Associated Press

Spurs beat Pelicans, set NBA record with 38-0 start at home

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Manu Ginobili scored 20 points and the San Antonio Spurs beat the injury-depleted New Orleans Pelicans 100-92 on Wednesday night for their NBA-record 38th straight home victory to open a season.

San Antonio topped the 37-0 start by the Chicago Bulls during their record 72-victory season in 1995-96. Golden State (67-7) has an existing 36-game home winning streak to open the season, giving the Warriors a chance to end up with the record.

San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard had 16 points in his return from a three-game absence, showing no discomfort after bruising his right quadriceps on March 23. The 6-foot-7 forward hit three long jumpers to open the game, including his only 3-pointer in five attempts.

Alexis Ajinca had 18 points for New Orleans, which was without nine players due to injury. Jordan Hamilton added 14 points in his first start in his third game with the team.

Leonard also had a pair of assists to Danny Green in the first 6 minutes of the first quarter. The first came on a fast-break layup after Leonard corralled a turnover and the second came after he spun into the lane and tossed out a pass to Green for a 3-pointer.

Green finished with 16 points, going 4 for 6 on 3-pointers on a hot-shooting night behind the arc for San Antonio. The Spurs were 12 for 24 on 3s.

Data curated by PointAfter

New Orleans remained within seven points throughout the first half, but San Antonio wore down the short-handed Pelicans in the second half. The Spurs had 13 players log at least six minutes against the Pelicans’ nine-player bench.

San Antonio outscored New Orleans 27-16 in the third quarter, picking up assists on eight of its 12 field goals.

LaMarcus Aldridge dunked off a bounce pass in the lane from Boris Diaw to give the Spurs a 66-49 lead with 3:31 remaining in the third quarter. The large lead did not keep San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich from hastily calling a timeout a minute later when Hamilton’s fast-break layup cut the lead to 66-55.

Aldridge finished with 11 points.

TIP-INS

Pelicans: The Pelicans signed James Ennis to a 10-day contract on Wednesday after receiving a hardship exemption from the NBA. The 6-foot-7 forward was averaging 18.8 points and 6.0 rebounds for Iowa in the Development League. . New Orleans was without six of the 10 players who participated in its last game against San Antonio on March 3. Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon and Norris Cole, who accounted for 51 points in the Pelicans’ 94-86 loss, were among those missing Wednesday’s game. . New Orleans has used 36 different starting lineups this season.

Spurs: Popovich sat David West for rest, marking the first time all season the 35-year-old veteran has taken a scheduled night off. The 6-foot-9 forward was in uniform but did not play Jan. 12 at Detroit and March 28 at Memphis due to a coach’s decision. . Entering Wednesday’s game, Aldridge was averaging 23.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game through 13 games in March. . Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Ginobili played their 775th career game together. . San Antonio’s previous best after 75 games was 59-16 in 2013-14.

 

Report: 76ers happy with GM Elton Brand, who’s drawing Knicks interest

76ers owner Josh Harris and general manager Elton Brand
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The Knicks are reportedly interested in hiring 76ers general manager Elton Brand.

In New York, Brand would work under new Knicks president Leon Rose. Brand holds the top position in Philadelphia’s front office. So, Brand would likely go to New York only if fired by the 76ers.

Paul Hudrick of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

A team source on Wednesday confirmed Brand is under contract beyond this season and said the organization is very happy with his work since being named GM in 2018. The source cited Brand’s leadership and strong working relationships with players, agents, and executives around the league.

The 76ers are so pleased with Brand… someone said so without under the cloak of anonymity. If he wants to back Brand, 76ers owner Josh Harris can do so publicly. Otherwise, this is so weak.

Teams generally express support toward employees while the employees are still working for the team – whether or not the employees actually hold approval. A key way to tell whether the support is genuine? Check the source. Harris doesn’t want to look like a hypocrite. If he endorses Brand now then fires him soon, Harris would look silly. With this sourcing, nobody would get egg on his or her face if Brand gets ousted, because we don’t know the source.

I bet Brand does have good relationships with everyone. He has long connected well with others.

But his roster-building has fallen flat.

Inertia will probably keep him in his job. Philadelphia overachieving in the playoffs (whatever form they take) – certainly possible – would make that an easier call. It’s just difficult to build an affirmative case for Brand as a team’s lead executive.

Report: No chance of traditional NBA playoffs this season

NBA playoffs
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The NBA playoffs have a familiar format – four rounds, best-of-seven series, games in front of fans at home arenas.

