Category Archives: NBA

Celtics defeat Heat in game 3 on Eastern conference finals

After falling 2-0 behind in the series following Thursday’s defeat, Celtics players apparently aired their frustrations in a raucous locker room and it seemed to do the trick as they were never behind in a 117-106 triumph.

The Celtics were also boosted by the return of Hayward, who scored six points in 31 minutes of a welcome return from an ankle injury that has kept him out since August 17.

“I didn’t expect to play him that much,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens.

“I thought he looked pretty good, he asked to come out a couple times – the wind caught up to him a couple times – but I thought he did what he’s done all year.”

Kemba Walker scored 21 points and Marcus Smart 20 as the Celtics, for whom Tatum added 14 rebounds, shot 48.2 per cent (41 of 85) as a team, outscoring Miami 60-36 in the paint.

“I’m extremely tired right now, my ankle is pretty sore, but I’m proud of the way we fought and proud of us getting the win,” Hayward stated.

“They are a hard-playing team, they compete. They are obviously extremely well coached and they don’t give up.

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“I think they also have a lot of guys that can get going, especially from the outside, so leads aren’t safe and they can score in bunches, as we’ve seen in the first two games.

“Tonight, I think me personally, just trying to help us offensively, being somebody who can get in the paint, create, also trying to help us rebound, bring the ball up. I think if we can run, that can’t set their defense and we have so many good athletes, so many guys that can score and bring up the ball – it makes it difficult for them.”

For Miami, Bam Adebayo had 27 points and 16 rebounds, while Tyler Herro scored 22 to lead six players in double figures for the Heat, who had just their second defeat in 12 playoff matches en route to their lead in the Eastern Finals.

“We didn’t play hard enough,” said Jimmy Butler, who had 17 points, eight rebounds and three assists.

“We weren’t playing basketball the way that we have been to win the games that we have been winning.”

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Clippers look to put away stubborn Nuggets in Game 6

The weight of a Game 7 contest will weigh more heavily on the Los Angeles Clippers, the Denver Nuggets consider.

“To us, Game 7 is just another game,” Nuggets center Nikola Jokic said.

Jokic had 34 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists as the Nuggets stunned the Clippers 111-98 in Game 6 of their Western Conference semifinal on Sunday at the NBA bubble near Orlando.

Game 7 is Tuesday. The winner meets the Los Angeles Lakers in the conference finals.

Jokic connected on 13 of 22 shots from the floor, including 4 of 6 3-pointers. Jamal Murray had 21 points, Gary Harris added 16 and Michael Porter Jr. chipped in 13 for the third-seeded Nuggets, who outscored the second-seeded Clippers 64-35 in the second half. “It was just amazing,”

Denver coach Michael Malone told the media after the match. “We had 11 straight stops at one point. Coming into this round they were the No. 1 offense in the playoffs, so I’m running out of adjectives, superlatives, whatever you want to call it to speak on our team because that is a tough, resilient group of you know what. I love our team.”

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Paul George had 33 points, six rebounds and five steals for the Clippers, who are attempting to advance to their first Western Conference final.

They are 0-7 in franchise history in previous attempts to get there.

Kawhi Leonard contributed 25 points, eight boards and five assists, while Lou Williams scored 14 points. JaMychal Green had 11.

“Just gave up the lead again, pretty much,” said Leonard, who made 8 of 18 shots and 3 of 5 3-pointers. “They came down and either scored or got fouled in the third quarter, and we couldn’t buy a basket. That’s how they came back.”

The Nuggets will be trying to become the first NBA club to rally from a 3-1 deficit in back-to-back series. They did so versus the Utah Jazz in the first round. And Leonard said the Clippers have to be ready for what the Nuggets have in store for them.

“Just got to leave it all out on the floor,” Leonard said. “Make sure we are paying attention to detail, executing and communicating on the defensive end. That’s all we can do. Go out there and play hard and make sure we know the game plan.”

The game plan Sunday seemed to be going just fine for Los Angeles in the first half. The Clippers coasted to a 16-point halftime lead and went up by as much as 19 early in the third quarter. But the Nuggets outscored them 30-16 in the third and seized control in the fourth.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers said the game swung when Murray, who seemed to have the wind knocked out of him, crashed to the floor after a third-quarter collision under the basket with George.

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Mike D’Antoni tells Houston Rockets he won’t return as coach

Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni has informed the franchise that he’s becoming a coaching free agent and won’t return to the Rockets next campaign, D’Antoni told ESPN on Sunday.

“It’s with tremendous sadness and gratitude that my wife Laurel and I announce that our incredible journey in Houston has ended for now and that we’ll be moving to a new chapter,” D’Antoni told ESPN in a statement.

