Associated Press

Three Things to Know: NBA players were as bored with Super Bowl as you were

5 Comments

Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) NBA players were as bored with Super Bowl as you were. Well, that was a dud. Tom Brady added to his legacy and the New England Patriots beat the Los Angeles Rams 13-3, but the game itself was just a dull puntfest.

NBA players took to Twitter to say all the things you were saying to your friends during the slog of a game.

2) Portland tries to add depth, bolster its second unit with a trade for Rodney Hood. We know exactly how Portland is going to be defended in the playoffs: Opposing teams are going to trap Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, force the ball out of their hands as much as possible, and dare any other Blazer to beat them. It works because who is that third Blazer that scares you? Jusuf Nurkic has played well of late but isn’t a shot creator. Evan Turner was that guy running the second unit for the first month of the season, but he’s faded. It might have been LaMarcus Aldridge but he bolted for San Antonio years ago, and since then nobody has been consistent as the third option.

Rodney Hood is going to get his shot at the role the rest of this season and into the playoffs. Portland agreed to a trade for Hood on Sunday, sending Nik Stauskas, Wade Baldwin IV, and second-round picks in 2021 and 2023 to the Cavaliers.

It’s a decent gamble by the Blazers, one probably will not pay off like fans hope but also not one that risked a lot. Hood has been itching to prove he is a quality scorer, a bucket-getter, ever since he saw his role squeezed by Donovan Mitchell in Utah. In Portland, he’s at least going to get his chance. This season coach Terry Stotts has tried to play Lillard and McCollum together as much as possible (mitigating the trapping idea somewhat) and hoping someone could be a force with the second unit. Evan Turner was that guy for the first six weeks or so of the season but has faded since. Now Hood will get his chance.

We will see how that goes. Hood doesn’t get to the free throw line and that has always hurt his efficiency, but Hood is playing for a new contract and will be out there trying to get buckets. If it works for Portland they become a bigger threat in a West that, after Golden State, is relatively close and could see a number of teams make a run to the conference Finals. If it doesn’t work, not a huge loss.

For Cleveland, this is really about the picks. Hood wasn’t part of the long-term plans (neither are Stauskas and Baldwin), so to get a couple of picks for him is a decent play as they continue to stockpile for future drafts as part of the rebuild in Cleveland. This isn’t a haul, but for a guy in the last year of his deal, it’s not bad.

3) Clutch Kyrie Irving gives Boston a shootout win over Oklahoma City. Well, at least one game on Sunday put up a lot of points and was entertaining.

Boston moved into a tie for third in the East with a 134-129 win at home on Sunday and Kyrie Irving was the key. He scored 30 points with 11 assists in the game, and as it does the Celtics leaned heavily on him to make plays late in the game. With less than 30 seconds to go he got the ball in isolation, blew past Terrance Ferguson and hit the floater over Steven Adams that eventually proved to seal the win. Russell Westbrook still had a chance to tie or take the lead when he drove the length of the court with 13 seconds left, but Irving got in his way and forced Westbrook to fumble the ball and turn it over (something Westbrook rarely does in the clutch). It was just an entire night of Irving making plays.

Boston is playing as well or better than any team in the East right now. In their last 15 games, the Celtics are 11-4 with a +8.9 net rating, third best in the league in that stretch (Golden State and Milwaukee have been better). Boston looks like the team we all thought was the one to beat in the East going into the season.

The Thunder got big games from their stars, Paul George dropped 37 points and Westbrook racked up another triple-double with 22 points, 12 rebounds, and 16 assists. The challenge is that, against the league’s best, they need more from their depth and it just isn’t there often enough. The Thunder are never an easy out with how hard they play, but their usually-stout defense was a step slow against the Celtics and it cost them.

No Giannis Antetokounmpo, no problem as Bucks win 16th straight

Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

MILWAUKEE (AP) — No Giannis was no problem for the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night.

Reigning league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo sat out but the Bucks kept on rolling, getting 29 points from Eric Bledsoe and 24 from Khris Middleton in a 127-112 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans that extended their winning streak to 16 games.

The Bucks (22-3) tied the second-longest winning streak in franchise history and moved closer to the franchise record of 20 set during the team’s 1970-71 championship season.

Antetokounmpo sat out with a right quad tendon injury, missing his first game this season. He has missed time with concerns about overuse injuries in his leg before.

Antetokounmpo did not participate in the team’s shootaround on Wednesday morning and quickly was ruled out.

“I don’t think we know exactly when it happened,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “This morning the soreness was such that he was not able to play tonight. The severity of it, we’re hoping it’s not too serious.

“We’ll take it day by day and we’re always going to err on the side of caution.”

The rest of the Bucks stepped up.

“I think we took a little more ownership of what’s going on out there,” Middleton said. “When Giannis is out there, he draws such a huge crowd that we play through him a lot. Without him tonight, we know we have to do a little bit more.

“It was a great test; they play with a fast pace just like us. I think we did a great job.”

