Associated Press

Bucks become first team in NBA history to trail by 20 at half, win by more than 15

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MIAMI (AP) There was no yelling and screaming in the Milwaukee locker room at halftime. A little bit of film got reviewed, a couple adjustments got discussed, and the Bucks believed a 20-point deficit could be overcome.

They were right.

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 33 points and finished an assist shy of a triple-double, and the Bucks tied a franchise record for second-half comebacks on the way to beating the Miami Heat 113-98 on Friday night. Milwaukee became the first team in NBA history to trail by 20 at half then come back to win by more than 15.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re down 20, 15, 10,” said Antetokounmpo, who also had 16 rebounds and nine assists. “We’re going to keep playing hard. It’s a process. You’ve got to win games like this. You’ve got to face adversity when you’re playing on the road. In the playoffs, it’s not going to be easy. We want to be a great team and that’s why we keep playing hard.”

The Bucks were 1-100 all-time – 0-77 on the road – when trailing by 20 or more at the half. They trailed 72-52 at the half against the New York Knicks on Feb. 18, 1977, and won 124-123.

On Friday, it was Heat 62, Bucks 42 at the half.

From there, Bucks 71, Heat 36. Milwaukee also became the first team in NBA history to trail by at least 20 at the break and wind up winning by at least 15 points.

“We lost our energy in the second half,” said Justise Winslow, who led Miami with 20 points – all in the first half. The Heat’s lead over Orlando and Charlotte for the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference was trimmed to just one game.

Hassan Whiteside had 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Heat, Josh Richardson scored 11 points and Dwyane Wade was one of four players with 10 for Miami. Wade bruised his right hip on a hard fall late in the third quarter.

Khris Middleton scored 21 and Eric Bledsoe had 17 for the NBA-best Bucks, who improved to 52-17. Antetokounmpo was in total control of the second half, grabbing an offensive rebound with 2:40 left and throwing a no-look, behind-the-head pass to Bledsoe for a layup and a 110-92 lead. Most fans didn’t see it – they were long gone by then.

“To do what we did in the second half, I’m just pleased with the guys the way they were able to flip it,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Our defense fuels our offense. We want that to be our identity.”

The Bucks lost Malcolm Brogdon in the first quarter to a sore right heel. Brogdon was 0 for 3 in 6 1/2 minutes.

The rally from 23 down was the Bucks’ biggest of the season, one better than what they did against Chicago on Nov 16. It was only the fifth game all season where the Bucks trailed by 20 or more, and they’re now 2-3 in those games.

The Heat came out flying, leading 25-8 before any of the starters came out for their first rest of the night. The biggest lead was 37-14 with a minute to go in the opening quarter, and the Bucks pared that down to 13 on three occasions in the second quarter. Miami wound up closing the half on a 10-3 spurt to push the lead back to 20.

It all changed – and fast.

The Bucks made as many 3-pointers in the third quarter – five – as the Heat made field goals. Middleton and Ersan Ilyasova each had 10 points in the quarter, Miami shot 5 for 20 and got outrebounded 16-8, and the lead was down to one going into the fourth.

The lead didn’t last long, and Milwaukee kept pulling away.

“Sometimes you’re going to miss open shots,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Sometimes you’re going to miss free throws. Sometimes there are going to be turnovers. Sometimes there are going to be things you don’t agree with the officiating. All of that in the second half really distracted us and they really took advantage of that.”

 

James Harden on Russell Westbrook pairing: ‘We’ll figure it out’

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There has been some doubt that James Harden and Russell Westbrook will be able to fit together with the Houston Rockets this season. Both players have matured quite a bit since their time together in Oklahoma City with the Thunder, and now there are real questions about Westbrook’s ability to fit next to just about anyone.

Like Westbrook, Harden is a ball-dominant guard, and we still don’t know the long-term plan for Coach Mike D’Antoni. Houston has real championship hopes, but they could also look much different in a year or two.

Still, Harden and Westbrook have known each other since they were 10 years old. They grew up together in Los Angeles, and are at least very good friends. To that end, Harden says that he believes they will be able to figure it out even if the first year together has bumps along the way.

Via GQ:

It’s like, yo, we’ll figure it out. Everything isn’t necessarily going to be smooth at first, there are going to be ups and downs, and that’s part of an 82-game season. Hopefully by the end of the season, we’ve caught a rhythm and everybody is on the same page going into the playoffs. That’s all you can ask for.

That’s a pretty reasonable outlook to have at this juncture. The NBA is constantly changing, and it’s possible that these two guys could have such a personal connection that their on-court conflicts end up being negligible.

It’s another new era in Houston as they try to capitalize on the Golden State Warriors’ injury issues.