D’Antoni, whose contract expired with the end of Houston’s season in the Western Conference semifinals on Saturday, turned down extension offers prior to the season. He will be considered among a group of candidates for the Philadelphia 76ers coaching opening, sources tell ESPN.

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D’Antoni was 217-102 in his four campaigns as Rockets coach, advancing once to the Western Conference finals and three times to the conference semifinals.

D’Antoni, a two-time NBA Coach of the Year, led the Rockets to the highest winning percentage in the Western Conference over the last four years (.682), trailing only the Toronto Raptors (.695) in the entire league.

Only the Golden State Warriors (46), Boston Celtics (33), and Raptors (31) have more playoff triumphs than the Rockets (28) in D’Antoni’s four-year run in Houston.

The Athletic reported Sunday morning D’Antoni had not “completely ruled out the possibility of a return.” None of these answers or reports were definitive and the reports all season were that D’Antoni wasn’t likely to stay in Houston.

For the Rockets, it will be difficult to find a replacement that is on par with the impact that Mike D’Antoni provides. He has been key in James Harden emerging as a superstar and that’s why the former MVP expressed he wanted D’Antoni to be brought back.

It’s early in the process but the Rockets have been linked to Jeff Van Gundy as a potential candidate. He has been in the broadcast booth for years as he last coached in the NBA in 2007 when he was in Houston. There should be plenty of other candidates to enter the mix, too.

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Lakers run past Rockets for 3-1 West semifinals lead

Anthony Davis was the biggest player on the floor, and the Houston Rockets had no answers.

Davis had 29 points and 12 rebounds, LeBron James concluded one assist shy of a triple-double and the Los Angeles Lakers topped the Rockets 110-100 on Thursday night to take a 3-1 lead in their Western Conference semifinal series.

James had 16 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists for the Lakers, who outrebounded the Rockets 52-26. Alex Caruso scored 16 points and Rajon Rondo had 11 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists for the Lakers, who held on after frittering away most of a big second-half lead.

“Turnovers,” Davis stated. “We had too many turnovers.”

That was one of the few complaints the Lakers could make after Game 4. Russell Westbrook had 25 points and James Harden had 21 for the Rockets, who got 19 from Eric Gordon and 14 from Austin Rivers.

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The Lakers were up by 23 midway through the fourth, well on their way to a blowout victory.

That’s when Houston’s offense woke up.

Westbrook made a corner 3 with 3:01 left, Harden got a steal and a pair of free throws on the next possession, and the Rockets put together a 18-2 run to get within 103-96. The Lakers turned the ball over on four consecutive possessions during that stretch, unable to get anything going.

Smartly, though, on the biggest possession of the night as the clock ticked inside the two-minute mark, they went to Davis. Gordon, who stands about half-a-foot shorter than Davis, had no opportunity as the Laker All-Star scored in the lane to push the lead back out to nine and buy the Lakers a bit of breathing room.

Caruso’s 3-pointer off a pass from James with 34.6 seconds left made it 108-100, and the Lakers escaped.

The Lakers won Game 3 by holding Houston to 38 points in the second half — and set themselves up to win Game 4 by clamping down again, this time in the first half. It was 57-41 Lakers at the break, meaning Houston had scored 79 points in its last 48 minutes of basketball.

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Bucks avoid sweep despite losing Giannis to sprained ankle

The Milwaukee Bucks staved off elimination on Sunday, defeating the Miami Heat 118-115 in overtime despite losing superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo to a right ankle sprain in the second quarter.

After being fouled by Heat forward Andre Iguodala on a drive into the paint at the 10:18 mark of the second quarter of Game 4 of this Eastern Conference semifinal series, Antetokounmpo went down in a heap, yelling out in pain and clutching at his right ankle. He had to be helped off the court but later walked back on to split a pair of free throws.

Antetokounmpo then instantly checked out of the game and walked under his own power to Milwaukee’s locker room. He wouldn’t be seen again, as the Bucks ruled out their superstar forward at halftime, when they were clinging to a 50-48 lead.

“He’ll get treatment through the night, and we’ll just see how he does in the next 24 (to) 48 hours,” stated Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer after the game.

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In an inspired effort led by Khris Middleton, the Bucks managed to hold on after losing the reigning MVP to avoid a 4-0 sweep.

Middleton’s 21 points in the third quarter were the most by a Bucks player in any quarter of a playoff game since Tim Thomas’ 19 in 1996-97.

He ended with 36 points, 8 assists and 8 rebounds in 48 minutes — including a clutch 3-pointer with 6.9 seconds left in overtime against a Miami double-team.

As Bucks players entered the locker room, Antetokounmpo was there to congratulate them on the latest triumph, but it’s still uncertain if he’ll be able to return for Game 5 on Tuesday.

The Bucks are the first team to win in overtime when facing elimination since the Heat in Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals versus the San Antonio Spurs.

