Category Archives: NBA

LaVine, Markkanen lead Bulls past Raptors, 114-102

Zach LaVine scored 24 points, Lauri Markkanen added 20 and the Chicago Bulls defeated the short-handed Toronto Raptors 114-102 on Thursday night.

The Bulls pulled within two games of idle Washington with two remaining for 10th place in the Eastern Conference and the final play-in spot.

Chicago led by 24 in the third quarter, with the Raptors holding out their best players, and came away with the victory despite a big effort by Stanley Johnson.

“We don’t control our own desiny, but we live another day, so to speak here,” coach Billy Donovan said. “It’s out of our hands. And I thought it was important that we show up and do our job as best we can.”

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LaVine, coming off a 41-point in Tuesday’s loss to Brooklyn, scored 16 in the second half.

Markkanen made six 3-pointers — one shy of his season high.

Coby White had 17 points and 10 assists. Nikola Vucevic added 16 points and 16 rebounds to help the Bulls win for the fourth time in five matches.

Johnson led Toronto with a career-high 35 points. The sixth-year pro nailed six 3s and grabbed 10 rebounds while playing turnover-free ball.

“You put a lot of work in, you put a lot of effort into something, to get a positive result and affection is always good,” Johnson said.

“As much as you kill yourself when you’re down, you’ve got to give yourself a pat on the butt when you’re up. … To be able to play a decent game, a good game, I’m happy.”

Rookie Jalen Harris scored a personal-best 17. Malachi Flynn added 16 points. But Toronto lost for the eighth time in nine games.

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Washington Wizards’ Bradley Beal scores 50 but is absent for OT because of hamstring, ankle injuries

Bradley Beal scored 50 points, but the Washington Wizards guard sat out the end of regulation and overtime with a left hamstring strain as Washington outlasted Indiana 133-132 Saturday to overtake the Pacers for the No. 9 spot in the Eastern Conference.

Beal stated he tweaked the hamstring in the second half and that it intensified in the last minute and a half of the fourth quarter. He also tweaked an ankle.

Wizards coach Scott Brooks stated he was unsure how serious Beal’s hamstring injury is and that the guard’s status will have to be determined over the next few days before Washington plays at Atlanta on Monday.

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“I knew it was a little tight in the second half,” said Beal, who checked out of the game with 21 seconds left in regulation.

“First play of the second, I twisted my ankle … I went back out there, my left hammy felt a little tight. I didn’t think anything of it, kept playing. I think the layup on [Doug] McDermott put us up one, it kind of intensified a little bit, and then the floater I missed at the end, it definitely kind of put me over the top.”

Beal drilled 19 of 31 shots in 39 minutes.

His fifth career 50-point game came on the night when teammate Russell Westbrook made NBA history by tying Oscar Robertson for most career triple-doubles with 181.

Westbrook had 33 points, 19 rebounds and 15 assists, and he made two free throws with a second left to give Washington the overtime victory. He even blocked the Pacers’ final shot.

The Wizards (32-36) play their next two games at Atlanta before returning home to face Cleveland and Charlotte. They lead the Pacers (31-36) by half a game for ninth place and trail the Hornets (33-34) by 1.5 games for eighth.

“Let’s hope for good news and that he is all good to go,” Westbrook said of Beal. “His night can’t go unnoticed either. He had 50 … He has been keeping us together along the season and [been] very exceptional. I am grateful to have him as a teammate.”

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Bulls complete sweep of Hornets in LaVine’s return, 120-99

For one night, the Chicago Bulls looked like a playoff-worthy team.

The return of Zach LaVine to the floor certainly had something to do with the Bulls’ inspired effort, which ended a four-game skid.

Nikola Vucevic had 29 points and 14 rebounds, LaVine had 13 points after missing 11 matches due to the league’s health and safety protocols, and the Bulls swept the season series from the Charlotte Hornets with a 120-99 victory on Thursday night.

“It definitely opened up some things for us,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said of LaVine’s return.

Said Vucevic: “We’re happy to have him back. We played a great game and that helped motivating us and getting us ready to play knowing he was back. So hopefully we will continue to play that way.”

