Tagged in: regular-season

Nets head to second round, beat Celtics 123-109 in Game 5

Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden had just eight matches together in the regular season, few enough to wonder how good they could really be.

Five games versus Boston provided some answers — and a chance to keep making up for all their lost time.

“We just don’t want to take any of this time for granted,” Irving said. “This doesn’t happen too often kind of in our culture, in our history, where three of the best scorers to ever play the game are on one team.”

Harden had 34 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his first postseason triple-double with Brooklyn, leading the Nets into the Eastern Conference semifinals with a 123-109 triumph over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night in Game 5.

Irving scored 25 points and Durant had 24 for the Nets, who will face the Milwaukee Bucks in their first appearance in the second round since 2014. The No. 2-seeded Nets will host Game 1 versus Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks on Saturday.

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“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” Durant said. “I mean, he’s a two-time MVP, Defensive Player of the Year for a reason, so we’re looking forward to the challenge.”

Despite their limited time together during the regular season, the Nets’ three superstars showed how potent they can be in this series, particularly when they combined for 104 points in Game 4.

“We weren’t even worried about the playoff run yet, we were just happy to be on the court together,” Harden said. “So it’s great to get one series out of the way and like I said, we’ll take tomorrow off and we’ll recoup and get ready for a tough Milwaukee team.”

Brooklyn was nowhere near as potent as Game 4, when it rang up 141 points. But a little explosive stretch here and there was good enough to wrap it up.

The finishing one came with the Celtics trailing by just eight with under eight minutes to play.

Durant then made a 3-pointer, Jayson Tatum turned it over and Irving nailed another 3 on the break, pushing it to 103-89 with 7:19 to play.

Evan Fournier scored but Harden answered with another 3 and Bruce Brown scored inside, an 11-2 burst in less than 90 seconds that broke it open at 108-91 midway through the fourth.

Tatum had 32 points and nine rebounds for the Celtics, who made the Eastern Conference finals last year but went quickly with Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker unavailable.

“Jayson continued to make plays. We didn’t do enough as a team. But he showed a lot of mettle this year,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens stated.

Fournier added 18 points and Romeo Langford had 17 starting in place of Walker, who missed his second consecutive game with a knee injury.

“It’s been a lot. Injuries on top of injuries. Guys not being able to play together. A lot of personal stuff. It’s life, things more important than basketball, but you’ve got to be professional,” guard Marcus Smart said.

The Nets were eager to avoid a return to Boston after a fan threw a water bottle at Irving after Game 4, but the clincher didn’t come easily.

The Celtics hung in the game, not letting the Nets build a double-digit lead until a 7-0 burst early in the second half made it 66-54. Boston recovered and trailed just 86-79 after Tatum made a jumper at the buzzer to end the third.

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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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Jon Lester makes Washington Nationals debut 2 weeks after surgery

Jon Lester was back on a mound Thursday, wearing a Washington Nationals uniform while facing opposing batters for the first time in spring training and striking out a couple during his two innings, less than two weeks after surgery to remove a parathyroid gland.

“Baseball, for me, is an escape. I come to the field, I’ve got stuff I need to do. I forget about this,” Lester said, pointing the scar on the front of his throat, after Washington’s 3-1 exhibition victory versus the New York Mets at Port St. Lucia, Florida.

“So you dive into that routine,” the 37-year-old left-hander said.

Wearing a red Nationals No. 34 uniform, Bryce Harper’s old number, along with a green hat the day after St. Patrick’s Day, Lester permitted one run and one hit while throwing 31 pitches, 21 for strikes.

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He went to 0-2 counts on each of the first three Mets hitters, getting the first two out before walking J.D. Davis and giving up a first-pitch RBI double to James McCann. Then Lester pitched a 1-2-3 second inning, and that was that.

His operation was March 5 for hyperparathyroidism, which can affect the amount of calcium levels in the bloodstream and lead to someone tiring easily.

Lester said he had a hard time sleeping Wednesday night.

