NBA

NBA Heat Check: The Greek Freak on fire as Steph suffers three-point slump

By Sports Desk March 01, 2021

The past week in the NBA saw the Brooklyn Nets do something they hadn't previously done since February 9... lose a game.

Brooklyn's defeat to the Dallas Mavericks gave a boost to their rivals for the top seed in the Eastern Conference, headed by the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Milwaukee Bucks, another of those competitors, enjoyed a superb week with reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo unsurprisingly coming to the fore.

Meanwhile, out west, Devin Booker strung together a series of performances that justified his place in the All-Star game.

By contrast, two players significantly more familiar with that contest suffered dips in form.

Here we take a look at some of the best and worst performers across the past week, aided by Stats Perform data.

 

RUNNING HOT...

Giannis Antetokounmpo

The Bucks are firmly back in contention for the top seed in the East after stretching their winning run to five games, with three of those victories coming in the past week.

Antetokounmpo was predictably pivotal to their success, tallying over 30 points in each matchup to extend his streak to four games in that regard.

He finished the week with back-to-back double-doubles against the New Orleans Pelicans and Los Angeles Clippers, scoring 36 points in the latter game.

His points per game average jumped from 28.37 to 37, Antetokounmpo and the Bucks sending a message that they are still very much a contender for the title.

Devin Booker

The All-Star snub who was later added as a replacement showed why he deserves his place in the showcase this past week.

Booker averaged 33 points across the Phoenix Suns' three games, an impressive improvement on his previous season-long average of 24.28.

He capped it in stunning fashion, dropping 43 in the win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, which saw him go 15 for 26 from the field.

At 22-11, the Suns will loom as a dangerous playoff team should he continue that kind of form.

James Harden

Brooklyn may have finally seen their eight-game winning streak come to an end, but it was a positive week for Harden individually.

Absent the other two members of the Nets' big three, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, Harden could not prevent them from falling to defeat to the Mavericks.

However, he was more prolific from beyond the arc this past week, averaging 4.67 made threes having entered the week putting up 3.08 per game.

Harden is converting threes at the highest rate of his career. He is shooting 39.7 per cent from beyond the arc and 41.8 per cent since his trade to Brooklyn from the Houston Rockets.

But he is attempting only 8.2 a game, the fewest since the 2015-16 season (8.0). If he continues to shoot more from deep and maintains his consistency in converting those attempts, a loaded Nets team will have yet another dimension.

GOING COLD...

Paul George

An up-and-down week for the Clippers started brilliantly for George, who racked up 30 points in a win over the Washington Wizards, going six of seven from three-point range.

But he tailed off thereafter, following up two 13-point efforts against the Memphis Grizzlies with a mediocre 16-point display in the loss to the Bucks.

His points per game average fell from 24.36 entering the week to 18 over the past seven days, and the Clippers will need a lot more from him if they are to earn a top-two seed in the West.

Terry Rozier

The man known as 'Scary Terry' did little to terrify opponents over the past week.

Rozier entered the week averaging a career-high 21.15 points per game but that dipped to 13.5 over the four games the Charlotte Hornets contested in the last seven days.

He put up 24 points in a loss to the Golden State Warriors but could not manage more than 12 in his other three outings.

Still averaging 20.2 a game for the season, the Hornets will want Rozier to deliver the kind of performance he did against Golden State consistently as they seek a first playoff berth since 2015-16.

Stephen Curry

Among the players to suffer the biggest decline in three-point shooting this past week was the man most consider the greatest shooter of all time.

Curry had been converting 5.03 three-pointers a game for the season but hit on an average of 3.25 a game as the Warriors won three of four last week.

He still enjoyed a 37-point outing against the New York Knicks, scoring seven triples in that triumph, but was one for 11 from deep versus the Indiana Pacers and two for seven in Sunday's loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.

However, with Curry experiencing a season in which he is averaging his highest points per game tally (29.5) since his unanimous MVP season of 2015-16 (30.1), the smart money says he will soon return to form from beyond the arc.

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    Davis, who scored 44 points against the Milwaukee Bucks in the Lakers' previous game, could not eclipse his career-high 59 points from 2016 against the Detroit Pistons.

    But Davis' 55 points, coming from 22-of-30 field shooting and nine-of-nine shooting from the line, were the second most in a single game this NBA season, behind only Joel Embiid's 59 against the Utah Jazz on November 13.

    The eight-time All-Star scored 31 of his 55 points in the second half, adding 17 rebounds and three blocks. Davis is the first Laker with back-to-back 40-point games since Kobe Bryant in March 2013.

    LeBron James, who had been listed as questionable due to an ankle issue, added 29 points on 12-of-26 field shooting with eight rebounds and six assists but committed five turnovers.

    Russell Westbrook came off the bench to contribute a season-high 15 assists with seven rebounds, while guard Lonnie Walker IV added 20 points on four-of-four three-point shooting.

    The Wizards were not helped by a game-ending first-quarter injury to All-Star Bradley Beal. Kristaps Porzingis top scored for the Wizards with 27 points on 11-of-25 shooting, while ex-Laker Kyle Kuzma added 26 points with seven rebounds before fouling out.

    The victory improved the Lakers to 10-12, having won three games in a row, but they remain 12th in the Western Conference.

    Brown helps Celtics snap Nets' streaks

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    Brown led the way for the Celtics with 20 of his 34 points in the first quarter, finishing also with 10 rebounds, while Jayson Tatum scored 29 points on 10-of-19 field shooting with 11 rebounds.

    Kyrie Irving struggled against his former franchise, shooting seven-of-21 from the field for 18 points with eight rebounds and five assists. Kevin Durant top scored for the Nets with 31 points but gave up eight turnovers.

    Suns extend struggling Spurs' skid

    The Western Conference-leading Phoenix Suns condemned the San Antonio Spurs to 11 straight losses with a 133-95 blowout win led by Deandre Ayton's double-double.

    Suns center Ayton finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds, while Devin Booker added 20 points on seven-of-16 field shooting, with Mikal Bridges making six-of-seven triples in his 20 points.

    The struggling Spurs were blown away in a 36-11 second quarter, seeing them close within two defeats of a franchise-worst losing streak, set in 1989.

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    The Golden Boot winner from Russia 2018 failed to score during the group stage but opened his World Cup 2022 account in the last 16 to double England's lead shortly before the break.

    Kane's goal moved him to 11 in a major tournament for the Three Lions, surpassing Gary Lineker in that regard, and the England captain hopes to extend his record.

    "As a striker, scoring goals is what you do and its one of the best feelings you can have in football. I was waiting patiently to score," he said after the game.

    "I feel good and hopefully this can start a good run for me personally as this can help the team as well.

    "As you saw today, we had players scoring from different positions which is really important when you get in the later stages of the tournament.

    "It was nice for me to score but the main thing was a really good team performance."


    England are now braced for Saturday's challenge against defending champions France, who have lost just once in the knockout stages of the World Cup under Didier Deschamps – against eventual champions Germany in 2014.

    Kane is under no illusion regarding the importance of the game but feels if you want to go all the way, you have to defeat the best.

    "Saturday will be a difficult game. France are a great team, reigning world champions, so it will be a tough evening. We have a couple of days to recover before another important game.

    "If you want to win the World Cup you have to play the best sides the world and France are definitely one of them."

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