Associated Press

Gregg Popovich gets NBA-record 1,128th win as Spurs beat Nuggets

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Gregg Popovich became the winningest coach with a single franchise in NBA history, leading the San Antonio Spurs to a 121-97 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night.

Popovich earned his 1,128th victory to pass former Utah coach Jerry Sloan for the mark.

Kawhi Leonard led the Spurs with 19 points in San Antonio’s final home game before playing eight games on the road during its annual rodeo road trip. Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker each added 18 points for the Spurs.

Jamal Murray scored 20 points off the bench and Nikola Jokic had 11 in 15 minutes for Denver, which was playing the second game of a back-to-back and fourth in five nights. The arduous schedule seemed to catch up with the Nuggets in the second half. San Antonio opened the third quarter on a 21-7 run.

Ginobili and Parker have been part of 639 of Popovich’s wins, and the veterans turned back the clock in the record-setting win. The 39-year-old Ginobili set a season high for points despite sitting out the entire second half, going 4 for 5 on 3-pointers. The only player older than Ginobili to score 18-plus points for the Spurs was Tim Duncan, the final member of the team’s vaunted Big Three, who had 21 points against Denver on April 8, 2016.

Parker finished 8 for 8 from the field after scoring just one point in the team’s previous game. The 16-year veteran had four straight points midway through the first quarter, including a layup ahead of Jokic after a steal against Jameer Nelson.

Ginobili topped that with 10 points in four minutes and 16 of the team’s 18 points in his initial seven minutes.

TIP-INS

Nuggets: F Danilo Gallinari missed his second straight game with a strained left groin. Gallinari is averaging 17.2 points and 34.2 minutes, both team-highs. … Kenneth Faried had four points and four rebounds, ending his streak of four straight double-doubles. … Jokic, Faried, Nelson, Wilson Chandler and Gary Harris started for the second time as a unit. They won their initial outing together. … F Darrell Arthur sat the game out for rest. Arthur missed four straight games with soreness in his lower left leg from Jan. 12-20. … Denver entered the game third in the league in scoring at 110.4 points per game. … The Nuggets have lost nine straight in San Antonio. Their last win here was March 4, 2012, in a 99-94 decision.

Spurs: Leonard has scored in double figures in 80 straight games. His previous longest streak was 46 in 2015. . San Antonio has scored 100-plus points in 27 consecutive games, its longest streak since 29 straight in 1988. … The Spurs finished 3-1 on their four-game homestand. … San Antonio has 37 alley-oop dunks in 50 games this season after recording 18 all of last season. … Ginobili’s initial 3-pointer against the Nuggets was the 1,400th of his career. His previous season high was 17 points on Dec. 18 against New Orleans.

 

Cavaliers cruise past Celtics in Game 3, change complexion of Eastern Conference finals

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The Cavaliers were heavy favorites over the Celtics entering the Eastern Conference finals. LeBron James has dominated the East for years, and Cleveland appeared to hit its stride in a sweep of the Raptors last round. Boston was shorthanded and inexperienced.

Were the Celtics’ two wins to open the series, as impressive as they were, really enough to override everything else we knew about these teams?

The Cavs walloped Boston in Game 3, 116-86, Saturday. Cleveland now has four of the NBA’s last five 30-point playoff wins – two against the Celtics last year, one over Toronto last round and tonight. (The Cavaliers lost the league’s only other 30-point game between, to the Pacers in the first round.)

Boston still leads the series 2-1, and teams up 2-1 in a best-of-seven series have won it 80% of the time.

But the team up 2-1 is usually the one seen as better entering the series. That isn’t the case here, not with LeBron on the other side. And the leading team usually isn’t so woeful on the road, which will remain a major storyline entering Game 4 Monday in Cleveland.

The Celtics bought themselves margin for error, but they blew a lot of it tonight.

It’d be an oversimplification to say the Cavs just played harder, but they did, and it went along way. They chased loose balls, tightened their defense and moved more off the ball offensively. Cleveland jumped to a 20-4 lead, led by double digits the rest of the way and spent most of the game up by at least 20.

LeBron (27 points, 12 assists, two blocks and two steals) dazzled as a passer and locked in as a defender. He received help from several players:

In a low-resistance effort, Boston didn’t goon up the game at all.

The Cavaliers still have plenty of work ahead to reach their fourth straight NBA Finals, but tonight, they showed a path to advancing. Climbing out of their early series deficit now looks far less intimidating.

Luka Doncic named EuroLeague MVP at age 19

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Luka Doncic, the likely top two pick in the upcoming NBA draft, has led his Real Madrid team to the EuroLeague finals at age 19.

Now he has been named the youngest player ever win the EuroLeague MVP.

For those unfamiliar, EuroLeague is the equivalent of the Champions League in soccer — the very best club teams from around the continent face off against each other. On this biggest of European stages, Doncic has been a force. He is a gifted passer with great court vision. He can take his man off the dribble. He can hit threes. And he knows how to be a floor general and run a game. Did we mention he’s just 19?

Doncic said before the start of EuroLeague that he hasn’t decided what he is going to do about coming to the NBA or going back to Real Madrid. Don’t buy it. This is like asking a major college basketball star right before the NCAA Tournament if he is coming back to “State U” next year, they don’t want to say “no” right before the tourney so they give a non-committal answer. Same here. He’s not leaving millions on the table, he’ll be in the NBA next season.

And he’ll bee good.

Playoff losses wearing on LeBron James: ‘I lose sleep’

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Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers lost one game before reaching the NBA Finals. The season before that, two. The season before that also two. In Miami before that, the last couple of years they went to the Finals the Heat lost three and four games before reaching the Finals.

This year, the Cavaliers have lost five games already and find themselves down 0-2 to the Boston Celtics heading into Game 3 Saturday night in Cleveland.

The losses do weigh on LeBron, as reported by Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“I mean, I lose sleep,” James said after shootaround Saturday morning. “I mean, at the end of the day, when you lose any game in the postseason, [you lose sleep], so it’s never comfort. Playoffs is never comfort. There’s nothing about the playoffs that’s comfortable until you either win it all or you lose and go into the summer.

“So, for me, it’s always [a] day-to-day grind to figure out ways that you can be better.”

Cleveland has a lot to figure out to win the next two games because if they don’t and go down 3-1 in this series, it’s hard to envision how LeBron can drag this roster back to the Finals (what would be his eighth straight trip).

Offensively Cleveland has to get consistent play from guys other than LeBron (and to a lesser extent, Kevin Love) — J.R. Smith has been awful and needs to find a rhythm at home, George Hill needs to make some plays, Kyle Korver needs to get open and knock down some looks, and some help from the bench is needed.

But that’s not even the end of the floor that is the Cavs real problem. Defensively the Cavaliers recognition and communication has been dreadful, and the passing and player movement of the Celtics has carved them up. Cleveland has outscored teams and not defended all that well for a long time now — that’s how they made the Finals a season ago — but it’s not enough now. The offense and LeBron can’t carry them all the way.

We’ll see after Game 3 if LeBron is going to be able to get any sleep Saturday night.

Bulls’ Paul Zipser has surgery to repair broken left foot

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CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago Bulls forward Paul Zipser has had surgery to repair a broken left foot.

The team said Friday the operation was performed in his native Germany. The Bulls gave no timetable for his recovery.

Zipser averaged 4.0 points in 54 appearances before sitting out the final nine games last season.