Italy uses 16-2 fourth-quarter run to oust Jokic, Serbia from EuroBasket

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BERLIN — Italy opened the fourth quarter on a 16-2 run to take control and ousted previously unbeaten Serbia — and two-time reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic — with an upset victory, 94-86.

Marco Spissu scored 22 points and Nicolo Melli added 21 for Italy, which got 19 from Simone Fontecchio and 16 from Achille Polonara.

Jokic led all scorers with 32 points for Serbia, plus he added 13 rebounds. He made 8 of 14 shots from the field; his teammates combined to shoot 18 for 47 (38%).

Italy will play France in a quarterfinal game on Wednesday.

POLAND 94, UKRAINE 86

Ukraine’s run at EuroBasket is over.

A.J. Slaughter scored 24 points, Mateusz Ponitka added 22 and Poland ousted Ukraine from the European championships with a 94-86 victory on Sunday.

Aleksander Balcerowski scored 14 and Michal Sokolowski had 13 for Poland, which finished the game on a 20-10 run and now will face Luka Doncic and defending EuroBasket champion Slovenia in a quarterfinal game on Wednesday.

And with that, the summer schedule for Ukraine’s national team came to a sudden end. The team played and trained in several countries around Europe throughout the summer but couldn’t gather in its own because of the ongoing war prompted by Russia’s invasion in February.

Games have been aired throughout Ukraine during EuroBasket, and players said they know their run in the tournament lifted some spirits.

“I hope it inspires and helps them a lot, just to get their thoughts off the war a little bit and just watch us play,” Svi Mykhailiuk said. “Obviously, today was not a great example of us playing, but this whole time, we did our best. I hope they enjoyed it. Obviously, it’s tough for everybody because all the guys’ families are still there and it’s tough having to be here. But I appreciate everyone being here. I appreciate everyone fighting.”

Vyacheslav Bobrov led Ukraine with 15 points. Artem Pustovyi and Issuf Sanon scored 13 apiece, Mykhailiuk had 12 and Ivan Tkachenko finished with 10.

Neither team ever led by more than nine in a game that featured 12 lead changes and 11 ties.

“It was tough, but we did what we did,” Mykhailiuk said. “I think we did more than everybody expected us to do.”

FINLAND 94, CROATIA 86

Lauri Markkanen scored 43 points, and Finland is now assured of its best EuroBasket result in 55 years.

Shawn Huff’s 3-pointer with 4:25 left put Finland ahead to stay, Markkanen’s layup capped a 10-0 game-deciding run and Finland topped Croatia for its first EuroBasket quarterfinals berth since 1967.

Finland will play Spain on Tuesday, seeking its first semifinals berth at the European championships in 17 appearances.

Markkanen made 19 of 29 shots from the field, scoring 26 of his points in the second half. He also had nine rebounds for Finland, which got 17 points from Sasu Salin and 16 from Edon Maxhuni.

The 43 points ties Markkanen for the eighth-highest scoring performance in EuroBasket history and the best by a Finnish player.

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 23 points for Croatia, which got 17 from Jaleen Smith, 12 from Dario Saric and 11 apiece from Krunoslav Simon and Karlo Matkovic.

GREECE 94, CZECH REPUBLIC 88

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 27 points and 10 rebounds, and Greece moved into a quarterfinal matchup with host Germany by beating the Czech Republic.

Antetokounmpo’s 3-pointer with 31 seconds left sealed matters for Greece, which got 14 points from Nick Calathes, 13 from Ioannis Papapetrou and 10 from Kostal Sloukas.

It was the fourth and final game of the day — a mathematically odd day in Berlin, where all four winners scored exactly 94 points. The four losing scores: 86, 86, 86 and 88.

Jan Vesely had 21 points on 10-for-13 shooting for the Czech Republic, which got 17 from Vojtech Hruban, 12 apiece from Ondrej Balvin and Patrik Auda, and 11 from Jaromir Bohacik.

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.