Jim Boeheim should be nervous. Let’s just say, I’m not betting on Syracuse next week.
It’s been a tough week for three of the four coaches that will lead Team USA this summer in the 2012 Olympics in London — Mike Krzyzewski, Mike D’Antoni and Nate McMillan.
Head coach Krzyzewski’s Duke Blue Devils screwed up President Barack Obama’s bracket and many others by losing to 15-seed Lehigh in the first round. (Obama is better off than most though, he had Duke losing to Baylor in the sweet 16.)
Assistant coach D’Antoni was fired/resigned from the Knicks last week (both sides called it “mutual”) after he demanded New York management try to get him players that fit his system and they said they were sticking with Carmelo Anthony. D’Antoni got the worst part of the rebuilding effort in New York but when they got talent he couldn’t fit it into his system — and Anthony never really bought in.
The friction there has some wondering in Anthony might miss the Olympics. Don’t bet on it. For one, Nike wants him there. For another, he is consistently one of the better international performers for Team USA — his wing game fits very well in FIBA ball where he gets good looks or room to attack. And with Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and others on the team he doesn’t dare demand 25 shots a game.
USA assistant coach Nate McMillan was fired by the Portland Trail Blazers as they completely blew up their roster and started to try to rebuild with cap space and picks last week. The Blazers had fallen apart this season and McMillan took the fall for that, even though this team hasn’t had a GM for more than a season and the owner’s whims are part of the problem.
Coach K, D’Antoni and McMillan may need the extra time thrust upon them. Because of the lockout and the relatively early Olympics (starting July 27) the roster for Team USA will be set before the NBA season ends, before a training camp and tryout. And they have a lot of hard choices to make.
Jim Boeheim — the fourth coach on the staff — may be joining them soon enough.
Blake Griffin inadvertently hits referee in face (video)
But Griffin saved his most devastating work for referee Scott Twardoski.
Griffin extended his arm and whacked Twardoski in the face, flooring the official. Play stopped for Twardoski to recover. The replay doesn’t do the contact justice. Twardoski was moving quickly up the floor when he ran straight into Griffin’s hand.
At least it wasn’t as bad as this legendary Carlos Boozer moment:
Out of game, shoeless LeBron James waves towel on court near play (video)
LeBron James wasn’t about that NBA-rulebook life last night.
Not only did he get away with a comically blatant travel, he – ostensibly out of the game – later wandered onto the court during play. He got pretty close to the action, waving his towel in celebration of consecutive Kyle Kuzma blocks.
And LeBron was wearing only socks on his feet. He had already given his shoes away to young fans – with 4:20 left! Sure, the Lakers were up 19 on the Jazz, but that’s a lot of time remaining. What a kind and totally disrespectful gesture, a real do-it-all move.
Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.
1) Lakers make a defensive statement in back-to-back road wins in Denver, Utah. After winning 10 games in a row against the softest part of their schedule, the calendar flipping to December was supposed to start a real test for the Lakers. No more playing hard for 24 minutes and getting a victory, no more sloppy quarters leading to a comeback win — the Dallas Mavericks made that clear on Sunday.
Los Angeles answered that with back-to-back road wins where their defense — led by Anthony Davis — shut down the Nuggets and Jazz. Through the two games, the Lakers allowed less than a point per possession (96.5 defensive net rating total), including holding Donovan Mitchell and Utah to 96 points (and a 97 net rating) on the second night of a back-to-back. The Jazz shot just 41 percent as a team for the game.
Mitchell, who has played at an All-Star level this season, scored 29 but on 11-of-24 shooting — the Laker defense made him work for his buckets. (Bojan Bogdanovic had another strong game for the Jazz with six threes, he has been the Utah summer signing that has worked out well.)
Los Angeles led struggling Utah by 18 at the half and cruised to a 121-96 win. In what looked like a scheduled loss before the season — the second night of a back-to-back at altitude against a good team — never felt in doubt as Davis had 26 points and LeBron James 20 and 12 assists.
The only drama was that LeBron got away with a blatant and hilarious travel and double dribble in the first quarter, one the officials somehow missed.
“It was the worst thing, probably one of the worst things I’ve ever done in my career,” James said after the game… “I didn’t realize I did it until halftime. One of my coaches showed me.”
Coming into the season there were questions about how good the Lakers’ defense was going to be, with coach Frank Vogel wanting to play two bigs and more of a drop-back style of defense. That’s the style Vogel used with success back in Indiana (with peak Roy Hibbert protecting the paint) and has become in vogue again in the NBA. That includes in Utah, where Rudy Gobert has won back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year awards because he owns the paint but also because of his length and mobility tp contest and cause problems out on the perimeter.
Davis has done exactly that for the Lakers this season.
It was most evident late in the game against Denver Tuesday. On one fourth quarter play big man Nikola Jokic tried to back down Davis, put on a move and score in the post and AD just stuff blocked him. A couple of possessions later, Davis got switched onto quick guard Jamal Murray on consecutive plays and forced him into a couple of bad shots that missed.
