Clippers bench propels team to 102-81 win against Trail Blazers

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LOS ANGELES — Terry Stotts’ adjustments worked.

Portland’s Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum were playing off the ball more, using cuts, pin-down screens, and other ways to get the ball in better positions, with that they were getting up shots they could not find space to take in Game 1. The Blazers shared the ball (Mason Plumlee threw a couple beautiful passes to backdoor cutters), guys got open looks (46 percent of Portland’s shots were uncontested), and Portland’s spacing was improved.

The Trail Blazers still lost by 21.

The reason was they couldn’t knock down those shots — Portland shot 34.1 percent overall and 19.2 percent from three. Lillard and McCollum were a combined 12-of-39 from the floor.

The Los Angeles Clippers pulled away in the fourth thanks to their bench for a 102-81 victory at Staples Center Wednesday. The Clippers are now up 2-0 in the first round series, which heads to Portland Saturday. Los Angeles has won the two games by a combined 41 points. The odds are stacked in the Clippers’ favor— teams that win the first two games at home in a seven-game playoff series win it 94 percent of the time.

“Actually, I was pretty pleased with (our execution),” Stotts said. “I thought we got some good looks, especially early. We struggled to shoot the ball all night, we were under 40 percent most of the night [they finished at 34 percent]. I thought we did a good job of changing things up, as far as changing things up as far as getting different looks and moving people around.”

According to NBA.com, 46 percent of the Blazers shots were uncontested (42-of-91), they hit just 31 percent of those.

The shooting woes started with the big guns of Lillard and McCollum. In Game 1 the pair wasn’t getting enough shots, in Game 2 the pair seemed rushed on the perimeter and bothered by DeAndre Jordan when they drove the lane.

“Especially at the start of the game, I got a lot of good looks,” Lillard said. “I missed a wide-open, point-blank layup. When you get those looks early in the game, you’ve got to knock them down….

“So I got a lot more clean looks tonight. The ball didn’t go in as much as I would have liked it to, especially with us being in the game. I think if I would have had it going, it would have come down to the last couple minutes. But they didn’t.”

It wasn’t just the stars. Stotts has said that players such as Al-Farouq Aminu and Maurice Harkless have to step up because the Clippers are willing to give them clean looks to trap and challenge Lillard and McCollum. Aminu and Harkless were a combined 9-of-26.

The Clippers starters were not sharp — 42.6 percent shooting on the night for the group, although Chris Paul did end up with 25 points — however in both the second and fourth quarter it was the Clipper bench that stretched out the lead to double digits.

“They just changed the game for us,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said of his bench players. “They were spectacular tonight. I thought on both ends they saved the game for us. Our starters were up-and-down a little bit today. I thought we were sloppy in a lot of ways, but I thought our bench saved us.”

Despite having the newly minted Sixth Man of the Year in Jamal Crawford, the Clipper bench was maligned for much of the season. However, over the past few weeks that unit has come together with Cole Aldrich (8 points Wednesday), Jeff Green (10), and Crawford (11). More importantly, that unit has been strong defensively. The group was playing so well that Griffin and Paul were set to check back in during the fourth and decided to withdraw for a minute and went back to the bench to let second unit keep doing it’s thing.

“The biggest place we have had an impact is defensively,” Aldrich said. “That’s where we can leave our stamp on the game. Offensively, we just came out together and played with a lot of energy while we were on the floor.”

Lillard and Mason Plumlee each had 17 points to lead the Blazers.

Stotts will make a few more adjustments, and his role players will thrive better at the Moda Center in Portland. But there’s nothing he can adjust for if Lillard and McCollum are missing.

Rudy Gobert says he’ll relinquish DPOY to little girl playing adorably intense defense (video)

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I’ve been looking all day for an excuse to post this video on a site called ProBasketballTalk.

Jazz center Rudy Gobertwho just won Defensive Player of the Year – provided it.

Gobert:

Everyone frets about young basketball players emulating Stephen Curry. But Patrick Beverley apparently also has influence.

Report: Knicks considering offering DeMarcus Cousins big one-year contract if they miss on stars

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The Knicks will reportedly roll over their cap space if they don’t sign Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving or Kawhi Leonard this summer.

Of course, New York must still field a team for 2019-20. After six straight losing seasons – including a franchise-worst 17-65 this season – the Knicks might even want to be somewhat competitive.

A candidate to fill the roster: DeMarcus Cousins.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

If the Knicks are intent keeping cap space clear for 2020 (when the free-agent class looks weak) if they strike out this year, Cousins could make sense. His shot-creation skills would raise their floor. He was a star not long ago.

But leg injuries have sidetracked Cousins’ career. He’ll turn 29 before the season. It’s not certain he’ll ever return to form.

For that reason, Cousins might prioritize multi-year offers with more total compensation, even if the annual average salary is lower. He can’t assume he’ll stay healthy and productive next season and that huge offers will follow in 2020.

Of course, Cousins might not get those multi-year offers this summer. That’s why a one-year deal in New York could work for him. It’d be another chance to improve his stock, much like his season with the Warriors was supposed to provide.

I doubt either the Knicks or Cousins want this. New York prefers better players. Cousins surely desires a larger long-term deal. But they might have to settle for each other.

Kevin Durant reportedly sells home in California, rumored to have bought one in New York

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Kevin Durant‘s company moved its office to New York. He could follow, to the Nets or Knicks, in free agency.

Maybe he’s already on the way?

Neal J. Leitereg of the Los Angeles Times:

Kevin Durant has wrapped up some business in Malibu, selling his oceanfront home on Broad Beach for $12.15 million.

Accounting for real estate commissions and other fees, the sale comes out as a bit of a wash for the 10-time all-star. He bought the place last year for $12.05 million, The Times previously reported in April.

Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report:

sources familiar with Durant’s off-court business say Durant has since purchased a new home in New York and moved his belongings there.

Many NBA players spend their offseasons in Southern California. I’m not sure what to make of Durant selling his house there. This isn’t Durant selling his condo in San Francisco, where the Warriors will open a new arena next season.

Buying a place in New York would be more significant, but a player buying a house in a city where he could sign is a classic rumor. It often gets spread whether or not it’s true. I’m skeptical of the sourcing here.

But if Durant no longer plans to play in California, it could make more sense to sell his Malibu home. Of course, he could buy another house near Los Angeles. We just know he sold this specific place on Broad Beach. We can’t extrapolate with certainty.

And Durant could buy a house in New York for the offseason. He might want to be closer to his company in the summer. That doesn’t mean he’ll play for New York or Brooklyn.

So, I’d nudge the odds of Durant leaving Golden State for the Nets or Knicks slightly higher based on this information. But I wouldn’t overreact to it.

Report: Allen Crabbe charged with DUI (video)

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The Nets will officially trade Allen Crabbe to Hawks in July.

In the meantime, he faces a legal issue.

TMZ:

we’re told he blew a .08 — which is EXACTLY the legal limit in California … so Crabbe was arrested and booked for misdemeanor Driving Under the Influence.

If convicted of drunk driving, Crabbe would likely receive a two-game suspension – the NBA’s standard punishment for that crime. But considering he appears to complete the field-sobriety test OK, breathalyzers have questionable reliability and his blood alcohol concentration tested relatively low, Crabbe has a chance to beat the charge.