Kahwi Leonard drops 34, Spurs rebound to beat Rockets, even series, but may lose Parker

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Kawhi Leonard had 34 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, and the San Antonio Spurs overcame the loss of Tony Parker to beat the Houston Rockets 121-96 on Wednesday night and even the Western Conference semifinals at one game apiece.

Parker did not return after hurting his left leg with 8:43 remaining in the game. Spurs officials said Parker will undergo an MRI on Thursday morning and update his status after, but Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said following that game that “it’s not good.”

Parker fell to the court after missing an uncontested short jumper. He grabbed his left knee immediately upon landing and remained on the court for a few minutes. He attempted to walk, but had to be carried by teammates to the back. Spurs owner Julianna Hawn Holt rose from her courtside seat to point and scream at an official after Parker exited the game.

Parker finished with 18 points and four assists in 26 minutes.

Houston point guard James Harden was limited to 13 points on 3-for-17 shooting.

The Rockets shot 11 for 34 on 3-pointers after going 22 for 50 in their 126-99 victory in Game 1 on Monday night. They host Game 3 on Friday.

The start was as frenetic as Game 1, but the Spurs kept pace this time. The teams shot a combined 15 for 25 in the opening six minutes, including 5 for 9 on 3-pointers.

Popovich started Pau Gasol in place of David Lee to give the Spurs another outside shooter in the starting lineup and it paid off early. San Antonio shot 62 percent in the opening quarter.

The Spurs finished at 54 percent.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 15 points after being limited to four in the opener, and Danny Green added 12.

Leonard tied his postseason high with 20 points in the first half as the Spurs opened up a 65-55 lead entering the third quarter.

Harden led a charge in the second half, but not with his offense. He swiped the ball away, leapt out of bounds and tossed it backward to save it and then stripped Green on the following possession to set a strong defensive tone. The Rockets would force five turnovers in the third quarter to cut their deficit to 88-83 entering the fourth.

Spurs reserve Jonathon Simmons provided a lift, scoring consecutive baskets at the close of the third quarter and then opening the fourth by diving into the front row of seats to save a loose ball that led to Manu Ginobili‘s layup. On the ensuing possession, Simmons completed a three-point play off a dunk.

TIP-INS

Rockets: Houston had scored 100 points in every playoff game this season. . Harden entered Wednesday averaging 31.0 points, 8.2 assists and 5.5 rebounds this postseason. Hall of Famer Michael Jordan is the only player to average 31 points, 8.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds in a single postseason, doing so in 1991. . The league fined Nene $15,000 for “escalating an altercation” after grabbing Dewayne Dedmon by the throat while the Spurs center was jawing with Harden. Nene was ejected from the game for the action. . Houston is 3-2 when trailing after the third quarter this postseason.

Spurs: Parker joined longtime teammate Tim Duncan as the only players born outside the United States to score 4,000 points in the postseason. Parker, Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are also the only players in league history with at least 4,000 points and 1,000 assists. .. Parker and Ginobili won their 131st postseason game as teammates, matching the league record held by Parker and Duncan. . Leonard has scored in double figures in 28 straight games, the longest streak since Parker had 63 straight from 2006-12. . Parker has scored 15-plus points six times this postseason after achieving that feat just 16 times in 63 regular-season games.

Carmelo Anthony has 18, but Giannis Antetokounmpo’s triple-double leads Bucks to win

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MILWAUKEE (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo had his second triple-double of the season and the Milwaukee Bucks beat Carmelo Anthony and the short-handed Portland Trail Blazers 137-129 on Thursday night.

Antetokounmpo had 24 points, 19 rebounds and a career-high 15 assists to lead the Bucks to their sixth straight victory. Antetokounmpo, who also had a triple-double in the season opener, has 16 career triple-doubles. Milwaukee is 14-2 in those games.

Eric Bledsoe added 30 points and six assists in the Bucks’ highest-scoring game of the season.

After scoring 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting in 24 minutes in his season debut Tuesday night against the Pelicans, Anthony had 10 points in the first half Thursday. The 10-time All-Star finished with 18 points (6-of-15 shooting) and seven rebounds for the Blazers, who were without Hassan Whiteside (hip), Damian Lillard (back), Zach Collins (shoulder) and Jusuf Nurkic (leg).

CJ McCollum scored a game-high 37 points and Skal Labissiere added 22 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks off the bench for Portland. The Trail Blazers lost their third straight game and seventh of the last nine against the Bucks, including sixth straight in Milwaukee.