Veteran forward Ersan Ilyasova, starting in place of Antetokounmpo, had a season-high 18 points and nine rebounds. George Hill contributed 13 points off the bench.

Bledsoe drove aggressively and scored 11 points in the third quarter to answer a Pelicans rally, and he finished making a season-high five 3-pointers and going 10 for 13 from the field while adding six assists.

“I try to get in the paint as much as possible,” Bledsoe said. “If I don’t have a shot, I kick it out to my teammates and trust them to make the right play.”

New Orleans (6-19) lost its 10th straight game despite a season-high 31 points from J.J. Redick. Brandon Ingram had 25 points and 10 rebounds and point guard Jrue Holiday added 21 points.

A frustrated Redick spoke up in the locker room at halftime, when New Orleans trailed by 23 points.

“It’s not like this is the first time we’ve had a talk at halftime,” Redick said. “I would say emotionally sometimes you reach a tipping point. That’s the timing of that.”

New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said his team needs to communicate better.

“It’s the quietest group I’ve ever been around, even on the plane and in the meal room,” Gentry said. “But we do have to get them talking on the court and have them communicate on the court.

“When we do, we’re pretty solid. I thought we did a good job in the second half of communicating. But when you’re trying to come back from 25 to-28-point deficits, the least little thing is going to have a glaring effect.”

The Bucks hit six of their first eight attempts from 3-point range, including 3 of 3 by Bledsoe, to take a 28-12 lead.

Milwaukee led by 23 points in the opening quarter before New Orleans closed the period on an 8-0 spurt to pull within 35-20.

The Bucks used a 17-0 run to grab a 56-28 lead in the second quarter before settling for a 69-46 halftime margin. Middleton and Bledsoe each had 13 points and Ilyasova and Hill added 11 apiece.

The Pelicans outscored the Bucks 40-36 in the third quarter.

New Orleans pulled within 120-108 with 2:51 remaining but Middleton hit a pair of jumpers to put the Bucks safely ahead.

 

Watch James Harden score 55, including 10 threes, to beat Cleveland

Leave a comment

CLEVELAND (AP) — James Harden scored 55 points – 20 in the fourth quarter – and Russell Westbrook added 23 points as the Houston Rockets withstood an unexpected scare from Cleveland and held on for a 116-110 win Wednesday night over the free-falling Cavaliers, who have lost eight straight and 14 of 15.

Harden matched Kyrie Irving‘s arena record for points in a game, and his fourth with 50 or more this season bailed out the Rockets, who allowed the Cavs to score 24 straight points in the second half.

Cleveland was still up 108-107 when Harden, who came in leading the NBA in scoring at 38 points per game, dropped a floater in the lane. After a turnover by Cavs guard Jordan Clarkson, P.J. Tucker hit a 3-pointer from the corner and Clint Capela had a dunk following another Cleveland miscue.

The inexperienced Cavs crumbled in the final minute, making three turnovers.

Capela added 13 rebounds for Houston, which figured to have an easy time with the Cavs, who are struggling under first-year coach John Beilein.

Cleveland, though, came to play and was led by rookie Kevin Porter Jr.‘s season-high 24 points. Collin Sexton added 18 and Kevin Love had 17 points and 11 boards.

Harden connected on a pair of 3-pointers during a 16-2 run in the third quarter when the Rockets, who were sleepwalking through long stretches of the first half, appeared to take control.

But Houston relaxed, and Cleveland went on a jaw-dropping 24-0 run – all without Love, who was on the bench with a head laceration – over a 4:43 stretch bridging the third and fourth quarters to a take a 99-88 lead on Porter’s bucket.

 

Grizzlies’ Ja Morant absolutely destroyed Aron Baynes with dunk (VIDEO)

Leave a comment

We may have a new Dunk of the Year.

Memphis rookie Ja Morant is an athletic freak, one confident enough in his skills to go right at a big switched onto him. Say Phoenix’s Aron Baynes. On a critical fourth-quarter possession.

RIP Aron Baynes.

Memphis won the game 115-108.

Victor Oladipo not near return to Pacers rotation

Associated Press
Leave a comment

“But he’s still a ways away.”

Those are not the words Pacers fans want to hear about Victor Oladipo. Their team is playing well — 15-9 with a top-10 defense — but they are not a real postseason threat without their best player, who is recovering from a ruptured right quadriceps tendon. Before the season, Pacers president Kevin Pritchard said he was “hopeful” Oladipo would be back in December or January.

It looks like it’s going to be the back end of that timeline. At best. From J. Michael of the Indy Star, speaking to coach Nate McMillan.

Oladipo will have to be eased back in when he does return, he’s not going too hit the ground running at 40 minutes a night.

The Pacers look like a lock playoff team in the East even without Oladipo, they can afford to bring him along slowly. The hope would be to have the All-Star up to speed and integrated into the offense when the playoffs do start. If that happens, the Pacers become that team that the elite squads want to avoid early.