NBA

Kawhi stars in crucial Clippers victory, Okoro drains last-second winner for the Cavaliers

By Sports Desk March 24, 2023

No Paul George, no worries for the Los Angeles Clippers as Kawhi Leonard carried them to an important 127-105 home win against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday.

It was the second consecutive meeting between these two sides in Los Angeles after George limped off with a knee injury in Tuesday's 101-100 loss to the Thunder, but with the Clippers' playoff future up in the air, Leonard rose to the occasion.

The two-time NBA Finals MVP scored a game-high 32 points on red-hot 13-of-15 shooting from the field. He was seven-of-seven for 15 points in the first quarter, with his team leading 36-29, but the Clippers began to fall apart as he tried to look for his team-mates in the second period.

Leonard did not attempt a field goal in the second, allowing the Thunder to claw back to 54-54 at half-time, but he came out of the break determined to decide the outcome.

The Clippers' franchise star played the entire third quarter, and the first three minutes of the fourth quarter, not coming out until his side had built a 103-85 lead.

Leonard added six rebounds, six assists and four steals in a dominant two-way performance, finishing with a plus/minus of plus 16 in his 35 minutes. 

He was supported well by an efficient night from Russell Westbrook, as he chipped in 24 points (eight-of-13 shooting) with seven assists.

A loss would have seen the Clippers tied with the Golden State Warriors at 38-36 in the sixth seed – only one game clear of the play-in tournament placings – but they are now two games clear of the drama in fifth with only eight fixtures remaining.

It was a devastating loss for the Thunder's playoff hopes, blowing an opportunity to move into the seventh seed outright, and instead slipping down to 11th, although there is now a four-way tie at 36-37.

Okoro wins it at the buzzer

The Cleveland Cavaliers secured a 116-114 road win against the Brooklyn Nets in the last second as Isaac Okoro drilled a game-winning three-pointer from the corner.

Cleveland rode the dynamic duo of Donovan Mitchell and Evan Mobley all night, with Mitchell scoring a team-high 31 points on 11-of-24 shooting, while Mobley racked up 26 points (11-of-18), 16 rebounds, four blocks and three assists.

But the biggest moment of the game came down to Caris LeVert and Okoro, as the former Net came up with a loose ball and zipped a cross-court pass for Okoro's three in a hectic closing sequence.

The Cavs have been a disappointing 18-20 away from home this season, but have now won five of their past six on the road.

With the loss, the Nets fell to 39-34 and down into play-in spots. The Miami Heat (40-34) leapfrogged them into sixth.

Magic continue to show progress

The Orlando Magic have quietly become one of the most exciting young teams in the league, and they knocked off another playoff side with a 111-106 home win over the New York Knicks.

It was Orlando's third win from their past four outings, also taking down the Clippers and the Washington Wizards, and their number one draft pick led the way. Paolo Banchero scored a team-high 21 points on seven-of-17 shooting, adding six rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks.

Both Immanuel Quickley and Quentin Grimes scored 25 points each in the absence of starting Knicks point guard Jalen Brunson, but a three-of-12 performance with five turnovers from R.J. Barrett was hard to overcome.

Related items

  • Cavaliers fire Bickerstaff as coach Cavaliers fire Bickerstaff as coach

    The Cleveland Cavaliers won their first play-off series in six years earlier this month.

    That wasn't enough, however, for J.B. Bickerstaff to keep his job as the team's coach.

    The Cavaliers decided to dismiss Bickerstaff from his position on Thursday, according to a statement made by the team.

    Since taking over for John Beilein in 2020, Bickerstaff went 170-159 in five seasons with Cleveland and led the franchise to the play-offs each of the last two years.

     

    In 2023-24, Bickerstaff helped direct Cleveland to a 48-34 record and the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference play-offs.

