Kurt Helin

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Too much Austin Rivers — yes, seriously — leads Clippers blowout of Rockets, take series 2-1

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LOS ANGELES — Just as expected, a Los Angeles Clippers guard changed the complexion of Game 3. He outdueled the great scorer James Harden, and changing the momentum of the series by leading the Clippers to a blowout win.

We’re talking Austin Rivers.

What, you were expecting someone else?

Sure, Chris Paul suited up and played 23 minutes, putting up 12 points and seven assists. But it was Rivers, who had 15 of his 25 points in the third quarter leading a 23-0 Clippers run — while Paul and Blake Griffin were resting —  who helped break the game wide open and help the Clippers cruise to a 124-99 win.

The Clippers now lead the series 2-1, with Game 4 Sunday at Staples — a contest close to a must-win for the Rockets.

The Clippers had it all going Friday night at home. CP3 was back, J.J. Redick knocked down shots on his way to 31 points, they played solid defense most of the night, but Rivers was the story. The guard much maligned since the Clippers picked him up — there were all sorts of nepotism comments after his father Doc Rivers brought him in, then Rivers played poorly during the season — has played well lately in the playoffs.

“It was great. It was needed,” Doc Rivers said of his son. “He was just very aggressive, and that’s what we’ve been telling him to do. And he was that…. It was important really because it allowed us to keep (Paul) at the minutes we wanted That was huge for us.”

Friday night Austin was just fun to watch — and Paul told Doc Rivers just to enjoy watching his son play.

A lot of Clippers had good nights carving up the Rockets’ defense, which was out of sync and communicating poorly all night. Particularly in the third quarter.

“We didn’t play much defense at that point,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “They made a few shots on us, we had a couple turnovers during that stretch, and you know they were running, we weren’t getting back. We played very poorly during that stretch, needless to say.”

On the night, Redick had 31 points and hit 5-of-6 from three. Blake Griffin had 22 points and 14 boards. Jamal Crawford had a dozen.

When asked a few times a few different ways after the game about how his hamstring felt during the game, Paul would only say “I got through it.”

What was clear through the game was the Clippers played solid defense on the night, the Rockets did not. The Clippers did a good job of defending without fouling — James Harden only got to the line five times on his way to 25 points (a number of those in garbage time late). Dwight Howard had 14 points and 14 assists.

“I mean, they scored 124 points,” McHale said, shaking his head. “We’ve got to get some defensive — we’ve had one good defensive half so far. That was the second half of the second game. But other than that we haven’t gotten anything.”

If they don’t get it Sunday, the series could be ending sooner rather than later.

It’s official: Chris Paul to play, start for Clippers in Game 3

Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Clippers- Game Three
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LOS ANGELES — It was pretty clear after shootaround that Chris Paul’s hamstring was relatively healthy, and he was going to suit up Friday night for the Clippers for the first time in the series against Houston. Before the game, Clippers coach Doc Rivers made it official.

“He’s definitely playing,” Rivers said before Game 3 tipped off, confirming what CP3 had told his teammates earlier in the day. “Minute wise we are definitely going to restrict his minutes. A lot of it will be visually (how he looks), but we will restrict his minutes for sure.”

Rivers said expect closer to 20 minutes than 40 for Paul on Friday night.

Rivers added that they pushed Paul in workouts the last couple days, making it him come off picks, and try to simulate game action as best as they could.

“He had a good workout,” Rivers said. “He probably got his confidence sky high because we had Sam Cassell workout with him. My guess is he scored every time, just like in Sam’s playing days.”

Paul injured his hamstring late in the first quarter of Game 7 against the Spurs. Paul went to the locker room but came back out and gutted out a fantastic performance, a game that will be part of his legacy including hitting the game winner over the outstretched arm of Tim Duncan.

But once the hamstring strain tightened up the next day Paul was sidelined. He sat out Game 1, an upset Clipper win in Houston, which set the stage for CP3 to rest game 2.

In Game 3, Rivers doesn’t want Paul to hold back.

“I don’t want him to hold back, you can’t nurse anything,” Rivers said. “Obviously you have to be smart with it, but you just have to go play. You know that team we’re playing? They don’t care. They really don’t. They don’t care what we have; they are going to attack no matter what we have. So if you’re going to go out on the field, or the wood, or whatever we call the court, you have to be ready to play.”

