Associated Press

Pistons hand Clippers first road loss with 108-97 win

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Stan Van Gundy has been waiting all season for his Detroit Pistons to show the kind of determination that got them into the playoffs. Stan Van Gundy has been waiting all season for his Detroit Pistons to show the kind of determination that got them into the playoffs.

Friday night, he got a glimpse.

The Pistons blew an 18-point lead in the third quarter, but rallied down the stretch to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 108-97.

Detroit had lost 11 straight to the Clippers, including a 114-82 rout at the Staples Center on Nov. 7.

“We got embarrassed the last time we played that team, and I knew these guys didn’t want that to happen again,” Van Gundy said. “But beating that team is going to take 48 minutes of effort and we haven’t been able to do that many times this season.”

Detroit won its second straight and improved to 7-2 at home, as opposed to 1-7 on the road.

“I’m very happy with the way we played tonight, but we have to be able to take this level of effort on the road,” Van Gundy said. “We’ve got four road games in the next seven days against really good teams. We can’t keep giving those games away.”

The Clippers lost for just the second time in 13 games, falling to 7-1 on the road.

“Give the Pistons credit; Stan really had them ready to play,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “They came out with so much more energy that we did in the first 10 minutes, and it is tough to dig yourselves out of a big hole on the road.”

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 16 points and a career-high 10 assists for Detroit and Andre Drummond had 16 points and 10 rebounds. The Pistons got at least 15 points from all five starters and Jon Leuer added 11 points and 11 rebounds off the bench.

“We are really starting to come together,” Drummond said. “We are more in sync defensively, and the offensive is starting to come around.”

J.J. Redick and Blake Griffith each had 24 points for the Clippers, while Chris Paul had eight points to go with 15 assists.

“This wasn’t a lack of effort,” Paul said. “We were energized, but they made shots.”

The Pistons trailed by as many as 43 earlier this month in Los Angeles, but jumped out to a 31-14 lead in Friday’s first quarter. However, with Drummond limited to 8:19 in the first half by foul trouble and Morris playing just 3:42, the Clippers were able to pull within 57-48 at halftime.

The Pistons built the margin to as many as 18 early in the third, with Caldwell-Pope finding Drummond for several alley-oops. However, Redick took over the game, scoring 10 points in the final 1:27 of the quarter. His back-to-back 3-pointers pulled the Clippers within 82-80 at period’s end.

“We cut into their lead at the end of the third quarter, but we were still making mistakes,” Rivers said. “When you are that far behind, you have to play perfect basketball or you use up everything getting it close.”

Redick finished with 18 in the quarter.

“He did all that against a really good defender in KCP,” Van Gundy said. “I was sitting on the bench wondering how I didn’t win 65 games a year when I was coaching him in Orlando.”

Los Angeles scored the first four points of the fourth to take the lead, but stopped hitting shots. That let the Pistons respond with a 15-2 run, capped off by Caldwell-Pope’s 3-pointer to make it 97-86 with 5:14 to play.

“We didn’t panic,” Caldwell-Pope said. “We just kept doing what we had been doing all game, and kept trying to make J.J. work.”

TIP-INS

Clippers: Paul didn’t score in the second half, but put up 10 assists. … With the Pistons moving to Little Caesars Arena for the 2017-18 season, this was the Clippers’ final regular-season visit to the Palace of Auburn Hills.

Pistons: Guard Stanley Johnson was suspended for one game after an unspecified violation of team rules. That left the Pistons without three rotation guards, as both Reggie Jackson and Reggie Bullock missed the game with left knee injuries.

PLAY MAKER

With Jackson not expected to play his first game until next week, Caldwell-Pope was the first Detroit player to reach double figures in assists in a game.

VISITING CELEBRITY

During a timeout, the Palace scoreboard showed Darius Slay’s interception of Sam Bradford’s pass that helped the Detroit Lions beat the Minnesota Vikings 16-13 on Thanksgiving. Slay, one of several Lions in attendance, then autographed a football and tossed it to the crowd.

