NBA

Luka Doncic leads Mavericks past Pelicans with triple-double

By Sports Desk October 26, 2019

The Dallas Mavericks improved to 2-0 on Friday as they defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 123-116 thanks to the continued excellence of Luka Doncic.

Last year's Rookie of the Year notched his ninth career triple-double with 25 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. No player in NBA history has recorded more career triple-doubles before the age of 21.

Doncic and the Mavericks trailed by 14 at the end of the first quarter, but he piled it on in the final three and sank some tough shots en route to the win.

Kristaps Porzingis also had a strong showing for Dallas with 24 points and an impressive five blocks.

The Pelicans were led by Brandon Ingram's 25 points while Lonzo Ball, Derrick Favors, Josh Hart and Frank Jackson also reached double-figures.

Dallas have playoff aspirations this year in a loaded Western Conference while New Orleans (0-2) have lost two close games and are looking to figure things out with their new group.

  KAT goes big for second consecutive game

Karl-Anthony Towns had 37 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists in the Minnesota Timberwolves' 121-99 win against the Charlotte Hornets.

Damian Lillard tallied 35 points, five rebounds, and five assists as the Portland Trail Blazers topped the Sacramento Kings 122-112.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 28 points in the Oklahoma City Thunder's 97-85 loss to the Washington Wizards.

  Jrue continues slow start

Jrue Holiday made two of his 11 shot attempts against Dallas and finished with eight points.

The Denver Nuggets' Monte Morris missed all six of his shot attempts against the Phoenix Suns and was held scoreless in his team's 108-107 win.

  Dame still has range

Damian Lillard scored 35 points on three from seven shooting from outside the arc.

 

Friday's results

Toronto Raptors 106-112 Boston Celtics
Minnesota Timberwolves 121-99 Charlotte Hornets
New York Knicks 109-113 Brooklyn Nets
Chicago Bulls 110-102 Memphis Grizzlies
Dallas Mavericks 123-116 New Orleans Pelicans
Washington Wizards 97-85 Oklahoma City Thunder
Phoenix Suns 107-108 Denver Nuggets
Portland Trail Blazers 122-112 Sacramento Kings
Utah Jazz 86-95 Los Angeles Lakers

Magic at Hawks

These two up-and-coming teams in the Eastern Conference are loaded with young talent. Trae Young and company will face an Orlando Magic team that made the playoffs last year and now have a budding Markelle Fultz at their disposal. It should make for a fun contest.

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  • Celtics' argument after Game 2 was 'electrifying', says Smart Celtics' argument after Game 2 was 'electrifying', says Smart

    Marcus Smart described the Boston Celtics' argument after their Game 2 loss to the Miami Heat as "electrifying".

    Smart reportedly exploded at his team-mates after the Celtics suffered a 106-101 loss to the Heat to fall 2-0 behind in the Eastern Conference finals last week.

    Boston responded on Saturday, recording a 117-106 victory to cut Miami's series lead in half.

    Smart said what happened in the Celtics' locker room was normal for a "family".

    "Electrifying, what happened in the locker room," he told reporters on Monday.

    "We're a family. Family fights all the time. I fight with my brothers all the time. But at the end of the day, we can fight with each other, nobody else can. You know, it happens between families, especially a family like ours who's been together for so long. It's going to happen.

    "We've got a lot of guys who we've played with their feelings on their sleeves, play with their heart on their sleeves, play with their heart night in, night out, and we weren't supposed to be happy down 2-0, especially those two games that we gave up. We're playing a great Miami team and we can't have lapses like that.

    "Of course emotions are going to fly, but like I said, we're a family and that happens."

    The Celtics are aiming to reach the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010, and face Miami in Game 4 on Wednesday.

    Smart said the incident in the locker room showed to him the love within the Celtics.

    "I knew what type of guys we were. I knew what type of team we had. I knew we were emotional. I knew we were passionate, and I knew we all loved each other," he said.

    "But I also learned a lot of – not just myself but a lot of my team-mates, we also grew up even more through that adversity.

    "I've always been saying that before you see the rainbow it has to storm. For us that was a storm that we had to go through. We found our happy place. Like I said, families fight, but for us to be able to respond like we did and to be able to have that growth, it shows a lot."

  • Giannis' shooting woes as Milwaukee fall short again – Bucks season review in STATS data Giannis' shooting woes as Milwaukee fall short again – Bucks season review in STATS data

    Another season and another missed opportunity for the Milwaukee Bucks.

    Prior to the season shutting down in March amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Bucks were the team to beat in the NBA.

    But Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks were not the same inside the Orlando bubble at Walt Disney World Resort – the Eastern Conference top seeds eliminated by the Miami Heat 4-1 in the semi-finals.

    While superstar Antetokounmpo claimed back-to-back MVP honours, there are more questions than answers in Milwaukee, where the Bucks are still waiting for their first championship since 1971.

    Antetokounmpo is also set to become a free agent at the end of the 2020-21 season, and he is eligible for a max contract extension worth around $254million this offseason.

    As the ageing Bucks try to pick up the pieces and provide adequate support for Antetokounmpo in pursuit of NBA glory, we review Milwaukee's season using STATA data.

     

    Bucks fall short… again

    In 2018-19, the Bucks finished with the best regular-season record at 60-22 as Antetokounmpo earned his first MVP award. But Milwaukee went down to eventual champions the Toronto Raptors 4-2 in the Eastern Conference finals.