“Regardless of the surgery, there was still excitement leading up to this day. New team. … I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t nervous,” said Lester, who signed as a free agent with Washington for one year and $5 million after six seasons and one World Series title with the Chicago Cubs. “I had the butterflies, which is always good.”

Another important takeaway: Lester thinks he’ll “be in a good position” to be ready when the regular season starts April 1.

Manager Dave Martinez agreed, figuring Lester should be up to about 75 pitches after three more exhibition starts.

“We’ll see how he gets up tomorrow,” Martinez said. “But I think he’s on the right track.”

Lester took it as a good sign that his changeup worked well. That’s usually the last pitch that gets into gear. “It’s definitely been a point of emphasis, as far as in my bullpens and just really playing catch with it,” Lester said.

“So it was nice to see the results, the couple swing and misses, out in front, and got maybe a couple foul balls on it.”

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NBA approves 22 team format to finish season

After several months on hiatus, the NBA made significant headway in returning to play. On Thursday’s board of governors call with league commissioner Adam Silver, the owners approved a plan to conclude out the remainder of the 2019-20 season at Disney World in Orlando, where eventually, a champion will be crowned, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. The vote required three-fourths support to pass, and it received a 29-1 vote from owners on the call, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The owners now need formal approval from the National Basketball Players Association before the league can move forward. The NBPA is expected to hold a virtual call on Friday to approve the plan that the owners just voted on, according to the New York Times’ Marc Stein.

The league is targeting a start date of July 31, where 22 of the 30 NBA teams are expected to participate in Orlando. That will include the 16 current playoff teams as well as the New Orleans Pelicans, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs, Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards.

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Teams will play an abbreviated version of the regular season that will consist of eight games, as well as a play-in tournament for the eighth seed in both conferences.

The tournament will only happen if the No. 9 seed finishes within four games of the No. 8 seed, in which case the No. 9 seed will have to beat the No. 8 seed twice to earn the final playoff spot in their conference. The playoffs will be a best-of-seven series in each round, with the NBA Finals finishing no later than October 12.

While NBA seasons had previously been shortened by labor disputes, never has the league halted operations so abruptly only to pick them back up months down the line. That creates a number of questions leading into the resumed season, including how teams will prepare after so much idle time.

The NBA suspended its season on March 11 after two members of the Utah Jazz, later revealed to be Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, tested positive for COVID-19. Since then, a number of players and league figures have tested positive, including Kevin Durant, Marcus Smart and New York Knicks owner James Dolan. Those who did test positive have since recovered, and no new positive tests have been made public since. 

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NFL to release regular-season schedule Thursday

The NFL will release its regular-season schedule on Thursday night, the league reported Monday, as it continues conducting business mostly as usual amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The schedule will be disclosed in a three-hour telecast on NFL Network starting at 8 p.m.

Thus far, the league has not announced any major updates to its schedule as a result of the pandemic, which has brought most organized sports around the globe to a halt. NFL training facilities are closed because of the pandemic, leading to the league’s first-ever “virtual offseason,” but the league still plans to start the campaign on time while playing in teams’ home stadiums.

Opening day for the 2020 season is Sept. 10, with the season set to finish with Super Bowl 55 on February 7, 2021. The NFL also held last month’s draft on time while canceling all in-person events. The draft had been set for Las Vegas; instead, Commissioner Roger Goodell announced picks from his home.

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Should the pandemic force major changes to the season, the league is considering alternatives including empty stadiums, neutral sites and getting rid of bye weeks, league executive Troy Vincent told The Associated Press last week. Any such changes would have to be approved by the players union.

Earlier Monday, the NFL announced it was moving its five matches scheduled for London and Mexico City this season back to U.S. stadiums.

The league has evaluated contingency plans should the pandemic intensify, working in conjunction with the NFL Players Association and medical experts on a set of protocols.

The league is evaluating when players can re enter team facilities. The NFL and NFLPA have agreed to keep buildings closed until every state in which a team resides lifts its stay-at-home mandate. Teams are conducting organized team activities virtually.

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