NBA

VanVleet stars as Raptors draw first blood in NBA playoffs, Kawhi and George inspire Clippers

By Sports Desk August 17, 2020

Defending champions the Toronto Raptors made a winning start in the NBA playoffs, while the Los Angeles Clippers topped the Dallas Mavericks.

Fred VanVleet posted a playoff career-high 30 points and 11 assists as the Raptors eased past the Brooklyn Nets 134-110 in game one of the first-round Eastern Conference matchup at Walt Disney World Resort on Monday.

VanVleet became the first Raptors player in franchise history to combine 30-plus points and 10-plus assists in a playoff game.

The Raptors star was also eight of 10 from three-point range as the second-seeded Raptors drew first blood against the Nets in Orlando, Florida, where Serge Ibaka contributed 22 points off the bench.

In the day's final game, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George starred in the Clippers' 118-110 victory over the Mavericks in the Western Conference.

Leonard's double-double of 29 points and 12 rebounds, and George's 27 points fuelled the second-seeded Clippers, who emerged triumphant in the first-round opener.

 

Doncic creates history, Mitchell scores 57

While the Mavericks lost, Luka Doncic made history. The reigning Rookie of the Year's 42 points are the most in an NBA playoffs debut in league history.

Donovan Mitchell put up huge numbers. He scored a franchise playoff-record 57 points on 19 of 33 shooting from the field but the Utah Jazz lost to the Denver Nuggets 135-125 in overtime. His scoring spree surpassed the Jazz mark of 50 set by Karl Malone in 2000. Denver's game-one success in the west was inspired by Jamal Murray, who posted 10 of his 36 points in OT. Nikola Jokic added 29 points and 10 rebounds.

Jayson Tatum had career playoff highs of 32 points and 13 rebounds as the Boston Celtics beat the Philadelphia 76ers 109-101 in game one of their first-round Eastern Conference series. Jaylen Brown put up 29 points, while the 76ers were led by Joel Embiid's 26 points and 16 rebounds.

 

Turnovers cripple 76ers

Philadelphia were made to pay for their turnovers. In total, the 76ers turned the ball over on 18 occasions as the Celtics capitalised by scoring 21 points. Embiid had five turnovers of his own.

Kristaps Porzingis only managed 14 points and six rebounds for the Mavericks. He was three of nine from the field, and one of four from beyond the arc.

 

Embiid with the slam!

The 76ers All-Star was hot, especially early, against rivals the Celtics.

 

Monday's results

Denver Nuggets 135-125 Utah Jazz (OT)
Toronto Raptors 134-110 Brooklyn Nets
Boston Celtics 109-101 Philadelphia 76ers
Los Angeles Clippers 118-110 Dallas Mavericks

 

Trail Blazers face Lakers

The in-form Portland Trail Blazers will open their Western Conference first-round series against the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday. Damian Lillard's Portland secured their spot in the playoffs as the eighth seed courtesy of Saturday's play-in success against the Memphis Grizzlies. The Lakers – led by LeBron James – are making their first postseason appearance since 2013.

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    The Los Angeles Lakers stayed perfect on the road after beating the Milwaukee Bucks 113-106 in the NBA on Thursday.

    LeBron James posted a season-high 34 points as defending champions the Lakers extended a franchise record after winning their eighth consecutive away game to start the season.

    James also tallied eight assists and six rebounds to help the Lakers – 8-0 on the road – bounce back from a loss in the first of a seven-game road trip, upstaging reigning two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo in the process.

    Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 23 points for the Western Conference-leading Lakers (12-4) in Milwaukee, where the Bucks (9-6) dropped back-to-back games.

    Antetokounmpo's double-double of 25 points and 12 rebounds were not enough for the Bucks, who also had solid contributions from Jrue Holiday (22 points) and Khris Middleton (20 points).

     

    Curry stars

    Stephen Curry put up 30 points, but the Golden State Warriors still went down 119-104 at home to the New York Knicks. The two-time MVP moved into fourth place on the franchise's all-time games played list after making his 714th regular-season appearance, surpassing Paul Arizin. RJ Barrett's 28 points for the Knicks were a career high.

