Steven Adams’ late basket lifts Thunder past Clippers 119-117

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Kevin Durant scored 31 points, Steven Adams hit a go-ahead tip-in with 26.9 seconds left and the Oklahoma City Thunder held on to avoid a potentially embarrassing loss, edging the depleted Los Angeles Clippers 119-117 on Thursday night.

Russell Westbrook added 26 points and 11 assists for the Thunder, who lead the Clippers by 5 1/2 games in the race for the No. 3 seed in the NBA’s Western Conference playoffs.

The Clippers played without usual starters Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and J.J. Redick, as coach Doc Rivers chose to rest them. Blake Griffin also was out, serving the last game of a four-game team-imposed suspension.

Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers carried the load offensively, each scoring 32 points and going a combined 12-of-17 from 3-point range. Los Angeles led by as many as nine in the second half but couldn’t hold on as the Thunder outrebounded the Clippers 46-26.

No rebound was bigger than one by Adams that came after Westbrook took a well-guarded, fallaway 15-foot jumper that missed badly. Adams tipped it in to put Oklahoma City ahead. Rivers, who posted a career scoring high, missed a driving shot in the final seconds and Westbrook rebounded with 2.7 seconds left to seal the win for the Thunder.

Oklahoma City made 10 of its first 11 shots and led by as many as 12 in the second quarter, but the Thunder’s poor interior defense and the sharpshooting of Crawford and Rivers allowed Los Angeles to quickly close the gap.

The duo went 8 of 8 from 3-point range in the first half, combining for 40 points, and Crawford made three free throws with 1.3 seconds left to give the Clippers a 69-65 halftime lead. Los Angeles shot 63.2 percent in the first half, the Thunder 58.1 percent.

Data curated by PointAfter

A 12-2 run to open the second half put Oklahoma City up 77-71, but the Clippers scored nine straight to regain the lead and were up 92-83 after a dunk by Wesley Johnson on a play that started with a turnover by Westbrook. Los Angeles led 97-93 entering the fourth quarter.

Consecutive dunks by Durant and Adams, off assists from Westbrook, gave the Thunder the lead again at 110-109 with 5:56 left. Los Angeles went up 115-110 after consecutive 3-pointer by Johnson and Jeff Green.

TIP-INS

Clippers: In addition to the absence of Paul, Jordan, Redick and Griffin, the Clippers were without Paul Pierce, who’s still nursing a sprained ankle. … Los Angeles’ starting lineup was Crawford, Rivers, Luc Mbah a Moute, Johnson and Cole Aldrich. … Rivers’ previous career high was 25 points, against Sacramento on Feb. 21, 2015. He also set a career high with seven 3-pointers in nine attempts.

Thunder: Durant recorded his 60th straight game of 20 or more points, the fourth-longest streak since the NBA-ABA merger. … Westbrook’s double-double was his 50th of the season.

RESTING UP

Doc Rivers said it made sense to rest the majority of his starters against the Thunder, considering the gap between the Thunder and the Clippers in the standings. The Clippers will be off Friday and Saturday before Paul, Jordan, Redick and Griffin all return for a game Sunday against the Washington Wizards.

“I don’t know how much guys need rest or not,” Rivers said. “I think they do. I know Chris, for sure, and J.J. DJ (Jordan) is young, but he’s given us so many minutes. I just thought if we were going to do it, it was a good time. We have two more back-to-backs, so we may do it a couple more times. I’m not sure. I’ll just go by what I see.”

 

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.