Blazers’ Steve Blake Crosses over Celtics’ Evan Turner, Drains Jumper

The game is already over, but the Boston Celtics’ Evan Turner is still wondering where Portland Trail Blazers guard Steve Blake went on this play.

In the final minute of the third quarter of Portland’s 94-88 road win, Blake lost Turner with a nasty crossover and then drained a jumper to finish off the play. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Blake dropped 11 points and five assists off the bench.

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Duke’s Justise Winslow Jumps over Stanford’s Chasson Randle for Block

Duke freshman Justise Winslow put in all he had to make sure there was no chance at an and-one basket here. 

As Stanford’s Chasson Randle drew a foul, his attempt to get a tough layup to fall was thwarted by Winslow jumping clear over him to get the block. 

[Vine]

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Nowitzki, Mavericks roll over Lakers, win by 34

Nowitzki scores 23, Mavericks keep high-octane offense rolling in win over Lakers

      
 

 

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Jahlil Okafor leads No. 3 Duke over Temple

Despite a tough night from field, Okafor had 16 points to lead Duke over Temple.

      
 

 

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It’s Time for the Utah Jazz to Prioritize Dante Exum over Trey Burke

To say Trey Burke‘s in a sophomore slump would almost be an insult to the phrase.

His numbers have tragically bottomed out through roughly one-fifth of the season, and he’s been thoroughly outplayed by backup Dante Exum, who’s already proven he deserves the bulk of the minutes at the point.

It’s been tough to watch Burke this season, and not just from the standpoint of a writer or fan. He’s gone from savior to scapegoat for this franchise in just over a year.

This was the general sentiment when he was drafted in the summer of 2013.

This is now.

And the change didn’t come without reason. Through just over one season’s worth of games, he’s barely looked like an NBA player. The eye test says he’s too small and not athletic enough.

Friday night, the Golden State Warriors trounced the Jazz, 101-88. In a 13-point loss, Burke was a team-worst minus-28. Exum was plus-15.

Golden State did what almost every other opponent has: Put Burke on an island—in the post, on the perimeter, whatever—and go to work.

And that’s just on defense. The numbers tell the story on the other end, where he’s rarely able to create an even decent look for himself.

In his first season, the numbers were rough (as you just saw), but there were at least flashes of solid IQ and playmaking ability. Maybe he could one day morph into a pass-first 1 like Andre Miller or Kendall Marshall.

But in year 2, Burke is still trying to be a scoring guard. And the picture gets even uglier when compared to what Exum‘s doing.

In all honesty, this is what should be happening. Exum is clearly the higher-upside asset. It’s unquestionable. Tune into any Jazz game and you’ll see it for yourself. Exum is taller, longer and more athletic. Plus, his vision and IQ are way ahead of schedule.

Obviously, there are still things to work out with Exum. His catch-and-shoot game has been better than expected, but his dribble pull-up is a mess. He’s yet to make a single shot off the dribble outside of 10 feet.

He gets out of position at times defensively, but he has the length and quickness to recover. Just imagine what he can do once he irons out those fundamentals.

He can also tighten up his handle a bit, even though he’s figured out that keeping things simple generally helps him stay out of trouble.

Thing is, the learning process could be accelerated by playing Exum more minutes with the first unit. There’s a theory in basketball that’s akin to exposure therapy. Just like you can help people with a fear of heights by taking them to the Empire State Building, a basketball player can adapt in difficult circumstances.

The skyscraper is a controlled environment. There are security guards and really tall fences. You’re not going to fall off. While playing with the starters, Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors can be Exum‘s safety net as he truly adapts to the speed of the NBA.

The move is starting to come up among experts all over the NBA, but it’s a delicate process. Basketball Insiders’ Nate Duncan is worried what it would do to Burke.

ESPN’s Chad Ford has been asked about the debate as well. Twice, actually. In his weekly Q&A with SportsNation, Ford was asked, “When does Quin Snyder move Trey Burke to the bench in favor of Exum?”

He responded:

Great question. Exum, who was supposed to be the rawest of the lottery guys, has really outplayed him all year. In fact, Exum ranks second among all rookies in PER right now. And he’s going to get better. A lot better. It’s hard to watch that team with an objective eye and think Trey Burke is even in the same league as Exum as far as elite potential goes. Now, the Jazz may want to keep bringing him along slowly. There’s less pressure coming off the bench. But long-term? He’s going to be the Jazz’s starting PG. Combine him with Gordan Hayward and Derrick Favors, both of who have been excellent this year and the Jazz have a scary core for the future.

