Getty Images

Raptors hoping to get back into series with Cavaliers

1 Comment

TORONTO (AP) — Hope is about all that remains for the Toronto Raptors when they play Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Cleveland Cavaliers Friday night at the Air Canada Centre.

First, the Raptors hope that All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry will be able to play after suffering a sprained left ankle in Game 2 Wednesday.

He did not practice Thursday as he had his ankle evaluated further and was listed by coach Dwane Casey as questionable. Then Lowry missed Friday’s shootaround and declared himsef a game-time decision.

“Kyle is our driving force, our point guard, our leader,” All-Star Toronto guard DeMar DeRozan said Thursday. “So, for us not to have him anything close to 100 percent, it would be difficult on us. But next guy, everybody else has to do something a little bit more to fill whatever void it is he can’t fully do out there on the court.”

As much as Lowry is on the Raptors’ hope list, so is DeRozan. The Raptors hope that he regains the scoring touch that was absent in Game 2.

They also hope that they can make history repeat itself.

Last season, in the Eastern Conference finals, the Cavaliers won Game 1 by 31 points and Game 2 by 19, both games at Cleveland.

The Raptors came back to win the next two games at home before losing the series in six games. Last year, they were 99-84 winners in Game 3 with DeRozan scoring 32 points and won 105-99 in Game 4 with Lowry scoring 35.

Casey feels that the Raptors can play themselves back into the series at home as they did last season, despite dropping the first game 116-105 followed by a 125-103 loss in Game 2.

“When we lost by (31) here last year, everyone knocked us and said it was over with,” Casey said. “It was done. I don’t believe in that. I believe in our players. I believe in our guys, and I know there is another level we can get to.”

They will need both Lowry and DeRozan at their best.

Lowry allowed that his ankle was sore after the game Wednesday. He talked about playing on Friday although that did not seem so certain Thursday.

The ankle was injured when teammate Norman Powell was thrown into him as both were on defense 30 seconds into the second half. He left briefly, then returned for eight minutes before being removed for the rest of the game, having scored 20 points.

“They are the defending champs and that is what they are looking like,” Lowry said. “But I am still confident with us going home.”

DeRozan was held to five points on 2-for-11 shooting in Game 2.

“We know DeMar is a great player and our strategy in the last three years since I’ve been here is just take away what a team does best,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “So we’re going to pay great attention to him. I give J.R. (Smith) a lot of credit, Shump (Iman Shumpert) a lot of credit and LeBron (James) a ton of credit. We know (DeRozan) is a great player and we don’t want him to get comfortable.”

“They’re into him, they’re bodying him,” Casey said. “He’s got to vault up and make his shots. I’ve got to do a better job of getting him open looks. At the end of the day we’re going to go the way he and Kyle go.”

No matter what the Raptors do, the Cavaliers still have James, who scored 39 points in 36:36 Wednesday.

He moved past Kareem Abdul-Jabbar into second place on the all-time playoff scoring list.

“I’m very blessed and I’m taking advantage of the opportunity I’ve been given,” James said. “Even at 32, I’ve been in this league for 14 years and I just don’t take the opportunity for granted.”

He has 5,677 career playoff points, trailing only Michael Jordan, who has 5,987

“He’s playing well,” Casey said. “We put him on the line 21 times. Way too many.”

Gregg Popovich will not coach Game 4 following death of his wife, Erin

Getty Images
Leave a comment

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will not be on the sidelines again for Game 4 Sunday following the death of his wife, Erin, to a lengthy illness.

Ettore Messina will again coach the Spurs.

Popovich also missed Game 3. His San Antonio Spurs are down 3-0 to the Golden State Warriors in the first-round matchup. None of that matters compared to the loss of a woman he loved and was married to for four decades.

Erin Popovich’s passing has cast a pall over the series, especially with Warriors coach Steve Kerr being very close to the Popovichs dating back to his playing days with the Spurs.

The reaction and sadness about Erin’s passing has reached well beyond this series.

Our thoughts are with the Popovich family in this difficult time.

Anthony Davis’ 47 points, Pelicans sweep Trail Blazers out of playoffs

3 Comments

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Anthony Davis scored 33 of his franchise playoff-record 47 points in the second half, and the New Orleans Pelicans completed a first-round playoff sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers with a 131-123 victory on Saturday.

Jrue Holiday capped his 41-point performance with an 18-foot pull-up jumper that gave the Pelicans a six-point lead with 40 seconds left.

Rajon Rondo added 16 assists, and Davis also had 11 rebounds and three blocks for New Orleans, which is moving on to the second round of the playoffs for only the second time since the NBA returned to the city 16 seasons ago.

C.J. McCollum scored 38 for the Trail Blazers, who responded to a blowout loss in Game 3 by keeping Game 4 close until the final minute. Al-Farouq Aminu scored 27, Damian Lillard added 18 points and Jusuf Nurkic had 18 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out.