He said the goal is to have both Paul and Blake Griffin facilitate the offense.

Mirza Teletovic says he hopes to stay in Brooklyn, will stay in NBA

Brooklyn Nets v Sacramento Kings
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If you remember Mirza Teletovic from last season, it’s probably for this disaster during Game 2 of the Nets loss to the Hawks.

But the fact Teletovic was even in that game was a great story — he had been diagnosed with blood clots in his lungs back in January and had gone through a tough regimen and rehab just to get back on the court. And adjust his shoes.

Now the question about Teletovic is where he lands next season, he is a restricted free agent this summer. He’s a 6’8″ forward who shot 39 percent from three a couple seasons ago and looked like a player with promise. That promise got clotted up last season, but there may be teams interested in him if they can land the Bosnian at a fair price.

But he wants to stay in Brooklyn, reports Nets Daily.

“I like Brooklyn, people are great, I know the team and everyone, especially doctors, treated me great when all that happened. I really would like to stay in Brooklyn,” he said referring to the multiple blood clots found in his lungs in January. “I know my team-mates and everything is really great. I do not know what will be, but I’ll know more in June when free agent market starts,” he told reporters, including Igor Marinovic of Sportske Novosti, who translated his answers for NetsDaily.

As always, it will come down to money. Will another team, one that misses out on a couple targets, overpay some for Teletovic on hopes he can return to form? Would the Nets match the offer?

Teletovic said that he will not return to Europe to play for their club teams next season. He also said he does plan to play for the Bosnian national team this summer.

Teletovic said he thinks the Nets will be better next season in their second year under Hollins.

“I think we had a good season, given the fact that they changed the coach and teammates. Deron (Williams), Brook (Lopez), Joe (Johnson) and I are the only players who have not changed. I think it is important for the Nets to stay with the same system. Some changes good and some bad … but it is very difficult when there are a lot of changes.”

 

Grizzlies to give away masks — in honor of Mike Conley — before Game 3

Memphis Grizzlies v Golden State Warriors - Game Two
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This is a better idea than the Kevin Love arm sling.

The difference is Mike Conley is back playing and playing well for Memphis — he had 22 points in Game 2 plus played good defense. So if you want to give out thousands of masks — to honor what Conley has had to wear after surgery to repair three broken bones in his face — go for it. And the Grizzlies will go for it before Game 3 Saturday.

Clever.

It is going to be interesting to see how the Warriors adjust to Conley’s return; they didn’t have plans for him before Game 2, according to Draymond Green.

Also, just expect the Warriors to hit more looks than they did in Game 2, they are not going to shoot 30.4 percent on uncontested looks for another game.

Report: Raymond Felton to pick up $3.9 million option to stay with Mavericks

Houston Rockets v Dallas Mavericks - Game Three
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Raymond Felton knows the reality of his NBA career at this point — he could barely get off the bench for the Dallas Mavericks this past season. That’s a team that took stock of its point guard situation and decided to trade some quality assets to roll the dice on Rajon Rondo (that roll came up snake eyes).

Felton also is smart and wants to get paid next year, so he is picking up his option to stay in Dallas, reports Shams Charania of Real GM.

Dallas Mavericks guard Raymond Felton will file paperwork to exercise his $3.9 million player option for the 2015-16 season, league sources told RealGM.

This was expected and his only good option. If he had opted out into the free agent market he likely would have been eventually picked up on a minimum contract, maybe even non-guaranteed, and been a limited use backup or third point guard somewhere.

The 10-year veteran can make some plays — he hit a game winner this season — and Mavs coach Rick Carlisle praised his professionalism. He was limited early in the season by a couple ankle sprains and just never got much into the rotation for the Mavericks, playing in only 29 regular season games.

Because he picks up his option does not mean he will be back with the Mavericks next season. That is a very tradable sized contract, one that can be tacked on to a larger deal potentially, or moved in another way. Whatever the Mavericks look like next season Felton is not going to be a major part of the plans (if he is, well, I feel for Mavs fans).

But he is going to get paid.