Too much Russell Westbrook lifts West to 163-158 All-Star Game win

3 Comments

NEW YORK — If the East had beaten the ridiculously deep Western Conference this season, somehow it would have felt wrong.

Russell Westbrook was not going to let that happen. The Thunder guard put up 41 points — just one shy of Wilt Chamberlain’s All-Star record, one more than Jordan’s 40 — with five of those coming in a late push to help the West hold off the East 163-159.

“It’s definitely and honor to be grouped with those two guys, especially in an All-Star Game,” Westbrook said of Chamberlain and Jordan.

While the atmosphere in New York was electric (and frigid) all weekend, the game on the court Sunday night resembled a lot of other All-Star Games — a defense-free pick-up game for three-and-a-half quarters, followed by a few minutes of real-ish basketball.

The game saw a lot of records almost fall.

The West’s 163 ties the record for most points in an All-Star Game by a team, tying the number the East put up last year to win the event.

LeBron James put up 30 points in a losing effort, leaving him just two points shy of passing Kobe Bryant for the most All-Star Game points ever.

“LeBron really impressed me with his seriousness tonight, how he approached the game, how he was just mentally and physically getting ready for the game,” Atlanta’s Kyle Korver said. “I know he had a packed weekend, but just the way he approached the game I was really impressed by him.”

Korver almost made history himself. The Atlanta Hawks sharpshooter made seven three-pointers (on 12 attempts), one shy of the All-Star Game record of eight.

“Sometimes the wide open ones are the hardest ones,” Korver said of playing in this kind of defense-free exhibition. “I left a couple of them from the corner short, I wish I had them back.”

The first half started off as the West show. James Harden put up a quick 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting to push the West to 28-18 lead. Then Westbrook came in and started gunning threes, knocking down a few quick ones and suddenly he was on his way to the best first half in NBA All-Star Game history with 27 points.

All that had the West up by 20 at one point, but no lead is safe when no defense is being played. The East made a run in the final five minutes of the first half, in part behind LeBron who came out hot (4-of-5 shooting to open game) and had 22 first half points. The East closed the gap, and it was 83-82 West at the half.

The East took a 115-114 lead with 2:51 left in the third quarter after coach Mike Budenholzer went with a lineup of four Hawks — Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap, Al Horford — plus LeBron. It was tied 122-122 entering the fourth.

The fourth quarter saw Chris Paul put up 10 points and DeMarcus Cousins put up nine. That proved to be too much for the East to overcome, despite eight points in the fourth from Kyrie Irving.

James Harden finished with 29 points for the West while LaMarcus Aldridge — named a starter on Saturday to replace Anthony Davis — finished with 18. John Wall had 19 points and seven assists for the East.

Report: Delonte West enters rehab with help of Mavericks owner Mark Cuban

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban with Delonte West
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Every so often, a video or picture goes viral of Delonte West – who played primarily for the Celtics and Cavaliers and whose NBA career ended with the Mavericks in 2012 – on the street appearing to be in rough shape.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban did something about it.

TMZ:

Mark Cuban is personally helping Delonte West get back on his feet … with the Dallas Mavericks owner picking up the ex-NBA star at a gas station in Texas.

We’re even told Cuban has offered to help cover Delonte’s cost for treatment.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Good for Cuban for stepping up. And hopefully West gets the help he needs.

Report: Clippers likely would’ve ousted Doc Rivers with any result shy of title

Doc Rivers and Clippers owner Steve Ballmer
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Clippers’ loss to the Nuggets was devastating. L.A. was a huge favorite. Blowing a 3-1 lead added to the misery. As did the Clippers’ history of futility, which was supposed to end with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

But Doc Rivers’ job appeared safe in the aftermath.

Then, the Clippers suddenly ousted him as coach yesterday.

What changed?

Jovan Buha of The Athletic:

There was no aha moment or event that led to the Clippers’ and Doc Rivers’ decision to mutually part ways on Monday afternoon, league sources told The Athletic.

Following the Clippers’ premature postseason ouster, Rivers and Clippers owner Steve Ballmer held several candid meetings and conversations, league sources said.

They discussed where things went wrong for the Clippers in the playoffs and forecasted their visions of the organization’s future, including the team’s style of play, the makeup of the roster, player development and on- and off-court leadership.

After hours of back-and-forth, the sides concluded they had differing visions of the team’s path forward

Even if the Clippers had lost deeper in the postseason, say, to the Lakers in the conference finals or to the Heat in the finals, Rivers likely would not have been back next season.

