Tagged in: finals

Steve Kerr, Golden State Warriors thrilled to have ‘the old Klay’ Thompson back at official practice

Golden State Warriors swingman Klay Thompson is starting to look more like his old basketball self amid his rehabilitation from a torn right Achilles injury.

Participating in his first official team practice since suffering the injury in an offseason workout Nov. 18, 2020, Thompson knocked down shots from all over the court, much to the delight of his teammates and coaches.

“Klay looked great,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr stated after his team’s first practice Tuesday. “Shooting the lights out. His team won the daily shooting competition. And he was smiling, laughing, joking around, it was really fun to see the old Klay back.”

Thompson, who hasn’t played in an NBA game since June 13, 2019, after suffering a torn ACL in his left knee in Game 6 of the NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors, has been bouncing around the team’s facility in good spirits in recent days as he looks forward to the opportunity to play competitively again.

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“Everyone’s excited that Klay is out on the floor,” Kerr said. “He basically did every single thing in practice today. We didn’t scrimmage, we didn’t have any live contact, but Klay is just so happy to be playing and we’re all so happy to see him part of it. So just a really good first day, first couple of days, and good energy as we start to get rolling.”

While Thompson’s return is still several months away, Kerr acknowledged that the former All-Star’s presence in practice has given the rest of his group an emotional boost.

“Part of it is his spirit, his energy, his joy,” Kerr said. “A big part of it too is, ‘Yeah, we got Klay.’ The confidence level as a group — we’re getting Klay back. It makes us all feel better. And that’s the sense that I have from our guys.”

While the Warriors are hesitant to put a specific return date on Thompson’s comeback as he continues rehabbing, general manager Bob Myers said during Monday’s media day that the organization’s hope is that some time, likely in December or January, Thompson comes to the coaches and front office and says he’s ready to play again — in consultation with the team’s medical staff.

Thompson noted on Monday that “I’m probably like 75 or 80 percentile of what I need to do,” as far as rehab goes. Either way, the Warriors are glad that Thompson is inching closer to a return — and they can see that the extended rehab process from two career-altering injuries has made the 31-year-old embrace the game, and the world around him, even more.

“I think his time away brought him a lot of suffering,” Kerr said. “Because the thing he likes best was taken away from him. It’s the first time that’s ever happened. And so, while he was away he had to go through some struggles that probably illuminated some of the struggles that other people have every day.

So it’s a pretty natural time to be sort of growing at that age, and emotionally expanding. And none of that surprises me given what we’ve known about Klay over the years. “He’s a deeply compassionate, aware person. He just doesn’t always show it to the world.”

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The Milwaukee Bucks To First NBA Championship In 50 Years

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 50 points on Tuesday night to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to their first NBA Championship in 50 years.

Only six other players have scored 50 points or more in the NBA Finals. Only one other player has done it to clinch the title: Bob Petit had 50 in 1958 to win it all for the (then) St. Louis Hawks.

Led by two-time league MVP Antetokounmpo, the Bucks dominated the early part of the game, rocking the Phoenix Suns back on their heels from the outset. But Suns’ floor general Chris Paul took them on a run that had Phoenix back in the lead by halftime.

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Antetokounmpo took over in the 3rd, going for 20 points in the period, a single-quarter feat of force no other player has achieved in the Finals since Michael Jordan did it 28 years ago.

Antetokounmpo ended the game with 50 points, 13 rebounds, 5 blocks and — possibly most remarkable for him — made 17 of his 19 free throws.

The final score was 104-98. Bucks in 6.

It was a sweet victory for Milwaukee, who got to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy in front of their home crowd, tens of thousands of whom crowded outside Fiserv Forum to witness the win together on big screens.

The Bucks’ last — and only other championship — came in 1971, when they were led by another all-time great big man named Lou Alcindor, who later became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. After three more seasons Abdul-Jabbar went to the Lakers.

Antetokounmpo could have done the same thing once he was with the Bucks for three years. He could have left small market Milwaukee for the lights of L.A. or New York, but he stayed a Buck and signed a new contract in 2016.

In 2020, he redoubled his commitment and signed a $228 million contract, declaring in a Twitter post, “This is my home, this is my city.”

