Wizards focus on stopping Celtics’ 3-pointers in Game 2

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BOSTON (AP) — Washington Wizards coach Scott Brooks stated the obvious at his team’s practice on Monday.

“Their 3-point shooting is a problem,” Brooks said of the Boston Celtics, who tied a franchise record with 19 treys in Sunday’s 123-111 victory over the Wizards in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinal.

Game 2 of the best-of-seven is at TD Garden Tuesday night.

Back on May 3, 2002, the Celtics made 19 3-pointers in a 120-87 rout of the Philadelphia 76ers that clinched a best-of-five playoff series. On Sunday, Boston was 19 of 39 on its 3-pointers, including 10 of 19 in the second half and 4 of 6 in the fourth quarter.

“We have to do a better job of knowing which ones of those guys are shooters and make them put the ball on the floor,” Wizards guard John Wall, who had 20 points and dished out 16 assists in the loss, told reporters at practice.

“We can live with contested twos, we can live with contested shots at the rim, but to make spot-up threes … that’s what this team does. We know they’re going to shoot a lot and they (hit) more than what they shot in the regular season.”

Added fellow guard Bradley Beal: “We gave up 19 threes, on the road. … It’s just a matter of us defending, man.”

The Celtics became the first team this playoff season and the eighth ever to hit at least 15 treys in back-to-back games — nothing unusual for a team that lives and dies with the 3-pointer. They went 16 of 39 in their elimination win at Chicago on Friday night.

Isaiah Thomas went 5 of 11 from 3-point range in a 33-point, nine assist effort in Game 1 — all coming after he arrived back in town in the wee hours of the Sunday morning after attending his sister’s funeral. It was his third 30-point game out of seven in this season’s playoffs.

Thomas lost a tooth thanks to an inadvertent elbow from Washington forward Otto Porter, picked it up and went on to lead his team to the important win. On Monday, he was at the dentist having work done as his team practiced.

“He’s finishing up the dental work that he’s had,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said after practice. “It’s pretty significant as you can imagine. So he’s still in a dentist’s chair and will hopefully be able to come over later in the afternoon, kind of go through what we did (at practice), and go from there. But he did not practice.”

On Sunday, Thomas said he was going for a steal when he took the elbow that knocked the tooth out.

“I’ve taken a thousand hits like that and my tooth never came out,” Thomas said. “I always said pain is temporary. We’ll worry about it when the time comes.”

While Stevens knows he will have Thomas for Game 2, Brooks still can’t be sure forward Markieff Morris, who sprained his left ankle coming down on Celtics center Al Horford‘s foot after Horford fouled him, will be available.

“I’m playing tomorrow. It’s final,” said Morris, who didn’t practice Monday, sitting on the bench getting treatments. He said Horford apologized, telling him “My fault” after Morris went down after playing just 8:09.

Brooks said he will not have backup center Ian Mahinmi (calf) back until at least Friday’s Game 3 and indicated fellow big man Jason Smith, who played only nine minutes in Game 1 and has also been dealing with a calf problem, would get more minutes in Game 2.

“We just gotta do a better job of making things difficult for these guys. They can make shots. They’ve got guys that can score the ball,” Wall said. “Al Horford had a heck of a game. He’s basically their point guard when we trapped Isaiah — he gave the ball to Al and he did a great job finding teammates, making plays down the stretch.

“Even when we made runs, those guys made a barrage of threes.”

Horford, who didn’t have a point or a rebound and handed out one assist in the first quarter, just missed a triple-double. He finished with 21 points, a playoff career-high 10 assists and nine rebounds in the victory.

“He’s one of the best all-around bigs in the game,” said Brooks. “Top two or three passing big (man) in the league … and he shoots threes.”

Watch Kawhi Leonard’s 39 points spark Clippers rally past Pelicans 133-130

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Kawhi Leonard scored 39 points and the Los Angeles Clippers rallied to beat the New Orleans Pelicans 133-130 on Saturday.

Lou Williams scored 14 of his 32 points during a dominant fourth quarter for Los Angeles, which outscored the Pelicans 31-20 in the final 12 minutes.

Williams’ 3 with 31.6 seconds left, after Patrick Beverley had rebounded Leonard’s miss, gave the Clippers a 133-127 lead and sent numerous fans toward the exits.

But JJ Redick hit a quick 3, and after Leonard ran down the shot clock and missed a 3, New Orleans had 2.4 seconds to attempt a tying 3 that Redick missed off the back rim.

Montrezl Harrell scored 24 points for the Clippers, who trailed by 10 in the final seconds of the third quarter, but turned a steal into two free throws and then opened the fourth with an 8-0 run to tie it at 110.

After shooting 58.5% (38 of 65) in the first three quarters, the Pelicans made just 8 of 21 shots in the fourth as the game slipped away from them.

Lonzo Ball had 18 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds for the Pelicans, who were seeking their 11th victory in 15 games despite the recent absence of guard Jrue Holiday, who has missed seven games with an elbow injury.

Derrick Favors had 22 points and 11 rebounds for New Orleans, while Brandon Ingram had 21 points and Redick scored 19.

The teams combined for 152 points in a fast-paced first half, during which New Orleans tied a franchise record with 80 points.

Favors made his first seven shots and had 15 of his points in the opening 24 minutes, when the Pelicans shot 63.6%, including 11-of-21 shooting from 3-point range.

Ball hit three 3s in the first half, his last giving the Pelicans an 80-72 lead that stood at halftime.

Leonard has scored at least 30 points in each of his last five games.

Giannis Antetokounmpo: NBA system wants you to flop, but ‘that’s not who I am’

Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden
Stacy Revere/Getty Images
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Giannis Antetokounmpo scores inside unlike anyone since Shaq.

