JJ Redick

Watch Kawhi Leonard’s 39 points spark Clippers rally past Pelicans 133-130

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NEW ORLEANS — Kawhi Leonard scored 39 points and the Los Angeles Clippers rallied to beat the New Orleans Pelicans 133-130 on Saturday.

Lou Williams scored 14 of his 32 points during a dominant fourth quarter for Los Angeles, which outscored the Pelicans 31-20 in the final 12 minutes.

Williams’ 3 with 31.6 seconds left, after Patrick Beverley had rebounded Leonard’s miss, gave the Clippers a 133-127 lead and sent numerous fans toward the exits.

But JJ Redick hit a quick 3, and after Leonard ran down the shot clock and missed a 3, New Orleans had 2.4 seconds to attempt a tying 3 that Redick missed off the back rim.

Montrezl Harrell scored 24 points for the Clippers, who trailed by 10 in the final seconds of the third quarter, but turned a steal into two free throws and then opened the fourth with an 8-0 run to tie it at 110.

After shooting 58.5% (38 of 65) in the first three quarters, the Pelicans made just 8 of 21 shots in the fourth as the game slipped away from them.

Lonzo Ball had 18 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds for the Pelicans, who were seeking their 11th victory in 15 games despite the recent absence of guard Jrue Holiday, who has missed seven games with an elbow injury.

Derrick Favors had 22 points and 11 rebounds for New Orleans, while Brandon Ingram had 21 points and Redick scored 19.

The teams combined for 152 points in a fast-paced first half, during which New Orleans tied a franchise record with 80 points.

Favors made his first seven shots and had 15 of his points in the opening 24 minutes, when the Pelicans shot 63.6%, including 11-of-21 shooting from 3-point range.

Ball hit three 3s in the first half, his last giving the Pelicans an 80-72 lead that stood at halftime.

Leonard has scored at least 30 points in each of his last five games.

Watch Devin Booker drop 44, help Suns hang to beat Pelicans in overtime

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NEW ORLEANS — Devin Booker broke out of a perimeter-shooting slump, scoring 21 of his season-high 44 points in the third quarter, and Ricky Rubio powered the Phoenix Suns with four points and a critical assist in overtime in a 139-132 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday night.

Playing the back end of a back-to-back, Phoenix led by 18 points entering the fourth quarter, but the Pelicans fought back with five 3-pointers, two by the normally scatter-shooting Lonzo Ball, to tie it at 125.

The Pelicans had a chance to win in regulation, but Brandon Ingram missed a 15-foot jumper from the right baseline as time expired.

In overtime, Ingram’s conventional three-point play tied it at 129, but Rubio hit a 12-footer and a scoop in the lane and then added a no-look assist to put the Suns up 135-129. Rubio finished with 15 assists.

New Orleans got to 135-132 on JJ Redick‘s 3-pointer with 56.5 left, but Frank Kaminsky, who had six points in the overtime, iced it with two free throws. Kaminsky finished with 20 points, and Kelly Oubre had 14 points and 15 rebounds.

Booker was just 9 of 31 from long range in his previous five games, but he made 5 of 11 3-pointers, including all three of his attempts in 33-21 third quarter when the Suns built a 105-85 lead.

The Suns led 74-70 at halftime and then took control by opening the third quarter on a 16-3 run. The Pelicans gunned their way back into contention in the fourth quarter, cutting the deficit to 118-113 on JJ Redick’s fourth 3-pointer of the game, but they could not get closer.

New Orleans, which lost its seventh consecutive game, had four players with at least 20 points: Redick with 26, Jrue Holiday with 23, Ingram with 21 and Ball with 20 and 11 assists.

 

Anthony Davis’ 41 quiets boos in New Orleans, leads Lakers to win

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NEW ORLEANS — Anthony Davis capped a 41-point performance in his return to New Orleans by intercepting Jrue Holiday’s inbound pass with 5 seconds left and making a pair of game-sealing free throws, and the Los Angeles Lakers extended their winning streak to nine games with a 114-110 victory over the Pelicans on Wednesday night.

A packed-in and energetic crowd booed Davis during introductions and virtually every time he handled the ball, only to see him and new teammate LeBron James take over the fourth quarter.

James had 29 points and 11 assists, scoring 15 points in the final period, when Kyle Kuzma also added nine of his 16 points to help the Lakers erase a 10-point deficit.