 

Report: Lakers claim Kostas Antetokounmpo off waivers

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Giannis Antetokounmpo is a 24-year-old MVP playing in Milwaukee and heading toward a super-max decision that could have him hit 2021 unrestricted free agency.

Big-market teams are licking their chops.

That probably has something to do with the Lakers adding his brother, Kostas Antetokounmpo.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Kostas Antetokounmpo was the last pick in last year’s draft. He spent the season on a two-way contract with the Mavericks, who just waived him. He’ll remain on a two-way deal with the Lakers. The 21-year-old was alright in the NBA’s minor league, but he’s not a tantalizing prospect.

Except for his connection to Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Giannis Antetokounmpo said he could never see himself playing for Los Angeles. But maybe he’d change his mind if someone close to him has a positive experience there. That must be the Lakers’ hope, at least.

It’s worth a shot, and the Lakers aren’t the only team trying this angle. The Bucks also signed Thanasis Antetokounmpo this summer.

Harden on fit with Westbrook: ‘When you have talent like that, it works itself out’

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It was the question everybody asked about 30 seconds after they heard Russell Westbrook had been traded to the Houston Rockets for Chris Paul (after the initial shock of the deal wore off):

Do Westbrook and Harden, two of the most ball-dominant, isolation heavy players in the NBA, actually fit together?

Harden says yes. Of course, what else is he going to say, but he was earnest about it in comments to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle at the Adidas and James Harden ProCamp event last Friday.

“When you have talent like that, it works itself out. You communicate. You go out there and compete possession by possession. You figure things out. Throughout the course of the season, you figure things out. That’s just what it is. When you have talent, you have guys with IQ, you have guys willing to sacrifice, it always works itself out.”…

“It works,” Harden said. “It’s that trust factor. I trust him; he trusts me. And with the group that we already have and the things we already accomplished, it should be an easy transition for him to be incorporated right in and things are going to go.”

That is essentially is what Mike D’Antoni said, and what Rockets GM Daryl Morey is betting on.

Will Westbrook, and to a lesser degree Harden, be willing to make sacrifices and adjust their games? It is the question that will define the Rockets’ season.

My prediction: The duo works it out on offense and becomes one of the hardest teams to stop in the NBA. They will work it out. However, having to play Harden and Westbrook together on defense for extended stretches will cost Houston in the playoffs earlier than they planned.

George King, Suns two-way player last season, signs to play in Italy

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For players on the fringe of the NBA, there is a choice to be made at some point:

Keep the NBA dream alive and close by making less money (the base salary for most is $35,000 a year) and play in the domestic G-League, where teams have ties to NBA organizations and scouts are watching. Or…

Go overseas, where the money gets better (six figures for most, seven figures for the best) and they will be one of the best players on a team, putting up big numbers and playing a starring role.

George King, who spent last season on a two-way contract with Phoenix — but played just six total minutes with the Suns — has chosen overseas.

George spent most of last season in the G-League with Northern Arizona, where he averaged 15.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 2.6 assists a game. He was on the wrong end of a numbers game on the wing with the Suns at the start of the season, but when injuries hit he had not earned enough trust with the coaches to get a real opportunity.

So he went where there is an opportunity.

Same with former NBA player Tyler Cavanaugh, who spent most of last season with the Salt Lake G-League team and is now headed to Berlin.

Plenty of players spend time overseas then come back and are ready for the NBA — Patrick Beverley was in the Ukraine and Greece before coming to the NBA, for example — while others find a very good career playing overseas.

James Harden broke one of his youth camper’s ankles (VIDEO)

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It’s around the time of summer when NBA players (and coaches, and college coaches, and a whole lot of other people) are holding youth basketball camps.

I went to them as a kid (John Wooden’s was the best) and like me, these youth will have the memories of a lifetime, even if they move away from playing hoops someday. Especially this boy, who will forever be able to look back at this video from camp of James Harden breaking his ankles. (Via Houston Rockets Instagram)

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Meanwhile at @jharden13’s camp…😅

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Meanwhile, over at Dwyane Wade‘s camp, he was reminding some young children he is the best shot blocking guard of all time.