NBA

76ers take top spot in east with Nets win, Doncic beats buzzer for Mavericks

By Sports Desk April 15, 2021

The Philadelphia 76ers held off a late charge from the short-handed Brooklyn Nets 123-117 to take over top spot in the Eastern Conference on Wednesday. 

Joel Embiid had 39 points and 13 rebounds to lead the 76ers (38-17) past the visiting Nets, while Tobias Harris added 26 points and Ben Simmons 17 on home court midweek.

In the second game of a back-to-back, Brooklyn (37-18) played without Kevin Durant, James Harden, Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge, though Kyrie Irving returned and scored 37 points after missing Tuesday's game for personal reasons. 

Irving (23) and Embiid (21) both cleared 20 points in the first half, with the latter achieving the feat for the NBA-best 14th time this season.

Philadelphia led by 22 points in the fourth quarter before the Brooklyn reserves rallied to cut the deficit to three, but the 76ers held on to win after putting All-Star pair Embiid and Simmons back in the game. 

In Memphis, Luka Doncic helped the Dallas Mavericks expand their seeding advantage against the Grizzlies by hitting a buzzer-beating three-pointer for a dramatic 114-113 victory. 

Doncic posted 29 points and Kristaps Porzingis added 21 of his own for the Mavericks (30-24), who are seventh in the Western Conference with the Grizzlies (27-26) just behind. 

Grayson Allen scored 23 points for Memphis but missed two free throws with 2.2 seconds remaining to open the door for Doncic to win it. 

 

Curry maintains hot shooting hand

Stephen Curry scored 42 points, highlighted by a 25-point third quarter in which he did not miss a shot from the field, as the Golden State Warriors routed the Oklahoma City Thunder 147-109. Coming off a 53-point game on Monday, Curry made all eight of his shots from the floor, six of them three-pointers, as the Warriors blew open the game with a 50-point third quarter. In all, he made 11 three-pointers, the second time in his career with successive games of at least 10 three-pointers. The two-time MVP has hit 10-plus threes in back-to-back games for the second time in his career – he is the only player to do so multiple times.

MVP candidate Nikola Jokic's 15th triple-double of the season – 17 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds – guided the Denver Nuggets past the Miami Heat 123-106.

Despite the absence of Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Serge Ibaka and Patrick Beverley, the Los Angeles Clippers recorded their seventh consecutive victory by topping the Detroit Pistons 100-98.

 

Jackson makes it hurt for Pistons

The Pistons fell to 16-39, the worst record in the Eastern Conference, when their former star Reggie Jackson hit a game-winning jumper with 2.3 seconds remaining. Detroit had led by five points inside the final minute before collapsing in the closing seconds. 

 

Westbrook does it all once again

Russell Westbrook continues to do it all for the Washington Wizards, posting his sixth triple double in succession with 25 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists in a 123-111 victory over the Sacramento Kings. It is the fourth six-game streak of his career. The rest of NBA history has three combined.

 

Wednesday's results

Brooklyn Nets 123-117 Philadelphia 76ers
Milwaukee Bucks 130-105 Minnesota Timberwolves
Cleveland Cavaliers 103-90 Charlotte Hornets
Toronto Raptors 117-112 San Antonio Spurs
Los Angeles Clippers 100-98 Detroit Pistons
Orlando Magic 115-106 Chicago Bulls
New York Knicks 116-106 New Orleans Pelicans
Indiana Pacers 132-124 Houston Rockets
Golden State Warriors 147-109 Oklahoma City Thunder
Dallas Mavericks 114-113 Memphis Grizzlies
Denver Nuggets 123-106 Miami Heat
Washington Wizards 123-111 Sacramento Kings

 

Celtics at Lakers

A classic NBA rivalry is renewed as the Boston Celtics (29-26) visit defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers (34-21) on Thursday. Jayson Tatum will be looking to lead the Celtics to a fifth successive win.

