When it rains for the Raptors, it pours.
Report: Kevin Durant targeting March 29 return vs. Timberwolves
When Kevin Durant sprained his ankle during warmups, the Suns said he would be re-evaluated in three weeks. It turns out it may be more than a re-evaluation.
Durant is targeting a return almost three weeks to the day from when he injured himself, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.
Phoenix Suns' 13-time All-Star Kevin Durant (sprained ankle) is progressing toward a potential return to action on Wednesday vs. Minnesota Timberwolves, barring any setback, league sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) March 24, 2023
There has been no official update from the Suns, but Durant’s camp has always been optimistic about a return.
The Suns have gone 2-5 without Durant and slid into a virtual tie with the Clippers for the No. 4 seed in the West. If Durant returns Wednesday, Phoenix would have seven games left to hold off Los Angeles and retain home court in the first round of the playoffs. More importantly, they could generate some chemistry before the postseason begins.
Here’s video of Kevin Durant slipping on the floor pregame.
He stayed down for a few seconds but then got up and finished his on-court work. pic.twitter.com/DwTrNc6LIr
— Kellan Olson (@KellanOlson) March 9, 2023
Durant averaged 26.7 points and 7.3 assists a game with a ridiculous 80.8 true shooting percentage in his three games with the Suns, and the team won all three games. The fit seemed almost seamless and if the Suns can get back to that they are a threat to win the wide-open West.
It’s going to be a wild final couple of weeks in the West.
Where’s the beef? Anthony Davis says ‘Me and Bron have one of the best relationships’ in NBA
Whispers and reports of a split in the Lakers’ locker room and a beef between Anthony Davis and LeBron James gained momentum after Davis’ reaction to LeBron James breaking the all-time scoring record went viral. Talking Lakers drama is always an excellent way to get clicks/eyeballs/listeners and so once a rumor like a beef between the team’s two biggest stars begins rolling down the hill it does not stop.
Even if Davis says there is nothing to it, everything is good between him and LeBron. Here’s the quote he gave to Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
“Me and Bron have one of the best relationships I think in the NBA as far as duos or teammates, regardless,” Davis said. “But they don’t see that. They don’t see the stuff we do off the court and time we hang out with each other. They see on-court stuff.”
The reality is it doesn’t matter if LeBron and Davis are buddies, hanging out together drinking a lovely Pinot Noir and laughing behind Frank Vogel’s back. What matters is whether they can get along and thrive on the court. There’s a banner hanging in Crypto.com Arena that says they can if they stay healthy and management puts the right kinds of role players around them.
The healthy part is in the way right now, with LeBron out for at least a couple more weeks with a tendon foot injury (whether he returns before the season ends is up in the air). The Lakers are 7-5 in the dozen games he has missed with this injury thanks to a defense — anchored by Davis — that is third-best in the NBA over that stretch. That has kept their head above water, but the Lakers are in a tight race where six teams — from the 7-12 seeds, making up all the play-in teams and a couple that will miss out — are tied in the loss column at 37. The Lakers need more wins, including Friday night in a critical game against the Thunder.
The Lakers will need LeBron back — and LeBron and Davis to rekindle their on-court chemistry — if they are going to make any kind of a playoff run. First they just have to get to the postseason, which will fall more on Davis. Of late, he has looked up to the task.
Rumor: Could Tyronn Lue step away from Clippers after season?
Clippers coach Tyronn Lue has clearly been frustrated this season.
It’s been the things out of his control — injuries and load management forcing constant lineup shuffling, and with that difficulty in building continuity — that have left Lue exasperated at points. However, is that enough to make Lue walk away from the Clippers this summer? That rumor is out there, Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports said during the new No Cap Room podcast with Dan Devine. (Hat tip Hoopshype.)
Ty Lue, as respected head coach as they come, but there has been chatter, let’s say about potentially him, in theory, removing himself from the situation at a certain point in time. So there’s a lot I think, at stake on the other side of L.A. where the Lakers get all the attention and LeBron’s quest for a fifth ring is always soaking up the headlines, the Clippers could end up becoming a super buzzy team in the postseason and but again, that could be a situation for a lot of organizations.
This is the fourth year of the Kawhi Leonard/Paul George era with the Clippers, with iffy results at best. It cost a lot of money — not to mention draft capital and talent like giving up Shai Gilgeous-Alexander — to bring this roster together and they have one Western Conference Finals trip to show for it (2021, Lue’s first year as coach). This season they will head into the playoffs with an injured George trying to get back on the court (the good news is he doesn’t need knee surgery, but it may be closer to the second round before he can play).
Both Leonard and George are locked in for next season — at a combined $91.3 million — with player options for the season after that, but there is a sense around the league that if these Clippers don’t make a run in this year’s wide-open West playoffs there could be changes. Steve Ballmer has money to spend, but he wants results for all the checks he’s writing and there is real pressure on this organization to make that happen.
Lue could have had enough and choose to step away from that situation. Or be told to step away. Lue is in the third year of a five-year contract he signed to take over from Doc Rivers in Los Angeles, but it may be decision time for both sides.
