NBA

Irving and Harden lead Nets to eighth straight win, Westbrook and Beal fire for Wizards

By Sports Desk February 26, 2021

Kyrie Irving and James Harden combined for 47 points as the Brooklyn Nets proved irresistible in their 129-92 triumph against the Orlando Magic.

Irving led the way with 27 points and nine assists, shooting 11 of 18 from the field and Harden dropped five threes from his 10 attempts from downtown to power Brooklyn to an eighth straight win.

The All-Star duo were supported by Joe Harris, who sank four of six threes for 14 points, while Landry Shamet came off the bench to score 19 points, tying Harden with five from distance. 

After the Magic opened up a 10-point lead during the first quarter, the Nets went 41-19 in the second quarter and never looked back, with Nikola Vucevic finishing with 28 points for Orlando.

Still waiting on Kevin Durant to return from a hamstring injury, the 22-12 Nets are second only to the Philadelphia 76ers (22-11) in the Eastern Conference.

Close on their tails are the third-placed Milwaukee Bucks, who beat the New Orleans Pelicans 129-125 to go 20-13, with Giannis Antetokounmpo (38 points) outshining Zion Williamson (34).

 

Beal and Westbrook chemistry continues for Wizards

The Washington Wizards made it a 3-1 road trip, following up on wins against the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers with a 112-110 victory against the Denver Nuggets.

The NBA's leading scorer Bradley Beal buried 33 points while Russell Westbrook made it three triple-doubles in five games with his 16 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

George comes up short for Clippers

Tyus Jones was the game's top scorer in the Memphis Grizzlies' 122-94 win against the Los Angeles Clippers despite only spending 15 minutes on court.

Jones was the only player in the game to make 20 points, as Clippers guard Paul George only dropped three of his 12 field-goal attempts for his 13 points.

 

Zion producing coast-to-coast

Williamson may have come out on the losing side but the 20-year-old not only matched Antetokounmpo almost blow-for-blow, but he also showcased some razor-sharp defensive skills. 

Thursday's results

Philadelphia 76ers 111-97 Dallas Mavericks
New York Knicks 140-121 Sacramento Kings
Brooklyn Nets 129-92 Orlando Magic
Memphis Grizzlies 122-94 Los Angeles Clippers
Washington Wizards 112-110 Denver Nuggets
Milwaukee Bucks 129-125 New Orleans Pelicans

 

Jazz at Heat

The NBA-leading Utah Jazz looked untouchable during a blowout win over the Los Angeles Lakers. The Miami Heat have also recently knocked off the defending champions and are on a four-win stretch.

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  • Nagelsmann has 'full backing of Bayern' as Salihamidzic expects return to form Nagelsmann has 'full backing of Bayern' as Salihamidzic expects return to form

    Julian Nagelsmann will turn around Bayern Munich's form after the international break and has the club's "full backing", sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic has pledged.

    A run of three draws in the Bundesliga for Bayern was followed by a 1-0 defeat to Augsburg before many of Nagelsmann's players headed off on national team duty.

    Bayern sit fifth after seven rounds of games, five points adrift of early pace-setters Union Berlin, and they face Bayer Leverkusen next.

    Leverkusen have made a much worse start than Bayern, with the team that finished third in the Bundesliga last season winning just once so far this term.

    But almost all the focus is on Bayern, who have won the last 10 Bundesliga titles, and Salihamidzic has admitted the early form is a concern, but something that can be resolved.

    Salihamidzic told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper: "Julian is very clear. He and his team of coaches know exactly what to do.

    "Above all, Julian knows that he has the full backing of FC Bayern, that doesn't have to be emphasised again and again."

    Bayern's shot conversion rate in the Bundesliga has dipped from 14.41 per cent last season to 11.8 per cent this term, and it would be easy to point to the sale of Robert Lewandowski to Barcelona and suggest that has been a factor.

    It might well be; however, there are signs that Bayern are doing plenty right.

    They have already hit the woodwork seven times in seven games, three times more than any other side, which suggests they have been unfortunate. Over 34 games last season, they hit the woodwork 21 times.

    Their goal tally is closely tracking their expected goals (xG) score, and both being league highs can be interpreted as another healthy sign. Bayern have netted 19 from an xG of 17.48, so they are exceeding expectations, based on the quality of chances they have had, over the course of the seven games. Last season they finished with 97 league goals from xG of 96.67.

    A worrying sign is that Bayern have twice conceded a goal when an error has been committed, having done so only three times in the 2021-22 campaign.

    Salihamidzic said Bayern chiefs had spoken to Nagelsmann about "all aspects" of the opening weeks of the season, including the encouraging Champions League group wins over Inter and Barcelona.

