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

39 Comments

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.”

Report: Cavaliers hire J.B. Bickerstaff to John Beilein’s staff

Getty
Leave a comment

The Cleveland Cavaliers are still trying to figure things out. LeBron James left for the Los Angeles Lakers last summer, and now the team has hired John Beilein to be its head coach. The team doesn’t have a top pick the way it has in years past, and barring any trades they will select 25th overall in the 2019 NBA Draft.

But at least they are figuring out there coaching staff Issues.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Cavaliers have hired former Memphis Grizzlies head coach J.B. Bickerstaff to be its top assistant coach. Bickerstaff was apparently also in talks with the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, and Sacramento Kings.

Via Twitter:

Bickerstaff previously headed the Houston Rockets from 2015 to 2016, and was the top man for the Grizzlies over the last two seasons after the team canned David Fizdale.

This is a solid hire for the Cavs. Bickerstaff has been a respected assistant in the league for the past decade-and-a-half, and he should give some veteran NBA oopmh behind Beilein, who most recently coached at Michigan for 12 years and is headed into his rookie season.

Raptors outlast Bucks in 2OT to take Game 3 of ECF

Getty
3 Comments

Don’t count the Toronto Raptors out yet.

On Sunday, Kawhi Leonard and his bench mob outlasted Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, 118-112, in 2OT.

Finally back at home, Toronto showed up in the biggest way possible, and in exactly the way they had been needing in Games 1 and 2. Pascal Siakam, a non-factor in those contests, scored 25 points on 50 percent shooting from the field, grabbing 11 boards to go with three steals. Norman Powell scored 19 off the bench, including hitting three 3-pointers.

Of course, the Raptors were led by none other than Leonard, who had 36 points and dominated at the free-throw line, going 12-of-13. Toronto’s best player also had nine rebounds and five assists.

As a team, Game 3 was about Toronto finally hitting on all cylinders from the 3-point line. Where before almost no players outside of Leonard were able to get it going from deep, Game 3 was a much different story. Eight Raptors combined to make at least one three each, and Toronto shot 37.8% from the arc.

By the same factor, the Bucks struggled. As the home crowd pushed Toronto forward, Antetokounmpo and his squad just couldn’t get it going. The first half only treated the Raptors right, who scored 58 points. And although Antetokounmpo started to come on a bit better in the third quarter, the game eventually developed into a bit of a rock fight by the fourth.

Toronto looked like it had sealed up the win the end of regulation. Fred Van Vleet came up with a crucial block on Khris Middleton on the final possession, but the Milwaukee guard scooped up the loose ball and put it back in the hoop to push it to extra time.

By the time the second overtime rolled around, Antetokounmpo only had one foul left to give. The Bucks’ superstar then fouled out just 36 seconds into the second overtime while trying to draw a charge on Siakam.

That allowed Leonard score eight of Toronto’s 15 points in the second OT en route to the six-point victory.

It took a wondrous night on defense for the Raptors to force Antetokounmpo to shoot just 5-of-16 from the field. Even still, Milwaukee’s star had 23 rebounds and seven steals, and it took until he fouled out in the second overtime for Toronto to grab a win.

The Raptors should be happy about what they were able to accomplish on Sunday night. Getting wins at home in a crucial playoff games is what championship hopeful teams should do. Still, it took every single ounce of what Toronto had, and even then it was only just barely enough to grab their first win of the series at home.

Nick Nurse will need to build on what he learned from Game 3 and see if they can improve upon it to level the series in Game 4 on Tuesday night.

Report: Grizzlies interviewed Igor Kokoskov for head coach gig

AP
Leave a comment

The Memphis Grizzlies now have the No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Many believe that Memphis will trade Mike Conley and draft Ja Morant as a means to move the franchise forward.

The only problem? The Grizzlies still don’t have a head coach.

Memphis fired coach J.B. Bickerstaff and demoted general manager Chris Wallace to scout back in April. The Grizzlies are moving forward with some non-traditional front office hirings that include Jason Wexler, Zach Kleiman, Rich Cho, and Glen Grunwald.

According to one report, at least one inquiry has been made about the head coach position: former Phoenix Suns head coach Igor Kokoskov got a shot to interview with Memphis.

Via Twitter:

Memphis is taking its time selecting their coach, and it’s not necessary that the team has someone in place leading into the draft. Whether the next guy will be “the guy” or simply “the guy who helps them rebuild in the future” we aren’t yet sure.

Kokoskov got a raw deal in Phoenix, with many feeling as though the Suns wasted their hiring of the Slovenian national team’s coach by not drafting Luka Doncic with the No. 1 overall pick last year. It would be nice just to see him back on an NBA bench at the start of next season.

Draymond Green on techs: ‘I was doing more crying than playing’ (VIDEO)

Getty
4 Comments

Draymond Green believes he’s the best defender ever. The Golden State Warriors star was certainly incredible against the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday night, with the Warriors beating the home team, 110-99.

But one thing that has bothered Green’s detractors over the years is how much he speaks to the referees, particularly to his own detriment. It’s one thing to work referees the way that Chris Paul or Damian Lillard or James Harden does. It’s another to continuously antagonize refs en route to a whole mess of technical fouls, which have been a problem for Green in the playoffs in the past.

But Green has been pretty subdued when it comes to technicals this postseason, and that’s apparently in due to a concerted effort by the Golden State forward to curb his attitude and realize that he’s doing more damage than good.

Via Twitter:

This postseason, and particularly this Western Conference Finals, have been an interesting shift in the narrative around Green. Where before it seemed like haters could glom onto how much Green whined, at this point he’s simply dominating the Trail Blazers from a play standpoint and nothing else.

It’s been impressive to see, and I think all of us are happy to watch Green play the way he has without flapping his gums and putting the Warriors at a disadvantage because he wants to yell at the boys in gray.