Physical Clippers push past struggling Jazz for 88-75 win

Associated Press
0 Comments

LOS ANGELES — This game was not a thing of beauty. The video is not headed to Springfield.

When two teams expected to be in the league’s top-10 in defense meet, it often isn’t, but this was uglier than anticipated. The Sunday matinée at Staples Center was physical, it was slow paced, it was workmanlike, it was at times sloppy.

And the Clippers will take it.

Los Angeles won 88-75 in a slow, grinding, defensive game. The Clippers improved to 2-0 on the young season, while the Jazz fell to 1-2 with the Spurs on the road next on the docket.

You know it’s a rough game when this is the winning team’s shot chart.

Clipper shot chart

The Clippers defense was the difference.

“I thought our defense was terrific,” coach Doc Rivers said. “We were very physical, you know, two games in a row our physicality has been something you would notice. When (the Jazz) miss that many shots and they only have seven offensive rebounds, with the type of rebounding team they are, that’s great.”

“Our defense has been a main point of emphasis for us every day at practice,” said Blake Griffin, who had 18 points and 10 rebounds on the night. “We are harder on ourselves about our defense in practice than anything else. It’s been a big point of emphasis for us and we make a point to maintain our defensive identity throughout each game.”

Credit the Clippers’ defense, but it’s a two-sided coin.

Watching the Jazz offense without Gordon Hayward‘s shot creation is like watching Sisyphus. It’s not the effort, they simply don’t have the players. Against that physical defense of Los Angeles Utah shot 39.7 percent and had an offensive rating of 83.6 percent.

“I think they are that good a team. I don’t think we played well offensively,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “Our defense kept us in there for a while, but some of our better players struggled tonight, and when that happens it puts a lot of pressure on our other guys and puts a lot of pressure on your defense. We just weren’t very good offensively.”

Boris Diaw, in particular, struggled, not scoring in his 18 minutes and getting pushed around by Griffin much of the night. Snyder said he is battling through injuries.

The Clippers got a third-quarter scare when DeAndre Jordan reached out for a loose ball and his hand was hit by George Hill. Jordan instantly grabbed his right hand in obvious pain, the Clippers called timeout and Jordan went to the bench. It was a sprained right thumb, and while Jordan did return to the game Doc Rivers said postgame there was swelling and the team would X-ray the injury to make sure it wasn’t anything worse. (UPDATE: Those X-rays were negative.)

This was obviously going to be a strange game just by the vibe in Downtown Los Angeles Sunday — Los Angeles’ Comic Con was taking place across the street from Staples Center. Cosplay was everywhere downtown — I parked next to an SUV where the entire original cast of Donkey Kong got out.

It was the kind of sloppy start often seen on NBA Sunday day games, when rhythms and routines are thrown off by the sun still being out. The Clippers and Jazz combined to shoot 13-of-38 in the first quarter, it was like watching the Knicks’ version of J.R. Smith on Sunday days.

The Clippers were able to take a small lead in the second quarter, mostly due to getting to the free throw line more often, 10 offensive boards, and a dozen efficient points from Blake Griffin, but it was only 42-35 at the half.

Clippers start the second half on 7-0 run, and they stretch the lead out to double digits — which was more about the Jazz offense than the Clippers’ scoring. As Los Angeles upped its defensive pressure, Utah had few answers. The only thing that broke the scoreless drought was Rudy Gobert outran DeAndre Jordan down the floor and got a bucket early in the offense. The Clippers held that double-digit lead most of the third, and it was 69-56 Los Angeles after three.

From there, the Clippers got enough shots to fall — and Utah could not — to get the win.

Austin Rivers led the Clippers with 19 points off the bench. George Hill led the Jazz with 18 points and Dante Exum had 10 off the bench, while Derrick Favors, trying to return from injury, was 1-of-8 from the field.

Joel Embiid has Olympic-sized decision to make: France or USA

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Lakers
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
0 Comments

HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) — Joel Embiid has two choices: the red, white and blue of the U.S., or the blue, white and red of France.

An Olympic medal might hinge on his decision.

France is still hopeful that Embiid – the reigning NBA scoring champion – will choose to wear its colors for the 2024 Paris Olympics even though he recently became an American citizen, national team coach Vincent Collet said Thursday.

Embiid, the Philadelphia 76ers star, may choose to play internationally for the U.S. or France, but not both. It was widely presumed that he would play for France at the Paris Games and possibly even next year’s Basketball World Cup in the Philippines, until Embiid revealed last week that he now has American citizenship as well.

“Now he has both nationalities, and he has to choose one basketball nationality, which is not the same,” Collet told The Associated Press. “So, that is a choice. Nobody can do anything to change it.”

Embiid told AP last week that it’s too early to think about a decision. By rule, he will eventually have to declare a choice to FIBA, the sport’s international governing body, if he decides that he wants to play at the Olympics or World Cup.

