Watch Mitchell stick dagger in Celtics, score 34, leads Jazz to win

0 Comments

SALT LAKE CITY — Donovan Mitchell had 34 points and six assists to lead the Utah Jazz over the Boston Celtics 137-130 Friday night.

Mike Conley added 29 points and seven assists for the Jazz. Rudy Gobert tallied 18 points and 12 rebounds.

Utah made a season-high 27 3-pointers and shot 53% from long distance. It helped the Jazz survive a 52% shooting performance by the Celtics.

“It feels good to get that win,” Gobert said. “We could have broke down and stopped playing the right way mentally. But we kept moving the ball, we kept attacking, we kept trusting one another. It’s a huge win for us.”

Jayson Tatum scored 37 points to lead Boston. Dennis Schroder added 26 points while Al Horford chipped in 21 points and nine assists.

It wasn’t enough to overcome Utah’s sizzling shooting. The Jazz are the first team to hit 20 or more 3-pointers against the Celtics this season.

“I’ve never been a part of a team hitting that many 3s like that,” Horford said. “And especially the type of 3s – they weren’t necessarily all open. They were tough, contested 3s.”

Robert Williams III scored on three straight possessions to cap a 9-0 run and give Boston a 113-109 lead midway through the fourth quarter. Utah answered by scoring baskets on seven straight possessions to surge ahead 127-120 with 1:57 left. Mitchell made three shots in a row, including a go-ahead 3-pointer.

Tatum made a layup and two free throws to get Boston within three in the final minute. Mitchell hit a stepback 3-pointer with 28.2 seconds left to stave off a comeback.

The Jazz closed out the game by making nine of their final 11 shots.

“This comes from preparation,” Mitchell said. “I got to give Coach (Quin Snyder) credit for that.”

Conley made three 3-pointers to fuel a game-opening 14-2 run for the Jazz. It set the stage for a first-quarter when Utah made nine 3-pointers and shot 12 of 18 from the field overall.

Boston trimmed the deficit to 30-23 on a steal and dunk from Josh Richardson. Jordan Clarkson answered with back-to-back baskets to boost Utah’s lead back to double digits.

The Jazz staked out a game-high 43-29 lead in the second quarter on a dunk from Gobert. Then, the Celtics rallied. Boston ripped off an 11-0 run punctuated by back-to-back baskets from Tatum and Schroder to cut Utah’s lead to 43-40.

Horford scored five baskets in the second quarter to keep the Jazz from pulling away again before halftime. His final one, a driving hook shot, pulled the Celtics within 57-56.

After trailing the entire first half, Boston took its first lead at 73-71 in the third quarter on a reverse layup from Marcus Smart.

Utah gave up 21 points on 12 turnovers in the first half. It gave Boston new life after the Jazz threatened to break the game wide open early in the first quarter.

Things improved in that department as the second half progressed. Utah did not commit a turnover over the final 5 1/2 minutes.

“Our defense took a step up and, offensively, we recognized some situations where they were trying to switch people out in pick and roll and did a good job of reacting,” Snyder said.

The Celtics relied heavily on three guard lineups with Horford playing center to give them a little more offensive versatility to counteract Gobert’s rim protection. It worked well, offensively. Boston scored 30 or more points in each of the final three quarters.

“We wanted to force their hand a little bit with how they were guarding,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. “Gobert was controlling the paint. Wanted to put him against some guys like Al and Grant (Williams) who space the floor a little bit better obviously, taking him away from the rim.”

Scoot Henderson says he has skills to be No.1 pick but not hung up on it

Metropolitans 92 v G League Ignite
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
0 Comments

Scoot Henderson came out like a man on a mission Tuesday night against the Metropolitans 92 and Victor Wembanyama — he was in attack mode. He used his explosive athleticism to get to the rim, his impressive body control to get off good shots, and his strength to finish with authority. And if the defender played back, he would drain the jumper over him.

A year ago, Jaylen Brown called him the best 17-year-old he’d ever seen. Scoot is better than that now.

Many years, Henderson would be a clear No.1 overall pick. But, not this year, Wembanyama has that crown because he breaks the mold with his size and skill set (in the NBA, height still wins out).

Kevin O’Conner of The Ringer asked Henderson why he should be the top prospect and got a confident answer.

There will be a lot of people making the Henderson case this season — and with good reason. He could be a franchise cornerstone player for the next decade.

Henderson, however, is trying not to get hung up on No.1 vs. No.2.

There’s a long list of legendary players selected No.2: Bill Russell, Kevin Durant, Jerry West, Jason Kidd, and that is just the tip of the iceberg. Henderson can be one of them.