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Giannis Antetokounmpo still awed by block, but ready to shift focus to Game 5 of NBA Finals

Two days after Giannis Antetokounmpo’s ridiculous block of Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton’s dunk attempt late in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, the Milwaukee Bucks superstar still can’t explain precisely how he pulled it off.

“It’s incredible what your body is [able] to do,” Antetokounmpo said Friday. “When you think about winning, you go to the extreme.

“I cannot explain the play. But, at the end of the day, that’s in the past. When you talk about the past, that’s your ego talking. It’s in the past. It’s over with.

“I got to move on. I got to keep making winning plays. I got to keep competing. I got to keep finding ways to help my team be great. Great moment. I appreciate the moment. Great moment. [But] we got to move on.”

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The basketball world, on the other side, has done little moving on in the 40 or so hours since Antetokounmpo’s rejection with 74 seconds to go in Game 4, preserving Milwaukee’s two-point lead at the time and helping the Bucks even the series at two games apiece as it shifts back here for Game 5 on Saturday night.

There have been comparisons to LeBron James’ epic block of Andre Iguodala’s layup in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals, and debates rage over which of them was the more impressive play, along with other great blocks from past playoffs.

For Antetokounmpo, the focus is on something much more tangible: getting a triumph in Game 5, which would allow Milwaukee to have the opportunity to claim its first championship in a half-century with a win back at Fiserv Forum Tuesday night in Game 6.

It’s an approach that has come from past experiences and learning about the perils of feeling too good after one strong performance.

“I think I would say life. Usually, from my experience, when I think about like, ‘Oh, yeah, I did this, I’m so great, I had 30, I had 25-10-10,’ whatever the case might be. … Usually, the next day, you’re going to suck, you know?” Antetokounmpo said with a smile. “Simple as that. The next few days you’re going to be terrible.

“I figured out a mindset to have that when you focus on the past, that’s your ego. ‘I did this. We were able to beat this team 4-0. I did this in the past. I won that in the past.’ When I focus on the future, it’s my pride. ‘Yeah, next game, Game 5, I do this and this and this. I’m going to dominate.’ That’s your pride talking. It doesn’t happen. You’re right here.

“I kind of try to focus on the moment, in the present. That’s humility. That’s being humble. That’s not setting no expectation. That’s going out there, enjoying the game, competing at a high level. I think I’ve had people throughout my life that helped me with that. But that is a skill that I’ve tried to, like, kind of … master it. It’s been working so far, so I’m not going to stop.”

If Antetokounmpo’s play is any guide, he shouldn’t be changing much of anything about his approach.

Through the first four matches of these NBA Finals, Antetokounmpo is averaging 32.3 points, 14.0 rebounds and 5.5 assists and has generally been able to get whatever he’s wanted.

Even in Game 4, after which he admitted he could’ve been more aggressive, he finished with 26 points, 14 rebounds, eight assists, three steals and two blocks in 43 minutes.

More importantly for the Bucks, they have been able to dig themselves out of an 0-2 hole to begin a playoff series for the second time in these playoffs and to recover from a deficit in the series for a third consecutive time.

The past two postseasons, the Bucks have faltered when challenged — first by the Toronto Raptors in the 2019 Eastern Conference finals, then last year in the conference semifinals by the Miami Heat in the NBA’s bubble.

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Without Giannis, Bucks beat Hawks 123-112 for 3-2 lead

Brook Lopez scored a playoff career-high 33 points and the Milwaukee Bucks withstood Giannis Antetokounmpo’s absence to defeat the Atlanta Hawks 123-112 on Thursday night for a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.

The Bucks are one victory away from reaching the NBA Finals for the first time since 1974. They won their lone NBA title in 1971.

Four of their starters had at least 22 points: Lopez, Khris Middleton (26), Jrue Holiday (25) and Bobby Portis (22). Middleton also had 13 rebounds and eight assists. Holiday had 13 assists and six rebounds.

Game 6 is Saturday in Atlanta, with the winner of the series facing the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Finals. Each team was missing its biggest star as Antetokounmpo dealt with a hyperextended left knee and Atlanta’s Trae Young sat out a second consecutive game due to a bone bruise in his right foot.

