Kevin Cody

All Ball Sports: Montrezl Harrell used the wrong B-word. 

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Sacramento Kings Coach Luke Walton will not only miss out on Hermosa’s annual 16th Street Labor Day Weekend Volleyball tournament because of the pandemic. But he’s also missed out on a chance to coach emerging Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic. Walton is shown above last Labor Day Weekend during the friendly neighborhood tournament   Photo by Brad Jacobson (MadVideoLab.com)

by Paul Teetor

One of the unintended consequences of the no-spectator NBA playoff games being played in Orlando is that much of the trash-talking that used to be drowned out by crowd noise is now audible to pretty much everybody within hearing range – including the massive TV audience.

So when feisty Clippers back-up center Montrezl Harrell called Luka Doncic a “bitch-ass white boy” Friday night the Twittersphere instantly exploded. The general gist: what if roles had been reversed and Doncic had made such a derogatory reference to Harrell’s skin color?

Less than two days later Doncic proved that he is, more accurately, a bad-ass white boy when he hit the biggest shot yet of the incredibly exciting NBA playoffs. 

With three seconds left in overtime Sunday and the Mavericks trailing by one point, Doncic got the ball 30 feet from the hoop, took two dribbles forward, stepped back and launched a rainbow shot that froze both teams in place until it dropped cleanly through the net and delivered the Mavs a stunning 135-133 win that leveled the first round series at two games each.

Adding to the storybook heroics: Doncic had sprained his left ankle so badly in the previous game – shortly after his trash-talking confrontation with Harrell — that he had to hop off the court on one foot, unable to put any weight on his left foot. And when he came out Sunday for warmups, he looked tentative and unable to push off the left ankle.

The Mavericks soon fell behind by 21 points with their leader unable to work his usual magic. Making it even worse, his side-kick, 7-foot-3 gunner Kristaps Porzingis, was sitting out the game with a sore knee. The Clippers seemed headed for a 3-1 series lead, poised to take a giant step towards the absurdly over-hyped potential Battle in the Bubble with the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals – should they both make it that far.

But as the Clippers started to relax the 21-year-old, 6-foot-7, 240-pound Doncic suddenly looked more and more nimble, more and more able to bull-rush his way into the paint and create shots for himself and his teammates. On one spinning drive to the hoop he flat-out knocked Harrell to the floor and hit a layup. At that point Harrell had nothing to say.

In the end Doncic finished with 43 points, 17 rebounds and 13 assists – and an endless series of admiring tweets from the biggest stars in the league, including LeBron James and Stephen Curry. Last year’s NBA Rookie of the Year was now a no-dispute superstar on the same first-name level as LeBron, Giannis and Kawhi.

And speaking of Kawhi, he played like a superstar in this game, scoring 32 points with 9 rebounds and 4 assists. He even took on the tough assignment of guarding Luka Legend at key points in the game.

The Clippers primary problem was that fellow “superstar” Paul George – who likes to call himself “Playoff P” but has never performed well in the playoffs — choked yet again. In his fourth consecutive bad playoff game, he shot 3-14 and missed shot after shot in crunch time. He is now shooting below 20 percent for the series.

Even with super-sub Lou “Strip Club” Williams ringing up 36 points and hitting some crazy off-balance shots, the Clippers just didn’t have quite enough firepower to finish off the Mavs and their bad-ass white boy leader.

And just for the record, Harrell came up to Doncic during warmups before Sunday’s game and – without being asked by the league, he claimed — apologized for his comment. Doncic handled it like a champ when asked about it after the game. “No worries,” he said. “Sometimes you say things you don’t want to say. He apologized. I respect that, so no problems.”

There’s even a local connection to the Doncic craze that is taking over the NBA as he prepares to become the face of the league after LeBron retires some time in the not too distant future.

Manhattan Beach’s own Luke Walton was quickly named coach of the Sacramento Kings two days after LeBron ran him out of town in April 2019. Incredibly, Sacramento, with the second pick in the 2018 draft, had passed on the chance to draft Doncic, taking someone named Marvin Bagley instead and leaving Doncic available for Dallas. While Bagley has been plagued by injuries and inefficiency, Walton could have been coaching Doncic if only General Manager Vlade Divac – who knew all about Doncic because of his ties to Eastern European basketball – had drafted Luka Legend. 

In related news, Divac was fired last week, but Walton remains as coach of the sad-sack Kings.  

While the Clippers were unable to capitalize on the Mavs best player suffering a significant injury, the Lakers had just the opposite reaction after Portland’s leader, sharp-shooting guard Damian Lillard, suffered a dislocated finger during game 2 after the Blazers upset the Lakers in game 1.

The Lakers went on to beat the Blazers in games 2 and 3, for a 2-1 lead. Then they destroyed Portland in game 4 Monday night by jumping out to a 15-0 lead and keeping the pressure on all game for a 135-115 victory led by LeBron’s 30 points and 10 assists in just 28 dominant minutes.

Lillard suffered a knee injury during the third quarter after the rout was already on and could miss game 5. Based on the body language of both teams, expect the Lakers to close out the series Wednesday night and advance to play the winner of the Houston-Oklahoma City series, which was tied 2-2 after the Thunder won Monday night’s game.

While the Lakers and especially the Clippers were having to fight off unexpected turbulence in the first round of their championship chase, the hottest hoops team in LA turns out to be the aptly-named Sparks.

Led by the great Candace Parker, the Sparks won their 7th straight game Sunday night by beating the Dallas Wings 84-81. They are now tied with Las Vegas for second place in the WNBA with a 10-3 record. Seattle leads the league with an 11-3 record. With the season shortened to just 22 games and being played in the WNBA’s own Florida bubble in Bradenton, the Sparks are well positioned to go deep in the playoffs next month.

Contact: teetor.paul@gmail.com. Follow: @paulteetor. ER 

 

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