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Perseverance pays off (again) for Clippers in Game 2 rally

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And the Warriors?

“Well,” said coach Steve Kerr, “we stopped playing.”

If the Warriors need to pinpoint a cause, they can start with Durant. Two days removed from Game 1 where he took the bait from Beverley and earned an ejection, Durant apologized to his teammates for putting himself in that position. And then he repositioned himself for Game 2.

How and why a star of Durant’s magnitude has allowed a tiff with Beverley to become a thing is astonishing. Yet, Durant became unglued Monday against an aggressive, physical player who dwarfs him by seven inches. It was the gnat taking on the giraffe and coming away bigger from it.

 

Turnovers and the ejection of Kevin Durant marked Golden State’s play in Game 2.

“Look,” Beverley said, “I just go out there and just be Pat. I don’t try to get in people’s head I go out there and try to be the best defensive player on this planet. I take my role and my job very seriously. I understand my role.”

Beverley was playing it coy. He clearly knows what he’s doing by attacking a star whose mental toughness has been questioned before, and Durant’s refusal to ignore Beverley speaks volumes. More than the verbal tactics, though, Beverley’s defense was stellar — employing the right positioning and ball denial while forcing Durant to pass up shots. For Beverley, the last two games have been satisfying for him.

“KD’s not an easy cover,” Beverley said. “But I had fun out there.”

Rivers loves Beverley’s energy and passion and how he keeps it confined without losing control.

“He’s so important for us,” Rivers said. “People get lost in his antics but his spirit is so important for our team. He was encouraging everyone.”

 

The Clippers showed their usual relentlessness in Game 2 vs. the Warriors.

Durant picked up early fouls against Beverley, and while the sixth and disqualifying foul wasn’t against Beverley was borderline at best, the damage was already done. The Warriors were already without DeMarcus Cousins, who suffered a left quad injury in the first quarter, and losing Durant stripped them of another big scorer.

By then, the Clippers had seized momentum and suddenly had one less star to worry about. That allowed them to trap Curry late in a tight game, especially with Klay Thompson (17 points) struggling. Hounded by multiple Clippers, Curry missed seven of his nine shots in the fourth quarter and the Warriors had no other options or answers.

Rivers pushed all the right buttons and the players gathered momentum and confidence as the lead tightened.

“You don’t want to be the guys getting blasted on national television,” Williams said. “You cut the lead to 12 and then to 10 and then you realize you got a game going. We just play hard, hard as you can and live with the results. I really can’t recall a moment when I thought the momentum was changing until it was like a three-point game and then I thought we got a shot at winning this game. This was doable.”

Williams thought for a second, in disbelief: Down 31 points?

 

Landry Shamet sealed Game 2 with a clutch 3-pointer in the 4th quarter.

“That’s a record we really didn’t want to have,” he said, “but we’ll take it.”

Beverley added: “If you’ve been around this team, this is habit. We’ve been down 28, 25, but continue to play the right way. We know how this feels.”

Curiously, the honor of the final shot went to Shamet, not Williams. Shamet arrived in the mid-season trade with the Philadelphia 76ers that cost the Clippers their leading scorer, Tobias Harris. The main question about the Clippers in the postseason lies with their lack of hero-ball players. On the most important possession of Game 2, the ball found a rookie.

“Soon as he caught it,” Williams said, “I put my hands up. I felt really good about the shot. He’s just a pure all-out shooter.

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Judge says Zion Williamson must answer questions under oath about improper benefits at Duke

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A Florida state court judge on Tuesday denied New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson‘s request to stay discovery into whether or not he was eligible under NCAA rules when he played one season at Duke in 2018-19.

Florida 11th Circuit Court Judge David Miller ruled that Williamson will be required to answer interrogatories and requests for admissions from attorneys representing Gina Ford and Prime Sports Marketing, which are suing Williamson for $100 million for beaching their marketing agreement.

Williamson’s attorneys are expected to file an appeal with Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal, arguing that an earlier federal case in North Carolina involving the same parties and claims has precedence.

Williamson’s attorneys have asked a federal judge in that case to void his marketing agreement with Ford and Prime Sports Marketing, claiming it wasn’t valid because Ford wasn’t a registered agent in North Carolina and the contract didn’t include a warning that was required by a state law designed to protect amateur athletes from unscrupulous agents.

Ford and Prime Sports Marketing sued Williamson, Creative Artists Agency (CAA) and two of its employees in the Florida court, alleging that CAA interfered with Prime Sports’ deal with Williamson and that he breached their five-year contract.