    Golden State's Eric Paschall scored his 1,000th career point in his 74th game, reaching the 1,000-point mark in the fewest amount of games played by a Warriors second round draft pick in the Modern Draft era (since 1966). Previously, Gilbert Arenas did so in 79 games.

    Donovan Mitchell's season-high 36 points fuelled the Utah Jazz's 129-118 win over the New Orleans Pelicans. Mitchell was 11-of-19 shooting from the field, while he made six of eight three-point attempts. The Jazz have won seven straight games.

     

    Schroder struggles in Milwaukee

    Dennis Schroder failed to get going for the Lakers. The offseason recruit was just two of 10 from the field, while missing all three of his attempts from beyond the arc for four points in 33 minutes.

    Kelly Oubre Jr. did not perform much better for the beaten Warriors. His seven points were on two-of-11 shooting from the field at home to the Knicks. Oubre also missed all four of his three-point attempts.

     

    Steph with the behind-the-back pass

    While the Warriors were unable to claim the win, Curry produced a couple of highlight moments. His behind-the-back pass to set up Draymond Green for the three-pointer was the pick of the bunch.

     

    Thursday's results

    Los Angeles Lakers 113-106 Milwaukee Bucks
    Utah Jazz 129-118 New Orleans Pelicans
    New York Knicks 119-104 Golden State Warriors

     

    Celtics at 76ers

    The Boston Celtics (8-5) and Eastern Conference rivals the Philadelphia 76ers (10-5) will do battle again at Wells Fargo Center on Friday after Joel Embiid's 42-point double-double inspired Doc Rivers' team midweek.

  • ​Remembering Kobe's 81-point game - and asking if Lillard, Curry or Beal could match it ​Remembering Kobe's 81-point game - and asking if Lillard, Curry or Beal could match it

    The list of Kobe Bryant's accomplishments during his 20 NBA seasons is almost too long to recount.  

    Yet among his All-Star selections, championships and signature moments, his 81-point game stands out both for its historical significance and its representation of Bryant's personality and career.  

    Friday marks the 15th anniversary of this astounding feat, the closest anyone has ever come to Wilt Chamberlain's NBA scoring record, a seemingly impossible 100 points.  

    Chamberlain reached triple digits on March 2, 1962, in a much different NBA than the one Bryant faced. Chamberlain averaged 50.4 points per game that season while playing every minute of every game. In scoring 100 points, he led the Philadelphia Warriors to a 169-147 win over the New York Knicks.  

    Bryant's feat, while falling short of the century mark, remains the gold standard for scoring in the modern game.  

    On January 22, 2006, the Toronto Raptors travelled to Los Angeles to face the Lakers and were gaining confidence. After a desperate 1-15 start, Toronto's season had stabilised, and the Raptors entered Staples Center having won 10 of their previous 16 games. But Toronto had just allowed 113 points in a win against Seattle and entered the game giving up 102.2 points per game, third-most in the NBA.  

    Bryant went on to make history, making 28 of his 46 field goal attempts – including 7-for-12 shooting from beyond the arc – and hitting 18 of 20 free throws.  

    Perhaps the greatest testament to Bryant's achievement is that no player over the 15 years since has come particularly close to scoring 81 points in a game, despite several factors working in their favor.  

    In 2005-06, a team got 79.0 field goal attempts per game on average, the fourth-slowest pace of all time. Almost any other season in NBA history would have been more likely to have an astounding scoring outburst.  

    In the 1961-62 season, when Chamberlain made history, teams averaged 107.7 shots per game and attempted 37.1 free throws per game, nearly 11 more than in 2005-06.  

    The league has picked up its pace since Bryant's feat as well, with teams attempting 88.8 field goals last season, giving the modern player more opportunities than Bryant had.  

    The other advantage that current players have in piling up stats is the three-point shot.  

    Bryant's 7-for-13 performance from deep was dynamic in 2006. Twice in the 2005-06 season, Chicago Bulls guard Ben Gordon made nine three-pointers in a game to lead the league. Only four players made more than seven threes in a game that season. The average team attempted 16.0 threes per game.  

