Giannis Antetokounmpo scores 41 for Greece in star-studded EuroBasket Tuesday

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MILAN — The stars showed up at EuroBasket on Tuesday in a big way.

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 41 points in 27 minutes for Greece, Luka Doncic had 36 points for Slovenia and two-time reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic scored 29 points for Serbia – three of the world’s best players all leading their teams to big group-stage wins at the European championships.

There’s one more group-stage game left for each to play, and then a trip to Berlin awaits since Greece, Slovenia and Serbia have all clinched spots in the 16-team knockout round that begins Saturday.

Antetokounmpo’s point total was the most in a EuroBasket game since Dirk Nowitzki had 43 for Germany in 2001. And when he heard that stat, all Antetokounmpo did was nod.

“I try not to rate my performance,” Antetokounmpo said. “I just try to go out there and have fun as much as possible, try to focus as much as I can on what I can control, try to bring energy any way possible. … But I’ll say this: I think this is one of the years where I feel very, very excited to go out there on the court and play with my teammates.”

As Antetokounmpo did, Doncic also deflected credit after the game. Told that Germany’s postgame reaction was “Luka Doncic happened,” Doncic replied by saying “Slovenia happened.”

“The whole team was ready,” Doncic said. “Everybody who stepped on the court was fighting, whether they played one minute or 30. I’m really proud of this team.”

Doncic was asked after the game if he or Antetokounmpo was in a better position to break the EuroBasket single-game scoring record.

Doncic didn’t hesitate with his answer: He picked Antetokounmpo.

“I would bet on Giannis,” Doncic said. “Why? Because he’s Giannis Antetokounmpo.”

GROUP C

GREECE 99, UKRAINE 79

At Milan, Antetokounmpo simply overpowered Ukraine and ensured that Greece would finish atop its group.

Antetokounmpo – who got Monday off to rest – had his 41 points and nine rebounds in just 27 minutes to lead Greece (4-0).

He was 13 for 18 from the floor, 15 for 18 from the foul line.

“It was very easy to prepare the team because it is absolutely clear what Greece does when Giannis is out there,” Ukraine coach Ainars Bagatskis said. “They play really aggressive basketball. And if you don’t put against them the same aggressiveness, even higher aggressiveness, then you have big problems.”

Nick Calathes and Tyler Dorsey had 13 apiece for Greece.

Issuf Sanon and Svi Mykhailiuk each scored 16 for Ukraine (3-1), while Alex Len and Illya Sydorov added 10 apiece. Ukraine led by seven at the half, before Greece won the third quarter 32-11.

ESTONIA 94, GREAT BRITAIN 62

Henri Drell scored 20 points, Siim-Sander Vene added 18 and Estonia had no trouble on the way to its first win of the tournament.

Maik-Kalev Kotsar scored 15, Kristjan Kitsing added 14 and Janari Joesaar finished with 11 for Estonia (1-3).

Myles Hesson scored 14 for Great Britain (0-4), with Carl Wheatie and Patrick Whelan each scoring 12.

ITALY 81, CROATIA 76

Simone Fontecchio and Nicolo Melli each scored 19 points to lead Italy (2-2).

Bojan Bogdanovic led Croatia (2-2) with 27 points, while Ivica Zubac scored 13 and Dario Saric added 10.

Both teams are headed to the knockout round.

GROUP B

SLOVENIA 88, GERMANY 80

At Cologne, Germany, Doncic’s 36 points came with him making 14 of 25 shots. He also had 10 rebounds for Slovenia (3-1).

Goran Dragic scored 18 points and Mike Tobey added 10 for Slovenia.

“We showed what we are made of,” Dragic said.

Dennis Schroder scored 19 points, Andreas Obst had 14 and Maodo Lo added 13 for Germany (3-1).

LITHUANIA 87, HUNGARY 64

Lithuanian basketball is known for a lot of things, including passionate fans.

They go everywhere to cheer for their national team. And Tuesday, they even cheered for France – for good reason.

Lithuania topped Hungary and that, combined with France’s win over Bosnia and Herzegovina, means the last qualifying spot out of Group B is still unclaimed. It’ll be decided Wednesday when Lithuania plays Bosnia and Herzegovina, the winner moving on to Berlin and a round-of-16 game, the loser heading home eliminated.

“Lithuanian fans are the best,” France guard Evan Fournier said.

If France had lost Tuesday, Lithuania would have been eliminated. Instead, those Lithuanian fans serenaded the French with cries of “Merci!” for keeping their national team’s hopes alive.

