NBA

Lakers' winning streak ended, 76ers fall to Nets

By Sports Desk January 08, 2021

The Los Angeles Lakers' four-game winning streak was snapped in the NBA on Thursday, while the Philadelphia 76ers also fell.

Despite a double-double of 27 points and 12 assists from LeBron James, the Lakers were beaten by the San Antonio Spurs 118-109.

Anthony Davis also had 23 points and 10 rebounds, but the Lakers slipped to 6-3.

LaMarcus Aldridge posted a game-high 28 points for the Spurs.

After five straight wins, the 76ers fell to a 122-109 loss to the Brooklyn Nets.

Joel Embiid had a double-double of 20 points and 12 rebounds for the 76ers (7-2).

The Nets were without Kevin Durant (quarantine) and Kyrie Irving (personal reasons), but Caris LeVert posted 22 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds as they improved to 5-4.

 

Lillard lifts Trail Blazers, Doncic dominates

Damian Lillard's 39 points, seven rebounds and seven assists saw the Portland Trail Blazers past the Minnesota Timberwolves 135-117.

Luka Doncic dominated with 38 points, 13 assists and nine rebounds as the Dallas Mavericks overcame the Denver Nuggets 124-117 after overtime.

Andre Drummond had a double-double of 22 points and 15 rebounds as the Cleveland Cavaliers edged the Memphis Grizzlies 94-90.

 

Terrible Timberwolves

After back-to-back wins to start the season, the Timberwolves have suffered six straight losses. Malik Beasley struggled against the Trail Blazers, going three-of-13 from the field for 12 points in 28 minutes.

 

Cool Jokic

Nikola Jokic forced overtime for the Nuggets against the Mavericks with a long two. He finished with 38 points and 11 rebounds in the overtime loss.

Thursday's results

Brooklyn Nets 122-109 Philadelphia 76ers
Cleveland Cavaliers 94-90 Memphis Grizzlies
Portland Trail Blazers 135-117 Minnesota Timberwolves
San Antonio Spurs 118-109 Los Angeles Lakers
Dallas Mavericks 124-117 Denver Nuggets

 

Clippers at Warriors

The Los Angeles Clippers (6-3) and Golden State Warriors (4-4) meet for the second time in three days on Friday. The Clippers claimed a 108-101 victory on Wednesday.

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  • NBA 2022-23: Can the Lakers bounce back or will LeBron regret penning new deal? NBA 2022-23: Can the Lakers bounce back or will LeBron regret penning new deal?

    It is safe to say 2021-22 was a season to forget for the Los Angeles Lakers.

    A record of 33-49 meant failure to even reach the play-in tournament, unthinkable at the start of the campaign.

    The Lakers finished 11th in the Western Conference, and only managed a measly three wins from 13 against Pacific Division opponents.

    They actually won five of their first eight games, but by the end of the season they had reached peak crisis-mode.

    Heading into their final 10 games, the Lakers knew they needed to win several to get into the playoffs, before proceeding to lose eight in a row, with two consolation victories saving a minimal amount of face.

    It was quite the failure, and yet LeBron James did not seem to think twice about signing a new two-year, $97.1million contract extension that includes a player option for 2024-25.

    Before the new season gets underway, Stats Perform has taken a look at the Lakers' prospects to try and determine if there is cause for optimism, or if James could be left to carry the load on his own once again.

    Can LeBron get Lakers out of a jam?

    The man has four NBA championships, four Finals MVPs, four NBA MVPs, 17 All-Star selections and three All-Star MVPs to his name, but this could be his biggest challenge to date.

    Basketball is clearly a team sport, but as James knows all too well, it's not unusual for one player to play so well that he can carry a team to success almost single-handedly.

    That did not happen last season, despite his best efforts, which goes to show just how poorly the rest of the team performed.

    James scored 1,695 points in just 56 games at an average of 30.3 points per game, his best regular season return since 2005-06, and only Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers averaged more (30.6).

