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FIBA World Cup Day 1 wrap up: Serbia impresses, Puerto Rico wins dramatically

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SHANGHAI (AP) — Serbia’s push toward unseating the U.S. as World Cup champion is off and running.

Bogdan Bogdanovic made his first four 3-point attempts to help his team take control early on, All-NBA center Nikola Jokic didn’t even start and the Serbians still had plenty on the way to easing past Angola 105-59 on Saturday in the first game of the World Cup.

“We played a great game from the beginning until the end,” Serbia forward Nikola Milutinov said. “We were tough. We were strong. Mentally we were ready.”

Bogdanovic scored 24 points on 8 for 10 shooting for Serbia (1-0 in Group D), which lost gold-medal games to the U.S. at the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

The lead was 50-32 at the half, and Serbia — which has made clear that it came to this World Cup believing it can win gold — opened the third quarter on a 15-2 burst to turn the game into a runaway.

“It’s a good start,” Serbia coach Sasha Djordjevic said. “But it’s just the start. It’s a long way. We know how to get to where we want to be. We just have to stay humble, stay focused.”

Jokic and Milutinov each had 14 for the winners, and Boban Marjanovic added 12 points and 10 rebounds. Jokic was 3 for 3 from 3-point range, and Serbia went 13 for 20 from long range.

Carlos Morais scored 15 for Angola, which was outrebounded 41-19 and shot only 36%. Leonel Paulo scored 10 for Angola. Take the combined 10 for 18 shooting by Morais and Paulo away, and the rest of the Angolan lineup shot 11 for 41 — 27%.

“We didn’t play the style of play consistently enough to have a chance to compete with them,” said Angola coach Will Voigt, a native of Cabot, Vermont.

Angola center Yanick Moreira was less diplomatic.

“We got … kicked. That’s it,” Moreira said. “I’m sorry about my language, but I don’t want to embarrass my country. When you come to the World Cup, you’ve got to be ready to play.”

Serbia used 11 of its 12 players by the end of the first quarter. The only Serbian who didn’t play was Nemanja Bjelica, sidelined with what Djordjevic said was knee inflammation caused by a cyst. Bjelica will be re-evaluated on Sunday.

PUERTO RICO 83, IRAN 81

At Guangzhou, David Huertas scored 32 points, Javier Mojica’s bank shot with 0.7 seconds left was the winner and Puerto Rico prevailed despite being down by 17 with 7:55 remaining.

Gary Browne scored 12 for Puerto Rico in a Group C opener.

Hamed Haddadi and Behnam Yakhchalidehkordi each scored 22 for Iran.

Huertas tied the game with a 3-pointer with 45 seconds left, then made another 3 with 16.1 ticks remaining for a 3-point lead. Haddadi made a deep 3-pointer from the right wing with 4.4 seconds left, but Mojica took an inbounds pass on the ensuing Puerto Rico possession and connected from the left side of the lane for the deciding points.

POLAND 80, VENEZUELA 69

At Beijing, Poland got its first World Cup win in 52 years.

Michal Sokolowski scored 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds, and Poland — back in the World Cup for the first time since 1967 — topped Venezuela in a Group A opener. Mateusz Ponitka scored 15 for the winners, and Poland finished with five players in double figures.

“We played to our identity, really good team basketball,” Poland coach Mike Taylor said.

Pedro Chourio scored 15 for Venezuela.

RUSSIA 82, NIGERIA 77

At Wuhan, Russia rallied in the final minutes to hold off Nigeria and get what may be a key win in Group B.

Mikhail Kulagin led the Russians with 16 points. Nigeria had six players in double figures, led by 18 from Josh Okogie. His 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter put Nigeria up 71-63, but the Russians ended the game on a 19-6 run.

CHINA 70, IVORY COAST 55

At Beijing, in a game tied at the half, China ran away in the final two quarters to open its home World Cup with a win.

Yi Jianlian scored 19 points, Guo Ailun had 17 and Zhou Qi added 12 for the Chinese, who shot 53% and held Ivory Coast to 29% shooting. Guy Landry Edi led Ivory Coast with 10 points.

ITALY 108, PHILIPPINES 62

At Foshan, Italy opened the game on a 37-8 run and never looked back behind 17 points apiece from Luigi Datome and Amedeo Della Valle. Danilo Gallinari added 16 for Italy.

Andray Blatche had 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Philippines, and Jaymar Perez scored 15 as well.

SPAIN 101, TUNISIA 62

At Guangzhou, Spain led 42-39 at the half before outscoring Tunisia 59-23 after intermission.

Ricky Rubio scored 17 points and Sergio Llull 16 for Spain, which finished with six players in double figures. Salah Mejri led Tunisia with 15 points.