Last month, Ford’s attorneys asked Williamson to admit that his mother and stepfather demanded and received gifts, money and other benefits from persons acting on behalf of Adidas and Nike and also from people associated with Duke to influence him to sign with the Blue Devils and to wear Nike or Adidas products.

“That issue is a complete canard and a complete red herring,” Williamson’s attorney, Jeffrey Klein, told Miller during a 52-minute virtual hearing on Tuesday morning. “[W]e believe that as a matter of law the statute bars that contract. The issue with respect to amateur status, there’s no issue with respect to his amateur status, and in fact if they wanted to find out the issue with respect to amateur status, eligibility is a determination made by the NCAA and made by Duke. I don’t think it’s relevant here to what’s transpiring because frankly those determinations have been made. … It doesn’t absolve their failure to comply with the North Carolina statute.”

Doug Eaton, one of the Ford’s attorneys, argued that the North Carolina law wouldn’t apply to Williamson if he were not eligible when he played for the Blue Devils.

“The NCAA is not the final arbiter of that issue,” Eaton told Miller. “We’re able to establish that he was not eligible during that timeframe, which would be a defense to their claim that our contract was invalid. The purpose of this statute is to protect student-athletes–actual student-athletes, eligible student-athletes–from predatory behavior of agents. It’s not designed to protect people that are already accepting improper benefits.

“If you’re accepting improper benefits, you are not an eligible student-athlete, and the NCAA can rule retroactively that you are ineligible. It has happened numerous times before. … This is not a set-in-stone determination that he’s an eligible student-athlete, and we have the opportunity to prove that he was not eligible in that timeframe, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

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Hall of Famer and former Washington Bullets star Wes Unseld dies at age 74

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Former Washington Bullets player and coach Wes Unseld died Tuesday morning, according to his family. He was 74.

The family said in a statement that Unseld had lengthy health issues, most recently with pneumonia.

“He was the rock of our family — an extremely devoted patriarch who reveled in being with his wife, children, friends and teammates,” the family said. “He was our hero and loved playing and working around the game of basketball for the cities of Baltimore and Washington D.C., cities he proudly wore on his chest for so many years.”

Unseld was a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee after playing for Washington for 13 seasons from 1968 to 1981. He was part of the franchise’s only NBA title, in 1978, when he was named Finals MVP. He won the regular-season MVP award in 1969 and was a five-time All-Star.

Unseld and Wilt Chamberlain (1960) are the only players in NBA history to win Rookie of the Year and MVP honors in the same season.

Following his playing career, Unseld coached the Bullets from 1988 to 1994 and made one playoff appearance.

Unseld was a two-time All-American at Louisville before being drafted No. 2 overall in 1968.

In 1981, Unseld’s No. 41 became the Washington franchise’s first number to be retired.



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NBA playoff debate – Big play-in tournament questions and bold predictions

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The NBA’s return-to-play plan, which includes a likely 22-team field competing in Orlando, Florida, in regular-season games and a play-in tournament to decide postseason berths, is expected to pass in a Thursday board of governors vote.

The Memphis Grizzlies and Orlando Magic were holding the No. 8 seeds in their respective conferences when the league was suspended on March 11, but it looks like they will have to compete for their spots in the postseason when the season resumes.

Our experts break down what they’re most excited for in a play-in tournament, debate who has the most at stake and share their bold predictions for the playoffs.

MORE: When will the NBA return? Latest updates and big questions


1. What intrigues you most about the proposed play-in tournament?

Kevin Arnovitz: We’ve been openly debating the merits and drawbacks of a play-in tournament for years, and now we’ll finally have a pilot program to measure its value. We’ll find out whether this product is something players and fans respond to and something broadcast partners are intrigued by. If it works, it could generate a significant amount of revenue for the NBA in the next broadcast deal, which consequently might afford the league the chance to shave a few regular-season games off the schedule.

Kevin Pelton: How wide open it might be in the West this year. Despite the 3 1/2-game lead the Grizzlies enjoyed in the race for eighth, all six teams that might be invited to Orlando are separated by barely a point per game in terms of differential, from the minus-0.8 mark for the New Orleans Pelicans to minus-1.9 for the Sacramento Kings.

Mike Schmitz: I’m interested in the viability of a play-in tournament every season moving forward. If all goes well, starting the playoffs with a quick-hitting tournament to determine back-end playoff slots could be a great way to hook viewers early, providing more of an NCAA tournament feel that would surely be welcomed by the sports betting community.

Andrew Lopez: I like the idea that the NBA is allowing itself to experiment at this point, but so many questions remain. How many times will Washington have to beat Orlando (or Brooklyn) to get the eighth spot in the East? What will happen in the race for No. 8 in the West? Is this something the NBA implements moving forward? The time for experimentation is now, so let’s get wild.