The Bucks made their first seven shots, including three 3s, and led 17-6. Milwaukee never trailed.

The Bucks also had their highest first-half total, leading 72-58.

Report: Knicks not looking to make early-season coaching change with David Fizdale

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It didn’t take a Kremlinologist to read into what Knicks president Steve Mills said at his forced by the owner impromptu press conference 10 games into the NBA season:

Coach David Fizdale was in trouble. Big trouble.

It may not just be immediate, reports Marc Berman at the New York Post.

Mills wanted to see “consistent effort” and he’s gotten it. Indications are the coach’s hot seat is cooler halfway through this 10-game trial. Their record is 2-3 since the James Dolan-inspired conference, but could easily be 4-1 (they blew big leads to Charlotte, losing on a last-second 3-pointer, and, of course, had Philly dead in the water)…

The Knicks had to really sink south for a coaching change to be made by Game 20. Indications are it was far-fetched for a change to be made this early anyway. Was owner James Dolan, who has given Fizdale private reassurances, really going to let president Mills hire a new coach from the outside on a long-term deal with Fizdale still having at least one season fully guaranteed on his pact for 2020-21? Sources indicated the major deterrent to making a change at Thanksgiving was the sketchy alternative of promoting one of the assistants – Jud Buechler, Keith Smart or Kaleb Canales.

Good luck finding anyone who thinks Fizdale is safe long term in New York (and for the record, Smart has been an NBA head coach before, there are worse choices).

However, making a mid-season coaching change should really only happen for a couple of reasons. One is that the situation is so bad, so toxic, that it could poison the team into future seasons. The other is that there is a coach available on the sidelines that the team sees as “the man” going forward and they want to snap him up before someone else does (the Kings hiring George Karl comes to mind, although he turned out not to be “the man” they needed).

Not sure either of those situations applies to the Knicks and Fizdale. A move is more likely in the offseason.

However, predict James Dolan’s moods at your own risk.

Cavaliers’ new jerseys feature a big ol’ feather

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The Cavaliers rank near the top of the NBA by taking 19% of their total shots outside the restricted area while still in the paint. But Cleveland has converted just a middling 41% of attempts in that floater/runner range.

Maybe these uniforms will help the Cavs find a more feathery touch.

Though not in so many words, the Cavaliers actually stuck a feather on their jerseys and called it macaroni.

Jarrett Allen denies Kyrie Irving rumors, “He acts like a normal teammate”

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It hasn’t taken long for the “Kyrie Irving isn’t a good leader in Brooklyn” rumor mill to start up. The Nets 6-8 start combined with a desire in some corners of the NBA (and NBA Twitter) to pile on Irving has started the talk. Whether those rumors are just smoke or there’s some fire there depends on who you ask.

It was ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith who brought the topic to the forefront again on First Take.

Just as a refresher, anything Smith says should be taken with a full box of Morton’s Kosher salt. His job is to stir things up. That doesn’t mean he has no connections.

Nets center Jarrett Allen did an AMA on Bleacher Report and shot down the idea Irving is a bad influence in the locker room.

He acts like a normal teammate. People say that he has mood swings, but that’s a complete lie. He wants to see us succeed and do well if anything.

Allen added this when asked to compare playing with Irving vs. D'Angelo Russell.

They’re kind of different. Kyrie can score from anywhere, even without me setting up the pick-and-roll. DLo…we worked well; if he didn’t score, he’d kick it to me to score.

The Nets are a franchise inhabiting a strange space this season. First, this ultimately is Kevin Durant‘s team, but he doesn’t really get the keys until he can play, which almost certainly means next season. That makes Irving an interim Alpha on that team, but that’s an unusual dynamic.

Second, this is a Nets team that has rebounded from as low as it can get in the NBA to being a place Irving and KD wanted to play by establishing a culture, an identity. This is a lunch pail group of players who were selfless and bought into the team’s ideas and concepts. Nobody was a superstar, it was team first. Except, in come two superstars who bring their own ways of doing things — and the Nets can’t mess with that. There are compromises that need to go on for both sides, with Irving/KD bending to the Nets some, but the Nets giving them superstar treatment.

All of that creates friction that is going to rub some people the wrong way. Plus, Irving is a unique personality who is going to do things his way, and that will bother others. Some of those people will talk to the media, but that doesn’t mean everyone — or even a majority — feel the same way. It’s usually people who feel aggrieved who want to vent.

How all this plays out in Brooklyn is going to be something to watch. But the ultimate test is next season, not this one.