    He also reached a notable landmark in March, becoming the first player in NBA history to record 10,000 assists and 10,000 rebounds in a career.

    Of course, one of the issues was that he only managed to play 56 games, and as James turns 38 in December, is he likely to be more involved this year?

    Even if he is, his impressive numbers last season achieved little in terms of the team's outcome, so will he get more help this time round? Perhaps, if the new coach can make an impact.

     

    Can Ham sandwich Westbrook into his team?

    The dismissal of Frank Vogel was about the most predictable thing that happened at the end of last season.

    Just as you thought the Lakers were pulling out of danger, the wheels would fall off again, which was a recurring theme throughout the campaign, with Vogel unable to maintain any consistency.

    His replacement, Darvin Ham, comes highly rated and with a quiet confidence he can step up having impressed as assistant at the Milwaukee Bucks.

    One of his first jobs will be to form a unit out of his key players, in particular finding a way to get James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook on the court together as often as possible.

    While not perfect, the Lakers did win 11 of their 21 games last season when all three featured, but had losing records when only two, one or none of them played, including defeat all five games where only Westbrook played of the three.

    Westbrook actually recorded his worst scoring season since 2009-10, failing to average over 20 points per game for the first time since then (18.5).

    His rebound and assist numbers were also well down on those he produced at the Washington Wizards in 2020-21, with average rebounds falling from 11.5 to 7.4, and assists from 11.7 to 7.1.

    He was, at least, available though, making 78 appearances, while James played 56 times, and Davis just 40.

     

    AD's lack of availability could potentially the biggest issue, as he also only managed 36 outings in 2020-21, meaning he has played less basketball in the last two years than Westbrook did last season.

    However, he is – for the time being – fit now, and after the Lakers' opening preseason encounter with the Sacramento Kings on Monday, Ham said of the trio: "They allowed themselves to help one another… we have a three-series that involves all three of them, a half-court play call, and I think they're gonna thrive."

    There have been persistent rumours the Lakers will trade Westbrook, but Ham is seemingly working towards life with the 33-year-old, also saying on Monday: "I have a plan for him. That plan included him when they gave me the job."

    Keeping them fit is one thing, albeit mostly out of Ham's hands, but if he can find a way of getting the most out of them when they are available to him, and can coax the Wizards form out of Westbrook, that could be the support James so badly needs.

    A new face and a familiar one

    The consensus was that the Lakers needed fresh blood, rather than relying on older players to rediscover their magic.

    So naturally, they brought in 34-year-old Patrick Beverley and re-signed nine-year NBA veteran Dennis Schroder.

    In fairness, there does appear to be method in the two acquisitions. Beverley was crucial for the Minnesota Timberwolves as they returned to the playoffs last season, averaging 9.2 points in his 54 games, as well as 4.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game while shooting 34.3 per cent of his three-pointers.

    Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka also pointed to his "toughness" and "competitive spirit", possibly suggesting Beverley has been signed as much to inspire his team-mates as much as what he can do with the ball in hand.

    Schroder was an interesting pick-up given the German shooting guard's struggles in the playoff exit to the Phoenix Suns in 2020-21, before leaving for the Boston Celtics.

    Overall though, he had a good record of 15.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 1.1 steals in 61 games that season, and rumours are that James played a key role in getting him back to LA.

    Just make the playoffs and go from there

    There are definitely things to work with for Ham, but it is also far from a simple job.

    While he was pleased with the showing from his main men against the Kings, he will have been alarmed to see the drop-off once he made changes in the second half.

    Leading by five points at half-time, the Lakers went on to lose by 30 at the Crypto.com Arena.

    They tip off with the hardest possible job of stopping Stephen Curry and the defending champion Golden State Warriors on October 18, but an NBA season is a marathon and not a sprint.

    The Lakers do not need to be perfect, but Ham has the regular season to find the right formula and as a minimum, reach the playoffs.

    Then just see where James can take them in the situation he has so often thrived in, assuming he gets more help this time.

