Posts Tagged ‘Clippers’

The Call: Thunder-Clippers Game 5

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com


VIDEO: Stu Jackson joins the Hang Time Podcast crew to clarify the controversial call at the end of the Thunder-Clippers Game 5 game

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Rule 8, Section II-c of the NBA rule book hasn’t gotten this much attention since it was first written.

But the text is being cited in all corners of the basketball universe as we try to make sense of what happened in the final seconds of Game 5 of the Los Angeles Clippers-Oklahoma City Thunder Western Conference semifinal Tuesday night in Oklahoma City.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers called it potentially a “series-defining call.” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said he definitely saw a foul that wasn’t called on Matt Barnes for slapping the hand of Reggie Jackson as Jackson frantically raced toward the basket with the Thunder’s comeback on the line with 11.3 seconds to play. (Brooks admitted, though, he couldn’t tell from the replays who touched the ball last as it went out of bounds.)

Whatever the case, after Barnes of the Clippers slapped at the ball and caught OKC’s Jackson on the left hand, after the ball went out of bounds (seemingly, in many people’s eyes, off Jackson’s right hand), referee Tony Brothers signaled OKC ball.

The refs went to the video replays to see who last touched the ball, but the replays, they said, were inconclusive. So Oklahoma City retained possession and went on to win, 105-104, completing a stunning comeback from 13 points down with 3:30 left to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.

And a controversy was born.

Here is the replay of the controversial call, including some of the most poignant responses from the Clippers, who (they admitted) wouldn’t have been in a position for the call to matter if they’d have taken care of business:


VIDEO: The controversial call in question from Game 5 of the Thunder-Clippers series

And here’s what Rule 8, Section II-c states:

… If a player has his hand in contact with the ball and an opponent hits the hand causing the ball to go out-of-bounds, the team whose player had his hand on the ball will retain possession.

Not long after the call, Stu Jackson, the NBA’s former Vice President for Basketball Operations, made it clear that he thought the right call was made on the floor — pointing to 8-II-c — and that the replay rule was used properly.

We couldn’t let Jackson get away with just a 140-character response. We needed more and the Hang Time Podcast crew got it from Jackson this morning.

Complicating the whole matter is the statement from Brothers after the game. A pool reporter was dispatched to get a clarification on the ruling and returned with what appears to be a simple — though certainly not satisfactory to everybody — explanation.

Please provide clarification on the out-of bounds play with 11.3 seconds remaining in regulation in which Oklahoma City was awarded possession.

Tony Brothers:

“When the ball goes out of bounds, the ball was awarded to Oklahoma City. We go review the play. We saw two replays. The two replays we saw were from the overhead camera showing down, and the one from under the basket showing the same angle but from a different view. And from those two replays, it was inconclusive as to who the ball went out of bounds off of. When it’s inconclusive, we have to go with the call that was on the floor.”

We know what Rivers thinks of that explanation. You can bet Clippers fans around the world agree wholeheartedly with their coach.

The Thunder and their fans, of course, are just glad to be on the other side of a crazy finish after surrendering a 22-point lead in Game 4 in Los Angeles on Sunday.

Whatever the case, the buildup for Game 6 Thursday night in Los Angeles — where the Clippers have to win in order to keep their season alive — couldn’t get any bigger.

24-Second thoughts — May 13

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com


VIDEO: Bradley Beal and the Wizards stayed alive

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Quick Change is my favorite halftime act at NBA games.

Has been for years.

And they will be until something or someone comes along to dethrone them …

They are also our honorary moniker for tonight’s action, because things do indeed change quickly in the conference semifinals. Just ask Roy Hibbert.

Game 5s for both the Pacers and Wizards and later on the Thunder and Clippers will show us exactly how all four teams react to the quick change that has come in their respective series.

Things changed so quickly in both the last time we saw them all on the floor, with both the Clippers and Pacers rallying back from huge deficits to win Game 4s on Sunday.

This very easily could have a been a night for closeouts. The Pacers have that chance, up 3-1 and playing on their home floor. The Thunder, of course, are deadlocked at 2-2 after the Clippers’ miraculous Game 4 comeback.

So while it’s win-or-go-home night in Indy for John Wall and his Wizards …

The Clippers and Thunder are guaranteed to go at it again, no matter what happens tonight.

Get your popcorn ready …

24 – Unbelievably sloppy start for the Pacers and especially the Wizards (seven turnovers in the first quarter), and yet they still lead after the first. It helps when your big man, Marcin Gortat, is working harder than anyone else on the floor during that span (11 points, six rebounds, one steal, one block and 12 hustle plays).

23 – Wait a minute, Luis Scola time! A 10-0 Indiana run gives the home team 27-25 lead …

22 – The Wizards are not playing like a team in the midst of their defining moment. So careless with the rock. Playing like it’s a preseason game …

21 – Hey, guess who’s on his way bizzzack to the bench (and more)?

#CantWait

20 – Wizards outworking the Pacers big time in the second quarter and pushed their lead to 10 (45-35). Hard to figure these Pacers out. No killer instinct on close-out night is a strange sign. Wizards fighting for their playoff lives, however, is what you love to see …

19 – Gortat and Co. destroying the Pacers on the glass!

