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Five Takeaways from NBA Wednesday: Too much fourth quarter Splash Brothers for Miami to handle

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If you missed the NBA’s Wednesday night slate because you got sucked into the last season of American Idol, we’ve got you covered. Here’s what you need to know from a Wednesday around the Association.

1) Miami played well, but in the fourth quarter there was too much Splash Brothers for anyone to contain.
In the NBA, talent wins out. Poor coaching can limit that talent and hold it back a little. Bad locker room chemistry can hurt a team for a season or two. But in the end, the most talented team wins the most games.

Golden State has most talented backcourt in the NBA. In Miami Wednesday that got Golden State another win — Stephen Curry had 42 points, and Klay Thompson had 33 — that’s 75 of Golden State’s 118 points (64 percent of them). In the fourth quarter of a close game, Thompson scored 15 points in a row at one stretch, and then Curry hit a couple of late threes that helped the Warriors come from behind in the final minute. When those two are going like they were, beating the Warriors becomes even that much harder.

Their scoring exploits overshadowed the fact that less than two minutes into the game Curry hit a three, giving him one in 127 consecutive games, tying Kyle Korver‘s all-time mark. Curry will set the record Thursday in Orlando.

2) No Derrick Rose, no Jimmy Butler, scrappy Bulls still beat Warriors and get tighter grip on playoffs. This was one the Wizards needed. They entered the game three back of Chicago for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East, win here and not only are they just two games back but the Wizards would also own the tiebreaker. Washington was on a back-to-back, but the Bulls rested Rose and Nikola Mirotic (plus Jimmy Butler is still out) and had to start a lineup of E'Twaun Moore, Tony Snell, Taj Gibson, Mike Dunleavy, and Pau Gasol. In the second quarter, the Bulls actually had a Justin Holiday and Christiano Felicio pick-and-roll going.

That was enough. Taj Gibson had 17 first half points, the Bulls guards waltzed into the paint at will, and then started the third quarter hitting their first eight shots. Combine that with a flat effort from the Wizards (again!) the Wizards suffer a setback in any playoff dreams. Then again, if Doug McDermott is doing this, maybe it’s just the Bulls’ night.

3) Lance Stephenson being Lance Stephenson. The Grizzlies were able to beat the defenseless Lakers, but the game also gave us a vintage Lance Stephenson moment.

4) Kawhi Leonard returned to Spurs lineup. The Spurs out-executed the Kings down the stretch and easily picked up the road win 108-92. That’s about as surprising as finding a good microbrew in Portland. What mattered on Wednesday is that Kawhi Leonard returned to the Spurs lineup, scored 18 points, and as a team they are close to whole again. They remain just 3.5 games back of Golden State, which is ridiculous.

5) Chris Copeland waived, claimed off waivers, instantly waived again. It’s all about the Benjamins. Earlier this week, the Milwaukee Bucks waived veteran forward Chris Copeland to make way for the addition of Steve Novak to the roster. A respected veteran on a minimum contract, would someone snap Copeland up?

Yes, Orlando. Then they turned around and instantly waived him again.

Why? Money. The Magic are below the salary floor by more than $600,000, meaning at the end of the season the Magic would have to cut a check for that amount, and it would be divided amongst all the players on the team. By grabbing Copeland, his $325,000 goes on their books, but by instantly waiving him again they don’t have to pay Copeland a dime. This is just a financial move to save them money. Bobby Marks of the Vertical explained it here.

Report: Nets assistant GM Trajan Langdon named GM of Pelicans

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The New Orleans Pelicans continue to rebuild their broken front office. Now that David Griffin has taken his place as the Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations, the Pelicans are reportedly adding another name to their executive staff.

According to Shams Charania, Brooklyn Nets assistant general manager Trajan Langdon will join Griffin in the New Orleans front office as the team’s new general manager.

Langdon started his front office career as a scout with the San Antonio Spurs, and was named assistant general manager of the Nets in 2016.

Via Twitter:

Brooklyn is a team that has done more with less as of late, and has acted as efficiently as they can particularly as they’ve tried to recover from the moves of a former GM. The Nets moved Billy King Out of the GM job in 2016 in favor for Sean Marks. The Pelicans fired Dell Demps in February.

It looks like the Pelicans are going to do all they can to get Anthony Davis to stay, and that includes a new front office team, upgrades to their practice facility, and a better health and training staff.

Langdon could be just a piece in the puzzle, but he could also be part of the group that has to figure out the best trade package for Davis if the day comes. Either way, New Orleans is regrouping as they move forward with the number one overall pick where they will presumably take Zion Williamson.

Bucks lead East finals 2-0, and now series shifts to Toronto

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ASSOCIATED PRESS — Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry have more than held their own against Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton so far in these Eastern Conference finals.

