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.

 

Should the Raptors use this retro floor next season? (PHOTO)

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Teens keep releasing retro floors for the upcoming 2019-20 NBA season. Retro jerseys accompanied a lot of these floor releases, and teams like the Portland Trail Blazers, Memphis Grizzlies, and Charlotte Hornets have dipped heavily into the nostalgia sphere.

This season it could be much the same for the Toronto Raptors.

In a graphic posted it to r/nba this week, a potential new floor for the Raptors showed something a bit different.

Or should we call it an old floor?

Just months after Toronto won the NBA championship, it appears that they might be looking to harken back to the team’s very first year in existence.

Via Reddit:

What do you think? Are you a fan of the old purple dinosaur look, or do you think that nostalgia has tinged of the lenses of our judgement?

Team USA plays down loss to Australia: The real thing doesn’t start until China”

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It was the first time Team USA has lost an international game since 2006 — 78 straight wins. That seemed like a big deal.

It absolutely was huge for the 52,000 in attendance in Melbourne, where Australia was the one that upset the USA. This was validation for a strong basketball country and program — remember in the 2016 Olympics they lost by just 10 to a USA team with Kevin Durant, and it took a late push from Kyrie Irving and Carmelo Anthony to secure that win — that has never quite gotten the huge win on the international stage.

But after the loss, members of Team USA chalked it up as a learning experience. Coach Gregg Popovich said that, and the players followed suit. Quotes via Eric Nehm of The Athletic.

Kemba Walker: “Teams lose. We are just going to take this loss and build from it, that’s all we can do is continue to try our best to get better. The real thing doesn’t start until China, so we’ve got one more game. We’re going to head to Sydney and focus on Canada and from that point out the real thing starts. That’s all we are worried about, just continuing to get better, continuing to learn each other.”

Donovan Mitchell: “To be honest, this game doesn’t mean anything. Obviously it hurts to lose, but I look at this and we look at this as more of a learning experience as opposed to we just lost. That’s the mindset. If you think of this as a loss, you start to get carried away with all that.”

Technically, all of that is true. If the USA goes on to win gold at the World Cup, this will be but a blip on the radar.

But the loss also showed just far Team USA is away from that goal and how much work there is to do. Watch the game and what stood out — besides Patty Mills getting red hot and dropping 30, with 13 of that in the fourth quarter — was the difference in cohesion and chemistry. The core of this Australian squad has been playing together for a decade, and with Andrew Bogut as the offensive fulcrum (and Joe Ingles playing that role some) guys were cutting, moving with purpose, and seemingly always in the right place to get an open look or layup.

The Americans are trying to build chemistry on the fly and it comes and goes. Particularly on the defensive end. Team USA members lose guys on cuts, don’t help the helper consistently, and for stretches look like a team just thrown together. Especially under pressure, when the ball movement stops and there is too much one-on-one on offense.

This American squad still has the talent to overwhelm and beat most of the world. However, with some of the USA’s top talent staying home, there are a handful of teams out there — Serbia, Spain, Australia, France — with the talent to hang, and then it becomes about chemistry and execution. Team USA was beaten badly in those hard-to-quantify categories by Australia. The American’s margin for error is much smaller in this World Cup.

Maybe the loss galvanizes Team USA in a way nothing else could. Maybe. And the players are right that things don’t really matter for the USA until the games in China.

But Team USA still has a lot to prove.

James Harden working on one-legged step-back three for next season

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As if James Harden wasn’t unstoppable enough.

Harden’s step-back three has become probably the most unstoppable shot in the NBA. Now video has gone viral in NBA circles of Harden working on a one-legged, step-back three. Think Dirk Nowitzki’s one-legged jumper, but from three and with a little more side-to-side to it. (You can see the video above.) Harden talked to Tim MacMahon of ESPN about it.

“I’m not sure; it’s something that I work on,” Harden said when asked if he’ll use the one-legged, step-back 3 this season. “But you know how Mike [Jordan] has his fadeaway and Dirk [Nowitzki] has his one-leg and [Kareem Abdul-Jabbar] had the sky hook, I want my step-back to be one of those moves that last forever. So when I travel around the world and I see little kids that [say], ‘Hey James, I got a step-back!’ — I love to see that.

“It’s me being a creator and me being an innovator and paving the way in basketball in my own way, doing it how I want to do it, and that’s what it’s all about. As a little kid playing in these parks, that’s what I imagined, that’s what I dreamed of. Now it’s coming to reality, so it’s pretty cool.”

Harden is going to score a lot of points… or, maybe the better way to say that is he’s going to score even more points if he gets to a point he unleashes that in a game.

The challenge this season for Harden will be balance — he’s got to share the court and the ball with Russell Westbrook. Both of them are at their best with the ball in their hands, creating in isolation, but they need to be more than that. While coach Mike D’Antoni can do some things to help with that balance (staggering their minutes as much as possible) for the Rockets to become the contenders they want to be Harden and Westbrook have to be more than “your turn, now it’s my turn” on offense.

But when it’s Harden’s turn, that one-legged step back will be fun to watch.

Derrick White didn’t lose teeth, passes concussion test after nasty fall in USA loss

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There were plenty of ugly things for Team USA in its loss to Australia on Saturday — most of them on the defensive end — but later in the day on Saturday there was some good news.

It sounds like point guard Derrick White will be fine after his nasty fall and face plant during the game, reports Tom Osborne of the San Antonio Express-News.

In the middle of the fourth quarter, White was pushing the ball upcourt after an Australia miss and either got clipped from behind — there was a foul called — or stumbled over his own feet. I lean clipped, but the video is not conclusive.

White fell and faceplanted, with his head bouncing off the court. If he got away with just stitches, that’s good news for Team USA. If White had a concussion it is possible he would have missed the start of the World Cup, and the USA is not deep at the point guard spot on this roster (Kemba Walker and White are the only true point guards, a couple of players such as Marcus Smart can play a few minutes there but aren’t really suited to the position).

Team USA has one more exhibition game against Canada, then opens World Cup play on Sept. 1 in China against the Czech Republic.