Trail Blazers commentators really mad about Scott Brooks benching LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard

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In the 2012 All-Star Game, LaMarcus Aldridge played fewer than 10 minutes, and he clearly wasn’t pleased with such a reduced role.

Ben Golliver of Blazer’s Edge:

After the game, Aldridge addressed a small group of reporters in the Mixed Zone media area, saying that he was as surprised about his playing time as everyone else. He said multiple times that he “definitely” expected more run.

“8 minutes? 9 minutes? I definitely did… I thought I was going to play more. It’s fine though. I had fun.”

And why should he have been satisfied with so few minutes? Aldridge is an excellent player who’s used to playing more. Of course, all his teammates fit in the same boat, so most of them probably felt that way.

But that doesn’t wipe out Aldridge’s license to want more playing time.

To his credit, though, Aldridge didn’t overblow his dismay. Aldridge, via Golliver:

“It’s cool,” he said. “First All-Star Game. Have the first one behind me. It was an eventful weekend, and now it’s over.”

He said he does not view the playing time he received as a snub on the level of being overlooked for selection to the 2011 All-Star Game.

“I could look at it like that, but I’m not… I had fun talking with the guys and being with the guys. It’s always going to be something. I think with my luck, it’s always something. I’m not going to trip on that. I’m going to go back and try to win games.”

Back in the All-Star Game this season – with the Thunder’s Scott Brooks coaching again, as he did in 2012 – Aldridge played just 13:17. His Trail Blazers teammate, Damian Lillard, saw the court for just 8:44 – even fewer minutes than Aldridge got two years ago.

This time, the complaints coming from Portland aren’t so tempered.

Trail Blazers color commentators Mike Rice Sr. (television) and Antonio Harvey (radio) had harsh words for Brooks (hat tip: Golliver).

Rice:

Harvey:

It’s important to remember Rice and Harvey don’t speak for Aldridge and Lillard, both of whom said they accepted their roles.

Aldridge, via Mike Tokito of The Oregonian:

“I definitely had my opportunity to score,” Aldridge said. “Didn’t make any shots, but I think I played more minutes – what’d I play tonight, 14 minutes? —  I think that’s an All-Star Game high for me. It was fun. The whole weekend was fun. I had fun with the activities and the things for the fans.”

Lillard, via Tokito:

“You’ve got guys that are producing at the same level that I am for my team, but they’ve been here five times already, so they’re going to be on the floor,” Lillard said. “That’s a respect thing. If I’m ever a five-time All-Star, four-time All-Star, and a first-time All-Star came in and played more minutes than me, or finishing the game over me, I’m not going to like that. So I respect it.”

Rice and Harvey are so closely affiliated with the Trail Blazers that their tweets carry weight, and both commentators overreacted. Every single All-Star played fewer minutes Sunday than his season per-game average. Some had to accept greater reductions than others, but everyone took at least some cut. Rice and Harvey would do well to consider that and the fact that Durant and most of the other minutes leaders are better than Aldridge and Lillard. Rice and Harvey just look petty.

Aldridge and Lillard, especially by comparison, look gracious.

Maybe the Trail Blazers – or just Rice and Harvey – are deliberately trying to stir up a rivalry with the Thunder in advance of a possible playoff series. If so, kudos. I’d honestly be more intrigued in that series if Aldridge and Lillard were seeking revenge on Brooks.

But even that bonus would be based on the misguided belief Brooks did something wrong.

Besides, there’s no indication Aldridge and Lillard share Rice’s and Harvey’s anger, anyway.

Paul George scores 28 as Thunder beat Raptors 116-109

Associated Press
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TORONTO (AP) — Paul George scored 28 points, Russell Westbrook had 18 points, 13 assists and 12 rebounds, and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Toronto Raptors 116-109 on Friday night.

Dennis Schroder came off the bench to score 26 points and Jerami Grant had 19 as the Thunder snapped a four-game losing streak and avenged Wednesday’s 123-114 home defeat to Toronto.

The Thunder made 20 of 43 shots from 3-point range. Oklahoma City made a season-high 22 3-pointers against the Lakers on Jan. 17.

Kawhi Leonard scored 37 points and Pascal Siakam had 25 for the Raptors, who played without All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry.

Lowry missed his second straight game because of a sprained right ankle. Coach Nick Nurse said there’s no structural damage to Lowry’s ankle, but soreness remains following a collision with New York’s Mitchell Robinson on Monday. Nurse said Lowry is expected to return next week.

Danny Green scored 19 points and Serge Ibaka had 11 but Toronto couldn’t hold a double-digit lead in the third quarter for the second straight game. The Raptors gave away a 20-point lead before recovering to win in overtime Wednesday, but weren’t able to match that on their home court.

