NBA Sitrep – Blake to Detroit, injuries savage the East and a thriller in the Mile-High City

A weekly post wrapping up all the action from around the association over the last seven days.

Welcome to Detroit

Just months ago, the Clippers went all out to re-sign Blake Griffin as the face of their franchise.

Last week they shipped him and his $171 million dollar contract off to the Detroit Pistons and in doing so, signaled the end of Lob City.

Blake recorded a double-double (24 points, 10 rebounds) in his first game with the Pistons, before dropping 16 points and 9 boards in his second game for the team.

The Pistons are 2-0 with Griffin in the line-up and have climbed to just half a game out of the playoff seeding in the East.

The Clippers are 1-1 since the departure of their superstar, with Tobias Harris and Avery Bradley both impressing in their debut game for LA (Harris had 24 points, Bradley tallied 8).

Nikola Mirotic was dealt to the Pelicans in a deal that saw Omer Asik (and his unattractive contract), Tony Allen, Jameer Nelson and a first-round pick join the Bulls.

Mirotic has been a spark-plug for the Bulls this season, averaging 16.8 points per contest and striking from beyond the arc at an impressive 43%. In his debut game, he put up 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the Pelicans loss to Minnesota.

Team LeBron curse?

First DeMarcus Cousins and now Kevin Love and John Wall.

Team LeBron has been decimated by injuries, however the Pelicans, Cavs and Wizards have been left to deal with the real headaches.

Kevin Love suffered a fracture in his left hand that will see him miss six to eight weeks.

Love doesn’t require surgery, but will be racing the clock to return and re-integrate into the Cavs disheartened line-up before play-off action begins.

Fellow All-Star John Wall will also miss six to eight weeks after undergoing an arthroscopic cleanup of his left knee.

Wall banged knees with Dennis Smith Jnr in early November and has been bothered by the niggling injury ever since.

The Wizards are 4-0 since Wall’s surgery, which has put John and his teams ‘supposedly’ strained relationship back into the spotlight.

The Bucks will be without Malcolm Brogdon for six to eight weeks after he suffered a left quadricep tendon injury against the Timberwolves.

It’s been an up-and-down week for the Bucks, who saw Jabari Parker play his first game since February 2017, but then saw Giannis Antetokounmpo leave the court early after an ankle injury against the Nets today.

Giannis is expected to be available for selection in the Bucks next game.

Unleash the Beard

With Chris Paul and Eric Gordon on the sideline, James Harden had the spotlight all to himself as the Magic came to town.

60 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists later and the NBA had its first ever 60-point triple-double.

Throw in four steals and a block and you have one of the most complete single game performances of all time.

It was the most points ever scored by a Rocket, the most by any player in the NBA this season and the ninth-time Harden has topped the 50-point barrier in his career.

Game of the Year?

There have been plenty of classics this season, but the Nuggets vs Thunder clash deserves its place amongst the top echelon of 2017-18 contests.

The Nuggets threw the first swing, posting an incredible 40-point first quarter that led them to a commanding 72-57 half time lead.

Jamal Murray was on fire, dropping 33 points and Steven Adams with this vicious step-back three.

https://twitter.com/ComedyWorIdStar/status/960320827941154816

Nikola Jokic played the role of Robin to perfection, working seamlessly with Murray and tallied his third triple double of the season (29 points, 13 rebounds and 14 assists).

Enter Paul George.

George took over the game, dropping 43 points on ridiculous 73% shooting, culminating in a nasty step-back three to tie the game with mere seconds remaining.

Then come the finale, and what a finish it was.

Harris called game, Jokic called Westbrook out for falling asleep on the final play and Russell retaliated by shoving an overly eager fan.

https://twitter.com/jtylerconway/status/959306032282349569

What a game.

Sliders/Risers

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Photo credit: ESPN

Riser

No Wall, no worries.

The Wizards have knocked off the Hawks, Thunder, Raptors and Magic without their All-Star point guard and currently sit in the fourth seed in the East. Rumours of a rift between ‘Wall and Beal’ and ‘Wall and the entire Wizards team’ have been rife this season, which hasn’t been helped by the team’s success without their point guard. Despite Wall averaging 9.3 assists per game, the Wizards lead the league in assists since Wall’s absence began and the results speak for themselves.

