Reggie Jackson scores 39 points, Pistons clinch playoff spot

5 Comments

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Reggie Jackson and Aron Baynes pushed the Detroit Pistons into the playoffs.

Jackson had 39 points and nine assists, Baynes hit eight fourth-quarter free throws and the Pistons clinched their first postseason spot in seven years with a 112-99 victory over the Washington Wizards on Friday night.

“This is huge, especially to give all of our other starters a chance to finally make it,” Jackson said.

He then pointed to coach Stan Van Gundy.

“It’s also great for Coach,” Jackson said. “In two years, he’s turned this whole franchise around, and that’s why we made sure he was part of the celebration.”

Andre Drummond started the post-game festivities by dumping an ice tub over Van Gundy, and that made it open season.

“We were getting him with bottles of water, ice bags and anything we could find,” Jackson said. “He’s the one who got us here.”

Van Gundy was in a sweatsuit by the time he made it to his post-game press conference.

“Thank God it was only ice water,” he said. “This is a special year for me, because it is the first time for our ownership, the first time for four of our starters, and the end of a long drought for the people that have been with this organization for a long time and seen some great moments. They’ve been waiting to get back.”

Detroit’s last playoff berth came in 2009 when it was swept in the first round by LeBron James and Cleveland. The Pistons will either face James and the Cavaliers again or play second-seeded Toronto.

“Those are two great teams, and I don’t care which one we play,” Van Gundy said. “I just want to finish seventh, because it is better than eighth.”

Detroit had to overcome 29 points from Markieff Morris, who did everything possible to keep twin brother Marcus out of the postseason. Bradley Beal added 25 for the Wizards, who were eliminated by the loss.

“It’s tough to miss out with the talent we have on this team.” Markieff Morris said. “We didn’t have our best player (John Wall), and their best player stepped up for them.”

Marcus Morris had 17 points and nine rebounds in the clincher.

The Wizards had come back from 19 down to take the lead early in the fourth quarter, but Jackson continued to attack on offense. He helped the Pistons take a 100-94 lead with five minutes left, and clinched the game two minutes later.

After grabbing a defensive rebound away from Markieff Morris, Jackson drove the length of the court and hit a jumper. His free throw to finish the three-point play made it 103-96 with 2:45 left.

That brought the crowd to its feet, where they stayed as the Pistons ran out the clock.

Knowing what was at stake, even coach Stan Van Gundy couldn’t be sure if his team would come out relaxed or pressing to finish things off. The question was answered when they hit their first six 3-point attempts, three by Harris, to take a 39-25 lead at the end of the first quarter.

The Pistons moved the margin to as many as 19 early in the second quarter, but their outside shooting dried up just as the Wizards started getting to the basket. Washington scored 20 points in the paint in the second as Drummond struggled to protect the rim.

“You have to give them credit – they came out and shot the lights out in the first quarter,” Wittman said. “After that, we did a good job of taking away the 3-point shot, and we never had an answer for Reggie Jackson.”

The Wizards were down 62-55 at the half, and a 20-point third quarter by Morris, capped off by a 50-foot buzzer-beater, pulled Washington within 86-84 with 12 minutes left.

“I was waiting for Coach to switch me onto him,” his brother said. “He had it going, but I know all his moves.”

A dunk by Morris put Washington up 89-88 with 10 minutes to play, and the Wizards got Andre Drummond out of the game with an intentional foul. He missed both free throws badly — the second was an air ball – and Van Gundy immediately yanked him.

Drummond spent the rest of the game at the end of the bench. He didn’t join team huddles and didn’t celebrate with his teammates down the stretch.

“I gave him a chance, but he missed the first two, and I had a better option on the bench,” said Van Gundy, who dragged Drummond into the post-game celebration. “He’s really frustrated with the whole thing, having to come out of the game. This is a kid who is an All-Star, and he can’t help his team because of one thing he does poorly.”

TIP INS

Wizards: Even with the playoffs on the line, John Wall was forced to sit out the game with a sore left knee. … Markieff Morris’ 20-point third quarter was the biggest of the season by a Wizards player.

