George Karl has noticed the maturity in Carmelo Anthony’s game

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Carmelo Anthony used to frustrate George Karl, and it wasn’t just a fondness for 20-foot contested jumpers.

Karl needed Anthony to be a true leader on both ends of the floor. He needed Anthony’s focus on offense to translate to defense. He needed Anthony to do the little things that leaders do to push their team to the next level.

Say, like being willing to risk injury diving for a loose ball out of bounds. Like he did the other day. Anthony returned from that finger injury to beat Karl and his Nuggets and Karl told the New York Times he has seen the change in Anthony’s game.

“I’ve said I feel that Carmelo is going to win a championship someday,” Karl said. “He’s going to figure out that the numbers and the stats sheets aren’t important. It’s the scoreboard and the intangibles that make winners champions.”

Anthony is scoring 26.8 points per game, which is close to his career high, and he is hitting a career high from three of 43 percent. But it’s the little things that have driven his PER up to a career high of 24.

Anthony came back from the Olympics this summer with a more mature outlook and game, something he got after hanging around with Kobe Bryant and LeBron James and other guys with rings on Team USA at the London Olympics. But Kobe and LeBron both had a learning curve to become true leaders, and Karl said that and what Anthony has done is the norm. Players are not born to lead right out of the gate.

“I can say that about everybody I’ve coached, except Chauncey Billups or Nate McMillan, in my career,” Karl said. “I can say that about Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp and a lot of great young guys.”

At this point of the season, about a quarter of the way in, is when you can start to tell if the mirages we saw early in the season are reality or not. The change in Anthony doesn’t seem to be a mirage. There are tests still ahead for the Knicks (hello Amare Stoudemire) but now we get to see how far the new Anthony can take the Knicks.

Kawhi Leonard has 27 as Raptors clinch series over Magic

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TORONTO (AP) Kawhi Leonard scored 27 points, Pascal Siakam added 24 and the Toronto Raptors used another stifling defensive effort to beat the Orlando Magic 115-96 on Tuesday night, winning their first-round playoff series in five games.

Kyle Lowry scored 14 points as the Raptors finished off the Magic with ease, bouncing back from a Game 1 defeat to win by double-digits in three of the next four. Toronto led by as many as 37 in the clincher, their biggest-ever margin in a playoff game.

It’s the fourth straight year the Raptors have reached the second round.

Leonard made 8 of 11 shots, including 5 of 5 from 3-point range, as the Raptors jumped on Orlando early and never trailed. Leonard also made all six of his free throws. He checked out to cheers of “MVP, MVP” with 8:05 to play and Toronto up 105-75.

D.J. Augustin scored 15 points, Terrence Ross had 12 and Aaron Gordon 11 for the Magic, who won 104-101 on Augustin’s late 3-pointer in Game 1 but never again topped 96 points against Toronto’s dominant defense, and twice finished with 85 or fewer.

Orlando made 32 of 83 shots, including 9 of 34 from 3-point range.

The Magic hadn’t reached the postseason since 2012. That year, Orlando won its opener on the road against Indiana, then lost four straight. The Magic haven’t advanced past the opening round since 2010, when they lost to Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Lowry scored Toronto’s first nine points and had 12 in the opening quarter. Orlando missed 10 of its first 11 shots and went 0 for 7 from 3-point range in the first. Toronto was up 35-19 after one.

The Magic missed 11 straight from long range before Fournier connected at 7:55 of the second. Toronto answered with a 6-0 spurt, opening a 50-29 lead with 6:48 to go until halftime. Leonard and Siakam each had seven points in the second and the Raptors held a 67-47 lead at the intermission.2

Lowry left at 2:41 of the second and headed to the locker room after appearing to jam a finger on his right hand. He returned to start the second half.

Toronto took a commanding 99-70 lead into the fourth.

TIP-INS

Magic: Vucevic missed his first four shots and had three fouls in a scoreless first quarter, playing only five minutes. Vucevic scored his first basket at 9:54 of the third, when Orlando trailed by 26. He shot 3 for 10 and scored six points. … Khem Birch led Orlando with 11 rebounds.

Raptors: Toronto had 10 assists on 13 made baskets in the first quarter, and 19 on 23 baskets in the first half. The 19 assists set a Raptors record for a single half of a postseason game. … G Fred VanVleet led Toronto with 10 assists while Lowry had nine. … Five games is the quickest Toronto has ever won a seven-game series. … F Chris Boucher (back) was not available.

UP NEXT

Toronto will host Philadelphia or Brooklyn in Game 1 of the second round.

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Donovan Mitchell pulled over to assist at the scene of a car wreck (PHOTO)

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A car wreck can be a terrible thing. People get injured, property gets damaged, and it ruins your day. But perhaps folks were a little bit happier when they got out of their car and saw Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell coming over to help.

Mitchell witnessed a car wreck over the weekend and decided to get out of his vehicle and assist those on the scene.

According to a report from the Salt Lake Tribune, Mitchell saw a woman who needed help and pulled over to lend a hand.

Via Salt Lake Tribune:

“I was driving by, a lady was falling out of her car, the airbags went off, she was grabbing her chest and I was like, ‘Oh shoot.’ Like a natural instinct to found out what happened,” Mitchell explained. Mitchell ended up calling 911 to report the accident.

Apparently everybody in the car accident was okay, but imagine getting in a wreck and then an NBA star shows up. That might be a little odd.

Meanwhile Mitchell and the Jazz might be headed for a short postseason. They are struggling against the Houston Rockets, just as many predicted.

Mitchell has not played a great in the series against the Rockets. His per game numbers are similar to what he posted last season, but his advanced metrics tell a different story. The young Jazz point guard is playing near replacement-level, and some of his decision-making has been questionable.

Game 5 is on Wednesday at 5 p.m. PST and the Rockets lead, 3-1.

Blake Griffin shook the hands of every media member after exit interviews (VIDEO)

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The season is over for the Detroit Pistons. Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks took care of Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond in quick fashion, sweeping them out of the playoffs on Monday.

Griffin had an incredible regular season in Detroit after being traded by the Los Angeles Clippers back in January of 2018. He notched numbers of 24.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 5.4 assists. Griffin also shot 36 percent from 3-point land.

The former member of Lob City is apparently embracing his new role as the face of the Pistons, and that included shaking hands with every media member after his exit interview on Tuesday.

It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but this isn’t something that every NBA superstar would do.

Via Twitter:

On Tuesday Griffin also thanked all of the Pistons fans via Instagram for sticking with him and the rest of the squad through the postseason.

People have lambasted Griffin’s contract up until this point, but if he can stay relatively healthy and play similar to how he did this year, the power forward is at least be a building block for Detroit to improve upon moving forward.

Prepare yourself for ‘Beanie ‘Melo’ because Carmelo Anthony is back (VIDEO)

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Carmelo Anthony is not playing in these playoffs. The former superstar was last seen celebrating with his friends at Dwyane Wade‘s last game.

But now video has surfaced of Anthony working out. However, there’s one thing that’s different.

Anthony was previously seen wearing a hoodie during offseason workouts, enough so that he was dubbed “Hoodie Melo” by Twitter. Now it appears that Anthony has traded in his hoodie for a different kind of chapeau.

Via Twitter:

I’m not sure if Anthony is exactly “ready to go”. The video of him working out shows him shooting 15-foot turnarounds, which is the exact thing that caused NBA teams to wholly pass on him this season.

I’m excited for the bevy of workout videos to start. This one has come early, it’s not even May yet.