Associated Press

C.J. McCollum has 24 points, Blazers beat Heat 110-93

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — C.J. McCollum said the Portland Trail Blazers are in a position to surprise people.

After a big roster turnover in the offseason, many did not think the Blazers would be in the playoff conversation.

Damian Lillard said that from the outside, some might be surprised because the Blazers don’t have players “labeled as shooters.” And still, they are making noise and are in throwing distance of a playoff berth.

“We’re going to compete,” McCollum said. “That’s my mindset. I can’t speak for other people but we’re doing what we’re supposed to. We’re winning at home.

“(We’re) beating teams we are supposed to beat.”

McCollum had 24 points and made all six of his 3-point attempts to help the Blazers beat the Heat 110-93 Saturday night for their seventh straight home win. They are in sixth place in the Western Conference but have not clinched a playoff spot yet.

Despite the loss, the Heat still clinched a postseason berth after the Chicago Bulls fell 94-90 to Detroit earlier in the evening. Miami came into the game tied for the third seed in the East but dropped to sixth with the loss.

Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said that clinching that playoff spot is not something his team takes for granted.

“With this organization, we always have big expectations, that doesn’t change from year to year,” Spoelstra said. “So, getting over that hurdle does mean something to us, but we still have more that we’re working on for right now and that’s really what we’re focused on. It was a disappointing game. They outplayed us, they played very well and we did not bring a great game that would have been necessary to get this road win.”

The Blazers made 10 3-pointers to break a franchise record for 3-pointers in a season with 808.

Lillard did not play in the fourth quarter and finished with 18 points for the Blazers. Gerald Henderson came off the bench to score 17 points.

Data curated by PointAfter

Hassan Whiteside led the Heat with 21 points and 13 assists.

Guard Dwyane Wade missed his second straight game because of back and neck injuries sustained Wednesday against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Portland built a 23-point lead early in the third quarter and did not let up. Their largest lead of the night was 28 points.

Portland shot 62 percent from beyond the arc while the Heat made only 31 percent. The Blazers edged the Heat out in fast-break points 18-4. Miami’s bench outscored Portland 42-29.

Miami’s Luol Deng chalked the loss up to not playing as hard as Portland did.

“We had spurts where we played hard and got it going, but they were more consistent than we were for most of the game,” Deng said. “Coming out of the third quarter, they really blew their lead and we didn’t have enough to get it back.”

Saturday’s game was the second of back-to-back games for Miami. Last night, the Heat beat the Sacramento Kings 112-106.

McCollum is the second NBA player to make six 3-pointers in a game without a miss this season, joining Matt Barnes.

“I knew I’m a good shooter,” McCollum said. “I’ve gotten a lot of reps over the course of my career and I pride myself on mechanics and getting in and getting my reps and trusting the process.”

HENDERSON’S HELP:

Henderson’s offensive output was nearly double his average. It was the 10th time in the past 13 games that he has been in double figures.

Portland is 9-1 when he scores 15 or more.

“He’s really provided a spark off the bench, quality scoring,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “He makes some energy plays, some dynamic plays.”

TIP INS:

Heat: This is the seventh time Miami has made the playoffs in eight seasons under Spoelstra. … Miami traded Brian Roberts to Portland on Feb. 18 along with a future second-round pick in exchange for cash considerations. Roberts never played a game as a member of the Heat, spending just one day after being traded from Charlotte.

Trail Blazers: Kris Kaman was listed as active on Saturday night after being inactive for two games with upper-respiratory issues. He came into the game with less than 4 minutes remaining. … Former Trail Blazer Terry Porter, who was at the game, was named coach of the University of Portland’s men’s basketball team on Friday.

 

Shaq donates a year’s rent to a paralyzed Atlanta boy

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ATLANTA (AP) — Basketball Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal has donated a year’s rent in a new home to an Atlanta woman whose 12-year-old son was paralyzed in a shooting at a football game.

O’Neal tells WXIA-TV  that Isaiah Payton’s family had been living in a one-bedroom apartment that wasn’t accessible for people with disabilities.

“It’s just sad. It could have been any one of us,” Shaq told the Atlanta station. “It could have been my son. It could’ve been your cousin. She was living in a one-bedroom apartment with her two boys, so we found her a house in a nice area.”

Now they have a home in a good neighborhood. He says he’s helping furnish the home and will pay its rent for the next year.

Isaiah was shot through the spine in August after a football scrimmage between two high schools. Sixteen-year-old Damean Spear also was wounded and treated for minor injuries. Isaiah’s mother, Allison Woods, has said relearning how to care for Isaiah meant she had to leave her job, adding financial stress to her emotional turmoil.

