Paul George is Playoff P, scores 37 to spark Clippers Game 5 win over Jazz

0 Comments

Playoff P answered everyone’s questions.

NBA Twitter was poised to pounce on “Pandemic P” Paul George Wednesday night, as was the crowd in Utah. In a 2-2 series where Kawhi Leonard was (and will remain) out with a knee sprain, the burden fell on George to lead the Clippers, and a lot of fans were expecting more shots off the side of the backboard.

Instead, they watched a 37-point, 16 rebound, five assist masterpiece — George drove the lane but didn’t force shots or passes, didn’t settle for pull-ups, and when the Jazz made their fourth quarter push to get back in the game he answered the call with big buckets.

As they did in the first round against Dallas, the Clippers showed resiliency — a word not often associated with this franchise through its history, but fitting this postseason.

Playoff P pushed the resilient Clippers to a 119-111 win in Utah to take a 3-2 series lead. Now the Clippers head home on Friday night for Game 6 and the chance to close out the series and advance to the franchise’s first-ever conference finals.

“It was no secret. I knew I had to be big tonight and got to be big going forward,” George said after the game.

George reminded everyone he had been there before as the franchise cornerstone of the Pacers — and Wednesday night he looked like the George who went toe-to-toe with LeBron James in that era.

“I’ve been in Indiana where I had to lead a franchise…” George said. “It was just that mindset being back in Indy having to set the tone and come out and lead a ballclub. That’s really the mindset I came out with. It was nothing that I had to prove. It was nothing that I had to be surprised about myself. I just dug into a place that I’ve been already in my career, and again, it just came down to trust.”

Utah — a franchise that also blew a 3-1 series lead against Denver last playoffs — now has to show some resiliency of its own on the road. And it may again have to do that without All-Star point guard Mike Conley, who has missed every game this series and told reporters Wednesday afternoon he had a setback with his hamstring last Friday, and he needs more time to fully recover.

“The series is not over,” Donovan Mitchell said “We got a lot of life left to give and a lot of juice to give, and we just got to go out there and play with a level of desperation that we have never played with before, otherwise we’ll be home.”

The Jazz came out of the locker room knocking down everything — Bojan Bogdanovic started the game 6-of-6 from 3, and the Jazz as a team shot 10-of-15 from 3 in the first quarter on its way to putting up 37 points. It was brilliant shotmaking, and it cascaded across the team as every shot seemed to go in — Jordan Clarkson couldn’t miss — it was contagious, and the Jazz put up 65 first-half points with an offensive rating above 150.

“They came out hot,” George said. “Only thing we were thinking, that they can’t sustain it. At one point they shot 30 or 37 of their attempts or something like that. So most of their shots were threes. We just knew we had to weather it. At some point, hopefully, we could cool them down.”

Yet Utah only led by five at the half because the defense that earned this team the No. 1 seed didn’t show up until in the first three quarters — Rudy Gobert said they didn’t start the game playing defense with the right level of desperation. Their transition defense, in particular was unimpressive, and the Clippers kept pace through the first half because of it.

Then in the third quarter, the Clippers took the lead, with Marcus Morris Sr. scoring 12 in the frame and the Clippers winning the quarter 32-18. Los Angeles got its lead up to double digits but never pulled away from the Jazz.

In the fourth, Mitchell tried to will Utah back into the lead, scoring 11 points in the quarter but on 3-of-10 shooting as it looked like his sore right ankle slowed him down. Utah as a team shot 7-of-21 in the fourth.

George answered the bell for the Clippers, but so did Reggie Jackson who had a dozen in the final frame. Jackson finished with 22 points, Morris 25 for the Clippers.

Mitchell finished with 21 points on 6-of-19 shooting. Bogdanovic led the Jazz with 32.

Now the Clippers are within a win of advancing to the conference finals and the question is, can they do this again without Leonard?

Watch Victor Wembanyama drop 30-point double-double in France

0 Comments

Maybe you spent your Saturday afternoon watching Lionel Messi doing Lionel Messi things. Or intense college football rivalries.

