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Three Things We Learned Thursday: DeMar DeRozan is getting buckets, leading Raptors

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If you were too busy to catch the NBA Thursday night, what between the NCAA tournament and watching birds get high, it’s alright, we’ve got your back. Here are the three big takeaways from Thursday night around the league. 

1) DeMar DeRozan is developing into more than just a scorer, but he still does that too. With Kyle Lowry out, the Raptors are asking a lot more of DeMar DeRozan. He is delivering. He is leading. He had 14 of the Raptors first 20 points Thursday night, shot 67 percent in the first half, and dropped 40 on Heat in Raptors win. This is the second straight 40-point game for DeRozan.

With Dion Waiters out, the Miami Heat are asking a lot more of Goran Dragic. They are not getting it, the team lacks a leader (Hassan Whiteside did have 16 points and 14 boards). That led Heat to a loss Thursday and going 3-2 on a homestand, now they head out on the road for six of their last 10 and the schedule gets tougher.

Miami still has the eight seed in the East, but they are just one game up on Chicago (which has a much easier schedule the rest of the way) and Detroit. If the Heat are going to make the postseason, they need wins on the road. And leadership. And scoring, because Waiters is still in a walking boot.

Toronto remains just half a game back (one in the loss column) from the Washington Wizards in the battle for the three seed. It matters, whichever team ends up fourth gets Cleveland in the second round. Nobody wants that.

2) Clippers fall to Mavericks, that’s gotta sting. Dallas has been a solid team since getting healthy, they are 9-6 since the All-Star break with a top-10 defense in that stretch. They’ve got some fight in them — especially J.J. Barea, who got tossed for a Flagrant 2 Thursday night for going to the head of Blake Giffin.

Still, if you’re the Clippers and trying to rack up wins and get home court in the first round (and make sure the Thunder don’t pass you in the standings in the final 10 games) this is the kind of game you need to win. That’s not going to happen with a sloppy, turnover-filled performance. Not when Devin Harris is atoning for his mistakes by picking Blake Griffin clean on the penultimate possession of the game, sealing the win.

Dallas played with some fire, the Clippers were not sharp, and the Mavs get a 97-95 win that is a blow to the Clippers.

3) Break up the Nets, they have won two in a row.
The Brooklyn Nets aren’t playing terribly. For them. Since the All-Star break, they are 6-9 with an offense ranked in the middle of the pack in the NBA (which is a big step forward), and with a 126-98 win over the Suns the Nets have won two in a row.

Maybe the most interesting thing in this game is the Suns’ rolled out the youngest starting lineup in NBA history: Tyler Ulis, Devin Booker, Derrick Jones Jr., Marquese Chriss, and Alex Len combine to have an average age of 21 years, 14 days (via the Elias Sports Bureau). So for Suns fans looking at a high draft pick this fall, there is that bit of hope.

The Nets were never going to be good this season, but injuries — to Jeremy Lin in particular, but Brook Lopez and others have battled them as well — have robbed them of some wins and dignity. Finally healthy, the Nets are playing decent enough hoops to be respectable. That said, don’t worry Celtics fans, they are still five games worse than the Lakers, Brooklyn will have the most ping-pong balls in the lottery.

Watch Harrison Barnes nab a game-saving steal to put Mavericks past Clippers, 97-95

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DALLAS (AP) Harrison Barnes thrived in a new position on Thursday night, and so did the Mavericks.

Barnes made the go-ahead basket, then stole the ball from Blake Griffin with 3.9 seconds left as Dallas beat the Los Angeles Clippers 97-95.

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle started a big lineup, with Barnes moving from power forward to small forward.

“I have a little bit more energy from not banging with as many bigs,” Barnes said.

Barnes made a 14-foot jumper with 1:06 remaining for the game’s 11th lead change, making it 96-95. After he stripped Griffin, Wesley Matthews made a free throw with 0.9 seconds to play before J.J. Redick missed a 3-point attempt that would have won it at the buzzer. His shot bounced off the far side of the rim.

“We had a great shot on the last play,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “That was great execution, and it was a 3, would have been a game-winner. Make, miss, we will live with that.”

Griffin scored 21 points, including nine in a row in the fourth quarter, but he missed his last three shots and turned the ball over four times in the game.