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The Miami Heat were always going to hit adversity at some point. For a team led by consistent, all-around effort and devoid of superstars, this slump was just par for the course. After falling to the Cavaliers by two points, consecutive losses to the 76ers and Pistons have seen the Heat slump from the fourth seed to the seventh seed. They are 4-6 over their last ten and will likely need to fend off the Griffin led Pistons if they want to hold onto their playoff spot.

Heat Check

CJ McCollum

vs. Clippers – 16 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals

vs. Bulls – 50 points, 5 rebounds, 6 three-pointers made

vs. Raptors – 21 points, 2 assists, 1 block

vs. Celtics – 22 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists

CJ McCollum had an average week, until you glance at his box score against the Chicago Bulls. He became the first player to reach 50 points in under 30 minutes since Klay Thompson scorched the Pacers for 60 in 29 minutes back in 2016. McCollum had 28 points in the first quarter, setting up his first career 50-point game and leading the Trailblazers to an easy win over Chicago.

Highlights

Mike Muscala, welcome to your Kodak moment.

Dwight making his second appearance for all the wrong reasons.

The Greek Freak added to his collection of game-winners with this dagger against the Knicks.

Al Horford called game with one of the rare highlights for Boston on Super Bowl Sunday.

As if he hasn’t made it obvious enough, Jaylen Brown is angry he isn’t an All-Star.

Whoopsie Watch

Nobody loves Lance more than Lance.

Except maybe for Nikola Jokic. This was Lance’esque.

This man is just living all our dreams.

 

Boban > Blake

Blake Griffin is gone.

After just coming to terms with losing Chris Paul, Clippers fans now have to face the harsh reality of life without Blake.

This means life without State Farm and Kia commercials, life without never ending injuries, life without first-round playoff exits, life without whinging like babies and life without Kendall Jenner.

It’s a cold, bleak future for the baby brother of LA.

Except, there is a beacon of hope in the distance.

The Clippers have acquired Tobias Harris, who is averaging an impressive 18.1 points this season, in addition to Avery Bradley, one of the leagues premier defensive guards.

Neither of them are the shining light the Clippers desperately need though.

Just when all hope seemed lost, Stan Van Gundy relented and handed the Clippers the keys to their future.

Introducing Boban Marjanovic.

Casual NBA fans may have never heard of his name, let alone witnessed his incredible abilities, but Boban is the future of the Clippers next championship roster.

He is the hero that the Clippers don’t deserve, but the one they so desperately need.

Here are ten reasons why Boban will become the first Clipper to have his jersey raised up amongst the rafters.

To share the honour with the likes of Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and Taylor Swift.

10. Boban is an actual giant

Boban stands at 7-foot-3 tall, with a standing reach of 9-foot-7! To put that into perspective, thats a higher standing reach than Yao Ming and Wilt Chamberlain.

This means that he can basically put the ball into the basket without even leaving his feet.

9. Boban has big feet, big ears and even bigger hands

Boban has size 19 shoes, which is dwarfed only by the size of his ears, which is once again dwarfed only by the size of his hands.

Honestly, look at them!

8. Boban is already ready for those Blake Kia commercials

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Someone give this man an Oscar already!

7. Boban can dance

No words, just no words.

6. Boban is the most efficient scorer in NBA history

No, I’m not making this up.

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No player in the history of the entire NBA has been able to match Boban in points per shot attempts.

Nobody.

5. Boban can break a rim.

Alright, so it’s not as dramatic as a Shaq ring break, but it still counts.

4. Boban can make grown men wet their pants.

3. Boban is a three-time MVP

Boban won three straight Serbian League MVP awards between 2013-15.

Has Blake won an MVP award. No, didn’t think so.

Boban > Blake.

2. Pain is no barrier to Boban

Jordan may have had his flu game, but it pales into insignificance when compared to Bobans heroics.

