NBA Playoffs, Magic v. Celtics: Matt Barnes says what we already know about Paul Pierce

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There are various degrees of flopping. There are players that “flop” strictly as a way to exaggerate contact in order to get a call they rightfully deserve. There are others who flop as a way to validate a smart play, like when the how every player that draws a charge isn’t just knocked over, but sent sliding across the floor. Then there are those who create fouls from nothing, and through a scream of pain, a flailing of limbs, and often a fall, some players are able to completely manipulate the referees into seeing something that flat-out didn’t happen.

Then on another level entirely is Baron Davis’ flop against Mehmet Okur in 2007, which is just tremendous.

Paul Pierce is a fantastic player, but the infuriating thing about him is that he stands (or falls?) amongst the most egregious floppers. It’s one thing for Paul to exaggerate a bump on the way to the rim, but the way he collapses on the floor after minimal incidental contact or pretends to be hit in the head while shooting seems like it should be beneath him. He’s honestly too good of a player to be compensating like that.

Matt Barnes, who has become intimately familiar with Pierce’s…gamesmanship, talked a bit about Paul and his ability to manufacture foul calls. From Tania Ganguli of the Orlando Sentinel:

Pierce can be a maddening player for opposing teams.

His ability to score and to draw fouls are among his strengths. Both
California guys, Barnes knows Pierce’s game well. And while some of
Pierce’s antics annoy Barnes, he said he doesn’t “go for” some of what
Pierce tries to do, he couldn’t deny Pierce’s effectiveness.

“My third foul in the third quarter, when I tried to beat him over
the screen, he fell down like I threw him,” Barnes said, when asked
about Pierce’s tendency to exaggerate contact. “It was ridiculous. But
the refs called it, so it was a good play. It was a flop, 100 percent,
and that’s how some guys like to play. But if the refs call it, it’s
effective.”

Barnes’ quote applies more to a singular incident of Pierce’s flopping than a general trend, but his point stands. However, that doesn’t mean I’m here on a holy crusade to rid the world of the flopping abomination. That’s the problem, actually. No matter how much we rant and rave, there isn’t a convenient solution to get rid of this kind of play. Pierce will continue to go on rewarded for what he does, and there’s really not much the NBA can do about it.

Start giving technical fouls for flopping? Well, that relies on refs correctly identifying the flopping in the first place in the course of a game, which they’re clearly not doing. Fine players for flopping? It can be obvious like in that Baron Davis clip, but there’s pretty much no bright line on what constitutes flopping, and assessing who’s to be fined would be a hell of a judgment call.

Rather it’s just to reference what Paul is doing, shake my head in disgust, and maybe even laugh at him a bit. There are players in this league who need to sell calls in order to elevate their value and earn their next big payday. Pierce is not such a player, and it’s interesting to note that despite Paul’s hubris, he still thinks he needs to be.

Timberwolves win first road game in 52 days, top Heat (video)

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MIAMI — Jordan McLaughlin’s layup with just under nine seconds left put Minnesota ahead for good, D’Angelo Russell led all scorers with 27 points and the Timberwolves added to Miami’s late-season stagger by beating the Heat 129-126 on Wednesday night.

Malik Beasley scored 21 points, Juancho Hernangomez tied a season-high with 17 and McLaughlin added 13 for Minnesota. The Timberwolves were down by 12 with 3:59 left, then closed on a 20-5 run to get just their second victory in 20 games.

Jimmy Butler’s two free throws with 13.8 seconds left put Miami up 126-125, but McLaughlin’s layup on the next Minnesota possession put the Timberwolves on top to stay. Butler’s layup with 3.2 seconds left got blocked by Russell, and the Wolves held on.

Minnesota snapped a nine-game road losing streak, getting its first road victory since beat the Cleveland Cavaliers on Jan. 5.

Kendrick Nunn led Miami with 24 points. Bam Adebayo had 22 points and 10 rebounds and Butler — back after a two-game absence for personal reasons — had 18 for Miami. The Heat fell to 23-4 at home and have dropped seven of their last nine overall.

