Too much Tim Duncan, too much classic Spurs when it matters evens series with Clippers 1-1

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LOS ANGELES — It has been like this for nearly two decades now: The Spurs needed something and Tim Duncan was there to give it to them.

They needed better shooting than Game 1, they needed points, and he had 28 points on 23 shots. Duncan was going right at DeAndre Jordan early, he hit a key shot in the paint in overtime, he had 11 rebounds. In a game the Spurs said they were desperate to win, they turned to Tim Duncan early and often.

“He was probably our best player in Game 1, too,” Gregg Popovich said after the game. “This is nothing new for Timmy… He was spectacular. He continues to amaze me with the things that he is able to do.”

The Spurs needed all of it on a night where Blake Griffin dropped a triple-double — 29 points, 12 points, 11 assists. Game 2 was a game the Clippers thought they had — to the point that Chris Paul stomped up and down in frustration at one point in overtime. It was the Clippers stars who seemed worn down and made mistakes late — it was a Griffin turnover that led to the free throws that allowed the Spurs to force overtime.

Then in the OT it was vintage Spurs: Duncan hits a leaner in the paint, Patty Mills scores on a leak out when the Clippers fall asleep, then Kawhi Leonard got a layup after Matt Barnes loses him. The Spurs executed the way they always do. The Clippers would not die in front of another raucous home crowd, but a J.J. Redick three rimmed out, and the Spurs hung on to win 111-107 in overtime. It was certainly not always pretty, but it was entertaining in what has been the best first round series of the playoffs so far.

The series is now tied 1-1 heading back to San Antonio for Game 3 Friday night.

Thanks to Duncan.

And Patty Mills.

Tony Parker left the game midway through the fourth quarter and did not return due to what was described as a tight right Achilles (there are no other details yet). Mills stepped up — he drove and was fouled, then hit the two free throws that forced OT. Then the Austrailian had six points to lead the Spurs in OT, and 18 total on the night off the bench.

“That was a game of grit, and grind, and competitiveness,” Mills said. “We showed competitiveness at the toughest times, which is good. We lacked that in the first game so we knew that before any Xs and Os in this game we needed to show we could come out and compete for 48 minutes — and even more so tonight.”

It was clear from the opening tip the Spurs were playing with a little more desperation. The Spurs came out much sharper and more focused defensively. They doubled the pick-and-roll out high, they rotated more sharply, and they got back in transition defense. Offensively they went to Duncan inside, and he hit 8-of-9 for 16 first half points. The Spurs moved the ball much better and that led to better looks, for the game 46 percent of their shots were uncontested. Still, the Spurs missed their threes (3-of-12 in the first half). The Clippers were no better from three (2-of-9 in the first half) but got 19 points on 13 shots from Griffin in the first half, he was hitting from everywhere. Chris Paul was sharp as usual, but the Spurs led 52-47 at the half.

Clippers came out in the second half with better ball movement, better defense, but they missed shots early. Spurs offense was not clicking either; Parker has not been sharp (or fully healthy) and it was just a lot of Duncan and Leonard vs. Paul and Griffin.

At times the Clippers started to look tired — they lack depth, and this was a hard-fought, up-tempo game. Yet they would not quit and they had their chances late. Jordan blocked a Duncan shot in the lane, Matt Barnes had a key late steal. It seemed like the Clippers would win.

The Spurs were the Spurs. They executed relentlessly. And while the polished veterans tried to sell this as just another win, the looks in their eyes and their comments in the locker room postgame when the cameras and recorders were not on let you know they thought this win was a massive one.

“The mindset was like a Game 7,” Mills said. “That’s the way we treated it. Like I said the competitiveness of that game that really got us the win in the end.”

Heat: Bam Adebayo, Goran Dragic doubtful for Game 2 of NBA Finals

Heat players Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic
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Bam Adebayo‘s and Goran Dragic‘s injuries… not looking great for the Heat approaching Game 2 of the NBA Finals.

Heat:

This is a disaster for Miami. The Lakers dominated Game 1, and now the Heat have two starters hobbled at best. At worst and more likely, Adebayo and Dragic are out.

