Five Things We Learned in NBA Tuesday: San Antonio reminds you they are the champs

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If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while trying to find the best way to break in your new baseball glove

1) San Antonio would like to remind you they are the champs (and are playing like it again). We talked about this on PBT Extra Monday — the Spurs are starting to play like the Spurs again. Which should concern other teams out West with title aspirations because the Spurs are the bar to clear. With their comfortable win Tuesday over Toronto, San Antonio has won six in a row. During that streak, they are scoring 112.6 points per 100 possessions (second best in the NBA at that time) while allowing just 95.5 points per 100 (sixth best). It all starts with Tony Parker getting into the paint again — half his shot attempts Tuesday came within eight feet of the rim — and he finished with 23 points and nine assists. Plus, Parker was 6-of-9 on contested shots. However, the real star was Kawhi Leonard with 24 points, 11 rebounds, and five steals. If you’re looking for a highlight, he threw down on Tyler Hansbrough.

2) Meanwhile, the Raptors slide continues unabated. Part of the reason San Antonio looked so good Tuesday was that Toronto looked so awful. Again. The Raptors have now lost 9-of-10, and that one win was against the Sixers. The problem is their defense, which is allowing 109.1 points per 100 possessions in that stretch, 29th in the NBA. Tuesday they scored a respectable 107 points against the Spurs, Kyle Lowry scored 32, but they lost by 10. It’s strange because Dwane Casey has the reputation as a defense-first coach, but this team’s system leaves them in constant mismatches and finds them scrambling as much as any team in the league. The Raptors looked better in the second half; they made their run, but by then it was too late.

3) You can’t throw an alley-oop pass too high for Anthony Davis. Look how high Davis has to go to pull in this pass from Norris Cole. Seriously, so long as it’s in the building he can get it.

4) LeBron became the Cavaliers’ franchise leader in assists. LeBron James moved past Mark Price to become the Cavaliers all-time assist leader when he hit James Jones in the corner, and Jones knocked down a three. That gave LeBron 4,207 assists as a Cav. By the way, he already owns the franchise records for points and steals.

5) Rodney Stuckey? Rodney Stuckey keeps the Pacers train rolling right toward the playoffs. Every once in a while Rodney Stuckey can still get it going, and Tuesday night was one of those times — he came off the bench and shot 6-of-7 for 16 points. And that was just the first quarter. Stuckey had 25 points by the half and finished with 34 points on 13-of-19 shooting. He had one beautiful shot chart on the night.

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The Pacers tied their franchise record wit 17 three-pointers on their way to an easy 118-86 win over Orlando. Indiana has now won six in a row and looks like they should take one of those final two playoff spots in the East. Plus the team will get Paul George back soon, although not by March 14 as he had once hoped. But soon.

Must watch: Lonzo Ball halfcourt alley-oop to Zion Williamson

Lonzo Ball Zion Williamson
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Damn. This is just a thing of beauty.

Lonzo Ball and Zion Williams have a connection on the court and the Grizzlies got a look at it up close and personal Monday.

NBA TV has another angle

In a must-win game for 0-2 New Orleans, Zion played more in the first half than we have seen recently, but he was still under 10 minutes total. He had 11 points on 5-of-11 shooting, leading an energized Pelicans team that led by seven at the half.

Thunder’s Dennis Schroder leaves bubble for birth of child

Dennis Shroder child
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Dennis Schroder was not in uniform when Oklahoma City lost to Denver Monday. He wasn’t even in Orlando.

Schroder left the bubble to be with his wife for the birth of his child, something the team knew was coming but came up suddenly Monday morning, coach Billy Donovan said pregame (reporting from ESPN’s Dave McMenamin inside the bubble).

 

“I’m not gonna leave my wife by herself while she’s having a second baby,” Schroder said when he talked about this with reporters previously. “(Dennis) Jr. is still 17 months old, so I’m for sure gonna go there and support her and try as much as I can to be there for my family.”

Congratulations to the Schroder family, we hope everyone is happy and healthy.

The Thunder will miss Schroder while he’s gone. He is a Sixth Man of the Year candidate averaging 19 points per game while shooting 38.1% from three. The Thunder are at their most dangerous when Schroder is paired with Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a rotation that we will not see for a while.