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  • Tokyo Olympics Recap: Triumphant Ledecky eyeing more gold in 2024 and 2028, GB triathlon team win Tokyo Olympics Recap: Triumphant Ledecky eyeing more gold in 2024 and 2028, GB triathlon team win

    Katie Ledecky is eyeing up the 2024 Paris Olympics and the 2028 Games in Los Angeles after claiming her seventh gold medal with victory in the women's 800 metres freestyle on Saturday.

    Ledecky, who holds the world record over the distance, fended off rival Ariarne Titmus for her latest swimming triumph, backing up success in the 1,500m.

    The 24-year-old American was clear of Titmus throughout the race and held off the Australian's familiar late push to win in eight minutes and 12.57 seconds. Italy's Simona Quadarella claimed bronze.

    Ledecky's victory takes her Olympic medal tally to 10, including the gold haul, and she is targeting more.

    “I'm still young, 24 is not that old," Ledecky said. "People are sticking around in this sport into their 30s. I still love this sport, I love it more and more every year. I feel I'm going to give every ounce I have to this sport.

    “I love the training, I love the day-to-day. I'm just going to keep doing it until I feel like it's time. Obviously the Olympics in 2028 are in LA so that's kind of out there and appealing also."

    USA's Michael Phelps holds the record for most Olympic gold medals with 23, with the next most going to gymnast Larisa Latynina, distance runner Paavo Nurmi, swim great Mark Spitz and athlete Carl Lewis who all claimed nine golds, which Ledecky could plausibly match or eclipse.

    Ledecky has already become the first US female swimmer to win three consecutive golds in the same event.

    Caeleb Dressel revealed he was not feeling 100 per cent despite breaking his own world record to win the men's 100m butterfly gold medal from Kristof Milak.

    American Dressel triumphed in 49.45 seconds, bettering his own mark of 49.50 from July 2019 in Gwangju, to beat Milak, with Switzerland's Noe Ponti taking bronze.

    "It was well executed, my body wasn't as good as it could have been, it was the body I was given on this day, I felt better yesterday," Dressel said. "It hurt really bad but it was fine. I knew what my race plan was and stuck to it, got the job done. What a close race. Two of the fastest times in history.

    "You don't get that very often so to be a part of that is very special. The event is only going to get faster. I'm aware of that and it's just exciting that it took a world record to win."

    Milak also remarked after the race that the pair would push and inspire each other on to future world records.

    Australian Kaylee McKeown backed up her 100m backstroke gold with victory in the 200m, ahead of Canada's Kylie Masse and compatriot Emily Seebohm.

    Great Britain, powered by Adam Peaty, won the mixed 4x100m medley relay, ahead of China and Australia.

    BROWNLEE TRIUMPH AS GB MAKE HISTORY

    Great Britain made history by claiming the first-ever gold medal in the mixed triathlon, with victory by 14 seconds ahead of the USA.

    Jonny Brownlee, who won individual bronze in 2012 and silver in 2016, opened up a good lead for the British in the second leg which they did not relinquish.

    Jessica Learmonth had started off for Team GB, before Brownlee's leg, with Georgia Taylor-Brown and Alex Yee finishing it off.

    "Olympics? Completed it," Brownlee said. "It feels absolutely amazing. It's my third Olympics and I've finally got gold."

    Great Britain finished in 1:23:41, with France claiming bronze behind the US team.

    PERFECT GROUP PHASE FOR HOCKEYROOS

    Australia's Hockeyroos completed a perfect group phase after final-quarter goals from Savannah Fitzpatrick and Emily Chalker sealed a 2-0 win over Argentina.

    The victory means Australia have topped Pool B with five wins from five games and will play the fourth-ranked nation from Pool A, either Great Britain, India or Ireland.

    The Australia hockey team are three-time Olympic gold medallists but have not won a medal since Sydney 2000 and endured tumult in the lead-up to Tokyo 2020 with a change of coach.

    China were eliminated despite beating New Zealand 3-2, while Japan also bowed out after a 4-1 loss to Spain, who finish second in Pool B.