18 – QUICK CHANGE!!!!!!!!!!!!

17 – BBQ Pierogi Alert … it’s a dumpling Shaq, not a sausage. Underdog, put that on a T-shirt!

16 – It’s a make or miss league and right now, John Wall is making ‘em. Seventeen and counting for the Wizards’ All-Star PG …

Meanwhile, the Pacers are doing it again …

Or better yet, Gortat is doing it to them …

15 – Freud couldn’t figure these Pacers out …

14 – Marcin The Machine!

13 – Welp!


VIDEO: Magic Johnson responds to Donald Sterling with Anderson Cooper

12 – Looks like the winner of the Early Game 4 Hangover Sweepstakes goes to …

11 – Stan Van Gundy coaching the Pistons makes plenty of sense. His front-office credentials, however …

10 – No hometown love for Blake Griffin, not five games into this series …

9 – Thunder rolling right now, with CP3 out of the mix with the two fouls …

8 – But BG stayed hot and J.J. Redick kept the Clippers in front at the half. Impressive stuff from the road warriors in this series once again …

7 – Amen!

6 – Officials in this night-cap are taking a bigger beating in the social media universe than even the Pacers …

5 – @JCrossover  is the master of the and-1

4 – KD needs to go ahead and join that kid’s framily, anything to escape this shooting nightmare tonight  …

3 – Oof!

2 – Huge box out and rebound of a BG miss on the second of two free throws leads to a CP3 dagger with 49.2 seconds left. Clippers hanging on to a 104-97 lead. Serge Ibaka failed to box Big Baby out properly. Crucial mistake in a game filled with them for the home team … if only KD and Russ weren’t there to rescue your bacon in the final minute. #giventhawaygame4takethawaygame5

1 – Good luck trying to make sense of this finish … CRAZY!


VIDEO: The wild Game 5 finish sees the Thunder serve up revenge for Game 4

24-Second thoughts — May 12

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com


VIDEO: LeBron talks about his crazy, 49-point night in a win over the Brooklyn Nets

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — LeBron James. Paul Pierce.

Their careers have been intertwined for years. They’ve been at this, the sniping and swiping on and off the floor, for years now.

So, there’s no better way to dive into Game 4 of the Miami Heat-Brooklyn Nets Eastern Conference semifinal than through the eyes, hearts and minds of the main two combatants in a series filled with feisty competitors and at-times, larger-than-life personalities.

“What I try to do in this locker room and with my teammates is just try to give them belief — that we can beat this team,” Pierce said after the Nets’ Game 3 win that included 15 makes from beyond the 3-point line for the home team at the Barclays Center. “They’re not unbeatable. You’ve got to have that mental [approach] if you’re trying to get over that mountain that you’re trying to climb.”

LeBron’s response was what you’d expect from a man who has had to go through Pierce and his Boston Celtics while starring in both Cleveland and later Miami, to reach the top of the heap in the conference and the league.

“Words don’t win the game, you’ve got to go out and play,” LeBron said. “Why should there be a fear factor, it’s just basketball? We’re not trying to win a war here, it’s just basketball. We’re all grown men, who cares about who is fearing who? We’ve never been a team that talks, we don’t get into that. We’ve never been a bulletin board team. We just want to play the right way and give ourselves a chance to win.”

Game 4 @ Barclays, bring it on …

24 – No one gets it in like the venerable Ray Allen!

Deron Williams, however, has his own designs on how to prepare for the biggest game of the Nets’ season …

Good to know Shaq and the TNT crew are already warmed up as well …

23 — Alan Anderson gets tangled up with LeBron and the real playoff MVP (double technical fouls) makes an early appearance tonight …

22 – This is as much a mind game for both sides as it is a basketball game …

21 – These two have rolled together before a time or two …

20 – Just turn to TNT and watch playoff hoops!

19 – “AK-47 is the tool!”

– BREAKING NEWS –

NO Mo (Williams) again in Portland …

18 – “Watch what I do to these jokers in the last six minutes.”

LeBrooklyn James is getting whatever he wants out here. Going hard in the paint. Killing it in transition. Facilitating. He’s giving us the whole experience right now. Had 13 points in the final six minutes of the second quarter. Uh, Ballin’ … in #AttackMode …

BTW, Paul Pierce can’t handle the truth tonight …

–Another dispatch from Portland — 

Oh, and Extra Big Ups to Craig Sager!!!!!!!!!!!

17 – Sooner rather than later …

And yet the Nets are right where they want to be, down 65-63 with 7:01 to play in the third and KG acting like it’s 2004 or something. Rebound on one end, tip dunk on the other to cap a 7-0 Nets run! #weaintdoneyet

16 – “Six minutes, six minutes” …

This LeBron and the Miracles thing is not going to work the deeper the Heat go into these playoffs. #justsayin

15 – Pierce with the dunk for the Nets lead right on cue …

And D. Will with the steal on Birdman and the put back …

14 – The #Truth has shown up for the Nets at crunch time. Now the battle with LeBron is really on …

– Just so we’re clear: 22 of LeBron’s 48 points have come in the paint …


VIDEO: Welcome to the drama that is the Sterlings and the Los Angeles Clippers Dick Parsons

– Sterling foolishness on CNN elicits a prompt response from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver …

13 – Third time’s the charm for Bosh. After two misses from deep he nails the one that matters. #corner3 for 97-94 Heat lead. The Nets’ comeback play …

LeBron finishes his ridiculous night with a playoff career-high tying 49 points …

12 – Thanks for taking the high road Magic!

