Anthony Davis drops 46 against former team, sparks Lakers past Pelicans

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LOS ANGELES — Anthony Davis isn’t having any sympathy when it comes to facing his former team.

The Lakers forward had 46 points and 13 rebounds as Los Angeles rolled to a 123-113 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans.

It was Davis’ fifth 40-point game this season and second straight against the team he played seven seasons for after he was the top overall pick in 2012.

“I felt like we force-fed him much less in this game. I thought he got most of it in flow. Diverse attack, free throws, the 3-point line, transition, rolls to the basket, post,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “He just scored in every way that you can, so it was definitely a different feel than last game.”

Davis said this felt more like a normal game compared to this season’s first meeting, when he scored 41 points in a Nov. 27 win at New Orleans.

“The first game in New Orleans was definitely a lot more emotional, not only going against my former team but playing in that arena again,” said Davis, who is tied for fifth in the league in scoring at 27.8 points per game. “Tonight, I think my teammates just gave me great opportunities and put me in great positions to score the basketball. I don’t think I did anything, especially I didn’t prepare any differently. Just came out and played basketball.”

Danny Green added 25 points and LeBron James had 17 points and 15 assists for the Lakers, who have won four straight following a season-high, four-game losing streak.

“”I don’t think he had one play where it looked stressed,” James said of Davis. “He was efficient from the outset, hitting his jumpers in the low post. Made all, what, 13 of his free throws. Just another great performance.”

The Lakers led by as many as 24 during the third quarter as Davis scored 19 in the period. They were up 105-83 at the end of the third quarter but the Pelicans rallied in the fourth quarter to get within 116-109 with 2:25 remaining on Brandon Ingram’s dunk. A 3-pointer by Green and Davis’ jumper following a turnover ended any hopes of New Orleans drawing closer.

“We’re familiar with him. He’s a tough matchup,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said of Davis. “I thought we did a good job of taking it to the basket. We scored 68 points in the paint and had only seven free throws.”

Former Lakers Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram led New Orleans in their return to Staples Center. Ball scored a team-high 23 points and Ingram added 22 as the Pelicans had their four-game winning streak snapped.

It is the first time in Ball’s three seasons he has had back-to-back, 20-point games.

“My body feels good and my confidence is where it is supposed to be,” Ball said.

J.J. Redick’s 3-pointer drew the Pelicans within 74-67 less than 2 minutes into the second half before Los Angeles went on a 26-9 run to take its largest lead of the game. Davis had 17 points during the spurt, including three 3-pointers.

Green had 17 points in the first quarter, including five 3-pointers as the Lakers led by 18 late in the quarter.

Los Angeles was up 64-51 when New Orleans ran off nine straight points to get within 64-60 with 1:50 remaining in the first half. The Lakers would outscore the Pelicans 10-2 down the stretch, including seven by Davis, to lead 74-62 at halftime.

“They’re a really good team. Anthony is a matchup problem for a lot of teams,” Ingram said.

LeBron James, Doc Rivers, others around NBA react to, participate in protests

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The NBA family spoke out loudly and quickly in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police officer.

Protests have erupted nationwide following Floyd’s death, and the NBA family is commenting on — and in the case of some players, participating in — those protests. That includes the biggest name in the sport today, LeBron James.

Pistons’ coach Dwane Casey made a powerful statement recently, and on Sunday Doc Rivers released this statement through the Clippers.

A number of players have been involved in the protest, including Karl-Anthony Towns and Josh Okogie of the Timberwolves, who were with former NBA player Stephen Jackson — a childhood friend of Floyd’s — during a protest in Minnesota.

The Celtics’ Jaylen Brown drove 15 hours from Boston to Atlanta to help lead a peaceful protest that started at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park. He was joined by the Pacers’ Malcolm Brogdon.

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Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote a brilliant op-ed piece for the Los Angeles Times that talked about where the rage of the riots comes from in the black community.

“Yes, protests often are used as an excuse for some to take advantage, just as when fans celebrating a hometown sports team championship burn cars and destroy storefronts. I don’t want to see stores looted or even buildings burn. But African Americans have been living in a burning building for many years, choking on the smoke as the flames burn closer and closer. Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible — even if you’re choking on it — until you let the sun in. Then you see it’s everywhere. As long as we keep shining that light, we have a chance of cleaning it wherever it lands. But we have to stay vigilant, because it’s always still in the air.

“So, maybe the black community’s main concern right now isn’t whether protesters are standing three or six feet apart or whether a few desperate souls steal some T-shirts or even set a police station on fire, but whether their sons, husbands, brothers and fathers will be murdered by cops or wannabe cops just for going on a walk, a jog, a drive. Or whether being black means sheltering at home for the rest of their lives because the racism virus infecting the country is more deadly than COVID-19.”

And all this is just the tip of the iceberg of involvement of the NBA family, just like the protests are the tip of the iceberg of the frustration felt in black communities around the nation.