Kuzma gave the Lakers the lead for good when he hit a 3-pointer from the left corner with 1:07 to go, making it 111-109.

New Orleans trimmed it to 111-110 when Josh Hart hit one of two free throws, and after turnover by James as he was swarmed in the paint, JJ Redick had an open look from 3-point range for the lead that rimmed out. The Pelicans were forced to foul Davis, who missed one of two free throws, giving the Pelicans 5 seconds to run a play for the tie or lead. But that’s when Davis sealed it, stepping in front of Brandon Ingram for his third steal.

Holiday had 29 points and 12 assists, and Ingram had 23 points and 10 rebounds for the Pelicans, who dropped their third straight game.

Trailing by as many as 16 in the third quarter, the Lakers began to take control with a 9-0 run to open the fourth, trimming New Orleans’ lead to 89-88. Los Angeles tied the game at 91 on Kuzma’s third 3.

New Orleans briefly went back up by four before Davis, who’d received treatment after banging his right elbow at the end of the third quarter, returned to the game and immediately threw down an alley-oop feed from James.

The Lakers took their first lead since the opening five minutes of the game when James hit a jumper over Ingram, pulling up as the Pelicans forward glanced over his shoulder to see if a screen was being set.

Davis missed his first shot and three of his first four to the delight of the crowd, but still scored 27 points by halftime.

There were moments Davis appeared to drawing fuel from the crowd’s antagonism.

When he hit a put-back while being fouled, he demonstrably mimicked officials’ “count-it-and-one” gesture with his arm extended and index finger pointed angled downward. When he hit a 3 later in the half, he pressed his thumb and forefinger together and extended the other three fingers as he ran back on defense.

Ultimately, Davis executed about every move New Orleans fans knew and loved when he wore the No. 23 in blue, red and gold, from soaring alley-oop dunks to turn-around, baseline fades. Only this time, he wore a gold jersey with a purple No. 3, and it was his misses that drew triumphant roars from the crowd.

The Pelicans appeared buoyed by the partisan energy permeating the arena, going up 38-35 on Holiday’s step-back 3 as the first quarter expired.

New Orleans led 64-54 at halftime, thanks in large part to Holiday’s 10-of-15 shooting to that point, including his 4-of-4 mark from 3-point range. And the Pelicans maintained a double-digit lead until early in the fourth quarter.

Does the East have a better chance of winning the Finals with crowded, deep West?

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The Golden State Warriors will be hampered without Klay Thompson to start the season. The sharpshooting guard is a crucial part of what the Warriors bring to the table sans Kevin Durant, who is now with the Brooklyn Nets. Even with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George with the Los Angeles Clippers, many have considered the Western Conference to be more open for the taking this season. It’s been thought that this makes it more likely the Eastern Conference can field a second consecutive NBA champion.

Leonard’s decampment from the Toronto Raptors has made way for the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics, and Milwaukee Bucks to ascend into the Finals to take on the Western Conference’s best. All of these teams have tried to add pieces with this idea of a wide-open NBA table in mind: The Sixers now have Al Horford, the Celtics Kemba Walker, and Milwaukee a cavalcade of veteran talent including Kyle Korver.

And indeed, the more proven championship-caliber teams are out east. Philadelphia, for all its growing pains and issues arising around Joel Embiid‘s conditioning, added the one player in Horford who was able to put a stop to them. Well, save for Leonard, who put in a bouncing jumper to end the Sixers’ season last year.

That again, Philadelphia is missing two key pieces from last year that we don’t know how they will make up for. JJ Redick is now with the New Orleans Pelicans, and his shooting presence will be missed. Redick made 240 threes last year for the Sixers. Landry Shamet was second on the team with 99. Jimmy Butler is now with the Miami Heat, and his dynamism on the wing will be difficult to replace.

The Celtics and the Bucks have similar issues when looking at their championship resumes. Boston has a glut of wings, although it’s not clear how good any of them are outside of Marcus Smart. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are dueling for future contract extensions. Gordon Hayward didn’t look great last season, and although there is hope he will be his old self this year, we’ll have to wait and actually see it to feel comfortable. That’s before mentioning that Horford is no longer anchoring the paint for the Celtics.