Lillard’s difficult driving layup had just tied the game at 60 when the Pelicans briefly pulled away, going on an 11-2 run capped by Davis’ 3.

Soon after, Nikola Mirotic added step-back 3. Davis, who scored 19 in the third quarter, then added a layup while falling down after a hard foul by Aminu, after which Davis flexed both biceps while still sitting on the court.

Holiday’s transition 3 made it 87-72, prompting Portland to call timeout while Holiday walked slowly toward mid-court, nodding and smiling wide as he soaked in the crowd’s adulation.

New Orleans led by 13 to start the fourth quarter, but Portland refused to wilt, opening the period on a 15-4 run that included Nurkic’s hook shot, 20-foot jumper and dunk. McCollum’s transition layup made it 104-102 with nearly nine minutes to play.

Portland got as close as a single point on Aminu’s layup with 5:08 to go, but Davis responded with 12 points over the final 4:56, starting with a layup as he was fouled and a 3-pointer. Holiday scored six points during the final 2:52, starting with his 3-pointer. The pair combined for all but one of New Orleans’ points during that pivotal stretch.

Leading up to Game 4, Lillard spoke of the need for the Blazers to ramp up their intensity and physicality. From the tip, it looked as though they’d done so.

In stark contrast to Game 3, when New Orleans led by 18 in the first quarter, this game was tight and testy.

Anthony and Ed Davis received double technical fouls after bumping one another following one of Anthony Davis’ dunks – and that was just the beginning.

McCollum was called for a flagrant foul when he stormed into the lane behind E'Twaun Moore and grabbed the Pelicans guard by the shoulders to thwart a driving layup attempt. Moore then shoved McCollum and was assessed a technical foul.

And in the final seconds of the half, double technicals were assessed to Rondo and Portland center Zach Collins after Rondo lowered his forehead into Collins’ chest and Collins shoved back.

When halftime arrived, New Orleans led 58-56.

 

 

Twins Marcus, Markieff Morris each fined by league for separate instances

Associated Press
5 Comments

Twins Marcus and Markieff Morris have a special bond, one that includes doing so much together on the basketball court — playing at the same high school, the same AAU team, then going to college together at Kansas, and even playing together in the NBA for a while together with the Suns (they are now on separate teams).

That includes them both getting fined Saturday by the NBA for recent actions during the playoffs.

Washington’s Markieff Morris picked up a $25,000 fine for “attempting to escalate an altercation and pushing a game official,” the league announced. Here is the play in question, just minutes into Game 3.

Toronto’s OG Anunoby draws a foul knocking Morris to the ground, but Morris starts the incident with an elbow to Anunoby’s back, and he does push referee Kenny Mauer. Considering all that, a $25,000 fine is not that severe.

His twin Marcus Morris picked up a $15,000 for “public criticism of the officiating,” which he certainly did following the Celtics’ Game 3 loss to the Bucks. Here are his comments, and they are NSFW.

That $15,000 fine is pretty much the going rate for ripping the referees after the game.

Markieff outdid his brother on this one… if you consider getting the larger fine the “win.”

As expected, likely top-three pick Luka Doncic files to enter NBA draft

Getty Images
1 Comment

Luka Doncic — the 6’8″ point forward who is putting up impressive numbers against men at the highest levels of European basketball — is bringing is game to the NBA. As expected.

Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports said the expected is now official.

Doncic, 19, submitted draft paperwork this week to formally enter his name, league sources said. Doncic is arguably the most decorated European player to make a jump to the NBA, a wunderkind who’s been playing in the EuroLeague since 2015. He is currently leading Real Madrid in the EuroLeague playoffs, averaging 14.9 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists this season.

The 6-foot-7 Doncic has the ability to play multiple positions, from being a primary ball-handler to shooting and playmaking off the ball. His season in Europe could continue into late May or June. NBA executives have long been intrigued by Doncic’s potential stardom, and several are continuing to make scouting trips for him.

Doncic is expected to go in the top three (likely the top two) come this June’s draft.

If you’re about to bring up Darko Milicic or some other European bust, just stop. This Slovenian has proven he can play — in 54 games this season between Liga ACB (Spain’s league, second best in the NBA) and the Euroleague, Doncic is averaging 14.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists a game. He has shown a gift for passing that should blossom in the more open play of the NBA, plus he just knows how to run a team and make plays. He can score when called upon and has three-point range, can shoot off the bounce, and if you switch a smaller guy onto him, Doncic can just post him up.

He’s not going to be a bust.

However, what his ceiling is remains the debate. He’s not an elite athlete by NBA standards who has struggled at points for Real Madrid when guarded by borderline-NBA level Americans in Europe. Can he defend at the NBA level? Can he be consistent with his jumper? He may be elite, but it’s no given.

He’s going to be good, and his floor is higher than a lot of the other top prospects in this draft class. However, if a GM thinks that Marvin Bagley III or Mohamed Bamba both have a higher ceiling and can reach it, they may go with the Americans. Doncic is going to put some GMs in an interesting position.