11 – Another head-scratcher to ponder while we enjoy the Spurs’ reserves go toe-to-toe with the Trail Blazers early in the night cap …

10  Still nothing official from New York and the coaching search …

9 – Raise your hand if you love watching Will “Buckets” Barton crank it up, Patty Mills style, when he tears those Rip City warm ups off. He’s got 22 points in 31 minutes in this series through halftime of Game 4 …

8 – Damien Lillard will not go down without a fight (and a few highlights) …


VIDEO: Damian Lillard throws it down over The Big Fundamental!

7 – They won the game, and then raided the New Jack Swing closet for this #NBAStyle pic after it was over …

6 – LaMarcus Aldridge worked the Houston Rockets over. Dwight Howard. Omer Asik, Terrence Jones and whoever else was unlucky enough to draw the assignment of guarding him in that series. But the LA that dominated that series has vanished against the Spurs. Tiago Splitter, that’s right Tiago Splitter, has done the job defensively …

His partner in low-post crime has been, as the kids say, on one tonight. Robin Lopez = ballin’ …

5 – It’s Batum Time! He’s shoving his countrymen Tony Parker and Boris Diaw aside as he tries to keep the Trail Blazers’ season alive with 4-point plays and anything else he can muster …

4 – #putthebroomsaway?

3 — Good to see Lillard bounce back like this. A sweep and individual struggles would have disrupted his wicked rise …

#RipCityReserves doing their part to make sure this season doesn’t end tonight. Buckets Barton and T-Rob playing wtih crazy energy on both ends …

2 – Spurs,

Put the brooms away please.

Sincerely,

Buckets Barton

1 – Another double-header Wednesday, courtesy Nic and friends …


VIDEO: Will Bartton goes coast-to-coast and finishes with the layup

Clippers not planning to stick with CP3 on Durant

By Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com


VIDEO: The Inside crew discusses L.A.’s decision to use CP3 on Kevin Durant

LOS ANGELES – A man walks into a bar.

Wait.

Here’s a better one:

Chris Paul defends Kevin Durant.

That’s it. No punch line. No laugh track. Just a 6-foot, 185-pound point guard sent to check a 6-foot-9, 240-pound forward who, in his spare time when he’s not busy being bigger than Paul, is the reigning scoring champion. Even people Durant’s own size are handed a cigarette and blindfold when they are given the assignment, and Paul gets word Sunday afternoon in a playoff game with his Clippers already trailing the Thunder 2-1 and 3-1 coming fast.

And CP3 was still upright Sunday night. Not just that, Paul on Durant, with a lot of double-team rescue missions, was part of the small lineup in the fourth quarter that keyed the improbable L.A. turnaround from 22 points down in the first period and 16 down with a little more than nine minutes remaining to the 101-99 victory at Staples Center.

“That’s called desperate coaching,” said the most desperate of coaches at Staples Center, the Clippers’ Doc Rivers.

Durant scored 10 of his game-high 40 points in the fourth, but didn’t truly step on Paul. The MVP took only five shots, half as many as Russell Westbrook and only two more than Reggie Jackson. Durant committed three turnovers and didn’t help the Thunder beat the double teams, with no assists in the 12 minutes.

The Clippers staff talked Saturday about how Durant had been beating them with his dribble, either getting to the basket himself or forcing the defense to collapse and creating openings for Thunder shooters, and decided a guard on him in Game 4 could be a counter. Plus, the coaches had nothing to lose by that point. The Clips were getting pushed out of their own building, a 3-1 hole with the Western Conference semifinals about to head back to Oklahoma City would have been close to insurmountable, and so, sure, why not.

Rivers put Paul, one of the best backcourt defenders in the league, on Durant some late in Game 3, but nothing like this. This was sticking with it. This was sending at least one extra body at KD every post catch and forcing him to either score from there, an acceptable alternative considering he wouldn’t be at the rim or threatening to put L.A.’s season on the clock with 3-pointers.

Durant was asked about the challenge Paul presents and said, “He doesn’t. It’s not a one-on-one. When I catch the ball, they sent a double-team. They did a good job of crowding me, making me get rid of the ball. When it’s one-on-one, I got the advantage.”

For all the Oklahoma City delight over Durant’s growth as a distributor the last couple years, the Clippers will obviously consider it a success anytime he has to pass out of the double-team rather than get a shot. Five shots in the fourth quarter of a close playoff game is somewhere around the success of winning the lottery.

“I really can’t answer that,” Jackson, the Thunder’s backup point guard, said of Durant being muted down the stretch. “We’ve just got to find ways to get (Durant) open shots. We’ve got to punish them for doing that, for making a call such as putting Chris Paul on KD. We’ve got to punish them for it. Size difference. Everybody sees it. We’ve got to find ways to get him the ball easier and if they double just make them pay.”