What happens over the next couple of months will have a lot of influence over what comes next for these Clippers, but there could be changes coming to this Los Angeles team. They will be one of the more interesting teams to watch this coming off-season.
Three things to Know: Clippers find blueprint to win without Paul George
LOS ANGELES — 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) Clippers find blueprint to win without Paul George
What do the Clippers need to do if they are going to hold on to a top-six seed — and be a threat early in the playoffs — without the injured Paul George?
It starts with Kawhi Leonard if you ask coach Tyronn Lue: “We need him to be in attack mode all night, you know, can’t ease into the games.”
Leonard scored 15 points on 7-of-7 shooting in the first quarter Thursday night. Box checked.
All night long the Clippers were following the blueprint Lue laid out to win without George, and the result was a comfortable 127-105 victory against the Thunder.
Leonard, maybe motivated by the lock-down defense Lu Dort played on him at the end of Tuesday’s game (although Kawhi denied that), Leonard had one of his best games of the season, scoring 30 points on 13-of-15 shooting. Leonard also will have to take on tougher defensive assignments early (something George had done) and the result was Leonard with four steals on the night.
Kawhi went off in the Clippers W. Efficiency.
13/15 FG pic.twitter.com/nce9xUh4Fz
— NBA (@NBA) March 24, 2023
What else was on Lue’s blueprint?
“Play with more pace, more pace in the half court getting to our spots, not walk around,” he said pregame. “Attack the basket, attack the rim, don’t just settle for jump shots.”
That pace especially came from a bench unit led by Bones Hyland (16 points), Terrence Mann (14 points) and Nicolas Batum (4-of-6 from 3). The bench plus Leonard unit changed the game, it was +25 early in the fourth quarter thanks to pace, player movement and shots falling.
The Clippers have also gotten more out of Russell Westbrook than the Lakers did earlier this season, the fit has been better, and he had 24 points on 8-of-13 shooting on the night.
“Just having a Hall-of-Fame point guard on the floor,” Leonard said of what Westbrook has brought to the Clippers. “He brings energy to the team, he brings pace… He plays both ends of the floor, he rebounds the ball… He’s been doing a great job.”
The Clippers are going to have to follow this blueprint for a while. George will be re-evaluated in three weeks and the good news is it appears he has no ligament damage that will require surgery. As Lue said, that’s as good of news as the Clippers could have gotten, considering how nasty the injury looked when it happened. Still, reports suggest George could be out until the second round of the playoffs. If the Clippers are still playing at that point.
They will need a lot more nights like Thursday to get to that point.
2) Isaac Okoro drains game-winner, Cavaliers stun Nets
Donovan Mitchell missed the free throw with 11.6 seconds left that would have tied the game, but his hustle (and a lack of fundamental boxing out by Brooklyn) let him get in the lane and keep the ball alive. It caromed around out to Caris LeVert out near mid-court, he drove and could have thrown up a leaner, but instead he whipped a pass to Isaac Okoro in the opposite corner for a 3.
ISAAC OKORO FOR THE WIN 😱
WHAT A FINISH. pic.twitter.com/21XgHBFyRB
— NBA (@NBA) March 24, 2023
The Cavaliers beat the Nets 116-114 Thursday night, sweeping a two-game set from Brooklyn.
The Cavaliers stars stepped up. Mitchell had 31 points, Evan Mobley continued his run of impressive play with 26 points and 16 rebounds, and Jarrett Allen reminded his former team what they are missing inside with 12 points and 10 rebounds against his former team.
Mikal Bridges led Brooklyn with 32 points, while Spencer Dinwiddie had 25 points and 12 assists. But the Nets have dropped five straight games and with that fell half a game behind the idle Heat for the No. 6 seed (and avoiding the play-in) in the East. The Nets and Heat play Saturday in a game that could decide who gets that sixth spot.
3) Brandon Ingram gets first-ever triple-double, Pelicans get much-needed win
How tight is the bottom of the West? From the Timberwolves at No.7 through the Jazz at No.12, every team is tied in the loss column at 37 wins. In that mix, the Mavericks, Lakers, Thunder and Pelicans are tied at 36-37.
The Pelicans are part of that bunch thanks to Brandon Ingram, who had his first triple-double Wednesday night and would not let the Pelicans lose at home to Charlotte.
A historic night for Brandon Ingram 🙌
– 1st career triple-double (30 PTS, 11 REB, 10 AST)
– 3rd player in franchise history with 30+ PTS, 10+ REB, 10+ AST
– 8th player in NBA history with 30+ PTS, 10+ REB, 10+ AST and 0 turnovers
Pelicans got the W at home pic.twitter.com/CEPOtmk1J2
— NBA (@NBA) March 24, 2023
Jonas Valanciunas added 20 points and 19 rebounds for New Orleans, while CJ McCollum added 19 himself. P.J. Washington led the way for the Hornets with 18.
It will be a wild final couple of weeks out West, and the Pelicans will need more of this Ingram with Zion Williamson out.