Kyrie Irving’s 43 not enough, Magic beat Nets behind 38 from Gordon


ORLANDO, Fla. — The Orlando Magic shook off a tough loss on the road by coming home with their best shooting performance of the season to end a nine-game losing streak.

Aaron Gordon scored a season-best 38 points, Evan Fournier added 31 and the Magic held off a furious fourth-quarter rally to beat the Brooklyn Nets 121-113 on Friday night.

The Magic lost 94-93 a night earlier to the Knicks in New York. With a chance to win in the closing seconds, Fournier botched a pick-and-roll and angrily ripped his jersey apart.

On Friday, Fournier and the Magic did little wrong while shooting 51.2% and making a season-best 21 3-pointers.

“It was great because we showed a lot of character after a very tough loss,” said Fournier, who shot 10 of 13 and was 6 of 8 on 3s. “We fought really hard against probably the best team in the East and got the `W.”‘

The Magic overcame Kyrie Irving‘s season-best 43 points to stop Brooklyn’s winning streak at six games. The Nets also had their franchise-record, eight-game road winning halted.

“This is what if feels like to lose,” said Irving, whose Nets lost for the first time since Feb. 27 and for just the second time in 16 games. “We don’t want too many more feelings like this, so learn from it and move forward.”

Orlando led 103-84 at the end of the third quarter, but the Nets opened the fourth with a 16-1 run. However, Brooklyn would get no closer than 104-100 after Gordon and Fournier revived the Magic offense. Gordon tipped in an airball to gave Orlando a 114-105 lead and his 3-pointer seconds later sealed the victory.

“We made a bunch of shots and as (Brooklyn assistant coach) Mike D’Antoni used to say, `When you have energy you shoot the ball better,”‘ said Steve Clifford, whose Magic won for the first time since Feb. 21.

Two nights after rallying from 16 points down in a win in Indiana, the Nets were trying to pull off their second-largest comeback in a victory. However, the Nets couldn’t overcome an off night by superstar guard James Harden and some sluggish play outside of Irving’s 19 of 31 shooting.

Irving scored at least 40 points for a third time this season, but he had just seven in the fourth. Harden snapped a streak of 14 straight games with at least 20 points when he finished with 19. He made only 4 of 16 shots and 2 of 9 3s.

Gordon was 14 of 20 and 7 of 8 on 3s to easily surpass his previous season high of 24 points. Nikola Vucevic added 22 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists.

“That was a great all-around game for our team and we showed what we can be offensively and defensively,” Gordon said. “It shows good resilience.”

Up two at the half, the Magic extended their lead to 103-84 by making 14 of 21 shots and 6-of-9 3s in the third period. Gordon made all five of his third-quarter shots and had 33 points by the start of the fourth.

While teammate Jeff Green implied that he could see Blake Griffin making his Nets’ debut in the coming days, coach Steve Nash wouldn’t commit to a timetable for the forward who signed with the franchise on March 8. Nash was highly complimentary of the work that Griffin has done to sharpen his game after being out of action since Feb. 12 when he was a member of the Detroit Pistons.

“He looks good, he’s improving and he’s working hard off the floor, as well,” Nash said.

Is Matisse Thybulle ready for a big step forward with 76ers?

Pregame of Philadelphia 76ers vs Miami Heat
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Matisse Thybulle brings a valuable NBA skill to the table — he is an elite perimeter defender. Two-time All-Defensive Team in three years in the league.

But when the 76ers got up against Miami in the playoffs, Thybulle’s role shrank dramatically. While Doc Rivers needed his defense, Thybulle’s lack of an offensive game became a problem — the Heat largely ignored him and helped off him, allowing Miami to muck up the Philly offense (he was limited in the Toronto series because he was not vaccinated and could not play in road games). The 76ers tried to solve that problem this offseason by bringing in DeAnthony Melton, Danuel House and P.J. Tucker — solid role-playing defenders who can contribute on offense, too.

Thybulle wants to be part of the solution, too, and told Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer he spent the summer focused on his offensive game.

“I’m really proud of what I did,” Thybulle said of his offseason. “I’ve worked harder than I’ve worked. And I had a meeting with [Sixers coach Doc Rivers] early this week and was telling him I feel more bought in than I’ve been before.”

No doubt Thybulle put in the work, we will find out soon if it paid off — and if that will get Thybulle paid.

Thybulle is entering a contract year — the 76ers can extend him up until Oct. 18, after which he would become a restricted free agent next summer. Thybulle said his goal is to remain in Philadelphia (and he’d like an extension).