Said OKC coach Scott Brooks: “That’s something we’ll look at in the film. Kevin was having trouble getting the catches…. But it was physical out there. I’ll just say that. It was physical. But we have to do a better job of getting him open, freeing him up.”

Plotting the counter comes with the Clippers saying — saying — they won’t go Paul on Durant much when the 2-2 series resumes Tuesday night in Oklahoma City. Rivers calls it a “situational” maneuver, not a regular strategy that will be deployed moving forward. The physical toll on CP3 is too much.

“It’s tough,” Paul said. “He was the MVP for a reason, you know what I mean. Early in the game, when things weren’t going right, I went to Doc and said, ‘Might be 48 minutes tonight.’ KD is a great scorer. I don’t know. It’s tough at times because you try and defend him as well as trying to stay aggressive offensively. Same thing I went through last series (against the Warriors). At the end of the day, you’ve just got to do whatever it takes to win.”

It turned out that Paul had a slow day in Game 4. Only 45 minutes.

There’s the punch line. Cue the laugh track.

24-Second thoughts — May 11

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com


VIDEO: The final frantic seconds of the Clippers’ epic Game 4 comeback win over the Thunder

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Greatest playoff comeback ever?

Ah, we’ll argue about it later. (And for the record, there is a huge difference between the “biggest” and “greatest” anything, so keep that in mind. More on this later …)

Greatest comeback in the Los Angeles Clippers’ franchise history?

No diggity, no doubt!

Down 16 in the fourth quarter, the Clippers unleashed the Mother’s Day comeback of the century. After watching them take punch after punch from the Thunder with their season on the line I offered up a simple question via Twitter …

The rest, as they say in Hollywood, is history!

24 – Oh, Metta. You’re going to miss an epic finish fella!

And give them a few minutes, Sir!

23 – No way the Thunder let up. No way. Not when they were crushing the Clippers for so long …

22 – Darren Collison has officially morphed into #newschool Vinnie Johnson and taken over the game on possession after possession. Competitive fire is coming out of his ears as he stages a one-on-one game within the game with his former UCLA teammates Russell Westbrook

21 – Clips back in this for one reason and really one reason only, D-E-F-E-N-S-E-! Doc Rivers switches Chris Paul on the MVP Kevin Durant (with plenty of double-team help) and it actually works …

20 – I believe this about any team, in any sport, at any level …

19 – Now, about this comeback from 22 points down in the game. It was the Clippers’ fourth-largest comeback in the past five seasons, per Elias. So no, it wasn’t a franchise record. They came back from 27 down in the 2012 playoffs to beat the Memphis Grizzlies, 24 down that same postseason to defeat the San Antonio Spurs and from a 23-point hole in the 2011 playoffs to beat the Portland Trail Blazers.

18 – Fine choice of words Mr. Green!


VIDEO: Darren Collison can go ahead and say it, “Im’ the man, I’m the man, I’m the man”

17 – “Madness, I say. Madness!”

… Haha!

16 – Fitting image for an epic finish!

15 – Some folks, CJ Paul, had much better seats than others for the epic comeback …

14 – Doug Collins nailed the one issue that many of us have with the two-faced nature of the KD-Russ dynamic and how it impacts the Thunder, negatively, sometimes (and particularly at critical times) …

13 – Interesting, might be Steve Kerr to the Knicks after all …


VIDEO: CP3 and Lil’ Chris at the podium

12 – No pressure or anything Pacers and Wizards. No big deal. You’re just following one of the best games of the entire #NBAPlayOffs.

No pressure …

11 – Don’t we have to be concerned about the big fella no matter what?

10 – Is anyone ready to forgive yet?

And a quick piece of wisdom from the Basketball Whisperer

9 – My main man #BigThirst Al Harrington with an appearance tonight for the Wizards. one of my favorite cats of all time. Good to see him out there …

… #MOTHER’SDAYSHOUTOUTS

8 – What he said …

7 – Wizards running circles around the Pacers at halftime and they’re the team with all the “old heads” … and that Wall fella!

6 – We’ve been burned once today with a hot start. It would be foolish to assume this one is over, but the Asch Man makes it hard to think this one is heading anywhere but over …

5 – Jeff Teague is not a man of many words. But the Hawks’ point guard is usually spot on with his observations …

More Sterling drama (sorry, but unfortunately it’s news) overshadowing the work of the Clippers on the floor. NBA response to Shelly Sterling‘s desire to retain her ownership stake of the Los Angeles Clippers:

In response to statements made by Shelly Sterling, wife of Donald Sterling, NBA spokesman Mike Bass stated:  
 
“Under the NBA Constitution, if a controlling owner’s interest is terminated by a 3/4 vote, all other team owners’ interests are automatically terminated as well.  It doesn’t matter whether the owners are related as is the case here.  These are the rules to which all NBA owners agreed to as a condition of owning their team.”