Royce Young: The novelty of it. Bringing the win-or-go-home mentality of the NCAA tournament to the NBA could produce games like we haven’t really seen before. There’s a fine line between feeling gimmicky and feeling energized, and a play-in tournament will walk it. But if it adds intensity and weight to early postseason games, it could bring the kind of moments typically reserved for a Game 7.

2. Which potential first-round playoff matchup would you most like to see?

Arnovitz: Philadelphia and Boston have a rich history and contrasting styles, schemes and personnel. If Ben Simmons returns healthy for the Sixers, the matchup would be an unusually strong one for a first-round series.

Schmitz: Mavericks-Clippers. I’m fascinated to see how Luka Doncicthe third-most efficient isolation player in the NBA (minimum 200 possessions) — will fare against elite wing defenders Paul George and Kawhi Leonard in his potential playoff debut. Mismatch nightmare Kristaps Porzingis was also starting to hit his stride before the hiatus. This one has far more star power than your traditional 2-7 matchup.

Pelton: Boston-Philadelphia. Coming into the season, I think the expectation was that Celtics-Sixers might be a conference semifinals matchup — maybe even one we’d see in the conference finals. For these two talented teams, connected by Al Horford and Jayson Tatum, to square off in the opening round would be a heavyweight battle.

Young: There’s something of a perfect serendipity to the Thunder and Jazz picking up the NBA season where it left off, but put me down for Luka and the Mavs against the superteam Clippers. What the NBA is going to need out of the gate in these unusual circumstances is a good product, and both teams can play high-level, pretty basketball. Playoff Luka is something we haven’t seen before, and it isn’t hard to imagine some epic individual battles between him and both Paul George and Kawhi Leonard.

Lopez: The potential Boston-Philadelphia matchup in the 3-6 spot takes on a new life in the bubble. The Sixers were one of the worst road teams in the league this season. Now that this matchup could take place in Orlando, does that eliminate Philly’s road woes? Does it amplify them? I think it elevates what was already a fun matchup.

3. Which player’s return will you be most interested to watch?

Schmitz: Zion Williamson. Not only is he already one of the league’s most entertaining young stars, but his post-quarantine conditioning will also be a point of interest. If Zion is somehow able to lead New Orleans into the playoffs, potentially knocking out the Grizzlies in the process, is that a large enough body of work to move him ahead of Ja Morant in the Rookie of the Year race?

Pelton: I’m going to cheat and say Jusuf Nurkic or Zach Collins, the Blazers’ ideal starting frontcourt that has played a combined 86 minutes this season. How well Collins and Nurkic play together as starters will go a long way toward determining whether Portland can replicate last season’s playoff success.

Young: LeBron is the easy answer because it’s probably the best one. Did the time away freshen him to a level we’ve never seen before in a postseason setting? Or will he be rusty? How will he handle the circumstances? Other players are interesting — I’m curious about Russell Westbrook not having any courtside fans to play off of for motivation — but LeBron’s approach is without question the most fascinating individual situation.

Lopez: What will Zion look like? According to Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin, Williamson was cleared by the NBA to use the Pelicans’ facility to keep rehabbing his surgically repaired knee. When Williamson spoke to Ernie Johnson in early May, he said he was ready to return to basketball right away. Williamson was coming into his own in March, when the season was suspended, so what he looks like after three months of rest will be something to behold.

Arnovitz: LeBron James. This season, we saw what happens when James is afforded eight months off in lieu of a 100-game grind through late-June. Can we expect the same kind of production after he got a four-month hiatus on the eve of the postseason? If so, the Lakers — already prime title contenders — will be even more dangerous in a bubble postseason than they’d have been with LeBron logging a full season headed into the playoffs in April.

4. Which player or team has the most at stake in a return?

Arnovitz: The Blazers in that they’ll be playing for their postseason chances in any play-in scenario. Portland owns the fourth-longest current playoff streak. Although the Blazers are currently on the outside looking in, they’ll likely be equipped with their starting frontcourt of Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins for the first time this season, essentially fielding the core of last year’s Western Conference finalists.

Young: Again, LeBron. In basically every situation, LeBron has the most at stake. But there will be a certain pressure on Giannis. The Bucks were on track to be historically dominant, and Giannis is probably headed for another MVP. The bizarreness of the situation reshapes the outcome some, but Giannis is reaching the level of being judged by what he does — and doesn’t — have on his fingers. This Bucks team is good enough to win it all, but their chances rest largely on Giannis rediscovering his dominance.

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