Luka Doncic’s 47-point day highlights wild Wednesday at EuroBasket

France v Slovenia: Group B - FIBA EuroBasket 2022
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COLOGNE, Germany — Luka Doncic was asked Tuesday about whether he or Greece’s Giannis Antetokounmpo had the better chance of setting a EuroBasket scoring record.

Doncic quickly picked Antetokounmpo.

A day later, he might have proved himself wrong.

Doncic scored 47 points – the second-most by anyone in the history of the European championships – and led Slovenia past France 88-82 on Wednesday for the top seed out of Group B going into this weekend’s start of the knockout round.

“Luka, obviously, is a fantastic player,” said France center Rudy Gobert, one of the world’s top defenders.

Doncic had 27 of Slovenia’s first 36 points, made 15 of 23 shots from the field, plus had team highs of seven rebounds and five assists.

Eddy Terrace had 63 points for Belgium against Albania in 1957. That’s the only EuroBasket performance in which someone had more points than Doncic did on Wednesday; the previous second-best effort was 46 by Greece’s Nikos Galis against Sweden in 1983.

The most in this year’s EuroBasket, entering Wednesday, was Antetokounmpo scoring 41 on Ukraine.

Goran Dragic broke a tie with a layup with 1:20 left that put Slovenia (4-1) ahead for good. It was a measure of payback for Slovenia, which lost to France in the Olympic semifinals at the Tokyo Games last summer.

“Luka had a great night,” Slovenia coach Aleksander Sekulic said. “He spoils us so much. We think this is normal. This is not normal.”

Dragic had 14 for Slovenia. Gobert had 19 for France (3-2), which got 15 from Evan Fournier, 13 from Amath M’Baye, 11 from Elie Okobo and a 10-point, 10-rebound effort from Thomas Heurtel.

Wednesday started the final round of group play. There are four groups with six teams in each, and the top four clubs in each group – 16 teams in all – move on to Berlin for the knockout phase that starts Saturday.

GROUP B

LITHUANIA 87, BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA 70

Lithuania is going to the knockout stage of EuroBasket.

Marius Grigonis scored 16 points, Jonas Valanciunas finished with 13 points and 15 rebounds, and Lithuania topped Bosnia and Herzegovina – a winner-take-all game in terms of which club would move out of Group B and into the round of 16.

Arnas Butkevicius and Ignas Brazdeikis each scored 13 points, and Domantas Sabonis added 12 for Lithuania, which survived a second consecutive must-win game.

Dzanan Musa led all scorers with 22 points for Bosnia and Herzegovina (2-3), while Jusuf Nurkic added 15.

A 30-10 run spanning the second and third quarters was the key for Lithuania (2-3). The game was tied at 32 before the spurt gave Lithuania a 62-42 lead early in the third quarter.

GERMANY 106, HUNGARY 71

Christian Sengfelder scored 22 points, Maodo Lo added 21 and Germany (4-1) tuned up for the trip from Cologne to Berlin with an easy victory over Hungary (0-5).

Niels Giffey scored 19, Andreas Obst scored 16 and Franz Wagner had 15 points in just 12 minutes for Germany.

Zoltan Perl led Hungary with 15 points, while Szilard Benke had 13, Adam Somogyi scored 11 and David Vojvoda finished with 10.

GROUP A

SPAIN 72, TURKEY 69

At Tbilisi, Georgia, Lorenzo Brown’s jumper with 2:11 left put Spain (4-1) ahead to stay in its group-clinching win over Turkey (3-2).

Willy Hernangomez led Spain with 15 points, and Brown finished with 11. Spain will meet Lithuania in the round of 16 this weekend.

Cedi Osman scored 20 for Turkey, while Furkan Korkmaz finished with 16 and Alperen Sengun added 14. Turkey will play in the knockout round as well.

BELGIUM 89, BULGARIA 80

Belgium (3-2) ensured it would reach the group stage, with Retin Obasohan scoring 25 points and Manu Lecomte adding 20.

Maxime De Zeeuw scored 13 for Belgium.

Aleksandar Vezenkov had 26 points and 13 rebounds and Dee Bost scored 18 for Bulgaria (1-4), which was eliminated.

MONTENEGRO 81, GEORGIA 73

Montenegro (3-2) claimed the last qualifying spot out of Group A, topping Georgia (1-4) behind 22 points from Igor Drobnjak and 17 from Kendrick Perry.

Bojan Dubljevic added 10 for Montenegro.

For Georgia, Thaddus McFadden scored 16, Alexander Mamukelashvili had 15, while Duda Sanadze and Giorgi Shermadini scored 14 apiece.

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
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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.