Tagged in: safety protocols

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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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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Kyrie Irving not expected to rejoin Brooklyn Nets this week; NBA reviewing maskless videos

As the NBA is reviewing videos circulating on social media of a maskless Kyrie Irving at what appears to be a family birthday party, there is no belief the Brooklyn Nets guard will return to the team’s lineup this week, sources told ESPN.

Irving was already ruled out for the fourth consecutive game Tuesday night versus Denver, and sources said that, at a minimum, he is expected to miss Wednesday’s game against New York and Saturday’s against Orlando. His absence has been attributed to personal reasons.

In the videos — which started being widely shared Monday night — a smiling Irving is dancing with his sister Asia on a confetti-covered floor and clapping as she blows out candles. If the video is found to be recent, that behavior could be a breach of the league’s coronavirus protocols.

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The league’s COVID-19 guidelines forbid players from going to clubs, bars and lounges.

They also ban players from attending social gatherings of more than 15 people.

“We are aware of a video on social media featuring Kyrie Irving at a family gathering,” Nets general manager Sean Marks said in a statement Tuesday. “We are reviewing the circumstances with both Kyrie and the NBA in order to determine compliance with health and safety protocols.”

“Kyrie will have the opportunity to address his absence when he is ready to do so,” Marks added.

Nets coach Steve Nash, during his pregame media availability Tuesday, said he hadn’t seen the video in question and wasn’t going to expand on Marks’ statement.

Asked if he is confident Irving will return at some point this season, Nash replied: “Sure.”

On Tuesday night, Irving appeared to attend a virtual fundraiser for Manhattan District Attorney candidate, Tahanie Aboushi. Aboushi shared a photo from the event, which started at 7 p.m. ET, on social media.

The photo appeared to show Irving in one of the video boxes. The Nets tipped off versus Denver at Barclays Center 30 minutes after the fundraiser’s start time.

The investigation into the Irving videos at the family event comes during a turbulent week, as the league is reevaluating its coronavirus health and safety rules. The league has postponed three games this week as positive COVID-19 tests and contact-tracing quarantines mounted.

The NBA in conjunction with the NBPA announced tightened coronavirus protocols Tuesday, including further limiting movement for players and staff members on road trips. If a player misses a game for a COVID-19 violation, he would lose 1/72nd of his salary, according to league rules.

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