Kurt Helin

Boston’s Marcus Smart fined $5,000 for obvious flop; Thomas not suspended for blow to Schroder


The NBA league office got these right.

Boston’s Marcus Smart has been fined for his comical flop Friday night in Game 3 against Atlanta. However, Isaiah Thomas avoided suspension and was given just a technical for his blow to the head of the Hawks Dennis Schroder.

First the flop (which you can see above) — that’s about as fine worthy as a flop can get. Atlanta’s Kyle Korver boxed out on Smart (who has a reputation for flopping) and the Celtics’ guard acted like he was shot out of a cannon. Smart was given a $5,000 flopping fine by the league, the first such fine of these playoffs.

The questions about the Celtics’ Thomas were tied to this play.

Was that a punch to the head, which would warrant a one-game suspension?

The league said no, that it did not rise to the level of a flagrant II foul (unnecessary and excessive) and instead gave him a flagrant I foul (unnecessary contact) for the blow.

That’s the right call by the league office. The officials in that game were handing out flagrants like they were candy on Halloween, but for some fouls that didn’t deserve it. This is the playoffs, things are going to get chippy and physical. Let them, to a degree.

Steve Kerr on Stephen Curry and Game 4: I would expect him to play


Stephen Curry wanted to play in Game 3 between the Warriors and Rockets, but team doctors and the organization held him back. The Rockets won the game by a point on a James Harden game winner (on which he pushed off, but that call is never going to be made).

Curry will be back for Game 4.

Curry himself said as much Friday, and Saturday coach Steve Kerr backed him up.

We could all see this coming. The Warriors wanted to make sure Curry was 100 percent for the tougher matchups to come in the postseason, and since they didn’t pay a price for him sitting in Game 2 they extended the rest a game. Then they paid a price, so he will be back.

The Warriors were a ridiculous 22 points per 100 possessions better this season when Curry was on the court compared to off it, and through the small sample size of first three games of the playoffs that number is more than doubled. Meaning, with Curry back this series is over, Houston has won its last game of the season. Sorry Rockets fans.

Report: New Orleans’ Dell Demps “definitely coming back” as GM

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If there was one general manager thought to be on the hottest of seats this season, it was Dell Demps in New Orleans. They have the cornerstone piece everybody wants in Anthony Davis, but the roster put around him wasn’t good enough, wasn’t durable at all, and didn’t fit with the style of play coach Alvin Gentry would prefer. Add to that mix that Mickey Loomis, the Saints GM, was given more oversight powers over the running of the Pelicans for owner Tom Benson, and it seemed like Demps should be polishing up his resume.

Apparently not.

He will be back for a seventh season, reports John Reid at the Times-Picayune.

New Orleans Pelicans general manager Dell Demps is “definitely coming back” for his seventh season, a league source said on Friday night. There had been speculation in recent weeks that Demps was on the hot seat and the franchise could move in a different direction.

Demps is expected to meet with the media for a postmortem on the team this week.

He’s got a lot of work to do this summer (including finding a good player at No. 6 in the draft, depending on the lottery).

While the Pelicans have a cornerstone piece that everybody covets in Anthony Davis, they have not put much of a roster around him. They are on the clock to do that now. Demps has been very hit and miss, with a few expensive misses. Last summer Demps did things like re-signing Omer Asik, even though that was a questionable fit with Alvin Gentry’s up-tempo style of play. This summer there is a laundry list of things that need to get done — a three that can take pressure off Anthony Davis (many teams doubled off Dante Cunningham on Davis) and depth in the backcourt.

Injuries certainly helped derail the Pelicans last season, never letting the roster get traction, but it was not a roster that fit the coach’s style from the start. That needs to change. If you bring in Gentry, you want to run, and they need to get the athletes who can do that.

Watch Kawhi Leonard drop 32 on Memphis in latest win

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Memphis put up a fight. At home the grit and grind were in full force — well, as full as it can be considering all the injuries — and the Grizzlies made the Spurs work for this win.

But the Spurs have Kawhi Leonard, and the Grizzlies did not have anyone who could stop him. Leonard dropped 32 on Memphis leading San Antonio to a win and a 3-0 series lead.