4 – Drew Gooden, Harrington and Andre Miller are ballin’ again … let that sink in for a second. They are the old man superhero brigade in D.C. It’s as crazy as it is entertaining watching the “Old” Wizards go to work …

Meanwhile, the Pacers come all the way back and tie the game up and then promptly get outscored 6-0 … and trail by six again 80-74 with 8:36 to play. #SMH #realpacerspleasestandup

https://twitter.com/JCameratoNBA/status/465672561884692481

3 – Win or lose, Wiz Bench and Paul George are exempt from the blame game tonight. Couldn’t have asked for from any of them …

2 – Dancin’ Roy Hibbert with a huge turnaround jumper for a 94-91 Pacers lead in the final 90 seconds. (Yeah, he traveled but it wasn’t called. What can you do?) If this holds, Hibbert will go from the scapegoat to hero in just days. Such is the roller coaster of life in the #NBAPlayoffs …

1 – Emotional crusher for the Wizards. Down 3-1 after losing the 19-point third quarter lead and dropping Game 4 to the Pacers with the late-game stumbles. Maybe they weren’t as ready for prime time as it seemed after Game 1?


VIDEO: Paul George was the man on the spot all night for the Pacers, who are suddenly in control again in this series

Clippers beat up, but not beaten

By Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com


VIDEO: The Clippers storm from 22 down to shock the Thunder in Game 4

LOS ANGELES – His face worn with the exhaustion of recent weeks, the top button of his white dress shirt undone and the burgundy tie splashed with silver and light blue loosened, Doc Rivers dropped into a chair at the front of the room for the post-game press conference.

He let out a big exhale.

“Would you like to make an opening statement or go right to questions?” the Clippers’ coach was asked at the start.

“No, I want a beer,” Rivers said, drawing laughter from the gathered media even if he wasn’t joking.

He was spent. All the Clippers were. It was a physical Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals, with Blake Griffin playing the final 8:44 with five fouls and being sent in by Rivers with one instruction, to play with the energy of someone with one foul. Chris Paul gave away nine inches and some 55 pounds while defending Kevin Durant and lived to tell. Griffin got a fist to the groin from Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka.

The Clippers came back to somehow beat the Thunder 101-99 on Sunday afternoon at Staples Center and tie the series 2-2 because they were scrappy, not because they were flashy. If this was Lob City, it was the working-class section.

Paul on Durant? “That’s called desperate coaching,” Rivers said. The Clippers were anxiously searching, even reaching, for something to administer CPR.

Scoring 38 points in the fourth quarter to win? The defense was the offense. L.A. went small — Darren Collison, Jamal Crawford, Paul, Danny Granger and Griffin most of the final period — and forced turnovers that became fast-break baskets.

The new energy in the final period? Rivers hoped that trapping more would generate the turnovers, but he also saw that it energized the Clippers to be more aggressive than they had been most of the game that existed before in an alternate universe, the one where the Thunder owned the arena, were coasting to a second win in a row and about to head home to close out the series Tuesday night.

“I think we just willed this one,” Paul said.

Willed it.

Forged it.

Dug deep for it.

The Clippers season was quickly — and, under the circumstances, easily — slipping away, falling into a 12-point hole with only 4:51 gone and having that turn into 22 points, at 29-7, after 9:01. There was zero atmosphere from the home crowd. A 3-1 deficit against a very good team was looming large. And when L.A. did close within 39-35 about midway through the second quarter, the Thunder seemed to slam the door with another demoralizing surge that restored order with a 15-point lead with eight minutes remaining in the third quarter. The cushion was still 12 heading into the fourth.

Rivers’ lineup to start the most important 12 minutes of the season was Glen Davis, Collison, Granger, Crawford and DeAndre Jordan. Paul replaced Davis after 53 seconds. Griffin went in for Jordan and the closest thing to a last stand, given the long odds of beating the Thunder three times in a row with two of the games in OKC, was set for the final 8:44.

“We really locked in on defense,” Crawford said. “We were down 22 at one point and we kept believing and never gave up. We refused to lose. It was a big-time win. I’m not sure that win happens on the road. Like I said, the crowd was terrific tonight and they played a huge part.”

Paul was on the court for all but 3 minutes 2 seconds. Griffin went 40 minutes, Crawford 34, or about nine more than his playoff average. Rivers was weary and he didn’t walk into a size mismatch or get told by Ibaka to turn his head and cough.

“I just thought we hung in there,” Rivers said. “We searched for combinations. We went completely unconventional. We went ultra-small. We put Danny at the four. His numbers won’t show it, but Danny Granger was huge for us. He kept guys from getting rebounds. I thought his length was a factor. Then obviously Jamal and (Collison) in that small lineup, that won the game for us. I’m not sure we ever used that lineup. But that group won the game for us tonight.”

That settles it then. Beers all around.

Thunder keep their poise and their lead

By Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com


VIDEO: Thunder take Game 3 in L.A. for 2-1 series lead

LOS ANGELES – If Serge Ibaka had picked up two quick fouls a couple years ago, Thunder coach Scott Brooks was saying Friday night of his fifth-year power forward, emotions would have been ricocheting off the walls when Ibaka checked back in, moments Brooks recalled as “dicey.” This time, in his team’s biggest game of the season, when pressure could have become a tipping point, a focused Ibaka lasted the final 5:08 with five fouls.

