Clippers end wild game on 11-0 run to come back, beat Mavericks

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LOS ANGELES — If the ball hadn’t been orange with David Stern’s signature on it rather than red, white and blue I would have sworn this was an old ABA game.

It was fast paced with all kinds of offense, questionable defense, a ton of threes, some chippy play, and huge runs — the Los Angeles Clippers got the last of those runs. Down 17 in the fourth quarter they scrapped back, ended the night on an 11-0 run (capped off by some Jamal Crawford free throws on a questionable call) and got the win 129-127.

“Yeah, what a defensive struggle,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers joked after the game.

The Clippers will take it — they are now 4-1 without Chris Paul and about to head out on a rough seven game road trip as the Grammys kick them (and the Lakers) out of Staples Center for two weeks.

Really this was J.J Redick’s night — he came out from the start knocking down threes as Monta Ellis struggled to chase him off screens, and after a few fell everything fell. Redick had 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting in the first half, and finished the night with 33 points for the game on 14 shots.

“I’ve not seen a lot of guys that missed the amount of games that he’s missed and come back this sharp,” Rivers said. “When you think about it he had a broken wrist, so it’s not like he’s been hurt shooting, he’s not been able to shoot through this time and yet he comes back and… he’s a tough dude.”

The Clippers put up 72 points in the first half and it seemed like their night because they couldn’t miss.

But they couldn’t get stops either (Dallas had 62 first half points) and late in the second and into the third Dallas started to move the ball and get good looks — Dallas went on a 30-6 run from late in the third into the fourth quarter. Dirk Nowitzki had 10 of his 27 in the third, Samuel Dalembert also had 10 points in the third because the Clippers were helping off him and he got the ball back on a pass moving toward the rim.

“The thing I like is that our guys were so messed up about their scoring, that they were scoring on us, that we lost our composure,” Rivers said. “That’s a great sign of a team that wants to be a great defensive team. And as crazy as that sounds, it hurts us. You could see it, we got dispirited every time they scored.”

This had gone from a game with the Clippers up 9 late in the third and in control into a game where the Clippers were down 17 points in the fourth. They were in trouble.

Then the game got chippy — Dallas fouled Blake Griffin hard, he got under the skin of Vince Carter and Dalmebert. That seemed to fire up the Clippers, who found their offense again.

The Clippers also would like to tell you they got stops, but the reality is the Mavs just started missing good looks — twice in the fourth Nowitzki got Redick switched on him and took Dirk went to his patented one-legged fade away and the shots rimmed out. Nowitzki was an uncharacteristic 0-6 in the fourth quarter.

“We couldn’t get a stop and that’s the reason we lost,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said after the game. “If you’re going to pin all your hopes on shot making in this league you’re not going to win nearly as many games as you can if you have the ability to get stops.”

Dallas had been playing better defense the past few weeks, but in a game Doug Moe would love nobody played defense in Staples Center Wednesday night.

The Clippers ended the game on a 24-3 run, capped off by another Redick three and Jamal Crawford getting a foul call in the paint when defender Shawn Marion didn’t touch his body and got all ball. (Dallas got the breaks of some calls lately, but those things even out.)

Dallas got a clean look at a Jose Calderon three to win it late, but it clanked off the iron and that was pretty much the ballgame.

For a Clippers team trying to hold off Golden State without Chris Paul, they will take the wins anyway they come. “It’s not the game you plan, but it’s the game you won” Rivers said he told his team after the win.

They won an ABA throwback game. Still counts the same in the standings.

Westbrook says he’s ‘all-in on whatever it takes for this team to win’

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Welcome to NBA media day, when optimism overflows and everyone swears there are no chemistry problems, no fit questions, it’s all puppies and rainbows with their team.

The night before Lakers media day, Russell Westbrook got a head start on saying the right thing in an interview with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Trade? Not worried about it. Fit? Not going to be a problem. Everyone is good now if you ask Westbrook, and he was in trade talks all summer is irrelevant.

“I need to just do my job. Whether I’m wanted [by the Lakers] or not doesn’t really matter. I think the most important thing is that I show up for work and I do the job like I’ve always done it: Be professional and go out and play my ass off and compete…

Maybe [he is] as a starter or maybe it’s off the bench. “I’m all-in on whatever it takes for this team to win,” Westbrook said. “I’m prepared for whatever comes my way.”

Words are nice, but actions are what will matter. Westbrook reportedly said all the right things to LeBron James and Anthony Davis a year ago before getting traded to the team, but his not wanting to play a role and fit in was a big issue. Westbrook swears it won’t be this time, whatever Ham wants Westbrook will execute.

“There’s so much optimism on how we can be great, how AD, LeBron, myself — can be unstoppable in my opinion,” Westbrook said.

That’s optimism. Even if Westbrook fits in, Davis stays healthy all season, and LeBron continues to defy father time, these Lakers are not title contenders. A playoff team for sure, but not contenders.

