Associated Press

Physical Clippers push past struggling Jazz for 88-75 win

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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.

Dion Waiters comments on Instagram after suspension about Erik Spoelstra winning because of Big Three

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The Heat suspended Dion Waiters for (at least) their season opener due to “a number of unacceptable incidents this week, culminating with his unprofessional conduct on the bench last night.”

Then, Waiters got going on Instagram.

He apparently laughed at the idea of preseason standout Tyler Herro being better than him and dismissed Miami coach Erik Spoelstra’s success due to having LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

(Warning: profanity):

To the content of Waiters’ points:

Coaches need talent to win championships, and Spoelstra undoubtedly benefited from having three elite players. But coaching superstars – particularly LeBron – brings its own challenges. Spoelstra aced those tests.

Herro must still prove himself beyond exhibition games. His defense in particular could be a liability. But Waiters has set such a low standard. It wouldn’t be surprising for Herro to eclipse him, even as a rookie.

That’s the bigger problem beyond these latest incidents. Waiters is a substandard player due major money ($27.5 million over the next years). His attitude only makes the situation worse, but there’s no easy way for the Heat to handle him.

Our Eastern Conference predictions: Philadelphia or Milwaukee, who ya got?

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The NBA season tips-off Tuesday night, and that means one thing:

It’s predictions time.

We’ve run through some postseason awards — MVP, Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year — and now we stick our neck out and make our predictions on how the Eastern Conference will shake out.

As a disclaimer, we get it: making NBA preseason awards predictions is like nailing Jell-O to a tree. We’ll be wrong. But it’s fun, so the NBA staff here at NBC is making our picks.

THE EASTERN CONFERENCE

Kurt Helin
1. Milwaukee
2. Philadelphia
3. Boston
4. Toronto
5. Brooklyn
6. Indiana
7. Miami
8. Orlando
Eastern Conference Finals: Philadelphia over Milwaukee.

While there are some interesting storylines up and down the East, this is ultimately a two-team race and the only way Boston or anyone else gets into the mix is thanks to an in-season trade. Milwaukee is a legitimate favorite, but I like Philadelphia’s length and defense to smother Milwaukee in the playoffs. Yes, that means I am making a big bet on Ben Simmons taking a step forward as a shot creator and leader, but I believe that by April the Sixers will have figured out their offense. After the top four in those standings, things could shake out in almost any order and there’s a legit chance Chicago or Detroit cracks the top eight too. Boston and Toronto are good and should advance out of the first round of the playoffs, although Indiana could crack that group if Victor Oladop returns to his old form once healthy.

Dan Feldman:
1. Milwaukee
2. Philadelphia
3. Boston
4. Toronto
5. Miami
6. Orlando
7. Brooklyn
8. Indiana
Eastern Conference Finals: Milwaukee over Philadelphia

With all its new pieces, Philadelphia should get better as the season progresses. The 76ers also matchup well with Milwaukee. That sets up to be a great Eastern Conference finals. In the end, the Bucks look primed.
There’s a glut of teams from about fourth through 10th. I think the Pistons will make the playoffs, but with several teams barely over 50% playoff odds, Detroit still finishes ninth in my predicted standings. The Bulls aren’t far behind, either.

Dane Delgado:
Eastern Conference Finals: Milwaukee over Philadelphia

The Eastern Conference is more wide open this season… or is it? The same four teams are expected to be battling for a top spot, and we don’t know who will be the best come next spring. A rise through the postseason won’t necessarily be predicated on regular-season success. The Sixers, Bucks, Raptors, and Celtics will all be vying for the final spot, and all four teams will be looking to capitalize on three main factors: health, depth, and star power. Milwaukee has the best chance of having all three thanks to Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton. They’ll have their challengers, but I’m betting on the ECF loss from last season galvanizing last year’s MVP.

 

LeBron James’ high school jersey goes for $187,500 at auction

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We got word that LeBron James’ jersey from high school was going to be headed to auction soon, and rumors were that it would fetch a high price thanks to the phenomenon that was “The Chosen One”.

LeBron’s St. Vincent-St. Mary’s uniform has now gone through the process at Goldin Auctions, and it’s reportedly set a record for a James-worn jersey at $187,500.

Via Twitter:

This seems like a ridiculous price for a piece of sports memorabilia that wasn’t even part of James’ impressive NBA run. Something from his time as a member of a championship team has to be worth more, no? Then again, one of those might not ever become available. This might be the best you can get if you’re a diehard LeBron fan.

I wonder if the owner of this new jersey will show up wearing it at Summer League next year? No better way to top the constant oneupsmanship of obscure jerseys in Las Vegas by showing up in a kit that cost more than a three-bedroom ranch home in Northeastern Ohio.

PBT Podcast: Our NBA predictions for MVP, Rookie of the Year, Champion, and more

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Who will take home the NBA MVP hardware this season: Giannis Antetokounmpo? James Harden? Stephen Curry?

What about Rookie of the Year? Can anyone top Zion Williamson? What would it take for Ja Morant or anyone else to get into the conversation?

Finally, what team will hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy at the end of the season? Will it be a team from Los Angeles? What about Philadelphia? Milwaukee? Can Houston or Utah get in on the conversation?

Dan Feldman from NBC Sports joins me in the latest PBT Podcast and get into all of that, making their season predictions for this NBA season.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.