Kurt Helin

Three Takeaways from NBA Thursday: Stan Van Gundy is frustrated man


Maybe Thursday was a rough day, but things always could be worse — you could be the guy who tried to snort cocaine during a traffic stop by police. But if, as part of your rough day, you missed what happened around the NBA Thursday, we’ve got you covered. Here is what you need to know:

1) Anthony Davis goes off leading Pelican’s win; Stan Van Gundy almost goes off after game.
Anthony Davis came out Thursday night and played like a guy who was pissed he could lose $23 million — he was not voted an All-Star Game starter. If he does not make one of the three All-NBA teams voted by coaches at the end of the season, he will not qualify for the “Rose Rule” on his max contract extension that kicks in next season, and it will cost him that $23 million. You’d be pissed, too. So Davis took it out on the Pistons, dropping 32 points on 23 shots, seven rebounds, and two blocks on them in a comfortable New Orleans win.

Pistons’ coach Stan Van Gundy was none too happy with his team’s effort in the loss.

Detroit is currently the six seed in the East, but they are just 1.5 games from falling out of the playoffs in a deep and crowded conference. Teams that close to falling out can’t be as inconsistent night-to-night as the Pistons have been. Interestingly, in his postgame comments, Brandon Jennings said Detroit misses having a veteran leader in the locker room that keeps guys focused and serious. Feels like he’s right about that.

2) Cavaliers get a quality win; Clippers get more questions. In the wake of getting run out of the building Monday by the Warriors (and losing to the Spurs last week), the Cavaliers’ have faced a lot of questions. What’s been surprising is their offense — which everyone expected to be dominant — was one of them. For a night anyway, the Cavaliers answered the questions on the offensive end Thursday — the team shot 50.6 percent, dished out 29 assists and picked up a 115-102 win over the Clippers. Every Cleveland starter finished in double figures scoring, led by J.R. Smith with 22 points. Kyrie Irving had 21 points, and Kevin Love added 18 points and 16 rebounds.

And when the Clippers did get the lead down to six in the fourth quarter, Cavs coach David Blatt — who before the game criticized the strategy — went to hack-a-Jordan, sending DeAndre Jordan to the free throw line and dragging the game down into the muck. Adam Silver, we’re looking to you to start leading on this issue.

Are the Clippers contenders? It’s a question Ben Bolch of the LA Times and I tackled in the latest PBT Podcast, but they didn’t look like it Thursday. Los Angeles had won 11-of-12 coming in and showed promise, but a tweet by Dan Wokie of the Orange County Register sums up the problem for the Clips against the top nine teams in the league.

The recent struggles remind me of the ones from the first month or so of the season, right Ben?

3) All-Star starters named, and it almost became the Zaza Pachulia show.
The official announcement of the NBA All-Star Game starters for the Feb. 14 game in Toronto were made Friday, and there were no major surprises. Here’s the list:

East: Dwyane Wade, Kyle Lowry, LeBron James, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony

West: Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard

Lowry and Leonard made a leap during the final week of voting (passing Kyrie Irving and Draymond Green) to become starters, but both of them are having All-Star level seasons so that’s not news. What would have been news was Dallas big man Pachulia’s push — he picked up nearly 200,000 votes in the final week and came within 14,000 votes of beating out Leonard and getting the start. That has already set some off questioning letting a fan vote pick the starters — relax people, it’s an exhibition. A show for the fans. Give the people what they want — even if what they want is Pachulia.

DeMarcus Cousins has 24 points, 15 rebounds as Kings beat Hawks 91-88

Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) works for position against Atlanta Hawks defender Tiago Splitter during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016. The Kings won 91-88. (AP Photo/Steve Yeater)
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — DeMarcus Cousins had 24 points and 15 rebounds to help the Sacramento Kings beat Atlanta 91-88 Thursday night for their fourth straight win and first against the Hawks in nearly eight years.

Rajon Rondo made a clutch basket in the fourth quarter and had his fifth triple double of the season with 11 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds for the Kings.

Sacramento had dropped 15 straight games to Atlanta since a 119-107 victory Feb. 20, 2008.