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Boban had a broken foot, but still played for the Red Stars in the 2015 Serbian Championship and led his team to its first title since the 1997-98 season.

1. Get you a man who can do both

Boban is a man of many talents.

He can put in the work and finish with strength.

Or he can dazzle you with his skills and craftiness.

The dawn of the Boban era has just begun.

Remember the name.

Bye, Bye Blake

It was looking bleak as the clock ticked towards the February 8 deadline, but the silence has been broken on the trade-deadline watch.

Blake Griffin has been traded to the Detroit Pistons for Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Boban Marjonovic, a 2018 first-round and 2019 second-round draft pick.

The Pistons 2018 first-round pick is protected, while the Clippers are including Brice Johnson and Willie Reed in the trade.

Griffin had spent his entire eight-year career in LA and just signed a five-year contract to stay with the Clippers as the face of the franchise.

Blake is averaging 22.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists through his 33 games this season.

Detroit will be hoping the pairing of Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson can push them into contention in an open Eastern Conference.

The ‘Big 3’ will have to wait though, as Reggie Jackson is still recovering from an ankle injury and isn’t expected back until after the All-Star break.

The Pistons currently sit in the ninth seed in the East, largely behind an eight-game losing streak that has seen them plummet down the standings.

While the Clippers and Pistons both sit in the ninth seed in their respective conferences, the two teams have taken different approaches to their immediate and long-term future.

Despite currently sitting just one game behind the eight seeded Nuggets, the Clippers have clearly taken the rebuild option.

DeAndre Jordan and Lou Williams have both been linked to possible trade rumours, which will surely now be thoroughly explored by the Clippers front office.

In the space of one season the Clippers have blown up their entire roster, with DeAndre Jordan the only remaining starter from last season’s starting line-up.

Chris Paul and Luc Mbah a Moute are now both in Houston, J.J. Redick is casting up three balls for The Process and Blake Griffin will be hoping Kendell Jenner likes Detroit.

Not to mention that Jamal Crawford, Raymond Felton, Mareese Speights, Brandon Bass, Paul Pierce, Alan Anderson, Diamond Stone and Brice Johnson are no longer on the roster.

DeAndre Jordan, Austin Rivers and Wesley Johnson are the only Clippers from last season’s roster remaining.

DeAndre will likely find himself at a new home in the coming weeks, while Rivers is currently doing his best work from the sideline in a moon boot.

With Chris Paul at the helm and Brake Griffin as his sidekick, the Clippers had won over 50 games in its previous five seasons.

Before those five seasons, they had never passed the 50-win count in their franchise history.

How quickly things change.

NBA Sitrep – Rockets swing-and-miss vs LA, knock over Warriors instead as Curry & LeBron lead All-Star teams

A weekly post wrapping up all the action from around the association over the last seven days.

Seven-game series anyone?

The best of the West squared off yesterday in their last regular season clash, in what loomed as a preview of the Western Conference Final.

The game didn’t disappoint as the Rockets showed the league that they can hang with the defending Champions.

Harden found his groove in his second game back from a hamstring injury, dropping 22 points on the Warriors and leaving Curry with Kyrie Irving flashbacks with this step-back dagger to ice the game.

Harden then played defense. No, not a typo. He blocked Curry’s last-gasp three ball attempt and the Rockets sunk the Warriors 116-108.

Chris Paul was up to his usual antics, connecting from downtown six times for his 33 points, 7 dimes, 11 rebounds and three steals.

Bring on a seven-game series between these two.

Only in LA

Welcome to Hollywood’s newest Soap Opera – NBA edition.

The script started innocently enough. The Clippers played a heart-felt video tribute to their former captain, Chris Paul, before he received a standing ovation from the Staples Centre crowd.

Then it got interesting.

What followed was must-watch reality television.

First, Blake tried to take Gordons head off.

Then Mike D’Antoni got a little grumpy after Blake ‘accidently’ knocked into him.

And Austin Rivers and Patrick Beverly were their usual annoying selves.

The end result of all this drama. Griffin and Ariza were ejected and the Clippers upset the Rockets 113-102.

