Associated Press

Stephen Curry’s hot hand sends Warriors past Oladipo-less Pacers for 11th in row

3 Comments

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Stephen Curry‘s first-half shooting clinic was virtually flawless.

His championship teammates pitched in, too.

Curry scored 23 of his 26 points in the first half Monday and Golden State ran away with a 132-100 rout at Indiana for its league-leading 11th consecutive victory. The two-time defending champions still aren’t satisfied.

“I feel like we can,” Curry said when asked if the Warriors can get even better. “We’re not playing perfect basketball, by any stretch, but we’re playing consistent, focused basketball and we’re still working out some kinks with rotations and stuff like that.”

It’s a scary thought for the rest of the league, especially after the two-time MVP turned in another head-turning performance.

Curry made his first eight shots and his first six 3-pointers, including a demoralizing 27-foot buzzer-beater that gave the Warriors a 69-48 halftime lead. He finished 10 of 13 from the field with six rebounds, three assists and two steals in just 27 minutes. About the only thing he didn’t do well was celebrate Klay Thompson‘s huge dunk.

DeMarcus Cousins had a season-high 22 points on a night five players scored in double figures and the Warriors had 39 assists.

And all that came on the final leg of a five-game road trip without Draymond Green, who rested, and against the league’s No. 1 scoring defense.

“I was a little worried about this game. Everybody’s anxious to get home,” coach Steve Kerr said. “But we finished off the trip the right way. We’ve been more dialed in the last month than we have all season.”

Golden State has won a league-high 10 consecutive road games and swept a five-game trip for the first time since November 2014.

The Pacers played without All-Star guard Victor Oladipo, who had season-ending surgery on his right knee Monday, and Tyreke Evans, Oladipo’s replacement, because of a sore back. But even at full strength, they may have struggled to weather the Warriors’ flurry.

Indiana gave up a season-high 40 points in the first quarter, and never got closer than 16 after Curry broke a 16-16 tie by scoring eight points to start a decisive 24-6 quarter-closing run en route to its most lopsided loss this season.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that this team is going on the up track,” Pacers guard Darren Collison said. “I think we saw tonight, playing against a team like that, how to execute and we can take something from that.”

Myles Turner scored 16 points and Bojan Bogdanovic had 15 but Indiana lost for the second straight time since Oladipo was injured last week. It was the Pacers’ worst loss this season.

Victor Oladipo says he’s going to ‘come back even better than before’

1 Comment

Victor Oladipo is in for a tough go of it. The Indiana Pacers star has suffered a ruptured quadriceps tendon, and will be out for an indeterminate amount of time.

It’s a tough loss or the Pacers, who are currently in the thick of the playoff standings in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, it’s an injury for Oladipo that doesn’t have a rosy outlook and casts a shadow of doubt around whether he will be able to return to his prior form.

Oladipo is in the throes of battling with his injury emotionally, but took time to post to his Instagram on Saturday about his support from fans. In a long note, Oladipo said that he was inspired to come back even stronger than before.

Via Twitter:

View this post on Instagram

I can’t even lie the last few months have been really tough for not only me but for my family as well. You give it your all, literally your blood, sweat and tears to the game you love and things like this happen. No matter how much hard work and effort you put into perfecting your craft you cannot predict the challenges you’ll face ahead. But there is always that point in time where you wonder why it’s happening to you. You even wonder if there was something you could have done differently to prevent the outcome. The confusion, the contemplation, the anger, the sadness and the tears that flow frequently come, but they never last. The amount of support, love and prayers that I have received over the past few days have been breathtaking and has truly inspired me to come back even better than before. Thank you to everyone including all my teammates, pacer fans and staff. Thank you to all the NBA fans around the world and all my brothers around the league who texted, called, tweeted and posted me I am truly thankful. It’s going to be tough but tough times don’t last tough people do. It’s time for me to truly practice what I preach and trust my God in heaven and the plan he has for me. I will be back better than ever and if you question that well, thank you. Greater is he that is in me than he that is in the world! I am #UnBreakable.

A post shared by Victor Oladipo (@vicoladipo) on

The Pacers are currently third in the Eastern Conference, and still have a great team attack including Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner, Bojan Bogdanovic, Thaddeus Young, and Tyreke Evans. They have already dealt with not having Oladipo on the floor for parts of the season, but the feel-good story that Indiana played in the playoffs last year might not be set for a repeat showing after Oladipo is injury.

Hopefully he has his spirits up as he has a lot of work to do ahead of him.

Pacers: Victor Oladipo out for rest of season with ruptured quad tendon

3 Comments

Unfortunately, Victor Oladipo‘s injury was as bad as it looked.