Unless Wembanyama’s medicals come back with red flags, he is destined to be the No.1 pick next June. That, however, will not be the end of Henderson’s story. Instead, it will be just the beginning.

Doc Rivers says he wants Harden to be ‘a scoring Magic Johnson’

Philadelphia 76ers Media Day
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
0 Comments

We’re not in Houston anymore.

James Harden in Philadelphia will not be chasing scoring titles and dominating the game in quite the same way. Instead, he’s been asked to be more of a facilitator — but not too much of one. Doc Rivers told the team at ESPN’s NBA Today he wants scoring to go with the facilitating. Just like one of the all-time greats.

“I think we’ve talked so much about him being a facilitator… I need him to be James Harden too. If I had to combine, I would say a scoring Magic Johnson, I don’t know, but that’s what I want him to be. I want him to be a James Harden, but in that, I want him to also be the facilitator of this basketball team too. So in a lot of ways, his role is growing bigger for our team, and I just want him to keep thinking, ‘Do both.'”

Just play like Magic, no pressure there. For his career, Magic averaged 19.5 points a game (with four over 20 PPG) with 11.2 assists.

Harden can get close enough to Rivers’ lofty goals to make Philly a real threat, so long as defenders still fear his first step and step back. Harden can get his shot and get to the line, and he’s long been a great passer who has averaged 10.5 assists a game over the past two seasons. Now it’s just a matter of finding the balance of when to set up Joel Embiid, when to turn the offense over to Tyrese Maxey, and when to get his own shot.

Philadelphia is a deep team poised to win a lot of regular season games — the Sixers being the top seed in the East is absolutely in play. The questions Harden — and, to a degree, Embiid — have to answer come in May, when the second round of the playoffs start and Harden has faded while Embiid has had poor injury luck. In a deep East with Milwaukee, Boston, and maybe Miami and Brooklyn in the contender mix, there is no margin for error.

A Magic-like Harden would be a big boost for the Sixers in that setting.

As he chases record, LeBron says he has ‘no relationship’ with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Sacramento Kings v Los Angeles Lakers
Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images
0 Comments

Later this season, health permitting, LeBron James will pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.

Kareem has said LeBron has earned it, but also has called out LeBron on COVID issues (something Abdul-Jabbar apologized for). Have the two legends started to build a relationship as LeBron marches toward the record? Not so much.

“No thoughts, no relationship.”

This question was asked of LeBron days after Abdul-Jabbar slammed former LeBron teammate Kyrie Irving in a Substack newsletter, calling him a “comical buffoon” and saying he is a poor role model. Abdul-Jabbar has been a vocal proponent of getting the vaccine, Irving remains unvaccinated, and LeBron has posted on social media questioning the severity of the virus and the response. Plus, LeBron and Irving are friends, which could have sparked LeBron’s terse response (as could the fact he was ready to get out of the arena after a dull preseason game).

A week earlier at media day, LeBron had been kinder when discussing Abdul-Jabbar and chasing his record.

“And you know, obviously Kareem has had his differences, with some of my views and some of the things that I do. But listen, at the end of the day, to be able to be right in the same breath as a guy to wear the same [Lakers] uniform, a guy that was a staple of this franchise along with Magic and Big Game [James Worthy] over there for so many years, especially in the 80s, and a guy that does a lot off the floor as well,” LeBron said. “I think it’s just super duper dope for myself to be even in that conversation.”

Abdul-Jabbar has been more of a public persona in recent years, both around the game of basketball and discussing social justice issues through his writings. The NBA named its new social justice award after him. With that has come new relationships around the league.

One of those is not with LeBron. Will Abdul-Jabbar be in the building when LeBron does break the record?

We’ve got months for this relationship to evolve — if it does — before that big day.

 

Watch Zion Williamson score 13 in return to court for Pelicans

0 Comments

Zion Williamson is back.

He certainly looked in better shape and flashed his insane explosiveness on his way to 13 points and four rebounds in 15 minutes Tuesday night against the Bulls, his first game after missing all of last season following foot surgery.

There was some rust, and the Pelicans are wisely bringing him along slowly and not breaking out the entire playbook for a preseason game, but in the moments we saw Zion looked like he was all the way back.

The questions now are can he sustain it, and how to the Pelicans mesh him with other scoring options in CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram.

And maybe we shouldn’t leave rookie Dyson Daniels off that list, he looked good in his first NBA preseason game.

The Pelicans are one of the most intriguing teams this season, a team that made the playoffs last season with a push after McCollum arrived, and now they add the elite interior scoring and athleticism of Zion to Ingram’s outside shot and slashing, not to mention and a solid core of role players. This team has top six potential if it can get stops. But in a deep West, nothing will be easy.