Chicago is a long shot to make the postseason, still 3 1/2 games behind Washington for the final spot in the Eastern Conference play-in tournament.

The Bulls have six games left; the Wizards have five. LaVine said he felt “really tired” after the long layoff and wanted to make sure he didn’t try to do too much.

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“I told (my teammates), don’t expect me to try to go get 40 (points) the first night,” LaVine said.

LaVine averaged more than 30 points in his five previous games before being sidelined, but mostly deferred to his teammates in the first three quarters, attempting six shots. But he started to show his scoring ability with back-to-back jump shots to start the fourth quarter before Donovan took him out after 27 minutes of action.

“I thought there was a lot more opportunities for him to shoot the ball, and to try to go score and attack,” Donovan said.

“But with him being out three weeks and the respect he has for his teammates, and I think he just tried to fit in and take the shots that were there and not try to force things.”

P.J. Washington, who missed Charlotte’s last game for the birth of his child, had 24 points on six 3-pointers. 

Malik Monk added 20 points off the bench for the Hornets, who played without Gordon Hayward, Miles Bridges and Devonte Graham.

Charlotte could have clinched a spot in the play-in tournament had it won.

But Vucevic would have none of it. He returned after missing two games with right adductor tightness and dominated. Looking fresh, he made 12 of 24 shots from the field and was 5 of 7 from 3-point range, helping opening things up for his teammates.

“I think they just played harder than us every time we played them,” Washington said. “For us, it’s just about defense at the end of the day. We have to stop teams from getting offensive rebounds and easy second-chance points.”

The Bulls, who beat the Hornets by 13 and 17 points in the two previous meetings, jumped out to a 48-33 lead this time.

It appeared Charlotte might make a game of it after hitting 8 of 13 3-point attempts in the second quarter to cut the lead to five, but the Bulls extended their lead to 22 entering the fourth quarter.

“We’ve struggled with Chicago all year,” Hornets coach James Borrego said. “Give them credit. For whatever reason, the matchup does not fit our group.”

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Bucks rally in 4th to beat Nets 124-118, clinch playoff spot

Milwaukee’s late-season schedule has given the Bucks plenty of chances to measure themselves against the two teams they’re chasing in the Eastern Conference standings.

The results have been encouraging.

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 36 points and the Bucks used a fourth-quarter rally to defeat the Brooklyn Nets for the second time in three days, winning 124-118 on Tuesday night. This mini-sweep comes less than two weeks after the Bucks won two consecutive games from East-leading Philadelphia.

“I’m happy we were able to put on a show for our fans and able to build good habits in those games, but that’s all,” said Antetokounmpo, who also had 12 rebounds.

“They don’t mean nothing. Nobody’s going to remember these games when we’re in the playoffs.”

Brooklyn (43-23) lost its third straight to fall 1½ games behind Philadelphia (44-21) Milwaukee (41-24) clinched a fifth straight playoff appearance, but is third in the East, three behind Philadelphia and 1½ behind Brooklyn.

The Bucks are chasing their first NBA title since 1971.

They posted the NBA’s best regular-season record in 2018-19 and 2019-20, but lost in the Eastern Conference finals two seasons ago and in the second round last year.

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That’s why they’re not making too much about their regular-season success versus the teams ahead of them.

After all, the Nets didn’t have James Harden for either of their two losses in Milwaukee. Philadelphia didn’t have All-Stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons playing together in any of its matchups with Milwaukee.

If nothing else, these last two weeks have given the Bucks a confidence boost.

“It’s important to be playing well going down the stretch here,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said.

Milwaukee blew a 10-point lead in the second half and trailed 103-97 with 10 minutes left, but it responded with an 18-1 run.

Brooklyn cut the margin to four with 1:02 left, but Antetokounmpo sank a pair of free throws and Jrue Holiday made a steal in the final minute to seal the triumph. Holiday had 23 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.

“They got a nice groove going in the fourth, made shots, made plays,” said Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant, who had 32 points, nine rebounds and six assists. “You’ve got to give them credit.”

