NBA

NBA playoffs 2021: Harden confident in improved mobility for Game 7 after struggling in Nets loss

By Sports Desk June 18, 2021

James Harden is confident he will have improved mobility for Game 7 of the Brooklyn Nets' Eastern Conference semi-final series after appearing limited in the 104-89 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

Harden returned from a hamstring injury sustained in the series opener, playing both Game 5 and Game 6, but his mobility has visibly been restricted by the issue.

At one stage in Thursday's Game 6 defeat to the Bucks, former NBA MVP Harden swooped on a loose ball, offering up a fast-break opportunity but he instead held up play to ensure he did not need to sprint.

The Bucks levelled the series at 3-3, with forcing a deciding Game 7 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Saturday.

Harden's return coincided with Kyrie Irving's absence after he injured his ankle in Game 4, triggering further doubts about his fitness but the former insisted he was improving.

"It's not even about rust. It's about being able to move," Harden said after finishing with 16 points, five rebounds and seven assists from 40 minutes on court.

"Day by day I continue to get better. Game 5 was the first time I did any movement since I got hurt. Tonight was no different.

"I'm out there to do whatever it takes to win. I've got to be better on both ends of the floor which I will be on Game 7."

Nets team-mate Kevin Durant, who scored 32 points and had 11 rebounds for second-seeded Brooklyn, felt Harden seemed to be on the improve.

"He was moving better today. That's a tough, tough injury," Durant said post-game.

"He's gutting it out for us. We're not expecting too much from him movement wise. He's going out there and giving it his all. You've got to respect that."

Durant was not happy with the way his side defended Khris Middleton, who had a game-high 38 points and 10 rebounds.

"I think we fouled him three times shooting threes, which got his rhythm going," Durant said.

"He's a shot maker. We gave him confidence. Every time it felt like they got an offensive rebound he hit a three. He made timely shots for them."

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    Luka Doncic was labelled the "best player in the world" by Argentina coach Sergio Hernandez after he inspired Slovenia to an opening win at the Olympic Games.

    The Dallas Mavericks star led his country to qualification for the Games and was at his remarkable best in Slovenia's 118-100 triumph.

    Slovenia lead Group C after the first round of games, which wrapped up with Spain comfortably seeing off host nation Japan.

    Ricky Rubio was the star for Spain, who emerged 88-77 victors at the Saitama Super Arena.


    THERE'S NO DOUBT ANYMORE

    Hernandez already had an extremely high opinion of Doncic, but his side's defeat at the hands of Slovenia's talisman left no question in his mind that he is the world's best.

    Doncic scored 48 points, shooting 62 per cent from the field, and registered 11 rebounds in a stunning double-double performance.

    Klemen Prepelic went four of six from deep in racking up 22 points, but this was predominantly a one-man show which left Hernandez in awe.

    "It's really hard to analyse a game when one player just dominates everything as we saw tonight with Luka Doncic," Hernandez said. 

    "We tried everything that we could and it truly sounds like an excuse but we weren't able to do much when you have such a dominating player.

    "I said this two years ago: he is the best player in the world, including the NBA. If there was any doubt in my mind, there is no doubt anymore that he is the best player in the world."

    RUBIO PULLS THE STRINGS

    Spain will have been boosted by the United States' defeat to France as they seek a first Olympic gold medal.

    And it was Rubio who ensured their quest started in routine fashion, top-scoring with 20 points and excelling as a passer in registering nine assists.

    Japan improved in the second half after scoring just 14 points in each of the first two quarters, NBA duo Rui Hachimura and Yuta Watanabe excelling for the hosts.

    Hachimura scored 20 points while Watanabe finished with 19 points and eight rebounds but could not prevent Japan from coming up short in their comeback bid.

  • NBA Draft 2021: Josh Giddey – the next Australian set to take the league by storm? NBA Draft 2021: Josh Giddey – the next Australian set to take the league by storm?

    From trailblazer Luc Longley and his trophy-laden time alongside Michael Jordan in Chicago, to Andrew Bogut, Patty Mills, Aron Baynes, Matthew Dellavedova and Ben Simmons. There has been a healthy contingent of Australian stars gracing the NBA.

