Lonzo Ball drains seven three-pointers, leads Pelicans in upset of Bucks

0 Comments

NEW ORLEANS — With the mercurial Lonzo Ball looking more engaged, aggressive and accurate from the perimeter, the New Orleans Pelicans looked as capable against elite competition as they have all season.

Ball highlighted a season-best 27-point performance with seven 3-pointers and the Pelicans held off a furious Milwaukee rally to beat the Bucks 131-126 on Friday night.

“It’s just about staying aggressive and staying true to the work I put in,” said Ball, who also had eight assists. “I knew it was going to turn around sooner or later.”

Now the question is whether the Pelicans can sustain it.

“It’s just a lot more fluid, a lot more guys in rhythm and we get better quality shots,” Ball said. “So, we got to kind of use tonight as a blueprint.”

Brandon Ingram scored 28 points, and Zion Williamson had 21 points, nine rebounds and a career-best seven assists to help New Orleans prevent the Bucks from erasing a 28-point deficit during the game’s final 17 minutes.

“I never felt like the win was in doubt,” Williamson said. “We responded well. … When everybody is playing with high confidence, it’s great for the team and it gives us multiple scoring threats.”

Eric Bledsoe also hit seven 3s and scored 25 for the Pelicans, who combined to make 21 from deep. Steven Adams grabbed a season-high 20 rebounds.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 38 points and 11 rebounds, and former Pelican Jrue Holiday scored 22 for Milwaukee, which trailed nearly the entire game, usually by double-digits.

“Hats off to them. They were hitting everything and from 3,” Holiday said. “Contested shots, open shots, just were making shots. They came to play.”

The Pelicans appeared firmly in control when Ball’s jumper made it 93-65 with 4:35 left in the third quarter.

“I do think the first 30 minutes of the game showed the possibilities at least of what we can be,” Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy said. “Granted, we were making a lot of shots. But for 30 minutes, we even guarded pretty well. Then we didn’t guard at all in the last 18 minutes.”

Khris Middleton’s turnaround jumper began a head-spinning 20-3 Milwaukee run during a span of 3:08 late in the third period. Antetokounmpo hit a 3 and capped the surge with a spinning dribble for a layup while he was fouled.

“I kind of like the way we came out in the second half,” Antetokounmpo said. “We were hungry and it’s a thing that we’ve got to do for a longer period of the game.”

Milwaukee’s deficit was down to single digits when Pat Connaughton’s layup made it 98-89, but the Pelicans scored the last five points of the quarter, including Nicolo Melli’s 3 as the period ended, to stem the tide.

After that, the Pelicans kept their lead around 10 points until less than two minutes remained.

The Pelicans, who came in having won just two of their last 10 games, shot 57.1% in the first 24 minutes, including 12 of 21 from 3-point range. They led 47-28 after Nickeil Alexander-Walker made a layup over Brook Lopez and high off the glass, then intercepted Antetokounmpo’s pass and drove straight back in for a dunk.

Bledsoe, who came to New Orleans as part of a multiple-team trade sending Holiday to Milwaukee, hit five of his first six 3-point shots and had 17 points before halftime.

Pelicans reserve guard Josh Hart made all four of his shots in the second quarter, three from deep.

The Bucks struggled just to make open shots in the first half, hitting 37%, while also turning the ball over eight times.

Middleton finished with 16 points, as did Lopez, while Donte DiVincenzo had 10 points.

The approximately 1,400 fans in attendance bellowed a familiar, elongated “Jruuuuue,” when Holiday was introduced as a Milwaukee starter. It was the same way fans in New Orleans greeted Holiday during the previous seven seasons.

During an early timeout, a tribute was shown on the video board honoring Holiday’s play and community service while he was in New Orleans. He and his wife, former international soccer star Lauren Holiday, notably donated more than $5 million to support Black-owned businesses seeking help during the pandemic. The video drew enthusiastic applause.

“If there’s one thing I know about New Orleans, it’s that they love the players that embrace the city and try to make this home for them,” Holiday said. “That’s what I tried to do. I love the city.”

Watch Celtics shooters look sharp in easy preseason win over Hornets

Charlotte Hornets v Boston Celtics
Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images
0 Comments

It’s just one meanless preseason game, but for a franchise that could use some good news the Boston Celtics will take it.

The Celtics’ shooting looked in mid-season form in their preseason opener against the Hornets on Sunday — 57.1% overall and 22-of-47 from 3 (46.8%). Boston just couldn’t seem to miss, especially early.

Jayson Tatum had 16 points in 22 minutes, while Jaylen Brown was the leading scorer with 24 points in 24 minutes.

The one unexpected bright spot was a strong game from Mfiondu Kabengele, who is currently on a two-way contract with the team. He ended up with 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting and showed some hustle.

Kelly Oubre led the Hornets with 17 points, while LaMelo Ball had 14 points, seven rebounds and four dimes.

It’s just one preseason game, don’t read much of anything into it. But the Celtics will take the good news where they can find it.

T.J. Warren still out for Nets; team to reassess status in November

0 Comments

The Brooklyn Nets bet that the T.J. Warren from the bubble in Orlando — the one who averaged 26.6 points and 6.3 rebounds a game for the Pacers — would re-emerge and give them a quality forward they could mix into a deep rotation.