    Germany and the Netherlands meet on Saturday evening to determine top place from Pool A ahead of the quarter-finals on Monday.

    SAN MARINO'S MEDAL RUSH

    Tiny European nation San Marino claimed a second-ever Olympic medal, only 48 hours after grabbing their first.

    Alessandra Perilli, who won bronze on Thursday in the women's trap shooting, teamed up with Gian Marco Berti to claim silver in the mixed team trap, beaten 41-40 by Spain in the final.

    San Marino, which has a population of 33,600, is the least populous country to win an Olympic medal, having competed at the Games since 1960.

    USA beat Slovakia 42-42 (3-2) in the bronze medal final.

  • Red-hot Votto homers for seventh consecutive game, HR start for Yankees recruit Rizzo Red-hot Votto homers for seventh consecutive game, HR start for Yankees recruit Rizzo

    Cincinnati Reds in-form slugger Joey Votto scored a home run for the seventh consecutive game as his side won 6-2 over the New York Mets in the MLB on Friday.

    At the top of the sixth inning with the Reds up 2-1, Votto hammered Mets reliever Drew Smith deep over the fence at center field, which breaking his own franchise record.

    The 37-year-old also now has nine home runs in seven games, with nine of his last 10 hits leaving the ballpark. He becomes the eighth player in MLB history to hit home runs in seven straight games.

    Reds second baseman Jonathan India hit two home runs in the victory, but was overshadowed by Votto's remarkable run of form.

    "I’ve never been in a place like this before. It’s exciting," Votto said. "It’s so much more fun doing it on a winning team and doing it in connection with wins."

    The Reds have now won four games in a row and six of their past eight to improve their record to 55-49 and second in the National League Central.

     

    Rizzo starts with a homer

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    Rizzo went two-for-three in his first appearance for the Yankees following his trade from the Chicago Cubs, scoring his 15th home run for the year.

    Eduardo Escobar also marked his first game for the Milwaukee Brewers with a home run in their 9-5 win over the Atlanta Braves.

    Santiago Espinal took a bare-handed catch to complete the Toronto Blue Jays' 6-4 victory over the Kansas City Royals. Espinal can backwards from Jarrod Dyson's flare and reached up to snatch the ball.

    Blue Jays teammate Bo Bichette said: “That was insane. Everything, the situation, the fact he used his hand and the fact he even thought to use his hand. It was crazy, but we’ve come to expect things like that from Santiago."

    The benches cleared after James Karinchak's 96 mph fastball hit Jose Abreu flush on the helmet, leaving the batter floored, in the Chicago White Sox's 6-4 win over the Cleveland Indians.

    Emotions stayed in check and there were no ejections while Abreu was able to stay in the game, before White Sox short-stop Tim Anderson delivered the go-ahead hit in the eighth inning.

     

    Tatis re-injures shoulder

    Home-run machine Fernando Tatis Jr re-injured his left shoulder diving for third base in the San Diego Padres' 9-4 loss to the Colorado Rockies. Tatis, who has hit 31 home runs this season, had previously had three issues with his left shoulder this season. Ryan McMahon's grand slam was decisive for the Rockies.

     

    Altuve stars for Astros

    Jose Altuve starred for the Houston Astros in their 9-6 win at the San Francisco Giants, with two home runs, including a grand slam, to total up five RBI. Altuve has 25 home runs this season, along with 105 hits and 65 RBI.

     

    Friday's results 

    Pittsburgh Pirates 7-0 Philadelphia Phillies
    Washington Nationals 4-3 Chicago Cubs
    Toronto Blue Jays 6-4 Kansas City Royals
    Cincinnati Reds 6-2 New York Mets
    New York Yankees 3-1 Miami Marlins
    Tampa Bay Rays 7-3 Boston Red Sox
    Baltimore Orioles 4-3 Detroit Tigers
    Milwaukee Brewers 9-5 Atlanta Braves
    Seattle Mariners 9-5 Texas Rangers
    Chicago White Sox 6-4 Cleveland Indians
    St Louis Cardinals 5-1 Minnesota Twins
    Oakland Athletics 2-0 Los Angeles Angels
    Arizona Diamondbacks x-x Los Angeles Dodgers
    Houston Astros 9-6 San Francisco Giants
    Colorado Rockies 9-4 San Diego Padres

     

    Red Sox at Rays

    The Tampa Bay Rays (62-42) will host the Boston Red Sox (63-42) will both sides jousting for top spot in the competitive American League East.

