Russell Westbrook scores 41 in triple-double as Thunder top Pelicans (VIDEO)

0 Comments

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Russell Westbrook scored 41 points in his 29th triple-double of the season to help the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the New Orleans Pelicans 118-110 on Sunday night.

Westbrook had 21 points in the fourth quarter. He shot 7 for 19 from the field the first three quarters and was 7 for 10 in the fourth. He also had 11 rebounds and 11 assists in the 66th triple-double of his career.

Enes Kanter had 20 points and nine rebounds, and Steven Adams added 13 points and 10 boards for the Thunder, who won their third straight.

Anthony Davis scored 38 points and DeMarcus Cousins had 31 points and 10 rebounds, but he played just 22 minutes and fouled out while getting dunked on by Westbrook. The Pelicans fell to 0-3 since acquiring Cousins in a trade with Sacramento.

Three things to Know: Do the Celtics have the Bucks number?

0 Comments

Three Things To Know is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA must-watch.

1) Do the Boston Celtics have the Milwaukee Bucks number?

I am often the Drum Major leading the “don’t read too much into the regular season game” parade. The marathon grind of 82 games and the circumstances surrounding any single game makes it very difficult to draw conclusions that apply to a playoff series.

Take last night’s showdown of the top two teams in the East, which saw the Celtics blow out the Bucks 140-99. Jayson Tatum scored 40 while Jaylen Brown added 30. Both Celtics’ stars sat the fourth quarter because this one was decided.

There are reasons for the Bucks’ off night. Milwaukee was on the second night of a back-to-back (they dominated the Pacers on Wednesday) and this was the first game back from a four-game road trip (those first games home are notorious letdowns). In the Celtics’ previous game, they got crushed by a struggling Wizards team.

Yet, it isn’t just this one 44-point game that has me thinking Boston is just a bad matchup and better than Milwaukee.

The two teams faced off in a Christmas Day showcase game and the Celtics won handily, 139-118. The Bucks won the rematch on Valentine’s Day in overtime (131-125), but the Celtics sat Tatum, Brown, Marcus Smart and Al Horford — four starters — for that game.

None of those games matter if these teams meet in the second half of May, when the Eastern Conference Finals tip-off. The No. 2 seed Celtics are lined up for a harder road through the playoffs (they could face the Heat and then the 76ers). Could that take a toll on them physically before matching up with the Bucks?

Maybe it doesn’t matter. It looks like Boston has Milwaukee’s number this year.

2) Julius Randle out until start of playoffs. At least.

The No.5 seed New York Knicks appear headed for a first-round showdown with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Knicks have a puncher’s chance to win that series.

But only if Julius Randle plays.

The Knicks’ All-Star forward and leading scorer will be re-evaluated in two weeks due to a sprained ankle, the team announced. That timeline has him being re-evaluated just a couple of days before the Knicks tip-off in the playoffs (either April 15 or 16).

Randle rolled his ankle going for a rebound and landing on Bam Adebayo‘s foot in the second quarter Wednesday night, and he left the game not to return. Tonight’s game against the aforementioned Cavaliers (in Cleveland) will be the first game Randle has missed all season.

Randle is playing at an All-NBA level again this season, averaging 25.1 points and 10 rebounds a game.

3) Cancel your plans: Must-watch NBA schedule Friday night

We’re approaching the season’s end and the schedule makers lined up some games with some weight for Friday night. It’s not like you had plans you can’t cancel. Here are the games worth watching (times Eastern).

• Knicks at Cavaliers (7:30, League Pass).
This a first-round playoff matchup preview, except the Knicks will be without Julius Randle (hopefully he will be back in a couple of weeks for the games between these teams that really matter).

• Clippers at Grizzlies (8, League Pass). Two of the top five teams in the West, and maybe the two teams in the conference playing the best ball recently (Memphis is 8-2 in their last 10, the Clippers 7-3). While Paul George is out with a sprained knee and Kawhi Leonard is questionable (personal reasons), both of them sat out for the first game in this two-game set Wednesday night and the Clippers won anyway behind a big Russell Westbrook outing. The Grizzlies were without Jaren Jackson Jr., Desmond Bane and Tyus Jones in that first game, all are expected back tonight (the Grizzlies’ defense without Jackson was awful).

• Lakers at Timberwolves (8, NBA TV). Two teams in the middle of that moras at the bottom of the West (both teams are 39-38, but Minnesota has the tiebreaker coming in), and two teams that desperately need wins. The Timberwolves have been playing their best basketball of late (at least until the loss to the Suns), but will they have an answer for slowing LeBron James, and especially Anthony Davis (who remains the lynchpin to any Lakers’ success)? Matchup within the game to watch: Jarred Vanderbilt trying to slow Anthony Edwards is going to be fun.

• Nuggets at Suns (10:30, NBA TV). This lines up to be a second-round playoff preview (if both teams advance, which in this West is no lock). Does Denver have any answer for Kevin Durant? (Does anyone?) The Nuggets are on the second night of a back-to-back, but Nikola Jokić sat out the first game (a loss to the Pelicans) and is expected to play in this one.

