Kurt Helin

Paul George
Associated Press

Paul George on Pacers vs. Warriors Tuesday: “Tonight is a must win for us”


There are no must win NBA games in December.

But if you’ve been a top team that has lost a couple of games in a row and is about to face a major test on national television, it can feel like that. So you can understand Paul George feels tonight’s anticipated showdown between the Pacers vs. Warriors, and he didn’t hold back in expressing that to the Indianapolis Star.

“Tonight is a must win for us,” he said. “We’re hungry for a win, especially losing the last one we lost, a game we should have won.”

PG13, you have been a joy to watch this season, and the resurgent Pacers are a great story. So please don’t take this the wrong way, but…

This is not the game you want to designate as a “must win.” First, you may not want to light a fire under Stephen Curry, who can shoot from the other side of the White River. The Warriors already are going to be focused for this one, as opposed to the slightly coasting, showing little hubris moments we have seen from them of late. Nothing that has jump up and bit them yet, but there could be cracks in the armor. However, focused Golden State is playing on a level higher than anyone else right now.

The Pacers, using Paul George at the four, are a fascinating matchup for the Warriors. On paper one of the few teams that should be able to challenge them a little in the small ball department. As Kevin Garnett once told us, “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.”

But must win? Not sure I’d go there.

Kristaps Porzingis drops 28, impresses Dirk Nowitzki (VIDEO)


The Mavericks got the win, but for Knicks’ fans Kristaps Porzingis and the future remain the story.

Porzingis went up against the man he is most often compared to — future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki — and impressed with 28 points on 13-of-18 shooting, including being 6-of-6 on contested looks (according to NBA.com). All that impressed Nowitzki himself, who said this after the game (via Ian Begley of ESPN).

“He’s probably way ahead of the curve. When I was 20, I was scared to death out there. … He’s almost averaging a double-double, so he’s way better than I was at 20. So the comparison’s probably unfair to me.

“He’s for real,” Nowitzki said after scoring a team-high 25 points for the Mavericks (13-9). “We’ve said it before. He’s tougher than you think. He’s long. He’s athletic. He can put the ball on the floor. … The sky’s the limit for this kid, not only because he’s good but also because I heard he lives and breathes basketball. He stays in the gym, he works hard and doesn’t let all this hype here get to his head. You’ve to root for him.”



Five Takeaways from NBA Monday: Some things change, some don’t for Philly

Jerry Colangelo, Josh Harris

If you’re a League Pass addict like me, you’ve heard Clippers’ announcer Ralph Lawler mention “Lawler’s Law” — the first team to 100 will win the game. But I wondered during last night’s close Clippers game how often that is true? Turns out, there is a tracker and the first team to 100 wins 93.9 percent of the time. That’s just one thing to know from a Monday around the NBA.

1) Trust the process… or entrust the process to Jerry Colangelo, who takes over as the guy with the final say for Sixers. It was one of PBT’s 51 questions asked before this NBA season: “How long will 76ers owner stay patient with rebuilding?” Apparently the answer was until about two weeks ago. That’s when all the losing from the past couple years broke owner Josh Harris and he — with an assist to Adam Silver — reached out to former Suns owner/president and the current USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo. Monday, Harris officially gave Colangelo a spot in the organization above GM Sam Hinkie. Harris said he wanted to see the process move a little faster than it has been.  

While this signals a change in the vaunted “process” Hinkie talked about, it’s big picture right now. This is not likely to mean any short-term changes on the ground — the Sixers will still be terrible this season and hope the lottery is kind to them. They likely will have three and maybe a four first round picks this year (depending on pick protections and the draft order). If the Sixers get another top three pick, they are going to keep it and add to the growing stockpile of talent. However, Colangelo is more likely to try to turn some of those picks into trades for solid veteran players. He is going to spend money on more veteran free agents to teach the young stars how to be professional and win some games. These new players are not going to be franchise cornerstone guys — those Jahlil Okafor level guys still need to come through the draft for now in Philly — but they will be players who will help speed the process along and get more wins.

