Kurt Helin

Jae Crowder hits Celtics’ game winner, John Wall misses layup to tie

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It was a well-designed play by Brad Stevens, but, even more, a good recognition by Jae Crowder and a fantastic pass by Marcus Smart that gave Boston the game winner Saturday night.

As good as that play was, there was the surprise at the other end of John Wall missing a layup that could have tied it after he had sped coast-to-coast for the chance. Kelly Olynyk makes Wall alter the shot, but it is still makeable (Wall is shooting an above-average 62 percent in the restricted area this season. It didn’t fall this time.

With the win Boston remains the eight seed in the East and is now two games up on the Wizards for that final playoff spot.

Cavaliers’ Matthew Dellavedova tops poll naming league’s dirtiest players

Cleveland Cavaliers' Matthew Dellavedova (8) keeps the ball from going out of bounce during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors Friday, Dec. 25, 2015, in Oakland, Calif. Golden State won 89-83. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Associated Press

Matthew Dellavedova‘s play came under scrutiny during the playoffs last season, when he rolled up on the ankle of Atlanta’s Kyle Korver (injuring him and sending him out for the series) and locked Taj Gibson‘s leg up and got him ejected when Gibson tried to kick out of it. Cavs’ fans liked to call him scrappy, but the rest of the league was debating whether he was a dirty player or just reckless.

Players apparently think dirty.

Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times polled 24 players about who was the dirtiest in the league and Dellavedova “won.”

Dellavedova received 13 votes. Oklahoma City center Steven Adams was next with seven votes. Golden State center Andrew Bogut (5), Memphis forward Matt Barnes (4) and Oklahoma City forward Serge Ibaka (2) rounded out the top five.

“Wow! Delly and Bogut are both from Australia,” an Eastern Conference player said about the tally. “How about that! Delly is kind of dirty and he does cross the line. But I don’t even think it’s even close with Bogut. Dellavedova is a little bit wild and out of control.”

A few people backed Dellavedova on that count, calling him more reckless than dirty.

“He ain’t dirty. He just plays hard,” said an old-school East assistant coach. “See, guys resent people that play hard because they don’t want to play hard. So if a guy plays hard, he’s dirty. He’s not dirty. He just plays hard. People question the play he made in the playoffs against Korver. I just think it was poor judgment.”

If you’re a player, and you see a guy who you fear could injure you and alter your career, are you going to draw a distinction between dirty and reckless? Coaches can, I’m not sure players see it that way. That said, the players agreed that the extra shots from Adams and particularly the plays from Bogut are calculated and try to throw their opponent off their game.

It should be noted that the top three players are two Australians and one guy from New Zealand (Adams). Also, notice that the teams with these guys at the top — Cavaliers, Thunder, Warriors — are also among the five best teams in the league.

Kobe Bryant leaves game with sore Achilles, says not shutting it down

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant watches a warm up shot drop before an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016, in Salt Lake City.  (AP Photo/Steve Wilson)
Associated Press

You don’t need a medical degree to see why Lakers’ trainer Gary Viti suggested Kobe Bryant take a couple of weeks off. Kobe has already blown out his Achilles tendon once, and on Sunday night he pulled out of a game in Utah, not playing the second half because of a sore Achilles.  Kobe was 2-of-8 for five points in the first half.

Does that mean Kobe is going to follow Viti’s advice? No. From Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.

“Two weeks is a long time. It doesn’t feel like a two-week injury,” said Bryant, who reported improvement in his right shoulder. “I’ve had those before. This doesn’t feel that way.”

Instead, Bryant reported his Achilles “jammed up” and he “couldn’t get it loose.”

We know coach Byron Scott isn’t going to force Kobe to sit. That’s not how their power dynamic works.

The Lakers play Sunday in Los Angeles against Houston and it certainly is possible, even likely, Kobe is in street clothes for that one. After that the Lakers host the Kings on Wednesday, and then the Spurs on Friday. Kobe is enjoying his farewell tour — I love that the Utah fans booed him Saturday — and doesn’t want to sit out games, but he’s going to need to miss some just to get his body in a shape for what is still half a season remaining.

Jahlil Okafor helps 76ers rout Trail Blazers 114-89


PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jahlil Okafor had 25 points and 10 rebounds to help the Philadelphia 76ers snap a four-game losing streak with a 114-89 rout of the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday night.

Richaun Holmes added 17 points off the bench and Ish Smith and Robert Covington scored 16 apiece for the Sixers, who enjoyed a rare blowout victory. They improved to 5-37 with their most lopsided win of the season.

Damian Lillard scored 14 points to lead the Blazers, who dropped to 18-25 as their three-game winning streak ended. C.J. McCollum finished with 13 and Mason Plumlee and Miles Leonard had 12 apiece.

Portland, in the midst of a three-game East Coast swing, looked flat from the opening tip.

Okafor torched the Blazers for 10 points in the first four minutes and 17 in the first quarter – as many as the entire Portland team. With a mixture of post moves and jumpers, the rookie center only missed one of his nine shot attempts in the opening quarter to help Philly take a 29-17 lead.

The Sixers extended their lead to 22 with 7:45 left in the second quarter on a Covington transition 3-pointer, moments after a Nerlens Noel block on the other end. Covington hit another three less than two minutes later to put Philly up 25 and the Sixers went into halftime with a comfortable 68-43 advantage after Smith hit a runner right before the buzzer.

The Sixers blew a 24-point lead in an overtime loss to the Bulls on Thursday but didn’t suffer the same fate two days later. They continued to put their foot on the gas coming out of halftime, going up 29 on a Smith-to-JaKarr Sampson alley oop midway through the third and 31 on a Covington three with two minutes left in the quarter.

Lillard and McCollum, the league’s highest scoring guard combo, shot 10 for 36 while combining to score nearly 20 points below their season average.


Trail Blazers: Portland lost to Philadelphia for the first time in four straight matchups. … The Blazers shot just 16 for 43 from the field and 2 for 14 from 3-point range in the first half. … Lillard has led the team in scoring in each of the last seven games. … The Blazers were denied their first four-game win streak since last March.

76ers: Starters Nik Stauskas (shoulder) and Jerami Grant (calf) both missed the game with injuries. Head coach Brett Brown said he hopes both will be back for Philly’s next game. … Elton Brand was inactive. He’s yet to make his season debut after the Sixers signed him on Jan. 4. . The Sixers trotted out their 22nd different starting lineup in 42 games this season. … Smith and Canaan combined to score the Philly’s final 13 points of the first half.

Hassan Whiteside tallies 11 blocks, triple-double against Denver

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Eventually, Emmanuel Mudiay learned not to drive all the way to the rim when Hassan Whiteside was waiting there, but it took a couple of highlight blocks for him to figure it out.

Whiteside blocked 11 shots on his way to a triple-double against Denver (19 points and 17 rebounds). It was quite a show.

Miami escaped Denver with the 98-95 win thanks to Whiteside and 24 points from Chris Bosh. Darrell Arthur had 18 to lead the Nuggets.