In France, they spent part of the day watching Kylian Mbappe be brilliant but then flipped over and watched future No.1 pick Victor Wembanyama drop a 30-point double-double.

That’s two straight 30-point double-doubles for Wembanyama.

He will be the No.1 pick next June (barring something catastrophic), and teams are already thinking about the lottery next June.

Expect some other teams to jump in that mix at the bottom because the depth of this class goes well beyond just Wembanyama with Scoot Henderson, Amen Thompson and others. The tanking is coming people.

 

Boogie Cousins called Warriors GM Myers and got reality check on why he’s not in NBA

2022 NBA Playoffs - Denver Nuggets v Golden State Warriors
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images
0 Comments

DeMarcus Cousins didn’t understand why he didn’t have an NBA contract this season.

He thought he had proven he could help teams in need of front-line depth last season, first in Milwaukee when Brook Lopez was out following back surgery and gave them 9.1 points and 5.8 rebounds a game of solid play. The Bucks ultimately let Cousins go for financial reasons, so the Nuggets picked him up to backup Nikola Jokic. He was again solid, averaging 8.9 points and 5.5 rebounds a game (and he had a 31-point night against the Rockets).

Confused, he called one of the former GMs who brought him in, Bob Myers of the Golden State Warriors. Myers relayed their conversation on the All That Smoke podcast (via NBC Sports Bay Area).

“DeMarcus called me a month ago and he said, ‘Why am I not in the NBA?’ ” Myers told Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson on the “All The Smoke” podcast earlier this week. “And I said, ‘You want that answer? … Because people are afraid of how you’re going to act.’ And he’s like ‘Why?’ And I said, ‘Well whatever the reason is, it’s here now.’

“And I like DeMarcus. You guys may know him. He’s just, I can’t blame him for him because of all he’s been through.”

Not long after that conversation, Cousins spoke with Chris Haynes and said he learned from his past mistakes.

“Have I made mistakes? Absolutely. Have I done things the wrong way? Absolutely. For that, I’m very apologetic. But I’ve done even more things the correct way and I’ve done even more positive things compared to my negatives. I just don’t want those positives to be overlooked. And obviously, whenever it gets to the point where the negatives outweigh the positives, you should probably move away from him. That’s just how life goes. But I don’t believe I’m in that boat. I’m just asking for a chance to show my growth as a man and a player.”

Cousins also had physical issues, including a torn ACL that cost him a season with the Lakers in 2019-20. He also had domestic abuse allegations at the time (those charges were dropped a few months later).

Cousins just wants the chance to prove he is past all that and can help a team like he did last season. There have been rumors out of Taiwan that Cousins could join Dwight Howard in that league, but Cousins has not confirmed that. He still wants his shot in the NBA. So he waits, and hopes he can change the narrative around him.

Giannis Antetokounmpo says of Evan Mobley, ‘He can be better than me’

Cleveland Cavaliers v Milwaukee Bucks
John Fisher/Getty Images
0 Comments

Evan Mobley hasn’t taken the leap forward in his second season many expected, partly because he has to adjust to playing with a new, dominant backcourt in Cleveland of Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland. Mobley is getting nearly five fewer touches a game and is not getting the same chances to use his off-the-bounce skills (73% of his shots this season come off zero or one-dribble) as he did when he was a rookie.

That doesn’t mean his superstar potential has gone away. Just ask Giannis Antetokounmpo, as Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer did.

“He can be better than me,” Antetokounmpo told cleveland.com in an exclusive interview while walking out of Fiserv Forum… “I don’t see why he can’t. It’s up to him. I will always try to improve. Every day. But he has the skill set to be a very, very good player. He’s 7-feet tall. He can move really well. He can shoot. He is very smart. As you said, he watches tapes of other players, which is very, very good for a young player. If he takes this seriously, he is going to be great.”

Better than Giannis? What could possibly make him say that?

