Trans. Nov 19 9:48 ET (Nov 19 9:48 ET ) The San Antonio Spurs continued their success over LeBron James-led teams by edging the Cleveland Cavaliers 92-90 behind Tim Duncan's double double and a key forced turnover by Manu Ginobili. Duncan delivered 19 points and 10 rebounds and Boris Diaw also scored 19 points on Wednesday for San Antonio who posted their fifth victory in the last six games. The Spurs literally snatched the victory from the James' hands Wednesday as they forced the Cleveland star to commit a turnover on the Cavs' final possession of the game. The Spurs defeated James and the Miami Heat in five games to claim last season's NBA title.
Before welcoming the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs to Quicken Loans Arena, LeBron James said the experience of leading the Cleveland Cavaliers' young stars, of teaching them about professionalism and how to win, is the greatest challenge he's faced in his Hall of Fame career. After Wednesday's contest, he'll be able to impart a particularly important lesson — how to accept responsibility for a pivotal late-game miscue. [ Yahoo Sports Fantasy Basketball: Sign up and join a league today! ] With the Spurs leading 91-90 and 9.1 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, San Antonio guard Manu Ginobili stepped to the foul line for a pair of free throws. The Argentine canned the first but missed the second, giving Cleveland possession with a chance to tie or win it at the buzzer. The Cavaliers had no timeouts remaining, though, so they had to push the ball the length of the court to get one last crack at an equalizer or a winner. But after Anderson Varejao had rebounded the miss and handed it to James, the Spurs worked to pressure James' dribble in the backcourt, with Tim Duncan looking to cut James off from the middle of the floor as he sprinted back and Ginobili stepping over from the stripe to impede James' progress. After James dribbled from left to right around his back to evade Ginobili, he tapped the ball a bit too hard with his right hand, losing control of his dribble and sending the ball into Duncan's feet. Ginobili came away from the ensuing scramble with possession, raced back into the frontcourt, and avoided a Cavaliers foul long enough for the final horn to sound, giving the Spurs a 92-90 road win , their fifth in six games. Before he walked off the court, James raised his hand, throwing up a sign to one and all that he was taking responsibility for the turnover that cost the Cavs a chance to get one last shot. It was James' fifth turnover of the game, and Cleveland's 18th; San Antonio scored 22 points off those mistakes, seven more than the Cavs managed off Spurs turnovers. In a tightly contested game with such a small margin for error, such a discrepancy can prove costly, and it did Wednesday for David Blatt's club, which fell to 5-5 as the early-season struggles continue in Cleveland. James has long since sloughed off the ill-fitting late-game choker mantle some commentators saddled him with early in his career — four MVPs, a monstrous statistical record in Game 7s and a pair of championship rings will do that for you — but this note really puts into perspective just how rare such late-game missteps have been for LeBron over the years: This was the 1st time LeBron James had a turnover in the final 5 seconds of a 1-possession game since Jan. 4, 2009 at Wizards — ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 20, 2014 But rare though it might have been, it happened, serving as a somewhat fitting cap to a night that saw James score 15 points on just 6-for-17 shooting and attempt only one free throw in 34 minutes of work. He did add nine assists and six rebounds, but it wasn't enough to keep the Cavs from dropping their second straight, and continuing to look like a team that's capable of producing nearly unstoppable offense only in occasional fits and starts between long stretches of my-turn-your-turn stagnation that don't seem to get the best out of Cleveland's stellar individual pieces. Kevin Love grabbed 11 rebounds and dished five assists, but he missed eight of his 12 shots, including both of his 3-point tries, and often struggled to match up with Spurs big man Boris Diaw (19 points on 8-for-14 shooting, seven assists, six rebounds, three steals and a block in 39 minutes). Kyrie Irving chipped in 20 points on 15 shots and got the better of his individual matchup with Tony Parker (eight points on 2-for-7 shooting and three assists in 33 1/2 minutes), but missed his final three shots — a runout layup just past the midway point of the fourth, a pretty clean look at a left-wing 3 with 3 1/2 minutes left, and a go-it-alone pull-up fadeaway in the paint with just under two minutes remaining — at points where the Cavs needed every make they could muster against the Spurs' stingy defense. Blatt still seems to be searching for rotation answers, too, shelving Mike Miller, limiting former top-five picks Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson to just 21 and 17 minutes respectively, and relying on 2014 second-round pick Joe Harris to play the entire fourth quarter on the wing. And while the rookie out of Virginia has been better than many expected for the Cavs in the early going, guess who the Spurs attacked when they needed a basket in the final 30 seconds to get some breathing room? It's something we've seen the Spurs go to time and again — Manu feeds Parker on the wing then cuts toward the basket; Parker enters to Duncan at the left elbow; Duncan hits Manu on the high-low; Manu, who has done a masterful job to make Harris think he's moving to the corner before