ARGENTINA 95, SOUTH KOREA 69

At Wuhan, Nicolas Laprovittola scored 17 points and Luis Scola had 15 as Argentina cruised in its opener. Guna Ra was dominant in defeat, finishing with 31 points and 15 rebounds for South Korea.

Lakers, DeMarcus Cousins reportedly may talk new contract next summer

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Sunday, the Lakers waived DeMarcus Cousins to clear out a roster space for Markieff Morris. Cousins was signed last July to be the team’s starting center, but he tore his ACL in training and has not stepped on the court this season. It wasn’t personal, it was business, and under the terms of the CBA Cousins can continue his rehab in the Lakers’ practice facilities.

Cousins may be officially gone, but he could return next season to the Lakers, reports Joe Varden at The Athletic.

But the Lakers could re-sign him this summer, something both sides have expressed interest in pursuing, sources said.

This would be another one-year minimum contract deal, and it makes sense for both sides. Dwight Howard is a free agent and, after a resurgent (but not elite) season in Los Angeles, likely will get offers for more than the Lakers can pay him. JaVale McGee has a $4.2 million player option. Whatever McGee decides, the Lakers will be looking for another big man (and maybe two). Cousins could step right in.

What he can offer on the court coming off a torn Achilles and ACL remains to be seen, but the Lakers will not ask a lot of their centers. Cousins is a two-time All-NBA, four-time All-Star player who should still be able to give the Lakers some solid minutes in the paint.

The Lakers will keep their options open, but don’t be surprised if the two sides reunite.

Vanessa Bryant suing helicopter company after crash that killed Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant, Vanessa Bryant and Gianna Bryant
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Ever since Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant died in a helicopter crash last month, we’ve been seeking answers about what went wrong during the flight piloted by Ara Zobayan. After all, Kobe Bryant had made helicopter rides such a normal part of his life.

Now, Vanessa Bryant – Kobe’s wife and Gianna’s mother – is suing the company that operated the helicopter for wrongful death.

Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times:

The complaint in Los Angeles County Superior Court against Island Express Helicopters and Island Express Holding Corp. alleged that pilot Ara Zobayan, who also died in the crash, failed “to use ordinary care in piloting the subject aircraft” and was “negligent.”

“Defendant Island Express Helicopters’ breach of its duty and negligence caused the injuries and damages complained of herein and Plaintiffs’ deceased, Kobe Bryant, was killed as a direct result of the negligent conduct of Zobayan for which Defendant Island Express Helicopters is vicariously liable in all respects,” the lawsuit said.

Report: Ben Simmons back injury “isn’t a day-to-day thing”

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ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the back injury for Philadelphia 76ers All-Star Ben Simmons “isn’t a day-to-day thing”.

Simmons missed the Sixers first game following the All-Star break on Thursday. He then left Saturday’s game in Milwaukee after playing just 4:44.

Over the weekend, Philadelphia ruled Simmons out for Monday’s game against the Atlanta Hawks and said he would undergo further evaluation. Per Wojnarowski’s report, that evaluation is ongoing and a course of treatment is yet to be decided upon.

Expect Philadelphia to lean on Raul Neto, Alec Burks and Shake Milton as primary ballhandlers while Simmons is out. None possess the size and skill combination of Simmons, but all have had moments throughout their careers. Neto drew the start in place of Simmons on Thursday. Burks was acquired at the trade deadline to give the team much-needed bench depth. Milton has flashed at time in his second season, after beginning his NBA career on a Two-Way contract.

Philadelphia loses Simmons while in a battle with the Miami Heat for homecourt advantage in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The fifth-place 76ers are 1.5 games behind the Heat for the fourth seed, and two games ahead of the sixth-place Indiana Pacers.

Pacers: Jeremy Lamb suffers torn ACL, torn meniscus, fracture

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Kobe Bryant making two free throws after tearing his Achilles was one of the greatest moments of his legendary career.

On a day Bryant was honored, we learned Pacers guard Jeremy Lamb made a similarly gutsy pair of free throws during Indiana’s loss to the Raptors yesterday.

Pacers release:

During the second quarter of the Pacers game at Toronto on Sunday, Indiana Pacers forward Jeremy Lamb sustained a torn left anterior cruciate ligament, a torn lateral meniscus and a lateral femoral condylar fracture.

He will undergo surgery on a date to be determined. He will be out the remainder of the season. Any further updates will be provided after surgery.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Lamb misses all of next season. This is just a devastating set of calamities.

At least Lamb has a guaranteed $10.5 million salary each of the next two seasons.

Indiana (sixth place, 33-24) will have an even tougher time winning a playoff series now. The Pacers could challenge in the first round, but they’ll almost certainly be significant underdogs.

They have depth at shooting guard, for what that’s worth. Victor Oladipo just returned. Justin Holiday is a solid reserve. Finding his lane at point guard, Malcolm Brogdon can move off the ball when T.J. McConnell or Aaron Holiday plays point guard.