Russell Westbrook, meanwhile, had what Brooks called “control and command of the game,” as if 23 points, 13 assists against two turnovers, and eight rebounds wasn’t impact enough. And on a night when the opponent did not provide extra opportunities, Oklahoma City was so stable on offense that it didn’t need them, shooting 55.7 percent and scoring 118 points despite the Clippers committing just six turnovers.

But Westbrook wasn’t the only one showing control and command. The Thunder won Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals 118-112 for a 2-1 series lead behind 36 points from Kevin Durant and another formidable performance from Westbrook, but mostly thanks to what OKC did not do.

Crack.

Wilt.

Get dicey.

Quite the opposite. The Thunder shot 61.1 percent in the fourth quarter and pushed through L.A., all while not committing a single turnover in the same time. They either trailed or led by no more than six points until the final 22.7 seconds and were undaunted. Fourth quarter, on the road, tight game, physical, someone cranking the volume nob on fans inside Staples Center, home-court advantage gone and bigger problems not far behind, and they maintained.

Yes, maintained.

“I thought we did a good job of staying focused, staying on the task at hand, and that is to win the basketball game,” Brooks said. “We’ve had a lot of years of experience. We added a few players along the way. But I thought our guys did a good job of maintaining. Defensively in the fourth quarter, we stepped up and made them take a lot of tough shots.”

Playing with a champions’ composure, the Thunder became the first team all season to beat the Clippers after L.A. took a lead into the fourth quarter. Countering the tension with poise, Oklahoma City looked like a roster that had been to the Finals.

“Sticking together,” Westbrook said. “Great teams stick together. I thought we did a great job of having each other’s back, staying close with each other regardless of what was going on. Just playing through it all.”

Control and command.

“We’ve grown a lot in that area,” Durant said. “There’s times when we can definitely grow from our mistakes. But we’ve grown leaps and bounds from where we were before.”

Ibaka finished with 20 points in 29 minutes while making 9 of 10 shots and, in the words of Westbrook, “he did a great job of being focused. Like coach mentioned earlier, just staying focused on what the task at hand is. Sometimes you’re going to have early fouls, get in early foul trouble. You got to find a way to put your imprint on a game. I thought he did a good job with Blake, making him take some tough shots and knocking down some shots as well.”

Ibaka did such a good job with Blake Griffin, actually, that Ibaka got Griffin to give himself a bloody nose. The Clippers All-Star was pivoting inside with the ball, trying to create some space to get off a clean shot, contact being delivered and absorbed. Finally, he slammed into one of Ibaka’s arms.

Blood spilled, the crowd was outraged, but it was a good no-call by the referees. Just another tense moment in a game filled with them. Ibaka handled the situation well. He stayed active despite the foul trouble. All the Thunder stayed composed.

This was not control and command of the best entire series, but it was Oklahoma City in a good place, playing with a fortitude down the stretch and earning the 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series because of what it did, just more because of what it did not do.

24-Second thoughts — May 9

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com


VIDEO: The Conference semifinals kicked off with some hardware being handed out and much more

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Five straight nights of this and I’m not sure how anyone who has watched every second of these conference semifinal games is functioning normally.

My sleep schedule is shot and I blame all of these teams for my addiction.

Go ahead, you can blame them, too!

Let’s get it … Friday Night Lights!!!

If you knew three games into this Pacers-Wizards series these guys would be featured on the marquee …

we need to hit the store and play those Mega Millions and Power Ball numbers ASAP!

24 – Thank you Luke Russert!

Plus, where else can you can get Kristen Ledlow of NBA TV and Inside Stuff dunking with Marcin Gortat?

23 – A little point guard tale of the tape for tonight’s second game …

22 – Strange things going on at the Verizon Center and we don’t even have tip-off yet …

It’s not often I agree with a Michigan State Spartan, but Mateen Cleaves is spot on. You have to go with your real horses in the playoffs …

21 – Did the dog check with Kobe first?

20 – We’re going to take a moment to appreciate the contract year grind that is Trevor Ariza‘s performance early on in this game and throughout the playoffs. #going in #hemadeit …


VIDEO: Hey Trey Kerby, way to shave the beard for a good cause!

19 – I’m all for a good c-o-n-spiracy theory, but …

18 – The Pacers just don’t seem to have any consistency on the offensive end. They don’t have a point guard that can break down the defense and create for anyone else. And apparently, they don’t always know their plays anyway …

17 – Good call Smitty!

16 – Don’t worry, there will be plenty of time to talk about “upside” when your team (whichever team you choose) is on the clock at the real Draft next month …

15 – It’s not a typo!

Did we mention how strange things have been all night in D.C.?

14 – It’s like someone unplugged the Wizards. They were playing lights out basketball basically every night out and then they fell flat …

13 – The blowout themes continue in the conference semifinals. Pacers take a 2-1 lead, outscoring the Wizards 51-30 after halftime. Wizards stink up their own building, finishing with a franchise low in points (the previous baseline was 75 points). They managed the fourth fewest points in the playoffs in the shot clock era, folks. How does this happen to a team that played as well as the Wizards have for so long?

