World Cup Day 1 roundup: Brazil with big win, Andray Blatche puts on a show

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The FIBA World Cup tipped-off on Saturday in Spain with a dozen games. Since it’s Labor Day weekend and all and you have barbecues to attend and beers to drink, we put together a quick recap for you.

• The USA’s defense forced Finland into a 0-of-17 shooting performance in the second quarter, a quarter the USA won 29-2. From there the USA went on to eek out a 114-55 win. Klay Thompson had 18 points, Anthony Davis 17 and Derrick Rose looked impressive throwing up a dozen. Finland had a loud and large crowd on hand, which was nice.

• Brazil picked up a key win over France 65-63 in a battle of two potential medal teams (both in Group A this round). Brazil trailed in the second quarter of a sloppy game until point guard Marcelo Huertas poured in 11 of his 16 points on the night to fuel the Brazilian comeback and give them a two point lead at the half, a lead they were able to maintain in the second half. Boris Diaw led France with 15 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists, and he had a three-point shot at the final buzzer to try to win it but Anderson Varejao of Brazil got the block. This was a game littered with NBA players but Evan Fournier (Magic) barely played and Nene (Wizards) was 2-of-6 shooting with four turnovers in what was often a sloppy game.

• As you would expect Spain had little trouble with Iran, winning 90-60. The real news here was that Serge Ibaka did not play for Spain due to a hamstring injury. We will monitor this going forward, but remember Ibaka battled a calf injury in the NBA playoffs last year.

• Andray Blatche had a monster game for the Philippines — 28 points (despite a 1-of-9 shooting start when he was settling for jumpers) and 12 rebounds. Blatche, still an NBA free agent, was faking three pointers and driving past Croatian big men when they bit, getting into the lane and generally finding all sorts of room to operate and put on a show. It wasn’t enough. The Brooklyn Nets new forward Bojan Bogdanovic scored 26 points leading Croatia to a 81-78 overtime victory.

• Argentina had little trouble with Puerto Rico winning 98-75 behind 20 points and 9 rebounds from Luis Scola, plus 10 assists from Pablo Prigioni. J.J. Barea had 24 points to lead Puerto Rico.

• The Suns’ Goran Dragic scored 21 points and pulled down 7 rebounds to lead Slovenia to a 90-80 victory over Australia.

• Greece beat Senegal 87-64 in part due to Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 11 points, 5 rebounds and 3 steals. Minnesota’s Gorgui Dieng led Senegal with 21 points and 14 rebounds.

• In other action in the USA’s group Turkey came from behind to beat New Zealand 76-73, and the Ukraine (coached by Mike Fratello) beat the Dominican Republic 72-62.

• Other Word cup games on Saturday saw Angola beating Korea 80-69, Serbia toying with Egypt 85-64, and Lithuania beating Mexico 87-74.

Watch Portland’s Jusuf Nurkic dunk all over Bol Bol

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Bol Bol had some impressive blocked shots during exhibition games at the NBA’s restart, but he hadn’t gotten one in his 16 limited minutes since the seeding games started. He wanted one.

So Bol tried to get in front of Jusuf Nurkic of Denver on Thursday and… that did not go well.

Bol did later get a blocked shot on Hassan Whiteside.

Nurkic, however, ended the night with 22 points, seven rebounds, and the Trail Blazers got a 125-115 win that has Portland comfortably as the ninth seed, just half-a-game back of eight-seed Memphis. Portland is setting itself up with a better-than-average chance make the playoffs

Kawhi Leonard’s 29 leads Clippers past Mavericks in potential first-round preview

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Kawhi Leonard scored 29 points to help the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Dallas Mavericks 126-111 on Thursday night in a possible playoff preview.

Paul George scored 24 points and Ivica Zubac added 21 points on 10-for-10 shooting and 15 rebounds for the Clippers, who strengthened their hold on the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference standings.

The Clippers entered the night a just half game ahead of Denver, but they shot 54% against the Mavericks to improve to 2-2 in the restart.

Kristaps Porzingis scored 30 points and Luka Doncic added 29 for Dallas, which fell to 1-3 in the restart.

Dallas likely will finish as the No. 7 seed, making a first-round matchup with the Clippers a strong possibility.