“It feels amazing,” Lithuania forward Domatas Sabonis said. “They travel to every championship to support us. It’s sad we couldn’t give them a win over the weekend, but we’re glad we could give them one today and the goal is to give them another one tomorrow.”

Jonas Valanciunas scored 21 points on 10-of-13 shooting and Sabonis added 19 for Lithuania (1-3).

Marius Grigonis had 15 points and Rokas Jokubaitis added 10 for Lithuania. Zoltan Perl scored 16 for Hungary (0-4), while David Vojvoda and Rosco Allen each finished with 10.

FRANCE 81, BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA 68

Thomas Heurtel’s 3-pointer with 5:49 left put France ahead to stay and started a game-ending 22-7 run for the winners, who were already assured of a spot in the round of 16.

Guerschon Yabusele scored 15 for France (3-1), while Heurtel and Fournier each had 14 and Rudy Gobert posted an 11-point, 12-rebound performance.

Jusuf Nurkic, Miralem Halilovic and Dzanan Musa all had 14 for Bosnia and Herzegovina (2-2), while John Roberson had 13 and Edin Atic finished with 10.

GROUP A

TURKEY 78, BELGIUM 63

At Tbilisi, Georgia, Alperen Sengun scored 24 points, Furkan Korkmaz had 16 and Turkey (3-1) remained tied atop Group A.

Ercan Osmani added 12 for Turkey.

Haris Bratanovic scored 15 for Belgium (2-2) and Hans Vanwijn scored 11.

SPAIN 82, MONTENEGRO 65

Spain (3-1) clinched its berth in the round of 16, with Dario Brizuela leading the way with 18 points.

Willy Hernangomez scored 14 for Spain, while Jaime Pradilla and Lorenzo Brown added 12 apiece.

Vladimir Mihailovic scored 18 for Montenegro (2-2), which got 11 from Marko Simonovic and 10 from Kendrick Perry.

BULGARIA 92, GEORGIA 80

Dee Bost had 33 points and 12 assists, Aleksandar Vezenkov finished with 28 points and 14 rebounds, and Bulgaria kept its hopes alive.

Pavlin Ivanov scored 17 for Bulgaria (1-3).

Goga Bitadze scored 21 for Georgia (1-3), while Thaddus McFadden had 19, Alexander Mamukelashvili scored 13, and Giorgi Shermadini and Duda Sanadze scored 10 apiece.

GROUP D

SERBIA 89, ISRAEL 78

At Prague, Jokic was 11 of 13 from the floor and also grabbed 11 rebounds for Serbia (4-0), while Vasilije Micic added 19.

Nikola Kalinic and Ognjen Jaramaz each scored 10 for Serbia.

Yam Madar scored 20 for Israel (2-2), while Deni Avdija had 14 and Roman Sorkin added 11.

POLAND 75, NETHERLANDS 69

Poland was down by 13 in the third quarter before closing the game on a 39-20 run to tune up for its knockout-stage appearance.

Michal Sokolowski scored 24 for Poland (3-1), which got 16 from Aleksander Balcerowski and 10 from Jakub Garbacz.

Charlon Kloof led the Netherlands (0-4) with 26, and Yannick Franke scored 13.

FINLAND 98, CZECH REPUBLIC 88

Lauri Markkanen continued his strong tournament with 34 points and 10 rebounds, and Finland clinched its berth in the round of 16.

Sasu Salin scored 23 and Petteri Koponen added 14 for Finland, with Elias Valtonen finishing with 11.

Vojtech Hruban scored 22 for the Czech Republic, with Jan Vesely adding 15 and Patrik Auda and Jaromir Bohacik scoring 13 apiece. The Czechs play Israel on Thursday and, according to FIBA, could reach the knockout stage with a win.

Pelican’s Green says Zion ‘dominated the scrimmage pretty much’

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The Zion hype train keeps right on rolling. First were the reports he was in the best shape of his life, then he walked into media day and it looked like he is.

Now Zion has his own hype man in Pelicans coach Willie Green, who said he dominated the first day of team scrimmages. Via Andre Lopez of ESPN.

“Z looked amazing,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said on Wednesday afternoon. “His strength, his speed. He dominated the scrimmage pretty much.”

“What stood out was his force more than anything,” Green said. “He got down the floor quickly. When he caught the ball, he made quick decisions. Whether it was scoring, finding a teammate. It was really impressive to see.”

Reach for the salt shaker to take all this with — it’s training camp scrimmages. Maybe Zion is playing that well right now — he’s fully capable, he was almost an All-NBA player in 2020-21 (eighth in forward voting) before his foot injury — but we need to see it against other teams. In games that matter. Then we’ll need to see it over a stretch of time.

