Associated Press

Pistons stop 5-game skid, beat LeBron James, sloppy Cavaliers 96-88

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CLEVELAND (AP) — The Pistons canceled a trade and then stopped LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

Reggie Jackson scored 23 points, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 19 and Detroit withstood Cleveland’s late comeback for a 96-88 win Monday night to snap a five-game losing streak.

One day after allowing New Orleans center Anthony Davis to score 59 points with 20 rebounds, the Pistons beat the Eastern Conference’s top team for the second time this season and earned their first win since Feb. 4.

“It had been a long time since we got a win – coming up on three weeks – so we definitely needed it,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “You’ve seen it all year: We’re capable of beating anybody and we’re capable of losing to anybody. The guys felt good about themselves tonight, and I think everyone played well defensively the whole game.”

Andre Drummond added 15 rebounds for the Pistons, who let an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter dwindle to six before putting away the Cavs and ending their five-game winning streak.

Kyrie Irving scored 30 and Kevin Love 24 for Cleveland, which had an off night after looking so impressive in a win at Oklahoma City on Sunday. James scored just 12 points – 13 below his average – and went 5 of 18 from the floor, missing all four 3-point tries and committing six turnovers.

“I probably should have had about 12 of them,” said James, who acknowledged lacking energy on the back end of a back-to-back.

Following the game, Irving revealed he played only 9 minutes Sunday against the Thunder after being bitten by bed bugs in his Oklahoma City hotel.

“I was freaked out,” he said.

Tobias Harris, acquired from Orlando in a trade last week, scored 14 in his first start for the Pistons, who before the game rescinded their three-team trade last week with Houston and Philadelphia because not all the players involved were cleared medically.

Then, the Pistons went out and rejected the Cavs.

“It feels great to get the win,” Harris said. “The best thing was the effort, the energy level we showed against one of the very best teams. We didn’t get discouraged when they made some tough shots. We just kept telling each other, `Let’s keep our pace, let’s keep running.’ We just kept playing our pace.”

Detroit opened the fourth quarter with a 13-2 run to take an 18-point lead on Caldwell-Pope’s short jumper with 6:31 remaining.

After going through the motions most of the night, the Cavs finally awakened and reeled off 10 straight points to get to 88-82. But Jackson responded by dropping a floater in the lane, and Caldwell-Pope made the game’s biggest play, stripping a driving James and then taking the ball the length of the floor for a layup, a bucket that brought Pistons radio commentator Rick Mahorn – one of Detroit’s original Bad Boys – out of his seat.

Jackson credited the Pistons with digging deep to get the win.

“We’re desperate, man,” he said. “We’ve got to be hungry for every last win after dropping the last five. We’ve been trying to find a way to battle and be resilient, and I couldn’t be more proud of the guys for stepping up with us so short-handed.”

LEBRON’S REST

Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said he considered resting James on the second game of a back-to-back.

“I should have,” he said.

James has only missed one game this season, and Lue plans to sit his superstar if and when the Cavs lock up the conference title.

TURNOVER CITY

The Cavs were their own worst enemies in the first half, committing 12 turnovers that the Pistons converted into 16 points, enabling Detroit to open a 56-49 halftime lead. Cleveland finished with 18 turnovers.

ROOKIE INJURY

Detroit’s Stanley Johnson strained his right shoulder in the second half. Van Gundy said the forward will be re-evaluated on Tuesday. Reggie Bullock will take Johnson’s spot in the rotation.

TIP-INS

Pistons: F Anthony Tolliver (right knee) was diagnosed with a Grade 1 sprain and will miss two to four weeks. He was hurt Sunday against New Orleans. . Van Gundy said there are no immediate plans to fill the team’s one open roster spot. . Detroit came in holding ninth place in the Eastern Conference, 2 1/2 games behind Chicago for the final playoff spot.

Cavaliers: F Channing Frye scored two points in 9 minutes of his debut for Cleveland. … G Iman Shumpert missed his second straight game with a sprained left shoulder. It’s the same one he injured last season, when he missed six weeks. … G Mo Williams plans to have his sore left knee examined by renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews in Florida on Tuesday. Williams has been bothered by the knee for two months. He hasn’t played since Feb. 10, when he missed all four shots in a win over the Lakers.

 

This story has been corrected to show that Irving played 9 minutes Sunday.

James Harden came to Rico Hines run at UCLA and just destroyed 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 a 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.

Alex Abrines says Russell Westbrook stood by him through mental health issues

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Alex Abrines is a big fan of Russell Westbrook the person.

Westbrook takes some hits as a selfish teammate from some quarters of NBA fandom, but Abrines had to leave the Thunder due to personal, mental health issues and said Westbrook stood by him. This is from an interview with Basket en Movistar+, via Eurohoops.

“He’s a very nice guy. He helped me a lot especially in the first year. In most of our trips we did something together, watch a movie, have dinner. When I went through all this and did not travel with the team, he kept in touch. He asked me to meet him for dinner. He cared for the person beyond the player. He calmly told me what I should do noting that he would support me if I decided to leave.”

“Athletes are normal people, but are pressured above average. Medication helps, but at the end of the day you must seek professional aid, discuss with friends and family, move forward with their support” adds Abrines on his illness, “It is a different kind of pain. Physical pain is something you can see and feel. Mental pain can not be observed and can not be treated like an injured knee for example. If you don’t go through something similar, you can’t realize it. In the end of the day, money is not above everything. Until it happens, you don’t realize that you don’t give a shit about money.”

Abrines signed with FC Barcelona, but could not travel with the team to all its games last season. He’s still on his path to wellness, and hopefully he gets there.

We tend to think of professional athletes in two dimensions, focusing on how they entertain us or help our fantasy teams. However, as Abrines notes, they are ordinary people with families and challenges, including mental health issues. More and more players are willing to speak out about that, but having friends — not just teammates, but real supporters like Westbrook was here — is also a big help.