BONUS THING TO KNOW: Brandon Ingram went off for a triple-double to lead the Pelicans past the Nuggets last night, scoring 31.

As expected, Alabama’s Brandon Miller says he will enter NBA Draft

NCAA BASKETBALL: MAR 24 Div I Men's Championship - San Diego State vs Alabama
Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
0 Comments

This is far from a surprise, but it’s now official.

Brandon Miller, the Alabama wing projected as likely top-three pick, told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski he would enter this June’s NBA Draft.

Miller, a 6’9″ sharpshooting wing, has climbed draft boards over the course of this season as he has shown off more aspects of this game. He has good size, impressive athleticism and projects as a three or four in the NBA (two high-value positions). His skill set starts with being an elite shooter (39.9% on 3-pointers this season) who has the size to shoot over the top of many defenders, but this season showed off improved finishing at the rim and playmaking off the bounce.

The development and growth of Miller’s game (while Scoot Henderson played well but missed a lot of 3s in the G-League) put Miller in the mix for the No.2 pick (Victor Wembanyama remains the clear No.1). Most teams likely still lean toward Henderson and his otherworldly athleticism, but whoever the basketball lottery gods gift the No.2 pick will have a conversation.

Miller made more headlines this season for his off-the-court troubles than his play on it. Tuscaloosa police say he brought a gun to former Alabama teammate Darius Miles, who allegedly used it to shoot and kill Jamea Jonae Harris. Miller was never charged with a crime and multiple front office sources told NBC Sports that unless something changes and he is, this will not impact his draft status.

Watch Tatum score 40, Brown 30, Celtics blow out Bucks (again) 140-99

0 Comments

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Jayson Tatum scored 40 points, Jaylen Brown added 30 and the Boston Celtics steamrolled the NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks 140-99 on Thursday night.

The Celtics (53-24) shot 22 of 43 from 3-point range and moved within two games of the Bucks (55-22) in the Eastern Conference standings. The Celtics won the season series with the Bucks 2-1, which would give Boston the tiebreaker if both teams finish with the same record.

Boston’s performance in those three games with Milwaukee should give the Celtics plenty of confidence they could knock out the Bucks again if they meet in the postseason. The Celtics beat the Bucks in seven games in last season’s East semifinals.

The Celtics beat the Bucks 139-118 in Boston on Christmas Day and lost 131-125 in overtime on Feb. 14. The Celtics didn’t play Brown, Tatum, Marcus Smart or Al Horford in that overtime loss.

Milwaukee took a hit on the floor as well as in the standings. Bucks forward Khris Middleton left the game midway through the third quarter after taking an elbow to the face from Brown. The play resulted in a charging foul on Brown and caused Middleton to receive stitches on his upper lip.

Boston built a 114-74 lead through three periods, causing most of the starters for both teams to sit out the entire fourth quarter.

Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 24 points.

This matched the Bucks’ most lopsided loss of the season. They fell 142-101 at Memphis on Dec. 15.

The Bucks were playing one night after a 149-136 victory at Indiana in which they shot a season-high 62.4% from the floor with Jrue Holiday scoring 51 points and Antetokounmpo having 38 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists. This marked the first time an NBA team had one player score at least 50 points and another have a triple-double with at least 35 points in the same game.

Milwaukee found the going quite a bit tougher Thursday.

Antetokounmpo shot just 11 of 27, including 0 for 5 from 3-point range. Holiday started his night by sinking a 3-pointer, but went 1 of 7 the rest of the way and finished with just six points.

After the first 8½ minutes of the game featured nine lead changes and five ties, the Celtics seized control by going on a 29-9 over the last seven-plus minutes. Boston capped that spurt by scoring 13 straight points.

Boston didn’t let up the rest of the night.

Milwaukee’s Thanasis Antetokounmpo was ejected with 1:25 left for head-butting Boston’s Blake Griffin. The head-butting came after Griffin committed a flagrant-1 foul against Antetokounmpo.

Knicks’ Julius Randle out at least two weeks with sprained ankle

Miami Heat v New York Knicks
Dustin Satloff/Getty Images
0 Comments

In just a little more than two weeks, April 15 or 16, the New York Knicks will open the playoffs, likely on the road in Cleveland.

They hope to have Julius Randle back for that game.

The Knicks’ All-Star forward and leading scorer, Randle suffered a sprained ankle against the Heat on Wednesday night and will be re-evaluated in two weeks, the team announced.

That timeline has him re-evaluated days before the playoffs tip-off. He will not play again this regular season.

Randle rolled his ankle leaping for a rebound and landing on Bam Adebayo‘s foot in the second quarter, and he left the game not to return. Friday night against those Cavaliers (in Cleveland) will be the first game Randle has missed all season.

Randle is playing at an All-NBA level again this season, averaging 25.1 points and 10 rebounds a game. The Knicks have five games remaining in the season and are almost locked in as the No.5 seed, four games back of the No. 4 Cavaliers and 2.5 games up on the No.6 seed (and stumbling) Nets.