Other than some pretty boxscores, the Toronto Raptors have nothing to show for those efforts.

The supporting cast hasn’t supported much for Toronto, and with what is almost certainly a must-win Game 3 of the East title series looming on Sunday night at home, Raptors coach Nick Nurse is weighing lineup tweaks. Nurse suggested Saturday that Serge Ibaka may start at center over struggling Marc Gasol, and Norman Powell may get minutes that would figure to come at Danny Green‘s expense.

“We’ve got to be better, man,” Nurse said Saturday. “We’ve got to be more physical, we’ve got to hustle more and we’ve got to work harder.”

He may as well have punctuated that by adding “or else.”

In this playoff format that was put into play in 1984, teams that win the first two games at home of a best-of-seven series have ultimately prevailed 94% of the time. And that’s the luxury Milwaukee has right now, leading the series 2-0 after rallying to win the opener and then controlling Game 2 start to finish.

“We can’t rest,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We can’t relax. We can’t assume anything.”

So the odds are stacked against the Raptors. Nurse was told the lack of success teams have when down 0-2 in a series, and insisted he doesn’t care.

“I don’t really give a crap about that,” he said. “I just want our team to come play their (butt) off tomorrow night and get one game and it changes the series.”

Leonard and Lowry are outscoring Antetokounmpo and Middleton 107-77 – which would figure to have been a boon to Toronto’s chances.

It hasn’t worked that way.

Add up everyone else’s scoring in the series, and it’s Bucks 156, Raptors 96. Rebounding has been one-sided in both games, with Milwaukee controlling things on the backboards. Bench scoring has tilted heavily toward Milwaukee as well.

“We’re just trying to be us,” Bucks center Brook Lopez said. “We’re not playing any differently, regular season or postseason. We’re just trying to go out there and play Bucks basketball. It starts with our defense. Getting stops. Getting out. Playing in transition. Playing with pace. Sharing the ball and being aggressive and attacking the basket.”

The Raptors don’t have to look at the history books to know this series isn’t over.

All they need to do is recall the 2012 Western Conference finals. Leonard and Green were with top-seeded San Antonio, and Ibaka was with second-seeded Oklahoma City. The Spurs won Games 1 and 2 at home – then lost the next four, and the Thunder went to the NBA Finals.

“We have another chance to bounce back on Sunday,” Gasol said. “That’s all that matters right now. That’s all that matters.”

 

Andre Iguodala sits fourth quarter with “lower leg soreness,” to get MRI Sunday

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DaMarcus Cousins. Kevin Durant.

Now you might be able to add Andre Iguodala to the list of injured Warriors. He only played 18 minutes in Game 3 Saturday night, none after he was taken out with 7:49 left in the third quarter. Asked about that after the game, Warriors coach Steve Kerr listed a hockey injury — lower leg soreness — and said an MRI was coming.

If he has to miss time, that would be another blow to the Warriors. Up 3-0 on Portland, Golden State can close this series out without him, but the Warriors are going to need Iguodala and Durant — and, ideally, Cousins — against the Bucks or Raptors in the NBA Finals starting on May 30.

Iguodala made friends and influenced people when he went back to the locker room late in the first quarter, deciding to flip off the hallway camera on his way.

We will see if the League has anything to say about that or lets it slide.

 

Jordan Bell spectacularly missed dunk, but Warriors reaction was perfect

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Golden State was starting to make its comeback, cutting the lead to eight midway through the third quarter when Draymond Green found Jordan Bell for the breakaway dunk and…

Ouch.

What was impressive though was the Warriors reaction. First, Steve Kerr didn’t take him out. Didn’t bench him, instead left him in and with that showed confidence.

Then there was Draymond Green, who was on ESPN’s Mic’d Up, and was heard encouraging Bell.

Then there was assistant coach Mike Brown, who tried to get Bell out of the moment, in a great story relayed by Ethan Straus of The Athletic.

“So Jordan played against my son Elijah,” Brown explained. “My oldest son played at Mater Dei High School in Orange County and Jordan played at Long Beach [Poly]. So they had a lot of games back in the day. So I went up to him and he thought I was serious, because we took the time out. He’s about to walk out of the huddle and I walk up to him and say, ‘Jordan, listen, don’t worry about the dunk. I saw about three or four of them back in the Long Beach days and you bounced back.’ He fell out laughing. He said, ‘Ah, MB, I didn’t do that back then!’ I said, ‘Yea you did! It’s all good, though!’”

It worked. Bell never lost confidence, never stopped playing the way he plays, and soon enough there was this.

With Portland going smaller and counting on their offense more, Bell is going to have a larger role in that matchup. This is exactly how you build up the confidence of a player so he will come through for you in those moments.