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.

 

James Harden on Russell Westbrook pairing: ‘We’ll figure it out’

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There has been some doubt that James Harden and Russell Westbrook will be able to fit together with the Houston Rockets the season. Both players have matured quite a bit since their time together in Oklahoma City with the Thunder, and now there are real questions about Westbrook’s ability to fit next to just about anyone.

Like Westbrook, Harden is a ball-dominant guard, and we still don’t know the long-term plan for Coach Mike D’Antoni. Houston has real championship hopes, but they could also look much different in a year or two.

Still, Harden and Westbrook have known each other since they were 10 years old. They grew up together in Los Angeles, and are at least very good friends. To that end, Harden says that he believes they will be able to figure it out even if the first year together has bumps along the way.

Via GQ:

It’s like, yo, we’ll figure it out. Everything isn’t necessarily going to be smooth at first, there are going to be ups and downs, and that’s part of an 82-game season. Hopefully by the end of the season, we’ve caught a rhythm and everybody is on the same page going into the playoffs. That’s all you can ask for.

That’s a pretty reasonable outlook to have at this juncture. The NBA is constantly changing, and it’s possible that these two guys could have such a personal connection that their on-court conflicts end up being negligible.

It’s another new era in Houston as they try to capitalize on the Golden State Warriors’ injury issues.

Draymond Green says he wants to play for Team USA in 2020 Olympics

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Several big-name players did not play for the United States during the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China. The team led by Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart did not medal, and on Sunday it was Spain that took home the gold over Argentina.

But that might not be the case for the 2020 Olympics in Japan.

According to Draymond Green, the Golden State Warriors star is looking to add his services to Team USA for that Olympics run.

Via NBC Bay Area:

“I do hope to play, and I think a lot of guys will want to play,” Green said Thursday on CNBC’s ‘Power Money.’ “The schedule this year was a little treacherous with the games that was in America, and also the travel to Australia, which is why I think a lot of guys dropped out. You know, a long ways to China. It was just a lot, and it also leads right into the season. Those guys will be coming back in the next couple days and we’ll be two weeks away from training camp.”

“I think you’ll see a lot of guys participating next year in the Olympics,” Green continued, “and I hope to be one of those 12 guys.”

Marc Stein also noted this week that Green’s team made Stephen Curry would also be expected to volunteer his services for the Olympics. Curry has not yet played for Team USA during an Olympic tournaments.

It seems like it’s harder and harder to compel players to play in national team events. It may be good for branding to play internationally, but so many teams and sponsors have international tours in the off-season that players may consider national team duty a duplication of services.

The Olympics mean more than the World Cup in this country, but the real test of whether stars sign up for Team USA next year will be about what happens in the NBA season.

Mavericks will have Dirk Nowitzki logo on court this season (PHOTO)

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Many teams had decided to get nostalgic this season. The Portland Trail Blazers have a special 50th anniversary court, the Denver Nuggets have some cool new jerseys, and the Memphis Grizzlies are kicking it back to their days in Vancouver.

But the Dallas Mavericks are winding the clock back to just last year.

It appears that Dallas will have a Dirk Nowitzki-shaped logo on their court next season. The logo looks like a watermark in the shape of Nowitzki’s famous one-legged fadeaway.

Via Twitter:

It looks like Mavericks players are already having fun at the expense of Nowitzki, and this is a great tribute that Dallas fans are sure to love.

Marc Gasol completes historic double, Spain wins World Cup

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BEIJING (AP) — Marc Gasol looked to the sky as confetti fell, some sticking to his massive shoulders, and then cradled and kissed the giant golden chalice that goes to the World Cup champions.

He’s getting good at hoisting trophies.

Gasol got to bask in a championship celebration for the second time in three months — and this time, he did it for his country. Tournament MVP Ricky Rubio scored 20 points, Sergio Llull added 15 and Spain won the World Cup for the second time by topping Argentina 95-75 on Sunday.

“We weren’t the most talented team,” Rubio said. “We weren’t the bigger team. Put anything you want, but we were the team with the biggest heart and we showed it tonight and we showed it during the whole tournament.”

Gasol scored 14 for the winners, who never trailed and added this crown to the one it claimed in 2006. And for him, 2019 will go down as a year the likes of which few others have enjoyed.

The Toronto Raptors center becomes the second player to win an NBA title and a FIBA world gold medal in the same year, joining Lamar Odom — who did it for the Los Angeles Lakers and USA Basketball in 2010. Gasol also became the 19th to win either an NBA or WNBA crown along with a gold medal, either of the Olympic or World Cup variety, in the same year.

The first 18 all did it for the U.S.

This time, Vamos España!

“NBA champion and a World Cup champion as well,” Gasol said. “What can I say? How does it sound to you? I feel very fortunate to be in this position and be able to play this game and help these guys be part of history of Spanish basketball.”

Llull and Rudy Fernandez — the team captain, the one who initially got to accept the Naismith Trophy — went to cut down the nets shortly after the final buzzer. Gasol carried the game ball to the gold-medal ceremony, and Spanish fans wept in the stands during the national anthem.

Gabriel Deck scored 24 points for Argentina (8-1), which got off to a slow start and played uphill the rest of the way. Luis Scola was held to eight points, shooting 1 for 10 from the floor.

“We’re sad right now. We’re very sad,” Scola said. “But I feel confident, in hours, we’ll be able to look back and be very proud. They just played better than us. They were better. They deserved to win. They were the better team in the game and the tournament.”

Spain led 43-31 at intermission, after putting together a 14-2 run to open the game and a 17-1 run later in the half.

“This is basketball,” Argentina coach Sergio Hernandez said. “If you play better than the other team, you win the game. And Spain was the best team today.”

Scola, even at 39 years old still Argentina’s best player throughout the tournament, didn’t get on the scoresheet until he made a pair of free throws with 2:57 left in the third quarter. But they only cut the Spain lead to 19, and by then the Argentinian fans who stood, sang and chanted for much of the game were relatively quiet.

The day belonged to Spain.

And the year belongs to Gasol.

“It’s unbelievable,” Gasol said.