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Lillard scores 36, Trail Blazers beat Kings 122-120 in OT

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) Damian Lillard thinks his Portland Trail Blazers lack that “killer instinct” to put away games when they should.

Lillard had 36 points and CJ McCollum scored 31 to lead Portland past the Sacramento Kings 122-120 in overtime Friday night.

The victory could have come easier, though. The Blazers were up 106-101 with 1:19 to go in regulation, yet nearly let this one slip away.

“It comes down to just manning up,” Lillard said.

Still, he’ll take the win after the teams traded the lead over the final 2 1/2 minutes in the extra period.

Meyers Leonard made two free throws to give Portland a 121-120 edge with 32 seconds remaining, and Rudy Gay missed a jumper at the other end.

Allen Crabbe hit one of two foul shots for the Trail Blazers with 14.3 seconds left, giving the Kings another opportunity. DeMarcus Cousins missed a jumper and Gay was off target on a 16-foot fadeaway at the buzzer, sealing Portland’s seventh straight victory over Sacramento.

“It’s just having that killer instinct and being able to lock in for longer spans of time,” Lillard said about what the Blazers are missing 10 games into the season.

Portland coach Terry Stotts agreed: “I think we’ve played well in spots. Our goal is to play well for longer periods.”

Cousins led Sacramento with 33 points. Gay had 29 points and 14 rebounds for the Kings, who were coming off a 101-91 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers the night before.

McCollum’s 3-pointer with 1:23 left in overtime gave Portland a 117-115 lead before Gay’s three-point play put Sacramento back ahead.

McCollum added a 19-footer to put Portland in front, but a loose ball foul on the Blazers gave Sacramento’s Darren Collison two free throws. He made both, giving the Kings a 120-119 lead with 33.8 seconds left.

Cousins said Sacramento’s issues have mirrored Lillard’s assessment of his own team.

“Throughout this whole season we’ve shown flashes of who we can be, but we’ve got to get past that stage of showing flashes and be the team that we want to be,” Cousins said.

Leonard made his first start of the season for the Blazers, who were without forward Al-Farouq Aminu for the second straight game because of a left calf injury.

Aminu started the first eight games for the Blazers, averaging 6.4 points and 6.6 rebounds before he was hurt Tuesday night early in Portland’s 124-121 victory over Phoenix.

Addressing the media before Friday night’s game, Stotts said Aminu would be re-evaluated after two weeks.

Leonard’s thunderous dunk put the Blazers up 32-27 late in the first quarter, and they led by 12 en route to a 62-57 advantage at the break. McCollum led all scorers at halftime with 16 points.

Cousins’ fadeaway in the third quarter tied the game at 68, and Gay hit a 3-pointer to put the Kings in front. Lillard nailed a 3 from far outside the arc to give Portland back the lead at 79-76.

The Blazers held an 84-83 edge to start the fourth but fell behind 95-88 after a pair of free throws with 6:31 left. Crabbe’s jumper put Portland in front before Lillard hit another 3 to make it 99-95.

Cousins’ 3-pointer pulled the Kings to 106-104 with less than a minute to go in regulation, and his layup tied it with 9.7 seconds left. Lillard’s 3-pointer at the buzzer was off the mark, sending the game to overtime.

Portland was coming off a 111-80 loss to the Clippers in Los Angeles on Wednesday night.

THE TAKEAWAY

Kings: Collison returned to the Kings this week after an eight-game suspension to start the season. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor domestic battery after an incident at his Sacramento-area home in May.

Trail Blazers: Leonard and Cousins got into it in the first quarter and received offsetting technicals. Cousins has been mentioned in numerous trade rumors of late, including some involving the Blazers. … Portland is 5-0 when Lillard and McCollum both score at least 30 points.

BLOWING THE WHISTLE

Cousins can’t understand why he’s not getting foul calls.

“I don’t understand it,” he said. “I don’t know what I have to do. I just don’t understand it. I have to play through a lot. I’m not really rewarded for it, but I’m just trying to stay mentally strong through it.”

PERFECT 10

Lillard has 306 points, most by a Trail Blazers player in the opening 10 games of a season. He’s also the first to score 30 or more points six times in the first 10 games of a season.

UP NEXT

Kings: Sacramento hosts San Antonio next Wednesday.

Trail Blazers: Portland hosts the Denver Nuggets on Sunday.

Juancho Hernangomez missing Timberwolves workouts to film Adam Sandler movie

Timberwolves forward Juancho Hernangomez
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The Timberwolves, like the other seven teams not invited to the NBA’s restart at Disney World, are holding workouts.

Not in Minnesota: Forward Juancho Hernangomez.

Chris Hine of the StarTribune:

A team spokesperson said Hernangomez is filming Adam Sandler’s latest project in Philadelphia.

Netflix is producing the film, called “Hustle.”

And people thought LeBron James – also a producer of “Hustle,” which is about a basketball scout who finds talent oversees – prioritized Hollywood over hoops.