“I got to take care of the ball on the last play of the game,” Griffin said, “if you trust me with the last play of the game.”

Dallas expected Griffin to have the ball.

“I have to give credit to our coaching staff,” Barnes said. “They scouted that play well before the game. We knew it was coming to Blake. I just tried to play good defense, and I was in the right spot and the right time.”

The Clippers had their three-game winning streak snapped. Dallas, battling from behind for a playoff berth, had lost four of six.

“I don’t care about the race,” Rivers said. “I care about how we play.”

Seth Curry led Dallas with 23 points. Barnes finished with 21 and Dirk Nowitzki had 14.

The new lineup had Nerlens Noel starting at center and point guard Yogi Ferrell on the bench.

Curry started at point guard and had four assists.

“We’re going to give this a look,” Carlisle said. “It may be the rest of the year, it may not.”

Noel finished with 12 rebounds, two blocked shots and two steals, including one in the final minute.

DeAndre Jordan had 14 points and 18 rebounds for the Clippers. Chris Paul scored 15 points and Austin Rivers had 13.

The Mavericks led by as many as 12 points in the second quarter. But after trailing 44-32, Los Angeles finished the first half on a 22-4 run for a 54-48 halftime lead.

Paul had 13 points in the first half, and Jordan already had a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds. Nowitzki and Curry each had 10 points for the Mavericks.

Dallas started the third quarter with a 13-2 run to regain the lead at 61-56. The Mavericks took a 79-77 lead into the fourth quarter.

TIP-INS

Clippers: Redick’s four-point play in the second quarter was the 31st of his career. … The Clippers outrebounded Dallas 25-15 in the first half, but only 20-19 in the second.

Mavericks: Barnes has scored 20-plus points 35 times this season. He totaled 19 games of 20-plus in his first four NBA seasons with Golden State. … Dallas scored 21 points off 17 turnovers, nine in the second half. The Mavericks committed only nine turnovers for eight points.

THE LINEUP

Carlisle seemed pleased with the lineup change.

“We got to look at Curry at point with a really conventional team out there. We got a look at Noel with Dirk and Barnes. We got to see how things would shake out with Barnes at 3.”

THE MIGHTY FALL

Dallas’ J.J. Barea – listed at 6 feet, 185 pounds – was ejected with 5:29 to play in the third quarter after pushing the 6-10, 251-pound Griffin to the floor.

Crew chief Bill Spooner explained the call.

“The contact, in our judgment, was deemed unnecessary and excessive. The contact was to the shoulders and above to the throat. That is deemed as a flagrant penalty two.”

UP NEXT

Clippers: Begin a three-game homestand on Saturday afternoon against Utah.

Mavericks: Play the third game of a four-game homestand vs. Toronto on Saturday.

JJ Barea goes after Blake Griffin, earns Flagrant 2 and ejection (VIDEO)

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Dallas Mavericks guard JJ Barea didn’t like that Los Angeles Clippers big man was coming to set a screen on him, so he slapped his hand away. Griffin then retaliated with an elbow — which may or may not have connected — and that kicked off a row between the two players that resulted in Barea claiming a Flagrant 2 and an ejection.

It came during the third quarter with Barea at the top of the key and both Griffin and DeAndre Jordan on either side of him.

Here’s how the play looked from multiple angles:

Curious that Griffin wasn’t assessed a foul at all given his own handsy nature. After the game referee Bill Spooner responded to pool reporters by saying that Barea was ejected for his contract above the throat. Meanwhile, Spooner also said that whether Griffin flopped or not was irrelevant.

“It has nothing to do with the merits of the play,” said Spooner.

Meanwhile, the Mavericks beat the Clippers, 97-95.

PBT Extra: What coaches are on hot seat? Alvin Gentry at front of list.

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This season, for the first time in 46 years, no NBA coach will be fired during the season (nobody is getting canned at this point).

However, once the off-season starts, there will be a few changes.

Alvin Gentry in New Orleans and Fred Hoiberg in Chicago are the names most mentioned, but there will be an unexpected firing somewhere around the league. Some GMs are on the hot seat also (Rob Hennigan in Orlando leads that parade).

