Clippers hold off Trail Blazers for win… can these two meet in playoffs, please?

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If the playoffs started today, the Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers would meet in the first round… please let that happened. Defense? Who needs it? We want Blake Griffin vs. LaMarcus Aldridge. We want dunks and threes. This matchup would just be entertaining.

When these two teams first met the day after Christmas it took a dramatic Nicolas Batum three to send the game to overtime where Portland pulled away.

Wednesday night was similar — 40 lead changes with neither team leading by more than seven points the entire way. But the Clippers went on a late 8-2 run and that was enough to get them a 122-117 win.

That evens the season series 1-1, with the third and final meeting on the final night of the regular season. That game could end up mattering in the playoff chase.

The question about both of these teams heading into the second half of the season is defense and not a lot of it was on display Wednesday — the losing Trail Blazers had an offensive rating of 116.2 points per 100 possessions (the Clippers were at 127.6). Portland has now lost three of four and they gave up an average of 117.3 points in those three losses. This game fit with that — it was tied 61-61 at the half.

The Clippers scored wherever they wanted — they were 25-of-30 in the restricted area and 13-of-27 in the midrange, plus 4-of-10 from deep. Portland’s defense let the Clippers just get good looks, particularly dunks and lay-ups, all night long.

Leading the way was Blake Griffin, who had 36 points on 21 shots, plus he pulled down 10 rebounds. Jamal Crawford had 25 points, Chris Paul 20 points and 12 assists.

Portland on the other hand was taking jumpers, but that’s what they do and they were knocking them down.

LaMarcus Aldridge was answering Blake early. Aldridge was coming off a rough 5-of-22 shooting night so he came out hot in this one — he missed his first shot but then knocked down his next seven in a row. He finished the game with 25 points. Damian Lillard added 21.

But Portland’s shots didn’t fall when it mattered most. The Trail Blazers took a 115-114 lead on Damian Lillard free throws with 3:15 left in the game, but then shot 1-of-8 down the stretch. They were settling for deep threes and the shots weren’t falling.

The Clippers defense wasn’t good, but it was better when it mattered and you can see flashes of them playing elite defense.

I just want to see that tested by the Blazers in the playoffs. It would be a great series.

One last look back: Best dunks of All-Star Weekend (VIDEO)

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Defense? That’s one thing that rarely makes an appearance All-Star weekend.

Combine that with the game’s best athletes and what you get are three days of insane dunks.

The NBA put this together, the best dunks of All-Star weekend in Charlotte. Enjoy.

Wizards’ Bradley Beal: ‘Recruiting process is really going alright…I’m trying’

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LeBron James went out of his way to say he was not recruiting guys on his free-agent heavy All-Star Team.

Bradley Beal had no such hesitation, he tried to recruit guys, as he told Chase Huges of NBC Sports Washington.

“The recruiting process is really going alright. It’s going alright. I’m trying,” Beal said. “This is new for me. I’m definitely getting some ears and seeing what guys are looking for.”

Beal was too smart to name names — that would have brought a fine from the league — but he said some guys asked if he was happy where he was, while other guys he talked to about the possibilities in Washington.

The problem is while the Wizards will have some cap space after trading Otto Porter and Markieff Morris (and assuming they don’t pick up the option on Jabari Parker) but they will be nowhere near the max cap space needed to land the elite free agents at the All-Star Game (Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, etc.). Even the second-tier All-Star free agents such as Khris Middleton will get max offers. Same with players who just missed the game, such as Tobias Harris.

If the Wizards renounce free agents they can get to $9 million in cap space, stretch and waive Ian Mahinmi and they can get to $18 million. That’s the top end. Meaning the Wizards will have room to make moves for good rotation players, but with John Wall‘s supermax extension kicking in at $38 million next season flexibility is limited. Genuine upgrades will be hard to come by.

Predicting what Washington GM Ernie Grunfeld will do next summer is a fool’s errand, but Beal is doing his part to try and bring more talent into Washington.

Kevin Garnett says 2000 Olympic team had $1 million bounty to dunk on Yao Ming

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Team USA earned a Gold Medal in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, led by Vince Carter, Kevin Garnett, and Alonzo Mourning. Lithuania made the Americans work that year, losing by just nine in pool play then by two points in the semi-finals.

That’s not what anyone remembers from those Olympics, they remember Vince Carter doing this to 7-footer Fredric Weiss of France.

Recently Garnett sat down with Dwyane Wade for an interview (which airs on NBA TV today) and he told a fantastic story about that dunk. (Hat tip to Yahoo Sports)

Everything just paused. First of all, people didn’t know, we had a bounty out on Yao Ming. The whole USA team had a bet. We had a million dollar bet on who was going to be the first person to dunk on Yao Ming. None of us did. We all tried to dunk on Yao, but he would block it or we would miss. So, the first thing I thought of when I saw Vince dunk over Frederic was oh s***, you won the million dollars. But then I realized it obviously wasn’t Yao. I pushed Vince, and if you look at the clip, he almost punches me in the face by accident. But my first thought was, oh s***, you won, you got the million.

KG has the best stories.

MSG denies rumor James Dolan looking to sell Knicks

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Rumors that James Dolan is considering selling the Knicks — which elicits a “Hallelujah” chorus from Knicks fans — have been cropping up for a couple of years now. There were rumors he wanted to spin off the Knicks and Rangers into their own company to be sold. That’s just one, there are others — he confirmed he got a feeler $5 billion, but never a firm offer, for the Knicks — and each time he has shot them down.

This is no different.

On his latest Podcast, the Ringer’s Bill Simmons said he had heard that Dolan wanted to focus more on concerts/in-game experiences in Madison Square Garden and that the Knicks were “available.”

The Madison Square Garden Company released this statement (hat tip New York Daily News).

“The story is 100% false. There has been nothing. No discussions. No plans to have discussions – nothing.”

That’s pretty unequivocal.

While Dolan may entertain the idea on some level of selling the Knicks, until he takes concrete steps to do so — not rumors, but actual, documented moves — I’m not buying it. He’s sitting on a gold mine that keeps going up in value, despite how he manages it, so why sell now? Knicks fans that buy this rumor will likely end up like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football.