Too much Austin Rivers — yes, seriously — leads Clippers blowout of Rockets, take series 2-1

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LOS ANGELES — Just as expected, a Los Angeles Clippers guard changed the complexion of Game 3. He outdueled the great scorer James Harden, and changing the momentum of the series by leading the Clippers to a blowout win.

We’re talking Austin Rivers.

What, you were expecting someone else?

Sure, Chris Paul suited up and played 23 minutes, putting up 12 points and seven assists. But it was Rivers, who had 15 of his 25 points in the third quarter leading a 23-0 Clippers run — while Paul and Blake Griffin were resting —  who helped break the game wide open and help the Clippers cruise to a 124-99 win.

The Clippers now lead the series 2-1, with Game 4 Sunday at Staples — a contest close to a must-win for the Rockets.

The Clippers had it all going Friday night at home. CP3 was back, J.J. Redick knocked down shots on his way to 31 points, they played solid defense most of the night, but Rivers was the story. The guard much maligned since the Clippers picked him up — there were all sorts of nepotism comments after his father Doc Rivers brought him in, then Rivers played poorly during the season — has played well lately in the playoffs.

“It was great. It was needed,” Doc Rivers said of his son. “He was just very aggressive, and that’s what we’ve been telling him to do. And he was that…. It was important really because it allowed us to keep (Paul) at the minutes we wanted That was huge for us.”

Friday night Austin was just fun to watch — and Paul told Doc Rivers just to enjoy watching his son play.

A lot of Clippers had good nights carving up the Rockets’ defense, which was out of sync and communicating poorly all night. Particularly in the third quarter.

“We didn’t play much defense at that point,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “They made a few shots on us, we had a couple turnovers during that stretch, and you know they were running, we weren’t getting back. We played very poorly during that stretch, needless to say.”

On the night, Redick had 31 points and hit 5-of-6 from three. Blake Griffin had 22 points and 14 boards. Jamal Crawford had a dozen.

When asked a few times a few different ways after the game about how his hamstring felt during the game, Paul would only say “I got through it.”

What was clear through the game was the Clippers played solid defense on the night, the Rockets did not. The Clippers did a good job of defending without fouling — James Harden only got to the line five times on his way to 25 points (a number of those in garbage time late). Dwight Howard had 14 points and 14 assists.

“I mean, they scored 124 points,” McHale said, shaking his head. “We’ve got to get some defensive — we’ve had one good defensive half so far. That was the second half of the second game. But other than that we haven’t gotten anything.”

If they don’t get it Sunday, the series could be ending sooner rather than later.

If Nets want Chris Chiozza for playoffs it could cost Theo Pinson a roster spot

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If the NBA season is able to resume, and the Brooklyn Nets want Chris Chiozza to be a part of their playoff rotation, they’ve got a decision to make. According to the New York Post that decision could cost Theo Pinson his roster spot.

Chiozza is currently signed to a Two-Way contract with the Nets. Two-Way players are ineligible for the NBA Playoffs. In order for Chiozza to be on Brooklyn’s playoff roster, they’d have to create a roster spot for him.

That’s where Pinson comes in. Pinson is in his second year with the Nets, but hasn’t been a part of the rotation for the majority of the season. Brooklyn holds a team option for Pinson at $1.7 million for 2020-21, but could waive him to create a spot for Chiozza.

At the beginning of March, Chiozza became the Nets backup point guard behind Spencer Dinwiddie. With Kyrie Irving out for the season following shoulder surgery, Dinwiddie and Chiozza are the only available pure point guards on the team. In five March games, Chiozza played 19.1 minutes per game and averaged 10 points. He shot 55.9% from the field overall and 52.6% from behind the arc over that period as well.

Part of the consideration with keeping Pinson would be for trade purposes this summer. Brooklyn is reportedly looking to add a third star player via trade to add alongside Irving and Kevin Durant. Pinson’s $1.7 million salary could help towards matching purposes in a trade.

French point guard Theo Maledon declares for NBA draft

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French point guard Theo Maledon has declared for the 2020 NBA Draft:

The six-foot-five Maledon is declaring as an Early Entry candidate from the international ranks. International players who do not turn 22 in the calendar year of the draft can declare as Early Entry players.

At 18 years old, Maledon was a part-time starter for ASVEL Basket in France in the French Pro A League. ASVEL Basket is owned in part by former NBA player Tony Park, who also serves as the club’s president. Maleon started in 23 of the 46 games he played for ASVEL Basket this season.

In 46 games with ASVEL, Maledon averaged 7.3 points per game. He shot 42.1% from the floor, including 33.3% on three-pointers. He also averaged 2.7 assists per game. In mid-January, against former NBA player Shane Larkin and Turkish club Anadolu Efes, Maledon started and dished out 10 assists, while scoring five points and grabbing six rebounds.

In part due to his size for the point guard position, and his excellent play on the youth level, ESPN has Maledon ranked 15th in their top-100 prospects. He’s widely expected to be in the mix to be a lottery pick.

Players have until Sunday, April 26 to declare as Early Entry candidates. The deadline to withdraw as an Early Entry candidate is Monday, June 15. The 2020 NBA Draft is currently scheduled to be held on Thursday, June 25.

Report: Pacers GM Chad Buchanan turns down interview with Bulls

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Indiana Pacers general manager Chad Buchanan has reportedly declined an opportunity to interview for a front office job with the Chicago Bulls.

Buchanan joined the Pacers in 2017 as their general manager under President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard. Prior to moving to Indiana, Buchanan was the assistant general manager with the Charlotte Hornets.

In turning down the Bulls opportunity, Buchanan cited how well he and his family have been treated in Indiana. Buchanan had previously worked with Pritchard when both were members of the Portland Trail Blazers front office.

Chicago is replacing John Paxson and Gar Forman at the top of their front office structure. Paxson and Forman have led the Bulls basketball operations together since 2009. Chicago’s search will now reportedly focus on Arturas Karnisovas of the Denver Nuggets, Adam Simon of the Miami Heat and Bobby Webster of the Toronto Raptors.

This Day in NBA History: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar becomes NBA’s all-time scoring leader

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It was fitting he did it with a skyhook.

On April 5, 1984, in a game against the Utah Jazz (played in a sold-out Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar took a pass from Magic Johnson, swung left, and drained a hook shot that gave him career point No. 31,420, moving him past Wilt Chamberlain to become the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.

The game stopped as the celebration ensued as Kareem’s teammates swarmed the captain. He was taken out of the game at that point, done for the night.

Abdul-Jabbar wasn’t done scoring, however. H retired five seasons later with 38,387 points, a record that stands to this day.