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Pacers hope to start new winning streak in showdown with Raptors

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TORONTO (AP)– The Indiana Pacers will be trying to start another winning streak Wednesday night when they visit the Toronto Raptors, who have lost two in a row.

The Pacers had their season-best, seven-game winning streak stopped in dramatic fashion Tuesday night when the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers earned a 92-91 victory on a tip-in at the final buzzer.

The Pacers’ streak was the first time they had won seven consecutive games since Jan. 26-Feb. 6, 2017.

The loss was surprising because the Cavaliers were winning for only the eighth time in 31 games this season. With Toronto coming up on the schedule the next night, there were concerns that it might be a trap game for Indiana.

“We’ve been able to win some games,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said before the game. “And we can’t get bored with winning and assume it’s going to happen regardless of who’s coming in to play.”

The Pacers (20-11) shot just 39.8 percent from the field, 18.2 percent from 3-point range and 61.9 percent on free throws.

The lack of execution on offense was particularly painful for the Pacers when Victor Oladipo missed two free throws with 9.5 seconds remaining that would have given them a three-point lead.

It was the first loss for the Pacers in the 11 times they have held their opponents to 97 or fewer points this season.

“I’ve got to be better,” said Oladipo, who scored 12 points. “I’ve got to be better down the stretch. I’ve got to make free throws, that’s my job as a leader on this team to step up and make big free throws and make big shots and make good decisions down the stretch. This one’s on me, man, I’ll be better in future.”

Meanwhile, the Raptors are coming off losses to the Portland Trailblazers and the Denver Nuggets on Friday and Sunday respectively after starting the four-game trip with impressive wins over the Los Angeles Clippers and the Golden State Warriors.

After the game Sunday, Raptors coach Nick Nurse criticized the lack of foul calls against Kawhi Leonard. Nurse was fined $15,000 for publicly criticizing the officials.

“You can’t tell me that one of the best players in the league takes 100 hits and shoots four free throws, and they handed him two for charity at the end,” Nurse said after the game on Sunday. “So, he was going to have two free throws for the game with all the physical hits and holding and driving and chucking and doubling and slapping and reaching and all the stuff. It’s been going on all year. I do not understand why they are letting everyone play one of the best players in the league so physically. I do not understand it.”

Nurse add little to add on Tuesday. “I just thought it was time to do it,” he said. “I’m gonna back my players.”

Leonard appreciated the backing. “We’re playing it and we might see it a certain way and we always feel like we’re right on the floor,” the forward said. “But when you have your coach watching it and seeing the same things that you’re feeling then it’s great.”

The Raptors, meanwhile, are dealing with injuries.

Kyle Lowry (left thigh contusion) has missed the past two games and Nurse said that the point guard is “maybe more questionable than probable” for Wednesday.

Pascal Siakam (stiff back), Fred VanVleet (sore back) and Danny Green (who was poked in the eye Sunday) could be in the lineup Wednesday. Serge Ibaka (swollen right knee) is listed as questionable.

Jonas Valanciunas (dislocated left thumb) is out.

But Norman Powell (left shoulder subluxation) is expected to play Wednesday for the first time since Nov. 5.

The game Wednesday will be the first of three meetings between the Pacers and Raptors this season, followed by games Jan. 6 again at Scotiabank Arena and Jan. 23 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Toronto has won the season-series against Indiana the past four seasons, including a 3-1 advantage last season.

Vince Carter wins NBA Sportsmanship Award

Hawks forward Vince Carter
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Vince Carter’s 22-year NBA career ended amid the chaos of coronavirus, preventing him from getting the deserved fanfare.

But fellow players will send Carter into retirement with the NBA Sportsmanship Award.

NBA release:

NBA players have selected Vince Carter as the recipient of the 2019-20 NBA Sportsmanship Award, the NBA announced today.

Carter, who spent the 2019-20 season with the Atlanta Hawks, announced his retirement from the NBA in June after playing a league-record 22 seasons.  He receives the Joe Dumars Trophy as the winner of the NBA Sportsmanship Award.  Dumars, a two-time NBA champion and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, played 14 NBA seasons and won the inaugural Sportsmanship Award in the 1995-96 season.

