Kurt Helin

Blake Griffin doing “some shooting,” still no return date

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The Clippers have kept right on winning without Blake Griffin, but they are not going to be the same threat in the playoffs without him. The question is how many games he would have back before the end of the season for the team to readjust to him in the lineup.

No date is set, but Dan Woike of the Orange Country Register reports it is getting closer.

Remember, once medically cleared to return Griffin has to sit out a four-game suspension for the league from the incident where he broke his hand punching a Clipper employee during a dinner in Toronto.

The rumored target is to have him back in time for a rough five-game road trip that starts March 15 in San Antonio (the game on March 13 has the Clippers hosting Cleveland). If he returns for that game, he would play in 17 games before the end of the season, certainly enough time to shake off the rust and get his wind back.

Just something to watch as we move forward. The Clippers are not in a huge rush as they have not lost consecutive games since his injury.

Mark Cuban thinks NBA should consider moving three-point line back

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On average, the NBA is shooting 35.2 percent from three this season. In the past 15 years, both players and game strategy have evolved to take advantage of the extra point afford a three. Teams are both taking more threes and becoming m0re efficient at making them. It has opened up the floor, especially now with big men who need to be respected all the way out to the arc.

Is the 23’9″ that the NBA three-point too close for a modern NBA player?

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban thinks maybe. Here is what he told Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

Mark Cuban says the NBA should consider moving the 3-point line back to open up the court more. He thinks it would also encourage players to develop a midrange game.

Stephen Curry says to ahead and move it to 28 feet, he’ll just keep shooting. And hitting.

There are logistical questions here, such as do you take away the corner three or just extend the top of the arc out higher? How much farther back? But the bigger questions are philosophical — d Is there a tipping point where it becomes bad for the game and it’s entertainment value? Are we anywhere near that point?

The change may have players shooting a few more midrange jumpers as they adapt to the new distance, but there would be unintended consequences as well. It’s the kind of thing we would see in the D-League for a season or two before it was considered for the NBA.

Watch Kyle Lowry drop career-high 43 on Cavaliers in Raptors win

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The Toronto Raptors have beaten the Cleveland Cavaliers two out of the three times they have met this season. I’d be careful trying to extrapolate from regular season matchups what would happen in the playoffs, but if these two meet in the Eastern Conference Finals it may not be the whitewash some fans expect.

To get the Raptors win Friday night took a career-high 43 points from Kyle Lowry. He did everything for Toronto, including defending Kyrie Irving well and dishing out nine assists. It was a monster performance.

I know there is a “wait and see” attitude with some about the Raptors, who have won just one playoff series in their franchise history (back in the Vince Carter era), but this is the season they should advance to the second round. Or beyond.

Watch Kemba Walker split Indiana defense for game-winning lay-up

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This is well played by Kemba Walker, who uses his speed to split the Pacers’ defense and get the layup that gave the Hornets a needed win in their fight to make the playoffs.

However, this also is bad Indiana defense — from a couple usually good pick-and-roll defenders. Ian Mahinmi should not have shown out and extended that far from the basket (this isn’t Stephen Curry with the ball) and by doing so he created a lane for Walker to drive. To his credit, after the game Mahinmi owned up to his mistake. But I’m not letting George Hill completely off the hook, he got hung up on Cody Zeller‘s screen and could never recover.

Walker and the Hornets are now tied with Chicago for the final two playoff spots in the East, just half a game behind Indiana.

Kyle Lowry scores career-high 43 as Raptors beat Cavaliers, 99-97

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TORONTO (AP) — Kyle Lowry had a big smile after capping off a career night by hitting the clinching basket in the closing seconds.

Lowry finished with a career-best 43 points to help the Toronto Raptors beat the Eastern Conference-leading Cleveland Cavaliers 99-97 Friday night.

“My first game winner in my illustrious 10-year career,” he said, noting that he was at Villanova that last time he’d done that.

Terrence Ross added 15 for Toronto, which won its 10th straight at home to tie a franchise record previously set between March 24 and Nov. 4, 2002.

LeBron James, who scored 25, had a chance to win the game with a late 3-pointer, but his shot missed the rim completely as time expired.

Kevin Love added 20 for the Cavaliers, who had their lead over Atlantic Division-leading Toronto in the East cut to two games, and conceded the playoff seeding tie-breaker to Toronto, with the Raptors clinching the season series 2-1.

Lowry played down his individual effort though, which bettered the 41 he put up against Golden State on Dec. 5.

“The bigger deal is that we won the game, that’s all that matters,” he said. “I think we grew tonight but we’ve got the team to get better. Now we’ve put our efforts into Detroit and worry about Detroit.”

Lowry’s 15-for-20 performance also helped make up for an ineffective night from the team’s top scorer, DeMar DeRozan, who was suffering from flu-like symptoms and was held to a season-low six points.

Dwane Casey had insisted all day that this top-two matchup was just another game, and not a possible playoff preview, and he refused to change his tune following the victory.

“Again, it is just one game,” he said. “If we come back and stub our toe on Sunday (against the Pistons)what does it mean? Nothing, zero, it is one of 82.”

In the Cleveland dressing room, Love disagreed about the importance of the game.

“Anybody who says it wasn’t is lying to you,” he said when asked if it was a big game, particularly with the playoff tiebreaker on the line. “We knew coming in it was going to be a hostile environment away from home, they’re a very good team and had won nine in a row before tonight so we knew they were going to be tough to beat and it was no different.”

Despite leading for almost the entire game, Cleveland faltered down the stretch, allowing Toronto to tie the game with 3:03 left courtesy of a 9-0 run over 90 seconds. For James, it was the kind of performance the team has to learn from.

“It’s mental mistake after mental mistake and those hurt more than anything when you can play better mentally,” he said. “People get so caught up in the physical side of the game, we lack mental (strength) right now and we’ve got to continue to get better with it.”

THROWING THOMAS

Former NFL MVP and Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas was at the game, zipping signed footballs into the crowd with the kind of compact spirals that almost made you forget the Buffalo Bills great was a running back and not a quarterback.

BENCH MARK

The Raptors’ reserves combined to outscore the Cavaliers’ backups 37-23, highlighted by 15 from Ross and another 11 from Bismack Biyombo.

MILESTONE MAN

DeRozan appeared in his 500th game with Toronto on Friday, becoming the fourth Raptors player to reach the milestone – joining Morris Peterson, Jose Calderon and Chris Bosh. He received a video tribute and a standing ovation when the milestone was announced in the first quarter.

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: Mo Williams (left knee) sat out the game. … Cleveland is 43 of 86 from 3-point range against the Raptors this season, well above its season average of 10.1 made 3s per game. When asked if he looked for a certain number of 3s, coach Tyronn Lue said, “Not a number just open 3s. We don’t want to force shots and take really quick shots contested, but when we get our chance to get our shot and take our shot we want to take it.”

Raptors: With his two 3-pointers, Lowry tied Andrea Bargnani (579) for second on the franchise’s all-time list, and now trails only Peterson (801). … Valanciunas left game in third quarter after being elbowed in the ribs by James and headed to the dressing room for a rib/diaphragm exam. He returned to the bench later in the quarter and was back on the floor in the fourth. … Toronto has now won 26 consecutive games when holding opponents to fewer than 100 points, the second-longest streak in team history, and one shy of tying the franchise record.