These Lakers will face adversity — maybe early, Los Angeles has a rough first couple of weeks — and how the Lakers, under new coach Darvin Ham, respond to those challenges will define their season. Last season’s response from the Lakers was… not good. They rolled over. Ham has promised not to let that happen, but there will be things out of his control.

Last season Westbrook was one of those things for Frank Vogel, we’ll see how he responds this season.

Suns, Crowder agree he will sit out training camp while they seek a trade

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Jae Crowder wants out of Phoenix and the Suns have been looking for a trade to accommodate that.

It hasn’t come together, so the Suns and Crowder agreed he should sit out training camp while they find one (this team does not need another distraction in camp).

We knew this was coming because Crowder himself announced it a couple of days ago. While he deleted the Tweet, nothing ever completely disappears online.

Two quick thoughts on this news.

First, it means Cameron Johnson will start at the four, something that was likely anyway as the Suns look to add shooting to help space the floor.

Second, this news does not help the Suns’ leverage in getting a trade. It’s understandable that Crowder didn’t want to be in camp and that the Suns didn’t want the distraction, but now everyone knows the pressure on the Suns to get a deal done and they will lowball their offer.

There are a few potential landing spots out there. Crowder hinted online he would welcome a return to Miami, and the Heat need help at the four after P.J. Tucker left for Philly. The Heat would base a trade around Duncan Robinson, but to make the salaries match the Suns would have to throw in another player — Dario Saric, Landry Shamet, Cameron Payne, Torey Craig or after Jan. 15  — and that seems unlikely.

Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, Boston (but it’s tough to make the salaries match up), and even a team like Minnesota could work. The challenge is the Suns are a win-now team and will want a player who can help them this season and all those teams are in the same space. Right now there may not be an offer available. As camps open and teams start to understand what they do and don’t have, a deal could come together.

Crowder will be home waiting for that to happen, not with the Suns team.

Giannis Antetokounmpo says Stephen Curry is the best player in the world

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Giannis Antetokounmpo is at the top of pretty much every “best player in the world” list right now.

Except his own.

For Antetokounmpo, the best player in the world is the one that leads his team to the title, so today, it is Stephen Curry (hat tip to Lance Allen of NBC Milwaukee).

It’s easy to see where Antetokounmpo is coming from, but basketball is a team game. The best player may not be on the best team, despite his skill set, and that team may not win. Curry was spectacular in leading the Warriors to their fourth banner since he arrived, he’s near the top of the best in the world list, but it’s not all about winning.

The takeaway from what Antetokounmpo said is how much he wants to win — he wants a second ring.

The Bucks enter the season as one of the favorites to win that ring, but it’s going to take a lot of things going right for that to happen.

Including Antetokounmpo showing he is the best player in the world.

 

Is Matisse Thybulle ready for a big step forward with 76ers?

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Matisse Thybulle brings a valuable NBA skill to the table — he is an elite perimeter defender. Two-time All-Defensive Team in three years in the league.

But when the 76ers got up against Miami in the playoffs, Thybulle’s role shrank dramatically. While Doc Rivers needed his defense, Thybulle’s lack of an offensive game became a problem — the Heat largely ignored him and helped off him, allowing Miami to muck up the Philly offense (he was limited in the Toronto series because he was not vaccinated and could not play in road games). The 76ers tried to solve that problem this offseason by bringing in DeAnthony Melton, Danuel House and P.J. Tucker — solid role-playing defenders who can contribute on offense, too.

Thybulle wants to be part of the solution, too, and told Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer he spent the summer focused on his offensive game.

“I’m really proud of what I did,” Thybulle said of his offseason. “I’ve worked harder than I’ve worked. And I had a meeting with [Sixers coach Doc Rivers] early this week and was telling him I feel more bought in than I’ve been before.”

No doubt Thybulle put in the work, we will find out soon if it paid off — and if that will get Thybulle paid.

Thybulle is entering a contract year — the 76ers can extend him up until Oct. 18, after which he would become a restricted free agent next summer. Thybulle said his goal is to remain in Philadelphia (and he’d like an extension).

“At this point, I would always want to stay in Philly,” he said. “And if it’s up to me, that’s always going to be my choice.

“But considering that I’ve realized the reality of how far out of my control it is, if I do get traded or something does end up happening, I can look at myself in the mirror at the end of the day.”

With a win-now Sixers team, Daryl Morey may be in a wait-and-see place with Thybulle, letting the market set his price next offseason. If he signs now, it will likely be on a team-friendly deal (but maybe one that still works for the 25-year-old).

If Thybulle gets on the court this season and shows an improved offensive game, one where he can make teams pay for helping off him, his price goes up and there may be multiple teams bidding for his services next summer. And Doc Rivers would be happy in the short term.

It’s up to Thybulle to prove it now.