Adebayo would be the bigger loss. Miami was completely overmatched when facing Anthony Davis without a center. Kelly Olynyk and Meyers Leonard can try to keep up, but they’re far from great solutions.

At least the Heat have more options at point guard. Kendrick Nunn can get an elevated role (especially after excelling in garbage time of Game 1). Jimmy Butler can become the de facto point guard. Tyler Herro can also play the position. But Dragic was playing so well during Miami’s run through the Eastern Conference. This is also a major setback.

 

Report: Tyronn Lue ‘early favorite’ to become Clippers head coach

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Doc Rivers is gaining momentum in the 76ers’ coaching search.

As for the job Rivers left behind with the Clippers… Clippers assistant and former Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue, unsurprisingly, has the inside track.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The Clippers are planning to interview other candidates, starting soon, sources said.

The New Orleans Pelicans are planning to interview Lue in the near future too, sources said.

Lue would be a sensible hire. He has championship experience, which would help the Clippers hit the ground running in a make-or-break season before Kawhi Leonard and Paul George can become unrestricted free agents. Lue managed stars in LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. The Clippers must improve their chemistry around their stars. And the last time Lue got promoted from assistant to head coach, his team won a title.

New Orleans also has an appealing job. But the Clippers are far closer to championship contention. And if both teams want Lue, I bet Clippers owner Steve Ballmer would outspend Pelicans owner Gayle Benson.

Still, the Clippers are conducting a coaching search. Other candidates could emerge. This isn’t necessarily Lue’s job for the taking.

How long would he wait on L.A. if the Pelicans make an offer? Lue has shown he values being entrusted.

Report: 76ers focused on Doc Rivers and Mike D’Antoni in coaching search

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The 76ers appeared focused on Mike D’Antoni in their coaching search.

Then, Doc Rivers surprisingly became available.

The former Clippers coach met with the 76ers and is now in the center of the conversation.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

For the Sixers now, the focus is on Rivers and D’Antoni, a source told ESPN. A decision is expected this week.

Rivers would be an easier fit with this roster than D’Antoni, whose style doesn’t appear to work as well with both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Rivers also looks like he’d help Philadelphia take the next step.

But that seemed like it’d be true with the Clippers and wasn’t.

Tyronn Lue’s candidacy with the 76ers has clearly faded. Could he join the Clippers, Rockets or Pelicans? If Philadelphia hires Rivers, maybe D’Antoni still lands with the Pacers?

Rivers’ availability has definitely thrown a wrench in the coaching carousel.

Victor Oladipo denies trade rumor he wants out of Indiana

Victor Oladipo
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It was a trade rumor that kind of came out of nowhere — maybe more as a thought exercise for Celtics fans hoping to move on from Gordon Hayward — but it got traction: Victor Oladipo reportedly wanted out of Indiana.

Not true, Oladipo said.

Oladipo jumped on Instagram Live with rapper Fat Joe and shot down the rumors (hat tip Clutch Points):

“I’m a Pacer. I’m a Pacer…

“Those rumors on the internet, I don’t know where they’re coming from, I’m just focused on getting my knee right for next year.”

He said later in the interview he wants a ring, he wants “hardware” because that is needed to show you are one of the greats, and he would consider leaving the Pacers to get it. But that wasn’t a short-term thing. (Also, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Allen Iverson, Steve Nash, John Stockton, Elgin Baylor and a lot of other guys would like to talk with you about that attitude.)

Oladipo returned mid-season from his knee injury to a Pacers’ team that finished as the four seed in the East but got bounced in the first round of the playoffs by the eventual Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat.

Oladipo never quite returned to his All-NBA form after coming back from injury and averaged just 14.5 points a game in the 19 regular season games he did play. Oladipo is owed $21 million next season, the last year of his current deal.

Whether he wants out of Indiana or not, at $21 million and with questions about just what level of player he is post-injury, there is not much of a trade market for Victor Oladipo. Indiana more than likely runs it back under a new coach — who has yet to be chosen — and banks on a healthy Oladipo helping the team make the next step.