NBA

NBA Heat Check: The Greek Freak on fire as Steph suffers three-point slump

By Sports Desk March 01, 2021

The past week in the NBA saw the Brooklyn Nets do something they hadn't previously done since February 9... lose a game.

Brooklyn's defeat to the Dallas Mavericks gave a boost to their rivals for the top seed in the Eastern Conference, headed by the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Milwaukee Bucks, another of those competitors, enjoyed a superb week with reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo unsurprisingly coming to the fore.

Meanwhile, out west, Devin Booker strung together a series of performances that justified his place in the All-Star game.

By contrast, two players significantly more familiar with that contest suffered dips in form.

Here we take a look at some of the best and worst performers across the past week, aided by Stats Perform data.

 

RUNNING HOT...

Giannis Antetokounmpo

The Bucks are firmly back in contention for the top seed in the East after stretching their winning run to five games, with three of those victories coming in the past week.

Antetokounmpo was predictably pivotal to their success, tallying over 30 points in each matchup to extend his streak to four games in that regard.

He finished the week with back-to-back double-doubles against the New Orleans Pelicans and Los Angeles Clippers, scoring 36 points in the latter game.

His points per game average jumped from 28.37 to 37, Antetokounmpo and the Bucks sending a message that they are still very much a contender for the title.

Devin Booker

The All-Star snub who was later added as a replacement showed why he deserves his place in the showcase this past week.

Booker averaged 33 points across the Phoenix Suns' three games, an impressive improvement on his previous season-long average of 24.28.

He capped it in stunning fashion, dropping 43 in the win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, which saw him go 15 for 26 from the field.

At 22-11, the Suns will loom as a dangerous playoff team should he continue that kind of form.

James Harden

Brooklyn may have finally seen their eight-game winning streak come to an end, but it was a positive week for Harden individually.

Absent the other two members of the Nets' big three, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, Harden could not prevent them from falling to defeat to the Mavericks.

However, he was more prolific from beyond the arc this past week, averaging 4.67 made threes having entered the week putting up 3.08 per game.

Harden is converting threes at the highest rate of his career. He is shooting 39.7 per cent from beyond the arc and 41.8 per cent since his trade to Brooklyn from the Houston Rockets.

But he is attempting only 8.2 a game, the fewest since the 2015-16 season (8.0). If he continues to shoot more from deep and maintains his consistency in converting those attempts, a loaded Nets team will have yet another dimension.

GOING COLD...

Paul George

An up-and-down week for the Clippers started brilliantly for George, who racked up 30 points in a win over the Washington Wizards, going six of seven from three-point range.

But he tailed off thereafter, following up two 13-point efforts against the Memphis Grizzlies with a mediocre 16-point display in the loss to the Bucks.

His points per game average fell from 24.36 entering the week to 18 over the past seven days, and the Clippers will need a lot more from him if they are to earn a top-two seed in the West.

Terry Rozier

The man known as 'Scary Terry' did little to terrify opponents over the past week.

Rozier entered the week averaging a career-high 21.15 points per game but that dipped to 13.5 over the four games the Charlotte Hornets contested in the last seven days.

He put up 24 points in a loss to the Golden State Warriors but could not manage more than 12 in his other three outings.

Still averaging 20.2 a game for the season, the Hornets will want Rozier to deliver the kind of performance he did against Golden State consistently as they seek a first playoff berth since 2015-16.

Stephen Curry

Among the players to suffer the biggest decline in three-point shooting this past week was the man most consider the greatest shooter of all time.

Curry had been converting 5.03 three-pointers a game for the season but hit on an average of 3.25 a game as the Warriors won three of four last week.

He still enjoyed a 37-point outing against the New York Knicks, scoring seven triples in that triumph, but was one for 11 from deep versus the Indiana Pacers and two for seven in Sunday's loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.

However, with Curry experiencing a season in which he is averaging his highest points per game tally (29.5) since his unanimous MVP season of 2015-16 (30.1), the smart money says he will soon return to form from beyond the arc.

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    Bayern Munich star Thomas Muller forthrightly blamed his side's first-leg result for their "very disappointing" Champions League exit at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain.

