AP Photo/Morry Gash

Bucks jet past Raptors late in Game 1 win

5 Comments

Nearly every team would love to trade problems with the Bucks, but the concern was legitimate entering the conference finals. Milwaukee swept the Pistons in historically dominant fashion. Then, after getting blown out in Game 1 by the Celtics, the Bucks responded with four straight wins… in historically dominant fashion.

How would Milwaukee handle a tight game?

The Bucks rose to the challenge, beating the Raptors 108-100 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals Wednesday. If the eight-point win doesn’t look close, it’s only because Milwaukee was so impressive in crunch time. The Bucks ended the game on a 10-0 run.

This exciting contest bodes well for a fun series. Expect even more juice in Game 2 Friday.

Though Milwaukee beat Boston by just seven points in Game 3 last round, that was misleadingly close only because the Bucks ceded a late run after putting the game out of reach. Tonight’s game was tightly contested until very late.

Nobody put their fingerprints all over it like Brook Lopez (29 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks). After missing five of his first six 3-pointers, he hit 3-of-5 from beyond the arc in the fourth quarter. That timely shooting complemented the strong interior defense he played throughout.

Kyle Lowry (30 points on 10-of-15 shooting) was also awesome. He made all his usual contributions – passing, hustling to loose balls, taking a charge. He just shot with supreme confidence, too.

Those two overshadowed the game’s stars, though Giannis Antetokounmpo (24 points, 14 rebounds, six assists, two steals, three blocks) and Kawhi Leonard (31 points on 10-of-26 shooting) were still quite good. Like Lopez, Antetokounmpo came up huge defensively.

The Bucks have built their offensive identity as long-range bombers, and they barely strayed from it tonight despite a cold start. Still, Milwaukee finished just 11-for-44 on 3-pointers (25%). In playoff games prior to tonight, teams that attempted more than 40 3-pointers and made fewer than 30% of them were just 1-9.*

*The Trail Blazers beat the Nuggets in quadruple overtime last round despite shooting just 12-of-42 on 3-pointers (29%).

The Bucks just kept defending, kept crashing the offensive glass, kept playing hard.

That steadiness helped Milwaukee survive the Raptors’ early hot shooting, which Toronto used to build a quick 13-point lead. Once they stopped draining everything, the Raptors didn’t have enough answers. Toronto in the second half:

  • Kyle Lowry: 21 points (7-of-9 shooting)
  • Kawhi Leonard: 16 points (5-of-15 shooting)
  • Pascal Siakam: 4 points (1-of-8 shooting)
  • Other Raptors: 0 points (0-of-15 shooting)

It was even more grimly unbalanced in the fourth quarter:

  • Kyle Lowry: 14 points (5-of-7 shooting)
  • Other Raptors: 3 points (0-of-15 shooting)

The Raptors defended well in the halfcourt, rotating sharply and displaying impressive lateral quickness on drives. Toronto could have won despite its late offensive collapse.

But Milwaukee found a way through transition and second-chance scoring.

The Bucks have won bigger this postseason. I’m not sure they’ve won more satisfyingly.

Minnesota signs undrafted rookie Naz Reid to multiyear deal

Getty Images
1 Comment

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Timberwolves have signed rookie center Naz Reid to a multiyear contract, upgrading the two-way deal they initially gave him before a strong performance for the team’s entry in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.

The new contract, completed Thursday, all but ensures that Reid will be on the regular-season roster, after going undrafted out of LSU.

Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic broke the story.

The 6-foot-10, 250-pound Reid averaged 11.9 points and 5.4 rebounds in 18.6 minutes over seven summer league games against other clubs largely composed of rookies and second-year players. The Timberwolves’ team reached the championship game.

Reid averaged 13.6 points and a team-high 7.2 rebounds in his lone season at LSU, which reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

Bulls bring back Shaquille Harrison on one-year contract

Leave a comment

Shaquille Harrison started last season as an afterthought at the end of the Chicago Bulls’ bench. Then, because Cameron Payne was not good and Kris Dunn got injured (and was really not that good, either), Harrison got his chance — and took it. He was a defender Fred Hoiberg and then Jim Boylen could trust, and he played in the final 72 Bulls games last season at almost 20 minutes a night.

He will be back with the Bulls next season, the team announced.

While not announced, this is a one-year minimum contract. The Bulls waived Harrison back on July 6 as they remade the roster, but Harrison played one game at Summer League for the Bulls and they decided to bring him back.

Harrison is a Boylen favorite — he plays hard and defends well — and while minutes will be harder to come by behind Tomas Satoransky and Coby White, Harrison is a guy Boylen wants on the bench.

Dunn is on the roster at point guard, too, but the Bulls are rumored to be looking to trade him and his $5.4 million salary. Chicago will likely have to throw in a sweetener, like a decent second-round pick, to make that happen.

Nike countersues Kawhi Leonard over ‘Klaw’ logo

Claus Andersen/Getty Images
1 Comment

“My mind on my money and my money on my mind.”
—Snoop Dogg

Nike and Kawhi Leonard are going to court over control of his “Klaw” logo, and it’s all about money and brand.

Leonard left Nike last season, eventually signing with New Balance, and he wants to be able to market his Klaw logo as part of his line with his new company. Leonard and his representatives sued Nike for control of the logo, saying Leonard came up with it in his own drawings.

Nike has countersued and said Leonard did not design the logo. Tim Bontemps of ESPN had these quotes from the countersuit itself.

“In this action, Kawhi Leonard seeks to re-write history by asserting that he created the ‘Claw Design’ logo, but it was not Leonard who created that logo. The ‘Claw Design’ was created by a talented team of NIKE designers, as Leonard, himself, has previously admitted…

“In his Complaint, Leonard alleges he provided a design to NIKE. That is true. What is false is that the design he provided was the Claw Design. Not once in his Complaint does Leonard display or attach either the design that he provided or the Claw Design. Instead, he conflates the two, making it appear as though those discrete works are one and the same. They are not.”

TMZ posted the designs.

I’m not about to guess what a judge would decide in this case. Most likely, this gets settled one way or another.

Meanwhile, New Balance is trying to come up with a new slogan for Leonard and his gear. King of the North is now out after his move to the Los Angeles Clippers this summer.

J.R. Smith reportedly meets with Bucks to talk contract

Jason Miller/Getty Images
3 Comments

After five seasons in Cleveland, the Cavaliers waived J.R. Smith. The 34-year-old veteran wing is not part of the Cavaliers future, and by waiving him before the guarantee date they only had to pay him $4.4 million of this $15.7 million salary.

That makes Smith a free agent.

He sat down with the Bucks on Thursday, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Bucks can only offer minimum contracts at this point.

Smith will turn 34 before next season starts and his skills are in decline, he shot just 30.8 percent from three last season. The Bucks will likely start Khris Middleton and Wesley Matthews on the wing with Sterling Brown, Pat Connaughton, and Donte DiVincenzo behind them. They have the roster spot to make the addition. The questions are does Smith fit, does he want the small role that’s really available, and how often will he wear a shirt around the facility?