Danny Granger beats the Knicks at the buzzer

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The Knicks aren’t exactly known for their defense, so maybe it’s not a huge surprise that they allowed the Indiana Pacers, a team that ranks just 23rd in offensive efficiency, to put up 63 second-half points en route to a victory over New York on Tuesday. But the way the Knicks allowed this game to get away — on the Pacers’ final possession and with the ball in the hands of the team’s best player — is something that we simply must take issue with.

First, the video: Danny Granger catches the inbound pass with 7.8 seconds remaining, and the game tied at 117. New York’s Shawne Williams is defending him one-on-one and the floor is spread, with both teams seemingly content to let this matchup play out as the gods would have it. Granger dribbles right, and elevates for as clean a look as you can expect in these situations, and calmly drains a 15-footer which ends up winning the game for the Pacers.

Great shot and all that, but two questions immediately come to mind: One, how is it that this is the best possible play the Pacers coaching staff can devise with almost eight full seconds to work with? And two, how is it that the Knicks allow the other team’s best player to get a look like that with the game hanging in the balance?

I used to fault the offensive team for calling isolation plays for its best player in these situations (as opposed to running a cleverly-crafted play that would result in an easy, wide-open look), but after seeing this most recent example, along with many other plays like it over the course of the past several seasons, it’s clear that the defense is just as much to blame.

Let me explain: why in the world would you allow the other team’s best player to break down a defender one-on-one to create space to take a potentially game-winning shot? We’ve seen this with all the greats in recent years — Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and many others. The coach giving the ball to his best player at the top of the three-point arc and basically saying, ‘dribble down the clock, make a move, and win it for us’ seems to be the plan most of the time. But the defensive team can have its say in this, only it rarely ever does.

If I’m a head coach, and my team is tied or has any kind of one-possession lead with under a shot clock’s worth of time remaining, there’s no way I’m letting my opponent’s best player take a shot at the buzzer to beat me. I’m either shifting the defense to his strong side and forcing him to drive to an area of the floor where I can quickly bring help, or I’m sending a double team early in the clock to simply get the ball out of his hands and make someone else beat me.

The Knicks didn’t do this on Tuesday, and Granger beat them easily on his team’s final possession.

Rumor: Bulls’ belief in Zach LaVine waning

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Zach LaVine was the centerpiece in the Bulls’ return for trading a star. Chicago was reportedly willing to match a max offer sheet for LaVine in restricted free agency.

But maybe the Bulls have at least somewhat soured on him.

Nick Friedell of ESPN:

I don’t know why the Bulls would be down on LaVine now. I also don’t know why they were so high on him the first place.

LaVine is a good 3-point shooter and impressive dunker. But, despite his athleticism, his all-around contributions are lacking. He also hasn’t looked completely over his February 2017 ACL tear.

This leak could just be strategy. Instead of trying to scare off teams with the threat of matching any offer to LaVine, Chicago could be trying to dissuade suitors by projecting its own reluctance.

The Bulls don’t want to overpay LaVine. But they also don’t want to lose him for nothing.

Will anyone make a hard push for the 23-year-old? He surely wants a lucrative long-term contract, whether he re-signs directly with Chicago or gets an offer sheet. But, if the Bulls aren’t sold on him, I’m not sure any team will is.

LaVine’s qualifying offer will be $4,333,932. That might wind up his next salary.

PBT Extra: Grading the top of the NBA Draft

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The Phoenix Suns got it right at the top of the draft — they took Deandre Ayton.

But what of their move to trade for Mikal Bridges, the No. 10 pick, surrendering a valuable pick and the potential of Zhaire Smith for what should be a solid “3&D” wing to go with their athletic stars?

How did the Kings do at No. 2? What about Dallas’ big trade up to land Luka Doncic at three, or the Atlanta bet on Trae Young?

In this PBT Extra, I grade the top 10 picks in the draft, from the moves I like (I think Dallas did well) to ones I’m not sold on (sorry Chicago).

 

Have questions leading up to free agency? Submit your questions via e-mail for our PBT Mailbag feature. Drop us a line at pbtmailbag@gmail.com.

Lakers’ recruiting pitch for Paul George leaks

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LeBron James doesn’t want elaborate pitches in free agency.

Paul George never said that, though.

So, the Lakers are apparently planning to put some showbiz into their recruitment.

Robin Lundberg of Sports Illustrated, citing a “Hollywood source,” revealed a Lakers pitch for George. The direction:

Less Morgan Freeman/Denzel Washington, and more Jamie Foxx. A bit more edge an attitude to their voice, and a bit less aspirational

The text:

When you were just a kid

In your room
Dreaming from Palmdale

We were dreaming too.

While you dreamt, we built – built for your arrival

And while we dreamt, you built too
Becoming one of the world’s greatest.

Life’s most powerful dream are the one we realize ourselves.

The ones that turn us into legends.
That kid from Palmdale always knew it
Now the world will, too

Who wrote this, noted storyteller Kobe Bryant?

My bigger question: Did or did not the Lakers, who’ve gone to great lengths to make their interest in George known, want this to leak before the official start of free agency?

Report: No divide between Chris Paul and Rockets over contract

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That rumor of tension between Chris Paul and the Rockets over his contract?

Sam Amick of USA Today:

As for the recent report from Fox Sports’ Chris Broussard that there are rising tensions between the two sides because Paul wants the full max and isn’t sure if he’ll get it, two people with knowledge of the situation refuted the idea there is any friction between the sides.

Remember, everyone who leaks something has an agenda. But I find this report far more credible than the initial rumor.

Paul’s max projects to be about $205 million over five years. That’s a lot to commit to a 33-year-old, but Paul took a discount to facilitate an opt-in-and-trade to Houston last year. He expects to be made whole.

Until Broussard’s report, all indications were the Rockets would appease him. Barring more information, that should remain the expectation.