Spurs get a little lucky, are plenty good, get road win in Game 5 over Clippers

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LOS ANGELES — In a close, evenly-played game like this, it comes down to a thousand little things.

For the Clippers, it was death by a thousand cuts: a Chris Paul technical; the team going 1-of-14 from three; letting the Spurs grab a late offensive rebound; calls not going their way; and a tired Blake Griffin having a fantastic game then going 1-of-9 in the fourth quarter due in part to fatigue.

And it was DeAndre Jordan tipping in a ball over the cylinder that was going in on its own.

“It was a dumb ass play… can’t blame anybody for that but me,” Jordan said.

The Spurs just kept executing and making plays: Tim Duncan hitting Boris Diaw for the corner three; Duncan blocking Blake Griffin in the paint (then stripping the ball from him); Manu Ginobili beating out Matt Barnes to get a rebound with the game on the line. And even when the Spurs didn’t execute well, Diaw hit a bail-out 18-foot fadeaway he even described as “lucky.”

It all added up to a 111-107 Spurs win in Staples Center Tuesday night. With the win the Spurs take a 3-2 lead home and will try to close it out in games six Thursday in San Antonio.

It’s tempting to describe the game as just the kind the Spurs find a way to win, but coach Gregg Popovich was not buying that.

“One would assume that experience would help you, but not as much as players making plays,” Popovich said.

Popovich made one key adjustment, putting Duncan on Griffin for key stretches of the game, including the fourth quarter. Most of the season, the Spurs prefered to use Tiago Splitter on Griffin, but with Splitter injured and playing limited minutes it wasn’t working. So Popovich turned to the future Hall of Famer.

Griffin put up numbers — 30 points, 14 rebounds — but he struggled down the stretch. That included a key block then strip by Duncan of Griffin in the paint.

“His timing is just impeccable,” Popovich said. “He has a hard time jumping over the proverbial piece of paper, and he gets in position. He knows where to be. He’s played long enough, he’s got a great basketball IQ, and he has excellent timing, so he reads things well….

“It might have been the play of the game when he blocked that shot.”

That was one. The other was a Griffin basket with :07 seconds left that would have put the Clippers up by one, but was waived off when Jordan touched it over the cylinder.

“I was just trying to make a play on the ball, but it ended up being a dumb play,” said Jordan, who admitted touching the ball.

Early on it seemed this could be a good night for Los Angeles. The Spurs opened the game 4-of-14 shooting, the misses allowing the Clippers to get out and run — and that means high-flying dunks that got the crowd going. Add some bad rotations on defense and things got so weird Popovich called for some zone defense. It was pretty much the dream start for the Clippers, who led by as many as 14… then Doc Rivers went to his bench. That zone and the Clipper bench meant by the end of the quarter it was 27-22 Clippers and felt like a game again.

When the Clippers starters returned, the team went on a run, but this time the Spurs were not going to let the game get away. A seesaw second quarter ended with a 54-53 Clippers lead at the half. Blake Griffin already had 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting, plus eight rebounds.

The Spurs had a vintage Spurs night — Ducan had 21, Kawhi Leonard 18, but the Spurs had eight guys with at least 8 points. Their balance makes them hard to defend.

The Clippers are more top-heavy in their scoring, and in the end Griffin was clearly tired and not making plays. Not that it was his fault the Clippers lost. It was just another of a thousand little cuts.

Collin Sexton says he’s going to wear fan-designed shoes this season

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Cleveland Cavaliers second-year point guard Collin Sexton is already a fan-favorite in northeastern Ohio. This year, it appears that Sexton is trying to deepen that connection.

In a message posted to Twitter on Sunday, Sexton reached out to his followers to design a new set of shoes for him this year. The Cavaliers sophomore said that he will take the top five designs that fans submit and then wear them throughout the course of the upcoming 2019-20 NBA season.

Via Twitter:

This is a pretty cool idea, and a great way to have a direct link between fans and players. Social media is in an era of extreme personal branding, and even if this is a thinly-veiled Nike marketing thing, it at least has a twinge of genuineness to it.

The only thing left now is to see what designs people submit, and whether Sexton’s taste is any good.

James Harden plays in Rico Hines games at UCLA and destroys people

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Elite NBA defenders, with a team and a game plan behind them, can’t slow down James Harden.

So imagine what happens when he shows up for an open run.

One spot a lot of NBA players head in the summer to get some games in is Rico Hines’ games at UCLA. Harden showed up and, well, you know what comes next. Via Ball is Life.

