Tagged in: Game 1

Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo returns from knee injury in Game 1 loss

As the Milwaukee Bucks played their first NBA Finals match in nearly half a century Tuesday night versus the Phoenix Suns, they did so with superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo in the starting lineup.

Antetokounmpo, who suffered a hyperextended left knee on an awkward and ugly-looking fall in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals a week ago against the Hawks in Atlanta, played 35 minutes in the opener and battled throughout. He concluded with 20 points, 17 rebounds and four assists, but the Suns took a 1-0 lead via a 118-105 victory.

Antetokounmpo was listed as doubtful for Games 5 and 6 of the East finals, and he was ruled out early in the afternoon before each of those games. On Tuesday, however, Antetokounmpo was upgraded from doubtful to questionable on the league’s initial injury report, which is released at 1:30 p.m. ET.

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Then about two hours before the game, Antetokounmpo was on the court testing out his knee, going through some shooting and dribbling drills to see if it would feel good enough to go versus the Suns.

During his pregame media availability, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer declined to get into specifics regarding where Antetokounmpo was at in his recovery.

Antetokounmpo, 26, who averaged 28.2 points, 12.7 rebounds and 5.2 assists in the 15 postseason games leading into the Finals, is coming off a third straight first-team All-NBA season and fifth straight All-Star campaign for the Bucks.

The two-time league MVP signed a five-year supermax contract extension with Milwaukee in December to remain with the franchise for the foreseeable future, a move that came in the wake of the Bucks sending several future first-round picks to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for star guard Jrue Holiday.

The Bucks are in the Finals for the first time since 1974 and hoping to win their first NBA championship since 1971, when Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were starring for Milwaukee. The Suns, on the other hand, have never won an NBA title and are in the Finals for the first time since 1993, when Charles Barkley’s team lost to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in six games.

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Young scores 48 points, Hawks beat Bucks 1116-113 in Game 1

Trae Young scored 48 points, Clint Capela converted a go-ahead putback with 29.8 seconds left and the Atlanta Hawks defeat the Milwaukee Bucks 116-113 on Wednesday night to open the Eastern Conference finals.

The Hawks improved to 6-2 in road playoff games this year and handed the Bucks their first home loss of the postseason.

“I felt we’ve built ourselves to be able to play on the road,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said. “I’ve told them that. They’re built for this.”

Game 2 is Friday night in Milwaukee.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 34 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists for the Bucks. Jrue Holiday added 33 points and 10 assists.

Young was two points off his career high. “We keep fighting,” Young said. “It’s been fun playing with this group. We just keep fighting to the end, no matter what the score is. That’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to keep fighting.”

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John Collins added 23 points and 15 rebounds for the Hawks. Capela had 12 points and 19 rebounds.

Khris Middleton missed a potential tying 3-pointer in the closing seconds.

Although Middleton scored 15 points, he shot 6 of 23 and missed all nine of his 3-point attempts.

“Offensively, it didn’t seem like we moved very well,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer stated.

Antetokounmpo scored the first six points in a 9-0 run that turned a 98-96 deficit into a 105-98 advantage with 4:18 left. Holiday capped that spurt by sinking a 3-pointer after Antetokounmpo got the rebound on his own missed free throw.

But the Hawks scored the next five points, and the game went back and forth from there.

Middleton missed a pull-up jumper with about 43 seconds left with Milwaukee up 111-110. Young missed a driving layup attempt, but Capela grabbed his 19th rebound and scored to put the Hawks ahead for good.

After Milwaukee’s Pat Connaughton shot an air-ball on a 3-pointer, Young made two free throws with 17.3 seconds left. Antetokounmpo made a pair of free throws with 5.3 seconds left, but Young brought the lead back to three and closed the scoring by sinking two free throws of his own with 4.6 seconds remaining.

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Booker has first triple-double, Suns beat Clippers 120-114

Devin Booker’s first exposure to playoff basketball continues to be a revelation.

Not necessarily for him, but for the rest of the NBA.

Booker had 40 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists for his first career triple-double and the Phoenix Suns overcame Chris Paul’s absence to defeat the Los Angeles Clippers 120-114 on Sunday in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.

