Tagged in: western conference

Sacramento Kings fire Luke Walton, name Alvin Gentry interim coach

The Sacramento Kings promoted associate head coach Alvin Gentry to interim head coach after firing coach Luke Walton on Sunday, the team revealed.

“After a thorough evaluation of the season thus far, I decided to make a change to the head coach position,” Kings general manager Monte McNair said in a statement.

“I want to thank Luke for his efforts and contributions to our team.” The Kings have lost seven of eight matches and dropped to 6-11 on season — leaving them 12th in the Western Conference.

Several recent losses came versus struggling teams like the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder and Minnesota Timberwolves.

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Gentry will be taking over his sixth NBA team. He will get a pay raise and already was under contract for the 2022-2023 season on his assistant coaching contract, sources said. The Kings are discussing possible benchmarks of success for Gentry the rest of the season that could serve as possible parameters on keeping the job on a longer-term basis than the rest of this year, sources said.

Still, this is an interim coaching job and the struggling Kings could be opening another coaching search process in the offseason.

Walton was 68-93 in two-plus seasons as Kings coach.

The Kings have been one of the league’s worst defensive teams under Walton, ranking 26th in defensive efficiency this season and last in 2020-21.

This season, Sacramento also ranks 26th in defensive rebounding percentage, 29th in paint points per game allowed and last in second-chance points per game allowed, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Sacramento has the longest active playoff drought in the NBA (since 2006). In those 15 years, they have had 10 head coaches; Walton’s interim replacement will be the 11th since Rick Adelman led the Kings to their last playoff berth.

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Nuggets eliminate Trail Blazers in Game 6 with 126-115 win

Nikola Jokic had 36 points and the Denver Nuggets eliminated the Portland Trail Blazers in six matches with a 126-115 triumph Thursday night.

Michael Porter Jr. added 26 points, including 22 in the opening quarter, for the third-seeded Nuggets. They await the outcome of the first-round series between the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers.

Denver advanced to the Western Conference semifinals for the third consecutive season.

Damian Lillard finished with 28 points and 13 assists for the sixth-seeded Blazers. They led by 14 points in the third quarter but couldn’t stave off elimination. Monte Morris hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to close Denver to 101-98 heading into the last period. Jokic hit a 3-pointer to put Denver ahead 108-106 and Denver stretched it to 117-108 on Austin Rivers’ 3 with 3:52 left.

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Portland tired to catch up, getting to 121-115 on CJ McCollum’s layup, but Aaron Gordon hit a 3-pointer that all but sealed it for Denver with less than a minute to go.

The Nuggets took a 3-2 lead in the series with a 147-140 double overtime victory in Denver on Tuesday night.

It spoiled Lillard’s epic playoff performance: He had 55 points, including 12 3-pointers, and 10 assists. It was the most 3-pointers ever in a playoff game.

The Blazers needed big man Jusuf Nurkic to stay out of foul trouble. Tasked with defending Jokic, he fouled out in three of the first five matches.

Nurkic didn’t have a foul in the first half, but then had four quick fouls in the third quarter and had to head to the bench.

Porter had six 3-pointers in the first quarter alone, tying an NBA playoff record for most 3s a quarter. Lillard hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Blazers a 68-61 lead at the half. He raised his arms to encourage the crowd as he headed off the floor.

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Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard, Paul George power win over Mavericks, seize back control of series

The LA Clippers arrived in Dallas down 0-2 in the series with their future clouded in insecurity, but they left with home-court advantage and momentum thanks to Kawhi Leonard and Paul George playing the relentless style they envisioned when they joined forces.

For the second consecutive game, Leonard and George overwhelmed Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks, combining to score 45 points in the first three quarters to help the Clippers even this Western Conference first-round playoff series at 2-2 with a 106-81 rout on Sunday at American Airlines Center.

The Mavericks could not contain Leonard for the third straight match, as the All-Star forward made 11-of-15 shots and tallied 29 points and 10 rebounds. And George scored 13 of 20 points in the second quarter, when the Clippers opened a 48-29 lead with 6:58 left before halftime.

“I think we both have just done a great job of complementing each other,” George said of him and Leonard leading the Clippers back into this series. “[Leonard] has been all-out driving and attacking and putting pressure on their bigs at the rim. Myself, as well. When he needs a break and a breather, now I am in attack mode. I think we are just doing a great job of countering each other.

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“This is ultimately what we wanted to get to — being able to share the court together and doing it on both ends together.”

This was what Leonard, George and the Clippers imagined when the two All-Stars became Clippers during the summer of 2019.

Leonard is playing at the postseason level that made him the NBA Finals MVP for a second time when he led the Toronto Raptors to a championship in 2019. He has been simply too strong and powerful for Dallas to stop, averaging 35.3 points in the past three games.

In leading the Clippers to the past two wins in Dallas, Leonard shot 24-for-32 combined in Games 3 and 4, and he has done the majority of his damage on drives into the paint.

But his message to the Clippers after they lost the first two games of the series at home was to step things up considerably on the defensive end.

Doncic labored through a nerve issue in his neck on Sunday and shot 9-for-24 to finish with 19 points, six assists and six rebounds. But the Clippers were thrilled with their ability to slow down the Mavericks’ other shooters who really shot lights out in Los Angeles.

Tim Hardaway Jr. missed 7 of 8 shots and scored just four points, Dorian Finney-Smith only had eight points and the Mavericks as a group missed 25 of 30 3-point attempts in Game 4.

In the first two games of the series, Dallas took home-court advantage by making 35 of 70 (50%) attempts from behind the arc.

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Jokic, Nuggets win easily again, rout Knicks 114-89

Nikola Jokic had 22 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in another short night, and the Denver Nuggets reached .500 for the first time this campaign with a 114-89 triumph over the New York Knicks on Sunday.

The Nuggets opened 1-4 after reaching the Western Conference finals last season but have now answered with four wins in five games.

The last two were easy. The Nuggets pulled away from the seven-man 76ers in the third quarter and rested their starters in the fourth of a 115-103 victory Saturday. They jumped on the Knicks much earlier Sunday and it was never a game after halftime.

This was the first time the Nuggets permitted fewer than 100 points this season. “I think our defense in the last five has been a lot better than it was to begin the season in the first five games,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “A marked improvement.”

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Gary Harris added 14 points for the Nuggets, who got only nine from star guard Jamal Murray.

“I think Jokic puts a lot of pressure on you, so you can’t let your guard down for a second,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau stated. “And I thought we got in a hole early and when you give a team like that that type of confidence, it’s very difficult to come back on them.”

Julius Randle had 29 points, 10 rebounds and five assists for the Knicks, which the team said made him the only player other than Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson to have at least 200 points, 115 rebounds and 70 assists in his team’s first 10 games of a season.

But Randle had little help with nobody else over 12 points as the Knicks dropped their second straight following a three-game winning streak. They were held to an anemic 89 points in both games.

Denver led 28-21 after one, then made its first six shots of the second with its reserves on the floor to open a 40-22 lead on JaMychal Green’s layup. The lead ballooned to 22 late in the first half before the Nuggets took a 59-38 advantage to the break.

“We huddle up before the tipoff and just say let’s be better than the other team’s bench,” reserve Monte Morris said. “Let’s go out there and try to bring the energy and if the starters start slow let’s pick them up ,and if they start fast let’s sustain whatever they got going on.”

Jokic had eight points while playing the whole third quarter and the Nuggets led by as much as 30 in the fourth.

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