Watch dramatic plays from down stretch as Spurs beat Pelicans in overtime (VIDEO)

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Kawhi Leonard again had San Antonio teammates marveling at his uncanny ability to spur comebacks with clutch plays on both ends of the court.

Leonard scored 31 points, made one steal in the final minute of regulation and another in overtime, and San Antonio beat New Orleans 101-98 on Friday night.

“This year, his scoring has picked up from previous seasons, but he still makes big-time plays when he plays on our defensive end and that’s what I think defines the best players,” Spurs forward Pau Gasol said. “These are game-winning plays, championship-caliber type of plays.”

LeMarcus Aldridge had 21 points and 15 rebounds to help the Spurs win their sixth straight. Patty Mills scored 15 points, highlighted by two clutch 3s in overtime. Gasol added 13 points, including a momentum-changing, left-corner 3 when the Spurs trailed by five in overtime. The shot sparked an 8-0 run that gave the Spurs the lead for good.

Cousins had 19 points and 23 rebounds, but missed a step-back 3-pointer that could have tied it as overtime ended. Anthony Davis had 29 points, and Jrue Holiday 26 for the Pelicans.

“We had some costly turnovers, I know I threw one,” Cousins said. “It was just bad execution down the stretch. They were the better team down the stretch.”

CRUNCH TIME

The first of Leonard’s big steals came as Holiday dribbled across half court with the Pelicans leading by three in the final minute. Leonard then bolted the other way for a dunk that made it a one-point game.

“I was just trying to play the best defense I could,” Leonard said. “We needed a stop and the ball ended up falling in my hands.”

San Antonio tied it with 6.6 seconds left in regulation when Gasol hit one of two free throws.

Holiday missed an off-balance 17-footer for the win as regulation ended, but New Orleans raced to a five-point lead in overtime when Holiday hit a 3 and then made a steal to set up Davis’ fast-break dunk.

The ever-composed Spurs quickly tied it on Gasol’s 3 and Aldridge’s layup. Leonard then snuffed out Cousins’ attempted bounce pass to Holiday and pushed the ball up to Mills for a transition 3 that put San Antonio back in front, 97-94 with 2:17 left in overtime.

“When the game’s on the line, there are players that are able to step up their game to another level, and it’s hard when you play as many minutes and carry as much load as (Leonard) does on the offensive end,” Gasol said. “Without those two critical steals, we wouldn’t have won the game. Obviously, a lot of plays were part of the game, but those plays were exceptional.”

After Mills’ 3 went through, Cousins snatched the ball and disgustedly mashed it against his forehead.

Mills added another 3 from the right corner with 1:14 left in OT to make it 100-96. Falling out of bounds after the shot, Mills triumphantly punched the air with his right fist as he rose to his feet.

 

For a couple grand, Warriors fans can have Larry O’Brien Trophy visit their suite

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There’s so much money floating around the Bay Area right now thanks to another tech boom, this price almost seems low.

If you have a suite for the Golden State Warriors home games this season — and those are pretty much sold out, the Warriors draw big from the Silicon Valley crowd — you can have the NBA championship Larry O’Brien Trophy visit your suite. All for just a couple grand. From Gilbert Lee, via ESPN’s Darren Rovell.

The best part is it includes champagne… do you get to spray each other with it as you hold up the trophy? Now that would be perfect (goggles included, of course).

Have an issue with this? Why? To the victor goes the spoils. The Warriors may be able to sell this package for years.

Sixers new “Spirit of 76” court is fire

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First, the Sixers nailed the Nike “statement” jersey.

Now, they have announced a new “Spirit of 76” promotion, with seven tribute nights this season honoring the history of the franchise and of the Philadelphia area (and there is plenty of history to honor).

The best part — the “Spirit of 76” court with the bell logo.

Here is the promo vid

I just hope the Sixers team can live up to all the hype.

Wizards’ Markieff Morris to have sports hernia surgery, miss start of camp

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When the Washington Wizards open training camp next Tuesday, starting forward Markieff Morris will not be on the court.

That’s because he will have surgery to repair a sports hernia, a story broken by Candice Buckner of the Washington Post and since confirmed by Chase Hughes at CSNMidAtlantic.com.

While we don’t have details on the surgery, often recovery time for this is just a few weeks, and Morris could well be ready for the start of the season.

Morris averaged 14 points and 6.5 rebounds a game last season, and the Wizards offense was 5.7 points per 100 possessions better when he was on the court last season. With him out, coach Scott Brooks can lean on Jason Smith or Mike Scott for traditional lineups, but don’t be shocked if he tries a little small ball with Otto Porter and/or Kelly Oubre at the three or four.

Morris also is in the midst of a felony assault trial in Arizona (one where he does not need to attend).

Sixers enter camp with Joel Embiid not cleared for 5-on-5, Jahlil Okafor on trade block

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This is the season the 76ers make the leap from team with potential to playoff team fast on the rise.

Maybe.

That’s the plan in Philly, but there are a lot of questions for this team to answer. While a couple of these issues are answered already — Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz are cleared to play and practice with teammates — a couple big ones still hang around. At the top of the list is “how healthy is Joel Embiid?” Coach Brett Brown doesn’t even have that answer yet, reports Derek Bodner of The Athletic.

It’s this simple: The Sixers outscored opponents by 3.3 points per 100 possessions when Embiid was on the court last season, he was a dominant force defensively who scored 20.2 points a game. When he was off the court the Sixers were 11.5 points per 100 possessions worse. They need him to play and play consistently if the Sixers have playoff dreams. It’s unclear when Embiid will return, but know that the Sixers will be cautious with his minutes again when he does get cleared (he has played just 31 games in three seasons).

Does that mean more Jahlil Okafor? Maybe not, the Sixers are still willing to trade him.

The Sixers have shopped Okafor for most of a year and found no deal they like. Okafor battled knee issues last season and, after a summer working to get healthy, other teams will want to see him play a little before talking trade. If he comes to camp slimmed down and his knee looks right, it could revive trade talks. Using a back-to-the-basket game, he averaged 11.8 points a night shooting 51 percent last season, he’s efficient, and some teams could use what he does (off the bench).

It’s going to be an interesting season in Philly. Are they playoff bound?