  • Wembanyama 'takes over' in Stateside debut to ramp up excitement ahead of 2023 NBA Draft Wembanyama 'takes over' in Stateside debut to ramp up excitement ahead of 2023 NBA Draft

    Victor Wembanyama lived up to his considerable hype in scoring 37 points against Scoot Henderson's G League Ignite.

    The French 18-year-old is the top prospect in the 2023 NBA Draft but was yet to play in the United States before Tuesday's game with his Metropolitans 92 team.

    Wembanyama had described it as "the biggest game I've played in my life", and he did not disappoint on that stage.

    The seven-foot-four forward got to his game-leading points haul on 11-of-20 shooting, including making a remarkable seven of 11 threes. He also had five blocks on the defensive end.

    It was not enough to beat the Ignite, with Henderson – the projected number two pick – inspiring a 122-115 win, but a big half-time deficit set Wembanyama up to dominate.

    "At some point, it was just about taking over," he explained afterwards. "Our team definitely needed players to step up because we were down [21 points], I think.

    "Coming back from such a lead is a tough task, so you've got to take responsibility.

    "Three is more than two, so in these times, you've got to do what you've got to do, like taking fast-break threes. You've got to score points as fast as possible."

    Henderson finished with 28 points, nine assists and five rebounds and said of his performance: "I feel like I played pretty good. I've still got areas of my game where I feel like I need to get better, for sure, and that's not on the stat sheet."

    But the Ignite star was not interested in comparisons with Wembanyama, adding: "I didn't really think about it too much. I was there to win

    "They talk, but I wasn't paying attention to all that. I try to stay off social media as much as I can when it comes to comparing and contrasting players.

    "I wanted to – I don't really feed into that. I just feed into going into the game 110 per cent and focusing on winning. That was my main goal today, and we got the goal done."

    Henderson did add Wembanyama is "a pretty good player", even if "nothing really surprised me".

    And Wembanyama was complimentary in return, saying of his fellow prospect: "He's tough to guard – just what I expected.

    "I think the biggest point of his game is his aggressiveness. Every time the ball is in his hands, it's something you can feel on the court: he can do something dangerous, he can slash, he can shoot the ball.

    "I was surprised in a good way – he's a great player."

  • Zion impresses on Pelicans return but 'couldn't show them everything' Zion impresses on Pelicans return but 'couldn't show them everything'

    Zion Williamson impressed in his return for the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday after missing the entire 2021-22 season, although he says he "couldn't show them everything".

    The 2019 NBA Draft top overall pick put in a 15-minute cameo, scoring 13 points with four rebounds as the Pelicans won 129-125 over the Chicago Bulls in their preseason opener.

    Williamson, 22, had not played competitively for the Pelicans for 514 days, dating back to May 2021, having sat out last season with a foot injury.

    The power forward, who said he felt like he was at his best again at last week's media day, was impressive during his brief appearance, where he teamed up with an unfamiliar Pelicans line-up to that which he last played with following numerous personnel changes.

    "Couldn't show them everything," Williamson told reporters. "But just kind of getting a feel for it again. Find spots. Picking and choosing where I want to attack.

    "But I got a new team since the last time I played. I'm still learning some of the guys. Today we were able to click.

    "I feel like if we can do that for the rest of these preseason games, I feel we'll be in pretty good shape."

    The Pelicans struggled in Williamson's absence last season, missing the playoffs with a 36-46 record under head coach Willie Green.

    "He looked good and he's just going to continue to get better," Green said about Williamson.

    "That's what we know about Z. He works at it. He's a competitor. And you know it doesn't look like it, but he had 13 points, four rebounds in 15 minutes. That's the type of work he puts in on the floor."

    Williamson averaged 27.0 points with 61.1 percent shooting, 3.7 assists and 7.2 rebounds across 61 games in the 2020-21 season before his foot injury. He only played 24 times in his rookie season in 2019-20 before becoming an NBA All-Star in 2021.

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