Kurt Helin

Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin dunks during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks, Sunday, April 10, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Associated Press

Clippers beat Mavs 98-91 for 5th straight victory

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Blake Griffin shot 2 of 11 in the first half, when the Clippers were in a struggle with the Dallas Mavericks.

In the locker room, his teammates urged him to keep shooting and while Griffin appreciated the encouragement, he knew he had to do more than settle for jumpers.

Griffin sparked the Clippers in a dominant third quarter, and they went on to win 98-91 on Sunday, snapping the Mavs’ six-game winning streak and preventing them from clinching a playoff berth.

“I tried to put a little more aggression into defense and try to let that get me going,” said Griffin, who had 17 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in his best game since returning a week ago from a three-month absence.

Jamal Crawford scored 22 points, J.J. Redick added 20 and DeAndre Jordan had 14 points and 10 rebounds in the playoff-bound Clippers’ fifth straight win.

Raymond Felton led Dallas with 21 points – two off his season high – off the bench. Deron Williams added 15 points and Dirk Nowitzki 14.

“The third quarter was a bit of a killer,” Nowitzki said. “We were missing good looks.”

The loss kept the Mavs (41-39) in seventh place in the Western Conference, a game behind Memphis with two games to play. Dallas needs either a victory or a Houston loss to clinch a playoff berth for the 15th time in 16 years. The Rockets beat the Lakers 130-110 on Sunday.

The Mavs rallied to close within five in the final 3:45 but Griffin asserted himself down the stretch, scoring and assisting on an alley-oop dunk by DeAndre Jordan, and the Clippers eventually restored their lead to 10.

“Blake just got into the defense,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “He just turned into this guy who started playing with amazing force and intensity. He started rolling (to the basket) and putting pressure on their defense.”

The teams played nearly even in the first half, with the Clippers leading 49-47 at the break. Los Angeles got its first double-digit lead of the game in the third, when Dallas shot 3 of 18 from the floor.

Leading by three, the Clippers closed on a 20-6 run to lead 76-59 going into the fourth. Griffin scored six points and grabbed the offensive rebound after Jordan missed a free throw, feeding Redick for a 3-pointer in the spurt.

“Just his presence was big for us,” Chris Paul said about Griffin. “Down the stretch, that was the Blake that we know. He was aggressive.”

The Mavs tried to slow down the Clippers by fouling Jordan, but it didn’t work entirely. He finished 6 of 23 from the line, but made two foul shots that contributed to his team’s dominance in the third quarter.

Dallas got to 83-74 in the fourth, forcing the Clippers to bring Redick and Paul back in. Williams promptly banked in a jumper to cut the Mavs’ deficit to seven. They closed to 85-79 on a 3-pointer by Charlie Villanueva.

Paul finished with five points, seven rebounds and 11 assists.

TIP-INS

Mavericks: Their six-game winning streak tied for the team’s longest this season. … No team had scored over 93 points during their streak. … G J.J. Barea sat out with a right groin strain. … Nowitzki averaged 23.0 points and 8.0 rebounds in his first three games against the Clippers this season.

Clippers: F Paul Pierce sat out to rest. … The Clippers won the season series 3-1 for the fifth year in a row. … They’ve won 11 of their last 15 regular-season games against the Mavs.

WILLIAMS RETURNS

Williams returned to the Mavs’ starting lineup after missing a couple weeks because of a left abdominal strain. He shot 6 of 11, had four rebounds and three assists to go with four fouls in 28 minutes.

“He was aggressive, especially in the first half,” Nowitzki said. “I liked how he pushed it on the break and tried to get into the lane and collapse the defense. When a guy comes back from injury you look how he moves, and I thought he looked great.”

CRITIQUING HIS FORM

Jordan got another taste of getting hacked by an opponent, a familiar tactic sure to be employed against him in the playoffs.

“It was more of a rest period for me and the rest of the guys,” he joked about his 23 trips to the line. “They looked great, except for a couple that were line drives. My teammates have confidence in me when I am up there, and that is all that matters. I’m going to be continue to be confident and shoot the basketball. It will happen in the playoffs.”

 

Man convicted of killing Michael Jordan’s father seeks hearing

Michael Jordan
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Attorneys for the man convicted of killing Michael Jordan’s father in North Carolina in 1993 and dumping his body in South Carolina say they have new evidence to bolster their request for a new trial.