“I don’t understand why everyone’s acting surprised at this point,” Suns forward Jae Crowder said about Booker’s big day. “This is his first time on this stage but he’s capable. He’s more than capable. He’re more than ready. He prepares like no other.”

Paul sat out because of COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

Clippers star Kawhi Leonard missed his third consecutive game because of a sprained right knee.

Tied at 93 to start the fourth, the Suns went on a 12-2 run and pulled ahead 105-95 on Cam Johnson’s dunk with 8:08 left. The Clippers wouldn’t go away, though, cutting a 10-point deficit in the final two minutes to 116-114 when Terance Mann hit a 3-pointer with 22 seconds left.

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But that’s where the rally stopped for Los Angeles.

“I have no excuse,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “I thought we played hard and competed. A little credit — they were making shots and we didn’t. But I loved our fight. I loved what I saw.”

Booker scored on a dunk on the next possession to seal Phoenix’s eighth straight triumph, getting a free lane to the basket on the blown defensive coverage.

The sixth-year guard was a surprising omission from the All-NBA teams released a few days ago but he certainly looked the part on Sunday.

He wasn’t worried about where this game ranks among his best performances.

Game 2 is on Tuesday night in Phoenix.

Booker continues to cement his superstar status and was productive and efficient in one of the best games of his career. He shot 15 of 29 from the field, carving apart a defense that had to play just 36 hours after closing out the Utah Jazz on Friday night.

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Phoenix Suns’ Chris Paul, aided by improving shoulder, takes over in 4th quarter to close out Game 1 win against Denver Nuggets

There are many things Chris Paul is good at, but one of his most crucial skills is sensing a moment. It’s never about how he starts; it’s how he finishes.

And in Game 1 of the Phoenix Suns’ Western Conference semifinal series versus the visiting Denver Nuggets, Paul started slowly, hitting just two of his eight shots through three quarters. But as the Suns grabbed hold of the contest, so did Paul, going 6-for-6 in the fourth quarter as Phoenix cruised to a 122-105 win.

“It’s in his hands, man,” Suns center Deandre Ayton said. “He’s made us comfortable … just knowing that he’s got it.”

Paul’s command of the match was on full display, with him methodically asserting himself early in the fourth quarter, scoring 10 consecutive points for the Suns as they widened their lead.

He concluded with 21 points, 11 assists and 6 rebounds in 36 minutes, and while his grip on the fourth quarter separated Phoenix, the team showcased its impressive balance and depth throughout.

All five starters finished in double figures, scoring at least 14 points.

The Suns are the first team since the 2013 Golden State Warriors (Game 2 in Round 1) with four 20-point scorers on 55% shooting from the floor in a playoff game.

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“That’s what I’ve said all season long: We have a team,” Paul said. “If you try to take one of us out or whatnot, we make the right play. Who you gonna leave open? Mikal [Bridges] is cash. Jae [Crowder] is cash. Cam [Johnson]. I could keep going on and on, and that’s the benefits of having a team.”

For Paul, better health was part of his fourth-quarter output, as he is now two weeks past his initial shoulder injury sustained in Game 1 versus the Los Angeles Lakers. It’s something he is still dealing with, but as Paul already gets better the longer the game goes on, his shoulder also does.

“It definitely loosens up,” Paul said. “One thing about it is you don’t get no practice time. The only way you get a chance to see how it is is during the game. It was good. It was fun to get out there and be involved. That last series was, that was tough. I’m glad to be back helping the team.”

Paul scored or assisted on 20 of the Suns’ final 34 points. It’s his ninth career playoff game with 20 points, 10 assists and one or fewer turnovers, passing LeBron James for the most in the league with that line since turnovers were first tracked in 1977-78.

At 36 years old, Paul is the oldest player in NBA history with 20 points, 10 assists and 5 rebounds in a playoff game; only four other players — James (six times), Elgin Baylor, John Stockton and Dennis Johnson — have put up that stat line at age 35 or older.

“Man, it’s a different game for him these days from when I was watching him play,” Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon said of Paul.

“He was a lot more explosive back in the day, getting to the cup. He’s always been really smart, and he just keeps getting smarter. He’s a maestro out there orchestrating them. He really has uplifted that whole Phoenix team.

“Just how he talks, how he communicates with them out on the floor; you can tell that he just gives the entire team confidence.”

