Kurt Helin

Atlanta Hawks v Brooklyn Nets- Game Four

PBT Extra: Nets focus on Korver, using Brook Lopez made this a series with Hawks

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If the Atlanta Hawks that were undefeated in January were playing in late April, this would be a very different post. But those Hawks seem to have gone the way of the Dodo.

The Brooklyn Nets won two games at home and made it a series with the Hawks by taking a couple steps, something I discuss in this latest PBT Extra. First, coach Lionel Hollins has drawn up a game plan that focuses defensively on slowing Kyle Korver — something Hollins said he didn’t have to do, but actions speak louder than words.

Second, the Nets have worked to exploit Brook Lopez’s size advantage inside against the banged-up front line of the Hawks.

We know what the Nets will do in Game 5, but can the Hawks counter? Or just find some of that January magic again?

Clippers frustrated with officials, themselves, must find way to regroup in 48 hours

Doc Rivers, Josh Tiven
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LOS ANGELES — To a man, the Clippers tried not to blame the officials for their Game 5 loss… but you could tell they wanted to.

“I don’t complain much,” Doc Rivers said, in the quintessential line that tells you complaints are coming. “I thought we got some really tough calls tonight. Some brutal calls. The travel on Blake (Griffin), the goaltend on Matt (Barnes), which wasn’t a goaltend. You think about the playoffs, and they’re single-possession games. Those possessions those were crucial. J.J. (Redick’s) foul that got him (fouled) out, J.J. didn’t touch anyone.

“It’s not why we lost, but those were big plays for us.”

The referees are never the sole reason a team loses, that includes the Clippers on Tuesday night. In this case, the Clippers were 1-of-14 from three, and DeAndre Jordan tipped in a ball over the cylinder that could have had Los Angeles up  with seven seconds to go. (After the game Jordan admitted touching the ball.) There were other plays they missed.

But the Clippers felt the calls in the fourth quarter didn’t go their way and robbed them of some opportunities. They were very frustrated as a team. And they have a point, plenty of calls didn’t go their way that should have — Jamal Crawford got called for bodying Tony Parker on the baseline when Parker hooked his arm around Crawford and pulled him into his body. Rivers was right about the Matt Barnes goaltend, and the Blake Griffin travels being poor calls.

Then there was the technical on Chris Paul, which confused Rivers and the Clippers players — and ended up being costly late.

“I thought if anything, (the technical foul) was a delay of game,” Paul said after the game. “In the other 82 games, it would have been a delay of fame but they didn’t call it.”

While the calls didn’t go their way, the Clippers got frustrated and at moments flustered in a way the Spurs simply don’t when they don’t get the breaks.

“We have to give credit to the Spurs. We’ve got to play through our mistakes,” Paul said.

“I’ll be frustrated all night…” Rivers said. “There’s nothing wrong with frustration. I have no problem with guys being frustrated, you have 48 hours or whatever to get over it, and we will.”

They need to get over it by tip off Thursday night — they can’t afford to have a hangover from this game, fall behind in San Antonio and play catch-up. The Spurs don’t want to make another flight back to Los Angeles, they want to close the game out so Saturday nights they can go to watch Mayweather vs. Pacquiao parties on Saturday. You can be sure the Spurs will bring it.

Can the Clippers?

“Yeah, it’s a gettable game,” Blake Griffin said. “It’s not going to be easy by any means, this is what they do. They’re a great team, a well-coached team, and they’ve been in this situation before. But we’ve also been in tough situations. We’ve also played in some tough games, some games on the road that we needed to win, and we did.

“I expect us to be ready.”

Report: Thunder ‘preparing offer, pushing to hire’ Florida’s Billy Donovan to be next coach

Billy Donovan
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UPDATE 11:03 a.m.: Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reports that the Thunder are preparing an offer for Billy Donovan and pushing him to accept the job as the team’s next head coach. The deal would reportedly need to start in the $6 million per year range in order for Donovan to consider it.

Kevin Durant has reportedly reached out to at least one of Donovan’s former players to do somewhat of a reference check on the coach, and has become “generally positive” about the potential hiring.

7:49 a.m.: Almost from the moment Scott Brooks was fired, the name first mentioned as the frontrunner to fill the vacancy was Florida coach Billy Donovan.

Now Thunder management and Donovan have started formal talks, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Sources told ESPN.com that Donovan and Thunder general manager Sam Presti have opened a dialogue about the position, which became available a week ago after the dismissal of Scott Brooks…

Donovan is the first known candidate to talk with the Thunder about the job. It was not immediately clear how many other candidates, if any, Presti plans to sit down with.

People in front offices around the NBA like Donovan and think he’s a guy who can make the transition from college to the NBA (a door opened again with the success Brad Stevens has had in Boston). Donovan is believed to have the Xs and Os chops, plus he is a strong motivator. Donovan and Presti have a relationship already (Presti has hired a couple people off the Florida staff in recent years). You can add to that rumors floating around the league that Donovan would jump to the NBA for the “right” opportunity — there are not many opportunities that are more “right” than OKC. Even Donovan’s former Gator star Bradley Beal said he thinks his former coach is destined for the NBA.

