France shocks Spain at World Cup 65-52, USA’s path to gold just became more open

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One week ago, Spain toyed with France winning by 22 in group play. Spain dominated inside — Marc Gasol had 17 points, Pau Gasol 15 — and played defense that held the French to 39 percent shooting.

Wednesday the scrip flipped — and the USA’s path to the gold medal just became a lot more wide open.

France played a fantastic defensive game Wednesday — their recovery on the pick-and-roll was spot on all game, while inside the combination of Joffrey Lauvergne in the first half and the Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gobert in the second held Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka to a combined 5 points on 2-of-14 shooting.

The result was a shocking upset — France 65, Spain 52. No Tony Parker or Joakim Noah, no problem. France advances on to the World Cup semifinal Friday against Serbia.

Host Spain is done. Adios. It was shocking because they were undefeated in the tournament having won their previous six games by an average 26.5 points. They, along with Team USA, had looked like the clearly two dominant squads of this World Cup, and with Spain at home there was seemingly no question that they would play for the gold.

Suddenly the USA’s path to gold looks much easier. Lithuania (Thursday’s opponent) and either France or Serbia in the final might have a puncher’s chance against the USA. But really it would take their best games and a terrible, off night from the USA to see an upset.

Spain seemed flummoxed by what France did defensively, with fantastic pick-and-roll defense and discipline that didn’t give the Spanish guards (or bigs) room to make the ball moving passes they had all tournament. France also did a great job of slowing the game down, not letting the guards of France get a lot of easy buckets in transition.

Plus, Spain just missed shots. They started 0-9 from three in the first half and were just 2-of-22 from three for the game. On the night Ricky Rubio was 1-of-7 shooting, Sergio Rodriguez 0-of-3, Rudy Fernandez 2-of-6. Combine that with Ibaka and Marc Gasol’s off nights and you have a Spanish team that shot just 32 percent.

But maybe the most shocking part of the night was the way Lauvergne and Gobert controlled the paint and glass – Gobert had 13 rebounds and Lauvergne 10, while the Gasol brothers had a dozen combined.

We have talked about how for Team USA players like Anthony Davis and Kenneth Faried could use their World Cup play as a springboard into a huge NBA season. Throw Gobert on that list.

Also we should be fair to Pau Gasol, who was the one Spanish player who had a good night — 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting plus he had three blocks. He had a very strong entire tournament. Bulls fans will love him this season (likely in a way some Lakers fans never did).

On offense France was doing enough attacking off the dribble in the half court, keeping it a half court game and slowing it down. And they were hitting their shots when it mattered. Boris Diaw had 15 points to lead the way, and late in the game some of the offense ran through him (and as you would expect, it was creative and smart with the ball). Then there was point guard Thomas Heurtel, who was running the show late and hit a couple of key baskets including a dagger three.

It was a team win for France, the European champions who are now looking at a real chance to medal at the World Cup.

It was a team loss for Spain in a year that, at home, they thought they could get a World Cup gold medal. But in a one-and-done tournament you have to bring it every night.

Wednesday France brought it, and they move on.

Much to the delight of Team USA (even though they would never say that publicly).

Paul George’s 37 in home debut lead Clippers past Hawks 150-101 (VIDEO)

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Paul George scored 37 points in his Clippers home debut, Lou Williams added 25, and Los Angeles led all the way in routing the Atlanta Hawks 150-101 on Saturday night.

The anticipated first game with George and Kawhi Leonard in the lineup together didn’t happen when Leonard sat out with a left knee contusion.

But the Clippers didn’t need both of their new superstars on a night when George tied his career high with six 3-pointers and made all 11 of his free throws in the team’s biggest blowout of the young season.

George was clearly having fun in the fourth when he stole the ball, dribbled down and tossed it off the glass, setting up Montrezl Harrell for a two-handed dunk that ignited the crowd and pushed the Clippers’ lead to 36 points.

George sat down for good with 9:58 remaining in the game, having done all his damage playing 20 minutes.

Two nights after scoring 33 in his debut at New Orleans, George had it going from the start. He scored 15 of the Clippers’ first 22 points in a six-minute span. They led by 17 and shot 59 percent in the opening quarter.

George is the first player in franchise history to score 30-plus points in his first two games with the team.

The Hawks scored 11 straight points to close within four early in the second quarter, the closest they would come the rest of the game. The Clippers answered with an 18-6 run, fueled by George’s nine points, to go back up by 17 again.

