Young scores 27, lead Hawks to win against Knicks, commanding 3-1 lead

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ATLANTA (AP) — Trae Young led the way for the Atlanta Hawks, as usual.

He sure had plenty of help.

Proving they are far more than a one-man team, the Hawks unleashed a dazzling array of weapons to take control of their series against the New York Knicks.

Young scored 27 points, John Collins added 22 despite a smack to the lip and the Hawks frustrated Julius Randle and the Knicks once again, pulling away in the second half for a 113-96 victory Sunday that gave Atlanta a 3-1 lead in the series

“We have so many guys who are skilled with the basketball,” Collins said. “We have great chemistry with each other. I think the sky’s the limit with this team when we do the right things.”

The Hawks will look to wrap up their first playoff series victory since 2016 when they travel to Madison Square Garden for Game 5 on Wednesday night.

“Obviously, we’re excited to win a game,” Young said. “But the job’s not done. It’s not done until the series is over. We have to have that same mentality, that same approach, try to go up to New York and finish it there.”

Atlanta took control in the third quarter, stretching a four-point edge at the half to an 88-71 lead going to the final period. The Hawks led by as many as 26 before clearing their bench in by far the most lopsided game of the series.

After struggling to hit shots in the first half, Atlanta suddenly found its range. The Hawks went 10 of 19 in the third, including 5 of 9 beyond the arc. Young scored nine points, Collins added seven and Bogdan Bogdanovic closed out the third with a 3-pointer that had another big crowd bouncing in their seats.

Randle was serenaded again by chants of “Overrated! Overrated! Overrated!” every time he put one up. The roars were deafening after a sequence in the third when Randle missed on a drive and had a put-back rim out before the Knicks knocked the ball out of bounds.

Less than a minute later, Randle gave Collins a shot to the face on another move toward the basket. Nothing was called initially, but Randle was assessed an offensive foul after a video review prompted by a challenge from Hawks coach Nate McMillan.

Collins headed to the locker room to receive four stitches in his upper lip. His bottom lip was also swollen, but he was able to return to the game in the fourth quarter.

By then, the outcome was no longer in doubt.

“I loved it,” Collins said. “I felt like from the very start, we came out with the mindset that we were not going to let their physical game get to us. We matched their physicality and played our game.”

Young and five of his teammates scored in double figures, including Danilo Gallinari with 21 points. A half-dozen players knocked down 3-pointers.

Young also had nine assists and joined Stephen Curry, Kevin Johnson and Oscar Robertson as the only players in NBA history to average 25 points and 10 assists through his first four career playoff games.

Randle had his highest-scoring game of the series with 23 points, but he was just 7 of 19 from the field and found himself surrounded by black-clad players every time he touched the ball. Clearly bothered by all the attention, he was called for a flagrant foul late in the game.

“We’ve got a Game 5 back at home to extend this series,” Randle said. “I love our chances. It’s not over. It’s not nearly over.”

Derrick Rose, making his second straight start for the Knicks, got off to another strong start but wasn’t much of a factor the rest of the way. He finished with 18 points.

The Knicks are making their first playoff appearance since 2013. Unless they can pull off an improbable comeback, it’s going to be a brief one.

“We’ve got to fix it,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We’ve got to fix it fast.”

Suns, Crowder agree he will sit out training camp while they seek a trade

Jae Crowder does salsa dance in Suns-Lakers Game 6
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Jae Crowder wants out of Phoenix and the Suns have been looking for a trade to accommodate that.

It hasn’t come together, so the Suns and Crowder agreed he should sit out training camp while they find one (this team does not need another distraction in camp).

We knew this was coming because Crowder himself announced it a couple of days ago. While he deleted the Tweet, nothing ever completely disappears online.

Two quick thoughts on this news.

First, it means Cameron Johnson will start at the four, something that was likely anyway as the Suns look to add shooting to help space the floor.

Second, this news does not help the Suns’ leverage in getting a trade. It’s understandable that Crowder didn’t want to be in camp and that the Suns didn’t want the distraction, but now everyone knows the pressure on the Suns to get a deal done and they will lowball their offer.

There are a few potential landing spots out there. Crowder hinted online he would welcome a return to Miami, and the Heat need help at the four after P.J. Tucker left for Philly. The Heat would base a trade around Duncan Robinson, but to make the salaries match the Suns would have to throw in another player — Dario Saric, Landry Shamet, Cameron Payne, Torey Craig or after Jan. 15  — and that seems unlikely.

Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, Boston (but it’s tough to make the salaries match up), and even a team like Minnesota could work. The challenge is the Suns are a win-now team and will want a player who can help them this season and all those teams are in the same space. Right now there may not be an offer available. As camps open and teams start to understand what they do and don’t have, a deal could come together.

Crowder will be home waiting for that to happen, not with the Suns team.

Giannis Antetokounmpo says Stephen Curry is the best player in the world

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Giannis Antetokounmpo is at the top of pretty much every “best player in the world” list right now.

Except his own.

For Antetokounmpo, the best player in the world is the one that leads his team to the title, so today, it is Stephen Curry (hat tip to Lance Allen of NBC Milwaukee).

It’s easy to see where Antetokounmpo is coming from, but basketball is a team game. The best player may not be on the best team, despite his skill set, and that team may not win. Curry was spectacular in leading the Warriors to their fourth banner since he arrived, he’s near the top of the best in the world list, but it’s not all about winning.

The takeaway from what Antetokounmpo said is how much he wants to win — he wants a second ring.

The Bucks enter the season as one of the favorites to win that ring, but it’s going to take a lot of things going right for that to happen.

Including Antetokounmpo showing he is the best player in the world.

 

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

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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

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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.