NBA

NBA Heat Check: Giannis beasting on the boards, Kemba cooling off

By Sports Desk February 01, 2021

Related items

  • Doncic tension? Carlisle steps down as Mavs coach after 13 seasons Doncic tension? Carlisle steps down as Mavs coach after 13 seasons

    It is the end of an era for the Dallas Mavericks after NBA championship-winning head coach Rick Carlisle stepped down amid reports of tension with star Luka Doncic.

    Carlisle had two years remaining on his contract but opted not to return for the 2021-22 season following the Mavericks' first-round playoff defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers.

    The winningest coach in franchise history (555-478, 53.7 per cent), Carlisle departs after 13 seasons, including the franchise's first NBA championship in 2011.

    But Carlisle leaves Dallas following reports of tension between him and two-time All-Star Doncic – whose long-term future is dominating headlines after the exit of president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson.

    "After a number of in-person conversations with Mark Cuban over the last week, today I informed him that I will not be returning as head coach of the Dallas Mavericks," Carlisle, whose Mavericks did not advance past the first round of the playoffs since their 2011 title, told ESPN on Thursday.

    "This was solely my decision. My family and I have had an amazing 13-year experience working with great people in a great city."

    Carlisle, who won the NBA championship as a player with the Boston Celtics in 1986, is one of only 14 individuals to claim a title as both a player and a head coach.

    The 61-year-old moved up to 15th on the NBA's all-time wins list in 2020-21, surpassing Cotton Fitzsimmons (832) with 833 career victories.

    "Rick informed me today about his decision to step down as head coach," Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said in a statement. "On top of being a tremendous basketball coach, he was also a friend and a confidant.

    "Rick helped us bring the O'Brien trophy to Dallas and those memories I will always cherish. I want to thank Rick for all he gave the franchise and this city. We wish him all the best."

  • NBA playoffs 2021: The underappreciated brilliance of Chris Paul NBA playoffs 2021: The underappreciated brilliance of Chris Paul

    Chris Paul crumpled to the floor of Phoenix Suns Arena, grimacing and twisting with pain while he grasped at his right shoulder.

    For all his regular-season accolades – 11 All-Star Games, nine All-NBA teams, four assists titles and six steals titles – deep playoff runs have been hard to come by for Paul.

    Whether due to fate or disappointing failure, the future Hall of Fame point guard has only played in one Conference Finals series. After suffering a hamstring injury in 2018, Paul watched from the sideline as his Houston Rockets lost Games 6 and 7 to the Golden State Warriors, extinguishing his best chance to date to win a title.

    Three years later, as Paul left the floor with a right shoulder injury during Game 1 of the Suns' first-round series against the Los Angeles Lakers, it must have felt as if the fates were conspiring against him again. After leading Phoenix to the NBA's second-best record in 2020-21, Paul got to face LeBron James and the defending champions as a reward. Then an injury less than 15 minutes into the postseason?

    What a hopeless feeling that must have been.

    Paul didn't miss a game in the series but looked like a shell of himself through Game 3, averaging 6.7 points on 38.1 per cent shooting as the Suns trailed 2-1 in the series. The tide turned in Game 4, however, with Anthony Davis succumbing to injury and with Paul's shoulder beginning to steadily improve.

    After ousting the Lakers in six games, Paul was nearly flawless in a sweep of the Denver Nuggets and MVP Nikola Jokic. He averaged 25.5 points and 10.3 assists over four games and rose to the occasion in the clutch, scoring 17.0 points per game in the second half on absurd 78.8 per cent shooting. In fourth quarters that series, Paul was 16 for 19 from the field (84.2 per cent), including a perfect mark on his four three-point attempts.

    Paul totalled 41 assists, the most since 1984-85 in a playoff series while committing five or fewer turnovers. For the third time in his postseason career, he had 15 assists and no turnovers in Game 2, a feat that has only been done seven times in a playoff game since 1984-85.

    At 36 years old, Paul painted one of the most memorable masterpieces of his career.

    Then came another devastating blow, when Paul was sidelined in accordance with the NBA's COVID-19 health and safety protocols on Wednesday morning, keeping him in quarantine indefinitely. It has not been specified whether Paul has tested positive for the coronavirus, or exactly why he has entered the protocols.

    Going forward, the Suns' road only gets tougher, facing either the top-seeded Utah Jazz or Paul's former team – the Los Angeles Clippers – in the Western Conference Finals, and Phoenix could be forced to start the series without their star point guard.

    Despite the challenge ahead, it is tempting to consider what a first career NBA Finals appearance – or first career title – would do for the legacy of one of the most underrated players of his era.

    Paul's brilliance can sometimes go unnoticed, especially in a league full of talented scorers who appear ready to drop 50 in any given game. His career high is 43 points, and the last time he hit 40 was in 2016.

    But what's set Paul apart since the day he entered the league are his abilities to command an offense and distribute to team-mates. He is one of six players with over 10,000 career assists and, all things being equal, will move into third on the all-time helpers list next season, trailing only John Stockton and Jason Kidd.

    Among the five players with the most assists in NBA history, Paul's 18.3 points per game is the highest mark, out-pacing Steve Nash's 14.3 by a healthy margin.

