 2016 All-Star Game in Toronto come February, so of you want to cast your ballot for Nick Young or Elfrid Payton you can do it. 

There are roughly 8 million ways to vote: at NBA.com; through the NBA app on your phone; Twitter (use the hashtag #NBAVOTE); Facebook; Instagram; or you can text the player’s last name to 6-9-6-2-2 (“MYNBA”) on any wireless device. You also aren’t limited to one vote a day.

5) DeMarcus Cousins throws it down. Rajon Rondo wasn’t the only King player dunking on the Knicks Thursday.

Gasol scores 24, Bulls beat Clippers 83-80 to stop skid

Pau Gasol, DeAndre Jordan
Associated Press
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CHICAGO (AP) — This time, the Chicago Bulls dug in.

They let a big lead slip away in the second half, but made just enough plays down the stretch to win a game they needed in a big way.

Pau Gasol scored 24 points and the Bulls beat the Los Angeles Clippers 83-80 on Thursday night to snap a three-game losing streak.

“We have an opportunity here to do something special,” Gasol said. “I would hate if we would throw it away ourselves.”

The Bulls caught a big break midway through the third quarter when Clippers All-Star Blake Griffin was ejected for a hard foul against Taj Gibson, and they came away with the win after blowing a 16-point lead.

Derrick Rose banked in a floater with 45 seconds left to make it 83-77 before Los Angeles’ Wesley Johnson buried a 3-pointer. The Clippers then rebounded a miss by Chicago’s Jimmy Butler with 6 seconds left, but Chris Paul‘s tying 3-point attempt hit the rim just before the buzzer.

Gasol hit a career-high three 3-pointers.

Rose came on strong down the stretch, scoring nine of his 11 points in the fourth quarter. He also played the second half without the protective mask he has been wearing after fracturing his left orbital on the first day of practice.

Butler, coming off a career-high 36 points against Boston the previous night, scored 14 and had a season-high eight assists. Gibson finished with 12 points and eight rebounds.

Griffin had 18 points and 11 rebounds for Los Angeles. Paul scored 12, while DeAndre Jordan added 10 points and 14 rebounds. The Clippers hit eight 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and were 10 of 22 for the game, but they came up short after winning three straight and six of seven.

The Bulls were leading by 14 when Griffin knocked Gibson to the floor with a blow to the face as he head-faked and went up for a shot inside with 5:59 left in the third.

Griffin helped Gibson to his feet. But after a review, the officials called a flagrant foul 2, meaning an automatic ejection for Griffin.

“I wasn’t trying to hit him in the face,” Griffin said. “There was no intent to hurt, or intent to even really hit him. I was going to try to hit the ball and he pump faked me.”

Gibson, who called Griffin a “great guy” and said it’s “no big thing,” made both foul shots to make it a 16-point game. But the Clippers came roaring back. The lead was down to 10 going into the fourth, and the Clippers tied it at 66-all on Josh Smith‘s 3-pointer with 7:19 remaining.

But the Bulls, outscored a combined 102-70 in the final quarter the previous three games, made the big plays Thursday.

Butler hit a jumper and took a charge from Lance Stephenson. Gibson threw down a thunderous put-back dunk off a missed 3 by Aaron Brooks and Rose nailed a 3 from the top to make it 73-66 with 5:15 left.

“I want to play like this every night,” Rose said. “We have to play with this consistency. We have to play with this urge and energy every night.”

 

NBA: ‘Premature’ to consider if Walton could coach All-Stars

Luke Walton
Associated Press
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NEW YORK (AP) — Steve Kerr wouldn’t be eligible to coach in the All-Star Game. The NBA hasn’t determined if Luke Walton would.

League spokesman Tim Frank says it’s “premature” to address whether the interim coach of the undefeated Golden State Warriors could lead the Western Conference if Kerr hasn’t returned following back surgery.

The coaches whose teams have the best record in each conference following play on Jan. 31 earn spots in Toronto for the Feb. 14 game. But coaches aren’t allowed the honor in consecutive years, a rule that dates to Pat Riley’s dominance with the Lakers in the 1980s, so Kerr is disqualified.

But Walton, who won Western Conference coach of the month for October/November and is eligible to win Coach of the Year even though the Warriors’ 23-0 record is all credited to Kerr, hasn’t been ruled out yet.

Frank says: “At this point, it is unclear when coach Kerr will return to the sidelines. We are more than two months away from All-Star, so it feels premature to address that situation.”

Adam Silver says he, other owners didn’t influence Sixers on Colangelo

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To hear some people around the league tell it, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver — on behalf of other frustrated owners — twisted arms to get Philadelphia owner Josh Harris to bring in Jerry Colangelo and change the course of what has been a slow rebuild.

Adam Silver denied he was carrying a big stick in this case.

Speaking softly on SiriusXM NBA Radio, Silver said his role — and that of other NBA owners — was minimal.

“The only role I played was making an introduction to Jerry for Josh Harris,” Silver said.” But I would say this was something that was initiated entirely by Josh Harris and he’s the principle owner and the governor of the Philadelphia 76ers. Contrary to what I read in some of the reports this was not arm-twisting from the league office telling the 76ers they had to change course. This was not other owners calling me and saying, ‘You’ve got to force the 76ers to do something.’

“This was an awareness by Josh Harris and David Blitzer, who is his co-owner, and other owners who are part of their group, that they needed to make a course correction here, that they are relatively new at this business and I think it was a recognition from them that, while they weren’t blowing up their strategy entirely, that there is more to owning a franchise than what is represented in the win and loss columns. And that in terms of their obligation to the community, in terms of their own personal reputations, that they felt the need to be more personally involved and to do more for the team and for the city. And when they got to that point that’s when Josh Harris said to me, ‘Let’s talk about what my options are.’ And one of the names on that list of people who could potentially help them was Jerry Colangelo. And he’s someone who I think I literally met the first week I started at the NBA 23 years ago when he was the then owner of the Phoenix Suns. He’s a former Chairman of the Board of the NBA. He’s someone I’ve worked with extensively in his role at USA Basketball, and is someone who has been an advisor to me many times over the years.

“All I did was then say, ‘You two should get together and let’s see if there’s an opportunity to work together.’ So I just want to make sure it’s not lost that this was the 76ers deciding that they needed to make a change.”

Obviously, if Harris didn’t want this to happen, it wouldn’t have. But for him and his co-owners to radically change course mid-season means that something changed, and while Jahlil Okafor‘s transgressions off the court certainly played a role, to think that there was no pressure from the outside is naive. Harris heard from someone.

Adam Silver learned one thing well from David Stern — soft pedal your role in everything.