    This season, the Bucks owned a league-best 56-17 record, but their form faded dramatically following the restart. Milwaukee became the first team in NBA history to have more losses (4-9) in their final 13 regular-season games than they did in the entire campaign prior to that (52-8).

    Unconvincing against the eighth-seeded Orlando Magic in the first round, the Bucks were no match for Jimmy Butler and the red-hot Heat as their wait for a first NBA Finals appearance since 1974 goes on.

    The Bucks are the second team ever to have the outright best record in the NBA two seasons in a row and not reach the Finals in either season, along with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2008-09 and 2009-10.

     

    Giannis struggles from the line

    For all his remarkable skill, Antetokounmpo's shooting remains an Achilles heel. The "Greek Freak" and his free-throw shooting was a lot worse this season – it was the third largest season-to-season decline in NBA history among players with at least 600 attempts in both campaigns.

    In 2018-19, Antetokounmpo was 72.9 per cent from the line but he was just 63.3 per cent this season, a differential of 9.6 per cent. San Antonio Spurs great Tim Duncan tops the list with a difference of 14.3 per cent from 1999-2000 to 2000-01, ahead of Los Angeles Lakers star Shaquille O'Neal (13.2 per cent from 2002-03 to 2003-04).

    To put things into context, Antetokounmpo missed 231 free throws during the regular season, and the Bucks' 17 losses during the regular season were by a combined 157 points.

    When Giannis is shooting well from the free-throw line, the Bucks are usually winning. Over the past two seasons (regular season and playoffs), Milwaukee have a record of 61-8 (88.4 per cent) when he makes at least 70 per cent of his free throws in a game – including a 9-0 record in the playoffs. So him making more shots from the line could be a key to their future success.

     

    Antetokounmpo's health and fitness

    The 25-year-old, who averaged 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game during the regular season to become the first player to receive MVP honours in successive seasons since Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry in 2015 and 2016, missed Milwaukee's Game 5 loss to the Heat due to an ankle injury.

    Antetokounmpo re-injured his right ankle in Game 4 but sat out the must-win clash as the Bucks departed the playoffs, despite Khris Middleton's best efforts.

    Over his career, Antetokounmpo has played at least 35 minutes in less than half of his playoff games (21 of 43). Lakers superstar LeBron James (224 of 249), on the other hand, has done that in 90 per cent of his playoff games.

    Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 30.4 minutes per game during the regular season. In NBA history, there has only been one team to win the NBA title without having a player average at least 32 minutes per game in the regular season: the 2013-14 Spurs.

    So basically, if the Bucks are going to win a title, they are likely going to need their star player to play more minutes.

    Three-point defending

    As good as the Bucks are, they are obviously not without their flaws.

    Three-point defense was a big issue in the regular season and playoffs in 2019-20. Milwaukee allowed 14 three-pointers per game in the regular season and 15 in the playoffs, both of which were the most in NBA history (minimum 10 games for the playoffs).

    Mike Budenholzer and the Bucks have plenty to figure out heading into 2020-21.

  • Malone and Jokic take heart from Nuggets pushing Lakers all the way in Game 2 loss Malone and Jokic take heart from Nuggets pushing Lakers all the way in Game 2 loss

    Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone and center Nikola Jokic took heart from Sunday's 105-103 buzzer-beating defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers, with the duo praising the team's spirit.

    The Nuggets were heading into the final seconds of Game 2 of the Western Conference finals with a slender lead, but Anthony Davis showed his class with the decisive action.

    The Lakers forward sunk a three-pointer on the buzzer to seal the win and open up a 2-0 series lead in Florida, Los Angeles having won handsomely 126-114 in Game 1.

    Davis was able to make his game-winning shot due to a defensive mix-up in the Nuggets ranks that saw both Mason Plumlee and Jerami Grant guarding LeBron James when the former was initially on the game-winner.

    Jokic put it down to poor communication, though there was a hint of rueful helplessness to his post-game comments as he suggested if Davis had not been decisive, James could have.

    "[It was] either going to be him or LeBron [James to have the last shot], so we kind of knew it," Jokic said.

    "It just happened, a little bit of miscommunication. I think I had a really good contest, to be honest. I think I was right there.

    "As soon as he shot the ball, he shot it really well. Like, I kind of felt it going in. Great players make great shots."

    But given his side were 70-54 down in the third quarter, Jokic – who had 30 points and nine assists – felt the Nuggets showed good spirit to get back into the contest.

    "I mean, we are here [as] underdogs," he continued. "I mean, we need to fight. That's our only chance. They were up 15 or 16. I don't know how much they were up.

    "We could just call it a game and quit. I think we just want to give the fight. Maybe it's going to be 30 points, but fight needs to be there, and effort."

    Malone was similarly frustrated but seemed encouraged by the fact the top-seeded Lakers required a last-gasp attempt to take the win.

    "Losing sucks, that's the bottom line, losing sucks," he admitted. 

    "Some guys like to win, some guys hate to lose. I think we're a group of guys that hate to lose, whether it be by 20-something points in Game 1 or at the buzzer tonight, it counts as the same.

    "The only thing you can talk about tonight is we were in the game. They had to rely on a great shot by a great player to beat us at the buzzer.

    "But as long as we're putting ourselves in position to win games, that's all you can ask for. One thing I know about our group, even though we are disappointed, frustrated, angry, we'll use that motivation to come out and try to take Game 3."

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