2) Colangelo or no, the Sixers pain isn’t over — they fall by 51 to the Spurs. The Spurs rested Tim Duncan, had Kawhi Leonard out with the stomach flu, and still set a franchise record for the largest win, 119-68. It was a reminder that while there may be changes at the top in Philadelphia, it’s going to be a while before the impact trickles down to the roster itself. A change in the philosophy of the process doesn’t change the fact the Sixers are a 1-21 team with many players on the roster who will be out of the league in a couple of years. After the game coach Brett Brown was virtually speechless.

Meanwhile, the Spurs are the Spurs. They played little used Boban Marjanovic — the 7’3″ Serbian center who dominated Euroleague last season — and he stepped in and looked very Spursian, dropping 18 points. He faked Okafor out badly a couple times.

3) Suns score 42 in fourth on the second night of the back to back, defeat Bulls on buzzer beater. For a Suns team that had lost four in a row but were within five points in the final five minutes in all of them, this was a sweet bit of revenge. After a 10-point third quarter, they fought back with a massive fourth quarter to come from behind and beat the Bulls on Mirza Teletovic‘s offensive rebound and game-winning shot.

For the Bulls, this loss seemed a punch to the gut. Jimmy Butler talked about how the team lacked a killer instinct. The fluctuation between a great defensive third quarter and an abysmal fourth speaks to a lack of identity, and with that a lack of consistent energy by the team. This was a new low point for the Bulls this season.

4) Chris Paul, J.J. Redick return for Clippers in win, but all anyone will talk about is Garnett dunk. If the Clippers are going to find their way back into the elite of the Western Conference and be a real playoff threat, they have some work to do — and they needed to get Chris Paul (rib injury) and J.J. Redick (ankle) back on the floor. They did that just in time to pick up a close win over Minnesota on the road Monday night.

But all anyone will remember from this game was this dunk by Kevin Garnett.

5) Byron Scott decides to bring D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle off the bench, start Lou Williams. I have made the argument more than once that Lakers’ coach Byron Scott needs to play his young trio — Jordan Clarkson, D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle — together more and away from Kobe Bryant as much as possible. Oh, and let the kids close games so they can learn to play in that environment.

Scott took a step toward staggering Kobe’s minutes from his young stars Monday, but in classic Scott style found a way to make it look like a punishment and demotion for the young players he is charged with building up. He benched Russell and Randle, starting instead Lou Williams and Larry Nance (who has had a nice rookie season so far but doesn’t have the skills nor ceiling of Randle, who he replaced). The staggering worked in the sense they didn’t play with Kobe a ton. Randle seemed to adjust better, with 15 points and 11 boards, while Russell had nine points on 11 shots, and as many turnovers as assists. 

Laker GM Mitch Kupchak hinted in an interview Monday he is not happy with the pace of player development so far. He shouldn’t be. But whether the Lakers do anything about it before next summer is another question entirely.

Report: Clippers tested trade market for Lance Stephenson, Josh Smith

Josh Smith

Of late, Lance Stephenson has played better for the Clippers (he’s been asked to do more ball handling with the second unit). Josh Smith has put up numbers, but when he has been on the court this season the Clippers have been outscored by 6.8 points per 100 possessions. Both looked like smart pickups by Doc Rivers this summer, but neither have blended seamlessly into the Clippers through the first six weeks of the season.

So the Clippers tested the trade market for them, reports Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports.

The Los Angeles Clippers gauged trade interest in Lance Stephenson and Josh Smith last month, league sources told Yahoo Sports….

Two NBA executives told Yahoo Sports that the Clippers would have hard time trading the struggling newcomers who have not fit in well during the team’s slow start….

“There is not much of a market for them,” one NBA executive said. “They are buyout candidates. Maybe Lance goes back to Indiana, you never know. You won’t get back much for them.”

