Australia holds off Canada in wild World Cup opener

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SHANGHAI (AP) Canada came to the World Cup expecting that its group would be extremely challenging, and Australia proved that to be correct.

Matthew Dellavedova scored 24 points, and the Australians opened the fourth quarter on a huge run to pull away and beat Canada 108-92 on Sunday in a Group H opener at Dongguan, China.

“Good to start the tournament with a win,” Australia’s Chris Goulding said. “Our first half, we showed we can do some really good stuff.”

Goulding scored 16, Patty Mills had 15 and Joe Ingles finished with 13 points and nine assists for Australia. Andrew Bogut added 12 points on 6 for 7 shooting, plus grabbed nine rebounds, and Aron Baynes scored 10 for the winners.

Khem Birch scored 18 for Canada, and Cory Joseph scored 16.

Australia led 52-40 at the half, but Canada roared out of the gate in the third quarter on a 25-7 run over the first 5:20. That put Canada up 65-59, and seemed to put the Australians on the ropes.

The Boomers rallied.

Canada’s lead was 77-76 going into the fourth quarter, but the last 10 minutes were all Australia. An 8-0 run by the Aussies put them on top to stay, and they wound up outscoring the Canadians 28-6 over the first 8:44 of the final period.

The loss puts Canada in a likely must-win scenario against Lithuania on Tuesday.

“I thought the start wasn’t very good for us, I didn’t think the end was very good and I think the middle was excellent,” Canada coach Nick Nurse said. “We didn’t seem to be catching many breaks or the ball bouncing our way early, but we regrouped and after halftime we came out and put a heck of a third quarter together.”

It was the sixth straight World Cup loss for Canada; the Canadians went 0-5 at the world championships in 2010 and didn’t qualify for the tournament in 2014.

TURKEY 86, JAPAN 67

At Shanghai, Turkey got its Group E schedule started with a wire-to-wire win over Japan behind 17 points apiece from Ersan Ilyasova and Melih Mahmutoglu. Rui Hachimura scored 15 points for Japan, as did Nick Fazekas.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC 80, JORDAN 76

At Shenzhen, Victor Liz scored 15 points to lead the Dominican Republic to a Group G win. Ahmad Al Dwairi had 34 points and 10 rebounds for Jordan, which got 24 points from Dar Tucker. Jordan was down by 16 points late in the third quarter, then pulled into a 64-64 tie early in the fourth after a 22-6 run. Jordan took a pair of one-point leads late, but the Dominicans finished on a 7-2 run.

BRAZIL 102, NEW ZEALAND 94

At Nanjing, Brazil outscored New Zealand 28-12 in the third quarter and held on to win a Group F opener. Leandro Barbosa led Brazil with 22 points. Corey Webster scored 19 for New Zealand.

LATER SUNDAY

The U.S. meets the Czech Republic in Group E, Greece plays Montenegro in Group F, France plays Germany in Group G and Senegal meets Lithuania in Group H.

MONDAY SCHEDULE

Group A: Venezuela (0-1) vs. Ivory Coast (0-1), China (1-0) vs. Poland (1-0)

Group B: Nigeria (0-1) vs. Argentina (1-0), Korea (0-1) vs. Russia (1-0)

Group C: Tunisia (0-1) vs. Iran (0-1), Puerto Rico (1-0) vs. Spain (1-0).

Group D: Italy (1-0) vs. Angola (0-1), Serbia (1-0) vs. Philippines (0-1).

This headline has been corrected to show that Australia beat Canada, not China.

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Doc Rivers says he wants Harden to be ‘a scoring Magic Johnson’

Philadelphia 76ers Media Day
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We’re not in Houston anymore.

James Harden in Philadelphia will not be chasing scoring titles and dominating the game in quite the same way. Instead, he’s been asked to be more of a facilitator — but not too much of one. Doc Rivers told the team at ESPN’s NBA Today he wants scoring to go with the facilitating. Just like one of the all-time greats.

“I think we’ve talked so much about him being a facilitator… I need him to be James Harden too. If I had to combine, I would say a scoring Magic Johnson, I don’t know, but that’s what I want him to be. I want him to be a James Harden, but in that, I want him to also be the facilitator of this basketball team too. So in a lot of ways, his role is growing bigger for our team, and I just want him to keep thinking, ‘Do both.'”

Just play like Magic, no pressure there. For his career, Magic averaged 19.5 points a game (with four over 20 PPG) with 11.2 assists.

Harden can get close enough to Rivers’ lofty goals to make Philly a real threat, so long as defenders still fear his first step and step back. Harden can get his shot and get to the line, and he’s long been a great passer who has averaged 10.5 assists a game over the past two seasons. Now it’s just a matter of finding the balance of when to set up Joel Embiid, when to turn the offense over to Tyrese Maxey, and when to get his own shot.