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Nuggets versus Jazz game 7 preview

The Denver Nuggets came back from a two-game deficit and now have an opportunity to eliminate the Utah Jazz. It’s game 7 between these two sides, in the arguably the most interesting matchup of the playoffs so far.

As said above, this is by far the most interesting first-round matchup of them all so far. At first, Denver took the lead, after that, Utah nailed the next three events, but Denver responded, which is why we have a Game 7 coming up our way.

The stakes are high, so expect a fierce clash, like there is no tomorrow. One more info, whoever triumphs here, will meet the Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference semifinals. 

Jamal Murray is in the elite echelon of scorers in the league, and that is something we knew already. But we didn’t know that the Canadian was this good. He has three consecutive games with 40 or more buckets, and two with 50+ during that time.

So far, he’s been the leading scorer in the playoffs with 37.6 points. Though, all his previous games won’t be important if, by any chance, Denver loses. He already has a label of being soft and without guts when needed the most, and this is the perfect chance for shutting down all the critics. 

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The way Murray plays, Donovan Mitchell is just one tiny bit better.

He, too, has multiple 50+ points, but unlike Murray, he is much more consistent. The Spida, however, is without the right sidekick in the last few matches, and that is why we saw the Jazz losing those matches.

In order for Quin Snyder’s team success, they have to see Mike Conley perfect. The veteran point guard is Jazz’s X-factor. Also, Joe Ingles needs to have a more important part in the attack.

The momentum is on Denver’s side, and that is why we have to back their victory in this contest. The odds are at -110 for the Nuggets to triumph. We believe that they are mentally stronger, that is have much higher morale than Utah’s guys, who are irritated with all the missed chances for securing the next stage.

Just to remind, both Gobert and Mitchell had outbursts following Game 6, smashing and bashing stuff while exiting the court.

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Pacers fire Nate McMillan after being swept in first round of playoffs

The Indiana Pacers have fired coach Nate McMillan after his team was swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Miami Heat.

The move comes after the Pacers had reworked the final year of McMillan’s contract for 2020-21 and added a team option for 2021-22 in the form of a soft extension earlier this month.

Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, who is in the final year of his contract, will be an Indiana target should he become available, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Indiana also plans to search from a pool of candidates they would consider “program builders” over the long term, sources tell Wojnarowski. In four seasons as the Pacers’ coach, McMillan had a 183-136 record, including 3-16 in the postseason. Indiana was swept in the first round in each of the past two seasons.

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The Pacers haven’t reached the second round since appearing in the Eastern Conference finals in 2013 and 2014, and after Monday’s loss to Miami, Indiana has lost a franchise-record nine consecutive playoff games.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra called McMillan’s firing “ridiculous” on Wednesday.

“It seems totally ridiculous. It seems like you’re talking out of both sides of your mouth. Just two weeks ago at the beginning of our series you’re giving him an extension, but really it’s just a media fake extension to appease whatever they felt like they needed to appease. And then after this series to make that quick of an emotional decision is really disappointing,” he said.

Injuries have played a key role in the team’s failures. The Pacers played last season without two-time All-Star Victor Oladipo, who suffered a knee injury, and without All-Star forward Domantas Sabonis against the Heat because of a foot injury.

“On behalf of the Simon family and the Pacers organization, I’d like to thank Nate for his years with the team,” Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard said in a statement.

“This was a very hard decision for us to make; but we feel it’s in the best interest of the organization to move in a different direction. Nate and I have been through the good times and the bad times; and it was an honor to work with him for those 11 years (in Indiana and Portland).”

McMillan has a 661-588 career record in 16 seasons as a head coach for Seattle, Portland and Indiana.

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Rockets’ Mike D’Antoni: Russell Westbrook’s quad healing, but still no timetable for return

Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni still uncertain of when or if All-Star guard Russell Westbrook will be available during the team’s first-round series versus the Oklahoma City Thunder.

D’Antoni said before Tuesday’s 123-108 Game 1 victory that Westbrook’s strained right quadriceps is healing, but the team does not have a specific timetable for his return.
“Can’t rule anything out, but don’t rule anything in,” D’Antoni said.

“He’s getting a lot better,” D’Antoni said. “The good news: it’s healing. We’ll just have to wait and see. I really don’t know at this point. Can’t rule anything out, but don’t rule anything in.” Westbrook was programmed to undergo an MRI on Tuesday, and the results were not immediately revealed.

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Westbrook, who was a late arrival to the NBA’s Walt Disney World Resort campus because he tested positive for COVID-19, felt soreness in his right quadriceps after the Rockets’ loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Aug. 4.

He sat out the next two games because of a right quad contusion, according to the team.