12 – Bet these guys combine for more than 67 points by halftime, especially doing stuff like this …

11 — Caron Butler doesn’t deserve your hate, not in Los Angeles or anywhere else …

10 – Rihanna can show up whenever she wants, just as long as she shows up …

9 – Seriously, the Thunder and Clippers could play a best-of-27 and I wouldn’t get tired of watching it. I can’t think of two teams with better individual matchups that keep you on the edge of your seat. This series will more than make up for the relative snoozers going on elsewhere in the conference semifinals. Everybody’s watching  …

8 – Not sure where you come down on the CP3-KD spat from the second quarter. Looked like some choice words were used between great friends but fierce competitors. I like it, no, I love it. I don’t even mind the expletives (little heat-heat-of-the-battle language is harmless).

Easy!

1. Zeke 2. Stockton 3. CP3

7 -- It’s called living up to the hype! These teams are legit. Scary thing is one of them has to go home at the end of this series while the other one is not guaranteed anything but a chance to lock horns with another elite outfit #surviveandadvance #winorgohome #focusonthenow …

6 – This is an absolutely ridiculous showcase of some of the league’s elite superstars showing us what all the fuss is about. The MVP is operating with surgical precision and CP3 is matching him play for play and that Westbrook fella is no joke! It’s mesmerizing to watch …

5 – We’ve got a bleeder!

4 – It’s just a suggestion after all of the whistles being blown here …

3 – Precisely …

– MONSTER WORK FROM SERGE IBAKA AT CRUNCH TIME …

2 — Westbrook and Durant with back-to-back daggers!

1 — Home court snatched right back. #ThunderUp Big time effort from the Thunder to go into LA and come away with what has easily been the best game of the conference semifinal round. Clippers were 35-0 this season (regular and postseason) at home when ahead on the scoreboard heading into the fourth quarter. Caron Butler huge off the bench, the 3-pointers in the fourth were clutch!

Again, BIG TIME win for the Thunder, Ibaka, Westbrook and, of course, the “MVP” …


VIDEO: Durant and Westbrook are a two-man machine that no one can handle right now

Morning Shootaround — May 9



VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played May 8

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Kobe wants a say in hiring of next Lakers coach | Wizards’ Wall eager for Game 3, redemption | Thunder: Griffin up to old tricks | Nets’ Williams missing when team needs him most

No. 1: Kobe wants a say in hiring of Lakers’ next coach: After years of suggesting that he didn’t want anything to do with the work being done by ownership and the front office, it appears that Kobe Bryant has warmed up to the idea of having some input on such matters. The Los Angeles Lakers superstar wants a say in who the franchise pursues and hires to replace Mike D’Antoni, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com. That’s an abrupt departure from his public stance for years:

Kobe Bryant, speaking publicly for the first time since Mike D’Antoni resigned from the Los Angeles Lakers, expressed apathy about the turn of events while saying he would, though, like to have an active role in choosing a new coach.

“Honestly I didn’t care,” Bryant said Thursday during a guest appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” when asked by Kimmel if he was “happy” that D’Antoni accepted a buyout of close to $2 million for next season rather than come back to coach the team.

“Mike was dealt a really bad hand in dealing with all the injuries that he had here,” Bryant said. “This is a tough place, man. If you’re not winning, you’re not going to survive, man.”

Bryant added that Magic Johnson‘s controversial tweet in which he celebrated D’Antoni’s departure reminded him of a scene out of “The Wizard of Oz.”

“The first thing I thought of was seeing the Munchkins on the Yellow Brick Road dancing and singing, ‘The Wicked Witch is dead,’ ” Bryant said. “When he tweeted that, that song just came to mind.”

Bryant hopes the Lakers will sing a different tune than they have in the past when it comes to consulting him about hiring their next coach.

“On the last two they didn’t,” Bryant said, referring to Mike Brown and D’Antoni, who both failed to endure the length of the initial contracts they signed with the Lakers before parting ways. “On the third one, I’m hoping they do.”

Taking over for a legend like Phil Jackson is never easy, of course. Bryant said he still speaks to Jackson “often” and expects the 11-time championship winning coach to transfer those results to his front-office role with the New York Knicks.

“I think he’ll do fantastic,” Bryant said. “Especially the more people say that he won’t be successful.”

Bryant had similar faith in the Lakers’ brass, endorsing the efforts by Jackson’s fiancée and Lakers president, Jeanie Buss, as well as her brother and Lakers executive vice president of player personnel, Jim Buss, in steering the franchise in the right direction.

“Jimmy and Jeanie both, they’re just really determined and excited about the possibilities of next season and rebuilding this and building on their father’s legacy and everything that he’s accomplished,” Bryant said. “And they’re taking the challenge extremely, extremely seriously. They’re both on the same page and they want nothing but excellence here, so I have no doubt that we’ll make it happen.”

 

(more…)

24-Second thoughts — May 8

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com


VIDEO: HT fave Jamal Crawford collects another KIA Sixth Man of the Year trophy

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — While NFL fans wait around for the start of their beloved draft, we hoops lovers are already engrossed in Game 2 of the Miami Heat and Brooklyn Nets.

You can have Johnny Football, that Jadeveon Clowney fella and the draft that never ends (in the NBA we go 60-men deep, that’s it). I’m rocking with the round ball tonight.