Oh, and after the game Chris Paul led James Harden, Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green down a secret passageway that joins the teams dressing rooms to confront Austin Rivers.

Clint Capela tried to storm the Clippers locker room from the front entrance, but he had the door slammed on him by a Clippers staff member.

Ariza and Green were both suspended for two games and the Rockets – Clippers rivalry was officially born.

Just another day in LA.

Best of the Best

Steph Curry and LeBron James have been named as the 2018 All-Star captains, finishing atop the vote in their respective conferences.

Curry led the West starting line-up consisting of Kevin Durant, James Harden, Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.

LeBron was joined by former teammate Kyrie Irving, as well as Giannis Antetokounmpo, DeMar Derozen and first-timer Joel Embiid.

Curry and LeBron will now select their starting line-ups from the pool of both conferences in traditional school-yard style. They will also get to select from a number of All-Star reserves, which will be announced by the coaches in the coming days.

The quirkiest surprise of this year’s voting belongs to Manu Ginobili, who somehow managed to poll more votes than Harden and Westbrook in the fan-vote.

The ageless Spur didn’t fare so well in the media and player votes, rightly handing over his starting spot to MVP candidate James Harden.

Injury curse strikes again

The clock is ticking on Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs season as their superstar faces a race against time to be healthy for playoffs.

Leonard’s lingering quad injury has sidelined him for all but nine games this campaign, with a worrying pattern of injury riddled seasons threatening to mar his career.

The Spurs have managed to hold onto the fourth seed (30-18 record) without Leonard, but face little hope of contending without him come playoffs.

Sliders and Risers

standings - 2

Photo credit: ESPN

Riser

After falling out of the playoff seeding in December, the Philadelphia 76ers have leapfrogged back into the seventh seed on the back of a host of impressive victories. ‘The Process’ is currently sitting on a three-game win streak, having won eight of their last ten contests. Since the New Year the 76ers have knocked over the Celtics, Bucks, Raptors, Pistons and Spurs. If they can hang onto a playoff seed they will feature in post-season action for the first time since 2012.

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In correlation with the 76ers rise, the Detroit Pistons have slid down the standings and currently sit just outside of the playoff race. They have dropped eight of their last ten contests and are currently holding the second longest losing streak in the league (five games, bested only by the Kings with seven).  It has been a dramatic fall for the Pistons, who started the season with a 14-6 record and held a top four seed for much of November.

Heat Check

Damian Lillard

vs. Phoenix Suns – 31 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, 1 steal

vs. Indiana Pacers – 26 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds

vs. Dallas Mavericks – 31 points, 9 assists, 5 rebounds, 7 three-pointers

It has been the Lillard show for Portland over the last week as their superstar has led them on a three-game win-streak that sees the Trailblazers sitting in the sixth seed in the West.

Highlights

Spencer Dinwiddie laid the nail into the Pistons coffin with this tough finish.

Wiggins you are cleared for takeoff. Jakob Poetel what are you doing?

Wade up top to LeBron. Just like the good old days.

https://twitter.com/_MarcusD2_/status/954832217716510721

LeBron returns the favour to his former Miami teammate. Behind-the-back and through-the-legs if you don’t mind.

Speaking of assists, is there anything the Greek Freak can’t do!

Whoopsie Watch

CP3 with an Oscar winning performance.

Rodney Hood vs Phone. Fairly predictable ending.

‘The Process’ in action.

The end of an era

The captain is gone.

The final chapter of the Chris Paul era in Los Angeles has been penned.

The curtains have been closed and Lob City is no more.

A team with so much potential, that will ultimately be remembered for a few flashy dunks, a handful of television commercials and a laughable tally of technical fouls.

This may be one of the greatest ‘what if?’ teams in NBA history. A future Hall of Fame point guard, a young, dynamic power forward who could jump out of the gym and a defensive anchor protecting the rim.

Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. A formidable core the envy of the league, primed for a run at that elusive championship.

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Since Chris Paul controversially joined the team for the 2011-12 season, the Clippers have notched 313 wins.