But the coronavirus, which has forced the NBA into an indefinite stoppage and disrupted life around the world, makes that untenable. Don’t expect the league to wait until that’s workable, either.

Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated:

At this point, several team and league officials told SI.com, any chance of a traditional postseason is out.

A shortened playoffs in Las Vegas is gaining momentum. It’d allow the NBA, hemorrhaging money, to draw revenue sooner. A reduced postseason would also minimize disruption to future seasons.

But even that comes with major complications, especially containing coronavirus from undermining the entire operation. It could be a long time until its safe to hold games, even in a centralized location without fans.

It could be so long… a traditional playoffs could be back on the table. Though I find that unlikely, I’m still not convince people have a proper understanding of how lengthy this hiatus could be.

Everyone wants to finish the season. The playoffs are the NBA’s most lucrative time, and it feels right to crown a champion.

So, it’s good the focus is on alternative formats. It’d be naïve to expect business as usual when the NBA resumes.

Who should be drafted No. 1? Podcast talking NBC Sports mock NBA Draft.

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Should Anthony Edwards be the No. 1 pick?

Or James Wiseman? How would Obi Toppin fit with the Warriors?

More importantly, how is anyone preparing for a draft when nobody knows when it will take place?

Rob Dauster of NBC Sports — who just completed his mock draft — joins me to discuss what they know and don’t know about the 2020 NBA Draft, starting with having no idea when it will take place. We discuss Obi Toppin, Lonzo Ball, sleepers to watch, and everything in between in a draft preview podcast.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

Bucks hoping to complete title pursuit after coronavirus stoppage

Milwaukee Bucks
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MILWAUKEE (AP) — The NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks remain confident the coronavirus pandemic won’t put a permanent halt to the season and that they’ll get to resume chasing their first league title in nearly half a century.

The Bucks had a league-best 53-12 record when play was suspended three weeks ago. With Giannis Antetokounmpo having a potential second straight MVP season, the Bucks seemed poised to make a run at the title that has eluded this franchise since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar led them to an NBA championship in 1971.

Bucks general manager Jon Horst thinks they will get that opportunity.

“We believe that we’re going to play,” Horst said Wednesday in a conference call. “Everything that we’re doing every day in our communications, in our preparations, everything we talk about is being prepared to play at some point, finish out the season and have a resumption.”

That’s why Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer has spent part of this hiatus making sure the Bucks don’t lose their edge whenever they do get back on the floor.

He’s been studying the Orlando Magic and Brooklyn Nets — the Bucks’ two most likely first-round playoff foes — as well as other Eastern Conference teams Milwaukee could see later in the postseason. He’s tried to learn from his experiences as a San Antonio Spurs assistant coach during the NBA’s most recent work stoppages.

“One of my reference points with the coaching staff has been lockouts,” Budenholzer said. “Sometimes when you come out of a lockout, things have been kind of slow, you haven’t been able to maybe do your normal routines and preparation, and things happen really fast. Whether it’s three games in three nights, or playoff series are shorter or the time between the end of the regular season to the first playoff game, everything can be shorter or can happen quicker.”

His instructions to his players have focused on conditioning while understanding they might not have as much time to spend working on their basketball skills.

“I think that we feel that there are things they can continue to do as far as continuing to stay strong, continuing to maintain a conditioning level and really just put a lot of time and effort and energy into their bodies,” Budenholzer said.

After blowing a 2-0 lead to the eventual league champion Toronto Raptors in last season’s Eastern Conference finals, Milwaukee appeared to have all the elements in place to make a serious championship run this year before the pandemic struck.

The Bucks had just returned from a winless three-game trip west when the hiatus occurred, but that was the first time they had lost as many as two straight contests all season.

Despite their optimism and their confidence that league officials will do what’s best for the safety of everyone, the Bucks realize that play might not resume. However, Budenholzer said they aren’t thinking about what impact canceling the season might have.

“If for some reason this season is not played or there’s nothing to look forward to or to complete, I’ll process it then,” Budenholzer said. “I would add that I don’t think it’s being totally head-in-the-sand. I think hopefully watching news, listening to the commissioner, listening to whether it be Tony Fauci or Dr. (Deborah) Birx or whoever it is, it does feel like there is I think some realistic hope and belief that we will get through this.

“I know that there are some negatives, some less optimistic modeling, but literally all we think about is we are going to play and we want to be the best team when we do play so how do we prepare for that, how do we get better? It’s a great way to get through this.”