A Spain native, Hernangomez will be a free agent this offseason. The Timberwolves can make him restricted.

But how could anyone want a player who doesn’t respect the sanctity of voluntary workouts occurring several months before next season (besides his 3-point shooting, rebounding and defensive versatility)?

Buddy Hield fuels 76ers trade rumor

Kings guard Buddy Hield vs. 76ers
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A rumor emerged about the Kings trading Buddy Hield to the 76ers. It didn’t seem particularly credible.

But then Hield himself liked this Instagram post promoting a potential trade and apparently made a pro-Philadelphia comment on Instagram:

Hield previously laid the groundwork for an offseason trade request. He seemed unhappy at times in Sacramento this season, losing his starting job and even riding the bench when the Kings needed a 3-pointer.

The 76ers could use more shooting – especially if they hire Mike D’Antoni. Hield would definitely add value. A lineup where Hield and Josh Richardson defend guards and Ben Simmons plays point guard offensively and defends a frontcourt player is intriguing.

Hield is set to earn $24,931,817 next season in the first year of a four-year extension. That’s in the range of Tobias Harris ($34,358,850) and Al Horford ($27,500,000).

However, Horford’s trade value is at rock bottom. Tobias Harris would add only so much value to Sacramento, which already has Harrison Barnes.

Kings fans can hope for Ben Simmons ($28,750,000) or Joel Embiid ($29,542,010). But those stars are FAR more valuable than Hield. Besides, the 76ers said they wouldn’t trade Simmons or Embiid (though it’s unclear who exactly is running the show in Philadelphia).

Regardless of whether the Kings and 76ers could connect on a trade, Hield making these public gestures is an issue in Sacramento. It’s on new Kings general manager Monte McNair to manage this. After years of supporting Daryl Morey with the Rockets, this is a new challenge – being in charge while a player makes waves – for McNair.

Relatedly, McNair must also handle Bogdan Bogdanovic‘s impending restricted free agency. These look like warning shots from Hield as Sacramento determines its priorities at shooting guard.

Report: Philadelphia ownership wants Mike D’Antoni as next coach

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Philadelphia 76ers ownership (led by Josh Harris) reportedly has been very hands-on in picking the team’s new coach — even if that means a new direction for the roster. That hands-on style reportedly why ownership likes Elton Brand as GM and may balk at bringing in a big-name president of basketball operations — that person would want total control of basketball decisions. Right now, ownership is pulling a lot of those levers.

And ownership wants Mike D’Antoni as the next head coach in Philadelphia, reports Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Sources have been saying since last week that the job is D’Antoni’s to turn down. They say he’s the guy the ownership group wants. One source even said the 69-year-old would have to bomb his interview with the Sixers owners not to be offered the job.

The problem is that Brand is supposed to have a huge input on the hire. The ownership is only supposed to approve or deny Brand’s suggestion. Now, word is leaking out that Brand is pushing hard for the Sixers to hire D’Antoni and that Joel Embiid gave his blessing. In addition, there are reports that the Sixers will make trades if D’Antoni is hired. The expectation is that he’ll have a say in picking players for his freewheeling style of play.

With Billy Donovan taking over in Chicago, the list of top candidates for the Philadelphia job seems down to two: Tyronn Lue and Mike D’Antoni. Lue would be the conventional choice, a guy who would try to make it work with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons together, along with Tobias Harris, Josh Richardson, and Al Horford. Roster tweaks would be coming, but with Lue the idea would be making better use of the roster and style the 76ers have already built.

D’Antoni would be a radical change of direction — he is coming from a team that just started 6’7″ Robert Covington at center. The current 76ers roster would need changes to fit with D’Antoni’s freewheeling ways, and even then the coach would need to adapt what he wants to do. (No contract is untradeable, but moving the four-years, $147.2 million left on Harris’ deal, or the three years and $81 million on Horford’s contract, would require Philly to throw in a lot of sweeteners.)

D’Antoni would mean another change of direction in Philly, but that seems to be what ownership wants.

Bam Adebayo on injury: “I’m good,” expects to play in Game 5 Friday

Bam Adebayo injury
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In the final minutes of Miami’s Game 4 win, while Tyler Hero was knocking down shots and Jimmy Butler was getting to the line, Miami‘s Bam Adebayo was dealing with an injury, walking around holding his wrist, his arm dragging. He had gotten tangled up with Daniel Theis under the basket and clearly injured something.

The questions raised post game were about what happened, how serious it was, and could Adebayo be out for Game 5 on Friday? There was nothing official from the team but it looks like he will play, according to Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press and Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel.

Adebayo had 20 points and 12 rebounds in Game 4, and his play is critical to Miami’s game plan against Boston. His ability to protect the rim at one end, then come out high to set screens and pull Theis out of the paint on the other end, is at the heart of what the Heat want to do in this series. If he is even slowed in Game 5 it is an advantage for Boston.

This time of year, and with the Heat one game away from the NBA Finals, no chance he sits if he can at all play.