Ben McLemore had 14 points, Omri Casspi had 13 and Willie Cauley-Stein contributed 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Kings. Sacramento outhustle the Hawks on boards and held a 56-42 edge.

Paul Millsap had 14 points and 14 rebounds for Atlanta, which had its three-game win streak snapped. Dennis Schroder scored 14 points and both Al Horford and Kent Bazemore had 11.

After Cauley-Stein made two free throws, Schroder connected on a 3-pointer to tie the score at 88 with 28.5 seconds left. Rondo put the Kings back in the lead with a layup along the baseline after taking a handoff from Cousins.

Following a turnover by Horford, Darren Collison made 1 of 2 free throws to put the Kings up 91-88. The Hawks failed to get a shot off to end the game.

The Kings went ahead by 17 points in the third quarter and were up by nine heading into the fourth. But the Hawks tied it at 76 with 13-4 run to open the fourth quarter.

McLemore had a four-point play and Casspi followed with a 3 to highlight 18 consecutive points by the Kings, who took a 67-50 lead with just over 4 minutes left in the third quarter.


Hawks: Reserve forward Mike Scott has made at least one 3-pointer in 10 of the past 11 games. … The Hawks didn’t have a player in double figures until Millsap made a short jumper at the 4:16 mark of the third quarter.

Kings: Sacramento was missing second-leading scorer Rudy Gay, who was out with a heel injury that occurred Wednesday against the Lakers. … Cousins had 13 points and 10 rebounds by halftime in recording his ninth straight double-double and his 24th this season in 34 games. … A rookie, Cauley-Stein had his first double-double Wednesday against the Lakers and added another one against Atlanta.


LeBron James, Kevin Love lead Cavaliers past Clippers, 115-102

Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James, front right, drives past Los Angeles Clippers' Chris Paul in the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016, in Cleveland.  The Cavaliers won 115-102. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
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CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James had 22 points and 12 assists, J.R. Smith made six 3-pointers and the Cleveland Cavaliers took care of one of the Western Conference’s top teams, beating the Los Angeles Clippers 115-102 on Thursday night.

Kevin Love added 18 points and 16 rebounds for the Cavs, playing their first home game since being embarrassed in a 34-point loss to Golden State on Monday in a rematch of last year’s NBA Finals. They bounced back with a win at Brooklyn on Wednesday, but the Nets aren’t the Clippers, who came in 11-1 in their past 12.

Kyrie Irving had 21 points for Cleveland, which has won 13 of 14 against Los Angeles.

Chris Paul scored 30 and J.J. Redick 17 for the Clippers. Los Angeles made only six 3-pointers after knocking down 22 on Monday against Houston. The Clippers were again without star forward Blake Griffin (torn quadriceps).

In the second half, Cleveland intentionally fouled Los Angeles center DeAndre Jordan, who went just 6 of 15 from the line.

The Clippers trimmed a 16-point deficit to six in the fourth, but Love and Smith made two 3-pointers apiece in a span of 2:08 to put the Cavs back in control.

Unlike some Cleveland fans, James, who was voted to the All-Star team for the 12th time in 13 seasons, didn’t overreact to the ugly loss against Golden State. He chalked it up to a bad night and said the Cavs simply needed to get better.

And while they’re 0-3 against Golden State and San Antonio, the Cavs have been solid against everyone else.

With Cleveland leading 79-70 in the third and in a good rhythm offensively, coach David Blatt ordered James Jones to foul Jordan, who entered the game shooting only 42 percent from the free throw line.

Earlier, Blatt had said he didn’t particularly care for the “hacking” strategy, but he implemented it – and it worked.

Jones committed four fouls on Jordan in a span of 1:21. The Clippers’ big man made just 3 of 8 free throws and the Cavs stretched their lead to 88-72 when Jordan was called for goaltending on a short shot by James.

During his pregame news conference, Blatt was defensive about the criticism aimed at his team following Monday night’s blowout loss to the defending NBA champions.

“We didn’t get here right now by being a bad team or by having all these problems that suddenly surface when you have a bad game,” he said. “We work pretty hard to be in first place in our conference and with some very good wins under our belt and with players finally getting back and being healthy.

“Again, that guarantees nothing, but it shouldn’t be overlooked either. I don’t think it’s fair.”