The first round of the playoffs starts Aug. 17. Schroder can return to the team, the question is how long he will be in quarantine when he does. If Schroeder has a negative coronavirus test for seven consecutive days before his return, he will be in quarantine for four days. If he does not get tested, or if he exposes himself to the virus unnecessarily while outside the bubble — for example, picking up wings from a strip club for dinner — he will have a 10-day quarantine.

The Thunder could use him for what will be a tight first-round playoff series in a very balanced West. Schroder may or may not be there, he has higher priorities right now.

Oklahoma state Rep. threatens to increase Thunder’s taxes for kneeling during national anthem

Oklahoma City Thunder kneel during national anthem
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The Oklahoma City Thunder – like all NBA teams (minus a few individuals) – kneeled during the national anthem.

That powerful protest calls attention to racism, particularly through police brutality. It is highly patriotic to work toward ending those shameful practices. Though some have distorted the underlying message, the protests have largely worked. In the years since Colin Kaepernick first kneeled, Americans have developed a heightened sensitivity to racism and police brutality.

Of course, there are still many opponents of anthem kneeling. The demonstration causes a visceral reaction (which is also why it has been so effective). At this point, it’s hard to stand out among the critics of anthem kneeling who keep making the same, tired arguments.

Oklahoma state representative Sean Roberts found a way.

Roberts, via Oklahoma’s News 4:

“By kneeling during the playing of the national anthem, the NBA and its players are showing disrespect to the American flag and all it stands for. This anti-patriotic act makes clear the NBA’s support of the Black Lives Matter group and its goal of defunding our nation’s police, its ties to Marxism and its efforts to destroy nuclear families.

If the Oklahoma City Thunder leadership and players follow the current trend of the NBA by kneeling during the national anthem prior to Saturday’s game, perhaps we need to reexamine the significant tax benefits the State of Oklahoma granted the Oklahoma City Thunder organization when they came to Oklahoma. Through the Quality Jobs Act, the Thunder is still under contract to receive these tax breaks from our state until 2024.

Perhaps these funds would be better served in support of our police departments rather than giving tax breaks to an organization that supports defunding police and the dissolution of the American nuclear family.”

This is outrageous.

It’s outrageous that the Thunder get such a targeted tax break. The franchise is a private company that should succeed or fail based on its own merits. While it’s easy for NBA fans (like readers of this site) to get caught up in the league, professional basketball isn’t actually important for the greater good.

It’s outrageous that a company’s tax status could depend on how its employees exercise their freedom of expression. The First Amendment still exists.

Ultimately, Roberts almost certainly doesn’t have the power to do what he’s threatening. This is grandstanding for political gain. It gets Roberts into national headlines and little else. Mission accomplished, I guess.

So, Roberts builds a reputation as another big-government politician – someone who wants to use the heavy hand of government to dissuade free expression.

NBA referee Brent Barnaky explains standing for the national anthem

NBA referee Brent Barnaky
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Magic forward Jonathan Isaac, Heat big Meyers Leonard and Spurs coaches Gregg Popovich and Becky Hammon drew plenty of attention for standing during the national anthem while nearly all NBA players, coaches and referees kneeled.

Referee Brent Barnaky also stood.

Tim Bontemps of ESPN:

This isn’t much of an explanation. Nor does it need to be. Barnaky explained that he wasn’t countering the message of kneeling players (opposing racism, particularly through police brutality). That’s sufficient for Barnaky to maintain his neutral positioning – important for an official.

For decades, nearly everyone stood for the national anthem. For many people, that was just about following norms. Even NBA players espousing social-justice messaging previously stood for the national anthem.

But Colin Kaepernick’s brave defiance caused some people to thoughtfully consider their national-anthem posture. So, while many people continued to stand for the national anthem because that’s just was done, some made deliberate choices based on their own values. Sometimes, that led to kneeling. Sometimes, that led to standing.

The thoughtful standers blended into the crowd… until kneeling became widespread in the NBA. Now, they’re the noticeable outliers within the league.

It can take courage to go against the grain. I commend Barnaky for that – and for voicing his support for social justice and peaceful protest.

Barnaky made a personal choice that can stand alone. It doesn’t undermine what anyone else is doing.