The next week, he went into the specifics on why Utah is hesitant to make the move:

I mentioned this last week and feel even stronger about it this week after talking to sources close to the Jazz. They know Exum is going to be amazing and quite possibly their franchise player. He’s not ready yet. He has to get stronger to handle all the contact he gets. But he’s got the tools, has the basketball IQ, has the work ethic to be GREAT. And his jump shot is dramatically improving. Fast forward two years and he’s likely Utah’s No. 1 option. But it’s early and I think they are erroring on the side of patience right now. He doesn’t need to be, nor is he ready to be THE guy right now. I think Burke might start the whole season. But by next year, or the year after, this will be Exum‘s team to run.

The question here isn’t whether or not Exum‘s ready to be the guy this season. That’s still Hayward, and to a lesser extent, Favors.

This is about who’s the better option to help the 2014-15 Utah Jazz win games. The numbers say it’s Exum. And he fits logistically.

He’s pass-first all the way, almost to a fault. That makes more sense with Hayward, Favors, Alec Burks and Enes Kanter, all of whom can score. With a second unit devoid of scorers, Exum‘s unselfishness can contribute to a stagnant attack.

Now, think about what the move does for Burke. Yes, there’s the fear that it negatively impacts his psyche, like Duncan pointed out, but it could also go the other way.

It could be difficult for him to accept at first. But after adapting, Burke could settle into the opportunity to be aggressive in a lineup that actually needs him to be, and against other players without top-tier physical tools.

All that said, there’s still no indication from within the organization that a lineup change is coming. So the most we can ask for now is more minutes, including some with the starters.

Exum is clearly the point guard of the future, and he’s earned more time to develop cohesion with the other core members of the team.

And if it means rewriting the next few months of Burke’s career from a tragedy to some kind of buddy-cop flick with his up-and-coming backup, even better.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all stats and salary figures are courtesy of NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com, and are current as of Nov. 22, 2014.

Andy Bailey covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him @AndrewDBailey.

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Late tip-in lifts Dayton over Texas A&M 55-53

Dayton gets late layup to down Texas A&M 55-53 in Puerto Rico Tip-Off

      
 

 

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Arizona’s Rondae Hollis-Jefferson Throws It Down over 7’6″ Mamadou Ndiaye

Arizona’s Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is fearless.

On Wednesday night, the 6’7” Wildcats forward threw down a huge dunk on UC Irvine’s 7’6” center, Mamadou Ndiaye. There is no doubt that this will go down as one of the best dunks of the season.

This is pretty much the perfect example of a defender getting posterized. The only problem is that Ndiaye wouldn’t fit on a poster. Let’s just say that this dunk should be made into a Fathead.

[Vine]

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Cody Zeller Tweets That Seeing Kentucky Fans Take Over Indianapolis “Feels Like A Bad Dream”

Former Indiana star Cody Zeller is back in his home state for Wednesday night’s game between his Charlotte Hornets and the Indiana Pacers. Unfortunately, this homecoming isn’t quite what Zeller probably expected. Kentucky plays Kansas at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis tonight, and Zeller is distraught over the number of Wildcats fans that are currently inhabiting his state.

I feel like I’m having a bad dream. I’m back in Indiana for one night and just my luck there are Kentucky fans everywhere downtown!
— Cody Zeller (@CodyZeller) November 18, 2014

Zeller’s been out of college for a little while now, but clearly he still has animosity towards rival Kentucky. Now if only the two schools could agree on restarting that great basketball series…

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Kentucky Looks Too Big to Fail After Romp over Kansas at 2014 Champions Classic

Putting a nice bow on a tipoff marathon that featured more than a few blowouts, Kentucky and its extremely talented front line made a statement against Kansas in a 72-40 beatdown at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

The statement is that these Wildcats are unstoppable giants.

Kansas is a very big, talented team. The Jayhawks have five forwards 6’8″ or taller who will do some serious damage this season.

But for the vast majority of the nightcap of the Champions Classic, they looked like a junior-varsity team scrimmaging against its bigger and better upperclassmen.

As mentioned during ESPN’s broadcast of the game, Kentucky has 10 players who are 6’6″ or taller, seven who are 6’8″ or taller and four who stand at least 6’10″.