reverse-pivoting inside, catches directly in front of the rim and makes the key bucket with his strong left hand. Welcome to the big leagues, Mr. Harris. Enjoy the film session. Another look at Manu's cut and lay-in: Despite the game-sealing bit of late-stage execution by the three Hall-of-Fame linchpins, San Antonio still doesn't quite look like they've found a rhythm yet. The Spurs missed 11 of their 16 3-point tries and eight free throws en route to just 92 points against the Cavs' 26th-ranked defense. But they got enough stops of their own — through 11 games, the Spurs are allowing just 95.7 points per 100 possessions, the third-best mark in the NBA — and enough contributions from the likes of Diaw, Ginobili (seven points, five assists and three rebounds in 33 minutes) and reserve point guard Cory Joseph (10 points on 4-for-5 shooting, three assists and three rebounds in just 18 minutes) to support Duncan, who notched his seventh double-double of the season (19 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, two blocks, two steals) and led the way to San Antonio's seventh win of the season. That, right now, seems to be the difference between the team that ousted James in last summer's NBA finals and the team he joined in hopes of getting back to the championship round. The Spurs know who they are and what they're supposed to be doing, even if they aren't necessarily doing it to their maximum capacity just yet. The Cavs know who they can be, but aren't sure how to get there, and at the moment, they don't seem especially sure of who they are. When those elemental questions remain unanswered, you wind up leaning on individual talent more than team identity. Sometimes, that works out just fine . Sometimes, though, even brilliance blunders, and the result is raising your hand to take blame while the other guys get their hands raised in victory. GIF via Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated . - - - - - - - Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YourManDevine Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL , "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow BDL's Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.
A look around the league and the Web that covers it. It's also important to note that the rotation order and starting nods aren't always listed in order of importance. That's for you, dear reader, to figure out. C : The Pattern of Basketball . Jonathan Tjarks on how the Utah Jazz have played the long game in rebuilding, and now have a roster full of long-limbed, athletic, intriguing and young two-way prospects to show for it. PF : Isiah Was a Prophet . Chris Gaerig offers a defense of the much-maligned Josh Smith, who has changed "his shot distribution for the better," but whose continued struggles for the Detroit Pistons might have quite a bit to do with new head coach and personnel boss Stan Van Gundy "banging his head against a the same wall that Mo Cheeks and John Loyer did" with his frontcourt rotation. SF : 48 Minutes of Hell . With speculation swirling that the San Antonio Spurs might have their eyes on Marc Gasol as a potential post-Tim Duncan plan in the middle this coming offseason, Matthew Tynan takes a look at the Spurs' books and calls the feasibility of such a plan into question: "Here’s the deal: If the Spurs want to clear max space in order to entice a major free agent, theoretically, they won’t have much wiggle room if they choose to re-sign both [Danny] Green and [Kawhi] Leonard." SG : NBA.com . Late to this, but a pretty fascinating read from Steve Aschburner on longtime official/new NBA vice president of referee operations Bob Delaney, his work on post-traumatic stress disorder, and the league's emphasis on helping refs deal with the "operational stress" that comes with the staggering level of negativity directed at them on a daily basis. PG : Nylon Calculus . Krishna Narsu digs into SportVU's optical tracking statistics on shot defense, shot location, and shot timing to try to figure out if, and just how much, defense tightens up during crunch-time situations. 6th : Beyond the Arc . Kevin Lipe revisits the Memphis Grizzlies' impressive Monday blowout of the Houston Rockets, "a glimpse at what the Grizzlies would look like if they had consistent floor spacing, and room to operate on offense." That glimpse ought to terrify the rest of the Western Conference. 7th : The Triangle . Zach Lowe's piece on the way we perceive Chris Paul's postseason "struggles" gets at some of the nagging issues with sports coverage in general, and the way we write about individual athletes who haven't won championships in particular. 8th : Bleacher Report . With the Los Angeles Clippers scuffling to a 5-4 start and looking awful thin beyond their top six players, Fred Katz wonders whether Doc Rivers the Executive's inability to see how one front-office decision would impact others down the line has hamstrung Doc Rivers the Coach when it comes to juggling his rotation. 9th : VICE Sports . Steve Nash and Kevin Durant talk about what they think it takes to be great, and about how the feeling of being an underdog never really leaves you. An interesting chat. 10th : The Classical . "Coach" Corbin Smith introduces us to the Pentagon Offense, a tried and not-entirely-true offensive scheme that only unimaginative and intolerant plebes would ever describe as “too predictable.” - - - - - - - Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YourManDevine Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL , "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow BDL's Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.