“That’s obviously going to be a tough matchup,” Porzingis said. “They’re one of the favorites to win it all. They have multiple guys that have been there already. But we’re looking forward to the challenge and getting experience in that.”

Doncic was coming off a monster game — 34 points, 20 rebounds and 12 assists against the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday. He made 10 of 21 shots against the Clippers, including 6 of 13 3-pointers.

“Luka’s just a handful,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “It takes a whole team to guard him. I thought our guys did a pretty good job overall. We lost him a couple times, which you can never do. So there’s a lot of room for improvement.”

The Clippers led Dallas by 12 in the third quarter before the Mavericks rallied and tied the game at 101 midway through the fourth. Los Angeles responded with a 9-0 run to regain control. The Clippers shot 62% in the fourth quarter to pull away.

“I just liked how we played overall,” Rivers said. “We played like a team tonight, on both ends.”

Though the Mavericks fell to 1-3 in the restart, Doncic remained confident.

“We’re a great team,” he said. “We’ve always got chances, no matter what. I think some people count us out, but we’re not out. We’ll give our max.”

Devin Booker says after latest Suns’ win ‘Kobe’s with me every day’

Devin Booker Kobe
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Devin Booker grew up a huge Kobe Bryant fan. When Booker made the league in 2016 he got to play against his idol and threw up 28 points on the night. Kobe was impressed. The two talked after the game and Kobe gave him an autographed pair of shoes with an inspirational message:

“Be Legendary.”

Booker took that to heart. He got the phrase as a tattoo. He’s been writing “Be Legendary” on his Nike’s before every game in the bubble. And after he scored 20 against the Pacers Thursday, helping the Suns remain undefeated for the restart, he said Kobe is still inspiring him every day.

“Kobe’s with me every day. You guys see what I put on my shoes with the ‘Be Legendary.’ It’s a reminder.”

Whatever he’s doing, it is working. Booker hit a Kobe-like turnaround game-winner to beat the Clippers. He’s averaging 28 points and 6.5 assists a game for the restart, and shooting 40% from three. Defenses are keying on him, but with a healthy Deandre Ayton and other players stepping up — Cameron Johnson has been a surprise standout in Orlando — the Suns look sharp and keep on winning.

Kobe would be proud.

Giannis Antetokounmpo drops 33 on Heat, Bucks secure No. 1 seed

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton scored 33 points each, and the Milwaukee Bucks overcame a huge early deficit to get a 130-116 win over the Miami Heat on Thursday to clinch the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Heat led by as many as 23 points in a first half where the team piled up 73 points despite playing without Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic. Miami cooled off after the break and the Bucks took the lead in the third quarter but were down by 6 to start the fourth.

Antetokounmpo, the favorite to win his second MVP award, sat out about five minutes of the fourth quarter after collecting his fifth foul with 11 minutes to go. Milwaukee trailed by 1 with about five minutes remaining before using a 20-0 run, with three dunks from Antetokounmpo, to make it 130-111 with less than a minute to go and cruise to the victory.

Antetokounmpo and Middleton played 30 and 34 minutes respectively after the stars both sat out the entire second half of their last game on Tuesday.

Duncan Robinson had 21 points for the Heat, who lost to Milwaukee for the first time this season after winning the first two meetings.

The Heat led by 6 with about 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter when Antetokounmpo picked up his fifth foul on a charge and headed to the bench. Andre Iguodala made a 3 for Miami before the Bucks scored the next 13 points, capped by a 3 from Bledsoe, to take a 107-103 lead with about seven minutes remaining.

Robinson made a 3-pointer to end a scoring drought of almost four minutes for Miami with about 6 ½ minutes to go and Antetokounmpo re-entered the game soon after that.

The Heat led by 12 with about 10 minutes left in third quarter before Milwaukee used a 16-3 run to take an 82-81 lead with five minutes left in the quarter. Antetokounmpo and Wesley Matthews each had five points each in that span to help close the gap.

The Bucks cut the lead to 3 with a dunk by Antetokounmpo late in the third. But the Heat wrapped up the quarter with a 5-2 spurt to take a 98-92 lead into the fourth.