Draymond Green says he wants to play for Team USA in 2020 Olympics

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Several big-name players did not play for the United States during the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China. The team led by Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart did not medal, and on Sunday it was Spain that took home the gold over Argentina.

But that might not be the case for the 2020 Olympics in Japan.

According to Draymond Green, the Golden State Warriors star is looking to add his services to Team USA for that Olympics run.

Via NBC Bay Area:

“I do hope to play, and I think a lot of guys will want to play,” Green said Thursday on CNBC’s ‘Power Money.’ “The schedule this year was a little treacherous with the games that was in America, and also the travel to Australia, which is why I think a lot of guys dropped out. You know, a long ways to China. It was just a lot, and it also leads right into the season. Those guys will be coming back in the next couple days and we’ll be two weeks away from training camp.”

“I think you’ll see a lot of guys participating next year in the Olympics,” Green continued, “and I hope to be one of those 12 guys.”

Marc Stein also noted this week that Green’s team made Stephen Curry would also be expected to volunteer his services for the Olympics. Curry has not yet played for Team USA during an Olympic tournaments.

It seems like it’s harder and harder to compel players to play in national team events. It may be good for branding to play internationally, but so many teams and sponsors have international tours in the off-season that players may consider national team duty a duplication of services.

The Olympics mean more than the World Cup in this country, but the real test of whether stars sign up for Team USA next year will be about what happens in the NBA season.

Mavericks will have Dirk Nowitzki logo on court this season (PHOTO)

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Many teams had decided to get nostalgic this season. The Portland Trail Blazers have a special 50th anniversary court, the Denver Nuggets have some cool new jerseys, and the Memphis Grizzlies are kicking it back to their days in Vancouver.

But the Dallas Mavericks are winding the clock back to just last year.

It appears that Dallas will have a Dirk Nowitzki-shaped logo on their court next season. The logo looks like a watermark in the shape of Nowitzki’s famous one-legged fadeaway.

Via Twitter:

It looks like Mavericks players are already having fun at the expense of Nowitzki, and this is a great tribute that Dallas fans are sure to love.

Marc Gasol completes historic double, Spain wins World Cup

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BEIJING (AP) — Marc Gasol looked to the sky as confetti fell, some sticking to his massive shoulders, and then cradled and kissed the giant golden chalice that goes to the World Cup champions.

He’s getting good at hoisting trophies.

Gasol got to bask in a championship celebration for the second time in three months — and this time, he did it for his country. Tournament MVP Ricky Rubio scored 20 points, Sergio Llull added 15 and Spain won the World Cup for the second time by topping Argentina 95-75 on Sunday.

“We weren’t the most talented team,” Rubio said. “We weren’t the bigger team. Put anything you want, but we were the team with the biggest heart and we showed it tonight and we showed it during the whole tournament.”

Gasol scored 14 for the winners, who never trailed and added this crown to the one it claimed in 2006. And for him, 2019 will go down as a year the likes of which few others have enjoyed.

The Toronto Raptors center becomes the second player to win an NBA title and a FIBA world gold medal in the same year, joining Lamar Odom — who did it for the Los Angeles Lakers and USA Basketball in 2010. Gasol also became the 19th to win either an NBA or WNBA crown along with a gold medal, either of the Olympic or World Cup variety, in the same year.

The first 18 all did it for the U.S.

This time, Vamos España!

“NBA champion and a World Cup champion as well,” Gasol said. “What can I say? How does it sound to you? I feel very fortunate to be in this position and be able to play this game and help these guys be part of history of Spanish basketball.”

Llull and Rudy Fernandez — the team captain, the one who initially got to accept the Naismith Trophy — went to cut down the nets shortly after the final buzzer. Gasol carried the game ball to the gold-medal ceremony, and Spanish fans wept in the stands during the national anthem.

Gabriel Deck scored 24 points for Argentina (8-1), which got off to a slow start and played uphill the rest of the way. Luis Scola was held to eight points, shooting 1 for 10 from the floor.

“We’re sad right now. We’re very sad,” Scola said. “But I feel confident, in hours, we’ll be able to look back and be very proud. They just played better than us. They were better. They deserved to win. They were the better team in the game and the tournament.”

Spain led 43-31 at intermission, after putting together a 14-2 run to open the game and a 17-1 run later in the half.

“This is basketball,” Argentina coach Sergio Hernandez said. “If you play better than the other team, you win the game. And Spain was the best team today.”

Scola, even at 39 years old still Argentina’s best player throughout the tournament, didn’t get on the scoresheet until he made a pair of free throws with 2:57 left in the third quarter. But they only cut the Spain lead to 19, and by then the Argentinian fans who stood, sang and chanted for much of the game were relatively quiet.

The day belonged to Spain.

And the year belongs to Gasol.

“It’s unbelievable,” Gasol said.