Trey Burke sends Jazz-Hornets to OT with 3 (video)

Trey Burke
0 Comments

Lillard sounds like a guy considering shutting it down for season

Boston Celtics v Portland Trail Blazers
Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images
0 Comments

The Portland Trail Blazers have lost six in a row, are 31-40 and sit 3.5 games out of the 10 seed and final play-in spot in the West (a few teams sit between them and that goal, too). It’s not impossible, but with just 11 games remaining there’s a reason fivethirtyeight.com gives them just a 0.4% chance of making the playoffs. It’s hard to be optimistic.

Even for the perpetually optimistic Damian Lillard.

Check out his quotes postgame, with the first being via Sean Highkin of the Rose Garden Report (Blazers fans should subscribe).

“I think everybody in here is not crazy,” Lillard said… “You look at what other teams are doing, they’re creating separation, and we’re on a losing streak. We’ve pretty much fallen out of the race for the 10th spot unless we win every game, if you really look at it truthfully.”

Lillard has played at an All-NBA level this season, averaging 32.2 points and 7.2 assists a game, shooting 37.3% from 3, an insane-for-a-guard 64.5 true shooting percentage, all while having the fifth highest usage rate in the league. Put simply, he has carried the Blazers.

Maybe it’s getting close to time to take that burden off his shoulders.

If/when Lillard decides to sit out the rest of the season, it will start another round of “should Lillard leave” speculation in the media and around the league (other teams are certainly watching). Just don’t bet on it happening. As Lillard said recently about staying to win in Portland, “I’m also willing to die on that hill.” Lillard has four years, $216.2 million remaining on his contract after this season, the deal he signed just last summer. However, more than the money, Lillard sees himself in the Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas or Giannis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee mold — he wants to stay and win in his city.

Rather than selling, look for the Trail Blazers to try and be buyers around the Draft or into the summer, offering good young players such as Shaedon Sharpe and Anfernee Simons, plus plenty of draft picks. Portland wants to win around Lillard and is willing to be aggressive.

But that’s next season, this season has reached the point it may be time to pack it in for Lillard.

Morant reportedly could return to Grizzlies Wednesday vs. Rockets

0 Comments

Despite his eight-game suspension being up, Ja Morant will not be on the court Monday night when the Grizzlies host the Mavericks (Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving are questionable for the Mavericks as of this writing, although Dončić has been hopeful he could play).

In good news for Grizzlies fans, Morant could return as soon as Wednesday against the Rockets, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Rockets and their porous defense are an excellent soft landing spot for Morant to return, put up some numbers, but not have to play heavy minutes. The Grizzlies play the Rockets both Wednesday and Friday and need wins as they are in a fight for the two seed with the red-hot Sacramento Kings.

Morant was suspended for flashing a gun in a club and broadcasting it on social media, something NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called “irresponsible” and “reckless.”The suspension was retroactive, including games he was “away from the team” following the incident. The suspension cost Morant $668,659 in pay, but it hit his bank account harder than that after one of his major sponsors — Powerade — pulled an ad campaign featuring him that would have run heavily during March Madness. Morant is also in the mix for an All-NBA spot — which, via the Rose rule could increase his contract extension that kicks in next season — and this incident and missed games will not help his cause.

Hopefully, Morant got a chance to step back and consider his path forward during the suspension. If the Grizzlies are going to make the postseason run this season — and be a contender for years to come — as they expect, they need peak Morant on the court.

Watch Antetokounmpo shoot 9-of-9, get triple-double in win against Raptors

0 Comments

MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 22 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists, Brook Lopez scored 17 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter, and the Milwaukee Bucks rallied for a 118-111 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Sunday night.

Khris Middleton added 20 points and Bobby Portis had 14 as the Bucks improved to an NBA-best 51-20. Antetokounmpo had his 33rd career triple-double, making all nine of his field goal attempts.

Lopez scored the first eight points of the fourth quarter on a pair of 3-point plays and a dunk to put Milwaukee in front 97-95. Middleton’s free throw capped the 15-2 run that put the Bucks up 104-97.

“We settled down, we got back in control,” said Lopez, who outscored Toronto 17-16 in the fourth quarter. “We talked about the third quarter-fourth quarter break. They just shot more times than us. We were shooting just as well, or better than them from two and three. We just had to take care of the ball and keep them off the offensive glass.”

A dunk by Jakob Poeltl brought Toronto within 110-107, but Lopez scored underneath and Jrue Holiday hit two free throws to make it 114-107 with 1:29 remaining.

Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said Lopez’s outburst to start the fourth quarter was key.

“It changed the game,” Budenholzer said. “I think what he did offensively was important, and then the defense always stands out. It was a little bit muddy, not a pretty game there, and he stepped up and kind of just changed our feel and changed the momentum for us, particularly offensively, which we needed tonight.”

Fred VanVleet had 23 points and O.G. Anunoby added 22 for the Raptors, who had won their three previous games. Toronto missed a chance to move into eighth in the East Conference ahead of Atlanta, which lost to San Antonio 126-118.