Of course, the Clippers want to present themselves as having made the rational decision. Nobody wants to be the organization that overreacted to a single situation.

The Clippers’ issues – specifically a lack of chemistrymanifested throughout the season. Rivers handled that poorly. That’d be true whether or not the Clippers had enough talent to get by the Nuggets or Lakers, anyway.

Process over results is a nice ethos.

It’s difficult to implement, though.

The collapse against Denver left such a sour taste in everyone’s mouth. However people think they would’ve reacted to a different outcome, it’s impossible to know for certain. So, I have some skepticism about whether Rivers still would’ve been ousted if he guided the Clippers to the Western Conference finals and especially NBA Finals.

That said, he didn’t. Not this year. Not any year.

So, it was easier for the Clippers to move on with a coach they viewed as flawed. They never faced the difficult decision on a coach they viewed as flawed but also had more success. We just can’t know with certainty how that would’ve gone.

Doc Rivers failed to deliver in playoffs for Clippers

Former Clippers coach Doc Rivers
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Leave a comment

Listen to all the praise being heaped upon Doc Rivers – as both a coach and person – in the aftermath of his firing. He has earned that. It’s why he’s already in demand for openings around the league.

But it’s impossible to ignore his teams repeatedly falling short in the postseason.

The Clippers hired Rivers specifically for his ability to win deep in the playoffs. He guided the Celtics to the 2008 championship and back to the 2010 NBA Finals. For a downtrodden franchise like the Clippers, getting Rivers looked like a coup.

In Rivers’ seven seasons, the Clippers averaged winning 63% of their regular-season and seeding games. There have been 152 seven-year stretches that good in NBA history.

All of them produced at least five playoff-series victories.

Except the Clippers of this era.

Rivers’ Clippers won just three postseason series in seven years.

Rivers didn’t even emphasize the regular season. He often eschewed practice to keep his players fresh. And his teams still won so many regular-season games, which speaks to the Clippers’ star power.

Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and  DeAndre Jordan then Kawhi Leonard and Paul George – Rivers’ teams were loaded.

They also never advanced past the second round.

Of course, that requires more context.

Beating the Warriors in the 2014 first round looks even better in hindsight, considering Golden State turned into a dynasty. The 2015 Clippers-Spurs series, which L.A. won, had no business being in the first round with teams that good. The Clippers lost in the second round to the Rockets when Josh Smith and Corey Brewer – Josh Smith and Corey Brewer! – got hot on 3-pointers. The Clippers lost to the Trail Blazers in the 2016 first round after Chris Paul and Blake Griffin got hurt. Griffin got hurt again in a first-round loss to the Jazz the next year. The Clippers overachieved just to make the 2019 playoffs.

Maybe Rivers would’ve been the right coach for the Clippers in the 2021 postseason. New issues arise, and he already proved he can coach a team to a championship. The Clippers are taking a huge risk with this move.

But this year’s historic collapse against the Nuggets reflected particularly poorly on Rivers, who has now blown three 3-1 leads as a coach. The Clippers were disjointed – an issue that lingered throughout the season. His personnel and tactical decisions were suspect.

And – perhaps most importantly – there was no track record of success in L.A. to fall back on.

The Clippers’ problems weren’t all Rivers’ fault. The timing of his ouster, after his job appeared safe, raises questions.

But it might just be this simple: Rivers was hired to win in the playoffs. He didn’t.

Report: Doc Rivers was surprised to learn Clippers were ousting him

Former Clippers coach Doc Rivers
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Clippers framed the conclusion of Doc Rivers’ coaching tenure as, “Doc Rivers Departs LA Clippers” and “Chairman Steve Ballmer and Doc Rivers have reached a mutual decision that Rivers will step down as head coach of the LA Clippers.”

What really happened?

Dan Woike and Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times:

people with knowledge of the situation said Rivers was surprised to learn the Clippers wanted to move on.

Internally, Rivers enjoyed support even after the Clippers blew a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semifinals. But ultimately, the sting from yet another disappointing end to a season prompted the change.

The Clippers suffered a historic upset by blowing a 3-1 lead to the Nuggets. In a season with legitimate championship aspirations, the Clippers fell short of even the conference finals for a record 50th straight year.

Of course, the coach was going to face scrutiny for that collapse. And Rivers deserved plenty.

But once the smoke cleared, Rivers appeared safe.

What changed?

Despite the Clippers’ initial spin, it’s becoming increasingly clear Rivers got fired. Still, many questions remain about the shocking move.