The Thunder have a lot riding on this hire — Kevin Durant is a free agent in the summer of 2016, Russell Westbrook one year later. If the Thunder are going to keep those guys, they need to either win a title next season or convince the pair they have a better chance of doing that together in OKC than anywhere else.

Which means they need a coach who can elevate this team to a championship level. Brooks can coach, OKC needs to make a “Phil Jackson replaces Doug Collins” or “Steve Kerr replaces Mark Jackson” kind of hire.

Is Presti sure a first-year coach out of the college ranks is they guy who can elevate this team to the highest levels of the NBA? That is a massive gamble.

But the sides are at least discussing it.

 

Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan calls tip in over cylinder “dumb ass play” (VIDEO)

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LOS ANGELES — “It was a dumb ass play.”

That’s how DeAndre Jordan described what of the key moments in the game. The Clippers were down one and time was running out when Blake Griffin drove the lane and put up a shot over Tim Duncan, who had rotated over to help.

Jordan had gone to the basket, looking for either the alley-oop or chance for an offensive rebound. But instead, he tipped in the ball while it was clearly still over the cylinder, voiding the bucket. The mistake cleared the path for the Spurs to get the win and take a 3-2 series lead.

“I was just trying to make a play on the ball, but it ended up being a dumb play,” said Jordan, who admitted touching the ball. Even Clipper coach Doc Rivers said he thought it was the right call.

Would the ball have fallen through the hole on it’s own? We’ll never know for sure. My gut says probably, but some of the replays make it look like the ball would have rolled harmlessly off the rim.

After the game was about as dejected as I can remember seeing the normally energized Jordan, as well as the Clippers locker room. The question now is how fast can they recover and find their stride in a must-win Game 6 Thursday.

Spurs get a little lucky, are plenty good, get road win in Game 5 over Clippers

Blake Griffin, Tim Duncan
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LOS ANGELES — In a close, evenly-played game like this, it comes down to a thousand little things.

For the Clippers, it was death by a thousand cuts: a Chris Paul technical; the team going 1-of-14 from three; letting the Spurs grab a late offensive rebound; calls not going their way; and a tired Blake Griffin having a fantastic game then going 1-of-9 in the fourth quarter due in part to fatigue.

And it was DeAndre Jordan tipping in a ball over the cylinder that was going in on its own.

“It was a dumb ass play… can’t blame anybody for that but me,” Jordan said.

The Spurs just kept executing and making plays: Tim Duncan hitting Boris Diaw for the corner three; Duncan blocking Blake Griffin in the paint (then stripping the ball from him); Manu Ginobili beating out Matt Barnes to get a rebound with the game on the line. And even when the Spurs didn’t execute well, Diaw hit a bail-out 18-foot fadeaway he even described as “lucky.”

It all added up to a 111-107 Spurs win in Staples Center Tuesday night. With the win the Spurs take a 3-2 lead home and will try to close it out in games six Thursday in San Antonio.

It’s tempting to describe the game as just the kind the Spurs find a way to win, but coach Gregg Popovich was not buying that.

“One would assume that experience would help you, but not as much as players making plays,” Popovich said.

Popovich made one key adjustment, putting Duncan on Griffin for key stretches of the game, including the fourth quarter. Most of the season, the Spurs prefered to use Tiago Splitter on Griffin, but with Splitter injured and playing limited minutes it wasn’t working. So Popovich turned to the future Hall of Famer.

Griffin put up numbers — 30 points, 14 rebounds — but he struggled down the stretch. That included a key block then strip by Duncan of Griffin in the paint.

“His timing is just impeccable,” Popovich said. “He has a hard time jumping over the proverbial piece of paper, and he gets in position. He knows where to be. He’s played long enough, he’s got a great basketball IQ, and he has excellent timing, so he reads things well….

“It might have been the play of the game when he blocked that shot.”

That was one. The other was a Griffin basket with :07 seconds left that would have put the Clippers up by one, but was waived off when Jordan touched it over the cylinder.

“I was just trying to make a play on the ball, but it ended up being a dumb play,” said Jordan, who admitted touching the ball.

Early on it seemed this could be a good night for Los Angeles. The Spurs opened the game 4-of-14 shooting, the misses allowing the Clippers to get out and run — and that means high-flying dunks that got the crowd going. Add some bad rotations on defense and things got so weird Popovich called for some zone defense. It was pretty much the dream start for the Clippers, who led by as many as 14… then Doc Rivers went to his bench. That zone and the Clipper bench meant by the end of the quarter it was 27-22 Clippers and felt like a game again.

When the Clippers starters returned, the team went on a run, but this time the Spurs were not going to let the game get away. A seesaw second quarter ended with a 54-53 Clippers lead at the half. Blake Griffin already had 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting, plus eight rebounds.

The Spurs had a vintage Spurs night — Ducan had 21, Kawhi Leonard 18, but the Spurs had eight guys with at least 8 points. Their balance makes them hard to defend.

The Clippers are more top-heavy in their scoring, and in the end Griffin was clearly tired and not making plays. Not that it was his fault the Clippers lost. It was just another of a thousand little cuts.