Instead, so far it has looked more like the Warren who has played just four games since the bubble due to stress fractures in his foot.

Warren is improving and the Nets are bringing him along slowly, keeping him off the court until November at least, reports Brian Lewis of the New York Post.

Small forward T.J. Warren, who has missed nearly two full seasons following multiple foot surgeries, is “doing some shooting” and “a little bit more movement the last two weeks than he was prior,” Nash said. He added that Warren will be reassessed in about a month.

The Nets can afford to be patient. They have plenty of other questions to answer as a team before worrying about what Warren can or cannot contribute. But in the dream scenario where everything comes together for the Nets this season, Warren gets healthy and becomes a valuable contributor off the bench giving the Nets more versatility, scoring, and shooting along the front line.

For now, the Nets and Warren wait.

NBA returning to Seattle for exhibition game; when will it be more?

Getty Images
0 Comments

SEATTLE — An NBA preseason game may not seem like a benchmark moment, even in a basketball-hungry city like Seattle, but Jamal Crawford believes there’s value even in an exhibition.

“It reignites a whole new generation of kids who need to see this,” said Crawford, a Seattle native who has been a basketball ambassador for the city through a 20-year NBA career and now with a pro-am that brings in NBA players every summer. “They need to be able to dream and know that it’s real.”

The NBA is making its latest brief return to the Emerald City. The Los Angeles Clippers will play the Portland Trail Blazers there on Monday night, the first time two NBA teams will meet in Seattle since 2018, when the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings played a preseason game. That was the last sporting event inside KeyArena before it was gutted and rebuilt into the gleaming Climate Pledge Arena.

There was a warm-up act of sorts Friday when the Clippers played Israeli team Maccabi Ra’anana in an exhibition, one where the most of the Clippers’ big names – Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, John Wall and Reggie Jackson – weren’t participating.

A sell-out crowd turned out for that Warriors-Kings game four years ago, the first one in Seattle since the beloved SuperSonics left for Oklahoma City in 2008 after 41 years in the Pacific Northwest. Another big crowd is expected Monday.

“The Sonics haven’t been a team since I’ve been in the NBA. So just to go play in Seattle is cool,” Blazers star Damian Lillard said. “We played in Vancouver a few years back. I think like two or three years ago, we had a preseason game at the (Memorial) Coliseum. So every time we get to do something like that, I always enjoy it because I wondered what was it like when it was a real thing, when the games were played in these different arenas. So I am excited to play in Seattle.”

Someday, possibly soon, the expectations are that Seattle will reclaim its place as an NBA town.

“It’s always been a great city to me,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said Friday. “It’s unfortunate that they lost their team and the team went to OKC. This city definitely deserves a team.”

Speculation is nonstop about when the NBA will choose to expand. Thanks to the resolution of its arena situation, Seattle seems likely to be at the forefront of those expansion talks, with Las Vegas likely right behind it.

But NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has been noncommittal about a possible expansion timeline, and it seems likely those talks won’t pick up steam until the league deals with the new collective bargaining agreement and television deals that are on the horizon.

The community’s commitment has never been in question. The appetite of Seattle fans hasn’t waned in the years since the Sonics left and as the region became a hotbed for NBA talent, whether it was Crawford continuing to carry the banner for the city, to Zach LaVine of Renton, Washington, to this year’s No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero, another Seattle native.

As if any reinforcement was needed, the summer provided a perfect example as fans camped overnight outside Crawford’s summer league venue for the chance to get inside and watch LeBron James make his first basketball visit to the city in more than a decade.

“Anyone that knows Seattle knows what a great basketball city we are,” Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell said this summer when the preseason game was announced.

The idea for having the Blazers and Clippers meet in Seattle was the result of a brainstorm between Lue and Blazers coach Chauncey Billups. The two close friends wanted their teams to meet in the preseason and Lue noted the owners for both teams are Seattle based: Steve Ballmer of the Clippers and Jody Allen for the Blazers.

“I haven’t been back since I played there in 2008, I think it was. So just to be able to go back there and you know, Mr. Ballmer and kind of see his offices and how he lives, and (Chauncey) to get a chance to see his owner, and then to be with my best friend, I thought it would be a great common ground,” Lue said.

Steven Adams inks two-year, $25.2 million extension with Grizzlies

Getty Photo
0 Comments

Steven Adams signed a two-year, $25.2 million contract extension with Memphis, which will keep him tied to the team through the 2024-25 season. ESPN’s Adrian Wojanrowski broke the news on Saturday.

Adams has been crucial to the Grizzlies’ recent success. He’s coming off his first season with the team, where he averaged career-highs in rebounds (10.0) and assists (3.4). He also helped them lock up the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference and make it to the Conference Semifinals, where they lost to the eventual-champion Warriors 4-2. Despite the improved numbers, a lot of his value is from intangibles that don’t show up in the box score.

Adams spent the first seven years of his career with the Thunder before being traded to New Orleans in the four-team deal that sent Jrue Holiday to Milwaukee. Adams was moved again to Memphis in a package for Jonas Valanciunas.

Adams has found a new home with a young Grizzlies team that is looking to win a championship. The team is built around Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane, but Jackson Jr. is expected to miss time after being diagnosed with a stress fracture in his left foot. Memphis will rely on Adams more than ever to begin the season.