    Teams are launching an average of 35.1 three-point attempts during this young season, on pace to be the 10th in a row with an increase in long-range shooting. Ten players have already made eight or more threes in a game this season, despite most teams having played about 15 games.  

    Even with a faster pace and increased frequency of long-distance barrages in the modern game, Bryant's 81-point mark still appears virtually unobtainable.  

    Since that date, Devin Booker's 70 points are the high mark. There have been 19 games in which a player scored 60 or more, four by Bryant himself.  

    One integral element to Bryant's scoring explosion was the composition of that Lakers team. Bryant did have Lamar Odom, but LA's other starters on that historic night were Kwame Brown, Chris Mihm and Smush Parker. The Lakers finished that season 45-37, far from a bad team, but Bryant scored 35.4 points per game as the Lakers relied on him almost entirely for scoring.  

    Bryant scored 34.7 percent of the Lakers' points that season, the fourth-highest scoring share of all time. Only Chamberlain and Michael Jordan have scored a higher percentage of a team's points in a season.  

    Given that profile, there are a few players who stand out as possible candidates to make a run at a historical scoring game in the foreseeable future.  

    Booker, James Harden and Kemba Walker all have at least one 60-point game in their careers but now find themselves on teams with better supporting casts, making it unlikely they could get enough shots to chase history.  

    Damian Lillard, however, could fit the mould perfectly. Team-mates CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic will both miss significant time due to injuries, and Lillard has crossed the 60-point barrier three times, all within the past 15 months. Add his 36.2 minutes per game – top 10 in the league – and 10.1 three-point attempts per game, and Lillard seems as likely as anyone to produce a dazzling scoring total.  

    Stephen Curry scored a career-high 62 points on January 3 and will be a constant centerpiece in the Golden State Warriors' offense without Klay Thompson. While Curry is 25th in the league at 34.4 minutes per game, his historic three-point shooting makes him a constant threat.  

    League scoring leader Bradley Beal remains in the mix, despite the Washington Wizards acquiring ball-hungry Russell Westbrook in the offseason. Westbrook has often taken games off due to rest, and Beal scored 60 on January 6. He also carries the advantage of getting to the free throw line 9.5 times per game, fourth in the NBA this season.  

    That list ignores perennial MVP candidates Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant and LeBron James, as well as young dynamos like Trae Young and Luka Doncic.  

    The fact that there are so many candidates to make a run at 81 points without anyone coming close in the past 15 years indicates just how phenomenal Bryant's accomplishment was.  

    Whether Bryant's mark lasts forever or is eventually bested, it will always be a brilliant snapshot of an all-time great player. He won championships before and after his 81-point game, but Bryant's legacy is as a scorer and a relentless competitor, perfectly represented by that gaudy scoring total 15 years ago.  

    Bryant wore number eight and number 24 during his decorated career, but 81 is just as important to his legacy.

  • Grizzlies have three games postponed due to COVID-19 protocols Grizzlies have three games postponed due to COVID-19 protocols

    The NBA has announced the Memphis Grizzlies' next three games have been postponed in accordance with COVID-19 protocols.

    Memphis had already seen Wednesday's scheduled meeting with the Portland Trail Blazers called off, the Grizzlies not having the league-required minimum of eight players available for action.

    The same teams had been due to meet on Friday, however that clash will no longer be going ahead as planned.

    Back-to-back games with the Sacramento Kings, set to take place on Sunday and Monday, are also postponed due to the combination of unavailable Grizzlies players and contact tracing for others on the roster. 

    "The Memphis Grizzlies' next three games - Friday, January 22 at Portland and Sunday, January 24 and Monday, January 25 vs Sacramento - have been postponed in accordance with the NBA's health and safety protocols," the NBA said in a statement.

    "The games are being postponed due to unavailable players for the Grizzlies and contact tracing for other players on their roster, and in order to ensure the health and safety of players on both teams."

    In total, 20 games have been postponed during the NBA regular season as the competition deals with the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

    The Grizzlies are 7-6 on the season and on a five-game winning streak. Following the postponements, they are next due to be in action on January 27, when they host the Chicago Bulls.

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