Associated Press

Dwight Howard scores 27 as Hawks end Raptors’ 4-game win streak

Leave a comment

TORONTO (AP) — Embarrassed by the Toronto Raptors 13 days ago, the Atlanta Hawks made up for that poor performance in the rematch.

Dwight Howard had 27 points and 15 rebounds for his 17th double-double of the season to lead the Hawks to a 125-121 victory over the Raptors on Friday night.

Toronto had a franchise-record 44-point victory over its Eastern Conference rival on Dec. 3. In this one, Atlanta responded with a season-high scoring effort and shot a season-best 53.5 percent from the field.

“I thought our energy was better tonight,” Howard said. “We locked in on defense and we forced some of their guys to take tough shots. I thought last game they just got any shot they wanted.”

The Raptors made the game close down the stretch with 39 points in the fourth quarter, closing to within three on DeMar DeRozan‘s layup with 10.6 seconds left. However, Dennis Schroder converted a free throw with 6.7 seconds to re-establish a four-point Atlanta edge, and Kyle Lowry‘s miss on a 3 with 1.9 seconds left ended Toronto’s comeback effort.

Despite the frantic finish, overall Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer was pleased with his team’s defensive effort.

“The first half I thought the defense was very good, there’s maybe some slippage in the second but anytime you can come in here and get a win, you are doing something on both ends of the court,” he said.

Kyle Korver did his best to help on the offensive end with a season-high 19 points, including a season-high six 3-pointers, while Schroder added 24 points.

For the Raptors, DeRozan had 34 points, his third straight 30-point outing and 14th of the season to tie a career high, with Lowry adding another 24, including a season-high-equaling six 3-pointers, as Toronto saw its four-game winning streak come to an end. The defeat to Atlanta was Toronto’s fourth against an Eastern Conference club, but its first to someone other than Cleveland.

After allowing an opponent season-high 69 points in the first half, and getting outrebounded 44-26, Toronto coach Dwane Casey was less than impressed with his team’s defensive effort. That’s something he has preached even as his team has scored 100 points in 13 consecutive games, the second longest streak in team history and the longest active one in the NBA.

“We scored enough points, 121 points, shooting 54 percent, 47 percent from the 3,” Casey said. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out where our problem is.”

While Lowry agreed with his coach’s assessment, he was also happy to give credit to Atlanta, particularly given the 128-84 score the last time the two teams met.

“They played aggressive and they played like they wanted to win,” he said. “Tip our hats to them, it’s one game for us and they beat us fair and square. We will look at the film; they beat us tonight, they really beat us.”

TIP-INS

Hawks: G Tim Hardaway remained in the starting lineup for the third straight game even as usual starter G Kent Bazemore returned after missing the last two games with right knee soreness.

Raptors: C Lucas Nogueira returned to the starting lineup after missing Wednesday’s game with a sore right knee. … The crowd at Air Canada Centre observed a moment’s silence in memory of late TNT sideline reporter Craig Sager. … In defeat, the Raptors scored at least 120 points for the eighth time this season, one shy of the franchise record of nine, set in the 2014-15 and 2005-06 seasons.

SWEET 16

With his second of two free throws with 1:15 to go in the first half, Howard became the NBA’s newest member of the 16,000-point club. The shot gave him a first-half high 18 points.

 

Watch Tom Brady tell Charles Barkley to “take a suck of that” after he holes fairway shot

Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images for The Match
Leave a comment

It was the highlight of an entertaining — if not always pretty — afternoon of live golf, raising money for charity.

Tampa Bay Bay Buccanneers quarterback Tom Brady (it’s so weird to type that) was on his fourth shot on the par-5 7th hole at the Medalist Golf Club. Brady had a rough front nine to that point, and commentator Charles Barkley decided to up the trash talk (as if Barkley should talk about someone else’s golf game).

“How many shots do you want? Come on, I’m going to give you some shots man, I want some of you,” Barkley said.

“Don’t worry, it ain’t over yet,” Brady countered as he walked up to his fourth shot, 130 yards from the pin. “I think you just made him mad, Chuck,” host Brian Anderson said. “No, he can take a joke,” Barkley replied. Then this happened.

Brady earned that trash talk.

It wasn’t the only great exchange between the two; they had some fun on an earlier on a par 3 when Barkley bet Brady couldn’t get it on the green.

Increasing buzz teams well out of playoffs will not come to Orlando for games

Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Golden State Warriors have been public about it, they expect their season to be over. Golden State is far from alone, multiple teams well out of the playoff picture have questioned the expense and risk-to-reward ratio of coming back to play a handful of regular season games without fans in Orlando.

