Hawks get ‘revenge’ by beating Wizards 122-101

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Fresh off the pain of losing by 15 at home to the Washington Wizards, the Atlanta Hawks couldn’t afford another disappointment. With every other team in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff picture winning, the Hawks were plenty motivated to bounce back.

Behind 23 points from reserve guard Dennis Schroder and a season-high 17 3-pointers, Atlanta did just that in beating Wizards 122-101 on Wednesday night in the second half of the teams’ home-and-home series. The Hawks were all too happy to snap the Wizards’ winning streak at five after the way Monday’s game went.

“It was a pride thing,” said Thabo Sefolosha, who helped hold John Wall to 13 points on 6-of-17 shooting. “We didn’t like the way we played, obviously. We let them play well. They played well in Atlanta. It was definitely good to come out tonight, win this game and kind of get a little bit of revenge.”

Revenge was best served with a potent inside-out attack. Schroder was 7 of 9 from the floor as he drove to the basket and opened up shots, and Kyle Korver scored 15 points, all on 3s.

Atlanta (42-30) attempted a season-high 42 3-pointers because so many of them were open looks. A 25-5 second-half run capped by a 3-pointer by Korver with 10:03 left busted open the game.

Data curated by PointAfter

“It’s a little bit of a yin and a yang between making shots and getting to the paint, getting to the paint and us opening up shots,” coach Mike Budenholzer said. “I think it starts with getting to the basket. … If they start collapsing and take away that, then there’s opportunities.”

There were opportunities aplenty for Paul Millsap, who scored 17 points after being held to 13 Monday, and for Al Horford, who added 13. It all started with Schroder, who tweaked his left ankle two nights earlier but didn’t miss a step as he carved up the Wizards’ defense.

“What a performance tonight,” Sefolosha said. “He carried the team basically in the second half. Even coming in in the first half he did a great job. But second half he really had it going, kept it going and it was great for us.”

Wall and backcourt mate Bradley Beal never got it going for the Wizards (35-36), who failed in their attempt to get above .500 for the first time since Nov. 24, when they were 6-5. Wall had just two points in the second half, and Beal shot 2 of 8.

“We did a great job on (Wall) and on Bradley Beal, I think, and that’s the key right there,” Schroder said.

Coupled with the Detroit Pistons’ fourth consecutive victory, Washington fell 2 1/2 points back of the eighth and final playoff spot in the East with 11 games to go. Turnovers were the Wizards’ undoing as they committed 13 in the second half.

“You can’t get outscored by 21 points off turnovers,” coach Randy Wittman said. “Everything we focused on and did in Atlanta, 50/50 balls they beat us to. They had more offensive rebounds in the first quarter alone than they did in the entire game in Atlanta. That was really the difference.”

Marcus Thornton led the Wizards with 23 points, including five 3s. But it was no match for Atlanta’s barrage from the outside.

OVER THE HUMPHRIES

Traded from the Wizards to the Suns in the Markieff Morris deal and then waived by Phoenix, Kris Humphries scored nine points in his return to Washington. That included two emphatic dunks.

“We’re very happy to add him to our group,” Budenholzer said. “His rebounding, his physicality – he’s fit in well.”

TIP-INS

Hawks: Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 14 points off the bench… A 22-point first quarter snapped Atlanta’s streak of reaching at least 30 in five consecutive games.

Wizards: Jared Dudley‘s 3 with 10:16 left in the second quarter was his first since March 8, eight games ago. Dudley is seventh in the league in 3-point shooting percentage. … Alan Anderson missed his fourth game out of the last five with a left ankle injury. Wittman said he has “no idea” how long Anderson will be out.

 

Wes Unseld Jr., Kenny Atkinson reportedly top list for next Chicago coach

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Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley, the two guys at the top of Chicago Bulls basketball operations, fired a coach in Jim Boylen that the team owner liked. Which means they have to nail the next hire.

Chicago in on to the second round of interviews and four names stand out, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Bulls are narrowing to finalists for their head coaching job and expect to conduct final interviews soon, sources said. Denver assistant Wes Unseld Jr., Philadelphia assistant Ime Udoka, Milwaukee assistant Darvin Ham and former Brooklyn head coach Kenny Atkinson are among the coaches who have had strong interviews so far.

Atkinson has a more proven resume after what he did in Brooklyn, but the other three are top assistants who have earned their shot in the big chair. Unseld Jr. is a hot name right now because his team is still in the bubble and playing well — he’s Mike Malone’s lead assistant on the Denver Nuggets — but every name on this list is qualified.

Whoever lands the job will head a team with plenty of potential but also plenty of questions. The Bulls have quality young talent on the roster — Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Coby White, Wendell Carter — but do they are fit together? How good Chicago is next season may depend more on the growth of White and the health of Markkanen than it does on who gets selected as coach.