Jonas Valanciunas on return: “It’s kind of like coming back from the summer”

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Memphis is in when the NBA returns, and in whatever form it returns. The Grizzlies had earned the eighth seed in the West behind the standout play of rookie Ja Morant, and if the NBA goes with a play-in format for the final playoff seeds (as expected), there will be teams gunning for that slot.

Memphis’ veteran big man Jonas Valanciunas will be ready, he told Michael Wallace at the team’s official website. Valanciunas spent time in Memphis and Miami during the lockdown, checking in with family back in Lithuania, but is back in the gym getting up shots. He described the return process this way.

“It’s kind of like coming back from the summer. We’ve had two-and-a-half months off. But then again, I play with the (Lithuania) National Team every summer, so it’s not like you always have so much time off every summer. So it’s sort of like coming back and getting ready for training camp again, to get back in shape and into game rhythm. It’s unusual, with guys wearing masks and stuff, but it is sort of like getting yourself ready for training camp right now.

A lot of players feel the same way, that this was sort of like an offseason (just one where they couldn’t get in the gym and work on a specific skill or weakness). Now things are ramping up again. This is why players want a handful of games before the playoffs (or play-in tournament) start, to get their legs under them.

Memphis will have strong teams, and more veteran units, coming for their playoff spot in the form of Portland and New Orleans. Valanciunas says the Grizzlies will be ready.

We’re really motivated. We don’t need to find extra motivation. We’re young. We want to establish our names and build as a unit.

It’s going to be a unique format when the NBA returns, in what has been a season turned upside down. That, however, can be a bonding experience for this young Grizzlies team, something that makes them better faster.

Some NBA players reportedly expect families can’t come to Orlando until September

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Nothing is set in stone until the owners vote on Thursday, but the NBA’s return likely will have teams reporting to the “bubble” (or campus, or whatever term of art the league ends up using) in Orlando in mid-July. Games would start July 31 and run into late September and maybe even October.

For players, that’s a long time to be stuck in a hotel without seeing family or loved ones, so families joining the players has long been part of the plan. Except, now comes a note from Tim Reynolds at the AP that some players think their families may not be able to join them until deep into the postseason.

The smaller the bubble, the easier it is to maintain with extensive testing, which is why not all 30 teams are expected to be invited and the size of team traveling parties will be smaller. It has been expected that families wouldn’t be invited to join players at least until after the first round of the playoffs (when a lot of players left).

However, if games start July 31 and the league plans to play a couple of weeks of regular-season games, followed by a play-in tournament for the final playoff spot, then it will be September by the time the NBA gets to a final eight teams. Which will have players separated from their families for a couple of months.

It’s easy to understand the players’ frustrations with that. No matter what direction Adam Silver goes with this restart, there are going to be some unhappy teams and players.

 

Sixers head into playoffs with healthy Ben Simmons but new, untested starting five

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Philadelphia heads into the NBA’s restart — in whatever format it takes — as a team that, on the surface, benefits some from the break.

Ben Simmons was expected to return from his back issues in time for the playoffs, but it was going to be close, and he wouldn’t be fully rested and ready. Now, the All-Star is healthy and not the only player trying to shake off the rust from a long break. That’s 16.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 8.2 assists a game, and some strong defense back in the lineup.

But that lineup has never really fit together this season in Philadelphia, which is why heading into the restart playoffs the Sixers will have a new one.

Philly is expected to roll out a starting five of Simmons, Shake Milton, Joel Embiid, Josh Richardson, and Tobias Harris, reports The Athletic’s Derek Bodner. That lineup has played zero minutes together this season (Milton hit his groove with the team late and by that point Embiid and Simmons were battling injuries). Learning chemistry on the fly in what will be, at best, a shortened and condensed regular season before the playoffs start, is a tough way to go.

It’s also the right move, Milton brings the shooting and floor spacing this roster needs. Philly had envisioned Al Horford as a floor-spacing four (who could spell Embiid at the five), but it hasn’t worked out. When Simmons, Embiid and Horford have been on the court this season, the team has scored less than a point per possession (defensively, they also gave up less than a point per possession, the Sixers basically played their opponents even in those minutes). It hasn’t meshed.

When Milton, Simmons, and Embiid have played together this season — in limited minutes and different situations than the one proposed — the offense has been only slightly better and the defense has been a mess. That’s likely not the case with Richardson and Harris on the court, but nobody knows exactly how this will work. It looks good on paper, but we’ve thought that all season about the 76ers.

Which makes Philadephia one of the most interesting teams to watch when games restart. All season long this team has not lived up to expectations (for which coach Brett Brown’s seat is very hot, even if blame for the roster issues should go higher up the ladder). Now comes a real test. If the 76ers suddenly get it together they become a real threat to the Bucks in the East (if the league keeps an East/West format). Or, this could be the latest Sixers lineup to fall short.

Either way, they become must-watch television.