Anthony Davis beasts against sloppy Warriors, Pelicans win Game 3 in rout

6 Comments

That looked like the Pelicans who swept the Trail Blazers out of the playoffs.

From the opening tip back in the comfort of their home, New Orleans was knocking down threes, being far more physical and aggressive on defense, and consistently exploiting a Warriors team that was sloppy with their defensive switches and communication.

The result was a wrap-the-ice-on-your-knees-with-five-minutes-left kind of blowout win.

Anthony Davis was a second-half beast and finished with 33 points and 18 rebounds, Jrue Holiday had 21 points, and Rajon Rondo added a ridiculous 21 assists. With that, the Pelicans blew Golden State away in the second half, winning 119-100.

Golden State still leads the series 2-1, but New Orleans has a chance to even it up Sunday in the Big Easy.

“We’re home, we believe we’re a great home team no matter who we’re playing, our fans were unbelievable tonight, and guys made shots. That was the difference maker,” Davis said. “

If Golden State plays the same way, New Orleans will even the series.

This looked more like the regular-season Warriors that tried to get by on talent and were not dialed in. It’s not just that their shooters were off, although they were. Stephen Curry was 6-of-19 and struggled to create space for himself all game, plus he was attacked on defense, that knee is not as healthy as everyone thought. The Pelicans cranked up their defensive pressure and the result was this shot chart by the Warriors, where they barely got to the rim — they had six more midrangers than shots within three feet — and missed their jumpers.

Even more than the offensive and lineup questions, it was the defensive end where the Warriors’ issues were most obvious. The Warriors defensive attention to detail — staying with Mirotic when he pops out after setting a pick, or being prepared for duck-ins from Davis — that has mostly shown up in the playoffs was lacking on Friday night.

New Orleans is simply too good a team to do that against.

The Pelicans opened the game red-hot — after shooting 33.9 percent from three in the first two games, they opened this one up 6-of-9 from deep and raced out to a 13 point lead. Holiday was fueling that run with a couple of threes (meanwhile the Warriors opened 1-of-7 from beyond the arc). The Pelicans did a good job of giving whoever Curry was guarding the ball then using Davis to set picks, so there could be no switch. It led to some good looks for New Orleans and they were 10-of-16 from three in the first half. However, the Pelicans were getting good buckets inside as well, attacking off the sleepy Warriors switches.

All of which is why it felt like the Pelicans should have been up by more than six at the half. Part of the reason was Klay Thompson, who had been getting good looks for a couple of games but not shooting like he’s expected to, finding his groove and scoring 20 in the second quarter.

In the second half, Davis took over and the Pelicans raced out to a 21-7 run at the start and never looked back.

“Just being more aggressive,” Davis said of his second-half explosion. “Rondo’s been on me all series about just being more physical, more aggressive, going to the basket, and that’s on me. We have to be physical and match that physicality.”

It wasn’t just Davis in the second half, it was the Ian Clark revenge game — the former Warriors dropped 18 off the bench on his one-time teammates.

The tenor of Game 3 was radically different from the first two games of the series. The Pelicans believe they can continue that, but we have all seen the Warriors flip the switch and win big games on the road. They will play better.

Which is going to make Sunday very interesting.

Watch Harden run onto court from bench mid-play to defend

0 Comments

It takes a second to notice, but the 76ers had just four players on the court trying to defend the Nuggets on a late third-quarter possession.

But when James Harden — sitting on the bench — notices it, he stands up and runs into play, drawing a technical.

The technical foul was for having four men on the court, not on Harden specifically.

While that may have been a rare instance of Harden rushing to play defense, the 76ers as a team cranked up their defense in the second half against the Nuggets and went on to get the home win behind 47 points from Joel Embiid.

LeBron livid over no foul call at end of regulation, Lakers fall to Celtics in OT

0 Comments

“The best player on earth can’t get a call. It’s amazing.”

Lakers coach Darvin Ham made that comment out of frustration after another game where the Lakers felt robbed at the end. He wasn’t the only Laker.

LeBron James was once again brilliant — 41 points, nine rebounds and eight assists — but with the game tied against the Celtics and 4.1 seconds on the clock, he drove the lane and didn’t get the foul call when it clearly looked like Jayson Tatum hit him on the arm as he shot.

After the game, referee crew chief Eric Lewis admitted the officials missed the call:

There was contact. At the time, during the game, we did not see a foul. The crew missed the play.”

Patrick Beverley picked up a technical foul for bringing a photographer’s camera over to the referee to show evidence of the foul.

These losses are a punch to the gut for a Laker team with little margin for error and trying to make up ground in the West (at 23-27 they sit 13th in the conference). But LeBron sees a pattern — he is scoring 30.2 points per game (sixth in the league) but is getting to the line just 4.9 times per game, fewer than anyone else in the top nine in the league in scoring.