Expect Karnisovas to spend a year putting his stamp on this roster and moving players around. First, however, he’s got to find his coach.

Michael Jordan, Denny Hamlin form NASCAR racing team with Bubba Wallace driving

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Michael Jordan is getting into the NASCAR game.

The North Carolina native has teamed up with three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin to form a new NASCAR Cup Series race team — and they’ve signed Bubba Wallace to drive.

Wallace is the only Black man driving full-time in NASCAR’s top series (the previous three seasons he raced for Richard Petty Motorsports). Wallace has been at the forefront of bringing social changes to NASCARincluding the banning of the Confederate flags at NASCAR events and tracks.

“Growing up in North Carolina, my parents would take my brothers, sisters and me to races, and I’ve been a NASCAR fan my whole life,” Jordan said in a statement. “The opportunity to own my own racing team in partnership with my friend, Denny Hamlin, and to have Bubba Wallace driving for us, is very exciting for me.

“Historically, NASCAR has struggled with diversity and there have been few Black owners. The timing seemed perfect as NASCAR is evolving and embracing social change more and more. In addition to the recent commitment and donations I have made to combat systemic racism, I see this as a chance to educate a new audience and open more opportunities for Black people in racing.”

Michael Jordan becomes the first Black owner of a full-time race team in NASCAR top series since NASCAR Hall of Famer Wendell Scott in the 1960s and early 1970s (he owned the team and drove the car). Bubba Wallace is the first Black full-time driver in the top NASCAR series since Scott.

Hamlin will be a minority partner in the new team and continue to drive for Joe Gibbs Racing.

“This is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I believe is a great fit for me at this point in my career,” said Wallace in a statement. “Both Michael and Denny are great competitors and are focused on building the best team they possibly can to go out and compete for race wins. I’m grateful and humbled that Michael and Denny believe in me and I’m super pumped to begin this adventure with them.”

The car manufacturer, number, sponsors and more will be announced at a later date.

Jordan is the primary owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets.

NBA executives pick Luka Doncic as best player under 25 to build around

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Luka Doncic, in his second season, made the leap into the NBA’s elite — fourth in MVP voting and First Team All-NBA. All at age 21.

Not surprisingly, he’s the player under 21 NBA teams would want to build around.

Michael Scotto of Hoopshype polled 15 league executives (including four general managers) and players under 25 they want to build around and Doncic was the unanimous choice.

“To me, Luka is the clear No. 1,” one scout told HoopsHype. “He’s a guy who can be a lead ballhandler. He’s good enough to score and create at a high level, has the right mental makeup and is incredibly smart. He’s been a winner everywhere and will probably be a winner in the league.”

It’s hard to argue when Luka Doncic is already doing this in the playoffs:

Boston’s Jayson Tatum came in second, Phoenix Devin Booker was third, followed by Ja Morant (Memphis) fourth and a tie at fifth between Donovan Mitchell (Utah) and Bam Adebayo (Miami).

An interesting note about that top five: None of them was a No. 1 pick.

Zion Williamson had been on top of this poll a year ago, but after a season where he played just 19 games then looked a step slow in the bubble there are concerns about his long-term health.

“He’s just a special player inside the arc who’s an elite finisher,” one executive told HoopsHype. “Offensively, he can finish at an elite rate. He’s one of the best finishers behind Giannis (Antetokounmpo) and LeBron (James). He can hit the open man. He’s so physically dominant. His shooting shouldn’t be a problem, but we’ll see. I think he’s always going to be hurt, though.”

One healthy dominant season from Williamson and those opinions could shift, but even then Doncic will be an MVP level player the Mavericks can build a contender around. He’s the guy under 25.

Report: Raptors coach Nick Nurse earning $8M salary on extension

Raptors coach Nick Nurse
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Spurs president-coach Gregg Popovich reportedly had an $11 million salary in 2015 then signed a contract extension in 2019 that keeps him the NBA’s highest-paid coach. Doc Rivers was earning $10 million annually with the Clippers before his latest extension. Warriors coach Steve Kerr, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra also signed extensions in recent years.

What about Nick Nurse, who just signed an extension with the Raptors?

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Raptors coach Nick Nurse signed a new multiyear contract extension on Tuesday — a deal that pays him around $8 million per year, sources say.

That’s a lot for a coach, especially in these times.

But Nurse has proven his value. He might even be the NBA’s best coach right now. He checks so many key boxes.

He has shown the ability to prepare his team for the playoffs then adapt through a long playoff run. His players have developed under his watch. He has dealt with roster upheaval and kept everything humming.

After just two seasons as head coach, Nurse still must prove himself in more situations, especially as opposing teams become more familiar with his strategies. But Toronto should want to keep him.

Credit Raptors ownership for paying to make it happen.

Now onto Raptors president Masai Ujiri