    Adelaide 36ers sensation Josh Giddey is set to join the growing list of Australians in the league when the 2021 NBA Draft takes place at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Thursday.

    After reigning NBA Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball was taken by the Charlotte Hornets with the third pick of the 2020 Draft, a player from the NBL is projected to hear their name called early for the second consecutive year.

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    The 18-year-old playmaker caught the eye of NBA executives in a season which saw him crowned the NBL's Rookie of the Year after leading the league with 7.6 assists per game, while averaging 10.9 points and 7.3 rebounds in 28 appearances.

    Regarded as the best Australian prospect since three-time All-Star Simmons was drafted first by the Philadelphia 76ers in 2016, 36ers head coach Conner Henry hailed the Melbourne-born point guard.

    "It's really been a rewarding experience for me as a coach," Henry told Stats Perform. "It's the first time I've had the opportunity to coach an elite talent at such a young age.

    "I didn't really know what I exactly had coming in. I had seen Josh on film and in the Chicago camp a year earlier, when he was just a young, fairly tall, skinny kid who didn't play all that well. Carried himself confidently. You could see he played at a pace and made others around him better, but it wasn't like he stood out.

    "Then you fast forward five-and-a-half/six months, he walks in and is two inches taller, 15kg heavier and he has really started to grow into his body. Then I knew I had something pretty special.

    "It became pretty evident after a month and a half that he was going to be able to play - and play at a high level against grown men. As we went down that path with him, we were able to keep throwing more and more systems at him. He was very open to listening, to understanding what we're trying to put in play.

    "Having played the position before, I was able to talk to him about angles. 'Do you see this window of an opportunity here when you turn a corner', 'how do you read the floor initially when you rebound the ball and pushing out on the break', these little things. I think he was well ahead of me already when I brought those things up. Really rewarding to see his growth and confidence grow daily."

    Since 2012, Giddey's assists per game figure is only second to Cairns Taipans point guard Scott Machado – who averaged 7.6 in 2019-20.

     

    "Every player when they reach a certain level of recognition or professional ranks, they're always the best of the best as they keep going in advancing on their path. Josh wasn't satisfied. He was always pushing forward and trying to get better, always trying to connect with his team-mates and that's his greatest strength because he makes everyone around him better," Henry said.

    "His offensive game will continue to grow; he will be able to score more and he is going to become a very good three-point shooter eventually - the mechanics are sound. The release off the hand has improved, he is under the ball more, the rotation has improved and it will only get better.

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    Ingles has become an integral part of the Utah Jazz franchise since his arrival in 2014, ranking fifth in three-point percentage (45.1 – a career high) last season.

    "He'll get to a point where he will have to play harder as he matures physically," Henry said of Giddey. "He won't be able to take periodic breaks in the game and that can be managed minutes wise of course. He will have to be switched on at both ends, even more so than he was with us.

    "Even at 18, he was very good but there were moments when at both ends of the floor where either we had to teach or correct him on things. He'll be fine, he will be surrounded by fantastic coaches who will push him. He likes to be pushed as a player. He will have to improve on the defensive end. I think he will become a good defender.

    "I look at some of the Aussies in the league right now, Ingles isn't this elite athlete that is running up and down, high flying and dunking on people. Josh is that similar kind of Ingles body type. Plays at a good, sound speed, has good strength, uses his length wisely on both ends of the floor and Josh will get better and better in that part of the game in how to adjust and play both offensively and defensively."

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  • Tokyo Olympics: Lillard says Team USA shock loss will be received 'like the end of the world' Tokyo Olympics: Lillard says Team USA shock loss will be received 'like the end of the world'

    Damian Lillard predicted Team USA's stunning defeat to France at the Tokyo Olympics would be portrayed as "the end of the world" but vowed the gold medal was still a target.

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    France's shock win meant the US team's 25-game winning streak in men's basketball at the Olympics came to an end, raising doubts about their ability to challenge for glory at these Games.

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    Evan Fournier of the Boston Celtics starred with 28 points for France.

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