Oklahoma City trailed by 10 points to start the second half, and was down 13 with 5:23 to go in the third before rallying. Westbrook gave the visitors the lead for the first time since early in the first quarter on a layup with 1:18 left in the period, putting them up 80-79. The Thunder closed the third with a 20-4 run to take an 83-80 lead into the fourth.

Leonard cut the gap to 93-91 on a free throw with 7:33 to play but George hit 3-pointers on either side of a fast-break layup by Grant, giving Oklahoma City a 101-91 edge with 6:21 left.

The Thunder missed eight of their first 10 shots of the game. Toronto was 5 of 6 from 3-point range in the first, with Green making all three of his attempts, and the Raptors led 29-22 after one.

Leonard scored nine points in the second and Green had six as Toronto led 58-48 at halftime.

 

James Harden ties career best with 61, Rockets beat Spurs 111-105

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HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden matched his career high with 61 points, including 27 in the first quarter, to lead the Houston Rockets to a 111-105 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night.

Harden hit three straight 3-pointers to give the Rockets a 103-100 lead and scored all of Houston’s points in a 13-2 run late in the fourth quarter.

Harden topped the 50-point mark for the eighth time this season, compared with 10 such performances from the rest of the league combined. He matched his career-best total set earlier this season against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

The NBA’s leading scorer surpassed the 30-point mark in the second quarter and the 40-point mark with 9 minutes remaining in the third.

Before Harden’s late surge, the Spurs led by six points with 4 minutes left in the game. The Spurs had overcome a 15-point halftime deficit to tie the game at 81 entering the fourth quarter.

Harden was 7 of 10 from the field in the first quarter, including 3 of 4 from the 3-point line, and also went 10 for 12 from the free throw line. His 27 points in the period were the second-most in franchise history, trailing only Vernon Maxwell’s 30 in 1991.

Harden finished 9 of 13 from 3, 19 of 34 from the field and 14 of 17 from the free throw line.

Houston has won 13 of its last 15 games and eight of its last nine at home.

Bryn Forbes led San Antonio with 20 points, while Derrick White added 18 and DeMar DeRozan had 16.

Houston led 36-24 at the end of the first quarter and 62-47 at halftime.

 

LeBron James’ playoff streak ends at 13 years

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
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The last time LeBron James missed the playoffs, YouTube hadn’t yet launched to the public.

LeBron had reached the postseason every year since 2005, when his Cavaliers went 42-40 and finished ninth in the East – another good marker. The last time LeBron missed the playoffs, it was so long ago, an Eastern Conference team could be that good and not qualify.

But his Lakers were officially eliminated from the playoff race Friday with a loss to the Nets.

That ends LeBron’s postseason streak at 13 years – tied for the 13th-longest of all-time. Karl Malone and John Stockton hold the record, each playing in 19 straight postseasons.

Here are the longest playoff streaks of all-time:

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Obviously, LeBron joining the Western Conference put his playoff streak in greater jeopardy. And the Lakers’ fate has been known for a while.

Still, it’ll be a little jarring to watch a postseason that doesn’t include a player who ruled half the bracket for so long.

That said, LeBron might not have the longest playoff streak snapped this year. Tony Parker, who reached the playoffs in all 17 of his seasons with the Spurs, could fall short in his first season with the Hornets.

If Charlotte misses the playoffs, 76ers guard J.J. Redick is in line to hold the longest active streak at 13 years.

Here are the players with the longest active streaks that could continue this season.

Players are listed with the teams they made the postseason with during their streaks. If they haven’t reached the playoffs in their stint with their current team, that team is listed in brackets.

Players whose teams are currently in playoff position are in teal. Players whose teams are currently outside playoff position but not yet eliminated are in purple. Free agents who’d be eligible for the playoffs if they sign before the end of the regular season are in white:

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There’s no reason to believe Manu Ginobili will come out of retirement. But he has played in every postseason since missing the entire 2009 playoffs due to injury. It’s technically possible for him to play in the 2019 playoffs and keep his streak alive.

Which is more than LeBron can say.

Knicks’ fans chant “Free IT” as Isaiah Thomas sits on Nuggets bench

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Well played, Knicks fans.

Denver went into Madison Square Garden Friday night to be the latest team to defeat the Knicks. Isaiah Thomas, out of the rotation in Denver, was the only dressed player not to play for the Nuggets. That did not sit well with Knicks fans.

Denver has better on court options than IT — Monte Morris should get Most Improved Player votes — but I hope he gets fully healthy and lands somewhere next season where he gets a chance to show what he can still do.