Each NBA team nominated one of its players for the NBA Sportsmanship Award, which is designed to honor a player who best represents the ideals of sportsmanship on the court.  From the list of 30 team nominees, a panel of league executives selected one finalist from each of the NBA’s six divisions.  Current NBA players selected the winner from the list of six finalists, with more than 250 players submitting their votes through confidential balloting conducted by the league office.

Full voting (with first-, second-, third-, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-place votes and voting points):

1. Vince Carter (Hawks): 143-70-34-13-4-2-2,520

2. Garrett Temple (Nets): 22-78-63-52-25-26-1,746

3. Steven Adams (Thunder): 34-57-41-52-58-24-1,632

4. Harrison Barnes (Kings): 24-25-75-48-35-59-1,418

5. Langston Galloway (Pistons): 23-22-29-60-79-53-1,244

7. Tyus Jones (Grizzlies): 20-14-24-41-65-102-1,016

What a nice honor for Carter, who gracefully aged from high-profile star to veteran mentor.

Heat: Bam Adebayo, Goran Dragic doubtful for Game 2 of NBA Finals

Heat players Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic
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Bam Adebayo‘s and Goran Dragic‘s injuries… not looking great for the Heat approaching Game 2 of the NBA Finals.

Heat:

This is a disaster for Miami. The Lakers dominated Game 1, and now the Heat have two starters hobbled at best. At worst and more likely, Adebayo and Dragic are out.

Adebayo would be the bigger loss. Miami was completely overmatched when facing Anthony Davis without a center. Kelly Olynyk and Meyers Leonard can try to keep up, but they’re far from great solutions.

At least the Heat have more options at point guard. Kendrick Nunn can get an elevated role (especially after excelling in garbage time of Game 1). Jimmy Butler can become the de facto point guard. Tyler Herro can also play the position. But Dragic was playing so well during Miami’s run through the Eastern Conference. This is also a major setback.

 

Report: Tyronn Lue ‘early favorite’ to become Clippers head coach

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Doc Rivers is gaining momentum in the 76ers’ coaching search.

As for the job Rivers left behind with the Clippers… Clippers assistant and former Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue, unsurprisingly, has the inside track.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The Clippers are planning to interview other candidates, starting soon, sources said.

The New Orleans Pelicans are planning to interview Lue in the near future too, sources said.

Lue would be a sensible hire. He has championship experience, which would help the Clippers hit the ground running in a make-or-break season before Kawhi Leonard and Paul George can become unrestricted free agents. Lue managed stars in LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. The Clippers must improve their chemistry around their stars. And the last time Lue got promoted from assistant to head coach, his team won a title.

New Orleans also has an appealing job. But the Clippers are far closer to championship contention. And if both teams want Lue, I bet Clippers owner Steve Ballmer would outspend Pelicans owner Gayle Benson.

Still, the Clippers are conducting a coaching search. Other candidates could emerge. This isn’t necessarily Lue’s job for the taking.

How long would he wait on L.A. if the Pelicans make an offer? Lue has shown he values being entrusted.

Report: 76ers focused on Doc Rivers and Mike D’Antoni in coaching search

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The 76ers appeared focused on Mike D’Antoni in their coaching search.

Then, Doc Rivers surprisingly became available.

The former Clippers coach met with the 76ers and is now in the center of the conversation.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

For the Sixers now, the focus is on Rivers and D’Antoni, a source told ESPN. A decision is expected this week.

Rivers would be an easier fit with this roster than D’Antoni, whose style doesn’t appear to work as well with both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Rivers also looks like he’d help Philadelphia take the next step.

But that seemed like it’d be true with the Clippers and wasn’t.

Tyronn Lue’s candidacy with the 76ers has clearly faded. Could he join the Clippers, Rockets or Pelicans? If Philadelphia hires Rivers, maybe D’Antoni still lands with the Pacers?

Rivers’ availability has definitely thrown a wrench in the coaching carousel.