  • Dallas Mavericks: A new era starts but Luka Doncic the undoubted cornerstone Dallas Mavericks: A new era starts but Luka Doncic the undoubted cornerstone

    A decade ago, the Dallas Mavericks stood atop the basketball world after Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry and company won the NBA Finals over a heavily favoured Miami Heat team that featured LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in their first season together.

    With the Heat dynasty clearly on the rise and with the Mavs fielding a veteran roster already, Dallas decided not to make an earnest title defense and traded defensive anchor Tyson Chandler.

    The Mavericks have yet to win a playoff series since those 2011 NBA Finals.

    Despite postseason appearances in six of the past 10 seasons and the acquisition of a generational talent in Luka Doncic, owner Mark Cuban decided change needed to come in the 2021 offseason.

    Gone is Donnie Nelson, who had been the general manager since 2002 and was the architect of that title team a decade ago.

    Also gone is longtime head coach Rick Carlisle, who had been in place since 2008 and amassed a record of 555-478. Nonetheless, Cuban decided to change things up.

    "The league has changed in the 21 years since I've been here," Cuban said. "Players have changed. How you build a championship team has changed. Sometimes you just have to look to have a different tool set."

    Who is in charge?

    Doncic and Nelson have a famously close relationship and the 22-year-old star was disappointed to see his longtime friend replaced by former Nike executive Nico Harrison as general manager.

    While training with Slovenia in preparation for the Olympic Games, Doncic admitted he was less than thrilled by the move:  "It was kind of tough to me. I really like Donnie. I know him since I was a kid and he was the one that drafted me.

    "It was tough for me seeing that, but I'm not the one making decisions there."

    This indicates that Cuban, who has long held the reputation as one of the most involved owners in American sports, was asserting his view of what the Mavs' leadership team should look like.

    Yet moving on from Carlisle, long considered a leading NBA coach, appears to be a move targeted at appeasing Doncic. The young star had openly shown his disapproval with some of Carlisle's coaching decisions and substitution patterns, becoming increasingly prone to on-court displays of frustration.

    Doncic may not quite wield the sway of someone like LeBron James, who has become the face of the "player empowerment era" in the NBA, but Cuban has wisely taken Doncic's input into consideration.

    And as much as the hiring of a new leadership team represents a new era for the Mavs, Cuban is clearly trying to revive some of the magic of the 2011 squad.

    Jason Kidd was named the team's next head coach, with it also announced that Dirk Nowitzki would begin a formal role as a front office advisor – two moves that also surround Doncic with mentors to help him progress into a champion.

     

    The cornerstone

    Doncic's career is off to an unprecedented start, and Dallas clearly intends to build around its multi-talented superstar well into the future. Doncic was the fastest in NBA history to reach 5,000 points, 1,500 rebounds and 1,500 assists, hitting those marks in 195 career games.

    LeBron James took 228 games to reach those numbers. Michael Jordan needed 282 games.

    Doncic has also improved every season since entering the league in 2018. Already a triple-double machine, he posted career-high efficiency in 2020-21 by shooting 47.9 per cent from the floor and 35.0 per cent from three-point range.

    His game has started to mature, as well, especially as a scorer. Doncic is a child of the shot-efficiency era, and he has always gotten shots from the most efficient areas on the floor – at the rim, behind the 3-point line and at the free throw line. Those shots remain valuable, but Doncic has diversified arsenal of mid-range options by developing a variety of floaters and pull-ups. He shot 51.5 per cent from mid-range last season – better than mid-range maestro Devin Booker (51.2 per cent) – after shooting around 41 per cent in his first two seasons.

