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.

 

Report: Duke guard Frank Jackson undergoes foot surgery before NBA draft

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Duke guard Frank Jackson declared for the 2017 NBA draft with an outside shot of going in the first round and a likelihood of getting picked in the second-round.

This won’t help his stock.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Duke’s Frank Jackson, a well-regarded point guard in the 2017 NBA draft class, underwent right foot surgery and is expected to be fully recovered sometime in July.

When Jackson recovers will determine whether he plays in summer league, and that can affect transition to the pros as a rookie.

The bigger questions: Will this hinder his athleticism long-term? Does this put him at greater injury risk?

Jackson, a 6-foot-4 scoring guard, relies on a strong first step to attack the basket and high elevation on his jumper.

Report: 76ers, with No. 3 pick in NBA draft, like PGs De’Aaron Fox and Dennis Smith Jr.

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If there’s consensus on the top prospects in the 2017 NBA draft, it’s:

1. Markelle Fultz

2. Lonzo Ball

3. Josh Jackson

That squares nicely with the Celtics picking Fultz No. 1 and the Lakers taking Ball No. 2.

But what about the 76ers, who pick No. 3? They already have a playmaking forward with a shaky jumper in Ben Simmons. Jackson isn’t the cleanest fit. Even if they plan to deploy Simmons at point guard, they could still use a traditional point guard for support/insurance.

Enter De'Aaron Fox and Dennis Smith Jr.

Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:

https://twitter.com/SBondyNYDN/status/867526157184491521

The 76ers could also get a workout with Ball. There will be point guard options.

I’m just unsure any of them, assuming Ball is off the board, trump Jackson.

Philadelphia’s starting small forward is Robert Covington – a nice player, but not someone who should influence draft decisions. We can lightly pencil Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons into the 76ers’ starting lineup the next time the team gets good, but the rest of the lineup is open. Pondering Jackson’s fit into a half-blank canvass is overthinking. Embiid is an excellent outside shooter for a center, and Philadelphia’s eventual guards (or shooting guard and power forward if Simmons plays point guard) could be good shooters.

The 76ers’ should draft the best prospect available. If that’s Jackson, so be it. They should consider Fox’s and Smith’s fit only if those point guards are in the same tier as Jackson.

That said, don’t rule out the possibility of Fox and Smith working their way into that level. They’re intriguing players.

Thunder’s Enes Kanter: ‘I don’t like Golden State, so I want Cleveland to win the championship’

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When Kevin Durant left the Thunder for the Warriors, Oklahoma City center Enes Kanter jumped fully on board the pro-Russell Westbrook, anti-Durant bandwagon.

That ride doesn’t stop with his former teammate facing the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.

Kanter, via Fox Sports Radio:

I don’t like Golden State, so I want Cleveland to win the championship.

Kanter never misses an opportunity to take a shot at the Warriors – except when Zaza Pachulia laid out Westbrook and stood over him.

Dwane Casey: Masai Ujiri assured me I’ll return as Raptors coach

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Raptors president Masai Ujiri didn’t mince words at his season-ending press conference: Toronto’s playing style had become unacceptable.

It sounded as if he might have been planting the seed for firing Dwane Casey.

But the coach says Ujiri assured him he’d return next season.

Casey on TSN (hat tip: Blake Murphy of Raptors Republic):

I think people mistook Masai’s comments for that. We had a good meeting before that meeting, and we’ve had meeting since then – with all the coaches – as far as plans for next year and the culture reset, which I think every corporation and every team should do periodically to get the culture back in focus and that type of thing. It’s not like we’re in total chaos or anything like that. It’s just good to have roles defined, things we can do better in each of our roles.

We’re doing some good things and some things we can do much better with. And that’s what we’ll plan on doing this summer and also this fall, when we go to training camp.

The Raptors’ offensive rating has dropped from regular season to the playoffs by 8.5, 7.2 and 11.7 the last three years. Their isolation-heavy style is just easier to stop when defenses see it in consecutive games.

The big question: What does Toronto do about that?

It’d be difficult to move on from the two players most responsible for the style, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. DeRozan is signed long-term, and if the Raptors don’t re-sign Lowry, who’ll be an unrestricted free agent this summer, they won’t have the cap space to land a comparable replacement.

The best bet is probably changing schemes from the bench and hoping the players can adjust – and maybe Casey can handle that responsibility. Hiring a new coach obviously would been the clearest path to a shake up, but maybe Casey can evolve. I’d want to see a plan from him before committing to keeping him, but maybe Ujiri got that.

Casey has played a key role in Toronto’s improvement, it’s nice to give him an opportunity to coach differently before hiring a different coach.