Arizona v Connecticut

NBA Draft and the Final Four, here’s a few guys to watch

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Your bracket is toast. Don’t lie to me and say you had Butler in the Final Four, let alone VCU. You’re not winning any money in the office pool this year, that is going to the guy three cubicles over who hasn’t watched a college hoops game in years and made his picks based on mascots and where his friends went to college.

No, you’re going to watch the Final Four to check out NBA prospects. Particularly in the Connecticut vs. Kentucky game.

Here are a few guys to keep an eye on this weekend. (The DX number is their ranking as a prospect in this draft by the wise men at Draft Express.)

Kemba Walker, 6’0” guard, Connecticut (DX No. 7): He’s the kind of small, quick guard that has been in vogue in the NBA. He comes with an increasingly rare NBA skill — the midrange game. And he uses the threat of it very well to create shots for himself and teammates. His crossover and step back is wicked. Also, he has been a big game player (two 30 point games in the NCAA Tournament, plus big plays in the Big East Tournament and the Maui Invitational). If the game is on the line for UConn the ball will be in his hands.

Scouts will be watching to see how he does against another lottery pick in Kentucky’s Brandon Knight.

Brandon Knight, 6’3” guard, Kentucky (DX No. 8): He has moved up draft boards with a good tournament and a contested game winner for the Wildcats. He projects as a shoot-first combo guard in the NBA. And he can shoot, hitting 38 percent from three plus knocking down contested midrange shots all season long. Some scouts are concerned about fit, but his performance is winning people over.

Terrence Jones, 6’8” forward, Kentucky (DX No. 12): He may or may not be coming out after his freshman season and he’s taken a little step back during the tournament as his outside shot has not been consistent. He’s got a real NBA body but there are questions about his energy game in and game out.

Shelvin Mack, 6’3” point guard, Butler (DX No. 65): He has taken on more of the scoring role this season at Butler and boosted his stock some with this run to the Final Four. He has range on his shot and has looked good running the pick-and-roll. But he’s not as quick as the PGs he will often see at the next level, and his shot is not consistent. Still, some team may take a shot on him in the second round

Doran Lamb, 6’4” guard, Kentucky (DX No. 67): A freshman who may return to what will be a loaded Kentucky team next season. He has a wide range of shots and hit 48 percent from three this season, plus he can defend. A lot to like here going forward, but there may be a ceiling with him not as high as some other guards around his age.

Alex Oriachi, 6’9” power forward, Connecticut (DX No. 78): He’s very athletic but considered a work in progress, although he took some steps forward this season. Don’t expect him in the draft this season but keep an eye on him.

Jeremy Lamb, 6’5” shooting guard, Connecticut (unranked by DX): The freshman is not coming out this year but the raw potential he has had is really starting to come through in the Tournament (he had 24 against San Diego State). He needs to put on some muscle and refine his game, but he’s a guy to watch in a year or two.

Westbrook hits game-winner as Thunder beat Jazz 97-95 (VIDEO)

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) —  Russell Westbrook hit a pull-up jumper with 1.4 seconds left, and the Oklahoma City Thunder stopped Utah’s six-game win streak with a 97-95 victory over the Jazz on Monday night.

Westbrook took over down the stretch and scored 11 of the Thunder’s final 13 points after going cold in the third quarter. He finished with 38 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his 22nd triple-double of the season.

Alec Burks missed the final shot for the Jazz as time expired.

Victor Oladipo scored 18 for Oklahoma City.

Gordon Hayward led Utah with 17 points.

The Jazz rallied in the third quarter with a 13-0 run to take a 66-60 lead, but the Thunder pulled within three early in the fourth thanks to five straight points from Oladipo.

The Thunder took a 56-53 lead into halftime after Westbrook dominated the second, The dynamic point guard scored 14 in the quarter to give him 22 at the break.

TIP-INS

Thunder: Steven Adams returned from a two-game absence due to a concussion. … Reserve Enes Kanter scored 14 against his former team.

Jazz: Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan sat with his Hall of Fame point guard John Stockton during the game.

STAYING PUT

The Jazz announced Monday that ownership of the team and Vivint SmartHome Arena has been transferred from Gail Miller to a legacy trust in a move that ensures the team will remain in the family for generations. Miller said the primary reason for the transfer is to make sure the team stays in the state.

HOOD UPDATE

Rodney Hood missed his fourth consecutive game with a right knee hyperextension and bone bruise.

“The original timeline was 2-4 weeks and, as far as I know, he’s on track with that,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “He’s been in getting treatment and starting to do some work on the court. They’re doing all the different measurements and balance tests and all those things.