Pacers release:

Victor Oladipo underwent an MRI Thursday that revealed he has a ruptured quad tendon in his right knee, sustained with 4:05 to play in the second quarter of Wednesday night’s game against Toronto. He will undergo surgery at a date to be determined and will be out for the season.

This is devastating. The Pacers lose their top player in a season they appeared capable of beating anyone in the Eastern Conference. And Oladipo must recover from a major setback that threatens his explosiveness long-term.

Third-place Indiana still has a seven-game buffer over sixth place in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers should still make the playoffs and get at least a first-round matchup with whatever of the Raptors, Bucks, Celtics and 76ers finishes with the worst record.

Indiana has played slightly better without Oladipo this season, but that’s with Oladipo being their go-to player in the highest-leverage situations. Make no mistake: The Pacers are far worse without Oladipo.

Now, Indiana must assess its roster before the trade deadline. Look for reinforcement to remain as competitive as possible without Oladipo? Stand pat and let Tyreke Evans, Bojan Bogdanovic, Darren Collison and Cory Joseph assume larger roles? Accept reduced expectations and sell (especially players on expiring contracts like Thaddeus Young, Bogdanovic, Collison, Joseph and Evans)? There are no easy answers.

It won’t be easy for Oladipo, either. But he’s a hard worker and great competitor. Everyone will be rooting for him on his long road back.

On Basketball: International stars leaving mark on NBA

Getty Images
Leave a comment

ASSOCIATED PRESS — Go back to the 1999-2000 NBA season, and there were only two foreign-born players in the NBA who averaged 15 points per game: Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan.

This season, there are 24 names on that list – by far the most in league history.

The NBA international imprint just keeps getting bigger, providing the sort of transformative impact the likes of which the league probably hasn’t seen since the ABA merger.

One of the MVP front-runners at this point is Greece’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, who has led Milwaukee to the NBA’s best record entering Wednesday. Dallas’ Luka Doncic looks like an overwhelming favorite to become the first Slovenian rookie of the year. Cameroon’s Joel Embiid might be the dominant big man in the league, and keeps getting better for Philadelphia.

These aren’t just some guys taking up roster spots, either.

These are franchise players. At least one-third of the league’s teams have a foreign-born player who would classify as its best, or at least its most important.

“It’s been fun to watch over the last two decades, where the game started internationally and where it is now,” said Dirk Nowitzki, the German who became the biggest star in Dallas Mavericks’ history. “I think the game has grown globally, China, Australia, Africa, Europe, South America. I think we’ve got 150 international players in the league or more. It’s been fun to watch.”

Just take a peek at Tuesday’s boxscores to see the impact.

– There were six guys with 12 or more rebounds, five of them born outside the U.S.

– There were six guys with seven or more assists, all of them born outside the U.S.

– There were four guys with three or more blocks, all of them born outside the U.S.

Nikola Jokic had 19 points, 14 rebounds and 15 assists for Denver, and it might not have even been his best game of the season. Jokic is Serbian – and represents how the game is played today. He’s a 7-footer. Big, fast and skilled. He’s going to be a problem for teams for a long time, and is the biggest reason why the Nuggets entered Wednesday atop the Western Conference.

The NBA has utilized a `USA vs. The World’ format in what used to be called the rookie game at All-Star weekend since 2014, and maybe it’s time to think about doing something like that in the varsity matchup as well.

Think about this possibility: Antetokounmpo, Doncic, Embiid, Jokic and Ben Simmons starting. Select Rudy Gobert, Clint Capela and Nikola Vucevic as the backup big men. Ricky Rubio, Danilo Gallinari, Buddy Hield and Bojan Bogdanovic as backup guards and wings. Jamal Murray, Jonas Valanciunas and Boban Marjanovic would be snubbed on this 12-man mythical roster.

And that scenario even has Australian-born Kyrie Irving playing for the U.S. side in this made-up game.

The U.S. team led by LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis would probably still win. But it might be worth the NBA taking a look at this sort of format before too long.

“You’ve got guys coming from everywhere and anybody now in the world, you know if you work hard you can come play in the NBA,” said Charlotte’s Tony Parker, who was born in Belgium.

There’s a myriad of theories on why this is happening.

The one that makes the most sense is that the game is basically beamed in real time right now to every phone in the world. Young players like Doncic can see fellow Europeans succeed in the NBA while oohing and aahing over their basketball heroes – and for the Mavericks rookie, it was LeBron. Embiid went slightly more old school, saying his favorite all-timer is former MVP Hakeem Olajuwon. Antetokounmpo modeled some of his game after Scottie Pippen.

The seeds have been planted over these last 20 years.

It was only a matter of time before they bore this sort of fruit.

