Clippers put on offensive showcase, take Game 1 vs. Spurs

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LOS ANGELES — The Clippers had the best offense in the NBA during the regular season, scoring 109.8 points per 100 possessions. But that was the regular season, how would things look in the playoffs? How would the Chris Paul look with Kawhi Leonard draped all over him? How would the Clippers score inside with Tim Duncan patroling the paint?

Everything looks good, thank you very much.

In an impressive offensive display, the Clippers shot 51.9 percent overall, hit 10-of-18 from three, and beat the Spurs 107-92 in Game 1 of their playoff series. Game 2 is Wednesday night at Staples Center.

It was an impressive performance — on both ends, an aggressive Clipper defense took the Spur out of rhythm (and the Spurs helped by missing good looks). The Clippers did whatever they wanted, and for a night it felt like Lob City was back. Blake Griffin was dunking on everyone.

“I tried to be aggressive, I did not want to settle for jump shots,” Griffin said.

Clippers took control of the game in the third quarter, when the Spurs kept missing their shots and the Clippers got out running and playing like their fans love. Chris Paul was dishing, while Jamal Crawford and J.J. Redick were hitting threes. Clippers put up 30 in the third quarter and were up 15 entering the fourth.

But it all started with the Clippers defense, which was anchored by a strong DeAndre Jordan performance.

“They were just hard hedging (on the pick-and-roll)… they were very aggressive,” Tony Parker said. “On the pick-and-roll I had to give it up, and then Borris (Diaw) and Timmy (Duncan) become the quarterbacks. They found the players, Timmy and Borris, with good looks, we just missed.”

The Spurs shot 4-of-18 from three through the first three quarters. For the game the Spurs were 14-of-26 from the free-throw line. Both are very unSpurs numbers. Ones likely to be different on Wednesday.

Parker suffered both a tweaked left ankle and a knee to his thigh in the game. He said both would be sore Monday but that he’ll be ready to go Wednesday.

Paul finished 32 points — 13 in the fourth quarter — and six assists on the night, Griffin had 26, and Jamal Crawford had an important 17 off the bench.

It started well for Los Angeles. The Clippers got pretty much their ideal first quarter. Kawhi Leonard lost Matt Barnes and J.J. Redick at the arc, and they hit their threes. Crawford and Glen Davis gave the Clippers quality bench minutes. As a team, the Clippers shot 55 percent, the Spurs 28.7 (0-of-6 from three, 6-of-12 from free throw line), and it was 30-18 Clippers after one.

The Spurs roared back in second quarter, going on a 19-5 run to take a lead. But Crawford got hot, and despite CP3 being on the bench with three fouls and a round of hack-a-Jordan the Clippers led 49-43 at the half. The Spurs shot 3-of-14 from three in the first half, just 35.6 percent overall. They got some quality looks, they just missed.

We got a dose of DeAndre Jordan being sent to the free throw line at the end of the first half with a hack-a-Jordan system, something you can be sure will be an off-season topic for the rules committee. We’ll see more of that this series, but it didn’t work well for the Spurs in this game. Doc Rivers said the key reason is it let the Clippers set their defense, and their defense was good.

Clippers made a point to double Kawhi Leonard, both in the post and at times out by the arc. He said after the game he expected it, but he didn’t handle it smoothly.

The Clippers answered a lot of questions with this performance. The big question remaining, can they replicate it in Game 2? The Spurs will play better — history has taught us that much — but if the Clippers play like this they will be in a good spot this series.

Kyrie Irving reportedly re-aggravates right shoulder, to see specialist

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Kyrie Irving missed 26 games this season with shoulder bursitis, but rather than have surgery he got a cortisone shot eight weeks ago and was able to return to the court for nine games. Eventually, a knee issue sidelined him.

Now he has re-aggravated that shoulder and, once again, will see a specialist, Nets coach Kenny Atkinson told the media on Tuesday.

There are no details on if there is a specific moment the re-aggravation happened. Irving had been trying to avoid surgery, but that could be back on the table. Irving and the Nets may take a few weeks to make their decision on a next step.

Atkinson may not go there but the rest of us can — it would be a surprise to see Irving back this season. At this point, the smart play is to let Spencer Dinwiddie run the offense the rest of the way, play hard and see what happens in the playoffs, then return next season with a healthy Irving and Kevin Durant.

Irving has played in just 20 games this season, but without him the Nets are still the seven seed in the East at 25-28.

 

Coach John Beilein reportedly to leave Cavaliers, walk away from remaining contract

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The Cavaliers brought in Michigan coach John Beilein to install his motion offense, to develop young players, and to build a culture that could win big in Cleveland.

None of that happened. The Cavaliers are 14-40, they have the worst net rating in the league and are bottom seven in both offense and defense, their young talent — players such as Collin Sexton and Darius Garland — are not developing, and the Cavs’ players have clashed with Beilein and each other, and the team abandoned Beilein’s motion offense less than a month into the season. It’s been rough.

Now he’s going to walk away, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Cavaliers return to practice Wednesday and it is likely J.B. Bickerstaff — a former NBA head coach in Houston and Memphis, and the lead assistant on Beilein’s staff — will take over as head coach. Whether that is for just the remainder of this season, or beyond, remains to be seen.

Bickerstaff would be the fourth Cavaliers coach in less than two seasons since LeBron James left the organization.