Two things were kind of a big deal in 2004. Quoting "Anchorman" was of paramount importance to your social appeal, and Detroit Pistons/Indiana Pacers matchups were well worth the price of theater admission. The NBA may have scheduled for those two Eastern Conference combatants to play on a relatively anonymous Friday night on ESPN on Nov. 19 of that year, but it also decided to play the two in Indiana on Christmas afternoon in a nationally televised affair. The league certainly understood that the over/under on either game could have been listed at around 150 points, but it hardly mattered. These were championship contenders with a bit of history behind them, and the league rightfully wanted to take advantage. The season prior, a very young Indiana team finished with a league-best 61 wins. It met a still-developing Pistons squad in the Eastern Conference finals, a Detroit team peaking at the right time, and Indiana fell in six games. A year older and presumably better, with Reggie Miller playing in likely his final NBA campaign, the Pacers figured to be the favorites in 2004-05. Many of us selected them to win the franchise’s first NBA title once June swung back around. Sometimes the NBA schedules an expected conference finals rematch on a Friday night. Sometimes two evenly paired teams can still take part in a one-sided blowout. Sometimes, mindful of the anticipation that the two squads will play each other 10 times between November and May, two competitive coaches will leave the starters in way too long. Sometimes players will get angry during a blowout loss and resort to hard fouls. Sometimes petulance and a need for attention will result in an admitted heel playing to the crowd. Sometimes that crowd will have too much to drink. Sometimes a player will act like the rest of us when faced with the decision of what to do after having a drink thrown at us. Sometimes fans will project themselves as part of their favorite team, and needing to defend the players they came to watch. Sometimes teammates will try to literally fight another player’s battles for him. Sometimes it all gets mixed up in some embarrassing, regrettable and ultimately frightening mess. We’re well aware of the incident and it hardly needs much of a re-telling. Ben Wallace and Ron Artest should not have been on the court in the final seconds of Indiana’s 97-82 win, and Wallace nailed Artest with a needless hard foul. Artest, the NBA’s ultimate rude dude at the time, played to the crowd by lying on the scorer’s table during the ensuing mini-melee that followed. A dope in the crowd threw a drink at Artest, and Ron responded by charging the stands. Some of his teammates followed, and other Pistons fans decided to storm the court. Jermaine O’Neal used terrible boxing savvy by attempting a wild roundhouse right-hand punch on one would-be assailant. The Pacers eventually fled the court as Pistons fans showered them with beer, pop and whatever else they had purchased at the concession stands that night. That night’s ESPN studio crew later chided the Pistons fans far more than the players who charged the stands, which says a lot about our immediate reactions as to how evenly stupid this fight was. David Stern relied on his committee of one to levy severe penalties during a dour Sunday afternoon news conference later that long weekend. O’Neal was suspended for 25 games, a number that was later reduced to 15. Stephen Jackson was suspended for 30 games. Ron Artest was suspended for the rest of the season. Seven years later, Ron Artest would change his name to Metta World Peace. By even then, the brawl felt like it happened a decade ago. Today, we’re allowed to legitimize that feeling. Bad news tends to be buried on a Friday night. In the days before Twitter and texting, I and many others learned of what was happening over on ESPN via phone calls and AOL instant messages. While it would be wrong to classify this glorified bar brawl as a “tragedy,” one typically tends to make these sorts of things about themselves. As someone with the unique position of having moved to Indiana a few months earlier, not being a Pacers fan, working a part-time gig at Sports Illustrated’s website while still having to pay the bills as a bartender and deal with people unfamiliar with the ways of the NBA, I was in a bit of a unique position. That position meant hearing unending stories about the thugs and criminals that supposedly populated the NBA. Thugs and criminals those in the Hoosier state backed and defended to no end until Stern’s suspension ended Indiana’s championship hopes. The league, clearly, has come a long way since then. To the casual fan, the NBA was at a bit of a low point in November 2004. The Los Angeles Lakers were still two years removed from winning a title, and Shaquille O’Neal had been traded from the Lakers four months prior, but the seeming inevitability of a Laker championship every season dulled the senses of most fans still reeling from the departure of Michael Jordan. The game had slowed to an absolute crawl as coaches limited possessions and emphasized brutal defenses. Larry Brown was the king of the basketball world in 2004, and that wasn’t good for anyone but Larry Brown. Some frozen stuff began to crack soon after, though, and not because Stern got all haughty