Australia men’s basketball has ‘something special’; USA up next

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Down Under is on top in Olympic men’s basketball.

Now Australia is looking forward to its shot at the U.S. for the chance to stay there.

“We’re going out there to win a game,” forward Joe Ingles said. “I think we’ve got a team that is focused on that and we believe we can do some special things in this tournament.”

Australia became the first team to start 2-0 here by pulling away to beat Serbia 95-80 on Monday. Patty Mills scored 26 points and Matthew Dellavedova had 23 points and 13 assists for the Australians, who have opened the Olympics by beating France and Serbia, two of the top-six teams in the world.

The Aussies play the top-ranked Americans on Wednesday.

“We haven’t done anything we didn’t expect to do. These are the goals we set,” center Andrew Bogut said.

“We’re not happy being 2-0. We want to continue on and go to the medal rounds.”

The Australians have a team built to do it. They have big bodies inside with Bogut and Aron Baynes, plenty of playmaking with Mills and Dellavedova, and something more that can’t be measured on a stat sheet.

“I think the belief within our group is something that I don’t know if we’ve ever had before,” Mills said.

The U.S. blew Australia out in the quarterfinals of the last two Olympics, part of a disappointing recent history for a team that finished fourth in consecutive Olympics in 1996 and 2000. The Australians have never won an Olympic medal in men’s basketball, part of the reason they weren’t looked at as a top contender here.

“We haven’t done (anything) the last 20 or 30 years of basketball and we still haven’t done anything, so we got a lot to do,” Bogut said. “But the guys who write stories about that, predictions and all that, God bless them because it’s a tough job at times. But we’re really not buying in to that too much.”

Australia felt it had the potential for its best team ever this year, even with No. 1 draft pick Ben Simmons opting not to play and Dante Exum, Ingles’ teammate with the Utah Jazz, unable to make it back from a torn knee ligament.

The Aussies still have an experienced team, with Mills, Bogut, Dellavedova and Baynes all winning NBA championships.

“So they obviously know how to play at this level,” Serbia coach Sasha Djordjevic said.

Now the Aussies want more.

“We set a goal to win a gold medal and that’s what we’re here to do,” Ingles said. “We obviously know how hard that is, it’s obviously not an easy task. We’ve been preparing for this for a long time, but we believe we have a team that can do something special.”

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Watch Dinwiddie get ejected for elbow to Poole’s face; Mavs still win behind Doncic 41 points

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Dallas has gotten in trouble this season because of a lack of secondary shot creation behind Luka Doncic, so when Spencer Dinwiddie got ejected for an elbow to the face of Golden State’s Jordan Poole, it seemed like the Mavericks might be in danger of falling to the Warriors.

Doncic had other plans — and a 41-point triple-double.

The ejection happened early in the fourth quarter, when Dinwiddie drove the lane on Poole and, bringing the ball up, elbowed Poole in the face.

That was reviewed by the referees who ruled it a Flagrant 2. The league has cracked down on blows to the face and head — intentional or not — the past couple of seasons.

Dinwiddie being out just meant more Luka — and that was bad news for the Warriors.

Despite Doncic and his triple-double, the Warriors had a couple of chances in the final seconds. First, Stephen Curry got called for a travel.

The Warriors argued that call but got nowhere with the referees. But they got one more chance on a Klay Thompson 3 to tie, but it was just not their night.

The Mavericks got the 116-113 win. Tim Hardaway Jr. pitched in 25 points, including five 3-pointers for Dallas. Curry led the Warriors with 32.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
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It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.