NBA

Bridges thrives as Nets upset Nuggets despite Jokic triple-double, Murphy explodes for 41 in Pelicans win

By Sports Desk March 12, 2023

Mikal Bridges' incredible start to his career as a Brooklyn Net continued on Sunday as he led his team to a 122-120 road upset against the Western Conference-leading Denver Nuggets despite Nikola Jokic's massive triple-double.

Bridges, 26, arrived from Phoenix as the central piece heading to Brooklyn in the Kevin Durant trade, and he has lived up to even the most lofty expectations about what he could produce as the focal point of an offense.

Playing in a supporting role during his time with the Suns, Bridges was averaging a career-high 17.2 points per game this season. It is the fifth season in a row he has improved his points per game, all with career shooting splits of 49.9 per cent from the field, 37.6 per cent from deep and 85.2 per cent from the free throw line.

In his 12 games since joining the Nets, Bridges has shown he is indeed capable of filling a featured role, averaging 25.8 points while maintaining elite efficiency at 51.4 per cent from the field, 49.2 per cent from deep and 90 per cent at the line.

Against the Nuggets, Bridges again led his team in scoring with 25 points on seven-of-16 shooting, while fellow trade deadline acquisition Spencer Dinwiddie posted a career-high 16 assists to go with his 15 points (five-of-15) and six rebounds.

After starting the season a perfect 25-0 in games when reigning back-to-back MVP Jokic has tallied a triple-double, Denver have now dropped two in a row, with his 35 points (14-of-23), 20 rebounds and 11 assists proving not enough to make up for Jamal Murray's ice-cold five-of-19 shooting night.

The Nets have now won five of their past six to improve to 39-29, sitting 3.5 games clear of the play-in tournament placings, while the 46-22 Nuggets are still five games clear atop the West.

Murphy's big night carries the Pelicans

Second-year wing Trey Murphy III dropped a career-high 41 points as the New Orleans Pelicans defended their home court 127-110 against the visiting Portland Trail Blazers.

With Damian Lillard out of action for Portland, they did not have a single player exceed 17 points, while Murphy caught fire.

The 22-year-old hit 13-of-20 shots and nine-of-14 three-pointers, eclipsing his previous high score by nine points as he reached the 30-point mark for the third time. 

Much like Bridges, Murphy has excelled when given an expanded opportunity, providing a silver lining to the absences of Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson.

Embiid too big, too strong for the Wizards

Philadelphia 76ers MVP candidate Joel Embiid was once again the most dominant player on the floor during Sunday's 112-93 manhandling of the Washington Wizards.

Embiid, who leads the race for the scoring title at 33.4 points per game, raised his average ever so slightly with 34 points on 12-of-21 shooting, adding eight rebounds, four assists, four blocks and a steal.

James Harden, who is leading the league in assists at 10.8 per game, made his center's life easier with another 14 dimes to go with 18 points (six-of-11).

The win is the 76ers' fifth in a row, and they are now only 1.5 games behind the Boston Celtics (47-21) as they both try to chase down the conference-leading Milwaukee Bucks (48-19).

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    Derrick White's tie-breaking 3-pointer with 45 seconds left sent the Boston Celtics into the NBA Finals for the second time in three years with a 105-102 win over the Indiana Pacers in Monday's Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals.

    The top-seeded Celtics, who were ousted in seven games by the Miami Heat in last year's East finals, completed a sweep of this best-of-seven series by rallying from a nine-point deficit with under nine minutes left.

    Jaylen Brown led Boston's comeback by scoring 10 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter and coming up with a key late block that preceded White's winning shot. The Celtics also received 26 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists from Jayson Tatum, as well as another strong performance from their backcourt duo of White and Jrue Holiday.

    Holiday totalled 17 points and nine rebounds while White had 16 points on 7-of-14 shooting along with a game-high five steals.

    The sixth-seeded Pacers were unable to extend the series while playing a second straight game without All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton, who injured his hamstring in Thursday's Game 2.

    Andrew Nembhard led Indiana with 24 points and 10 assists, while Pascal Siakam posted 19 points and 10 rebounds.

    The Celtics will face the winner of the Western Conference finals between the Dallas Mavericks and Minnesota Timberwolves, and will host Game 1 on Thursday, June 6. The Mavericks lead that series 3-0 and can advance at home in Tuesday's Game 4. 

    A tightly contested game saw neither side lead by more than eight points until the Pacers put forth a 5-0 run, capped by Nembhard's 3-point play with 8:57 left to play, to take a 94-85 advantage.

    Indiana led 98-90 with under six minutes to go before the Celtics began catching fire. After Brown hit two free throws and Tatum knocked down a 3-pointer, Holiday drove the lane and was fouled while getting a layup to go down following a made basket by Nembhard. Boston's veteran guard calmly hit the ensuing free throw to bring the Celtics within 100-98 with 3:54 left.

    It remained a two-point game until Brown knocked down a floater with 2:40 left to tie the score at 102-102. Shortly thereafter, the All-Star forward rejected Nembhard in the lane as Boston's Al Horford grabbed the rebound with the contest headed towards the final minute of play.

    Brown then found an open White in the right corner, and the valued guard drained a 23-footer to send the Celtics ahead.

    Indiana had one final chance to force overtime, but Nembhard's 3-point try missed the mark and the Pacers failed to get another shot off. 

     

     

     

  • NBA legend Walton dies at 71 NBA legend Walton dies at 71

    Basketball legend Bill Walton died Monday at the age of 71.

    The NBA announced he passed away following a prolonged battle with cancer.

    During a 10-year professional career, Walton won a pair of NBA titles and was named the 1977-78 league MVP. He was also included on the NBA's 50th anniversary and 75th anniversary teams.

    He was the No. 1 overall pick of the 1974-75 NBA draft by the Portland Trail Blazers following a brilliant collegiate career that saw him win a pair of national titles at UCLA and earn three national player of the year awards.

    "Bill Walton was truly one of a kind," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.

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    Luka Doncic says Kyrie Irving was "born for the clutch situations" as the Dallas Mavericks produced another late show to deny the Minnesota Timberwolves.

    The Mavs, who overcame a late two-point deficit, prevailed 116-107 in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals series, becoming the first NBA side in history to take a 3-0 series lead despite trailing in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter in each game.

    Dallas had the second-best clutch record (23-9) and best clutch offence (127.1 points per 100 possessions) during the regular season, and have continued that momentum into the playoffs.

    Indeed, they also came from behind late on in Game 6 of their conference semi-final series victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

    Irving scored 14 points in the fourth quarter in Game 3, and now has 31 such points this series; the most by any player in this year's conference finals.

    "Unbelievable. That's why some people call him Mr Fourth Quarter, right?" Doncic said of his team-mate. "Just amazing. He's born for these situations. He's born for the clutch situations, so we just get the ball to him."

    "Down the stretch, that's where we make our money," Irving added. "I think we have that poise now, and we're just showcasing our skill sets out there that a lot of teams have to guard, the depth that we have. A lot of teams have to guard each one of us, and you got to pick your poison."

    Irving and Doncic scored 33 points apiece to become the first starting backcourt to each register at least 30 points in three playoff games over the past 50 seasons.

    "I feel like we're both born for this if you ask me, but it's just basketball. You've got to give the game what it needs at times," said Irving, who called for focus in his franchise's quest for a second NBA title.

    "It doesn't mean anything if we don't win a ring together. Right now, I want to show a lot of respect to the guys that have come before us and have actually done it. And our time will come."

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