Fair or not, the Cavs are under the microscope during a season in which anything shy of a league title will be viewed as failure.


Clippers: Griffin will also sit out Friday’s game in New York and Sunday’s against Toronto. His workouts have increased in their intensity of late and it’s possible he will return on Tuesday when the Clippers visit Indiana. … Coach Doc Rivers has experienced both sides of the Hack-a-player strategy. He’d like to see the NBA abolish it. “It’s bad for the league,” he said. “It looks bad.” … Redick came in shooting 50 percent (103 of 206) on 3-pointers. “That’s crazy,” Rivers said. “I had a 53 percent year from the free-throw line.”

Cavaliers: Irving (580,651) finished third in All-Star voting among East guards, trailing Miami’s Dwyane Wade (941,466) and Toronto’s Kyle Lowry (646,441), who overcame a 32,000-vote deficit to pass Irving in the final days of balloting. … Cleveland is in a stretch where it will play 10 of 13 games at home, where it is 16-2 this season. … Smith (1,564) passed Glen Rice (1,559) for 19th place on the career 3-point list.


Dallas’ Zaza Pachulia just missed being voted All-Star Game starter, beats out Draymond Green

Dallas Mavericks center Zaza Pachulia, right, talks with forward Dirk Nowitzki during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls, Friday, Jan. 15, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
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The NBA almost had its own John Scott. He’s the veteran NHL enforcer who has some fans but no real business being part of an All-Star Game, yet the power of a social media voting campaign swept him into a captaincy in one of the sport’s biggest stages. He’s an All-Star.

Zaza Pachulia was almost that for the NBA.

The fallback option for the Mavericks after DeAndre Jordan changed his mind last summer, Pachulia got a gigantic boost from overseas voting (including his native Georgia) and with a massive late push came within 14,000 votes of beating out Kawhi Leonard for the final starting slot in the Western Conference frontcourt. That drive led Pachulia past Draymond Green for the fourth spot in the All-Star voting.

3. Kawhi Leonard (SA) 782,339
4. Zaza Pachulia (Dal) 768,112
5. Draymond Green (GS) 726,616

Green still will be an All-Star, the coaches will vote him in (that will be announced next week). Pachulia — while having the best season of his career averaging 10.5 points and 10.8 rebounds — is not going to get an invite.

Pachulia said he still was touched, he told ESPN.

“What I’m thankful is that fans, without me asking anybody, they took it to this level. I was so close. It’s just an amazing feeling. I feel loved. That’s more important to me than being an All-Star, honestly. It’s not easy to be an All-Star, but it’s even more difficult to be loved by so many people and have so many people have your back, especially a guy coming from a small country like Georgia.”

Not only did the people of his native Georgia have his back but also so did rapper Wyclef Jean.

All of it earned Pachulia more votes than his Mavericks’ teammate Dirk Nowitzki, or Blake Griffin, or Tim Duncan, or Anthony Davis, or DeMarcus Cousins.

Did Pachulia earn that volume of votes with his play on the court? No. Then again, did Kobe Bryant? Dwyane Wade?

It’s an exhibition, and the fans should see who they want to see — give the people what they want. And if they rally and decide they want to see Zaza Pachulia, so be it. This is a meaningless exhibition game, nobody is playing defense, so just have fun with it. It’s not like the NBA stakes home-court advantage in the NBA Finals on the outcome of a midseason All-Star Game, that would be ludicrous.

Chris Paul pull-up sends Matthew Dellavedova to the ground (VIDEO)


Chris Paul had another good game: 30 points on 19 shots, plus he dished out nine assists.

And, at one point he just dropped the Cavaliers’ Matthew Dellavedova to the ground.

But them Paul missed the shot, which seemed to sum up the Clippers night. CP3 did his share, and J.J. Redick added 17, but the rest of the Clipper starters were overwhelmed by the Cavaliers. And the Clippers need their starters to thrive because the bench is not something that can be counted on, as Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times and I discussed in the latest PBT Podcast. Also, the Clipper defense regressed.

Meanwhile, the Cavaliers are playing with some urgency in the wake of Monday night’s loss to the Warriors. They earned a comfortable win 115-102 thanks to balance — all five starters scored in double figures.