Kyrie Irving scored 38 points for the Nets, who got outrebounded 55-39.

Milwaukee’s Donte DiVincenzo had a career-high 15 rebounds to go along with 10 points. Khris Middleton had 23 points and seven rebounds.

“They were overall more physical than us on both ends of the floor,” Nets coach Steve Nash said. The Bucks’ fourth-quarter comeback followed their 117-114 Sunday afternoon victory over the Nets, also in Milwaukee.

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Los Angeles Lakers’ Dennis Schroder to miss extended period of games for health and safety protocols

Los Angeles Lakers guard Dennis Schroder will miss 10-14 days due to the league’s health and safety protocols, coach Frank Vogel confirmed Monday.

The veteran point guard sat out L.A.’s 121-114 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Sunday because of the protocols. It was the second COVID-19-related absence for Schroder. He missed four matches in February because of exposure found by contact tracing.

It’s unknown if Schroder has received a COVID-19 vaccine.

The Lakers had several meetings about the vaccine — first in December and then a few days before the organization arranged for the team to receive the first shot on April 16 — and team members were encouraged to receive it.

“We definitely pointed out to our whole team the benefits of as many guys getting vaccinated as possible. And how there’s competitive advantages to it. There’s just, for lack of a better word, lifestyle advantages of doing it,” Vogel said.

“We can do more team-oriented stuff if we reach 85% [vaccination rate]. All those types of things. Less testing. All those things were laid out very clearly for our guys and we showed all of them the benefits.

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“But at the end of the day, like I said, it’s their own personal choice and we respect that.”

The Lakers have eight games left on their regular-season calendar.

L.A. is currently the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference but has the same record as the Portland Trail Blazers (36-28), who are No. 7, making it a real possibility the defending champions could start their repeat title bid by participating in the play-in tournament.

LeBron James alluded to Schroder’s absence during his postgame remarks following the loss to the Raptors.

“I think our team is predicated on health,” James said. “That is the No. 1 thing for our ballclub. We’re a team that we need to be healthy and we need to be full. And if it’s not one thing, it’s the other. And then we show up today and the starting point guard is not in the lineup. So it’s like another blow for us.

“That’s going to be the biggest thing for us down the stretch, more than the games that we’re playing. Just how healthy we’re going to be going into the stretch run.”

The Lakers started Alex Caruso in Schroder’s place versus the Raptors. Schroder, who will be a free agent this summer, has averaged 15.5 points, 5.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds this season, his first as a Laker.

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Houston Rockets’ Kevin Porter Jr. fourth youngest to score 50 points

Kevin Porter Jr. scored a career-high 50 points to go along with 11 assists Thursday night, becoming the youngest player ever to log a 50-point double-double with assists.

The performance helped the Houston Rockets snap a five-game losing streak, as they defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 143-136.

Porter beat his previous career best of 30 points in the second half alone, scoring 32 with 17 in the fourth quarter. He also joined LeBron James, Brandon Jennings and Devin Booker as the only players to score 50 points in a match before turning 21.

Houston trailed by as many as 17 points in the first half but surged in the second half on hot shooting from 3-point range. Houston made 25 of 46 3-pointers, good for a season-high 54.3%.

“After I saw the third 3 go down, I knew it was going to be a special night,” Porter said. “It was all up to me. I just stayed aggressive, and it was a good night.”

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Porter stated it was his first 50-point game since he was in fourth grade. He went 9-of-15 from 3-point range.

“For him to be successful, he’s going to have to be someone who can make those shots,” Rockets coach Stephen Silas said. “Just seeing the hard work that he puts in was great.”

The breakout game comes just one day after Porter was fined $50,000 by the league for violating its COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

Porter violated the NBA’s rules against attending indoor social gatherings of 15 or more people and entering bars and similar establishments when he went to a Miami club on April 19, the league said.

Porter also missed three games because of the protocols after the strip club visit with teammate Sterling Brown.