“We just know what this game is about,” Doncic said of the young foreign cluster of stars. “I don’t know if people think international players aren’t that good, but I think we showed up.”

Three Things to Know: Rockets drain record 26 threes, have turned season around… kinda

Getty Images
1 Comment

Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Houston knocks down NBA record 26 three-pointers in fifth straight win. They have turned things around… kinda. Wednesday night’s win against Washington in a lot of ways looked like the last four games for Houston: James Harden went off (35 points), the Rockets defense was good enough, and that meant a win.

What was different: Houston set an NBA single-game record hitting 26 threes (on 55 shot attempts).

Washington’s defense was atrocious. The Rockets took 85 total shots in the game, 60 of them were uncontested (using the NBA’s Second Spectrum data, which is imperfect but validates the point about the Wizards’ defensive effort). That doesn’t invalidate what the Rockets did, just pointing out that Washington made it all possible.

Not every fan will love that Houston took 64.7 percent of their shots from three, but that’s what the Rockets should do if Washington isn’t going to run them off the line. Which the Wizards did not.

That’s five straight wins for the Rockets, who are now 16-14 and would be the seven seed if the playoffs started today.

Have the Rockets turned their season around? Well, kinda. They have fought their way back into playoff positioning and the combination we’ve seen in this win streak — MVP-level play from James Harden sparking an elite offense, with the defense being average and that’s good enough — can keep them in the playoffs in the West. But that was not the goal in Houston — the Rockets want to be contenders. This is a team that was up on the Warriors at halftime of Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals last season, they want to be a team that can take that next step. They want to be a threat to win it all, and even this improved Rockets team is not that yet. The defense is better but not good enough. They lack the depth needed on the wing (GM Daryl Morey is trying to fix that heading into the trade deadline).

So yes, the Rockets are better. But they are not where they wanted to be this season, not even close.

2) Foreshadowing? Shorthanded Raptors show mettle in comeback win against Pacers, while Celtics lose to Suns. The conventional wisdom around the league about the East right now is that it will come down to Toronto and Boston. Maybe the Bucks can crack into that group (they are right there, but there are defensive questions in a playoff matchup), and after those three it’s half a step back to the Sixers (as currently constructed without enough depth) and the Pacers.

Boston has work to do to live up to that faith in them.

The Celtics had racked up eight wins in a row against a softer part of the schedule but now has dropped two straight, one to the Pistons and one Wednesday night at home to the lowly Suns. A game where the hated-in-Boston Kelly Oubre returned, was booed, then stuck a dagger in the Celtics and blew kisses to the crowd.

Was that Celtics’ win streak a mirage? We’ll get a good measuring stick in the next week: Friday they host the Bucks, Christmas Day they host the Sixers, then the Celtics hit the road to take on the Rockets and Grizzlies. The schedule is getting tougher, is Boston up to it?

Toronto, on the other hand, is doing what elite teams do — finding ways to win, even key players out.

No Kyle Lowry. No Serge Ibaka. And the Pacers were in control, up 17 (77-60) with five minutes to go in the third. Then Kawhi Leonard led the way (scoring 11 of his 28 on the night in this stretch) and the Raptors closed out the game on a 39-19 run over the final 17 minutes to get the win. Fred VanVleet knocked down the shot that gave Toronto the lead for good.

I hear you Pacers fans: That was a bad call at the end of the game. The Pacers needed a three to tie, got the ball to Bojan Bogdanovic beyond the arc and OG Anunoby reached in and fouled him as Bogdanovic started to go up. Unquestionably. But that’s not why the Pacers lost the game — blow a 17 point lead in the final 17 minutes and you don’t get to put the blame on the officials for one call. The Pacers deserved to lose that game the way they played down the stretch.

3) Derrick Rose is back and fun to watch. Savor this. I’ll admit it: I thought he was washed. So many seasons of watching Derrick Rose struggle after his knee injuries, watching his struggle with the craft of his game once he was robbed of his explosiveness, had me thinking he was done.

Rose is back — averaging 19 points a game, knocking down threes better than he ever has (46.9 percent on 3.3 attempts per game), getting to the rim, managing games, being efficient (his 58 true shooting percentage would be a career high), and he’s just flat-out fun to watch right now.

Monday night he dropped 33 for the Timberwolves in an eventual loss to the Pistons.

Rose is a Sixth Man of the Year candidate this season and he is all the way back. At age 30, he’s not the same player he was in his early 20s in Chicago, he’s something else entirely. Rose has reinvented himself, and it’s beautiful to watch.

Savor this while we can. Rose is having a redemptive season, showing how hard work and belief in yourself can pay off, and it is one of the best stories in the NBA this season.