Kurt Helin

Blake Griffin, Jamal Crawford

CP3 who? Clippers come from behind to take Game 1 from Rockets on road.

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The Rockets learned the hard way the Clippers — even without Chris Paul — are not the Dallas Mavericks.

It was announced before the game that Paul — the “point god” and quarterback of the Clippers’ offense — would not play Game 1 due to his strained hamstring. With that news, the Rockets did not respect the Clippers. Houston played like all they had to do is show up and they win.

Nope.

Blake Griffin had a triple-double — 26 points, 14 rebounds, 13 assists — and the Clippers hit 11-of-16 three-pointers in the second half while the Rockets turned the ball over 23 times on the night. The result was a 117-101 Los Angeles win.

The Clippers are up 1-0 with a road win heading into Game 2 Wednesday night — when the Clippers might have the best point guard in the game back in the rotation.

“That first half could have gotten away from us and the fact we kinda were able to keep our composure, turn the ball over and only be down four I think,” Clippers’ Doc Rivers said, correctly. “That was the turning point.”

Austin Rivers got the start at the point for the Clippers but the Rockets showed no respect for his shot — he started slow but finished with 17 points and hit 4-of-6 from three. Then Jordan Crawford came in and was making plays. A little while later, Doc went to Lester Hudson for minutes at the point. That’s not good, but the Clippers hung around. It was ugly early as the Clippers shot just 32 percent in the first quarter and were 1-of-10 from three (Rivers making the lone bucket).

But the Rockets didn’t take advantage. Trevor Ariza started out 4-of-4 and scored 11 of the first 15 Houston points, but nobody else could knock down a shot. It was a six-point Rockets lead after one and as Clippers got into their bench Rockets went on 19-5 run to take a 13-point lead. Meanwhile, the Clippers looked out of sync — Griffin, J.J. Redick, and Matt Barnes are rhythm shooters who missed Paul setting them up.

The turnovers made it an ugly game, and it was 50-46 Rockets at the half. The Rockets had their chance and didn’t take advantage. As the game got tight late the Rockets seemed to panic, going away from their offense and what worked.

In the second half the Clippers went on runs — a 12-0 and a 10-0, both in the fourth quarter — as they started to run the offense through Griffin. The All-Star power forward showed off how far his game has developed from his rookie year when he could just dunk — Griffin is a very good passer, reads the game well, and has great ball handling skills. The Rockets didn’t have an answer.

As the game got tight late the Rockets seemed to panic, going away from their offense and what worked.

“They had more of an edge; we did not play very well,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale understated. “I didn’t believe our effort was, huh, for a second round game trying to hold home court…. they had more energy than we did…

“There are no excuses, they played better than we did.”

The Clippers loaded up on James Harden, and he had 20 points on 6-of-13 shooting — not a horrible night but he has a history of struggling against quality playoff defenses, and that is still a legitimate concern. Dwight Howard had 22 points on 13 shots (and five blocked shots) but had to work for all of it against DeAndre Jordan. Trevor Ariza added 17 points.

With the Clippers loading up on Harden the Rockets needed to knock down their threes or find baseline cutters, but they did not. Houston was an okay 11-of-33 from three, but it wasn’t enough. In addition, some guys just missed looks: Corey Brewer was 0-0f-4 on uncontested looks. Plus they didn’t take advantage of the Clipper turnovers (21 of them): The Clippers had 34 points off turnovers, the Rockets 21.

The Clippers just made plays — and the Houston defense was not good enough. Griffin hit 8-of-14 contested shots while Matt Barnes hit 6-of-8 uncontested looks. Los Angeles had six players in double figures: Griffin with 26, Jamal Crawford with 21, Matt Barnes with 20, J.J. Redick and Austin Rivers with 17, and DeAndre Jordan with 10 points (and 13 rebounds).

“It looked like we were being reactive to what they were doing all night, it didn’t look like we were proactive,” McHale said.

The Clippers are now in control of the series. They could consider resting Chris Paul for Game 2, knowing that even if the series is tied they will be coming back home for two with the chance to own the series.

Houston had a chance in Game 1 to take control of the series, and they didn’t play with the focus needed to take care of business. Their road back in this series is now a long and winding one.

Stephen Curry accepts MVP Award, thanks family, talks journey (VIDEO)

Stephen Curry
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Monday it became official: Stephen Curry is the NBA’s Most Valuable Player.

He accepted the award at a ceremony at the Warriors’ facility Monday. Above are the highlights; I’m not sure we have the bandwidth to show everyone he thanked. It was a genuine, touching speech talking about his father, former NBA sharpshooter Dell Curry, as well as his family. He also talked about the obstacles he had to overcome to get to that podium.

Curry’s story is one of player development, of determination, of putting in the effort, and then coming into an NBA and a team that bet on him (remember the early ankle injuries?) and knew how to best take advantage of those skills.

Former Knick, current Grizzly Beno Udrih says Marc Gasol not New York kind of guy

Portland Trail Blazers v Memphis Grizzlies - Game Five
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The Knicks and Lakers are big brands in big markets with some big cash to spend this summer on free agents — and both are going big game hunting. They want to land the best players out there on the market.

Marc Gasol is one of those guys. He is arguably the best center in the game today, and he would be a perfect fit as a triangle big because of his passing and midrange game.

But don’t bet on him being a Knick, says former Knick and current Gasol teammate in Memphis Beno Udrih, speaking to the fantastic Jered Zwerling of Bleacher Report.

That same logic should apply to the Lakers.

Remember, Gasol came to the United States and played his high school ball in Memphis — his family moved there after older brother Pau Gasol was drafted by the Hawks then traded to the Grizzlies (for Brevin Knight and Lorenzen Wright, BTW). He has deep ties to Memphis. Plus he is playing for a borderline contender, a team that can and will offer him a longer and richer contract than the Knicks (or Lakers) can. Let’s put it this way, nobody I’ve talked to around the league thinks Gasol is leaving Memphis (San Antonio being the one team that could maybe tempt him slightly).

LaMarcus Aldridge on the other hand

PBT Extra: Stephen Curry is the MVP for a modern NBA

Memphis Grizzlies v Golden State Warriors - Game One
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Stephen Curry is a different kind of MVP.

Usually, the award goes to the physical freaks — LeBron James, Kevin Durant, etc.. — but that is not Curry. Rather he is the perfect point guard for a modern NBA offense — he can space the floor with his shooting, he can play with the ball or off the ball, and he plays a high IQ game.

In the next few years the physical freaks will win more MVPs — we can throw the future ones Anthony Davis rounds up in that group — but Curry is something unique.

PBT Extra: Can Jimmy Butler have success slowing LeBron James?

Chicago Bulls v Cleveland Cavaliers
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Nobody is going to stop LeBron James; he remains the single best player walking the face of the earth. After his mid-season hiatus, he has played like it.

But the Chicago Bulls have the second best one-on-one defender to throw at LeBron James in Jimmy Butler. (Kawhi Leonard gets the top spot.) Out on the perimeter, Butler can make life difficult for LeBron (again, as much as anyone can, LeBron shot 64 percent on contested shots in the first round).

The problem is LeBron is so strong he can post Butler up, and with a lot of LeBron at the four that could be trouble for the Bulls. The Cavs flexibility is key for them in this series.