Pistons: Paul George had a 21-point quarter against the Pistons on Jan. 2, while Anthony Davis had two 19-point quarters in his 59-point game at the Palace on Feb. 21.

 

Watch Victor Wembanyama drop 30-point double-double in France

0 Comments

Maybe you spent your Saturday afternoon watching Lionel Messi doing Lionel Messi things. Or intense college football rivalries.

In France, they spent part of the day watching Kylian Mbappe be brilliant but then flipped over and watched future No.1 pick Victor Wembanyama drop a 30-point double-double.

That’s two straight 30-point double-doubles for Wembanyama.

He will be the No.1 pick next June (barring something catastrophic), and teams are already thinking about the lottery next June.

Expect some other teams to jump in that mix at the bottom because the depth of this class goes well beyond just Wembanyama with Scoot Henderson, Amen Thompson and others. The tanking is coming people.

 

Boogie Cousins called Warriors GM Myers and got reality check on why he’s not in NBA

2022 NBA Playoffs - Denver Nuggets v Golden State Warriors
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images
0 Comments

DeMarcus Cousins didn’t understand why he didn’t have an NBA contract this season.

He thought he had proven he could help teams in need of front-line depth last season, first in Milwaukee when Brook Lopez was out following back surgery and gave them 9.1 points and 5.8 rebounds a game of solid play. The Bucks ultimately let Cousins go for financial reasons, so the Nuggets picked him up to backup Nikola Jokic. He was again solid, averaging 8.9 points and 5.5 rebounds a game (and he had a 31-point night against the Rockets).

Confused, he called one of the former GMs who brought him in, Bob Myers of the Golden State Warriors. Myers relayed their conversation on the All That Smoke podcast (via NBC Sports Bay Area).

“DeMarcus called me a month ago and he said, ‘Why am I not in the NBA?’ ” Myers told Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson on the “All The Smoke” podcast earlier this week. “And I said, ‘You want that answer? … Because people are afraid of how you’re going to act.’ And he’s like ‘Why?’ And I said, ‘Well whatever the reason is, it’s here now.’

“And I like DeMarcus. You guys may know him. He’s just, I can’t blame him for him because of all he’s been through.”

Not long after that conversation, Cousins spoke with Chris Haynes and said he learned from his past mistakes.

“Have I made mistakes? Absolutely. Have I done things the wrong way? Absolutely. For that, I’m very apologetic. But I’ve done even more things the correct way and I’ve done even more positive things compared to my negatives. I just don’t want those positives to be overlooked. And obviously, whenever it gets to the point where the negatives outweigh the positives, you should probably move away from him. That’s just how life goes. But I don’t believe I’m in that boat. I’m just asking for a chance to show my growth as a man and a player.”

Cousins also had physical issues, including a torn ACL that cost him a season with the Lakers in 2019-20. He also had domestic abuse allegations at the time (those charges were dropped a few months later).

Cousins just wants the chance to prove he is past all that and can help a team like he did last season. There have been rumors out of Taiwan that Cousins could join Dwight Howard in that league, but Cousins has not confirmed that. He still wants his shot in the NBA. So he waits, and hopes he can change the narrative around him.

Giannis Antetokounmpo says of Evan Mobley, ‘He can be better than me’

Cleveland Cavaliers v Milwaukee Bucks
John Fisher/Getty Images
0 Comments

Evan Mobley hasn’t taken the leap forward in his second season many expected, partly because he has to adjust to playing with a new, dominant backcourt in Cleveland of Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland. Mobley is getting nearly five fewer touches a game and is not getting the same chances to use his off-the-bounce skills (73% of his shots this season come off zero or one-dribble) as he did when he was a rookie.

That doesn’t mean his superstar potential has gone away. Just ask Giannis Antetokounmpo, as Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer did.

“He can be better than me,” Antetokounmpo told cleveland.com in an exclusive interview while walking out of Fiserv Forum… “I don’t see why he can’t. It’s up to him. I will always try to improve. Every day. But he has the skill set to be a very, very good player. He’s 7-feet tall. He can move really well. He can shoot. He is very smart. As you said, he watches tapes of other players, which is very, very good for a young player. If he takes this seriously, he is going to be great.”

