Kurt Helin

Associated Press

Five Takeaways from NBA Sunday: LeBron has Cavaliers taking care of business

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What you missed on a Sunday around the NBA while you were busy trying to get your pet tiger out of traffic lanes….

LOS ANGELES — 1) Cavaliers focus on their “business trip,” take care of Clippers with ease. Before tip off Sunday at Staples Center, Doc Rivers was talking about the early start time (12:30 p.m. on the day of the time change, so everyone felt groggy) and if that would impact the game and said he “hoped Los Angeles had done its job.” The L.A. nightlife has softened up many a team for the home team over the years.

LeBron James made sure that didn’t happen. He sat down with teammates and told them this was a business trip (as Chris Haynes reported) — go ahead and enjoy the couple days in L.A. but remember why you’re here.

“Guys understood what this trip was about,” James said postgame. “This is a business trip, and they get an opportunity to be in a great city but at the end of the day, we knew what the main thing was and that was to continue the momentum that we’ve been on. We came out and took care of business.”

The Cavaliers did just that — they looked like a contender in “manhandling” (Doc Rivers’ word) the Clippers from the middle of the first quarter on. Cleveland was sharp on defensive rotations and pressuring the ball, on offense LeBron and Kyrie Irving drove the lane and did a good job kicking the ball out to open shooters when the defense collapsed, the Cavaliers made the extra pass, and they knocked down their shots — 18 three-pointers for the Cavs on 48 percent shooting from three. Cleveland coasted to a 114-90 win, looking every bit the best team in the East and a title contender gearing up for the playoffs.

2) Clippers need to have Blake Griffin for the playoffs. The other thing that was clear at Staples Center Sunday afternoon? Against elite teams, the Clippers miss Blake Griffin. Their up-tempo, share-the-ball, spread pick-and-roll style with Chris Paul dominating the show can beat a lot of teams without Griffin, but go up against an elite team and the dynamic changes. The Clippers’ loss Sunday was evident in the forward matchups: LeBron James and Kevin Love vs. Luc Mbah a Moute and Jeff Green. The Laker combo combined for 3-of-15 shooting.

“It gets real tough (playing without Griffin),” Paul said. “They have three, four guys out there that no shot clock can bail you out (of). Just having Blake to be able to throw the ball into the post, when the shot clock is low, or just that pick-and-roll, just having that pick-and-pop option. Just all the attention that he brings opens it up for all of is. So it has been tough without him, but we have to keep fighting until he gets back.”

There still is no timetable for his return, Doc Rivers said. While his broken hand is doing better, the quad tendon injury that sidelined Griffin for a few games before he punched a Clipper team employee (breaking that hand) still lingers and is the bigger issue now, Rivers said. They are being cautious, but remember Griffin has a four-game suspension to serve for that punch once he is medically cleared.

3) Giannis Antetokounmpo puts up triple double against Nets, continues run of strong play. If you are not watching the Nets and point-forward Giannis Antetokounmpo now, you are missing out. The Bucks have become a lot of fun again. The Greek Freak put up a triple-double of 28 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds on Brooklyn Sunday, his fourth triple-double of the season. And the Bucks won again, they remain hot.

4) Knicks Jose Calderon drains game winner to beat Lakers. All the hype was about the last meeting of Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony. Or Kobe telling Knicks fans they should trust the brilliant mind of Phil Jackson. But with the game on the line, it was the mano-a-mano battle of Jose Calderon and Marcelo Huertas. Well, it became that after about the ugliest inbounds/last second play in NBA history. But Calderon pulled up and nailed the three, and New York gets another win.

5) DeMarcus Cousins and George Karl remain at odds in Sacramento. There is a lot of frustration in Sacramento right now — owner Vivek Ranadive all but demanded a playoff team so that the Kings’ playoff drought didn’t reach double digits in years, plus the team would have momentum going into their new building next year. Instead, they are a mess with a lot of infighting — after Sunday’s loss DeMarcus Cousins said his one-game suspension was not the organization coming down on him but it was Karl. Even though the suspension came from GM Vlade Divac.

Ranadive can be frustrated, but he needs to look in the mirror. He got rid of Mike Malone just as Malone was genuinely building a culture of winning, plus he had bonded with Cousins in a way no other coach had (look at the culture Malone has built in Denver — Emmanuel Mudiay dropped 30 on Sunday and Denver won again). Ranadive fired him and eventually brought in Karl because he wanted a team that would run, even though the roster is not built for that in the least. The result is a frustrated superstar who doesn’t like the coach, plus a lot of losses. Vlade Divac may not be ready for the day-to-day intricacies of being a GM, but the man also is trying to navigate a minefield of the owners’ making. This summer the Kings need to choose Karl or Cousins, then actually build a roster to play that style and stick with it for a few years. We’ll see if that happens.

DeMarcus Cousins says his suspension was George Karl, not organization

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Vlade Divac, and ultimately Kings’ owner Vivek Ranadive, have a choice to make this summer: George Karl or DeMarcus Cousins.

The latest sign of a the fault line between Sacramento’s star center and their coach — a feud that goes back to Karl pushing to trade Cousins and his tweets in response this summer, a fissure that was never fully closed — came after the Kings’ loss to the Jazz Sunday. That was Cousins return from a one-game suspension for berating Karl.

From James Ham of CSNBayArea.com.

“That wasn’t a suspension from the organization, that was one from the head coach,” Cousins said. “There’s a difference.”

