Kurt Helin

Watch Stephen Curry go off for 23 in third, spark Warriors win

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Stephen Curry looked every bit his MVP self Tuesday night.

He hadn’t been his vintage self this season, hadn’t needed to be most nights — thanks to Kevin Durant — but the Warriors had their best game of the season Tuesday night beating the Trail Blazers 127-104. Curry finished the night with 28 points on 21 shots, and was 5-of-10 from three.

The other good news for Warriors fans, this was by far the best their defense has looked this season. Not great, but better.

 

Three Things We Learned Tuesday: Utah crushes San Antonio? Is it the end of the world?

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It’s still very early in the NBA season — we’re still watching small sample size theater — but we are starting to learn some things. Here is what we learned on Sunday while thinking that a Game 7 of the World Series is going to be fun (and all those 3-1 blown lead jokes Cleveland fans made after the NBA Finals don’t seem as funny to them now)… 

1) Break up the Jazz — Utah beats San Antonio easily. In San Antonio. The outcome seemed preordained. We were in double-digits of consecutive Utah losses in San Antonio. Gordon Hayward was out. Boris Diaw sat for rest. Derrick Favors only played the first half. This game lined up to be a blowout. And it was.

Utah blew out San Antonio. The Jazz pulled away in the fourth for a 106-91 win.

George Hill is the only guy on the Jazz creating shots right now, and he did that to the tune of eight straight points in the fourth when the game was decided — he was phenomenal. Has been all season, carrying a heavy load. He was a force off the pick-and-roll with 22 points on 13 shots in this one, and he was attacking the rim or shooting threes, not settling in the midrange. You can see that in his shot cart — three midrange shots compared to 10 threes or shots at the rim.

Hill shotcart

Pacers fans had to watch this, having seen the way Jeff Teague has stumbled out of the gate this season, and think “what the hell?” Frank Vogel rarely gave Hill the chance to play this way,  but Hill has skills and brings it on both ends.

Utah is going to be a playoff team if they don’t dig too big a hole before they get healthy (and that could mean no Alec Burks for a couple of months). This win bringing them to 2-2 on the season is huge in that chase.

2) Sixers trade Jerami Grant to Thunder for Ersan Ilyasova and a pick — and it’s pretty even. We have our first trade of the season, and while I don’t love it for Philadelphia, the fact they got this pick makes this a wash for me in the long term. Short term, I don’t love it for Philly. I get it, the Sixers need shooting, and Ilyasova does that far, far better than Grant right now. It gives Philly a healthy body up front. Plus Ilyasova is on an expiring contract.

But if it was just the player swap I wouldn’t have liked the deal for Philly. Grant is just 22, incredibly athletic, on a very affordable contract and could develop into something. The Thunder are good at development, and OKC is looking for long guys who can play the three and four (they lost one of those this summer if you hadn’t heard). I like the move for the Thunder, Ilyasova was not part of their future, Grant may not be but they have a chance to find out. The pick is what saves it for the Sixers — a first-round pick top 20 protected in 2020 or 2021, and if the Sixers don’t get the pick those years it becomes two second round picks (2022 and 2023). That’s a long-time off, but if they don’t see Grant as part of the future it’s a decent return for a guy they got in the second round.

3) DeMarcus Cousins had 13 points but picked up all six fouls in the fourth quarter. You read that right, DeMarcus Cousins had zero fouls through three quarters of the Kings game in Miami, then picked up all six and fouled out in the fourth quarter — thereby missing overtime in the eventual OT loss to the Heat. Cousins was livid — and he had a right to be. It’s tempting to blame Cousins’ demeanor, but he handled it fairly well. Some of those calls should have been no-calls, some others were borderline calls that could go either way and went against Cousins. Coach Dave Joerger said after the game he had watched the fouls and said they were “unbelievable” and said “I don’t know…” then trailed off trying to avoid getting a fine. He then added that with physical players like Cousins, they are difficult to officiate.

Here is the one where Cousins fouls out:

The Miami broadcasters like the call, but of course they do they are wearing Heat goggles. This could have gone either way, but it’s not a bad call, Cousins does get his left arm on the inside of Whiteside and hooks him, but he doesn’t extend and push. The thing is, Cousins never gets that call from the refs. Several of the rest were much worse calls, this one was legit. Cousins has the rep with refs and does not get the benefit of the doubt, and it cost him here. (Although the Kings could still have won if Rudy Gay didn’t airball a potential game winner.)

But Cousins did have a brilliant block of Whiteside earlier in the game.

Jazz’s 3-point shooting does in Spurs, 106-91

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Utah point guard George Hill used the lessons he learned in three seasons with San Antonio to hand his former team a rare home loss.

Hill had 22 points and the Jazz made a season-high 15 3-pointers, handing the Spurs their first loss of the season 106-91 on Tuesday night.

“He had a great game,” San Antonio veteran Manu Ginobili said. “For three quarters they played good solid basketball and in the fourth he just took over. Made some big shots, good plays off the pick-and-roll. He’s a great player, we know he can do it.”

Utah handed San Antonio only its second home loss since March 2015. The Spurs didn’t lose their first home game last season until April 10 and finished 40-1 at the AT&T Center.

“Every loss is disappointing to me,” said Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard, who had a game-high 30 points. “Just disappointed in our defensive effort. Our energy wasn’t there in the first quarter. They were knocking down shots in the fourth quarter. They scored 33 in the fourth and that’s not good either.”

Hill made four straight baskets starting with about 6 minutes left in the fourth, scoring 10 points to give the Jazz a 96-88 lead with 4 minutes remaining.