Better than Giannis? What could possibly make him say that?

“I didn’t average what he is in my second season, so he’s already ahead of me,” Antetokounmpo told cleveland.com. “It’s in his hands. If he stays humble, continues to work hard, focuses on the game and shows love to the game of basketball, he is going to be really good.”

One of the players Mobley is known to study on tape is Antetokounmpo. Of course, mirroring the force and athleticism Antetokounmpo plays with is next to impossible, but Mobley has the skill set that could see him become a shot-creator and scorer on the wing with the ball.

The Cavaliers don’t need him to be that with Garland improving and Michell being better than advertised. Cleveland has a top-five offense and hasn’t had to turn to Mobley for more scoring and shot creation. But that can change, especially come the playoffs against the strong defenses of teams such as the Bucks and Celtics. Ultimately, how far these Cavaliers can go in the postseason over the next few years could come down to the growth of Mobley on the offensive end.

Antetokounmpo believes Mobley could be special in that role, which should give fans in Cleveland even more hope.

 

Watch Giannis throw down career-high nine dunks, score 38 in comeback win over Cavaliers

Cleveland Cavaliers v Milwaukee Bucks
John Fisher/Getty Images
0 Comments

MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks taught the Cleveland Cavaliers a lesson in playoff-type intensity well before the start of December.

Antetokounmpo scored 38 points and the Bucks capitalized on a 23-2 run in the first eight-plus minutes of the third quarter to rally past Cleveland 117-102 on Friday night to snap the Cavaliers’ four-game winning streak.

Milwaukee came back from a 16-point deficit by outscoring the Cavaliers 35-10 in the third period. The Bucks hadn’t outscored a team by such a wide margin in a single quarter since Jan. 4, 2019, when they outscored the Atlanta Hawks 43-14 in the opening period of a 144-112 victory.

“We had a little bit of luck on our side and were able to knock down some shots and get downhill and were able to get that momentum and keep it going,” said Antetokounmpo, who also had nine rebounds and six assists. “I think it started from our guards defending the pick-and-roll and Brook (Lopez) just contesting every shot on the defensive end.”

The Cavaliers hadn’t scored less than 15 points in any quarter this season before Friday.

“They turned it up to a level that we haven’t seen, that we haven’t experienced,” said Donovan Mitchell, who led he Cavaliers with 29 points. “That’s playoff basketball, and understanding that they’re going to turn up the physicality (and) everything has to be sharper, everything has to be more precise.”

Darius Garland added 20 for Cleveland. After combining to shoot 14 of 26 and score 38 points in the first half, Mitchell and Garland went 4 of 16 for 11 points over the final two periods.

Cleveland’s Jarrett Allen played only 12 minutes and scored one point before leaving with a hip injury.

The Cavaliers lost for the first time since their last visit to Milwaukee, a 113-98 Bucks victory on Nov. 16.

“We were trying so hard, and we were like running in quicksand,” Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said of the second-half struggles.

Jevon Carter scored 18 points and Bobby Portis had 14 for the Bucks.

After trailing 63-52 at halftime, the Bucks turned the game around in the third quarter.

“It felt like us again,” Portis said. “I feel like for the last couple of games, we haven’t felt like ourselves, for real, missing a lot of shots and just not playing how we play.”

Jrue Holiday, who committed three fouls in the first 1 1/2 quarters, scored his first points of the game in the opening minute of the third. He followed that up with a 3-pointer.

Carter then found Antetokounmpo for a dunk, though Antetokounmpo missed a free throw that would have given him a three-point play. Mitchell scored to extend Cleveland’s lead to 65-59, but a Brook Lopez 3-pointer and an Antetokounmpo dunk cut the lead to one.

Lopez then recorded one of his six blocks to set up an Antetokounmpo 3-pointer that gave the Bucks their first lead of the night with 7:19 left in the third. The Bucks eventually led by as many as 22.

“This is a great lesson for us,” Bickerstaff said. “We played against an established team who knows where they need to go when they need to take it to another level. That’s what we’re learning. They took the game to playoff-level physicality, and those are things we have to learn how to compete against.”