2014 adidas Eurocamp Day One recap

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TREVISO, Italy — This year’s international class in attendance at adidas Eurocamp isn’t as strong as it’s been in the past, with the players here either vying to be second round selections in the upcoming NBA Draft, or trying to impress for a spot at some point in the future.

There are a variety of reasons for this — Australia’s Dante Exum, for example, is the international prospect projected to go the highest in the June 26 draft, but he’s virtually guaranteed to be taken with a top-five selection, and could do nothing here to help improve his stock.

And others projected to go in the first round, like Croatia’s Dario Saric and Bosnia’s Jusuf Nurkic, were still playing for their Euroleague teams in the playoffs. Those two specifically, in fact, went head-to-head later Saturday night in the Croatian League Finals, which some scouts attended by making a drive of a little more than three hours to Zagreb in order to see them in person.

Vasilije Micic was the player most had their eyes on during the first day of action, as he’s been projected as a late first round or (more likely) an early- or mid-second round pick. While he looked impressive from a skill standpoint during the morning drills and scrimmages, the point guard struggled a bit in live game action, and didn’t transcend the competition on the floor the way the camp’s other top prospects have done in years past.

Micic has good size, above average handles and good court vision, and may one day make for a serviceable backup point guard at the NBA level. But he’ll need to increase his overall aggressiveness in order for that to happen, and whether it was the camp format or something else, he didn’t do anything to dramatically change the minds of those who have seen him play previously, in either a positive or a negative direction.

The most talent on display came not from the international players, but from the USA Select team of players under the age of 18 who won’t be draft eligible for at least two more years.

Thon Maker is a seven-footer who extremely polished for his age, and reminds of Kevin Garnett in the way that his arms hang and just how he carries himself physically. He’s extremely thin, as are all players this tall and this young, but can already knock down mid-range jumpers at a high percentage and is active and talkative on the defensive end of the floor. He was pushed around by the bigger, stronger and older members of the French team down low, which was to be expected. But Maker is a player who would likely go directly from high school to the NBA if the age limit wasn’t in place, due to his combination of size and agility, along with his being at a relatively advanced stage in the development process.

Maker, who was born in Sudan and came to Australia at age five before now playing at Carlisle High School in Martinsville, Virginia, is ranked as the top high school prospect in the nation.

Some additional notes:

– Ioannis Papapetrou could be a late second round pick this year, and looked like a legitimate prospect in the first day of action. He’s a 6’8″ wing who can shoot it, and his feel for the game was on display as he showcased an ability to get open, as well as drive with the ball to create his own shot.

– My favorite player of the day was Dmitry Kulagin, a 21-year old 6’6″ combo guard who has been to Eurocamp in the past, but this time was by far his most impressive showing. His activity on both ends of the floor was immediately noticeable, and he was in attack mode from the moment he stepped on the court. Kulagin finished 6-of-10 from the field in his two games combined, and his athleticism and effort was a joy to watch.

– Others who impressed on day one were French big man Mouhammadou Jaiteh (albeit against a younger, less bulky USA Select U-18 team), and Lucas Mariano and Marcus Erikkson both showed an ability to consistently knock down shots from three-point distance.

– Just as the talent level is down a bit this year, so is the number of high-profile NBA personnel in attendance. The general managers here include Toronto’s Masai Ujiri and Indiana’s Kevin Pritchard, but many who normally attend preferred to conduct private team workouts back in the states instead, in preparation for what’s expected to be a deeper draft than usual.

adidas Eurocamp 2014 – Box Score – Team 1 – Team 4

adidas Eurocamp 2014 – Box Score – Team 2 – Team 3

adidas Eurocamp 2014 – Box Score – All-Star Dark vs All-Star Light

adidas Eurocamp 2014 – Box Score – France U20 – U18 adidas USA Select

Nene’s 28 lead Rockets past Thunder for 3-1 series lead

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Nene scored 28 points on perfect shooting from the field, and the Houston Rockets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 113-109 on Sunday to take a 3-1 lead in their first-round playoff series.

Nene made all 12 of his shots and had 10 rebounds. He helped the Rockets overcome an off night by James Harden, who finished with 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting.

Eric Gordon and Lou Williams each scored 18 points for the Rockets. Trevor Ariza had 14.

Game 5 is Tuesday night in Houston.

Oklahoma City star Russell Westbrook had a triple-double by halftime and finished with 35 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists. The Thunder said Westbrook joined Wilt Chamberlain as the only players to claim three consecutive playoff triple-doubles.

Steven Adams scored 18 points and Victor Oladipo added 15 for the Thunder.

Westbrook had 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists at the break. He grabbed the 10th rebound in the final second of the second quarter, and the Thunder led 58-54 at intermission. Meanwhile, Harden made just 2 of 9 shots and scored just six points in the first half.

The Thunder opened the second half with a 10-2 run, but Houston closed to 77-73 at the end of the third quarter.

