C.J. McCollum drops 43 points in Blazers win (VIDEO)

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — When the Minnesota Timberwolves jumped out to a 12-point lead over Portland at halftime, the struggling Trail Blazers looked to be on their way to yet another loss.

Turns out C.J. McCollum had the young Wolves right where he wanted them.

McCollum scored a career-high 43 points to carry the Trail Blazers to a 95-89 victory Sunday night.

Mason Plumlee had 18 points and eight rebounds, and Evan Turner added 11 points for the Blazers. They were without star point guard Damian Lillard for the fourth straight game.

McCollum made 16 of 25 shots, including a 30-foot 3-pointer with just over 2:30 to play to put the game out of reach.

“We were being soft as a team and I think it showed in our performance,” McCollum said. “We knew that we needed to come out and compete.”

Andrew Wiggins scored 24 points for the Timberwolves. But Karl-Anthony Towns had just 11 points on 3-for-15 shooting and missed all six of his 3-pointers. Zach LaVine also was quiet with 13 points on 5-for-12 shooting and the Wolves fell to 9-11 in games in which they lead by double digits.

“I shot good shots, put them up with the same form and they just weren’t going in,” Towns said. “I tried to do other things, try to make free throws when you got them, get rebounds, make assists. I don’t know. I shot good shots, they just didn’t fall.”

Portland had lost seven of its last eight and was floundering with its star on the bench with ankle problems.

Lillard was listed as doubtful for the game with that sprained left ankle. He worked out hard before the game and showed no noticeable limp, but the Blazers started McCollum at point guard again with two days off before their next scheduled game. McCollum, who was averaging 26 points per game with Lillard out, scored 13 points in a ragged first quarter and put up 16 in a 32-15 third quarter that helped the Blazers turn a 14-point deficit into a five-point lead going into the fourth.

“Without Damian, that’s 28 points and a lot of defensive attention,” McCollum said. “Seven assists, six rebounds, so a lot more energy has to be utilized on my end. I have to try to keep guys involved and take over as a decision maker.”

The Wolves came back to tie it with 7:23 to play, but Shabazz Napier hit a big 3, Turner hit a soft jumper and Allen Crabbe knocked down another 3 to put the Blazers in front for good.

Before the game, Portland coach Terry Stotts said it was important for his players not to try to do too much with Lillard out.

“I just said there might be a guy who scores 10 more than you expect,” Stotts said. “He scored 20 more than I expected.”

TIP-INS

Trail Blazers: Crabbe had 10 points and a career-high eight rebounds. … McCollum topped 30 for the seventh time this season. His previous career high was 37. … Napier scored three points, the only bench player besides Turner to score.

Timberwolves: PG Ricky Rubio had a rough night, going 0 for 5 from the field and getting torched by McCollum on defense. He did not play in the fourth quarter. … Minnesota entered the game 10th in the NBA in free throw shooting, but missed six of them on Sunday night. … Towns did have 13 rebounds and six assists, all in the first quarter.

MISSING MOTIEJUNAS

The Timberwolves had a workout scheduled with free agent forward Donatas Motiejunas as they considered adding him to help them bolster a bench that has struggled mightily this season. After working out with New Orleans, Motiejunas took a flight to Minneapolis on Sunday. But by the time he got off the plane, he had an offer from the Pelicans on the table and canceled his workout with the Timberwolves.

“We never got a chance to sit down with him,” coach Tom Thibodeau said.

 

LeBron James overrules controversial finish with game-winning 3-pointer (video)

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LeBron James‘ turnover with the game tied late looked like a bad call. LeBron’s block of Victor Oladipo on the ensuing possession looked like a goaltend.

Did the Cavaliers get robbed of a crucial possession? Did the Pacers get robbed of two go-ahead points?

LeBron nullified those questions with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give Cleveland a 98-95 win and a 3-2 series lead. The game-winner capped a great game by LeBron (44 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists) and moves the Cavs to the verge of advancing.

