Kurt Helin

Jamal Crawford hits game-winning three lifting Clippers past Jazz (VIDEO)

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The night started looking like a break for the Jazz — they could use a win in their quest to make the playoffs, and the visiting Clippers decided to rest their big three of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan.

But they didn’t rest Jamal Crawford.

The guy making his seemingly annual Sixth Man of the Year push had 30 points on 20 shots, including this game-winning three over Derrick Favors to give Los Angeles a 102-99 win.

This leaves the Jazz in the eighth seed in the West (the final playoff spot), one game ahead of the nine seed Rockets with three to play. Utah’s magic number is three (either their wins or Houston losses) to clinch a playoff spot. Houston has a soft schedule left and should win out, although they also just lost to the lowly Suns so anything can happen. If Utah wins their final three games, they’re in. However, it’s not an easy lineup: Denver (which is playing better of late), Dallas (both teams with playoffs on the line), and the Lakers on the road (Kobe Bryant‘s last game, so it could get interesting).

Reggie Jackson scores 39 points, Pistons clinch playoff spot

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Reggie Jackson and Aron Baynes pushed the Detroit Pistons into the playoffs.

Jackson had 39 points and nine assists, Baynes hit eight fourth-quarter free throws and the Pistons clinched their first postseason spot in seven years with a 112-99 victory over the Washington Wizards on Friday night.

“This is huge, especially to give all of our other starters a chance to finally make it,” Jackson said.

He then pointed to coach Stan Van Gundy.

“It’s also great for Coach,” Jackson said. “In two years, he’s turned this whole franchise around, and that’s why we made sure he was part of the celebration.”

Andre Drummond started the post-game festivities by dumping an ice tub over Van Gundy, and that made it open season.

“We were getting him with bottles of water, ice bags and anything we could find,” Jackson said. “He’s the one who got us here.”

Van Gundy was in a sweatsuit by the time he made it to his post-game press conference.

“Thank God it was only ice water,” he said. “This is a special year for me, because it is the first time for our ownership, the first time for four of our starters, and the end of a long drought for the people that have been with this organization for a long time and seen some great moments. They’ve been waiting to get back.”

Detroit’s last playoff berth came in 2009 when it was swept in the first round by LeBron James and Cleveland. The Pistons will either face James and the Cavaliers again or play second-seeded Toronto.

“Those are two great teams, and I don’t care which one we play,” Van Gundy said. “I just want to finish seventh, because it is better than eighth.”

Detroit had to overcome 29 points from Markieff Morris, who did everything possible to keep twin brother Marcus out of the postseason. Bradley Beal added 25 for the Wizards, who were eliminated by the loss.

“It’s tough to miss out with the talent we have on this team.” Markieff Morris said. “We didn’t have our best player (John Wall), and their best player stepped up for them.”

Marcus Morris had 17 points and nine rebounds in the clincher.

The Wizards had come back from 19 down to take the lead early in the fourth quarter, but Jackson continued to attack on offense. He helped the Pistons take a 100-94 lead with five minutes left, and clinched the game two minutes later.

After grabbing a defensive rebound away from Markieff Morris, Jackson drove the length of the court and hit a jumper. His free throw to finish the three-point play made it 103-96 with 2:45 left.

That brought the crowd to its feet, where they stayed as the Pistons ran out the clock.

Knowing what was at stake, even coach Stan Van Gundy couldn’t be sure if his team would come out relaxed or pressing to finish things off. The question was answered when they hit their first six 3-point attempts, three by Harris, to take a 39-25 lead at the end of the first quarter.

The Pistons moved the margin to as many as 19 early in the second quarter, but their outside shooting dried up just as the Wizards started getting to the basket. Washington scored 20 points in the paint in the second as Drummond struggled to protect the rim.

“You have to give them credit – they came out and shot the lights out in the first quarter,” Wittman said. “After that, we did a good job of taking away the 3-point shot, and we never had an answer for Reggie Jackson.”

The Wizards were down 62-55 at the half, and a 20-point third quarter by Morris, capped off by a 50-foot buzzer-beater, pulled Washington within 86-84 with 12 minutes left.

“I was waiting for Coach to switch me onto him,” his brother said. “He had it going, but I know all his moves.”

A dunk by Morris put Washington up 89-88 with 10 minutes to play, and the Wizards got Andre Drummond out of the game with an intentional foul. He missed both free throws badly — the second was an air ball – and Van Gundy immediately yanked him.

