Watch Donovan Mitchell score 46, ouduel Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 43, lift Jazz to win

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Donovan Mitchell plays best when he feels free and just lets his instincts take over.

Down 17 in the 4th quarter to the NBA’s best team Saturday night, Mitchell turned to his Jazz teammates and said: “We’ve got nothing to lose now. Let’s go!”

Mitchell scored a career-high 46 points and led Utah back from a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit to a 115-111 win over the Milwaukee Bucks.

“You take certain risks that maybe you don’t take when you are up 17. But we made the right plays and we got stops,” said Mitchell, who said it was probably his best regular-season game of his NBA career.

Mitchell scored 17 in the final 8:10, including a 28-foot jumper with 43.7 seconds left to put Utah up 111-105. Mitchell could have made the game a bit less suspenseful, but missed two free throws with a three-point lead with 12.7 seconds left. He came back and made two foul shots with 8.6 seconds remaining.

“My teammates were saying, `We need you for these two free throws. Forget about what happened,”‘ Mitchell said. “When you have your teammates backing you like that, you feel confident.”

But Giannis Antetokounmpo, who had been brilliant all night and had 43 points and 14 rebounds in 32 minutes, also missed three free throws in the final 10 seconds.

“Down the stretch they were making shots and we just couldn’t get a stop,” Antetokounmpo said. “That was playoff basketball.”

On a night during which Rudy Gobert was ineffective, Derrick Favors had 23 points and tied a career best with 18 rebounds.

“He was the real MVP of the game,” Mitchell said.

Joe Ingles had 14 points and eight assists for the Jazz, who won their fourth straight.

Khris Middleton scored 29 points and Brook Lopez had 16 points, eight rebounds and seven blocks for the Bucks, whose seven-game winning streak was snapped on the second night of a back-to-back.

In an incredible game of runs, the Jazz made the plays down the stretch to outlast the team with the best record in the league. Utah has won 17 consecutive games against the Bucks at home.

While Antetokounmpo sat in the fourth quarter, the Jazz went on 17-2 run on the strength of Mitchell’s drives to the basket. It was back and forth the rest of the way.

Antetokounmpo relished going against Gobert, the reigning defensive player of the year, in space but also often initiated the offense and played the ballhandler role on the pick-and-roll.

“He kicked my (butt),” Gobert said.

Antetokounmpo scored or assisted on the first 15 points of a 17-2 spurt as the Bucks extended a 73-71 lead to a 90-73 advantage.

Malcolm Brogdon was out with plantar fasciitis and Eric Bledsoe was a late scratch because of a bad back, so Antetokounmpo started at point guard even though he was originally being listed as questionable with right foot soreness.

Antetokounmpo powered a 23-4 run bridging the second and third quarters to put the Bucks back in front, 64-57. Time after time, the Greek big man bullied Utah’s vaunted front line as he drove the lane and finished at the rim.

Facing one of the tallest lineups in NBA history with the five Bucks averaging more than 6-foot-10, the Jazz fell behind 11-0 and didn’t score until Mitchell hit a pair of free throws with 8:41 left in the first quarter. Lopez had six blocked shots in the first six minutes of the contest as the Bucks led by as many as 14.

“They were attacking the rim really hard and we did a great job of protecting the paint,” Lopez said.

Utah led 53-46 lead at halftime.

Antetokounmpo played without restriction at Los Angeles on Friday after sitting out with right knee soreness on Monday at Chicago and being limited to 24 minutes on Wednesday at Sacramento.

 

Steve Nash on Ben Simmons: ‘I don’t care if he ever shoots a jump shot’

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The last season he played, Ben Simmons took just 9% of his shots from beyond 10 feet — he did not space the floor at all, which meant Joel Embiid had to at times. That lack of a jumper he trusted has always been one of the knocks on Ben Simmons’ game.

Steve Nash doesn’t care. Via Nick Friedell of ESPN:

“That’s why I don’t care if he ever shoots a jump shot for the Brooklyn Nets. He’s welcome to, but that is not what makes him special and not what we need. He’s a great complement to our team, and he’s an incredible basketball player because of his versatility.”

In an offense with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving setting the table — particularly in the halfcourt — Simmons is going to be asked to play more of a role: Be an elite defender, push the ball in transition, work in some dribble-handoff situations where he can drive the lane as an option, be a cutter off the ball, and be a distributor in the halfcourt. It’s why Simmons’ ideal role with the Nets often gets compared to Draymond Green — it’s a Draymond-lite role. There will be far less of him as lead guard running pick-and-roll.