Give me LeBron James and Paul Piece, Kevin Garnett and Dwyane Wade and Tim Duncan and LaMarcus Aldridge, Tony Parker and Damian Lillard in the nightcap when the Spurs and Trail Blazers get it on in Game 2 of their conference semifinal showdown.

I don’t care how choppy it is early, still waiting for someone to knock down a shot here, I’m sticking to NBA basketball tonight …

(I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t intrigued by this one wrinkle, though. The prospects choosing their walk-up song is a splendid idea. The fact that we already know which song each guy has chosen steals just a little bit of the thunder. But I love the idea and wouldn’t mind if the NBA poached it come Draft night next month.)

Oh and big ups to my main man Jamal Crawford of the Los Angeles Clippers on winning KIA Sixth Man of the Year honors for the second time in his career. Well deserved honor for one of our faves around here.

24 – For all of my anti-NFL draft hype, this one didn’t exactly start with fireworks. Brutal start for both teams in the early going. no one wanted to score, or even hold on to the ball, for that matter.

23 – We’re two hours from tip in San Antonio and already there is more action than we’ve seen from the Heat offense, which has produced just 15 points on 6-for-18 shooting (1-for-8 from deep) after the first 12 minutes.

22 – Nets guard Shaun Livingston slipped on a wet spot under the basket early and I missed the replay. He kept playing, so I didn’t think it was that serious. It didn’t hit me until a few minutes later that when you hear the words “Shaun Livingston” and “slipped under the basket” you can’t help but freak out. Glad it wasn’t anything serious. He’s one of my favorite players. Loved his game coming out of high school. He’s the embodiment of the power of perseverance. We were all robbed of what he might have been …

21 – Why don’t we just let Rashard Lewis and Mirza Teletovic play a game of H-O-R-S-E  to decide this thing …

20 – Sorry LeBron, but we don’t always get what we want …

But you did get it cranked up the closer we got to halftime …

19 – Joe Johnson scores on an isolation play and ESPN’s Mike Tirico talks about his nickname in Atlanta being “Iso Joe.” My memory could be a bit shaky, but I swear I coined that nickname when I was the beat writer for the Hawks. Seriously, I think that’s one of mine. I wonder if the url is already taken?


VIDEO: Who’s hotter than Teletovic in the first half? 

There are other Nets stars in the crosshairs at halftime, though, K.G. and D-Will in particular …

18 – Welcome to San Antonio folks …

17 – The battle of the role players continues with Teletovic ballin’ out for the Nets and Ray Shuttlesworth doing the honors for the Heat. We can watch this all night …

16 – There has been a breakout of happy feet in these playoffs. I was going to refrain from bringing it up, until my favorite WNBA player went and did this …

This is a nutty game. Watching some of these elder statesmen battle each other as much as they’re battling Father Time can be painful at times. KG missing wide open jump hooks and D.Wade walking the ball up the court and passing up open shots repeatedly …

Too bad the game isn’t the story of the night. The NFL draft is a role player, too. This is the night of the snake …

14 – BALLGAME!!!! The Heat just finished off a 100-second possession (they got three offensive rebounds) with a LeBron layup to push the lead to 89-79. Nets vets moving like those zombies on the Walking Dead …

13 – Ray Ray was fabulous. And the Heat did what you expect a championship team to do. But D-Will’s 0-for-everything shooting night sticks out to me as the most glaring item of the night.


VIDEO: Some sounds of the game for you from these #NBAPlayoffs

12 – Always figured TP for more of a win guy, being from France and all …

11 – Still no sign of the team willing to take the leap and pick Johnny Manziel. #struggleface …

10 – What is it with Lillard and these buzzer beaters?


VIDEO: Dame Lillard loves to beat the buzzer!

Portland faring much better tonight and they’re still down after the first 12 minutes. Thanks to Kawhi Leonard’s relentless assault. Don’t let the #tbt cornrows fool you, KLeonard is the future of the San Antonio Spurs  …

9 – Crusty old Spurs, huh?

8 – I love the fight in these Trail Blazers. They’re getting cracked in the face and still pressing the action. #betterbasketballclinicfromthespurs …

#nosleeptilbrooklyn for the Heat and Nets

7 – The Spurs’ second quarter burst was a thing of beauty, coordinated chaos and fury from the crew that’s supposed to be boring but has been anything but so far …

– #nomorejohnnyfootballjokes

Johnny Football is a Cleveland Brown with the 22nd pick, joining Kyrie Irving as one of the professional sports saviors of Northeast Ohio!

6 – The KLeonard walk off interview at halftime was quality stuff. He’s every bit as no-frills as his coaches and teammates insist. And the #tbt cornrows got some prime time love. That’s always a good thing …

5 – The power of the #NBAPlayoffs … you’re welcome Pit Bull!

4 –  See Roy Hibbert prior to Game 2 of Pacers-Wizards series …

3 – Young fella is 4-for-4 from deep and helping maintain control at a time when there is. Big 3!

2 – There’s a first time for everything …. especially in the playoffs!

1 – A fitting nugget to end with on “draft night” …


VIDEO: Kawhi Leonard delivers the dagger that all but clinched Game 2 for the Spurs