“I don’t get it. I’m attacking the paint, just as much as any of the guys in this league that’s shooting double-digit free throws a night, and I don’t get it. I don’t understand it,” James said postgame in Boston.

The other Lakers were a little more direct.

Boston pulled away in overtime to get the 125-121 win, snapping their own three-game losing streak.

LeBron finished with 41, Anthony Davis 16 (on 6-of-15 shooting off the bench) and Beverley had 15 including a key putback dunk. Jaylen Brown scored 37 for Boston, Tatum 30 and Malcolm Brogdon had 26 off the bench.

There are no moral victories for these Lakers more than halfway into the season, playing the team with the best record in the NBA close and almost winning does not count. Time is running out on LeBron and his team, they need to string together some wins. They felt they should have gotten the chance to win this one.

Watch Embiid score 47, lift 76ers past Jokic, Nuggets 126-119

0 Comments

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Joel Embiid won the battle of MVP candidates with 47 points and 18 rebounds as the Philadelphia 76ers extended their winning streak to seven games with a 126-119 win over Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets on Saturday.

Jokic and Embiid have finished first and second in voting for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award over the last two seasons. Both are among the top candidates for MVP as this season hits the halfway mark, although Embiid was not named among the All-Star starters from the Eastern Conference.

“I’m used to it and it’s not the first time,” Embiid said. “I think it’s more of a motivation to go out there and try to win the whole thing. That’s the only way that I’ll get that respect.”

Jokic gave Embiid a nod for his play.

“He’s really talented,” Jokic told the Denver Post of Embiid. “Really shifty.”

James Harden had 17 points and 13 assists, and Tobias Harris scored all 14 of his points in the second half after being shut down by Denver’s defense in the first half.

“We were able to figure some things out and get some stops,” Harris said. “Guys stepping up and making shots was huge for us to cut the deficit in the fourth quarter to try and make something happen.”

Jokic had 24 points, eight rebounds and nine assists for Denver, which has lost three of its last four games. Jamal Murray chipped in 22 points and Michael Porter added 20.

“We turned it over and they just turned up the pressure on us,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “They got to the basket way too easy with their attack mentality. And we just got way too careless with the basketball.”

Embiid has scored 40 or more points nine times this season and 35 times in his career. In addition to the All-Star snub, Embiid was also given a $25,000 fine by the NBA on Friday for an on-court demonstration after-basket celebration during Wednesday night’s win over Brooklyn.

“Let’s keep offending Joel by fining him and not putting him among the All-Star starters,” Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers said sarcastically.

The Nuggets began the day with the second-best team field goal percentage at 50.7% and tops in 3-point percentage at 39.5%. In the first half, they overwhelmed Philadelphia’s perimeter defense, shooting 65.9% (29 for 44) from the floor and 10 of 17 (58.8%) from beyond the 3-point line. The hot shooting helped the Nuggets to a 73-58 lead at halftime.

Embiid started to take over toward the end of the third quarter, putting together a 16-point quarter on 5-of-6 shooting that keyed a 14-0 run that allowed the Sixers to close within 99-98 early in the fourth.

In the final quarter, Philadelphia wore down a Nuggets team playing the final game of a three-game, week-long trip. P.J. Tucker– who had switched defenively to Jokic and slowed him down in the second half- followed a Harden missed 3-pointer with a tip-in with over a minute left to stretch the lead to five. Embiid then hit a 3-pointer to restore an eight-point lead.

“I’ve always like to think I am a closer and I am,” Embiid said. “Taking the last shot or taking a last second shot with the clock ticking is fun for me. I love getting into those types of possession where you have to make the plays. That’s where you find out who is who and who is made up for those kinds of moments.”

Report: Myles Turner agrees to two-year, $60 million extension with Pacers

Indiana Pacers v Milwaukee Bucks
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
0 Comments

Take Myles Turner off the trade market.

After months of negotiations, the Pacers and Turner have agreed to a contract extension, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This has since been confirmed by other sources.

Turner — back playing his natural center spot this season with Domantas Sabonis in Sacramento — is having the best season of his career, averaging 17.5 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks a game. He has been one of the keys to a surprisingly good Pacers team this season.

That $60 million contract extension number can be a little misleading. Turner was already making $18 million this season, but because the Pacers are $24.4 million under the salary cap, they can do a re-negotiation and extension with the big man, giving him a $17.1 million bump right now (to a total of $35.1 million for this season) and extend off of that for two years, the first at $20.2 million and the second at $19.9 million, according to Shams Charania.

Technically Turner can still be traded at the Feb. 9 deadline, but the Pacers have no intention of doing so (as this signing signals). There had been a lot of trade interest in Turner, going back to last summer, most prominently with the Los Angeles Lakers in a swap that would have sent Buddy Hield and Turner to the West Coast for Russell Westbrook and two first-round picks. That draft pick compensation kept the deal from getting done (the Pacers wanted two unprotected first-rounders).