Milwaukee found a hard stop last year when it came to its playoff readiness. The Bucks were not particularly steady in the postseason, and teams were able to plan around Giannis Antetokounmpo and his lack of 3-point shooting. Last season’s MVP has said that his goal is to get better from beyond the arc, and any improvement in 2019-20 would be acceptable. Even despite the team adding Kyle Korver, they will be relying on Wesley Matthews, George Hill, and Pat Connaughton to flesh out the wing. Gone is Malcolm Brogdon to the Indiana Pacers, perhaps their most reliable player in the playoffs.

Put together, all three championship contenders in the Eastern Conference have their issues. But so to do the newly-minted challengers out west. There’s a thought that both of the Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers — who now have Anthony Davis — will show some weakness to start the year. The Clippers will need to use load management on both Leonard and George, the latter of which is still recovering from double shoulder surgery. And although the Clippers were one of the best teams in terms of depth last season, how adding two new stars changes that dynamic is not yet known.

On the other side of the hallway in Los Angeles stands the Lakers, who outside of Davis, LeBron, and Danny Green don’t have much to show for all the bluster around their title hopes. The Lakers roster is flat-out bad, and despite tons of optimism around media types, I’m just not buying that they are a championship-level squad yet. The Lakers have real injury concerns, and until they make it all the way through to the Western Conference Finals, those will always be top-of-mind.

The second-tier in the west is plucky, but not necessarily ready for overt dominance. The Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets, and Portland Trail Blazers, and San Antonio Spurs will all be in the running for the middle of the pack next year. Do any have championship rosters? Some of these teams are top-heavy, including Houston with James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Others, like the Nuggets and Jazz, will rely on their depth. Harden and Nikola Jokic could be legitimate MVP candidates, and that’s a problem in a league where it’s difficult to make it to the Finals without one.

That puts us in a difficult position in terms of “counting out” the Warriors. Thompson has said that he is going to take his time coming back from his ACL injury, but he should be a part of a Warriors playoff run in the spring of 2020. Without Durant, both Stephen Curry and Draymond Green will be extra motivated to prove themselves as the core pieces to the team that dominated the NBA long before Durant came to the Bay Area.

Health will be another concern for Golden State, particularly with Curry and his ankles. Weight, if you can call it a health concern in context of the NBA, is what most will be raising questions about when it comes to Green. He entered the season last year a bit slower, and burned off 20 pounds at the All-Star break to make a playoff run. They will need the former Defensive Player of the Year to come into the preseason already able to do what he did last year: Disrupt opposing offenses and pressure the defense with his pace-pushing offensive style.

For now, at the precipice of the season, it seems clear that the Eastern Conference is the odds-on favorite to repeat as champions. At least, as a group. This isn’t a Tiger vs. the field situation for the Clippers. They just aren’t that strong, and in this case the safer bet would be on one of the Eastern Conference powerhouses instead of just L.A. It’s possible that the Clippers are will be as dominant as projected. In that case, it would be a bitter irony for the East to be subjected to yet another super team on the West Coast just as one appears to have a chink in its armor.

New teams coming together — particularly super teams — have not always had the best track record. Will the Clippers be LeBron James with the Miami Heat in 2008? Or will they be Durant with the Warriors in 2017? Consistency and familiarity cannot be ruled out as a function of success in the NBA. It would be smart for teams in the East to continue to build on their core as long as the teams out west are starting to form theirs. They may only have a short window with which to strike before the Warriors, Clippers, or some other team takes control of the league.

Watch Ben Simmons hit his first ever NBA 3-pointer (VIDEO)

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Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons has taken a total of 19 NBA 3-pointers during the course of his career. Per NBA.com, Simmons has combined to shoot fewer than 20 shots from beyond the arc in all of his preseason, regular season, and postseason appearances thus far.

But now Simmons is a career 1-of-20 from three.

During Tuesday night’s preseason game against the Guangzhou Long-Lions, Simmons ended the first half by giving the fans exactly what they want — a 3-pointer, the first of his career.

It was an ecstatic moment for Sixers fans waiting for Simmons to finally make the leap and become some kind of shooting threat outside of the painted area. Philadelphia really needs Simmons to come into his own and at least develop a jumper at the free-throw line if they want their offense to have some kind of spacing in the absence of JJ Redick.

Is this the first of many Simmons threes to come? Better cross your fingers.