Category Archives: NBA

Ty Lue candidacy for Rockets job gains momentum after monday meeting

Clippers assistant coach Ty Lue’s candidacy for the Rockets’ head-coaching job has gathered significant momentum after a meeting with Houston’s ownership and management Monday, sources told ESPN.

The Rockets are competing with the Clippers for Lue and could try to extend an offer before Los Angeles has completed its search process, but that isn’t likely to happen before Houston meets with former coach Jeff Van Gundy this week, sources said.

Both Lue and Van Gundy are prominent parts of the Rockets’ and Clippers’ coaching searches — and Lue has been the Clippers’ front-runner since Doc Rivers was dismissed on Sept. 28, sources said.

Lue’s candidacy has the support of prominent players on both teams, sources said. Houston had originally wanted to hire Rivers to substitute Mike D’Antoni, sources said, but his talks with the 76ers moved quickly to a resolution.

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Van Gundy, currently an analyst for ESPN, has been a favorite of Rockets ownership and management, and he is known to prefer the idea of coaching in his adopted home city to avoid uprooting his family.

Van Gundy, 58, has been active as a coach with USA Basketball in recent years, but he hasn’t coached in the NBA since the Rockets fired him in 2007.

Van Gundy was 430-318 in the regular season and 44-44 in the postseason in parts of 11 seasons with Rockets and Knicks.

Lue coached the Cavaliers to the only championship in franchise history in 2016 and reached the NBA Finals in three consecutive years. He was fired by Cleveland after an 0-6 start in the 2018-19 campaign. Lue is 128-83 overall and 41-20 in the playoffs.

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Los Angeles Lakers claims first NBA title in a decade

The Los Angeles Lakers have claimed their first NBA championship in a decade, defeating the Miami Heat 106-93 in Game 6 of the finals.

The title comes in the same year the team lost its icon, Kobe Bryant, who led the franchise to its last five championships.

For the first time since Bryant’s fifth and final title a decade ago, the Lakers are NBA champions. James had 28 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists, and the Lakers beat the Miami Heat 106-93 on Sunday night to gain the NBA Finals in six games.

Anthony Davis had 19 points and 15 rebounds for the Lakers, who dealt with the enormous anguish that followed the death of the iconic Bryant in January and all the challenges that came with leaving home for three months to play at Walt Disney World in a bubble designed to keep inhabitants safe from the coronavirus.

It would be, James predicted, the toughest title to ever collect. They made the clincher look easy. James acquired his fourth title, doing it with a third different franchise — and versus the Heat franchise that showed him to to become a champion.

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Bam Adebayo had 25 points and 10 rebounds for Miami, which got 12 points from Jimmy Butler — the player who, in his first Heat season, got the team back to title contention. Rajon Rondo scored 19 points for the Lakers.

With that, the league’s bubble chapter, put together after a 4 1/2-month suspension of play that started March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic, is over.

So, too, is a season that saw the league and China get into political sparring, the death on Jan. 1 of commissioner emeritus David Stern — the man who did so much to make the league what it is — and then the shock on Jan. 26 that came with the news that Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven other died in a helicopter crash.

The Lakers stated they were playing the rest of the season in his memory.

They delivered what Bryant did five times for L.A. — a ring, and the clincher was emphatic.

Game 6 was over by halftime, the Lakers taking a 64-36 lead into the break. The Heat never led and couldn’t shoot from anywhere: 35% from 2-point range in the half, 33% from 3-point range and even an uncharacteristic 42% from the line, not like any of it really mattered.

The Lakers were getting everything they wanted and then some, outscoring Miami 36-16 in the second quarter and doing all that with James making just one shot in the period.

Rajon Rondo, now a two-time champion and the first to win rings as a player in both Boston and Los Angeles — the franchises now tied with 17 titles apiece — was 6 for 6 in the half, the first time he’d done that since November 2007.

The Lakers’ lead was 46-32 with 5:00 left in the half, and they outscored Miami 18-4 from there until intermission.

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Lakers take game 1 of Finals, top Heat

The Lakers defeated the Heat, 116-98, to take an early series lead.

Los Angeles led by as much as 32 points during the match. Miami gave the Lakers a tiny scare in the final quarter, cutting the lead down to 12 points but Los Angele was ultimately able to overcome.

Anthony Davis led the way with 34 points, nine rebounds and five assists. LeBron James nearly got another triple-double. He concluded with 25 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists.

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It was the three-point shooting that was the key.

Los Angeles at one point was 13-for-20 from beyond the arc. They ended 15-for-38 as they started to take their foot off the gas pedal. On the other side, Miami was 11-for-35 from deep.

