Associated Press

Trevor Ariza scores 24, Rockets rally to beat Pacers 107-103 in OT

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HOUSTON (AP) — Trevor Ariza scored a season-high 24 points and Corey Brewer hit the go-ahead 3-pointer in overtime to give the Houston Rockets a 107-103 win over the Indiana Pacers on Sunday night.

The Pacers scored the first six points of overtime before Houston scored the next six to tie it at 99 with about 2 minutes left.

Monta Ellis made two baskets after that to put the Pacers up twice, but each time Houston responded with a 3-pointer. Ariza hit the first one and Brewer made the second to make it 105-103 with 40.9 seconds left.

Ariza added a dunk with 2 seconds left to secure Houston’s third straight victory.

The Rockets trailed by 12 midway through the fourth quarter before rallying to tie it with 17.1 seconds left on a 3 by Ariza. The Pacers had a chance to win in regulation, but Ellis missed a jump shot at the buzzer.

Paul George had just four points in the first half before scoring 14 of his 20 in a 27-point third quarter to help Indiana build a big lead before Houston came back in the fourth.

James Harden had 21 points and Dwight Howard added 21 points and 17 rebounds for his fifth straight double-double in his return after missing Thursday’s game with soreness in his lower back.

The Pacers’ lead was 12 before the Rockets used a 12-1 run to get to 89-88 with about 3 minutes left.

The Pacers had a 13-point lead entering the fourth and were up by 12 after a one-handed dunk by Jordan Hill with about 6 1/2 minutes left.

Indiana led by three at halftime and scored the first five points of the second half to make it 55-48. Houston got a 3-pointer from Patrick Beverley followed by a hook shot from Howard to get within two, but Indiana padded the lead with a 14-6 spurt to make it 69-59.

George made two 3-pointers in that span, and Lavoy Allen and Ian Mahinmi added four points each for the Pacers. The Rockets scored all their points in that stretch on free throws as they went almost 6 minutes without a field goal.

Harden finally ended the drought with a layup with less than 3 minutes left in the third. He made a 3-pointer after a dunk by George to cut the lead to 71-64.

George wasn’t done with his work in the quarter as that dunk was the first of eight straight points he scored to end the period and make it 77-64. The stretch was highlighted by his last points in the third when he made an off-balance jumper as he was fouled by Harden and hit the free throw.

The Pacers trailed by four in the second quarter before using an 11-2 run to take a 50-45 lead just before halftime. Harden hit a 3-pointer just before the quarter ended to cut it to 50-48 at halftime.

TIP-INS

Pacers: Indiana had 18 turnovers after committing a season-high 25 in its previous game. … Ellis had a season-high 13 assists.

Rockets: G Ty Lawson served the second of a three-game suspension for driving under the influence last July. … F/C Donatas Motiejunas missed his fourth straight game with back soreness. … C Clint Capela had three steals to give him at least three in two straight games after doing so only twice in his first 35 games this season.

 

Report: NBA opened investigation into free agency tampering

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Summer in the NBA is always the most interesting time in the league. Free agency lets us see where players have not only decided to land, but which have schemed together in order to play with each other.

The term “preagency” has been coined to mark the period in which teams and players work out deals before free agency officially opens, and well before the moratorium ends.

It’s been thought that these rules have been circumvented as part of a gentlemen’s agreement between all teams with equal ability to navigate around the written rules. But according to a new report, several team owners are upset about the way things are going in the player empowerment era.

ESPN’s Zach Lowe and Brian Windhorst reported on the NBA’s Board of Governor’s meeting this week, saying that the league has even opened an investigation into what went on this summer in terms of potential tampering.

Via ESPN:

Within days, the league opened an investigation centered on the timing of some of the earliest reported free-agency deals on June 30, sources familiar with the matter told ESPN.com. The scope of that investigation is developing. It is expected to include interviews with players and possibly agents and team employees, sources say.

The league has the power to punish teams it finds to be guilty of tampering ahead of June 30 at 6 p.m. Eastern Time — the first minute that teams are allowed to speak with representatives of free agents. It also might seek information on the timing of negotiations so that any revised free-agency calendar might better align with what is actually happening.

The investigation followed a tense owners meeting, which multiple sources described to ESPN. Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan, speaking as the head of the labor committee, discussed the possible need to revisit free-agency rules in the next collective bargaining agreement, sources said.