The rumblings around the Clippers have been that they realize their window in the Chris Paul/Blake Griffin/DeAndre Jordan era isn’t going to get any better than it is right now, but they remain steps behind Golden State and San Antonio (and maybe Oklahoma City as well). So they are considering all options that could bring in players who are a better fit. Jamal Crawford also has been rumored as a potential trade piece. There’s a sense something needs to be done.

Except, if they Clippers can’t get value back, they may need to ride this roster until next season.

Doc Rivers the GM rolled the dice with these personalities, betting on Doc Rivers the coach being able to mold them into a second unit that could take the Clippers to that next level. Instead he’s got Smith getting in an argument with a Clippers’ assistant coach (Spears says that was Mike Woodson). The Clippers may be hedging that bet a little. Building a cohesive team is not that simple.

Nowitzki, Mavs hold off Porzingis comeback, Mavs beat Knicks

Dirk Nowitzki, Kristaps Porzingis

NEW YORK (AP) — Dirk Nowitzki got to see why people compare Kristaps Porzingis to him, and the rookie almost ruined the view.

Porzingis led a fourth-quarter charge and finished with 28 points, but the Dallas Mavericks held on for a 104-97 victory over the New York Knicks on Monday night.

Nowitzki scored 25 points after a strong start, then offered some encouragement to Porzingis after the Mavs walked off with a victory that seemed would be much easier than it ended up.

“The comparisons are more than fair,” Nowitzki said. “He’s way ahead of the curve. When I was 20 I was scared to death out there. He’s almost averaging a double-double out there. He’s better than I was in my 20s, so the comparison is probably unfair to him. He’s a complete package.”

Porzingis had 12 points in the fourth quarter of his first matchup with Nowitzki, the German great he has been compared to for his perimeter shooting skills by a 7-footer.

“It really doesn’t matter because we still lost,” he said, “but yeah, I was just hitting shots and trying to do the things to help the team win at the end.”

The Latvian rookie made consecutive 3-pointers as the Knicks cut what had been a 23-point deficit to 101-97 with 43 seconds left, then blocked Deron Williams‘ shot. But Carmelo Anthony was called for an offensive foul as the Knicks were trying to work to get the ball to Porzingis for another shot, and Nowitzki followed with a free throw before Williams made two more to close it out.

Williams had 20 points and seven assists.

A night after making a season-best 16 3-pointers and scoring 116 points in a victory at Washington, the Mavericks appeared to be rolling again in this one. Nowitzki scored 11 in the first quarter to show the Mavs had plenty left for the second night of their back-to-back.

“Dirk loves these types of situations, taking the challenge of a young guy like this, and Porzingis is a special player,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said.

They had a 20-point lead early in the fourth quarter and fans were booing the Knicks, but Carlisle had to bring his starters back after the Knicks mounted a charge.

“It’s hard to keep a 20-point lead, especially on the road in the second half of a back-to-back,” Williams said. “With that being said, we’ve got to do a better job.”

Anthony had 17 points, eight assists and six rebounds, but shot 6 for 18 from the field and also picked up a technical foul in the fourth quarter.

The 7-foot-3 Porzingis grabbed just two rebounds but held his own offensively against Nowitzki, the top international scorer in NBA history. But Nowitzki was surrounded by much more firepower Monday even without a big night from Wesley Matthews, who scored 36 points on a franchise record-tying 10 3-pointers in Sunday’s victory.

Matthews was just 3 of 10 for 10 points.

Former Knicks guard Raymond Felton finished with 14 points in the Mavs’ fourth straight victory in the series.


Mavericks: Dallas has won 11 of the last 14 in New York and 23 of the last 28 meetings overall. Devin Harris sat out after injuring his ribs after colliding with teammate Justin Anderson in the first half of Sunday’s game.

Knicks: Porzingis was presented with his Eastern Conference rookie of the month award for October/November before the game. … It was the first of five straight games against Western Conference opponents. After a three-game trip to Utah, Sacramento and Portland, the Knicks return home to host Minnesota on Dec. 16. … Forward Kevin Seraphin turned 26.