The Charlotte Observer reports (http://bit.ly/1RZpEgE ) that court documents claim misleading testimony and misconduct by the prosecutor and jury helped wrongfully convict Daniel Green of murder. His attorneys have long argued that Green helped get rid of James Jordan’s body but didn’t participate in the carjacking.

They’re seeking a hearing on their evidence.

Green and his friend Larry Demery were convicted 20 years ago of killing 56-year-old Jordan along U.S. 74 near Lumberton. Both were sentenced to life in prison.

A jury found Green fired the fatal shot. The verdict has been upheld on several appeals.

Information from: The Charlotte Observer, http://www.charlotteobserver.com

Billy Donovan’s philosophy rest vs. rhythm: Players have the ultimate say

at ORACLE Arena on March 3, 2016 in Oakland, California.  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.
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SACRAMENTO — Gregg Popovich is playing his core guys against Golden State, but is resting them in other games. Steve Kerr would like to rest his core players more, but they are chasing history. Every coach with a team headed to the playoffs is struggling with the same question:

Rest or rhythm?

Thunder coach Billy Donovan played his core guys against Sacramento in the final game at Arco/Sleep Train Arena (a Kings win), but the decision on how much to use his guys the last couple weeks is something he is wrestling with.

“When you rest guys, you’re breaking a rhythm,” Donovan said. “And then all of a sudden you’ve got guys going into that game where players are rested that start when they don’t normally start, they log more minutes than they normally log, they’re in a role they’re not normally in, and then you’re asking them to go back to the way it was before.”

Donovan said there is a clear priority that drives their decision tree — health.

But that decision is made collaboratively.

“I always think you’ve got to put the players’ health first and foremost,” Donovan said. “I think that every team that’s going into the playoffs, the number one focus and goal is you want to go into the playoffs healthy. But not too far behind that is you want to be playing well….

“The decisions we are making are how many minutes have guys played? Do they need a rest? We really rely on them, on our medical staff, it’s a collaborative effort.”

In the end, everyone ways in, but it’s the players that have the hammer and make the decision (something Kerr is dealing with particularly).

“(Players are) going to have the ultimate say so, and what I appreciate about (Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook) is they have been open-minded to how they feel, where they’re at. So they are very involved…

“We played in Detroit (second night of a road back-to-back on March 29) and Russell said he felt great. We went back and looked at his minutes, our medical staff looked him and said he’s fine and if he wants to play he can play. They’re going to be heavily involved.”

Expect Westbrook and Durant to get a little rest before the playoffs start, because as of this weekend there are no more nights off.

LeBron James had monster slam against Bulls (VIDEO)

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The night didn’t go as the Cleveland Cavaliers planned — the Bulls won and kept their playoff dream alive for 24 more hours.

But LeBron James did have his moments, like this impressive slam that went around or over a few Bulls. LeBron finished with 33 points to lead all scorers, it just wasn’t enough.

LeBron James wanted to take potential game winner, watched Matthew Dellavedova miss instead

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23), forward Kevin Love (0) and guard Matthew Dellavedova (8) walk off the court after a missed basket against the Chicago Bulls during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Chicago, on Saturday, April 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Jeff Haynes)
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It was a clean look.

But was there a better option?

The Cleveland Cavaliers were down two points to the Chicago Bulls with 8.7 seconds left when J.R. Smith missed a free throw and grabbed the offensive rebound. Smith dished to Kevin Love, who quickly moved the ball to an open Matthew Dellavedova, who took the shot and missed it badly.

LeBron — who was at the top of the key and the next pass — wanted to take that shot, he told Chris Haynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Of course, LeBron wanted to take the last shot — he’s LeBron James, he should want to take that shot. I’d be worried if he didn’t want the rock under pressure.

The other question here is would you prefer the hot hand or the guy that’s been the better shooter all season? Dellavedova is shooting 12 percentage points better from three than LeBron, but Delly was 1-of-4 from three for the game while LeBron was 4-of-5.

It’s not like Dellavedova took a Kobe-esque contested jumper over a double team (or triple, in Kobe’s case), he took a clean shot. LeBron may be frustrated, but if you get an open shot under pressure you take it.

The Bulls won the game 105-102, keeping their very slim playoff hopes alive for one more day.