As Jay Bilas astutely noted, trying to put the ball in the bucket against the Wildcats “is like trying to play Frisbee in the Redwood Forest.”

Even with Tyler Ulis, who might be 5’9″ in platform shoes, Kentucky’s average height is 79.7″, according to KenPom.com (subscription required). The gap between Kentucky and second place on that list (78.8″) is larger than the gap between second place and 33rd place.

Pomeroy’s data on height only goes back to the 2006-07 season, but this year’s Wildcats are bigger than any other college basketball team in the past eight years. Convert Kentucky’s average height to centimeters (202.4) and you can see that these Wildcats are taller than almost every NBA squad.

And unlike other teams with big men who have two left feet, Kentucky’s giants are outrageously talented.

 

Through three games, they have already blocked 28 shots. That’s an average of 9.3 per game. Last year, St. John’s led the nation at 7.6 blocks per game.

Even when the Wildcats had Anthony Davis, they “only” averaged 8.8 blocks per game.

That ridiculous average isn’t because they padded their stats against Grand Canyon and Buffalo. Rather, the 11 blocks against Kansas on Tuesday were the most they’ve recorded this season.

Kentucky had already tallied all 11 of those blocks before the under-eight-minute timeout in the second half. Marcus Lee and Karl Towns Jr. led the way with four each.

The game barely reached the midway point of the first half before an unofficial contest broke out on Twitter to see who could best describe the sheer dominance of Kentucky’s big men:

It could have been so much worse, too. Kansas had at least 10 other shots altered for fear of being blocked, resulting in an almost incomprehensible team shooting percentage of 19.6.

After the game, Kentucky coach John Calipari told Andy Katz on ESPN’s broadcast, “We’re so long and athletic, and we keep coming at you in waves. We don’t have subs. We have reinforcements…It’s like tanks coming over a hill.”

Though the defense has been firing on all cylinders (with the exception of that first half against Buffalo on Sunday), the scary thing is that Kentucky’s big men are still finding their legs on offense.

They played incredibly to hold the Jayhawks to just 40 points, but how did the Wildcats only score 72 points of their own?

They shot just 47.5 percent from two-point range, despite having a half-dozen big men who can probably touch the top of the backboard.

What’s bizarre is that Kentucky only had two dunks on Tuesday night.

The Wildcats had plenty of layups, but this team could be the second coming of Dunk City if it wanted to be. Alex Poythress and Dakari Johnson are among the best angry dunkers in the country, but we didn’t get to see either of them throw one down against the Jayhawks.

That isn’t meant as a criticism of how Kentucky played on Tuesday night so much as it is a warning of what’s to come. When these big guys are firing on all cylinderswhen Poythress isn’t missing all five shots he takes and when Lee is aggressive enough to take more than three shotsthis is a team that could win conference games by 60 points.

And how about those platoons that we all wanted to see dead and buried after the Wildcats trailed Buffalo at the half on Sunday?

In most sports, platoon is a dirty word.

In baseball, whether it’s a closer by committee or third basemen who swap starting jobs based on the opposing pitcher, what the manager is basically saying is that he doesn’t trust either option. The same goes for football with a platoon situation at quarterback. If you have two QBs, you have no QBs.

But a college basketball platoon designed to get equal playing time for 10 very good players?

That seems to be working out pretty well.

For the big men, it will pay huge dividends in the long run.

While guys such as LSU’s Jordan Mickey and Auburn’s Cinmeon Bowers wear down by mid-February due to playing close to 35 minutes per game, Kentucky will not only still have six big men, but they’ll be fresher than all the others in the country.

There might not be a single forward or center on this team who averages a double-double, but the combined forces of the post dwellers from the Blue and White platoons could absolutely average 40 points and 35 rebounds per game.

Through less than one week, Duke’s Jahlil Okafor appears to be the best big man in the country. As far as “best team in the paint” goes, though, it’s Kentucky by a country mileand the gap is only going to get more pronounced as the season progresses.

After the game, Katz asked Coach Calipari how Kentucky can be beaten.

“You can shoot threes,” Calipari said. “You can get us in the post. We foul. We fouled like crazy (tonight). We kept them on the line. We’ve got a long way to go.”

There you have it. The blueprint to beat Kentucky!

Good luck executing it.

 

Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.

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4-point play: How Kentucky rolled over Kansas

USA TODAY Sports breaks down the second Champions Classic showdown.

      
 

 

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