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Durant, Nets beat Timberwolves 127-97 in rescheduled game

The show in Minnesota went on, the day after raw emotion from a fatal police shooting of a local Black man was too strong to play.

Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets made quick work of the Timberwolves, even if focus was harder to come by than usual.

Durant scored 31 points on 11-for-15 shooting in his most productive performance in 2 1/2 months, as the Brooklyn Nets blew out the Minnesota Timberwolves 127-97 on Tuesday afternoon.

“I felt like my wind and legs are getting up under me, each and every minute I’m playing,” stated Durant, who missed 23 matches with a strained hamstring until returning last week.

The game was rescheduled from the previous night, out of sensitivity to the community following the traffic-stop death of 20-year-old Daunte Wright.

Players from both teams wore black warmup shirts that read, “With liberty and justice for all,” with the last two words in all-caps for extra emphasis, and a moment of silence was held before tip-off.

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“All we can do is be here for each other physically, emotionally try to comprehend what guys are going through,” Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell said, adding: “I encourage everybody to go out there and do what you can physically do to make things better, not just speak about it.”

Anthony Edwards had 27 points and eight rebounds for the Timberwolves, who played without Karl-Anthony Towns on the one-year anniversary of his mother’s death from COVID-19 complications. Towns decided to sit out and spend the time with his family.

Joe Harris pitched in 23 points for the Nets, who had 31 assists on 46 made baskets.

Missing James Harden (strained hamstring), Kyrie Irving (personal reasons) and LaMarcus Aldridge (non-COVID-19 illness), the Nets were in command from the jump and ahead by 23 points before the midpoint of the second quarter. They built their lead as big as 45 points early in the fourth quarter.

With Harden, Irving and Aldridge all out, Nash put Chris Chiozza and Nicolas Claxton in the starting lineup for the first time, the 17th and 18th different players to appear in the first five for the Nets in just 54 games this season. They have used 32 different combinations.

“I’m really proud of the guys. We’ve had a lot thrown at us this year,” coach Steve Nash said.

Durant played 27 minutes and had his highest points total since Jan. 31. “We’re trying to find that balance, and at least he had a good game and got some minutes on his legs,” Nash said.

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James Harden’s return for Brooklyn Nets short-lived due to ongoing hamstring tightness

Brooklyn Nets star James Harden played just four minutes before he was ruled out for the remainder of Monday night’s 114-112 victory versus the New York Knicks because of right hamstring tightness.

Harden’s brief return came after he missed the Nets’ past two games while dealing with the same tightness.

Before the match, Brooklyn coach Steve Nash stated Harden would not be on a minutes restriction and the team would monitor him throughout the night. “We definitely don’t want to wear him out,” Nash said before tipoff. “So we’ll try our best, which is very difficult to do sometimes. We’ll try to limit his minutes if we have the opportunity.”

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Nash reiterated both pregame and postgame that the imaging on Harden’s hamstring did not reveal structural damage, so the team looked to him and its training staff to decide when he felt well enough to play.

“So who knows — this may linger, it may be all behind us like we thought it was before the game,” Nash said. “But it’s just one of those things where the scan is clean, the strength tests are clean but he feels something, so we’re going to err on the side of caution.”

The Nets were already without Blake Griffin (injury maintenance), Kevin Durant (hamstring strain), Tyler Johnson (knee soreness) and Landry Shamet (ankle sprain).

Nash said that he does not anticipate playing Griffin in both halves of any remaining back-to-back games.

Harden, one of the frontrunners for league MVP, entered Monday’s game averaging 26.1 points, 8.9 rebounds and 11.2 assists for the Nets.

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Clippers rout short-handed Lakers 104-86, end 2-game skid

Marcus Morris scored 22 points and the Los Angeles Clippers dominated the short-handed Lakers in a 104-86 triumph on Sunday to end a two-game skid.

Kawhi Leonard had 19 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, and Paul George added 16 points for the Clippers.

“We set the tone early defensively, we were physical and got into bodies,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said.

The Lakers trailed the entire game in which they were without injured All-Star duo LeBron James and Anthony Davis, as well as Andre Drummond and Wesley Matthews. They’ve dropped six of nine.