“He’s making good progress. But I don’t know if that means we’re going to see him later this week or next week. There’s another phase there to clear him for some more competitive stuff … and see how he’s feeling. But right now he’s feeling good.”

Terrence Jones scores 36, leads Pelicans past Cavaliers 124-122

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Terrence Jones filled in brilliantly for injured All-Star Anthony Davis, scoring a season-high 36 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and blocking LeBron James‘ dunk attempt in the fourth quarter, and the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 124-122 on Monday night.

Jrue Holiday added 33 points and 10 assists for the Pelicans, and Langston Galloway capped a 12-point night with a clean steal on James’ drive in the final minute, preventing the Cavs from erasing a deficit they had trimmed from 22 late in the first half to three with 1:32 left in the game.

Kyrie Irving scoring 35 of his 49 points in the second half, but the Cleveland fell to its fifth loss in seven games. James had 26 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds.

Two of Cleveland’s recent losses came against Western Conference leaders Golden State and San Antonio, but two others have come against teams currently outside the playoff picture in the West: New Orleans and Portland.

Kevin Love had 22 points for Cleveland, which could not quite keep pace with a Pelicans squad that tied a season high for 3-pointers with 16 and shot 49.4 percent (43 of 87).

Donatas Moteijunas scored 14 for New Orleans, while Dante Cunningham scored 11. Each hit a pair of 3s.

The Cavs drained 15 3s, eight by Irving, whose step-back jumper from long range had Cleveland within three with 21 seconds to go, but the Cavs got no closer until Love’s anticlimactic 3 in the final second.

Embarrassed in a 29-point loss to NBA-worst Brooklyn at home on Friday, the Pelicans were eager for a chance to redeem themselves with a competitive showing against the defending champs. That did not appear likely when New Orleans announced less than an hour before tip-off that Davis would be unable to play because of his right leg bruise lingering from a collision with the Nets’ Spencer Dinwiddie.

Coach Alvin Gentry inserted Jones for Davis as the starting center, and he responded with arguably the most dynamic half of play in the fifth-year veteran’s career. He hit all eight of his shots in the first half, scoring 22 points on an array of jumpers – including two 3s – weaving drives and feisty put-backs.

Holiday, meanwhile, got into an equally prolific rhythm, hitting three 3s and highlighting several impressive drives to the hoop with a two-handed dunk. Holiday’s pullup jumper from just inside the 3-point line with 6 seconds left in the second quarter gave him 22 points and New Orleans a 22-point lead, and Holiday pumped his fist while one of the biggest crowds of the season went wild.

In the last second of the half, James executed a long inbound pass to Love, who converted a quick-release layup to make it 70-50.

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: Coach Tyronn Lue was assessed a technical foul by official Leroy Richardson after the coach chastised Richardson for a late whistle giving Moteijunas free throws following a missed layup. … The Cavs won the teams’ only other meeting this season, 90-82 in Cleveland on Jan. 2. … Irving slung in what would have been a sensational, off-balance, one-handed shot from about 30 feet, but it didn’t count because it came too late after Irving was fouled by Tyreke Evans as the pair pursued a loose ball near mid-court.

Pelicans: New Orleans improved to 2-2 without Davis in the lineup. … G E'Twaun Moore, who is 6-foot-4, delighted the crowd by rejecting the 6-8 James near the basket in the first half. … New Orleans shot 60.5 percent (26 of 43) in the first half.=

 

Heat’s Dion Waiters drains game-winning three to knock off Warriors (VIDEO)

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Last week Golden State crushed Cleveland, Oklahoma City, and Houston.

But none of those teams had Dion Waiters.

The final three of Waiters’ 33 points came on a deep pull-up three with 0.6 seconds left to give Miami a 105-102 upset of the Warriors. Waiters shot 13-of-20 overall and 6-of-8 from three.

This was a night the Warriors just could not get the three ball to fall, shooting 8-of-30 (26.7 percent) from deep. This ended Golden State’s seven-game win streak and extended the Miami win streak to four.

Joakim Noah with as ugly a free throw as you’ll see. And he knows it. (VIDEO)

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Joakim Noah used to be a good free throw shooter, he’s hit 70 percent for his career. But he’s shooting just 42.9 percent this season.

And no miss was uglier than the one Monday night against the Pacers.

The best part of this airball was Noah’s reaction — he knew it was bad the second he let it go.

If you want to draw parallels with the Knicks’ season, go for it.