    Paul is also fifth all-time with 2,332 career steals and could move up a spot or two on that list in two years' time.

    But Paul's true impact defies traditional box score statistics. This postseason, the Suns have a scoring differential of plus 13.0 points per 100 possessions with Paul on the court, and Phoenix are shooting nearly 50 per cent from the floor with their conductor in the game.

    Moreover, Paul's teams simply win.

    His teams have a record of 698-392 when he plays, or an average of 53-29 over an 82-game season. Paul has played for five teams in his career, and each have improved their record in Paul's first year over the previous season. On average, a team adding Paul to the roster increase their win percentage by .168, the equivalent of 14 added wins over an 82-game season.

    If Paul never played another game, he would still be a guaranteed Hall of Famer. And after this latest disruption, perhaps the 2021 playoffs will be yet another chapter in a book of postseasons gone wrong for an otherwise legendary player.

    But almost every team remaining in this year’s playoffs is dealing with attrition, including both the Suns' potential opponents in the next round. Phoenix are rated by bookmakers as the second favourites for the championship, trailing only the Brooklyn Nets.

    Paul's legacy should be able to stand alone, with or without a title. But adding a championship ring would go a long way towards forcing his detractors to finally acknowledge his consistent brilliance.

  • Euro 2020 data dive: De Ligt's passing masterclass, Belgium keep winning run going Euro 2020 data dive: De Ligt's passing masterclass, Belgium keep winning run going

    Belgium and the Netherlands joined Italy in booking their place in the knockout stages of Euro 2020 with victories over Denmark and Austria respectively.

    The world's top-ranked side Belgium had to bounce back from a goal down to beat an inspired Denmark, with both teams paying tribute to Christian Eriksen after 10 minutes as the midfielder continues his recovery from a cardiac arrest.

    Roberto Martinez's side need a point in their final Group B match to make certain of top spot, but the Netherlands are already through as Group C winners after seeing off Austria.

    Ukraine also picked up all three points against North Macedonia in Thursday's action – just their second-ever victory at the European Championships.

    Using Opta data, we take a look at some of the best facts from across the day's action.

    Ukraine 2-1 North Macedonia: Shevchenko's men end losing Euros streak

    Andriy Yarmolenko and Roman Yaremchuk were on target for the second match running to end Ukraine's six-game losing streak at the European Championships.

    With Yarmolenko and Yaremchuk's first-half goals, Ukraine became the first nation to have the same two players score in their first two games at a single Euros.

    Ezgjan Alioski pulled one back at the second attempt after his penalty was saved, making it two goals in three games – as many as in his previous 17 for North Macedonia.

    His penalty was given after a foul on Goran Pandev, who – at at 37 years and 325 days – is the oldest player to win a spot-kick in the Euros since data was first recorded in 1980.

    Ruslan Malinovskyi failed to convert from 12 yards late on in a game which saw both sides win a penalty in the competition for the first time since England v France in 2004.

    It means four of the six penalties taken at Euro 2020 have not been converted. The last tournament with more was Euro 2000 (five).

    Denmark 1-2 Belgium: Red Devils bounce back from early setback

    Belgium showed why they are ranked number one in the world as they recovered from an early setback to make it 11 wins from their last 12 group games at major competitions.

    However, they had to do things the hard way after Yussuf Poulsen struck early on in Copenhagen.

    Poulsen opened the scoring after 99 seconds – the second-earliest goal ever in the tournament, behind only Dmitry Kirichenko for Russia against Greece in 2004 (65 seconds).

    The one shot on target Belgium managed in the first half came via Dries Mertens, who was earning his 100th cap for his country – the fifth Belgian to reach that landmark.

    But the half-time introduction of Kevin De Bruyne for Mertens transformed the Red Devils, the playmaker setting up Thorgan Hazard's leveller and then drilling in the winner.

    De Bruyne's fantastic strike was teed up by Eden Hazard, who joins the Manchester City star as the two European players to assist a goal at each of the last four major tournaments.

    Belgium survived a nervy finish as they won their first two European Championship matches for the first time, while Denmark have lost their first two for the first time since 2000.

    Netherlands 2-0 Austria: Faultless Oranje ease through

    The Netherlands followed up their opening-game win against Ukraine with a routine victory against Austria in Amsterdam.

    It is the third time the Oranje have won their opening two Euros matches, having previously done so in 2000 and 2008, when they exited the competition at the semi-final and quarter-final stage respectively.

    Frank de Boer's men are now unbeaten in their last nine matches at major tournaments, which is the longest run by a European nation since Portugal went 12 without defeat between 2014 and 2018.

    Memphis Depay opened the scoring for the Netherlands from the penalty spot, the Lyon forward's eighth goal for his country since De Boer took charge last September, with only Belgium's Romelu Lukaku scoring more (10) across all competitions for a European side over that period.

    Denzel Dumfries added the second goal and is just the second Netherlands player to net in his first two appearances at the Euros after Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2004, this after the right-back failed to score in his first 19 senior caps.

    One of the unsung stars for the hosts was Dumfries' fellow defender Matthijs de Ligt, who completed 100 per cent of his 40 passes – a record for a Netherlands player in a European Championship match since records began in 1980.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.