NBA

Lakers fall to Thunder, Embiid leads 76ers

By Sports Desk August 05, 2020

The Los Angeles Lakers were well beaten in the NBA on Wednesday, while Joel Embiid led the Philadelphia 76ers to a win.

With the top seed in the Western Conference secured, the Lakers went down to the Oklahoma City Thunder 105-86.

LeBron James (19 points) and Anthony Davis (nine) went a combined 10-of-30 from the field as the Lakers shot at just 35.2 per cent.

Chris Paul top-scored in the Thunder's victory with 21 points.

Embiid's double-double of 30 points and 11 rebounds saw the 76ers past the Washington Wizards 107-98.

Philadelphia suffered a setback during their win, with Ben Simmons hurting his knee in the third quarter.

 

Even Celtics shine as Gobert lifts Jazz

The Boston Celtics had seven players in double-digits for points in a 149-115 thrashing of the Brooklyn Nets. Jaylen Brown (21), Jayson Tatum (19), Gordon Hayward (18) and Robert Williams III (18) led the way.

Rudy Gobert had a double-double of 21 points and 16 rebounds in the Utah Jazz's 124-115 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies.

Fred VanVleet went eight-of-13 from the field for 21 points, to go with 10 assists, in the Toronto Raptors' 109-99 win against the Orlando Magic.

 

Davis struggles

Davis has been in good form for the Lakers, but the forward was three-of-11 from the field in their loss.

 

Diallo dunk

Hamidou Diallo delivered a huge dunk in the Thunder's win.

Wednesday's results

Utah Jazz 124-115 Memphis Grizzlies
Philadelphia 76ers 107-98 Washington Wizards
Denver Nuggets 132-126 San Antonio Spurs
Oklahoma City Thunder 105-86 Los Angeles Lakers
Toronto Raptors 109-99 Orlando Magic
Boston Celtics 149-115 Brooklyn Nets

 

Lakers face Rockets

The Lakers (51-16) will try to bounce back on Thursday in a blockbuster clash with the Houston Rockets (42-25).

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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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