Stretches like that are the reason the Lakers’ have the fourth-ranked defense in the NBA this season — and it is their defense that has them looking like legit title contenders. Davis is at the heart of it, although both Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee have used their mobility to be surprisingly good defenders who can contest at the arc and get back to protect the rim.
Davis’ performance has the Lakers already campaigning for him to win Defensive Player of the Year (and some in the Lakers’ media core seem eager to promote that idea). We’re just a quarter of the way into the season, and this award is one that has to be earned over a much longer stretch of ground. There are no actual frontrunners yet, and players like Gobert, the Bucks’ Greek Freak, and Boston’s Marcus Smart — among others — will be in the middle of any conversation down the line.
But make no mistake, the Lakers defense and Davis are for real. They made a statement about that the past couple of nights — and showed why their defense could carry them to a parade in June.
Any drama came in the third quarter when Antetokounmpo tried to back down Griffin on the left block, Detroits Bruce Brown came over to double and fouled the Greek Freak, who fell to the floor. Then Griffin stepped over him.
Khris Middleton ran over to get in Griffin’s face about the disrespect and then… well, a lot of words were exchanged. Nothing else. The officials reviewed the play, and both Brown and Middleton ended up getting technical fouls.
That’s the most drama there was in Detroit Wednesday. Antetokounmpo scored 35 points and the Bucks won by 24, extending their win streak to 13.
3) Houston “leaning toward” protesting loss to Spurs over missed James Harden dunk call.That will fail, too. Let’s start with the obvious: The referees missed the call on James Harden’s fourth-quarter dunk against the Spurs Tuesday night. The basket should have counted, and after the game the officials admitted they missed the call.
First things first: The idea put forward that the league would step in and overturn the game outcome and just hand the Rockets a win was — to use the word of some around the league (not directly involved in the case) — “absurd.” The league would never do that. Let us never speak of that idiocy again.
The Rockets’ protest — if they actually file it — is a longshot. The bar is incredibly high. A successful protest requires proof of a misapplication of a rule that seriously inhibited Houston’s chance to win a game. Meaning, just saying the crew got the call wrong is not enough. Houston’s protest would hinge on the idea that coach Mike D’Antoni wasn’t given a fair chance to protest the call because of how the referee crew handled the situation. The lead official said after the game D’Antoni didn’t call for a coach’s challenge within 30 seconds, as the rule demands, so there could be no challenge to the call.
Problem w/ officials contention last night that Rockets could not challenge because missed their 30-sec window is that after about 5 seconds, officials met w/ each other. Might have provided additional time but replay cut away so I could not watch, time that. NBA surely will.
The Rockets have a point here. We can be honest and say the referee crew should have handled this better.
However, remember the bar for a protest is the misapplication of a rule that seriously inhibited Houston’s chance to win a game. Back in 2008, the league ordered the Hawks and Heat to replay the final 51.9 seconds of a game because the scorer’s table incorrectly said Shaq had fouled out of the game and forced him to sit when in reality he had just five fouls. That scorers’ table error could have changed the end of a game. In the Rockets case, the referees missed a call but proving the referees misapplied the challenge rule and that’s why the Rockets lost (in a game with nearly 8 minutes left) is a tough sell.
We’ll see if Houston goes through and files this, or if all the bluster is just a PR move to keep an angry Harden happy and show they have his back.
Giannis Antetokounmpo scores 35, Bucks’ winning streak reaches 13 with rout of Pistons
DETROIT (AP) —Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 35 points to lift the Milwaukee Bucks to their 13th consecutive victory, 127-103 over the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night.
The last time the Bucks had a longer winning streak than this was when they won 16 in a row spanning the end of the 1972-73 season and the beginning of 1973-74. They also had a 13-game run shortly after that 16-game streak ended.
Milwaukee had won its previous two games by 41 and 44 points, and the Pistons had won their previous two by 34 and 33. This one wasn’t close either. The Bucks have dominated Detroit of late.
Milwaukee won all eight matchups with the Pistons last season – four in the regular season and four in the first round of the playoffs. The Bucks also beat Detroit last month in their first meeting of 2019-20.
The Bucks went on a 13-2 run late in the second quarter to lead 57-39, and although Detroit closed within 11 at the half, the Pistons never made a major run during the final two quarters. Antetokounmpo scored 12 points in the third quarter, and Milwaukee led 92-72 after three.
Andre Drummond had 23 points and 14 rebounds for Detroit. That included a monster dunk over the Greek Freak.
There were six technical fouls in the game, and there were words exchanged during a couple mild altercations. The first involved Antetokounmpo and Detroit’s Blake Griffin after those two collided around midcourt in the second quarter.
In the third quarter, Antetokounmpo fell to the ground after being fouled, and then Griffin stepped over him. Middleton came over to confront Griffin. Three technicals were assessed after that.