Philadelphia is a deep team poised to win a lot of regular season games — the Sixers being the top seed in the East is absolutely in play. The questions Harden — and, to a degree, Embiid — have to answer come in May, when the second round of the playoffs start and Harden has faded while Embiid has had poor injury luck. In a deep East with Milwaukee, Boston, and maybe Miami and Brooklyn in the contender mix, there is no margin for error.

A Magic-like Harden would be a big boost for the Sixers in that setting.

As he chases record, LeBron says he has ‘no relationship’ with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Sacramento Kings v Los Angeles Lakers
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Later this season, health permitting, LeBron James will pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.

Kareem has said LeBron has earned it, but also has called out LeBron on COVID issues (something Abdul-Jabbar apologized for). Have the two legends started to build a relationship as LeBron marches toward the record? Not so much.

“No thoughts, no relationship.”

This question was asked of LeBron days after Abdul-Jabbar slammed former LeBron teammate Kyrie Irving in a Substack newsletter, calling him a “comical buffoon” and saying he is a poor role model. Abdul-Jabbar has been a vocal proponent of getting the vaccine, Irving remains unvaccinated, and LeBron has posted on social media questioning the severity of the virus and the response. Plus, LeBron and Irving are friends, which could have sparked LeBron’s terse response (as could the fact he was ready to get out of the arena after a dull preseason game).

A week earlier at media day, LeBron had been kinder when discussing Abdul-Jabbar and chasing his record.

“And you know, obviously Kareem has had his differences, with some of my views and some of the things that I do. But listen, at the end of the day, to be able to be right in the same breath as a guy to wear the same [Lakers] uniform, a guy that was a staple of this franchise along with Magic and Big Game [James Worthy] over there for so many years, especially in the 80s, and a guy that does a lot off the floor as well,” LeBron said. “I think it’s just super duper dope for myself to be even in that conversation.”

Abdul-Jabbar has been more of a public persona in recent years, both around the game of basketball and discussing social justice issues through his writings. The NBA named its new social justice award after him. With that has come new relationships around the league.

One of those is not with LeBron. Will Abdul-Jabbar be in the building when LeBron does break the record?

We’ve got months for this relationship to evolve — if it does — before that big day.

 

Watch Zion Williamson score 13 in return to court for Pelicans

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Zion Williamson is back.

He certainly looked in better shape and flashed his insane explosiveness on his way to 13 points and four rebounds in 15 minutes Tuesday night against the Bulls, his first game after missing all of last season following foot surgery.

There was some rust, and the Pelicans are wisely bringing him along slowly and not breaking out the entire playbook for a preseason game, but in the moments we saw Zion looked like he was all the way back.

The questions now are can he sustain it, and how to the Pelicans mesh him with other scoring options in CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram.

And maybe we shouldn’t leave rookie Dyson Daniels off that list, he looked good in his first NBA preseason game.

The Pelicans are one of the most intriguing teams this season, a team that made the playoffs last season with a push after McCollum arrived, and now they add the elite interior scoring and athleticism of Zion to Ingram’s outside shot and slashing, not to mention and a solid core of role players. This team has top six potential if it can get stops. But in a deep West, nothing will be easy.

Wembanyama scores 37, Scoot Henderson 28, as both make case to go No.1

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The NBA league office hates tanking — the action, the word, the mere suggestion of it.

But there is going to be some serious tanking in the NBA this season, and anybody who watched the Victor Wembanyama vs. Scoot Henderson game Tuesday (also known as the G-league Ignite vs.  Metropolitans 92 from France) knows exactly why.

What. A. Show.

Victor Wembanyama, the projected No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, showed why he is a true 7’4″ unicorn who can do seemingly anything. He finished the game with 37 points, hitting 7-of-11 from 3, with five blocks, showed off some handles and even brought the ball up court a couple of times.

This play sums him up well: at 7’4″ Wembanyama is the ball handler in a pick-and-roll, looks smooth, and when the defender goes under the pick casually drains a 3.

Scoot Henderson, expected to go No.2 in the next draft, flashed his explosive athleticism to the tune of 28 points, nine assists, and five rebounds.

Ja Morant was impressed.

There was a lot for fans, scouts, and GMs to be impressed with.

For all his shooting an offensive game, Wembanyama was just as impressive on defense. His length and mobility forces players to change their driving angles to the rim. He also showed a fearlessness in going after the big block.

Henderson showed high-level athleticism and an ability to get to the rim at will, but he also set up teammates and an improving shot. Henderson is a dynamic athlete and a season playing against the men of the G League is only going to sharpen his skills.

Henderson made his case Tuesday to be the No.1 pick — scouts say he has the potential to be a franchise cornerstone point guard, a top-10 player in the league, and he looked it in this game. He showed no fear, even going at Wembanyama a few times.

However, Wembanyama will go No.1 because he just breaks the mold, there is nobody like him. Anywhere. He looks like a generational talent, even if there is some work to do to realize it. Wembanyama started to show that Tuesday night.

These two teams face off again on Thursday night in Henderson, Nevada.