    What is clear is that Bayern expect greater tenacity from the team after the disappointing derby effort against Augsburg.

    "We will appear differently after the international break. And I expect that too," Salihamidzic said. "Physical intensity, greed and the willingness to push yourself to the limit in every game are the prerequisites for success."

  • McCollum gets two-year, $64million extension from Pelicans McCollum gets two-year, $64million extension from Pelicans

    The New Orleans Pelicans and star guard CJ McCollum have agreed to a two-year, $64million contract extension, according to reports.

    The deal, as reported by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, keeps McCollum signed through the 2025-26 season, tying him to fellow stars Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, who are signed through at least the next three seasons.

    McCollum – who was acquired from the Portland Trail Blazers in February – was a scoring machine down the stretch for the Pelicans and helped lift New Orleans into the play-in tournament and, eventually, a compelling six-game series against the top-seeded Phoenix Suns.

    The 31-year-old guard averaged 24.3 points in 26 games with the Pelicans last season, shooting 49.3 per cent from the field and 39.4 per cent from three-point range.

    With one offseason priority completed, the Pelicans can now turn their focus towards getting Williamson back on the court after he missed the entire 2021-22 season with a broken right foot.

    New Orleans fans spent much of last season waiting for Williamson's return, which never came.

    Williamson averaged 27 points over 61 games in 2020-21.

    With their stars now fully healthy, the Pelicans carry elevated expectations into this season, despite playing in a loaded Western Conference.

    New Orleans' high-scoring trio of stars is accompanied by veterans like Jonas Valanciunas, Larry Nance Jr. and Devonte' Graham, while second-year defensive ace Herbert Jones is expected to take a step forward.

    So much of the Pelicans' potential success, however, relies on health.

    Williamson has played 85 career games since being drafted No. 1 overall in 2019. McCollum has missed a total of 45 games over the past two seasons, and Ingram has never played more than 62 games in a season as a starter.

  • South Africa 38-21 Argentina: All Blacks take title despite Springboks win in Durban South Africa 38-21 Argentina: All Blacks take title despite Springboks win in Durban

    New Zealand retained the Rugby Championship title after South Africa could only beat Argentina 38-21 in the final match of the tournament on Saturday.

    The All Blacks' dominant 40-14 defeat of Australia had set the Springboks the sizeable task of securing a bonus-point win by at least 39 points to be crowned champions in Durban.

    And Ian Foster's side could ultimately watch on with some degree of comfort early on Sunday morning back home, as the world champions could not prevent them from claiming a fifth title in six championships and had to settle for second place.

    An 11th-minute Springboks try was ruled out as Eben Etzebeth had stripped the ball from team-mate Siya Kolisi in an offside position, although their pressure soon told with a yellow card for Marcos Kremer.

    South Africa made the most of their numerical advantage when Jasper Wiese scored the first and surely easiest try of his international career, walking the ball over at the back of a scrum.

    No sooner had Kremer returned than Juan Martin Gonzalez headed for the sin bin, and it was captain Kolisi's turn to capitalise as he powered through for the second, before Frans Steyn dispatched a long-range penalty.

    But Gonzalo Bertranou lunged for the line on the stroke of half-time to silence the Kings Park crown, then Gonzalez raced down the left for the first try of the second period.

    Argentina had designs on winning the match, yet they conceded pivotal penalty tries either side of Matias Moroni's score in a half that saw two yellow cards for each side, with the Springboks forced to scrap for their victory as Etzebeth and Faf de Klerk were off the field at the same time.

    Kurt-Lee Arendse's last-gasp try at least allowed South Africa to finish with a flourish, with the Pumas consigned to finishing bottom of the table.

    First-half frustrations again

    If South Africa were to hold any hope of stealing the championship from New Zealand, they needed a strong start. However, three of their previous six home Tests against Argentina – despite all ending in victory – had seen the Springboks fail to take a lead into half-time.

    They had to stay patient again in this encounter, frustrated in front of the posts against 15 men, but two tries with men in the sin bin looked to have kept South Africa just about on course until Bertranou dealt the home crowd a blow shortly before the interval.

    Seven-try repeat a step too far

    South Africa had not scored 39 points, let alone won by that margin, since a 40-9 defeat of Georgia in July 2021.

    The last victory the Springboks celebrated that would have been enough to take the title in these circumstances was a 66-7 success against Canada at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, while the last against Argentina was a 73-13 win in 2013.

    There were seven second-half South Africa tries in that thrashing of the Pumas, but a repeat never appeared likely this time.

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