Miami didn’t get much from its young players like Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson. Herro had 14 points in 30 minutes off the bench. Robinson was 0-for-3 from deep. Those were the only shots he took.

The Heat also got hit with the injury bug. Goran Dragic left the game with what was being called a foot injury. Bam Adebayo left in the third quarter with a shoulder strain and Jimmy Butler twisted his ankle and wasn’t the same. He ended with 23 points – leading the Heat.

The NBA Finals record book is basically a James scrapbook of career accomplishments, and he raised his spot on some of those lists Wednesday.

He became the seventh player to appear in 50 NBA Finals games (he could climb all the way to a tie for third on that list if this series goes seven games) and passed Michael Jordan and George Mikan for fifth in finals free throws made.

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Doc Rivers out as LA Clippers coach after ‘disappointing’ end to season

Doc Rivers has stepped down as coach of the LA Clippers in what chairman Steve Ballmer called a “mutual decision.”

The team fell well short of its championship expectations this campaign after getting All-Stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George last summer in what were NBA-altering moves.

“Doc has been a terrific coach for the Clippers, an incredible ambassador, and a pillar of strength during tumultuous times,” Ballmer said in a statement Monday. “He won a heck of a lot of games and laid a foundation for this franchise.”

Rivers had two years left on his contract, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The Clippers went 49-23 in the regular season, the fourth-best record in franchise history, but squandered a 3-1 series lead in the Western Conference semifinals versus the Denver Nuggets, surrendering leads of 16, 19 and 12 points as the franchise’s Western Conference finals drought reached 50 years.

Rivers has been the coach in five of the Clippers’ six best regular seasons. Rivers is the only coach in NBA history to lose a 3-1 lead in three playoff series, having previously done so with the Clippers in the 2015 West semis versus the Houston Rockets and with the Orlando Magic in the first round versus the Detroit Pistons in 2003.

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This team was considered a championship contender from the moment the Clippers signed Leonard in free agency and traded for George.

After the Clippers completely unraveled for a third straight game in a 104-89 loss to the Nuggets in Game 7, Rivers said the title expectations were not too heavy for his team, even though the Clippers fell short of reaching what many thought all season would be a West finals showdown with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Rivers took over as Clippers coach in June 2013 and was later promoted to president of basketball operations in conjunction with his coaching duties, before giving up that post in August 2017.

In Rivers’ seven seasons at the helm, the Clippers went 356-208, winning 63.1% of their regular-season games — the fifth-best record in the NBA and the best by any team without a conference finals appearance.

Rivers went 3-8 in potential series-clinching matches with the Clippers, tied for the worst mark by a single coach with one team.

His 943 career victories is the 11th most by a head coach all time. The Clippers’ job becomes the sixth current vacancy in the NBA, along with Houston, Indiana, Philadelphia, Oklahoma City and New Orleans. New York, Brooklyn and Chicago have already filled vacancies in their offseasons.

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Heat aim to close out Celtics in Game 5

The Miami Heat can earn their first appearance in the NBA Finals since 2014 when they duel the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Friday night at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando.

The fifth-seeded Heat inched closer to a shot at their fourth NBA title by holding off the third-seeded Celtics 112-109 on Wednesday night for a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven series.

Miami, which gained championships as the East’s second and first seed in 2012 and 2013, respectively, is trying to become the first team seeded fifth or lower to reach the NBA Finals since the eighth-seeded New York Knicks lost to San Antonio in 1999.

The last team seeded fifth or lower to win an NBA title was Houston in 1995, when it beat Orlando as the West’s No. 6 seed. Miami has never lost a playoff series in which it led 3-1. The Heat held such an advantage over top-seeded Milwaukee in the Eastern semifinals, then needed just one more game to eliminate the Bucks.

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The last time the Celtics found themselves in a 3-1 hole was last season versus the Bucks in the Eastern semis.

Milwaukee closed out the best-of-seven in the next game.

Boston hasn’t rallied to win a series after trailing 3-1 since defeating the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Finals in 1981. The Celtics went on to beat Houston in the NBA Finals that campaign.

One of the Heat’s concerns in the wake of Wednesday’s victory was the condition of center Bam Adebayo’s sore left wrist. Miami coach Erik Spoelstra reported Thursday that his big man was fine as he attempted to treat his club’s workout session on the eve of a potential NBA Finals-clincher as just another day.

“We stuck with our routine,” Spoelstra noted. “Everybody got the treatment, rest. Today is another day for rest and recovery. Everybody knows what to expect for (Game 5).” Game 6, if necessary, is arranged for Sunday afternoon.

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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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