France is the reigning Olympic silver medalist and is planning to have a team featuring Rudy Gobert, Evan Fournier, Nicolas Batum – and, quite likely, top NBA draft prospect Victor Wembanyama – at the Paris Games. France’s plan is to essentially take what will be its Olympic roster to the World Cup next year.

Without Embiid, that French core has been extremely formidable. On top of the 2021 silver in Tokyo, France won bronze at the 2019 World Cup and silver again at this year’s European championships.

With Embiid, that group would figure to be even better. Collet said Boris Diaw, the general manager of the French national team, has been in contact with Embiid to discuss options.

“I know he met some of our players to discuss,” Collet said. “I think he should play with us. But we will see. We will respect his decision whatever it is.”

Embiid was born in Cameroon and has held French citizenship. He has a Brazilian girlfriend – their son is American – went to high school in Florida and played college basketball at Kansas.

The five-time NBA All-Star and four-time All-NBA selection has spent his entire pro career with Philadelphia, averaging 26.0 points in his first six seasons and a career-best 30.6 points on his way to the scoring crown last season.

Wembanyama encore: 36 points, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks against Ignite

0 Comments

Victor Wembanyama is for real.

And I don’t mean real tall, although he is that, too. Check out this image of him next to Rudy Gobert, who is a legit 7’1″.

Wembanyama is for real like a genuine generational talent — in his second game against the G-League Ignite he had 36 points, 11 rebounds, and four blocked shots.

That comes off his 37-point performance in the first meeting where he hit 7-of-11 3-pointers and had five blocks.

To be clear: That is 73 points, 15 rebounds, nine blocks, shooting 9-of-18 from 3 (and 22-of-44 overall) across two games against a good talent level. And he is 18 years old.

Everyone in and around the NBA has been trying to come up with player comps — Kristaps Porzingis, Ralph Sampson, Tim Duncan — but the reality is Wembanyama is one of one.

Scoot Henderson — the G-League guard projected as the No. 2 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft — played just five minutes in this game after bumping his knee while guarding Wembanyama. He was taken out of the game and X-rays found a bone bruise, he did not return. He is officially day-to-day the team announced.

Wembanyama and his Metropolitans 92 got the win in this rematch, 112-106.

Draymond Green not expected to miss any games, Warriors to handle discipline ‘internally’

2022 NBA Summer League - Golden State Warriors v New York Knicks
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
0 Comments

Draymond Green is not expected to miss any games for punching teammate Jordan Poole during an altercation during practice, Warriors GM Bob Myers said Thursday.

That’s not to say he is escaping any punishment, it will just be handled internally, Myers said.

Green showed up at Chase Center and apologized to the team and then left, he did not practice with the Warriors, reports Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area.

“Draymond apologized to the team this morning, Jordan was there in the room, I was there in room with the team, the coaches, the players and we heard that,” Myers said.

Whatever punishment the Warriors are handing down to Green, it will not include missing games, Myers said.

Coach Steve Kerr added, “I expect [Green] to return on Saturday and get back at it.” That implies a couple of days suspension, likely with a hefty fine.

Kerr was also quick to shoot down the rumors of Poole having an “attitude” around camp as he comes up on a massive contract extension. Stephen Curry echoed that, saying those reports are “absolute BS.”

The Warriors have seen their fair share of Draymond Green incidents over the years, and as a locker room and franchise they know how to move on from it. While this made headlines, the Warriors will shrug it off and move on.

Miami, Milwaukee have their eyes on Jae Crowder

NBA 2022 Playoffs - Phoenix Suns v Dallas Mavericks
Getty Photo
0 Comments

The Heat and Bucks don’t just have interest in the same player. They’re looking to replace the same player.

Two years ago, P.J. Tucker helped Milwaukee win their first championship in a half-century. Last season, he helped Miami lock up the top seed in the East and make the Conference Finals.

With Tucker in Philadelphia, both the Heat and Bucks are looking to fill the void with a different lockdown enforcer that can stretch the floor.

Jae Crowder and the Suns agreed that he won’t participate in practice as the team looks to accommodate his trade request. In a recent ESPN+ article, Zach Lowe made it clear that both Miami and Milwaukee are interested in pursuing a trade for Crowder.

“The Bucks have internal interest in Crowder as that Tucker replacement after getting into the recent Jerami Grant and Bojan Bogdanovic discussions, sources say. They will search all season for one more piece.

“The Heat have interest in Crowder too, sources say, but finding matching salary is tough until Dewayne Dedmon, Caleb Martin and Victor Oladipo become trade-eligible in the winter. Martin might start, and the Heat are optimistic Oladipo can play a huge role.”

Grant and Bogdanovic were traded to Portland and Detroit, respectively. The Heat may struggle to find a trade that works since Phoenix probably won’t want to take on Duncan Robinson’s contract. Dedmon, Martin and Oladipo will become trade eligible on January 15th.

Crowder has a history with the Heat, as he helped them make the NBA Finals in the bubble. He helped Phoenix make the NBA Finals two seasons ago and then helped them finish with the best record in the NBA last season.