I have two thoughts about this.

First, even if something does come of this, the fine has to be puny. Adam Silver has not strayed on the disciplinarian side the way David Stern did — much to his credit — and any reprimand is unlikely to satisfy upset parties.

Second, there will definitely be sweeping changes in the next CBA. So much has changed since the last lockout, and the money has gotten so big it’s inevitable that people want to make things better for their side. The players got themselves in a hole since 2011. They mishandled the cap jump in 2016, and the max contract rules didn’t create a rising tide that floated all boats. Star players benefited, but low-level guys are even more disproportionately compensated.

This stuff seems like the most boring part of the league, but in reality it’s what makes everything tick.

I won’t be surprised if the NBA levies tampering charges against one or even several teams. I’d be surprised if the league did much about it, though.

Wizards owner says John Wall ‘probably won’t play’ in 2019-20

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It was always likely that Washington Wizards star John Wall would be out for much of next year’s regular NBA season. The team has even filed for a disabled player exception for the 2019-20 season.

Now we have confirmation that the team is expecting Wall to miss significant time.

According to NBC Sports Washington’s Chase Hughes, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has said that they are going to take things slow with Wall, and that he will miss serious time.

Via Twitter:

Washington is still trying to figure out what to do with Bradley Beal, and with Wall’s contract on the books, they don’t really have much of anywhere to go. The Wizards used their No. 9 overall pick on Rui Hachimura, which raised a few eyebrows.

But the team at least does have a GM in Tommy Sheppard, and they’ve made several hirings in the front office to try and out-think their competition. Washington has made a few moves, including trading for Davis Bertans and signing Isaiah Thomas.

Expect to see the Wizards at the bottom of the East next year. Still, that doesn’t mean they won’t be entertaining.

Is FIBA’s decision to move World Cup to year before Olympics reason for USA drop outs?

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FIBA made a mess of World Cup qualifying moving the games from the summer to during the season for the NBA and all the major European leagues. The USA qualified thanks to a team of G-League players coached by Jeff Van Gundy, but the process was not pretty. For anyone.

Now it could be another FIBA decision that has led to the rash of stars — James Harden, Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard, and others — deciding not to play for Team USA this summer.

Traditionally, the FIBA World Cup took place every four years, on the even-numbered year between Summer Olympic cycles. For example, the last World Cup was 2014, the Rio Olympics were 2016 with the Tokyo games in 2020. However, FIBA pushed this World Cup back a year to 2019 (instead of 2018) and that has changed the calculus for players, something Michael Lee of The Athletic speculated about.

For American players, the Olympics are the bigger draw, when more people watch. We grew up with the Dream Team at the Olympics, not the World Championships. That means if players have to choose, despite the allure of the Chinese market, they will choose the Olympics next year.

The other factor: The NBA feels wide open, with as many as eight teams heading into the season believing they can win the title. A lot of those contending teams have new players, which is leading players to prioritize club over country this time around.

This is different from 2004, when the NBA’s top players stayed home from the Athens Olympics because of a combination of terrorist concerns and players not liking coach Larry Brown. Today’s players love Gregg Popovich, but other concerns are weighing on them more.

It has left team USA without the biggest stars of the game — Kemba Walker is the only All-NBA player on the roster — but USA Basketball has such a depth of talent that they are still the World Cup favorites. The margin for error just got a lot smaller, however.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was working on jump shot with Kyle Korver (VIDEO)

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Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s jumper is getting better. Last season after the All-Star break he shot 31.5 percent from three (up from 22.3 before the ASG) and in the playoffs that jumped to 32.7 percent. He struggled on catch-and-shoot threes in those final 19 games after the ASG, shooting just 16.7 percent, but off the bounce he shot 33.8 percent after the break. Also, all of last season he didn’t take many long twos, but when he did he shot 41 percent on them.

What would make his jumper better? Working on his shot with the newest Buck, Kyle Korver.

Which is happening.

Be afraid NBA. Be very afraid.

Antetokounmpo recently said he is only at about 60 percent of his potential. If he can start to consistently hit threes off the bounce when defenses sag back off the pick-and-roll (trying to take away his drives), he might become unstoppable. Or, more unstoppable. If that’s a thing.