in midtown Manhattan on Nov. 21. The league began to emphasize hand-checking rules, and unlike the similar call it sent out in 1994, the referees meant it this time. Steve Nash paired with Mike D’Antoni and a debris-clean Amar’e Stoudemire to come out of nowhere to win a league-best 62 games. Brown’s Pistons and the ridiculous defense of the San Antonio Spurs would meet in one of the worst NBA Finals in league history to end 2004-05, but the league had already turned around. The same Spurs franchise that gloriously prevailed in 2014 looks nothing like the structured mercenaries that won in 2004-05, save for the cut of Gregg Popovich’s gib, and the length of Tim Duncan’s denim shorts. Larry Bird’s Pacers, unfortunately, never recovered. Bird refused to rebuild, rolling over bad deal into other bad deals (Artest turned into Peja Stojakovic, who turned into Al Harrington, who turned into an evening’s empire that returned into sand). The Pistons enjoyed a healthy run as the NBA’s top also-ran, making another Finals and then three more Eastern Conference finals after 2005 before breaking up. The NBA amped up security, limited beer and liquor sales toward the end of games and set a harsh precedent for attempting to pummel paying customers, but this is still just window dressing. We know it’s wrong to jump into the stands, but none of us know in the moment how we’ll react when provoked. The looming presence of another 73 games in an NBA season, plus playoffs, wouldn’t flash through any of our minds immediately when someone chucks a drink at us. It doesn’t matter how many times we tell tales of the "Malice at the Palace," because any spark can set a fire. This league and this game is a far more appealing product some 10 years on, but not because of any purported lessons learned from this brawl. Not because of the dress code that the NBA later implemented, and not because you can’t buy a beer during a TV timeout in the fourth quarter. Stupid fights are all too human, and just as long as the stands and courts are occupied by humans, there is always a chance that the inevitable occurs. - - - - - - - Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KDonhoops
There are few professions more glamorous and valorized than "professional athlete." However, there are many levels of fame and fortune within that very special group. For instance, the life of the superstar differs greatly from that of the rookie. And that's to say nothing of the differences between players in those subsets — Kobe Bryant is not Tim Duncan, just as Andrew Wiggins is not a second-rounder known only by diehards. So, when a rapper takes a picture with two mainstream-popular All-NBA performers, none of the trio wants a four-year college player and rookie averaing 12.5 minutes per game to join in on the phone. So it was pretty weird to see Chicago Bulls rookie Doug McDermott on the right of a photo involving rapper Kid Ink and Los Angeles Clippers stars Blake Griffin and Chris Paul (via SB Nation ): There's just something very wrong with this photo. Cough, Cough, McDermott. #DougieNotSoFresh pic.twitter.com/OVky0bwcSd — Scott Albanese (@SAlbanese03) November 18, 2014 What happened here? Was Kid Ink a particularly big fan of McDermott during his Player of the Year campaign in 2013-14 at Creighton University? Did Paul want to acknowledge an opponent in the spirit of friendly competition? Maybe Griffin found out that Dougie McBuckets is taking improv classes in Chicago? None of the above. It looks like McDermott just tried to jump in the shot without being invited. Doug McDermott trying to get in pic.twitter.com/ernxBu7VyA — ADC (@adctennis) November 18, 2014 It's easy to see why Griffin, Paul, and Kid Ink may have been upset. No one wants some interloper to photobomb a perfectly good image, especially when his version of a photobomb involves making it look like he's part of a circle of friends. It probably didn't help that McDermott is pretty much the dictionary definition of NBA uncool. He played all four years in college despite earning All-America honors three times, isn't particularly athletic, and boasts a fan base that seems to support him less as a basketball player than as an avatar of various Right Way fundamentals that players supposedly lose when they transfer from college to the pros. (Never mind if McDermott actually exemplifies these characteristics — to the extent they even exist — or actually wants to be involved in these culture wars.) It's not just that McDermott wasn't wanted in the picture. It's that his presence just doesn't make sense based on his relative standing in the social hierarchy of basketball. McDermott didn't exactly make the case that he deserved to be in the photo with his play in Monday's game — he had no points on 0-of-2 shooting in 10 minutes, during which he logged a -12 plus-minus. On the other hand, the Bulls defeated the Clippers 105-89 even without Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol. Perhaps McDermott's gambit served as good luck. If so, he should try to jump into another photo on Thursday when the Bulls face the Sacramento Kings at Sleep Train Arena. DeMarcus Cousins poses with the members of Tesla before every home game, right? - - - - - - - Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @FreemanEric