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Young got hurt when he accidentally stepped on an official’s foot along the sideline in Milwaukee’s 113-102 Game 3 victory. 

Antetokounmpo landed awkwardly after trying to block Clint Capela’s dunk attempt in Atlanta’s 110-88 Game 4 triumph.

Just as the Hawks’ role players stepped up with Young sidelined in Game 4, Antetokounmpo’s teammates came through Thursday to help the Bucks overcome the loss of their two-time MVP.

Bogdan Bogdanovic led the Hawks with 28 points. Atlanta also got 19 points each from John Collins and Danilo Gallinari, and 17 from Lou Williams.

Portis took Antetokounmpo’s spot in the starting lineup and had the Fiserv Forum fans chanting “Bobby! Bobby!” on multiple occasions, continuing something that started during Milwaukee’s Game 2 blowout victory. Portis’ 22 points were a playoff career high.

The Bucks never trailed and led by as many as 20 in the first quarter, making most of their shots and getting second-chance opportunities on their rare misses. The game was nearly eight minutes old by the time Cam Reddish got Atlanta’s first defensive rebound.

Milwaukee led 36-22 after a first quarter in which the Bucks outscored the Hawks 28-8 in the paint. Bogdanovic’s 13 first-half points helped the Hawks close the gap to 65-56 at the break.

The Bucks needed that edge in the paint because they again couldn’t connect from range, continuing a problem that has hounded them the entire postseason. After making their first two 3-point shots, they missed their next 12 attempts from beyond the arc.

Atlanta cut the lead to 65-59 when Bogdanovic hit a 3-pointer to open the third-quarter scoring, but that’s as close as the Hawks would get in the second half. This marked the second consecutive game in this series without any lead changes. The Hawks never trailed in Game 4.

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Rafael Nadal outlasts Stefanos Tsitsipas to make ATP Finals semifinals

Rafael Nadal advanced to the semifinals at the ATP Finals for the first time in five years and knocked out the defending champion in the process, defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 Thursday at the O2 Arena.

It is the sixth time in 10 appearances that Nadal has reached the semifinals of the season-ending tournament, which is the biggest title he has yet to win in his illustrious career.

Tsitsipas won it on his first try last year but exited after a second loss of the group stage, done in by a shaky serve in the third set, during which he was broken three times.

Earlier, the already eliminated Andrey Rublev beat US Open champion Dominic Thiem 6-2, 7-5 in a contest that had little real consequence for either player. Thiem was assured of winning the group after defeating Tsitsipas and Nadal in the first two rounds.

Nadal never looked threatened on his serve versus Tsitsipas until the final game of the second set, when he double-faulted to hand the Greek player a way back into the match. “I think I was winning my serves quite comfortably until that moment,” Nadal said. “After that, everything changed.”

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Suddenly, neither player could hold serve as the third set started with three consecutive breaks, with Nadal taking a 2-1 lead. The Spaniard finally held and broke again for a 5-2 lead before clinching the victory on his second match point.

Nadal, who improved to 6-1 versus Tsitsipas, will play Daniil Medvedev in the semifinals on Saturday. Thiem will face the winner between Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev on Friday.

The early match between Thiem and Rublev was delayed after the lights went out unexpectedly at the O2 Arena.

Thiem was short of energy, too, when play eventually began.

“It was difficult to keep that amazing intensity like I had in the first two matches,” Thiem said. “I wanted to win the match, 100 percent, but the first two matches were pretty tough, pretty long.

“So with the fact I was already qualified, in the back on my mind it was difficult to keep the intensity alive.”

Rublev played like someone with nothing to lose, overwhelming Thiem with his serve and fierce groundstrokes to take the Austrian’s first two service games and clinch the first set in less than 26 minutes. He dropped only three points on serve and had no unforced errors in that set.

The second set was much closer, though Rublev was on top and serving at 4-3 when he lost eight consecutive points to get back on serve.

Rublev regrouped, broke Thiem after a long next game featuring some intense rallies, then served out the match for his first victory in his debut at the season-ending tournament.

“It was not easy for Dommy,” said Rublev, who has won five events on the tour this year in a breakthrough season. “I think he [was] focused on the semis. I wish him good luck — he deserves to be where he is and he deserves to win the title.”

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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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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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