The man is so smooth, so under control, and just able to get buckets however he wants. It’s just fun to watch. Unless you’re an opposing coach.

Could Kevin Durant return from torn Achilles, play for Nets this season? Maybe…

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Every case is different, but many players return from a torn Achilles in about nine to 10 months. Kobe Bryant pushed and did it in eight. Other players will take a full year.

If Kevin Durant returned in nine months it would be March, enough time to get in game shape and be ready for the Nets’ playoff run.

There’s a growing sense from teams we could see just that scenario, and Spencer Dinwiddie talked about it with Brian Lewis of the New York Post.

Though Nets GM Sean Marks refused to rule Durant out for the season, the feeling within the league is trending toward him potentially playing this season.

“I know KD is taking the rehab process ultra-serious. He wants to come back as soon as it’s appropriate, and healthy and the right decision for him, and then also subsequently that would also be the right decision for,” said Dinwiddie, who points out that even a slightly-diminished Durant could still be a superstar.

“The beautiful part about this is, the man is 7-foot and one of the best shooters of all time. At worst you get Dirk [Nowitzki], and Dirk was a monster. So we’re ready for him to come back whenever he wants to and whenever he’s ready to do so, and we know that he’s going to be a phenomenal major piece of our roster.”

Durant is an intense competitor who wants to get back on the court. He pushed to get back from a calf injury and play in the NBA Finals only to suffer the Achilles tear. He’s smart enough to be sure he’s all the way back before he steps on the court, if that means he sits out a full season so be it. However, he absolutely could return this season.

If he’s back, the Nets go from interesting team to potential threat to the Bucks and Sixers at the top of the conference. Durant was the best player in the world the past couple of years and he could return to that status quickly, and lift Brooklyn up with him.

Will Toronto give Pascal Siakam max extension?

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In his third year in the league last season, Pascal Siakam made a leap. He averaged 16.9 points and 6.9 rebounds a game, shot 36.9 percent from three, became a shot creator, played quality wing defense, and he was a key part of the Raptors earning the right to have a parade and hoist a championship banner. He earned that Most Improved Player trophy.

Siakam is Toronto’s future after a summer where Kawhi Leonard left.

Siakam also is eligible for an extension right now.

Should the Raptors give him the max of five years, $170 million? A number of executives around the league told Frank Urbina of Hoopshype that Siakam may be worth that number.

A Western Conference coach agreed: “With Toronto in the situation that they’re in, no longer having Kawhi Leonard or Danny Green, Pascal Siakam may be a safe bet for them and they may want to give him a max extension to lock him up. I’ve been impressed with his development; he’s improved into a highly, highly serviceable player who’s very efficient and does a lot for that team. From the outside looking in, it seems like he’ll be able to continue his development too. He seems highly motivated and very grateful to be in the situation he’s in and he doesn’t take anything for granted.”

Is “highly serviceable” worth the max? The two players who got that money this summer were Ben Simmons in Philly and Jamal Murray in Denver. Most of the GMs spoken to for the article would try to extend him for less than the full max.

“I think they’re going to try to extend him,” one current Eastern Conference GM said. “I haven’t talked to Toronto, but he’s obviously a huge piece for them, helped them win a championship, he’s getting better, he’s young, he’s athletic and he can shoot. They’re going to try to extend him. Do I think he’s a max player? No. Do I think he’s a good player? Certainly. It’ll come down to what he thinks he’s worth, and I’m sure his agents have called around to see what kind of offers he could get if he enters restricted free agency.”

Another Western Conference executive agreed that he’s not worth the max, telling HoopsHype: “Out of Pascal Siakam, Jaylen Brown, Brandon Ingram and Buddy Hield, [the main candidates remaining for a rookie-scale extension], I don’t think any of them will get the max or deserve the max. If I was running each team, I would force them to play it out. In some situations, keeping their cap holds is so much more beneficial. You should only extend if you get a below-market-value deal or if it’s a no-brainer extension.”

If the Raptors come in at less than the max with an offer, Siakam may just want to play out this season and head into restricted free agency next summer. If he has another strong season, when he hits the market in a down year for free agents he may find a team willing to make a max or near max offer and Toronto will have to match or let him walk. Essentially, Siakam would bet on himself.

We’ll see if Toronto and Siakam’s people can find a number that works for both sides, the deadline is Oct. 21. The sides are talking, but its more likely this rolls into next summer.