Tough schedule could have Lakers 0-through-Thanksgiving

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If you’re looking for the silver lining, Tuesday night was the best game the Lakers have played this season. They were in it late against Phoenix and only lost by six. Still the scoreboard is the scoreboard and the Lakers are 0-5 having lost by a league-worst average of 14.8 points per game (15.8 per 100 possessions).

That losing streak could conceivably get to 0-15 and all the way to Thanksgiving.

It’s hard to imagine on a Kobe Bryant led team, but a look at a tough schedule ahead doesn’t show many realistic wins on the horizon.

The Lakers best chance at win No. 1 for a while is their next game, Sunday at home against Charlotte at Staples Center. The Hornets are 1-3 this young season, Lance Stephenson has not found his groove and with that their offense has struggled, plus Sunday’s game will be the first of a road trip (Charlotte plays Friday at home then fly across the country Saturday). Still, the Hornets have a top 10 defense, they have Al Jefferson inside and Kemba Walker at the point. They are not a bad team.

Fall Sunday and the Lakers 0-6 record could easily grow to 0-12 or more, at which point it becomes a national story with SportsCenter talking about it every night and radio hosts (and some fans) nationwide savoring schadenfreude at the Lakers’ expense. Plus Kobe is not going to enjoy getting asked about it over and over.

Look at the Lakers schedule after Sunday:

Nov. 11 at Memphis
Nov. 12 at New Orleans
Nov. 14 San Antonio
Nov. 16 Golden State
Nov. 18 at Atlanta
Nov. 19 at Houston
Nov. 21 at Dallas
Nov. 23 Denver
Nov. 26 Memphis
Nov. 27 Thanksgiving

The games you see as most winnable in that stretch may be New Orleans, but that is the second night of a road back-to-back, plus Anthony Davis will destroy the Lakers front line (like he does everyone). Atlanta is better than people think (is Carlos Boozer going to stop Al Horford?) and that game is on the road. Denver maybe, their offense has struggled to start the season, but they are playing top five defense so far.

The first game after Thanksgiving is Minnesota at home, a game that is certainly winnable for LA.

This is the NBA and so on any given night the Lakers could pick up a win — Jeremy Lin gets hot for a night, Kobe Bryant just goes off and is efficient in doing it — but right now the Lakers defense is so bad that they need those kinds of exceptional nights just to be in games. Defensively the Lakers are not walling off penetration — teams have averaged 26 shots in the restricted area against he Lakers per game and are shooting a very high 68.5 percent on those — nor are they rotating out well, as evidenced by the fact they have allowed more corner three attempts against them than any team in the league so far, and opponents are shooting 44.9 percent on those.

All of which is to say, the Lakers need to find their defense and their energy by Sunday and pick up a win against Jordan’s Hornets at home.

If not, the Lakers losing streak could get into the teens and stretch all the way to Thanksgiving. It’s hard to imagine but it’s not impossible. And if it does the Lakers will be in the national spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

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.