    Champions League holders Bayern won 1-0 in the quarter-final second leg in Paris on Tuesday, but were knocked out on away goals after losing 3-2 in Munich.

    Muller said the disappointment was big as he bemoaned Bayern's inability to take their chances when they had them against last season's runner-up PSG.

    "We didn't do ourselves any favours with the first leg result," Muller told Sky Germany. "The disappointment is big."

    Bayern are the third consecutive reigning Champions League winners to fail to reach at least the semi-final stage the following season in the competition, something that has not happened since four successive teams failed between 2004-05 and 2007-8 (Porto, Liverpool, Barcelona and Milan).

    Muller added: "We scored one goal too few to advance. The course of the game was different from Munich. We didn't have so much pressure in the early stages.

    "We then had the situation we wanted and scored the goal just before half-time. We had a few chances just before half-time that we didn't take for different reasons.

    "In the second half, the effort was always there, but the game was very disjointed. In the end, Paris has a great offence, but it's very disappointing that we got eliminated even though we won in Paris."

    Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer reiterated that sentiment, ruing their first-leg defeat at home to the Ligue 1 champions.

    Hansi Flick's Bayern mustered 45 shots over their two clashes with PSG – the joint-most any team managed against an opponent in two games in the Champions League this season (level with Sevilla against Krasnodar).

    "It was not just because of today," Neuer said. "The 1-0 was deserved, but the result last week was not good enough.

    "It's annoying, especially if you look at the first game, where we missed many chances and conceded one or two goals too many.

    "All the players not here today were missed. It's difficult when you play against such a great team then. Still, we had a top team on the pitch that gave it everything."

  • PSG not Champions League favourites, insists Pochettino PSG not Champions League favourites, insists Pochettino

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    PSG advanced to the semi-finals for the second successive season on away goals after the blockbuster tie ended 3-3 following Tuesday's 1-0 loss at home to Bayern.

    Ligue 1 champions PSG exacted some revenge after moving through to the final four, having lost last season's decider to Bayern.

    PSG will face either Manchester City or Borussia Dortmund in the semis, while Chelsea are set to meet the winner of the Liverpool-Real Madrid clash.

    Pochettino, though, dismissed the idea that PSG are the main contender to win the Champions League this season.

    "I don't think so," Pochettino told reporters when asked if PSG are favourites. "We have beat Barcelona in last 16 in two games, we have beat Bayern now in two games too.

    "I think we deserved to win both ties, but I don't think PSG are the main contender to win Champions League. There are still rivals in. We have qualified and Chelsea did today as well.

    "We will see in the ties Man City versus Dortmund and Liverpool versus Real Madrid. Any team which is in semi-finals has the same options to win."

    PSG's elimination of Bayern is the first instance in Champions League history of the previous season's losing finalists eliminating the holders in the knockout stages.

    French giants PSG have reached the semi-finals for the second season in a row, after managing to reach the final four only once in their previous 11 campaigns in the competition before that – their first in 1994-95.

    PSG, though, failed to score at home in the Champions League for the first time in 24 games, since a 0-0 draw with Madrid in October 2015.

    Asked to pick between City and Dortmund, former Tottenham boss Pochettino – who led Spurs to the 2018-19 Champions League final – added: "We have faced Barcelona in last 16, playing two games, and we have disqualified Barca. We have also eliminated Bayern Munich in quarter-finals.

    "We don't choose one or other rival. The one we play, we will try to beat them. If you are wondering we can or not beat them, we will see."

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    Murray will be sidelined indefinitely after the high-flying Nuggets revealed the injury diagnosis on Tuesday.

    Denver were left sweating over Murray's fitness following Monday's 116-107 NBA loss to the Golden State Warriors.

    Murray fell to the floor in agony following an apparent non-contact injury – the 24-year-old clutching his left knee amid serious concerns on court.

    Denver's Murray has been averaging a career-high 21.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game this season.

    Murray has also been boasting career highs in field-goal percentage (47.7) and three-point percentage (40.8).

    The Nuggets (34-20) – led by MVP candidate Nikola Jokic – are fourth in the Western Conference.

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