I get into all of it in this latest PBT Extra.

Three Things We Learned Tuesday: Robin Lopez, Serge Ibaka exchange punches, but Raptors have more fight than Bulls

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If you missed Tuesday’s NBA action because you were getting a neck massage from a python, well, we question your judgment. But, we’ve also got you covered, here are the biggest takeaways from a night around the Association.

1) Robin Lopez, Serge Ibaka exchange punches in a brawl, then Raptors punch Bulls in the mouth with comeback win.
Most NBA “fights” consist of a push and some posturing, others step in to make sure the two guys — who don’t really want to fight — don’t have to back up their words. Technicals are handed out, and everyone gets back to the game.

However, what started as a rather innocent play of Toronto’s Serge Ibaka and Chicago’s Robin Lopez battling for rebounding positioning, followed by a little bump in the back, escalated quickly into an actual punches thrown brawl in the third quarter of the Bulls’ visit to the Raptors Tuesday night.

The two were fighting for position, even after the ball went through the hoop, and Ibaka seems to hit Lopez in the back with a little bit of an elbow (and Lopez has back issues), which appears to set everything off. Lopez’s punch missed, while Ibaka’s caught Lopez in the hair, not the body.

Both men got technicals, were ejected, and can expect a suspension from the league for this one. Also, the Bulls’ Nikola Mirotic and Raptors assistant coach Jamaal Magloire got technicals for a separate shoving match after the main fight.

Notice the score in the video above when the fight took place late in the third, the Bulls were firmly in control of the game. The Bulls carried a similar lead into midway through the fourth when DeMar DeRozan sparked a 15-0 Raptors’ run that made it a game. Eventually, that went to overtime, where an 8-0 Toronto run that gave them the win. DeRozan finished with 42 points, Jimmy Butler had 37 for the Bulls.

It’s a big win for the Raptors, who are now half a game back of the Wizards for the three seed in the East (the three seed means avoiding Cleveland in the first round). For Chicago, the loss combined with a Miami win has the Bulls two games out of the playoffs in the East.

2) Bulls’ GM Jerry Krause passes away at the age of 77, deserves better than his public reputation.
Jerry Krause will forever be haunted by a comment that he argued was taken way out of context.

“Players and coaches don’t win championships. Organizations win championships.”

He got the blame in a lot of quarters for breaking up the six-time champion Chicago Bulls of Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson, when the fact is Krauss deserves plenty of credit for those six titles. On one side there was Jordan, who intimidated everyone on and off the court to get his way, while Jackson manipulated everyone around him to get what he wanted. Krauss stood up to both of them — Krauss traded Jordan’s pal Charles Oakley to get Bill Cartwright because he knew Chicago needed that style of big man. Krauss was not always right, but the guy Jordan nicknamed “crumbs” — because whatever he ate still seemed to be on his shirt — had the fortitude to stand up to Jordan when few did.

Krauss inherited Jordan, but MJ didn’t win those titles alone, and it was Krauss who put Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, John Paxson, B. J. Armstrong, Cartwright, Ron Harper, Dennis Rodman, Toni Kukoc, Luc Longley and Steve Kerr around Jordan. Krauss helped build those teams, and he deserves credit for that. Krauss is up for the Hall of Fame as a contributor, I don’t know if he gets in, but he certainly contributed to all those titles in Chicago.

3) The Warriors route the Mavericks on way to fifth straight win. Are we done worrying about the Warriors now? Kevin Durant got hurt right as the team hit its toughest part of the schedule, Stephen Curry‘s legs were heavy, and his shot was off, and the team with the best record in the NBA stumbled for a bit. Then they got to go home for a week, play three games against teams at .500 or below, and suddenly they look like their old selves again.

Golden State picked up its fifth straight win Tuesday night with a 112-87 route of the Mavericks in Dallas. Maybe Seth Curry summed it up best when asked if it was fun to start at point opposite his brother Stephen, and he said yes, until the game tipped off. Stephen outscored Seth 17-10, if you’re counting.

The win keeps the Warriors 2.5 games up on San Antonio for the best record in the NBA. Considering the Warriors have a slightly easier schedule the rest of the way, it’s hard to see them blowing that lead.