Beilein struggled to adapt to the NBA coaching style — the lack of practices, the losing, the fact that good NBA players have more organizational power than the coach, and that he couldn’t treat those players the way he did his college players. He was unable to relate to players, and his relationship with them became an issue when he reportedly said they were “no longer playing like thugs” during a film session. Those NBA players were not giving a college coach the benefit of the doubt, he had to prove himself to them. He didn’t. At age 67, Beilein wasn’t able to adapt to the NBA game.

He was in the first year of a five-year contract worth more than $4 million a season (the last year of that was a team option). Beilein is unhappy enough to leave that money on the table to walk away. He could return to college coaching as soon as next season if he wanted, there would be a long line of universities interested.

Hiring Beilein is a big miss for GM Koby Altman (the first GM owner Dan Gilbert gave a second contract to; Gilbert pushed good GMs like David Griffen out the door). The revolving door of coaches is not the sign of a strong and stable organization. The Cavaliers need to develop a culture and they need a new coach who can deliver that.

 

Pistons reach buyout with Reggie Jackson, he’s headed to Clippers

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Reggie Jackson came to Detroit to be the outside to Andre Drummond‘s inside. That never panned out, in part due to a rash of injuries to Jackson that kept a lot over a couple of those seasons.

Drummond has been traded to Cleveland, and with that it was time for the Pistons to move on from Jackson as well. That has happened, the Pistons and Jackson have agreed to a buyout.

Once Jackson clears waivers, he is headed to the Clippers reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Jackson has only played in 14 games this season due to injury but has averaged 14.9 points and 5.1 assists a game when he has played, plus is shooting 37.8 percent from three. Jackson is making $18 million this season, the final year of a five-year, $80 million contract he inked back in 2015. He is a free agent this summer.

Why the Clippers? They are contenders, and Jackson is friends with Paul George.

The Clippers get two things out of this. First, they get a third point guard who can spell Patrick Beverley 10-12 minutes a night down the stretch (and fill in if Beverley suffers an injury). Second, the Clippers keep a playmaking guard away from the Lakers.

Detroit saves a little money and takes another step to clear the roster for a rebuild. They have Derrick Rose and Brandon Knight at the point guard spot, don’t be surprised if they call up a few guys from the G-League to see if they can find a longer-term option.

Adam Silver acknowledges ratings drop as NBA tries to connect young viewers to broadcasts

NBA commissioner Adam Silver
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One of the NBA’s great strengths is its core audience is younger than the other major American sports.

One of the NBA’s great challenges is its core audience is younger than the other major American sports.

That means a lot of NBA fans are cord cutters — or, never had a cord to begin with — and don’t consume their entertainment the way their parents and grandparents did. Much the way we do a poor job measuring the economy by doing it the same way we did a century ago, using traditional Neilson rating measures is a poor way to judge the number of eyeballs on a game. Viewership is evolving.

But make no mistake, traditional ratings are down for the NBA, both nationally and at the regional level. Nationwide ratings are down by 12 percent, including 13 percent on TNT and 16 percent on ABC. On the regional level, the Sports Business Journal reports ratings are down by 13 percent. That is due to some big drops in certain markets (the Bay Area, for example), while the NBA says that ratings are up in 13 of the 28 markets that have reliable Neilson numbers (28 cities because Toronto and Denver are not included, the latter of which has a coverage/cable dispute that has much of the greater Denver region unable to view games at home).

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver owned the drop during All-Star weekend. He added that while the league could blame injuries to players that would be draws  — Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson with the Warriors, Zion Williamson with the Pelicans, Kevin Durant in Brooklyn, etc. — the bigger issue is connecting those younger viewers to NBA broadcasts.

“It’s well-known that on one hand we’re celebrated by some because we have such a young fan base, but that young fan base is disconnecting from pay television in record numbers, and by disconnecting, not just simply not subscribing to cable or so-called cutting the cord, they’re not watching traditional paid television the way they used to,” Silver said during his All-Star weekend press conference. “They’re watching over-the-top streaming services. They’re watching screens, but it’s not essentially pay TV.

“So the good news for the league is that, when we look at all other data points, particularly what we see in social media, what we see in terms of distribution of highlights and general chatter around our games, we’ve never been more popular. But we haven’t found a way to connect those young fans to our broadcast through whatever platform they’re going to be delivered.

“Again, I think it’s a very solvable problem. Our two primary media partners, Disney and AT&T, are both very engaged in these issues…

“So it’s not an issue unique to the NBA. We may be affected by it a little bit more compared to some properties because we have such a young fan base, but I’m super confident over time we’ll work through it because there remains enormous interest in our players and our game.”

Silver also showed at the NBA’s tech summit where he thinks the broadcast of NBA games is headed, trying to bring the courtside experience into the home (with an assist from Bill Murray).

Silver isn’t alone in thinking this way. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, for one, said basically the same thing recently.

A well-respected media consultant recently told Forbes magazine he doesn’t think this ratings downturn is going to hurt the league in 2025 when it’s time to negotiate a new broadcast deal.

“This season’s NBA ratings story is silly. It is a small sample size. This is a year-round league with year-round stories,” says sports media consultant Lee Berke of LHB Sports. “The next NBA media agreements will be a substantially evolved set of deals because of streaming. There will be an increasing range of media companies that want the NBA for the U.S. and worldwide.”

The current $2.7 billion per year NBA deal with ESPN and TNT runs through the 2024-25 season, and Berke expects the next deal to roughly double in value.

That’s the vision Adam Silver sees. It’s just a matter of figuring out how to connect those young viewers to the content. Then to stop measuring viewership the way our grandparents did.