This series will come to a merciful end on Sunday.

Five Things to Watch on Playoff Saturday: Will Damian Lillard find his jump shot?

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You can tell we are getting into the serious part of playoff series because the games are starting to get a little chippy. Expect more of that Saturday (and hopefully the referees let them play a little). He’s what to keep your eye on.

1) Back home in Portland, will Damian Lillard find his shot? And C.J. McCollum, too? 
Through the first two games against the Clippers, Lillard has averaged 19 points a game on 33.3 percent shooting, and 21.4 percent from three (down from 25.1 ppg on 41.9 and 37.5 percent in the regular season). Just check out his playoff shot chart.

Lillard shotchart

Add to that, C.J. McCollum is averaging 12.5 points a game on 32.1 percent shooting through two games. The Clippers are trapping and being aggressive, but after Game 2 Lillard owned up to just missing the clean looks they do get.

“Our coaching staff did a great job of watching film and putting myself and C.J. in different positions where they couldn’t really take a lot away from us,” Lillard said. “I just got to make the shots. I think that’s what it comes down to.”

We could talk about Portland’s need to play better defense on the Clippers guards, or pick-and-roll coverages, or a host of other potential adjustments, but unless the Blazers’ guard duo that carried them all season starts to deal better with the aggressive Clippers’ defense and hit their shots, it’s all moot. Lillard had better find his shot in Portland fast, or the Blazers will go down 0-3 and can start making tee times for next week.

2) Can Oklahoma City keep the pace up and run past the Mavericks? In the two Oklahoma City blowout wins in this series, the games averaged 97.9 possessions per game. The one loss it was 94.  In addition to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook knocking down their open looks (and Mavs fans should expect they will), the other determining factor in this series has been pace. Oklahoma City has the better, younger athletes and wants to get out and run. That isn’t brain surgery. If the pace is up again it will be easy buckets for the Thunder and another win, Dallas’ only hope is a slow, grinding game.

3) Can the Hornets overcome the loss of Nicolas Batum? The loss of Batum to a sprained ankle hits the Hornets where it hurts. (Where exactly do you hit a hornet to make it hurt?) They are going to miss his defense as an option to contain Dwyane Wade. They are going to miss his ability to hit the three and be a secondary playmaker on the offensive end. Coach Steve Clifford will either move Frank Kaminsky or Jeremy Lin into the starting lineup, but both are going to have to have big games for the Hornets to have a chance. I expect Courtney Lee will now draw the Wade assignment and he has to have a big game — Wade has averaged 22 points a game so far. Charlotte also has to do better dealing with the size of the Heat (which is why maybe the 7-footer Kaminsky gets the start). Charlotte was a much better team at home than on the road this season, they will need every bit of that — and a huge game from Kemba Walker — to avoid going down 0-3 in this series and it being all but over.

4) Can the Indiana Pacers contain Jonas Valanciunas? In Game 3 you can say that Valanciunas, battling foul trouble, wasn’t as big a factor with nine points and 14 rebounds — but he was +16. For the series, the Raptors are outscoring the Pacers by 3.9 points per 100 possessions when Valanciunas is on the court. Ian Mahinmi did better in Game 3, but the Pacers need to be able to contain him and Luis Scola on the boards (especially offensive) and make the Raptors bigs work harder on the defensive end. I wonder if Frank Vogel will start rookie Myles Turner (as he did in the second half of Game 3). For all his rookie mental lapses, Turner brings some offense and energy the Pacers need if this series is going to head back to Toronto 2-2. The Pacers need to handle the Raptors’ size.

5) Can somebody give Paul George a little help here? DeMarre Carroll had his best game by far these playoffs in Game 3, and it’s no coincidence that George was just 6-of-19 shooting in that game. George is still going to have to do a lot (he had 25 points and six assists in Game 3) but if Carroll is bodying up the Pacers’ No. 1 option then Monta Ellis, George Hill and the rest of them need to step up and knock down more shots. The Pacers could use more minutes and a big night from C.J. Miles. Indiana just needs to find more offense and it can’t all come from George.