    This bodes well as an indicator of future success in the postseason, when opponents' defenses are geared toward taking away the most efficient shots.

    Doncic's numbers are virtually unassailable and make him almost a lock to win an MVP – if not more – at some point in his career. It can be hard to forget, though, that Doncic has only played three years in the NBA.

    Giannis Antetokounmpo, although a less refined prospect when drafted, needed until his sixth season to win his first MVP and became a champion in his eighth season only after suffering heart-breaking losses, sanding away some rough edges in his game that made him vulnerable in the playoffs and evolving into a true leader.

    Doncic's numbers may remain steadily impressive over the coming years, but he can still grow and develop in subtle ways as he matures. Kidd, a dynamic triple-double threat in his own playing days, will be responsible for overseeing Doncic’s growth.

    "My job is to give him answers to the test," Kidd said of Doncic. "His imagination is at the highest level, which is a great thing to be a part of. I (as a young player) tried a lot of things, and I know I drove a lot of my coaches crazy. I won't get mad because I've been in those shoes."

    Do the pieces fit?

    With a .362 usage rate last season, Doncic shouldered the largest offensive burden of any player in the league. Kidd has already said publicly that the superstar will need more help from his team-mates going forward.

    "Not having to bring the ball up every time and start the play," Kidd said. "When you look at the fourth quarter, he wears down at times."

    Further evidence that Doncic will need more help is that he has exploded for more than 40 points in five of his 13 career playoff games, yet the Mavericks are just 2-3 in those games.

    Kristaps Porzingis has been tabbed as the second option in Dallas but could end up in trade rumours sooner rather than later after a flaccid playoff performance, averaging just 13.1 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.

    Despite largely considered a disappointment for not recapturing his peak form, Porzingis still plays an important role as a floor spacer on offense while defending bigger players. And while his numbers fall short of what is expected of a second option, his presence on the court makes Doncic better.

    Porzingis spaces the floor and gives Doncic room to penetrate opposing defenses, allowing him to be more efficient while both scoring and assisting, while also shooting much better from any range with Porzingis on the court compared to when he sits.

    Dallas' depth got worse last offseason with a disastrous trade that sent Seth Curry to the Philadelphia 76ers for Josh Richardson, who has failed to live up to his reputation as a defender and who is yet to match his 17-4-4 averages from his breakout season with Miami in 2018-19.

    After a disappointing regular season, Richardson played just 13.4 minutes per game in the Mavs' first-round loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, averaging 4.9 points and shooting under 40 percent.

    Curry, meanwhile, exploded in the postseason for Philadelphia, averaging 18.8 points and connecting on over half of his three-pointers on 6.8 attempts per game.

    Richardson's defensive prowess also appears to be a farse, as the Mavericks allowed 113.0 points per 100 possessions with him on the court last season and only 107.7 with him on the bench.

    Richardson appears to be a failed experiment, and Dallas will need to look elsewhere to find something resembling a third star.

    Evolution or Revolution? Verdict: Evolution

    The organisation has already undergone a massive transformation by ousting their longtime general manager and head coach in favour of a new direction, so it is fair to say that anything resembling a "revolution" has already taken place in the front office.

    The Mavs' roster is far from a finished product, however, and Harrison will need to hit the ground running in his first general manager job. Dallas did not own the rights to any of its picks in the NBA draft, so he will have already assessed the need to look elsewhere to upgrade the roster around his young superstar.

    The postseason failures and frequent injuries of Porzingis could lead the Mavs to the trade market, but opposing teams have also seen those weaknesses and have adjusted their assessments of him as well. Dallas may be better served by displaying some patience with a player who is still only 25 and has averaged over 20 points per game in three straight campaigns.

    Milwaukee's 2021 title demonstrated that teams can still build patiently while developing players and Dallas may be one acquisition away – as the Bucks were with Jrue Holiday – from becoming contenders once again.

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