Only two other teams have a better win-loss record over that six-year span. They just happen to be the Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs.

In that same time-period, the Spurs have reached two NBA Finals and popped the champagne bottles once, with a 4-1 crushing of the Miami Heat in the 2013 NBA Finals.

The Golden State Warriors have made three NBA Finals and sit on the verge of a dynasty, with two rings (2015 and 2017) in tow.

Meanwhile, the Clippers have failed to advance past the second round of the playoffs for sixth straight seasons with Paul at the helm.

The franchise has never reached the Western Conference Finals.

That alone should cast a pall over the legacy of LA’s little brother, but unfortunately for Doc Rivers men, it only gets worse.

In the 2014 playoffs, the Clippers defeated the Warriors in seven games, before holding a 101-88 lead against the Thunder in Game 5. With four minutes to play. And they lost.

Clippers fans may cry foul about some questionable umpiring, but the Clippers made their own mess and the Thunder went on to take a 3-2 series lead and advance to the Conference Finals in six games.

In 2015, the Clippers advanced to the second round after an incredible series against the San Antonio Spurs. Chris Paul battled through an injured hamstring to hit the game-winning shot over Tim Duncan as the confetti fell from Staples Centre.

With Chris Paul sidelined, the Clippers still managed to split the first two games against Houston and then cruised to a commanding 3-1 lead with Chris Paul back in charge.

To clarify on commanding, they won Game 3 by 25 points and Game 4 by 33 points. They stood just 48 minutes away from the franchise’s first ever Conference Finals appearance.

After falling in Game 5, the Clippers had a chance to re-group on their home floor for Game 6. The Clippers dominated from the outset and opened up a 19-point lead in the second half. They entered the fourth quarter with a 92-79 lead.

Enter Josh Smith and Corey Brewer. Two slightly washed up veterans who were below 30% shooters from 3-point land in their career. Yet in the last quarter they went video game mode and hit just about every shot they took from beyond the arc.

The pair combined for 29 points in the last quarter. Houston combined for 40 points in the last quarter.

In case you’re wondering, the Clippers lost. Again.

They shot just 4-22 from the field in the final quarter. After a Chris Paul lay-up with 6:47 left on the clock, they missed every single field goal attempt until a pointless buzzer beater as time expired.

They would have faced a Golden State team, minus Kevin Durant, who was pushed to six games by Memphis in the semi-finals and would need six games to beat a Cleveland team with no Kevin Love or Kyrie Irving.

No-one is claiming they would have definitely beaten the Warriors. But they would have given them a run for their money, and had they advanced they would have faced a wounded Cleveland.

What could have been.

In 2016, the Clippers faced the Portland Trailblazers in the first round. Chris Paul broke his hand. Blake Griffin re-injured his quad. In the same game. In the same half. Season over.

In 2017, the Clippers faced the Utah Jazz in the first round. Blake Griffin suffered a plantar plate injury to his right toe. Season over. Lob City over.

Unfortunately for the Clippers this chapter doesn’t have a happy ending.

With Chris Paul walking to the Houston Rockets, the Clippers championship window has been closed shut.

Re-signing Blake Griffin and adding quality players such as Danilo Gallinari, Lou Williams and Patrick Beverly provides a glimmer of hope for the future, but for now it does little to compensate for Paul’s loss.

However, what Chris Paul and the Lob City era has done for this franchise cannot be understated.

Before Chris Paul’s arrival the Clippers were the laughing stock of the NBA. They were irrelevant, completely overshadowed in a crowded market by their big brother, the LA Lakers.

Over the past six years the Lob city era, with Paul at the helm, has brought the Clippers out into the spotlight.

They will never be the Lakers. They will always be subject to the little brother jokes. But they will also never be irrelevant or forgotten again.

The Clippers may have taken a few steps backwards this off-season, but they have taken too many steps forward in the past six years to lose hope.

The championship window may be shut for now, but thanks to the Chris Paul and the Lob City era, the groundwork is laid for future success.

Now it’s up to the new era of Clippers to pen their chapter, hopefully one that involves a few more playoff wins and maybe even a ring or two.