George had 25 points at halftime when the Clippers led 74-62, shooting 52% and making all 16 of their free throws.

Leonard also sat out on Thursday when George made his Clippers debut in a loss to the Pelicans.

George missed the season’s first 11 games while completing rehab from offseason shoulder surgery.

“I would love them to play every game and be out there,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said before the game. “We knew early on this would be a tough go.”

Trae Young had 20 points for the Hawks, who dropped their second in a row. They trailed by 52 points in the fourth.

The Clippers dominated in nearly every category, with their bench outscoring the Hawks’ reserves 81-35. Los Angeles made 17 3-pointers and hit 33 of 35 free throws.

 

Gregg Popovich gets ejected, Tim Duncan takes over coaching, Spurs still fall to Trail Blazers

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Tim Duncan was back in charge in San Antonio and the Spurs were flourishing under his leadership again.

Duncan was directing players on defensive assignments, encouraging them and providing needed leadership. But in the end, he couldn’t provide the same late-game heroics from the bench that he long did on the court.

CJ McCollum scored 32 points and the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Spurs 121-116 on Saturday night to spoil Duncan’s first shot at coaching following Gregg Popovich’s ejection.

Duncan took over just 13 games into his first season as an assistant coach. Popovich was ejected after walking onto the court to berate official Jason Goldenberg over a non-call. Popovich calmly walked off the court following his first ejection of the season (you can see it in the video above).

On Twitter, this led to a debate as people tried to figure out who took over as coach. Assistant Coach Becky Hammon ran one time out, but it was Duncan — the assistant coach assigned to scout Portland on the staff — who was the main man. Duncan, Hammon and Will Hardy coached by committee, but it was Duncan calling the plays and screaming out instruction.

“It was cool,” Spurs guard Bryn Forbes said. “It didn’t really feel like a huge difference. I think he did a good job. He took control. He helped lead us to a big lead.”

Popovich was asked if he considered having Becky Hammon take over to make history as the first woman to lead an NBA team.

“I’m not here to make history,” Popovich said.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 30 points and 13 rebounds but the Spurs lost their fifth straight and fell to 5-8.

Damian Lillard added 22 points and Hassan Whiteside had 21 points for Portland (5-8), which rallied from a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter to snap a four-game skid in San Antonio.

“We’ve blown leads before, so we kind of know what to expect,” McCollum said. “Once you do it, you’ve got to stay grounded, focus on the little stuff.”

Before the game, Popovich said coaching could only go so far and it was up to each player to take responsibility for his own mistakes and performance during this losing streak. Popovich put that responsibility squarely on the Spurs when he was ejected early in the third quarter.

McCollum had 23 of his points in the first half.

Bryn Forbes added 17 points and DeRozan and Rudy Gay added 16 apiece.

 

Jamal Crawford finds it “baffling” no team has called to sign him yet

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Iman Shumpert got his call from the Brooklyn Nets.

Carmelo Anthony got his call from the Portland Trail Blazers.

Jamal Crawford is still waiting for his call, and he’s confused why it hasn’t yet come. From Shaun Powell of NBA.com.

“I know I can play,” Crawford told NBA.com, “and I would think my reputation is still solid. It’s baffling to me…

“Physically, I feel better than I did last season,” he said. “I’m able to get my body together. My skill set is sharp. I feel that I’m good. My mindset is be patient and hopefully something good comes about it. I’ll be ready for the opportunity.”

Like Anthony, Crawford needs the right role, but he can help teams.

He’s not young at age 39 but, in the right situation, he could help a team get buckets off the bench. The three-time Sixth Man of the Year has slowed in recent years, and his defense is a bigger concern to front offices, but the man still averaged 7.9 points per game last season off the bench and lit it up for the depleted Suns at the end of last season (including a 51-point game against Dallas). 

Some team is going to give Crawford a chance. Probably. Until then, he is staying ready, waiting for the phone to ring.

 

 

Giannis Antetokounmpo dunks over not one but two Pacers (VIDEO)

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Once Giannis Antetokounmpo gets rolling downhill, good luck.

The Pacers found that out the hard way with not one but two players getting dunked on by the Greek Freak. On the same dunk.

Damn. That’s not fair.

It’s also not the only highlight play for Antetokounmpo on the night.

Milwaukee was up double digits on the Pacers early in the fourth quarter, and of course, Antetokounmpo was leading the way.