Montrezl Harrell led the Lakers with 19 points against his old team. Marc Gasol was the only starter in double figures with 11 points. Kyle Kuzma’s shooting typified the Lakers’ offensive woes. He was held to six points as one of four starters who combined to shoot 12 of 41.

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“We got to play the right way on the offensive end,” Kuzma said. “Defensively, we’ll be all right. Offensively, we got to find ways to play together. Can’t win games scoring in the 80s and 90s. Got to find ways to incorporate everyone.”

The Clippers built a double-digit lead midway through the second that the Lakers never reduced to single digits the rest of the way.

“Credit the Clippers’ defense,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “They got up into us and we didn’t handle their pressure at all and we had a tough shooting night. We got to play through their pressure and physicality better than we did.”

Five different Clippers powered a 12-3 run to start the third, with George’s 3-pointer capping the spurt that created their largest lead of 24 points. They matched that lead later in the quarter on a 3-pointer by Luke Kennard, who scored 12 of his 15 points in the fourth.

The Clippers stretched their lead to 20 points in the second, running off 10 in a row that ended with back-to-back 3-pointers by Marcus Morris.

The Clippers raced to a 13-2 lead to open the game, making their first six shots. Markief Morris scored the Lakers’ first seven points.

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Lakers hold off Magic 96-93, win again without LeBron, Davis

Dennis Schröder scored 24 points, Kyle Kuzma added 21 and the Los Angeles Lakers rallied in the fourth quarter to beat the Orlando Magic 96-93 Sunday night.

Montrezl Harrell added 18 points and 11 rebounds for Los Angeles, which has won two in a row without LeBron James and Anthony Davis. However, the Lakers had a tough time trying to shake the Eastern Conference’s second-worst team.

Orlando’s Otto Porter Jr. had a clean look at a 3-pointer to send it to overtime, but the shot hit the rim.

“It wasn’t pretty, but we played well. This is a tough shooting night, but our defense carried us through,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel stated.

Los Angeles improved to 2/3 without James and Davis. They are fourth in the Western Conference at 30-17 and are 2 1/2 games in front of Denver and Portland. They are also two games behind second-place Phoenix and a game in back of the third-place LA Clippers.

“We’re not playing for holding on. We’re paid to do the same job, which is win games,” Harrell said. “We’re going to try to continue to keep rolling until they get back.”

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Kuzma, who also had 11 rebounds for his 12th double-double of the season, said the Lakers got plenty of open looks, but were not unable to convert until late.

Los Angeles made only 41.6% of its shots from the field for its sixth-worst shooting game of the campaign.

“We probably got the most open looks that we’ve had all season, especially on 3-pointers,” he said.

Orlando had a 82-77 lead with 7:19 left after R.J. Hampton drilled a 3-pointer. The Lakers trailed 84-80 midway through the fourth quarter before going on a 12-1 run to seize control as Schröder and Kuzma each had five points.

Los Angeles had a seven-point lead with under three minutes remaining, but the Magic got within three going to the final possession.

Dwayne Bacon led the Magic with 26 points and Chuma Okeke scored 14. Orlando (15-31) has dropped 13 of 15.

Even though he has plenty of moving pieces after five players were moved at the trade deadline, Orlando coach Steve Clifford was frustrated with his team’s failures to execute down the stretch.

“We fouled unnecessarily, played undisciplined defense and missed blockouts,” he stated. “We played hard and didn’t play smart. The game was there to be won. Nobody knocked it out of the park.”

There were nine lead changes and three ties during the first 13 minutes before the Lakers went on a 17-3 run to go up 39-26 with under three minutes remaining in the second quarter. The Magic rallied to get it down to a five-point deficit at halftime (44-39) as Bacon had seven points down the stretch.

Markieff Morris’ 3-pointer gave the Lakers a 61-53 lead before Orlando scored eight consecutive to tie it at 61 with 2:12 remaining in the third quarter. There were three more ties in the quarter as it was 69-all going into the final 12 minutes.

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