When a team with home-court advantage can close out a best-of-seven series with a road Game 6, it has 52% of the time. It has won the series 92% of the time.

The odds are even better with LeBron. LeBron has won 11 straight closeout games, nine of them on the road. He’ll have another opportunity Friday with Game 6 in Indiana.

Raptors’ ‘culture reset’ shines in Game 5 win over Wizards

AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
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The Raptors promoted ball movement. They emphasized 3-point shooting. They empowered their reserves.

This was why.

Backups Delon Wright and C.J. Miles and starting center Jonas Valanciunas – who was benched in previous postseasons due to his old-fashioned style, but expanded his game beyond the arc this year – scored Toronto’s final 18 points in a 108-98 Game 5 win over the Wizards on Wednesday. Stars DeMar DeRozan (0-for-4 from the field) and Kyle Lowry (0-for-1 from the field, 0-for-2 on free throws) struggled down the stretch, as the Raptors burst open what had been a one-point lead.

Though DeRozan (32 points) and Lowry (17 points and 10 assists) were good overall, they succumbed late in previous playoff games. Toronto didn’t want that duo stuck with the burden of creating so much in a stagnate offense.

Hence, Masai Ujiri’s famous “culture reset.”

The results have been mixed so far against a tougher-than-average-eight-seed Washington. But at least the Raptors – up 3-2 entering Friday’s Game 6 in Washington – are on the verge of advancing.

When a team with home-court advantage can close out a best-of-seven series with a road Game 6, it has 52% of the time. It has won the series 92% of the time.

Raptors honor victims of van attack before Game 5 (photos)

Dave Sandford/NBAE via Getty Images
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TORONTO (AP) — The Toronto Raptors honored the victims the deadly van attack Monday with a moment of silence Wednesday night before Game 5 of their playoff series against the Washington Wizards.

Players from both teams held up banners with the hashtag #TORONTOSTRONG as they stood on the court during the tribute and the national anthems that followed:

The Raptors, the Wizards and the NBA will make a donation to a fund for victims and those affected by the incident.

Raptors President Masai Ujiri spoke about the attack after the Raptors practiced Tuesday.

“What we do doesn’t really matter sometimes,” Ujiri said. “I can’t imagine what it would be like to be on that sidewalk.”

Guard Kyle Lowry said he was impressed by the actions of Const. Ken Lam, who earned international acclaim for peacefully arresting of suspect Alek Minassian.

“In America he would definitely have been shot up,” Lowry said. “He did an amazing job of making a judgment call. I think more people could learn from that.”

Coach Dwane Casey was struck by how close the carnage occurred to his own Toronto neighborhood,

“It’s not too far from up the street from where I live,” Casey said.

Casey and his coaches were in the midst of a meeting Monday afternoon when assistant Rex Kalamian’s phone buzzed with someone informing him of the tragedy. The coaches stopped their meeting and turned on a television to find out what had happened.

“It’s very unfortunate,” Casey said. “Just this weekend I was talking to people saying how safe Toronto is, how it’s a melting pot and you don’t have the same crime. Hopefully though, sport can offer a relief, some reprieve.”

Like Casey, Ujiri said he is proud of Toronto’s reputation as a safe, welcoming place.

“Everywhere I go, I brag about this city,” Ujiri said. “It’s the safest place in the world. It’s the best city in the world and it’s going to continue to be the best place and the best city in the world.”

Toronto police said the 10 people killed and 14 injured in the attack were “predominantly” women, but have declined so far to discuss a motive. The 25-year-old Minassian has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder.

Former President George H.W. Bush says he’s more concerned with Rockets beating Timberwolves than his own health issues

AP Photo/Rick Bowmen
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Former President George H.W. Bush is hospitalized with an infection.

Spokesman Jim McGrath:

The Rockets, up 3-1, play the Timberwolves in Game 5 tonight.