No. 1: Blazers’ heartbreak ‘not reviewable’: Markieff Morris stepped out of bounds. And it didn’t matter. Well, it mattered to the Portland Trail Blazers and their fans, unhappy that Morris’ simple sideline violation didn’t invalidate his game-winning shot to lift the Washington Wizards over the Blazers in overtime Saturday at the Moda Center. But it didn’t matter in the sense that the outcome changed or that the play itself was reviewable according to the NBA’s existing triggers for replay treatment. Joe Freeman of The Oregonian recounted the exchange afterward between a pool reporter in the building and referee crew chief Rodney Mott:
As per NBA protocol, the questions had to be submitted before the interview and follow-ups were not allowed. Here is a transcript of the Q&A:
Q: Did you see Markieff Morris step out of bounds live?
Mott: "No I did not."
Q: Why did you not review Washington's final possession?
Mott: "That out of bounds is not a reviewable matter. It's not a trigger."
Q: Why isn't that play reviewable?
Mott: "That is the rule, it's not a trigger."
Q: Have you seen the replay since the game ended and what would your ruling be had you been able to review it?
Mott: "Yes, we looked at it and if it was reviewable, it would have been called out of bounds, Portland's ball."
Woulda, coulda, shoulda. The bottom line was that Portland lost a tough one as it scrambles for playoff position in the West, while the Wizards had the satisfaction of overcoming a 21-point deficit for the second consecutive night. The controversy led to divergent treatment on a pair of Comcast Sports studio shows afterward.
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No. 2: Injuries, rest alter Warriors-Spurs clash: What was billed earlier in the week as an intriguing and potentially pivotal matchup between the Western Conference’s powerhouses, Golden State and San Antonio, wound up more like a D-League version of the Warriors taking on a Vegas Summer League entry by the Spurs. Nobody was happy about it, though one man – Golden State coach Steve Kerr – at least had some control over his team’s end of it when he chose to hold out Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala for “rest.” Our man Fran Blinebury reported on the not-quite-worthy-of-prime-time contest:
For a change, Gregg Popovich wasn’t the one shortchanging the fans in the arena and a national television audience.
“We didn't have to rest anybody, because they all got hurt,” said the Spurs coach.
Popovich’s roster looked like the Saturday night sign-in sheet at your local emergency room.
Kawhi Leonard was scratched after he took a blow to the head Thursday night in Oklahoma City and is in the NBA’s concussion protocol. LaMarcus Aldridge was sidelined after experiencing a minor heart arrhythmia. Tony Parker was out with stiffness in his back. Rookie Dejounte Murray was kept in street clothes due to tightness in his left groin.
On the other hand, the Warriors were weary.
“They’re tired and we’re vulnerable to the schedule we’ve been on,” said Golden State coach Steve Kerr. “The training staff has told me we have several guys who are just fried. We know that when you’re tired and haven’t slept much, you’re more vulnerable to injury.”
Thus, the starting lineups were: Patty Mills, Danny Green, David Lee, Kyle Anderson and Dewayne Dedmon vs. Patrick McCaw, Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes, Kevon Looney and Zaza Pachulia. In other words, pre-season basketball for what was perhaps the highest-stakes game to date in the 2016-17 season.
With Mills pumping in 21 points, what was left of the Spurs drummed out a 107-85 win over the remnants of the Warriors to make the race for the No. 1 overall seed in the playoffs a virtual dead heat. While San Antonio still trails Golden State by 1/2 game in the standings, the Spurs clinched the season series and the tiebreaker should teams finish with the same records.
“Rest and health is number one,” Kerr said. “Everything else is secondary."
Everything else? Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson, in their roles as analysts on the ABC broadcast, didn’t seem to agree.
"Once again the fans are told, you don’t matter," Van Gundy said. "Pay us up front, we’ll take your money and then we’ll give you whatever product we want to."
Later he added: "If sports science really has a beat on what’s healthy for the players, then they need to tell the league how many games that is healthy for players to play and then only play that many games."
The Warriors, coming off a Friday night loss in Minnesota, have played in eight cities since Feb. 27th. Kerr said that he'd never seen a schedule that demanding in his entire time in the NBA.
Jackson, formerly the Warriors' coach, added: "(The practice) devalues the fans, but it also devalues the regular season. It's just a tough call."
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No. 3: Davis: Happy birthday to me! DeMarcus Cousins still hasn’t had the positive impact the New Orleans Pelicans were seeking when they acquired him in a surprising trade on All-Star Sunday. But it didn’t matter Saturday in the team’s game against Charlotte. He could have been NFL Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins, as long as he stayed out of teammate Anthony Davis’ way. Davis celebrated his birthday by hanging 46 points and 21 rebounds on the Hornets, a performance that ranked in nosebleed territory among the game’s best big men in recent memory. John Reid of the New Orleans Times-Picayune was there to chronicle Davis’ cake-and-eat-it-too magnificence:
Davis is the first player since Chris Webber in 2001 to score at least 46 points and grab 21 rebounds in a game. Davis joins Shaquille O'Neal and Webber as the only players since 1983 with 46-point, 21-rebound games. O'Neal did it twice
Davis didn't even take a shot in the second quarter but ended the game making 18-of-31, which included 4-of-5 3-pointers. In overtime, Davis scored nine of the Pelicans' 13 points.
''I thought the movement he had and the spacing he created is the way he got most of his shots,'' Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry told reporters after the game. ''He was very good creating and going quickly and not giving them an opportunity to double him. When he does that and gets into space and he's feeling good about his shot.''
Cousins was limited to 25 minutes because of five fouls and he didn't get off the bench at all in overtime before finishing with 11 points and four rebounds. But [Pelicans forward Solomon] Hill, who came in averaging 6.3 points, scored 16 points. In his previous five games, Hill had combined for 15 points.
Point guard Jrue Holiday, who had combined to score 16 points in the previous two games finished with 15 points and 13 assists. Holiday also had only one turnover while the Pelicans totaled only 10.
Davis was coming off a right wrist contusion injury that occurred this past Wednesday against Toronto. He didn't show any signs of problems, especially after blitzing Charlotte with 13 points in the first quarter
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No. 4: Triangle tutorials coming late for Knicks: The timing is silly and the fact that New York’s basketball boss, Phil Jackson, has come down from on high to do what coaches typically are hired to do is a bad look as well. That’s the view of Frank Isola, longtime Knicks scribe for the New York Daily News, in taking Jackson to task for undermining coach Jeff Hornacek and his staff while – so late in the schedule – trying to push his triangle offense strategy to the rightly confused players. Veteran scorer Carmelo Anthony taking just nine shots for 13 points in Saturday’s lopsided loss in Detroit was just the latest symptom. From Isola’s column on the unrelenting mess:
As a team president, he’s forgotten what his job description is and isn’t.
“Absurd,” is what one NBA coach called Jackson’s involvement.
“Undermining” is how one general manager described the potential fallout.
So while Phil has aced his geometry exam, he could use a refresher course in team chemistry and defined roles.
Jackson and the Knicks have gone down this road before. The lines of authority were blurred two years ago when Jackson would interrupt Derek Fisher’s practices to convey his triangle wisdom to the group. You want to chalk that up to a rookie executive wanting to help a rookie head coach, go ahead.
No one can deny Jackson’s success as a head coach but when you’re the team president there is a fine line between making a suggestion and trampling all over your head coach. Once is fine. Mini camps are out of bounds.
Jackson did it to Fisher, especially when Fisher tried to get away from the triangle and run things his way. And Jackson is doing it to Jeff Hornacek, who must regret every day that he signed up to work for Phil as opposed to taking that Golden State Warriors assistant coaching gig
Hornacek finds himself in the toughest spot of all because he wants to placate Phil while also building trust with his locker room. But by doing the former, the latter becomes nearly impossible.
It’s bad enough that Hornacek will scream at Kristaps Porzingis during games but rarely if ever admonish Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose. The players notice that. But once Hornacek allows Jackson to schedule and run a practice he’s on the fast track to losing the players for good.
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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: All criticism about resting and absent players aside, the Spurs are rightfully concerned about the heart condition with which forward LaMarcus Aldridge is coping. … The Miami Heat, darlings of the East after digging themselves that 11-30 hole in the first half of the season, are 21-4 over their past 25 games and haven’t trailed in the fourth quarter in 13 of their past 18. Heat beat writer Ira Winderman spoke to an NBA scout who gave a fresh assessment of the team’s personnel, in light of all this winning. … How impressive was Devin Booker’s buzzer beater against Dallas? Check out the Horry Scale to find out. … Shaun Powell of NBA.com suggests that socially and politically outspoken players and coaches show some consistency in the wake of Andre Iguodala’s bizarre comments in Minnesota Friday night. … You won’t see James Harden kicking back for any “rest” nights if he or Houston coach Mike D’Antoni can help it, according to our own Steve Aschburner. … Russell Westbrook triple-doubled again, No. 32 this season, to break his single-season tie and move into sole possession of second place behind Oscar Robertson’s 41. But Victor Oladipo also had a lot to do with Oklahoma City’s victory over Utah. … LeBron James and the Cavaliers are preaching patience as they adapt to new personnel and injury comings and goings. But did James have to drop that other dreaded “P” word?