    The Cavs then beat the Orlando Magic in the first round for the franchise's first play-off series win since the team lost to the Golden State Warriors in the 2018 NBA Finals. It also marked Cleveland's first trip to the conference semi-finals without LeBron James on the roster since 1992-93.

    The Cavs' season ended in the conference semis, where they lost to the NBA-best Boston Celtics in five games.

    Bickerstaff's team, however, was significantly undermanned with five-time All-Star Donovan Mitchell missing the final two games against the Celtics with a left calf strain and fellow All-Star Jarrett Allen missing the last eight play-off games due to a right rib contusion.

    "J.B. is a well-respected NBA coach and an incredible human-being," Cavaliers president of basketball operations Koby Altman said in a statement. "Over the past four years, he helped establish a culture that progressively drove players to become the best versions of themselves. Decisions like these are never easy, particularly when you look back at where this franchise rebuild started under his leadership. The NBA is a unique business that sometimes requires aggressive risk-taking to move a franchise forward and ultimately compete for championships. We owe a ton of gratitude for everything J.B. has contributed to the Cavaliers and his engagement in the Cleveland community. We wish J.B., his wife Nikki and their three children the best in their future endeavours."

  • Finch bemoans Timberwolves' failure to see out win against Mavericks Finch bemoans Timberwolves' failure to see out win against Mavericks

    Chris Finch lamented the Minnesota Timberwolves’ lack of composure in their Western Conference finals Game 1 defeat to the Dallas Mavericks.

    The Timberwolves lost 108-105 on the road on Wednesday, failing to hold onto their lead in the final four minutes.

    Minnesota sank just 11 of 18 from the free-throw line and committed five turnovers in the final frame, allowing Dallas to complete a late turnaround. 

    Asked what the biggest problem was for his side in a tight contest, Finch said: "No composure.

    "We haven't really closed quarters very well, closed halves very well over the last handful of games.

    "It cost us a game in the Denver series. It certainly had an impact on this game tonight, too. We've got to be better in clutch moments."

    Mike Conley echoed his coach’s thoughts and believes the Timberwolves can use this as a learning curve.

    "I think we haven't been tested like this where we've had to trade basket to basket, late-game free throw situations or fouling situations, stuff that we have to be better at," Conley said.

    "But we'll learn from it. I think each game we've learned a lot about ourselves, a lot we can get better at. Obviously, it's going to be a long series, regardless of what happened tonight."

    Meanwhile, Luka Doncic starred for Dallas once again, scoring 15 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter to help them over the line to a Game 1 victory.

    The Slovenian admits that the Mavericks wanted to make a statement by winning at home.

    "We had to work really hard to get this one," said Doncic.

    "I think we're known for losing game ones, so we were trying to make a point. But it's only one and we have three more [wins] to go."

  • NBA: Mavericks finish strong in Game 1 road win over Timberwolves NBA: Mavericks finish strong in Game 1 road win over Timberwolves

    Luka Dončić scored 15 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter and Kyrie Irving added 30 points as the Dallas Mavericks edged the Minnesota Timberwolves 108-105 on the road in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Wednesday night.

    Dallas trailed 102-98 after Anthony Edwards’ 3-pointer with 3:37 remaining but scored the next eight points- five from Doncic - before the Timberwolves scored on a tip-in with 10.5 seconds to play.

    Game 2 is Friday night in Minnesota.

    Jaden McDaniels had his third straight 20-plus point game with 24 points for Minnesota and Edwards, who went scoreless in the third quarter, had 19 on 6-of-16 shooting with 11 rebounds and eight assists. Karl-Anthony Towns needed a late burst to get to 16 points and finished 6 for 20 from the field.

    The Timberwolves hit 18 3-pointers to just six for the Mavericks but were outscored 62-38 in the paint and sank just 11 of 18 from the free throw line.

    P.J. Washington hit a huge 3 during Dallas’ late deciding run and finished with 13 points and seven rebounds. Irving effectively sealed the win with a pair of free throws with seven seconds left. 

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.