If Zion can stay healthy this season, if his conditioning is where everyone says it is, he could be in for a monster season. Combine that with CJ McCollum, Brandon Ingram and a strong supporting cast in New Orleans, and the Pelicans could surprise a lot of people — and be fun to watch.

 

PBT Podcast: What’s next for Celtics, Suns? Should NBA end one-and-done?

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NBA training camps just opened and teams have yet to play a preseason game, but already two contenders are dealing with problems.

The Celtics have the suspension of coach Ime Udoka as a distraction, plus defensive anchor center Robert Williams will miss at least the start of the season following another knee surgery.

The Suns have the distraction of a suspended owner who is selling the team, plus Jae Crowder is out and demanding a trade, and Deandre Ayton does not seem happy.

Corey Robinson of NBC Sports and myself go through all the training camp news, including the wilder ones with the Lakers and Nets, breaking down what to take away from all that — plus how good Zion Williamson and James Harden look physically.

Then the pair discusses the potential of the NBA doing away with the one-and-done role and letting 18-year-olds back in the game — is that good for the NBA?

You can always watch the video of some of the podcast above, or listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

Report: Price tag on Phoenix Suns could be more than $3 billion

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Six
Harry How/Getty Images
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In 2004, Robert Sarver bought the Phoenix Suns for a then-record $401 million.

When Sarver sells the team now — pushed to do so following the backlash prompted by an NBA report that found an 18-year pattern of bigotry, misogyny, and a toxic workplace — he is going to make a massive profit.

The value of the Suns now is at $3 billion or higher, reports Ramona Shelburne and Baxter Holmes of ESPN.

There will be no shortage of bidders for the team, with league sources predicting a franchise valuation of more than $3 billion now that revenue has rebounded following the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and with a new television rights deal and CBA on the horizon. Sarver purchased the team for just over $400 million in 2004.

Saver currently owns 35% of the Suns (the largest share), but reports say his role as managing partner allows him to sell the entire team (the minority owners have to comply, although they would make a healthy profit, too). Sarver also decides who to sell the team to, not the NBA or other owners.

Early rumors of buyers have included Larry Ellison (founder of Oracle), Bob Iger (former Disney CEO), Laurene Powell Jobs (widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, she has a 20% share of the Washington Wizards), and others. There have been no reports of talks yet, and Sarver does not need to be on a rushed timeline.

Meanwhile, a contending Suns team tries to focus on the season despite the owner selling the team, Jae Crowder not being in training camp and pushing for a trade, and Deandre Ayton does not sound happy to be back with the Suns.

Steve Nash on his relationship with Kevin Durant: ‘We’re good’

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In an effort to gain leverage for a trade this offseason, Kevin Durant threw down a “either the coach and GM are gone or I am” ultimatum.

Now coach Steve Nash (and GM Sean Marks) are back in Brooklyn, on the same team and trying to build a contender together. Awkward? Not if you ask Nash, which is what Nick Friedell of ESPN did.

“We’re fine,” Nash said after the Nets’ first official practice of the season on Tuesday. “We’re good. Ever since we talked, it’s been like nothing’s changed. I have a long history with Kevin. I love the guy. Families have issues. We had a moment and it’s behind us. That’s what happens. It’s a common situation in the league.

“We all were hurting, seething, to go through what we went through last year, not being able to overcome all that adversity. Sometimes you lose perspective because you expect to win, but the reality is we were able to talk and discuss what we can improve on from last year. And also keep perspective. We went through a ton of stuff.”

First off, what else was Nash going to say? He knows the power dynamic in the NBA, and Durant has far more leverage than he does — not enough to get Nash fired this summer, but still more than the coach.

Second, Nash could be telling the truth from his perspective. NBA players and coaches understand better than anyone this is a business and things are rarely personal. Grudges are not held like fans think they are (most of the time). Nash saw Durant’s move for what it was — an effort to create pressure — and can intellectually shrug it off, reach out to KD and talk about the future.

What this brings into question was one of the Nets’ biggest issues last season — mental toughness and togetherness. Do the Nets have the will to fight through adversity and win as a team? Individually Durant, Kyrie Irving, Nash and others have shown that toughness in the past, but as a team it was not that hard to break the will of the Nets last season. Are their relationships strong enough, is their will strong enough this season?

It feels like we will find out early. If the wheels come off the Nets’ season, it feels like it will happen early and by Christmas things could be a full-on dumpster fire. Or maybe Nash is right and they are stronger than we think.