It was GM Vlade Divac who had announced the suspension (he also reportedly argued with Cousins that night). Here is Divac’s response to Cousins’ comments, via Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports.

When told of Cousins’ view of the suspension, Divac told Yahoo Sports with a huge grin: “I love DeMarcus Cousins. That is my only comment.”

We don’t have room on the Internet to cover everything the Kings need to start doing differently as an organization, but this summer it begins with choosing a direction (then sticking with it for a few years). If they want to build around Cousins, Karl and his up-tempo style need to go. If they want to be a running team in a Karl style, they need to work with Cousins on a trade and make wholesale roster changes to get players who fit that style. Either way, there needs to be some serious roster changes.

But the Karl/Cousins dynamic isn’t working. That much is clear.

Knicks’ Jose Calderon drains game-winning three to beat Lakers (VIDEO)

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If the Knicks were asking Jose Calderon to defend a game-winning shot, it probably doesn’t go very well. But the guy is shooting 40 percent from three this season.

The Lakers had come back from 16 back to make it a game, one that was tied 87-87 with 9.3 seconds left. The Knicks had Calderon inbounding the ball, with the plan to get the ball to Carmelo Anthony. However, the Lakers double-teamed him from the start and denied that option. As an outlet Calderon threw the ball to Robin Lopez out high, but the pass almost went into the backcourt and the entire play blew up, the spacing was shot, and the Knicks were scrambling. This was just an ugly mess. Lopez just gave the ball back to Calderon.

Calderon drove right but Marcelo Huertas was caught off guard when Calderon pulled up, and that gave the Knick point guard a clean look at a three.

Splash.

Knicks win. Which makes some fans in Toronto sad (the Raptors have the Knicks pick this June, although the Nuggets have the right to switch picks with the Knicks, so the Raptors get the worse of the two).

Giannis Antetokounmpo’s fourth triple-double in 11 games leads Bucks

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NEW YORK (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 28 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds, nearly getting his fourth triple-double in the last 11 games by halftime, and the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Brooklyn Nets 109-100 on Sunday night.

Antetokounmpo already had 12 points, nine assists and eight rebounds by the half on his way to becoming the first Bucks player with four triple-doubles in a season. All of them have come since Feb. 22.

Jabari Parker added 23 points, and Khris Middleton had 19 points to help the Bucks win their third straight game.

Brook Lopez scored 20 points for the Nets, who dropped their fourth in a row. Sean Kilpatrick added 19 in his first home game with the Nets after they returned from a franchise-record, nine-game trip.

Data curated by PointAfter

The Nets committed 12 turnovers that led to 17 points in the fourth quarter as Milwaukee seized control after trailing 79-78 through three.

Antetokounmpo, who had a highlight dunk in the first half when he jumped from just near the foul line on the fast break, set up Miles Plumlee‘s dunk that put Milwaukee ahead for good at 99-98 with 3:21 to play. The Bucks kept expanding it from there on a finishing 12-2 run, helped repeatedly by the Nets’ turnovers that sent Antetokounmpo leading a fast break in the other direction.

TIP-INS

Bucks: Because of plane trouble, the Bucks didn’t get into New York until early Sunday afternoon. Their plane wasn’t able to take off Saturday night after their victory over New Orleans in Milwaukee, so they remained there overnight. … Antetokounmpo’s seven assists in the first quarter matched the high for a Bucks player in any period this season.

Nets: Brooklyn was swept in the three-game season series. The Nets dropped the first two in their first seven games of the season. … G Wayne Ellington missed the game with an upper respiratory infection. … Brooklyn wore “Los Nets” jerseys as part of the NBA’s Latin Nights series.

WHERE DID EVERYBODY GO?

Lopez is the only player remaining from the Brooklyn team that Kidd coached to the second round in the 2013-14 season. Kidd got the Bucks job that July in what began the team’s breakup. Paul Pierce wasn’t re-signed and many more moves followed.

“That happens in sports. Change happens all the time, from coaches to players, so the teams that tend to win are the ones who stick together, are together for a long time,” Kidd said. “You look at Golden State, you look at San Antonio, you look at Oklahoma City, those are the teams that are atop the NBA and those are the teams that tend to win, so for Brooklyn or Milwaukee, we’re all trying to strive to be consistent.”

 

Doc Rivers calls Branden Dawson arrest “terrible situation,” says it’s too early for official team action

Cory Morse/The Grand Rapids Press via AP
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LOS ANGELES — As if Doc Rivers didn’t have enough on-the-court issues to deal with — his Clippers got thumped by the Cavaliers Sunday and now head out on a road trip that includes the Spurs and Warriors — he had the arrest of one of his players to deal with Sunday.

Clipper rookie Branden Dawson, who spent most of the season in the D-League, was arrested Sunday morning on charges of felony domestic abuse. Rivers said it was too soon to know what they Clippers would do about it.

“Obviously, it’s an awful situation as far as I’m concerned, I have a daughter,” Doc Rivers said after his team got crushed by the Cavaliers Sunday. “It’s a terrible situation, but we’ll figure out what we want to do and how we want to handle it.”

When pressed on it, noting other teams have suspended players, Rivers said it was simply too early to say how the team would respond.

Dawson was arrested at 8:30 a.m. Sunday morning and was not with the team when they faced the Cavs as he was still in jail until after tip-off. He did not come to the arena.

The Clippers selected Dawson in the second round of the 2015 draft out of Michigan State. He has a non-guaranteed contract for next season with the Clippers.