The Heat stayed a half-game ahead of Philadelphia in the race for the No. 4 spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Philadelphia lost in Cleveland earlier Wednesday, a game where 76ers star Joel Embiid departed early because of a shoulder injury.

The Heat have had major trouble closing games of late — a 22-point lead late in the third quarter against Cleveland on Monday was frittered away in what probably was the worst loss of the season, until now anyway — and a long film session and meeting on Tuesday clearly didn’t solve the issue.

They were up 121-109 with 3:59 left, and 123-112 after a layup by Butler 24 seconds later.

And Minnesota — a team that came into the night with one win in a span of 48 days — still wasn’t finished off. The Timberwolves scored the next 11 points to tie the game, getting five of those points from Beasley and a tying free throw from McLaughlin with 46 seconds left.

TIP-INS

Timberwolves: Minnesota’s 27 attempts from 3-point range in the first two quarters was a first-half franchise record. … The Wolves are 4-0 in road games against Southeast Division teams this season, and 6-19 in all other road contests.

Heat: Adebayo played through a sprained right ankle, pushing his consecutive-game streak to 144 — extending the fourth-longest such streak in team history. … Goran Dragic’s first basket was a 3-pointer, and that pushed him one point past Grant Long (5,473) for 10th on the Heat career scoring list. … Nunn got his third consecutive rookie of the month trophy in a brief halftime ceremony.

JOHNSON RETURNS

Wednesday marked James Johnson’s first game back in Miami since the trade that sent him to Minnesota earlier this month, a move that sent Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill to Miami from Memphis. “I think Minnesota is seeing what kind of versatility he can bring to the game,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

LOOKING AHEAD

A large contingent of fans from Slovenia were in attendance Wednesday — and more are coming Friday, when the Heat play host to the Dallas Mavericks. At last season’s Dallas-at-Miami game, more than 2,000 Slovenians were in attendance to watch their nation’s two best NBA players, Dragic and Dallas star Luka Doncic, go head-to-head.

UP NEXT

Timberwolves: At Orlando on Friday night.

Heat: Host Dallas on Friday night.

Trae Young blocks 7-foot Mo Bamba at rim (video)

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Trae Young might be the NBA’s worst defender.

He’s small (6-foot-1 with a 6-foot-3 wingspan). His athleticism is far from imposing. He also carries a massive load for the Hawks offensively, leaving little energy for defense.

But he still blocked 7-foot Magic center Mo Bamba at the rim.

Not a great moment for Bamba.

Joel Embiid leaves 76ers game with shoulder injury (video)

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Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons?

The debate has gained attention this season after the 76ers spent years retooling around their stars. The answer clearly isn’t neither. But that’s what Philadelphia now faces.

With Simmons already injured, Embiid got hurt in the 76ers’ game against the Cavaliers tonight.

Serena Winters of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

Losing Embiid for an extended period would be a huge blow to Philadelphia, especially with Simmons already out. The 76ers (fifth place, half a game out of fourth) are right on the edge of getting home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Embiid had been playing so well lately. This is an especially tough time for a setback.

At least Philadelphia has depth to cope. Al Horford can easily slide from power forward to center. Tobias Harris might be better off at power forward than small forward, anyway. This is where Glenn Robinson III and Alec Burks, acquired just before the trade deadline, come in handy as additional wing options. Kyle O'Quinn can also play behind Horford.

But the loss of talent is the biggest development, and there’s no overcoming that until Embiid and Simmons get healthy.

Zach LaVine: Trash talk directed at Dennis Schroder, not Bulls coach Jim Boylen

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During the Bulls’ loss to the Thunder yesterday, Zach LaVine appeared to say, “I have f—ing 40 points!”

Many assumed LaVine was snapping at Chicago coach Jim Boylen. But LaVine clarified his target was Oklahoma City guard Dennis Schroder.

Eric Woodyard of ESPN:

I take LaVine at his word.

Want to make a case LaVine dislikes Boylen? You’ll just have to point to all the other evidence.