“At this point, I would always want to stay in Philly,” he said. “And if it’s up to me, that’s always going to be my choice.

“But considering that I’ve realized the reality of how far out of my control it is, if I do get traded or something does end up happening, I can look at myself in the mirror at the end of the day.”

With a win-now Sixers team, Daryl Morey may be in a wait-and-see place with Thybulle, letting the market set his price next offseason. If he signs now, it will likely be on a team-friendly deal (but maybe one that still works for the 25-year-old).

If Thybulle gets on the court this season and shows an improved offensive game, one where he can make teams pay for helping off him, his price goes up and there may be multiple teams bidding for his services next summer. And Doc Rivers would be happy in the short term.

It’s up to Thybulle to prove it now.


Markelle Fultz will miss start of training camp, at least, with broken toe

Orlando Magic v Charlotte Hornets
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The basketball gods continue to turn their backs on Markelle Fultz.

A torn ACL had limited him to 26 games over the past two seasons, but he was healthy and ramping up to a larger role this season with a young and interesting Magic team. Then came the news he fractured his left big toe during a training session. As a result, he will be out for at least the start of training camp, the team announced. From the official announcement:

“He has been placed in a walking boot and his return to play will depend on how he responds to rehabilitation and treatment. Fultz suffered the injury during a preseason workout prior to returning to Orlando and imaging confirmed the fracture.

He will not need surgery, according to the team.

Fultz was set to split point guard duties with Cole Anthony, this injury means RJ Hampton could see more run at the point for now. Fultz should be able to return either during the end of the preseason or early in the season.

Fultz was the No.1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft but never found his footing with the 76ers (in part due to injury). However, since getting out of that spotlight and allowed to develop in Orlando he’s been a solid rotation point guard when healthy. Last season in 18 games he averaged 10.8 points and 5.5 assists a game, and while he’s still not an efficient shooter he can run a team.

How Anthony and, eventually, Fultz will work off the ball as rookie Paolo Banchero gets the opportunity to create more offense will be just one of the interesting things to watch with this Magic team this year. We’ll have to wait a little while to see Fultz.


Vintage Kobe: Redeem Team recalls him running over Pau Gasol

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If the goal of a trailer is to get you to want to see the movie, then well done Netflix. I’m in.

Netflix released a trailer for its upcoming Redeem Team documentary on the 2008 Olympics, featuring some vintage Kobe Bryant. Just as a quick refresher, in 2008 the USA’s toughest opponent would be a deep Spanish team led by peak Pau Gasol but also with Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, José Calderón, Rudy Fernández, Juan Carlos Navarro and more. This was a legitimately dangerous team and one the USA would face first in group play.

Kobe wanted to set a tone — and did by running through his friend Gasol. (Warning: There is NSFW language in the video clip below.)

“‘First play of the game I’m running through Pau Gasol.’ And we was like, ‘What?’ He said, ‘First play of the game, I know what they’re gonna run.’ And he knew Pau was gonna be the last screen and he said ‘I’m running through him,'” Dwayne Wade said

Spoiler alert: The USA thrashed Spain in group stage play. However, come the Gold Medal game it was a lot tougher for the Americans to beat the Spaniards, with Kobe having to have a big fourth quarter and — what often goes unremembered — a master class from Chris Paul in game management to control the tempo and flow.

I’m all in for the documentary, which drops on Oct. 7 on Netflix.

Spurs’ Keldon Johnson to miss start of training camp with shoulder injury

San Antonio Spurs v Denver Nuggets
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Keldon Johnson is poised to have a monster season on a rebuilding Spurs team.

Except he’s going to miss the start of training camp and the team’s preseason games. And could be out longer.

Johnson suffered a “right shoulder posterior dislocation during Spurs open gym” the team announced Saturday. Posterior dislocations are rare (less than 5% of all dislocations) and are usually from a fall on an extended arm. Recovering from the injury depends on many factors but can extend out for months. However, the Spurs said Johnson is expected to be available for the start of the regular season less than a month from now.

Johnson averaged 17 points and 6.1 rebounds a game last season, and is an elite perimeter shooter off the catch-and-shoot (39.8% from 3 overall), who also can put the ball on the floor and finish at the rim. He was the team’s second-leading scorer last season (to Dejounte Murray, who is now in Atlanta).

The Spurs will be cautious with bringing Johnson back. Even in what could be Gregg Popovich’s last season as coach the Spurs are looking more to be part of the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes than push for a playoff spot. Johnson is a quality player who helps San Antonio win games, which both is why they want him back healthy and why they are not going to rush him.