Will Simmons settle into that role? Also, it should be noted that peak Green (2016 for example) shot better than 30% from 3 and had to be respected out there (last season 29.6% on 1.2 3s per game) — he had to be covered at the arc. Simmons does not. Also, Green did not avoid getting fouled and getting to the line.

Nash has the task of meshing Simmons into the system and figuring out the rotations — can he play Simmons and Nic Claxton together, or is having two non-jump shooters on the floor at once clog the offense? Is Simmons going to play center at points? There is championship-level talent on the Nets roster, but so many questions about fit, defense, and grit.

There’s no question about Simmons taking jumpers, but Nash doesn’t care.

Pelican’s Green says Zion ‘dominated the scrimmage pretty much’

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The Zion hype train keeps right on rolling. First were the reports he was in the best shape of his life, then he walked into media day and it looked like he is.

Now Zion has his own hype man in Pelicans coach Willie Green, who said he dominated the first day of team scrimmages. Via Andre Lopez of ESPN.

“Z looked amazing,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said on Wednesday afternoon. “His strength, his speed. He dominated the scrimmage pretty much.”

“What stood out was his force more than anything,” Green said. “He got down the floor quickly. When he caught the ball, he made quick decisions. Whether it was scoring, finding a teammate. It was really impressive to see.”

Reach for the salt shaker to take all this with — it’s training camp scrimmages. Maybe Zion is playing that well right now — he’s fully capable, he was almost an All-NBA player in 2020-21 (eighth in forward voting) before his foot injury — but we need to see it against other teams. In games that matter. Then we’ll need to see it over a stretch of time.

If Zion can stay healthy this season, if his conditioning is where everyone says it is, he could be in for a monster season. Combine that with CJ McCollum, Brandon Ingram and a strong supporting cast in New Orleans, and the Pelicans could surprise a lot of people — and be fun to watch.

 

PBT Podcast: What’s next for Celtics, Suns? Should NBA end one-and-done?

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NBA training camps just opened and teams have yet to play a preseason game, but already two contenders are dealing with problems.

The Celtics have the suspension of coach Ime Udoka as a distraction, plus defensive anchor center Robert Williams will miss at least the start of the season following another knee surgery.

The Suns have the distraction of a suspended owner who is selling the team, plus Jae Crowder is out and demanding a trade, and Deandre Ayton does not seem happy.

Corey Robinson of NBC Sports and myself go through all the training camp news, including the wilder ones with the Lakers and Nets, breaking down what to take away from all that — plus how good Zion Williamson and James Harden look physically.

Then the pair discusses the potential of the NBA doing away with the one-and-done role and letting 18-year-olds back in the game — is that good for the NBA?

You can always watch the video of some of the podcast above, or listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

Report: Price tag on Phoenix Suns could be more than $3 billion

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Six
Harry How/Getty Images
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In 2004, Robert Sarver bought the Phoenix Suns for a then-record $401 million.

When Sarver sells the team now — pushed to do so following the backlash prompted by an NBA report that found an 18-year pattern of bigotry, misogyny, and a toxic workplace — he is going to make a massive profit.

The value of the Suns now is at $3 billion or higher, reports Ramona Shelburne and Baxter Holmes of ESPN.

There will be no shortage of bidders for the team, with league sources predicting a franchise valuation of more than $3 billion now that revenue has rebounded following the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and with a new television rights deal and CBA on the horizon. Sarver purchased the team for just over $400 million in 2004.

Saver currently owns 35% of the Suns (the largest share), but reports say his role as managing partner allows him to sell the entire team (the minority owners have to comply, although they would make a healthy profit, too). Sarver also decides who to sell the team to, not the NBA or other owners.

Early rumors of buyers have included Larry Ellison (founder of Oracle), Bob Iger (former Disney CEO), Laurene Powell Jobs (widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, she has a 20% share of the Washington Wizards), and others. There have been no reports of talks yet, and Sarver does not need to be on a rushed timeline.

Meanwhile, a contending Suns team tries to focus on the season despite the owner selling the team, Jae Crowder not being in training camp and pushing for a trade, and Deandre Ayton does not sound happy to be back with the Suns.