Like with Shaquille O’Neal, Antetokounmpo has sparked a conversation about how much contacts he absorbs.

Antetokounmpo, via Eric Woodyard of ESPN:

“It’s kind of hard because in the NBA, the way it’s built, they want you to flop,” Antetokounmpo said of playing physically. “It wants you to be weak, kind of, because sometimes I think when you’re strong and you’re going through contact, they don’t call the foul. But when you’re flopping and kind of going into the contact and throwing the ball out, they’re just going to call foul, but that’s not who I am, that’s not what I’m gonna do.

“I’m just gonna try to power through contact. It’s going to be … where if a guy grabs me or pushes me, I’ve got to show it more, but I think I’ve done a better job of showing it more so the refs can see that the guys are holding me, pushing me and just being physical.”

James Harden and Antetokounmpo have traded barbs since last year’s MVP vote, which Antetokounmpo won over Harden. Was this another shot across Harden’s bow?

Harden isn’t the only player who flops. But Harden has earned a reputation as the NBA’s foremost flopper.

Antetokounmpo could do a better job of selling contact. But his tenaciousness sets a tone for the Bucks. His teammates see his determination and follow his lead. There’s a real positive effect to Antetokounmpo’s style.

Also, Antetokounmpo already averages 10.4 free throws per game. How many more fouls would he draw by flopping? Officials could be reluctant to give him even more whistles. Though each call should be evaluated independently, there can be a tendency not to call too many fouls.

Report: LeBron James views Jason Kidd as only living peer for basketball intelligence

LeBron James and Jason Kidd
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
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LeBron James is a basketball genius.

That somewhat explains why, since becoming a superstar, he has clashed with all previous his coaches – Mike Brown, Erik Spoelstra, David Blatt, Tyronn Lue and Luke Walton. Traditional roles make coaches the brains behind the operation. But what happens when LeBron is the smartest person in the room? At best, it creates complications.

So, of course there were questions about how LeBron would take to new Lakers coach Frank Vogel. Vogel is a coach. That’s enough.

But LeBron also previously spread word of his desire to be coached by a former player. Vogel never played professionally. However, one of his assistants was a Hall of Fame player with previous head-coaching experience – Jason Kidd.

Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN:

One of those primary assistants would be Hall of Fame point guard Jason Kidd, whom two sources have independently said James regards as the only person alive who sees the game of basketball with his level of clarity.

This is probably hyperbolic. But Kidd was an incredibly smart player. His court vision, defensive recognition and ability to find ways to contribute all over the floor were elite. I can see why LeBron would enjoy talking basketball with Kidd.

But that alone doesn’t make Kidd a good coach. Playing ability doesn’t always translate to coaching ability. His record with the Bucks and Nets leaves a lot to be desired. Interpersonal issues were glaring. Dated thinking became even more apparent when Mike Budenholzer succeeded Kidd and immediately guided Milwaukee to the next level. Kidd’s record of player development is mixed.

Still, that level of endorsement from LeBron carries major weight.

Kidd has been trying to become an NBA head coach again. He lobbied for the Lakers job while Luke Walton held it and interviewed for it before Vogel got it.

Vogel said he wasn’t worried about Kidd undermining him and acted as if he truly isn’t. The Lakers are 33-8, and Vogel is endearing himself in Los Angeles. To better understand how he’s doing it, I highly recommend reading Arnovitz’s article.

Report: In money-saving trade, Trail Blazers swapping Kent Bazemore for Kings’ Trevor Ariza

Trail Blazers trade Kent Bazemore to Kings for Trevor Ariza
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images
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The NBA team with the highest payroll each of the last five years (record):

  • 2015-16: Cavaliers (57-25)
  • 2016-17: Cavaliers (51-31)
  • 2017-18: Cavaliers (50-32)
  • 2018-19: Thunder (49-33)
  • 2019-20: Trail Blazers (18-25)

Sitting 10th in the Western Conference, Portland is no longer content to spend so much on a losing team. So, the Trail Blazers will send Kent Bazemore, Anthony Tolliver and two second-round picks to the Kings for Trevor Ariza, Caleb Swanigan and Wenyen Gabriel.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Assuming this trade becomes official Tuesday (the first day Gabriel can be traded), Portland is in line to save $12,657,456 (salary: $2,532,078, luxury tax: $10,125,379).

The Trail Blazers are now $6,129,275 over the luxury-tax line. I wouldn’t be surprised if they try to dodge the tax entirely. Hassan Whiteside, Rodney Hood, Mario Hezonja, Ariza, Swanigan and Gabriel are all candidates to get dealt in cost-cutting moves.

Portland is also still trying to make the playoffs. Ariza should help. He fills a clear need as a bigger wing who can defend and hit open 3-pointers. He has shown clear signs of decline at age 34, but he has outplayed Bazemore this season.

Ariza has $1.8 of his $12.8 million salary guaranteed next season, the only money due beyond this year to a player in this trade. That and the second-rounders are the cost of the Trail Blazers getting an immediate upgrade while saving major money now. Looks like excellent value.

Ostensibly, the Kings are also still trying to compete this season. They remain the fringe of the underwhelming playoff race. Ariza is not a big loss.

Still, he is a loss nonetheless. Bazemore doesn’t have a clear role. Sacramento is full at shooting guard with Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic.

This trade was seemingly primarily about the picks for the Kings.

Bazemore and Tolliver could also help in the locker room. There’s plenty of frustration in Sacramento. Better chemistry could go a long way.

Interestingly, Tolliver and Swanigan return to their former teams. The King gave Tolliver his biggest payday in 2016. The Trail Blazers drafted Swanigan No. 26 in 2017 then traded him to Sacramento last year. Both Tolliver (age 34) and Swanigan (limited interior big) appear in danger of washing out of the league.