More and more, the buzz has been the NBA league office sees things the same way. I am not the only reporter hearing this: Steve Popper of Newsday wrote a column saying there was no reason to invite all 30 teams to the bubble city and the USA Today’s well-connected Jeff Zillgett added this:

This is where we throw in the caveat: There are no hard-and-fast plans from the NBA yet and every option is still being considered. One lesson Adam Silver took from David Stern was not to make a decision until you have to, and Silver is going to absorb more information in the coming weeks — such as from the recent GM survey — before making his call.

That said, the league seems to be coalescing around a general plan, which includes camps starting in mid-June and games in mid-July in Orlando.

For the bottom three to five teams in each conference, there is little motivation to head to Orlando for the bubble. It’s an expense to the owner with no gate revenue coming in, teams want to protect their NBA Draft Lottery status, and the Warriors don’t want to risk injury to Stephen Curry — or the Timberwolves to Karl-Anthony Towns, or the Hawks to Trae Young — for a handful of meaningless games.

The league is considering a play-in tournament for the final seed or seeds in each conference (there are a few format options on the table, it was part of the GM survey). That would bring the top 10 or 12 seeds from each conference to the bubble, depending upon the format, and they would play a handful of games to determine which teams are in the playoffs (and face the top seeds).

Either way, that would leave the three or five teams with the worst records in each conference home. Which is the smart thing to do, there’s no reason to add risk to the bubble for a handful of meaningless games.

Eight-year NBA veteran Jon Leuer announces retirement

Leon Halip/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jon Leuer is only age 31, but the big man has battled ankle and other injuries in recent seasons, playing in only 49 games over the past three seasons. Last July, the Pistons traded him to the Bucks in a salary dump, and Milwaukee quickly waived him. Leuer struggled to get healthy and did not catch on with another team.

Sunday he took to Instagram to announce his retirement.

View this post on Instagram

I love the game of basketball. I still want to play, but I know deep down it’s not the right decision for my health anymore. The past 3 years I’ve dealt with a number of injuries, including 2 that kept me out this whole season. It’s taken me a while to come to grips with this, but I’m truly at peace with my decision to officially retire. As disappointing as these injuries have been, I’m still thankful for every moment I spent playing the game. Basketball has been the most amazing journey of my life. It’s taken me places I only could’ve dreamed about as a kid. The relationships it brought me mean more than anything. I’ve been able to connect with people from all walks of life and forged lifelong bonds with many of them. What this game has brought me stretches way beyond basketball. I’m grateful for this incredible ride and everyone who helped me along the way. 🙏🏼🙌🏼✌🏼

A post shared by Jon Leuer (@jonleuer30) on

Leuer — a second-round pick out of Wisconsin for the Bucks in 2011 — averaged 10.2 points and 5.4 rebounds a game for the Pistons in the 2016-17 season, and for the years at the peak of his career he was a quality rotational big man teams could trust, either off the bench or as a spot starter.

Over the course of his career he played for the Bucks, Cavaliers, Grizzlies, Suns, and Pistons. He earned more than $37 million in salary, most of it from a three-year contract the Pistons gave him in 2016. It was not long after his body started to betray him.

Leuer has been riding out the quarantine in Minnesota is wife Keegan (NFL coach Brian Billick’s daughter) and the couple is donating thousands of meals a week to the needy in that community.

 

New York Governor clears path for Knicks, Nets to open facilities for workouts

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

As of today, 19 NBA teams have their practice facilities open for players to come in for individual workouts, but 11 have yet to open the doors. Some it’s the decision of the team, some it’s that the municipality or state had not allowed it.

The Knicks and Nets — in the heart of New York, the part of the nation hardest hit by COVID-19 — are two of those teams whose facilities are closed. However, on Sunday New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said they could open the door for practice.

“I believe that sports that can come back without having people in the stadium, without having people in the arena — do it! Do it!” Cuomo said at his press conference. “Work out the economics, if you can. We want you up. We want people to be able to watch sports. To the extent people are still staying home, it gives people something to do. It’s a return to normalcy. So we are working and encouraging all sports teams to start their training camps as soon as possible. And we’ll work with them to make sure that can happen.”

While the teams have not formally announced anything yet, it is likely at least the Nets will open soon for the players still in market to workout (the majority of players from the New York teams went home to other parts of the country). The Knicks, well out of the playoff picture, may be much slower to open their facilities back up.

When they happen, the workouts come with considerable restrictions: one player and one coach at each basket, the coach is wearing gloves and masks, the balls and gym equipment are sanitized, and much more.

One part of a potential plan for the NBA to return to play called for a couple of weeks of a training camp at the team facilities, followed by 14 days of a quarantined training camp in Orlando at the bubble site. Multiple teams reached out to the league about doing their entire training camp in Orlando to avoid having players quarantine twice (once when the player reports back to market, once when the team goes to the bubble city).