Drummond spent the rest of the game at the end of the bench. He didn’t join team huddles and didn’t celebrate with his teammates down the stretch.

“I gave him a chance, but he missed the first two, and I had a better option on the bench,” said Van Gundy, who dragged Drummond into the post-game celebration. “He’s really frustrated with the whole thing, having to come out of the game. This is a kid who is an All-Star, and he can’t help his team because of one thing he does poorly.”

TIP INS

Wizards: Even with the playoffs on the line, John Wall was forced to sit out the game with a sore left knee. … Markieff Morris’ 20-point third quarter was the biggest of the season by a Wizards player.

Pistons: Paul George had a 21-point quarter against the Pistons on Jan. 2, while Anthony Davis had two 19-point quarters in his 59-point game at the Palace on Feb. 21.

 

Report: Suns coaching search wide open; interim coach Earl Watson may be man to beat

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The rumors have started: Thursday came the report that the Phoenix Suns have their eye on Villanova coach Jay Wright to take over the head job.

That’s probably true, in the “let’s reach out to him and see if there is any mutual interest/fit and go from there” kind of way (Wright has said he’s not interested, but don’t think he won’t leverage NBA interest into a larger contract). But the reality is the Suns’ coaching search is wide open, and the current front-runner — and player favorite — may be interim coach Earl Watson.

From Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic.

Many insiders believe Wright will stay with his roots and that he would be a pricey pursuit for a NBA team, perhaps helping his leverage at Villanova.

The Suns are preparing a coaching search, which could include current and former NBA coaches. Many also feel that Suns interim head coach Earl Watson is very much in the running to return at the helm.

Watson and GM Ryan McDonough have a good relationship, which is a good thing if you believe that McDonough is safe in his role.

The Suns should roll the dice on a top assistant with promise (there are more than a few out there). This is not a team/market/owner that will attract a Tom Thibodeau or Scott Brooks, but someone had to roll their dice on those guys the first time, and the Suns can be that kind of team. Maybe Earl Watson is that guy. But they need to think player development and a guy who can work with the GM in a holistic way.

We’ll see what they do once the season ends.

Report: Nerlens Noel sued for allegedly trashing rental home

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There’s a reason some landlords are hesitant to rent to college-age men. Because, well, have you ever seen the inside of a fraternity house?

Beware even if those renters are professional basketball players with plenty of cash.

Sixers big man Nerlens Noel is being sued for damaged by a former landlord — and by damages we mean a tornado may have done less damage than the lawsuit alleges. From TMZ ( hat tip CSNPhilly.com):

The 21-year-old Philadelphia 76ers star rented a 4,800 square foot home outside of Philly back in September 2014 — paying $54,000 for a 1 year lease. But he not only trashed the place and left weed throughout the home … he also allegedly threatened the owners after he moved out.

What exactly is alleged?

— “Splashed neon colored sports drinks (such as Gatorade) on the carpets throughout the home.”
— $30,000 in other damage to carpets
— Extreme water damage throughout the home
— Clogged toilets filled with cotton balls and feces
— Broken elevator
— $4,000 in damage to the stove
— damage to the fridge
— damage to the blinds
— damage to dishwasher
— torn window screens

Just as a homeowner, how do you do $4,000 damage to a stove? Use a sledgehammer? Must have been a heck of a stove.

The suit is asking for $75,000 in repairs, including getting rid of the tombstone with “RIP” spray painted on it that the owners allege was left by Noel. TMZ has pictures if you’re curious.

The Sixers’ response?

This sounds like something that gets settled quickly but not before it ends up costing far more in attorney fees than it should.

Agent says Ben Simmons will not play for Australia in Rio Olympics

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The Australians are expected to send plenty of players we know to Rio as they chase a medal at the Olympics: Andrew Bogut, Matthew Dellavedova, Patty Mills, Joe Ingles, Dante Exum (if healthy), and Aron Baynes.

Just don’t expect Ben Simmons to be part of that group.

The projected top pick in the upcoming June draft (although he could fall to second) out of LSU would play key minutes in Rio — if not start — but his agent Rich Paul told Chris Broussard of ESPN the young star is not going to Brazil.

It’s probably the smart move, Simmons has a lot of work do to become NBA ready, particularly on his jumper. He can get some run at Summer League with whatever team drafts him, but those teams will want to get him to work on conditioning programs, reworking that jumper, and defensive positioning, not waiting for him to get back from Brazil.

Expect to see him in Tokyo in 2020. By then he will be trying to promote his brand, and hopefully be making his mark in the league.