Jazz reportedly extend contract of coach Quin Snyder, locking him down well into future

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Quin Snyder has evolved into one of the best coaches in the NBA (and my pick to win Coach of the Year this season). He’s built a development program and system in Utah that has turned Rudy Gobert into a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, Donovan Mitchell into the face of a franchise, and Joe Ingles into a guy other teams covet. His players like and respect Snyder, and he has worked well with the front office of Dennis Lindsey and Justin Zanik.

So the Jazz are locking him up with a contract extension beyond the two seasons remaining on his deal. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the news.

Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder has agreed to a long-term contract extension, league sources tell ESPN. Snyder had two years left on his deal, and a new contract extends multiple years beyond that term, sources said.

After upgrading the team’s talent base over the summer, locking Snyder into an extension had been a top organizational priority.

Jazz fans should be ecstatic about this.

Snyder has built a system team in Utah, one that moves the ball beautifully on offense, and that has been tough to defend in the regular season, with the Jazz winning 50 games last season. Utah has made it to the second round of the playoffs the past two seasons, but when the level of play made that leap a lot of the system gets taken away by good defenses, and the Utah offense became Donovan Mitchell against the world. It didn’t work, Mitchell (still just 22) wasn’t fully ready and there was not enough shooting around him.

This past summer, the Jazz added Mike Conley at point guard and Bojan Bogdanovic on the wing, two excellent shooters who also can create off the dribble. Expectations are high in Utah.

Whatever happens, Snyder is their coach now for a long time.

Giannis Antetokounmpo says he learned from Kawhi Leonard: “He was calm”

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Milwaukee was up 2-0 in last season’s Eastern Conference Finals on Toronto, having won those games by an average of 15 points. Giannis Antetokounmpo had scored 54 points, pulled down 31 rebounds, dished out 11 assists, and was looking every bit the MVP.

Then the games shifted to Toronto, Kawhi Leonard took over — including guarding Antetokounmpo more — and the Raptors rattled off four straight wins to take the series on their way to the NBA title. The Greek Freak still averaged 20.4 points a night in those final four games, but the buckets were much harder to come by.

Milwaukee returns this season as the Eastern Conference favorites and legit title contenders, in part because of what they learned from that loss. Antetokounmpo told Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports he learned a lot directly from Leonard in that series.

“I learned a lot from him,” Antetokounmpo said. “He knocked down free throws. He was calm. When double-teams came, he was swinging the ball but getting it right back. He was aggressive. He was calm but he was on a mission.”

Leonard is the living embodiment of the old John Wooden axiom “be quick, don’t hurry.” He’s not rushed, he’s rarely forced into shots he doesn’t want to take or plays he doesn’t want to make.  That’s true of all champions on some level. LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan all bring an inner calm.

If Antetokounmpo brings that to his game, the Bucks are one big step closer to a title.

Domantas Sabonis on trade rumors: ‘I know exactly how the Pacers feel about me now’

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The Indiana Pacers have started to explore the trade market for Domantas Sabonis. There are logical reasons for this: Sabonis is good (he was second in Sixth Man of the Year voting last season), yet he and the Pacers are nowhere near agreement on a contract extension, and the Pacers already paid big money for Myles Turner to be their center, how much do they want to pay Sabonis, too?

That’s sound logic if you’re in the Pacers’ front office.

If you’re Sabonis, it can feel like a slap in the face to a guy who put in a lot of sweat and passion for the franchise. That’s what Sabonis sounded like in this quote, via Scott Agnes of The Athletic.

The Pacers are not talking about the report, which started with the well connected and reliable Sam Amick at The Athletic.

Pacers’ brass needs to talk about this with Sabonis (and likely already have, behind closed doors). If the Pacers trade him, it’s likely not until after Dec. 15 at the earliest (when most players signed this summer can be included in a deal) and probably closer to the February trade deadline. That’s a lot of season to play out, and Sabonis remains a vital part of the Indiana rotation.

There is likely to be a lot of interest in Sabonis on the market. However, because he’s a center (a position teams are careful not to overspend on in today’s market) and in the last year of his rookie deal — meaning he becomes a restricted free agent next summer and gets more expensive — teams are not going to overpay for him. Right now the Pacers are asking for too much and interested teams are lowballing their offers. The sides will meet in the middle.

That middle could shift if Sabonis has a rough start to the season. Both sides need him to play well and feel comfortable, whatever is going on with the business side of his contract.