The Spurs rallied from an anemic first quarter to capture the lead, but Hill helped steady the young Jazz with a court presence he learned under San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich.

“Play like you’ve been there before,” Hill said. “Coach Pop always instilled that into me my first three years here. Don’t show really that much emotion, unless it’s part of the game, but act like you’ve been there before. That’s what I try to instill in the guys, move onto the next play every time.”

Utah needed that serenity after nearly blowing a dominant first quarter.

“We definitely allowed them to play too comfortable and get into a rhythm early on,” San Antonio center Pau Gasol said. “They were executing well, give them credit, but we didn’t put enough pressure on their offense to force them to take tougher shots.”

The Jazz built a 12-point lead in the opening quarter by shooting 72 percent from the field and 88 percent on 3s. Utah made seven 3-pointers in the first quarter, one more than their previous season high for a game.

“Some of it’s just basketball gods,” Jazz coach Snyder said. “There are nights like that and then there are nights like tonight. The biggest thing for our guys is that they don’t get discouraged when they miss and keep shooting.”

Rodney Hood finished with 19 points, Trey Lyles 15 and Shelvin Mack 14 for Utah, which finished 15 for 31 from 3-point range.

It didn’t matter if the Spurs contested the shots or not, Utah’s shots were falling in the first quarter. San Antonio didn’t panic, sticking to their rotations and sets.

The Spurs erased a 47-31 deficit, going on a 15-0 run over a 6-minute span. Leonard’s 16-foot jumper pulled San Antonio within 47-46 and LaMarcus Aldridge‘s 18-footer tied the game at 48.

Aldridge finished with 21 points on 8-for-16 shooting.

But Lyles revived Utah’s offense, scoring all but two points during a 10-0 run in the third quarter that gave the Jazz a 70-63 lead they would never relinquish.

Lyles finished 2 for 7 on 3-pointers and Hood was 4 for 8.

TIP-INS

Jazz: Mack was 0 for 4 on 3-pointers this season before making his only two attempts against the Spurs. . F Boris Diaw missed his first game of the season, sitting out against his former team with a bruised right leg. Diaw, who played with San Antonio from 2012-2016, received a loud ovation when his image was shown on the video boards. Hill, who played three seasons in San Antonio, also received a loud ovation. … Utah was winless in its two road games this season, losing by an average of 11 points.

Spurs: San Antonio has a winning record in the regular season for all but 48 days since 1997. … Jonathan Simmons made his first start of the season. Filling in for Danny Green, Simmons had two points in 29 minutes. Green is sidelined by a strained left quadriceps. … Tony Parker is 73rd in league history with 1,084 games played, breaking a tie he had with Antawn Jamison and Dell Curry.

FAVORS RETURNS

Derrick Favors started for the first time this season after being limited due to a sore knee.

Favors had six points and three rebounds in 16 minutes for the Jazz. He did not play in the second half as a precaution.

“He’s on a minutes restriction,” Snyder said. “We’re being smart with Fav and making sure that we bring him back the right way. I think he was ready to play. I think he got a little cold when we put him back in. He wasn’t quite the same, but that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing.”

STILL A FAVORITE

Hill remains one of Popovich’s favorite players ever, even after he helped Utah hand San Antonio a double-digit loss.

“He played great, especially down the stretch,” Popovich said. “He was very controlled, ran the show, obviously made shots. He was great.”

Hill made sure to hug Popovich after the game and let the veteran coach know how much he still means to him.

“Pop is one of the best people that came into my life,” Hill said. “I just asked him how his wife is doing, how he’s doing and to tell him I love him.”

Atlanta Hawks, city planning $192.5 million Philips Arena renovation

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ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Hawks have announced a $192.5 million renovation of Philips Arena, with the city providing the bulk of the funding.

As part of Tuesday’s deal, the Hawks agreed to an 18-year lease extension to remain at the city-owned arena through 2046.

The city will contribute $142.5 million toward the project, which will most noticeably alter the look of the luxury boxes stacked on one side of the arena. There will be new amenities, improved sightlines for basketball, state-of-the-art video and connected concourses throughout the 17-year-old facility.

Philips Arena originally hosted both the NBA’s Hawks and the NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers. The hockey team moved to Winnipeg in 2011.

The renovations will begin next summer and be completed by the 2018-2019 season. The Hawks will continue to play at the arena.

Utah’s Alec Burks out indefinitely after ankle surgery Tuesday

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After a loss to the Clippers Sunday, Jazz coach Quin Snyder sounded like a guy just desperate to get his team — and his best offensive weapons — healthy. Gordon Hayward is out a few more weeks with a broken finger, and the Jazz are struggling to create good looks.

Now Alec Burks is out indefinitely.

He has had ankle issues that have sidelined him through camp, and Tuesday he underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair that ankle, the team announced. From the press release:

Following multiple medical consultations, Burks underwent a successful arthroscopic procedure Tuesday to debride his left ankle. The procedure was performed in New York City by foot and ankle specialist Dr. Martin O’Malley. 

Burks will return to Salt Lake City to begin his rehabilitation and will remain out indefinitely.

This is his third surgery on that ankle/foot. Burks played in just 31 games last season and 27 the season before.

He could be a good scoring guard off the bench — he scored 13.3 points per game a career-best 40.5 percent from three when he did play last season. On a team lacking scoring punch, he could provide needed depth behind Rodney Hood at the two.

But this is the third straight season racked by injuries. It feels like his career is reaching a crossroads.