“All these games are important to us, that’s for sure,” said Toronto coach Nick Nurse, whose team plays their next four at home. “I like, kind of, how we’re playing. I think we’re very well for long stretches of games. Hopefully, we can just keep building on that.”

Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr. hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put the Raptors up 83-76 with just under 4 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter. Toronto led 95-89 entering the final period.

“There was just two little probably bad stretches,” Nurse said. “In those stretches, they kind of got a couple of at the rim … a couple of and-ones. We just kind of lost our rim protection, and then kicked out and made a couple 3s after we kind of got that fixed. Give them credit, they made a couple big ones down the stretch when they needed them.”

The Bucks hit seven of their 16 3-pointers in the first period en route to a 33-29 lead.

Antetokounmpo, in his 10th season with the Bucks, played in his franchise-record 712th game, surpassing Junior Bridgeman. Antetokounmpo already was the franchise leader in points, assists, triple-doubles, free throws and minutes played. “It’s a great feeling. I wasn’t aware of it coming into the game,” Antetokounmpo said. “It’s been a long, long journey. There’s more to be accomplished yet, I believe.”

Three things to Know: Breaking down wild, wide-open West playoff race

0 Comments

Three Things To Know is NBC’s five-day-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA must-watch.

1) Breaking down wild, wide-open West playoff race

There may be no clear-cut, runaway, team-to-beat in the West, but NBA rules state one of these teams will make it to the Finals. Which one? Your guess is as good as anyone’s at this point, but let’s break down a wide-open race.

• No.1 seed: Denver has lost 5-if-7 and Nikola Jokić was right in saying “we need to be concerned” after a loss to the Knicks on Saturday… they just don’t have to be concerned about being the No.1 seed in the West. After a bounce-back win against the Nets on Sunday — behind a Jokić triple-double — they have a four-game cushion for the top seed. This losing streak exposed questions about their defense and depth for a deep playoff run, but the standings haven’t changed much.

• No.2-3 seeds: Memphis and Sacramento are tied for the No.2-3 seeds at 43-27 — they will finish as those two seeds, the only question is which one will get the No.2 spot and have home court in a potential second-round matchup with each other. Memphis has the easier schedule the rest of the way and should get Ja Morant back from suspension this week, but count the Kings out at your own peril.

• No. 4-6 seeds: Here’s where things get messy. Only four games separate Phoenix at No.4 and New Orleans at No.12 — there is a lot of volatility in these spots. With the Suns expected to get Kevin Durant back before the end of the season, they are the logical pick to hold on to home court in the first round of the playoffs, but they also have a tougher schedule than the Clippers (one game back in the loss column) and Mavericks (two games back). The Clippers can’t afford to rest Kawhi Leonard as much down the stretch, they have lost seven in a row without him. With Dallas, the question is when does Luka Dončić return? These three teams likely finish 4-6 if they can play at least .500 ball the rest of the way, but if any team 4-12 in the West gets hot for the final games it could change everything.

• No.7-12 seeds: One game separates 7-12 in the bottom of the West, any little run could have the team at least in the 7/8 spots for the play-in (and only needing to win one game to make the playoffs. The team to watch is Oklahoma City, which has gone 7-3 in their last 10, has the easiest schedule of this group the rest of the way and is a tough out whenever Shai Gilgeous-Alexander plays. The Lakers sit 10th after an Austin Reavesfueled win over the Magic on Sunday, but they have the second-easiest schedule of this group and Darvin Ham said they expect LeBron James back before the end of the season. Can Golden State get a win on the road where they have lost seven straight (their 10 remaining games are split evenly home and road)? Fortunately for Minnesota, Anthony Edwardsankle injury is not as severe as it looked at first, but it’s unclear when he will return and this team has been outscored by 3.4 points per 100 possessions without him this season. Utah has the toughest remaining schedule in the West, but they have been gritty all season and will not go away, doing things like beating the Celtics over the weekend. Without Zion or a consistent offense, New Orleans may be the hardest of this group to back.

Portland sits 13th and has lost six in a row, mathematically they are not out of it but it’s hard to envision them turning things around, despite how well Damian Lillard is playing.

2) Giannis Antetokounmpo has perfect shooting triple-double in Bucks win

It feels like Giannis Antetokounmpo will have to put up triple-doubles nightly to keep up with Jokić and Joel Embiid in the MVP race, but the one he put up Sunday in leading the Bucks past the Raptors was special because he was a perfect 9-of-9 from the field.

If Wilt only did it twice, you know it’s hard to do.

We’ll dive into the East standings tomorrow, but the Bucks are sitting pretty as the league’s only 50+ win team (51-20) and have a comfortable 2.5-game cushion over the Celtics and 76ers. That matters, in part because Milwaukee will have home court for the entire playoffs, but more importantly, it puts them on the other side of the bracket from Boston and Philly and lets them fight it out in the second round.

3) Ted Lasso can hoop, too.

The Shot of the weekend goes to Jason Sudeikis. He and some others from Richmond F.C. were courtside at the Knicks game Saturday (promoting Ted Lasso, as it were) and he did this pregame:

Is there anything Ted Lasso can’t do?