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Without Embiid, 76ers roll past Wizards and into 2nd round

Ben Simmons challenged Seth Curry during an afternoon “Call of Duty” session to score 30 points and send the 76ers into the next round of the playoffs. With Joel Embiid hurt, Simmons told Curry he would do his part and get a triple-double.

Maybe there’s something to this pregame gaming hobby.

“Clearly Seth listens to Ben so we’re going to use Ben as a translator for Seth from this point forward,” Sixers coach Doc Rivers stated.

Fire up the console for another round.

Curry scored a playoff career-high 30 points and Philadelphia defeated Washington 129-112 on Wednesday night to end the Easter Conference series in five games, overcoming Embiid’s absence because of a knee injury.

Atlanta awaits after beating New York in Game 5 later Wednesday. Game 1 is Sunday in Philadelphia.

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Sixers fans couldn’t wait, chanting “We want Brooklyn!” as the seconds ticked off in Game 5.

Embiid gets a few extra days of rest.

With an NBA title still in sight, the 76ers will need their injured franchise center — healthy and ready to roll — in the second round versus Atlanta.

“Jo’s been huge for us all year. It’s only right we give him as much time as he needs to get right and come back and help us win it all,” Curry said.

Tobias Harris added 28 points and teamed with Curry and Simmons to carry the offensive load with Embiid out. Simmons had 19 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds to keep the top-seeded 76ers in the hunt for their first championship since 1983.

Embiid is day to day with a small lateral meniscus tear in his right knee and he was reduced to Philadelphia’s biggest cheerleader as the Sixers put the misery of last season’s first-round sweep behind them.

Embiid gave a sneak peek that the injury suffered in a Game 4 loss might not keep him out very long.

The NBA MVP candidate had the crowd going wild when he hit the court for pregame warmups. He shot jumpers around the perimeter, fadeaways, even some free throws — all without any sort of noticeable knee brace under his white leggings —- and put on a show that proved his absence might not last beyond Game 5.

Rivers, in his first campaign, said he expected Embiid to return in the postseason.

“I don’t know when or how early,” he said. “I’m hopeful. I think that’s a better way of putting it.” Sixers fans broke out “Trust the Process!” chants over the final minutes and the laborious rebuilding plan that brought the franchise Embiid and Simmons will surely need both of them to finish the job.

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Los Angeles Dodgers tab Clayton Kershaw to start Game 1 of World Series

Clayton Kershaw, who avoided an emergency relief appearance over the last two matches of the just-completed National League Championship Series, will start Game 1 of the World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers announced on Monday.

Kershaw, who will be making his fifth career World Series start, will oppose Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Tyler Glasnow on Tuesday (first pitch from Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, is 8:09 p.m. ET).

Walker Buehler, who pitched on Saturday, will be pushed back to Game 3 for the Dodgers, giving him five days of rest and still lining him up to start a potential Game 7.

The Rays have tabbed left-hander Blake Snell as their Game 2 starter, but the Dodgers are still unclear, manager Dave Roberts said. His other three starters — Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin and Julio Urias — all pitched in Sunday’s Game 7, and some might be counted on out of the bullpen in the World Series opener.

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Kershaw was initially scratched from Game 2 of the NLCS

Due to back spasms Kershaw was initially scratch but was able to recovered in time to start Thursday’s Game 4, permitting one run through the first five innings before running into trouble in the sixth.

The 32-year-old left-hander made himself available out of the bullpen for Games 6 and 7, but Roberts wanted to avoid using Kershaw in hopes of saving him for a potential World Series opener.

Cody Bellinger is expecting to play behind Kershaw even though his right shoulder popped out of its socket during an emphatic celebration with Enrique Hernandez after his game-winning home run in Sunday’s seventh inning.

The Dodgers’ center fielder said he feels “pretty good” and expects to be ready by Game 1, but Roberts said Bellinger’s shoulder was “still a little bit sore” during Monday’s optional workout.

Bellinger has experienced something similar at least three other times, he said, and Roberts said it’s more of a concern hitting than it is playing defense.

“It was an exciting time, it was pure adrenaline — a thing where you just black out,” Bellinger said of his celebration. “Obviously I wish I didn’t do it, but it was such a cool moment for me. It was just pure excitement.”

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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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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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