Russ’s absence will be a tough one for the Rockets to cope with. His ability to use dribble penetration and generate open 3-pointers for others on the team is unparalleled across the NBA. The Rockets rely on heavy doses of 3-point shooting.

Westbrook played 28 minutes in Houston’s Aug. 11 loss to the San Antonio Spurs, recording 20 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists. The Rockets revealed the next day that an MRI had revealed that Westbrook had a strained muscle in his quad.

A nine-time All-Star acquired in a blockbuster trade with the Thunder last summer, Westbrook has averaged 27.2 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game in his first season with the Rockets.

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Gordon Hayward limps off court after right ankle sprain in Celtics’ Game 1 victory over 76ers

The Boston Celtics lost forward Gordon Hayward to a right ankle sprain in the fourth quarter of their 109-101 triumph over the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday.

“Sprained ankle,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens stated after Game 1 of this East first-round series.

“Don’t know the severity, but he’s clearly in pain, and it looked like it had some swelling already. That’s my medical review.”

Sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Malika Andrews after the game that Hayward would be getting an MRI on his ankle later Monday to determine the gravity of the injury.

Hayward, who scored 12 points on 5-for-13 shooting with 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 steals in 34 minutes, was trying to box out Sixers star Joel Embiid inside with about 3½ minutes to go in the fourth quarter when his right foot got twisted and he went down to the floor in a heap.

Boston eventually had to commit a take foul and then call a timeout with 3:08 left in the fourth to permit Hayward, who never got off the ground, to slowly limp along the sideline and directly back to Boston’s locker room.

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Already a thin team as it is, the Celtics will struggle to substitute Hayward if he has to miss a significant amount of time.

While Boston played 11 players Monday, five of them — Hayward, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart — played more than 30 minutes, and center Daniel Theis (25 minutes) was the only other Celtic who played more than 13.

If Hayward does have to miss time, Smart would all but certainly slide into his place in the starting lineup.

This ankle is the opposite one from when Hayward suffered a gruesome leg and ankle injury in the opening minutes of his first match as a member of the Celtics in 2017, forcing him to miss the remainder of that season.

This season, Hayward bounced back to the form he showed before the injury as a member of the Utah Jazz, averaging 17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists while shooting 50% from the field and 38% from 3-point range. Hayward has a player option on his contract for next season.

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NBA suspends Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo 1 game for headbutting

Giannis Antetokounmpo let his emotions get the best of him on Tuesday, and the reigning MVP is paying the price for it. In a tense second quarter between his Milwaukee Bucks and the Washington Wizards, Giannis, who had been fouled several times, finally lost his temper after a charge call.

The Bucks called timeout, but Antetokounmpo, in his frustration, delivered a headbutt to Wizards big man Moe Wagner. He was called for a flagrant-2 foul and ejected.

As a result of the head shot, the NBA is suspending the Greek Freak for the Bucks’ final seeding game Thursday versus the Memphis Grizzlies, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Antetokounmpo was remorseful in his actions when speaking to the media after the game. “Terrible action,” Antetokounmpo said. “If I could go back and turn back time and go back to that play, I wouldn’t do it. But at the end of the day, we’re all human, we all make mistakes.

I think I’ve done a great job all year, in my career, of keeping my composure and focusing on the game, but like I said, we’re human, we make mistakes. But at the end of the day, learn from it, keep playing good basketball and keep moving forward.”

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In relation to why he reacted that way, the reigning MVP said that he was responding to what he felt was a build-up of emotion over the course of the game. While Wagner received the brunt of Antetokounmpo’s frustration, he wasn’t necessarily angry with him.

“I don’t think I was frustrated with Wagner,” Antetokounmpo said. “I think it was just the whole, like, build-up of dirty plays in my mind. Guys tripping me, guys falling in front of my feet, holding me, hitting me. It wasn’t just — I don’t have nothing against Wagner, it wasn’t just him.”

The ejection was the third of Antetokounmpo’s regular-season career and fourth overall. Based on historical precedent, Antetokounmpo’s one-game suspension was expected. Hasheem Thabeet (2013) and Kevin Garnett (2015) both headbutted opposing players and were suspended for their team’s next game.

Milwaukee’s next game comes versus Memphis as the Grizzlies desperately try to fight their way into the play-in tournament for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot. 

Milwaukee has nothing to play for having long-since clinched the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, so losing Antetokounmpo for a game has no bearing on its playoff future. But the Bucks have struggled to get into a rhythm in Orlando due to a combination of rest- and coronavirus-induced absences.

They will have a relatively easy first-round series versus the Magic in which they can hopefully regain the momentum they’ve lost, but after that, they will have to win three very difficult series versus fellow contenders. 

Now Antetokounmpo loses his final tune-up game with the Bucks. They didn’t exactly need this win, but getting him those minutes on the court would have been valuable.

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