What happened to Tiago Splitter?

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Remember how certain people were really hyping Tiago Splitter before the season as the big man the Spurs really needed to balance out the front line with Tim Duncan? Remember how people were saying he was going to be a difference maker for the Spurs this season?

Okay, that was me. I admit it. And we’ve seen flashes of that Splitter but mostly we’ve seen him sitting. He’s averaging just 11 minutes a game.

What happened? A fantastic post at Spurs blog 48 Minutes of Hell explains the litany of problems.

Remember that Splitter played deep into the European season last year then just straight into playing for Brazil for the World Championships. There he picked up a couple nagging injuries which he brought with him Spurs camp just a couple weeks after that. It was a lot of basketball.

Then came a strained right calf muscle a couple days into camp, which caused him to miss most of it.

“He had some things break down while he was in Europe and then he came here and had the problem with his calf,” Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich said earlier in the season. “I think all in all, his body is probably just telling him to take a break. So we don’t want to bring him back and stick him out there for an inordinate amount of time.”

Missing camp really hurt because Splitter has never been really comfortable in the Spurs offense this season. He has to set a lot of picks but it’s about timing and placement, and Splitter is off in those departments compared to other bigs on the Spurs roster. Popovich has options

So he hasn’t gotten a lot of run, then combine that with how well the Spurs are playing and you have a coach not about to give him big minutes to learn on the job.

“I can’t just go and experiment and give him 30 minutes to get him going,” Coach Pop said. “It’s not fair to him or to the whole group. It’s just got to happen slowly and we’ll see what’s required as far as the team is concerned because that’s what I have to look at.”

Come the playoffs when the Spurs could face longer front lines — Lakers, we’re looking at you — Splitter could play a key role. But for now, his minutes will be limited as he figures it all out.

Watch Dinwiddie get ejected for elbow to Poole’s face; Mavs still win behind Doncic 41 points

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Dallas has gotten in trouble this season because of a lack of secondary shot creation behind Luka Doncic, so when Spencer Dinwiddie got ejected for an elbow to the face of Golden State’s Jordan Poole, it seemed like the Mavericks might be in danger of falling to the Warriors.

Doncic had other plans — and a 41-point triple-double.

The ejection happened early in the fourth quarter, when Dinwiddie drove the lane on Poole and, bringing the ball up, elbowed Poole in the face.

That was reviewed by the referees who ruled it a Flagrant 2. The league has cracked down on blows to the face and head — intentional or not — the past couple of seasons.

Dinwiddie being out just meant more Luka — and that was bad news for the Warriors.

Despite Doncic and his triple-double, the Warriors had a couple of chances in the final seconds. First, Stephen Curry got called for a travel.

The Warriors argued that call but got nowhere with the referees. But they got one more chance on a Klay Thompson 3 to tie, but it was just not their night.

The Mavericks got the 116-113 win. Tim Hardaway Jr. pitched in 25 points, including five 3-pointers for Dallas. Curry led the Warriors with 32.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
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It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.