“I didn’t average what he is in my second season, so he’s already ahead of me,” Antetokounmpo told cleveland.com. “It’s in his hands. If he stays humble, continues to work hard, focuses on the game and shows love to the game of basketball, he is going to be really good.”

One of the players Mobley is known to study on tape is Antetokounmpo. Of course, mirroring the force and athleticism Antetokounmpo plays with is next to impossible, but Mobley has the skill set that could see him become a shot-creator and scorer on the wing with the ball.

The Cavaliers don’t need him to be that with Garland improving and Michell being better than advertised. Cleveland has a top-five offense and hasn’t had to turn to Mobley for more scoring and shot creation. But that can change, especially come the playoffs against the strong defenses of teams such as the Bucks and Celtics. Ultimately, how far these Cavaliers can go in the postseason over the next few years could come down to the growth of Mobley on the offensive end.

Antetokounmpo believes Mobley could be special in that role, which should give fans in Cleveland even more hope.

 

Watch Giannis throw down career-high nine dunks, score 38 in comeback win over Cavaliers

Cleveland Cavaliers v Milwaukee Bucks
John Fisher/Getty Images
0 Comments

MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks taught the Cleveland Cavaliers a lesson in playoff-type intensity well before the start of December.

Antetokounmpo scored 38 points and the Bucks capitalized on a 23-2 run in the first eight-plus minutes of the third quarter to rally past Cleveland 117-102 on Friday night to snap the Cavaliers’ four-game winning streak.

Milwaukee came back from a 16-point deficit by outscoring the Cavaliers 35-10 in the third period. The Bucks hadn’t outscored a team by such a wide margin in a single quarter since Jan. 4, 2019, when they outscored the Atlanta Hawks 43-14 in the opening period of a 144-112 victory.

“We had a little bit of luck on our side and were able to knock down some shots and get downhill and were able to get that momentum and keep it going,” said Antetokounmpo, who also had nine rebounds and six assists. “I think it started from our guards defending the pick-and-roll and Brook (Lopez) just contesting every shot on the defensive end.”

The Cavaliers hadn’t scored less than 15 points in any quarter this season before Friday.

“They turned it up to a level that we haven’t seen, that we haven’t experienced,” said Donovan Mitchell, who led he Cavaliers with 29 points. “That’s playoff basketball, and understanding that they’re going to turn up the physicality (and) everything has to be sharper, everything has to be more precise.”

Darius Garland added 20 for Cleveland. After combining to shoot 14 of 26 and score 38 points in the first half, Mitchell and Garland went 4 of 16 for 11 points over the final two periods.

Cleveland’s Jarrett Allen played only 12 minutes and scored one point before leaving with a hip injury.

The Cavaliers lost for the first time since their last visit to Milwaukee, a 113-98 Bucks victory on Nov. 16.

“We were trying so hard, and we were like running in quicksand,” Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said of the second-half struggles.

Jevon Carter scored 18 points and Bobby Portis had 14 for the Bucks.

After trailing 63-52 at halftime, the Bucks turned the game around in the third quarter.

“It felt like us again,” Portis said. “I feel like for the last couple of games, we haven’t felt like ourselves, for real, missing a lot of shots and just not playing how we play.”

Jrue Holiday, who committed three fouls in the first 1 1/2 quarters, scored his first points of the game in the opening minute of the third. He followed that up with a 3-pointer.

Carter then found Antetokounmpo for a dunk, though Antetokounmpo missed a free throw that would have given him a three-point play. Mitchell scored to extend Cleveland’s lead to 65-59, but a Brook Lopez 3-pointer and an Antetokounmpo dunk cut the lead to one.

Lopez then recorded one of his six blocks to set up an Antetokounmpo 3-pointer that gave the Bucks their first lead of the night with 7:19 left in the third. The Bucks eventually led by as many as 22.

“This is a great lesson for us,” Bickerstaff said. “We played against an established team who knows where they need to go when they need to take it to another level. That’s what we’re learning. They took the game to playoff-level physicality, and those are things we have to learn how to compete against.”