Adams made the first of two free throws with 21.7 seconds remaining to cut Oklahoma City’s deficit to four. He rebounded his missed second free throw and found Westbrook for a 3-pointer that cut Houston’s lead to one point. But the Thunder lost track of Nene on the other end, and he converted a three-point play. Gordon’s two free throws with 6.2 seconds made it a four-point game.

TIP-INS

Rockets: G Patrick Beverley was fined $25,000 by the NBA for confronting a fan after Game 3. The league announced the fine about two hours before Game 4 tipped off.

Thunder: Westbrook had just one turnover in the first half. … Adams went 6 for 6 from the field in the first half. … Westbrook missed all six of his shots in the third quarter.

Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP.

Thunder convert missed FT to 3-pointer, refs miss James Harden push as Rockets win Game 4

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As if the end of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers Game 4 wasn’t wild enough, the finish to the matchup between the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder was just as odd.

The final quarter of Sunday’s game was laden with poor play and heavy fouling, including a ploy by Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni to put Thunder forward Andre Roberson at the line as part of a hacking strategy.

But the final minute was what really caught everyone’s eye, as the Thunder converted a purposely-missed free-throw attempt by Steven Adams into a Russell Westbrook 3-pointer with just 21 seconds left.

Via Twitter:

The Thunder then broke down on the inbounds play a few seconds later, allowing Nene — who had a great game, scoring 28 points off the bench on 12-of-12 shooting to go along with 10 rebounds — to score an and-1 at the other end of the floor.

Oklahoma City then scored again on a tip.

That’s when it got REAL weird.

Houston inbounded the ball to James Harden, who got away with a gigantic, and frankly hilarious push off on Alex Abrines. OKC nearly stole the ball, but instead were called for a foul.

Via Twitter:

This game was wild, weird, terrible, and both sides have something to gripe about when it came to fouls.

Houston beat OKC, 113-109, and take a 3-1 lead back to Texas.

Russell Westbrook clinches triple-double in first half vs. Rockets

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Thunder guard Russell Westbrook achieved a triple-double in the first half of Sunday’s playoff game against the Houston Rockets.

Westbrook had 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists at halftime. He grabbed the 10th rebound in the final second of the second quarter. The Thunder led 58-54 at the break.

According to the Thunder, Westbrook became the second player to claim three consecutive triple-doubles in the playoffs. Wilt Chamberlain had three straight in 1967.

Westbrook entered the game averaging a triple-double in the series. He just set the record for triple-doubles in a regular season with 42.

Houston leads the series 2-1.

LeBron James helps Cavaliers hold off Pacers, earn sweep into 2nd round

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) LeBron James made a 3-pointer with 68 seconds left Sunday and the Cleveland Cavaliers hung on for a 106-102 series-clinching victory at Indiana.

James finished with 33 points and 10 rebounds as he became the first player under the current playoff format to win 21 straight first-round games. He also set a league record with his 10th career playoff sweep.

It sure wasn’t easy. After taking a 96-83 lead with 9:29 to go, the Cavs found themselves in a 102-100 deficit with 1:31 left.

But James answered with the go-ahead 3-pointer and Cleveland sealed the win on James’ free throw with 1 second left.

Lance Stephenson scored 22 points and Paul George added 15 but missed a 3-pointer that could have forced overtime in the closing seconds. It’s the first time the Pacers have lost a series 4-0 in their NBA history.

Kyrie Irving added 28 points for the Cavs, who await the winner of the Bucks-Raptors series.

Indiana got back into the game with a 7-0 spurt early in the in the fourth, then methodically continued chipping away at the lead until Thaddeus Young tied the score at 100 with a short jumper and broke the tie on a tip-in with 1:31 left.

But James, whose teams were 51-0 when starting the fourth quarter with double-digit leads in the postseason, made sure the perfect record remained intact.

Cleveland has won seven straight playoff games overall and 11 straight in the first round since James returned to his hometown team.

It was another milestone day for James, who moved past Michael Cooper, Magic Johnson and James Worthy on the league’s list of consecutive first-round wins, and past Tim Duncan for most career sweeps, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

James also went 13 off 25 from the field, tying Kobe Bryant for fourth on the career playoff list for field goals. Each have 2,014 baskets.

Indiana has lost five straight postseason games and six of its last eight.

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: Will make their 11th appearance in the conference semifinals. … Cleveland has swept all eight series in which it has taken a 3-0 lead. … Tristan Thompson grabbed 11 rebounds Sunday, giving him double digits in all four games. … Deron Williams scored 14 points and Kevin Love had 16 rebounds.

Pacers: George finished with a series-low point total Sunday and was 3 of 9 on 3s after entering the game with a league-high 15 3s in the playoffs. … Teague scored 15 points and was the catalyst in the final spurt, including blocking one of James’ shots. He can become a free agent this summer. …Myles Turner had 20 points and nine rebounds, while Young had 13 points and 10 rebounds.

UP NEXT

Cleveland gets some extra rest before finding out who it will play in the second round. Indiana embarks on a crucial offseason that could dictate the franchise’s future.

More AP NBA: apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball