Getty

Feeling healthy, John Wall steers Wizards up East standings

Leave a comment

WASHINGTON (AP) As John Wall goes, so go the Washington Wizards.

With Wall showing no ill effects from offseason operations on both knees, he is averaging career highs of 23.1 points and 2.2 steals, along with third-in-the-NBA 10.1 assists, and has steered his team into the playoff picture after a terrible start.

The Wizards began this season 1-5, then 3-9, but they are 25-20 heading into their game Friday night at the Atlanta Hawks. Since Dec. 1, the Wizards are 19-9, the best record in the East in that span and fourth in the entire league, trailing only the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets.

“This charge, the last seven or eight weeks,” coach Scott Brooks said after practice Thursday, “is because of his ability to lead us and get to the paint and give us a lot of open shots.”

Thanks in large part to a 14-game home winning streak, Washington began the day fifth in its conference – 1 1/2 games behind Atlanta for fourth and 2 1/2 games behind the second-place Toronto Raptors.

“We finally got it down pat. We’ve got the chemistry down pat, where we know where guys are going to be. … We’re just all on one page,” Wall said. “I think we figured it out.”

He said his knees “are feeling a lot better than last season, when Washington went 41-41 and missed the playoffs. At the start of this season, Wall was under doctor’s orders to sit out the second games when the team played on consecutive nights – maybe until January rolled around.

Yeah, right.

That lasted all of two back-to-backs.

With the help of treatment that regularly includes stretching, a cold tub and “dry needling,” which Wall likened to acupuncture, he has been able to play a team-leading 36.4 minutes a night while putting up 26 double-doubles.

He’s not doing this alone, of course: Shooting guard Bradley Beal is putting up 21.9 points per game, for example, and small forward Otto Porter is averaging 14.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and an NBA-best 45.6 shooting percentage on 3-pointers.

But there’s no question who’s leading the way.

“We trust him with the ball in his hands, 100 percent of the time,” second-year forward Kelly Oubre Jr. said. “Whenever he has the ball, we know something good is going to happen.”

After watching Wall from afar in the past, Brooks – a former NBA point guard himself – is appreciating the up-close look he gets now.

“He’s done a great job of leading us. … His shooting has improved. His playmaking. His defense. I think everything across the board is much better,” Brooks said.

“I like his toughness,” he added. “I like players that play with fire and toughness, and he brings it every night.”

While it took a while for Washington to get going this season under its new coach, the improvements are striking.

In their first 12 games, the Wizards ranked 19th in the league in points per game at 102.6, and 12th in field-goal percentage at 45.1. In the 33 games since, they’re eighth in points at 108 and fourth in shooting at 48.3.

“Right now,” Oubre said, “we’re being who we are.”

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

Watch DeMar DeRozan score 40 as Raptors beat Heat, 101-84 (VIDEO)

Leave a comment

MIAMI (AP) DeMar DeRozan scored 40 points, marking the first time he’s had that many in consecutive games, and the Toronto Raptors pulled off their 19th double-digit comeback of the season to beat the Miami Heat 101-84 on Thursday night.

DeRozan shot 14 for 25 from the field and 12 for 13 from the line. He needed 38 shots to score 42 against Chicago on Tuesday.

Norman Powell scored 14 and Delon Wright added 13 for Toronto, which never led until midway through the third quarter. The Raptors allowed 33 points in the first quarter, then held Miami to 35 points over the next 27 minutes.

Playing with 13 stitches in his right hand, Hassan Whiteside scored 16 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for Miami. Rodney McGruder and Goran Dragic each had 13 points for the Heat, with Dragic shooting just 5 for 18.

He wasn’t the only Miami player to struggle. The Heat shot only 39 percent, 26 percent from 3-point range. The 84 points tied for Miami’s second-lowest total of the season, and was the first time the Heat failed to reach 90 at home.

The Raptors trailed by 15 points early and eventually led by as many as 17 – a 32-point turnaround. No one in the NBA has been better at pulling off big comebacks than the Raptors, who have come from behind six times since the All-Star break alone.

“It talks about toughness, heart,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “Our give-a-crap level is pretty high, and it’s one of those things where when you count us out, we find a way. My thing is just find five men who are going to play hard.”

Neither team moved in the Eastern Conference playoff standings. Toronto (43-29) remained in the No. 4 spot, pulling within a half-game of No. 3 Washington. Miami (35-37) stayed No. 8, now just a game ahead of No. 9 Chicago and No. 10 Detroit.

TIP-INS

Raptors: DeRozan has two 20-plus-point halves against Miami this season. He had 22 in the second half on Nov. 4, and 24 in the first half of this one. … P.J. Tucker started for Serge Ibaka, who served his one-game suspension for fighting Chicago’s Robin Lopez on Tuesday. … Toronto outrebounded Miami 51-36.

Heat: Wayne Ellington played, one day after the birth of his son. Wayne Ellington III arrived Monday afternoon. … Miami’s three second-quarter field goals were a season-low for any quarter. The previous low was four, done four times. … McGruder reached double figures for only the second time in his last 14 games.

DEROZAN HISTORY

DeRozan became the second player in Toronto history to have a season where he scored 32 or more points at least 20 times. He was an 11-year-old when it last happened – Vince Carter had 28 of those games in 2000-01.

WAITERS UPDATE

Heat guard Dion Waiters missed his third game with a sprained left ankle, and remains in a walking boot. There’s still no timetable for his return, but the Heat said the swelling in his ankle continues to decrease.

UP NEXT

Raptors: Visit Dallas on Saturday. It’s the second time this month Toronto faces Miami and Dallas consecutively.

Heat: Visit Boston on Sunday. Miami is 0-3 against Boston this season, losing by eight, 10 and three points.

JJ Barea goes after Blake Griffin, earns Flagrant 2 and ejection (VIDEO)

Twitter
1 Comment

Dallas Mavericks guard JJ Barea didn’t like that Los Angeles Clippers big man was coming to set a screen on him, so he slapped his hand away. Griffin then retaliated with an elbow — which may or may not have connected — and that kicked off a row between the two players that resulted in Barea claiming a Flagrant 2 and an ejection.

It came during the third quarter with Barea at the top of the key and both Griffin and DeAndre Jordan on either side of him.

Here’s how the play looked from multiple angles:

Curious that Griffin wasn’t assessed a foul at all given his own handsy nature. After the game referee Bill Spooner responded to pool reporters by saying that Barea was ejected for his contract above the throat. Meanwhile, Spooner also said that whether Griffin flopped or not was irrelevant.

“It has nothing to do with the merits of the play,” said Spooner.

Meanwhile, the Mavericks beat the Clippers, 97-95.

Spurs honor Richard Overton, the oldest living U.S. veteran at Military Appreciation Night

Twitter
1 Comment

San Antonio is a military town, and on Thursday night against the Memphis Grizzlies the Spurs held a Military Appreciation Night. The team donned their camouflage uniforms, then held court for a very special guest: Richard Overton.

Mr. Overton is the oldest living U.S. veteran at age 110. He was in the Pacific theater during WWII and served in the Army with the 1887th Engineer Aviation Battalion.

The team honored Mr. Overton during the game, and he received a standing ovation during a timeout.

Via Twitter:

Plus, Mr. Overton got to hang with the Spurs dancers:

Pretty neat of the team to do.

James Harden has been fouled on 3-pointers more than any single NBA team

Getty
2 Comments

Houston Rockets star James Harden is a leading candidate for the 2017 NBA MVP, and for good reason. The Arizona State product has been exceedingly efficient, unburdened by Dwight Howard clogging the lane and fueled by a Mike D’Antoni offense that treats the ball like it’s radioactive.

But Harden has a new claim to add to his statistically-important season. He has been fouled more times on 3-point shots than any team in the NBA.

Not player. Any team.

This revelation is the result of some serious digging by ESPN’s Chris Herring. In an article published to 538, Herring outlined the situation in great detail. It’s worth reading in full, but the shocker comes here:

Harden has drawn a whopping 108 shooting fouls from distance this year with 11 games left to play. For context, consider that, outside of the Rockets, no team has garnered more than 73 of those calls.

If you subtract Harden’s numbers from the rest of the league’s, the average NBA player has drawn fouls on 1.6 percent of his 3-pointers this season, according to BigDataBall, which tracks the league’s play-by-play logs. Harden is drawing 3-point shooting fouls at a 16.7 percent clip, or more than 10 times as often.

Herring’s article goes into how Harden draws the contact (hint: he’s the one initiating it) and why he’s so good at it. Just like on his drives, Herring says Harden uses his arms to his advantage. It’s best to read 538’s article so you can see the visual cues on how Harden does it, but it’s suffice to say it’s impressive.

The immediate discussion here is whether Harden is “gaming” the system by adding this to his already foul-reliant arsenal. The answer is absolutely he is, and that’s why he’s one of the top MVP candidates this season.

Change the rules or change how officials respond to the game. Until then, James Harden is a basketball wizard.