NBA

NBA Heat Check: Zion roars and Fox on form, but what next for Markkanen?

By Sports Desk March 29, 2021

The deadline is closed. Trade season is over in the NBA, with the buyout market now the focus for contending teams as they look to add to their rosters.

Meanwhile, amid the constant rumours and rumblings off the court, the 2020-21 season has continued at a pace, with the playoff battle heating up.

The Dallas Mavericks, New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings have all been helped over the past week by the form of key players, as they aim to make sure they squeeze into a postseason spot in the ever-competitive Western Conference.

But whose production has dipped during the games staged between March 22 and 28? Time to take a look at the numbers, provided by Stats Perform, to find out...


RUNNING HOT…

Kristaps Porzingis

Porzingis set season highs for minutes played (37) and shots attempted (28) against the Indiana Pacers, scoring 31 points, though the Dallas Mavericks still slipped to defeat at home. The Latvian had also recorded 29 points in his team's previous outing, while he averaged 13.50 rebounds (up from 8.58 entering the week) across the two games.

While he did not feature on Saturday - the Mavs opted to rest him against the New Orleans Pelicans, rather than put him out on the court in the second game of a back-to-back run – Porzingis has undoubtedly become a bigger factor at both ends of the court for Dallas since the resumption of the regular season after the All-Star break.

Zion Williamson

Like Shaquille O'Neal, but with skills comparable to a point guard. That was Mavs coach Rick Carlisle's assessment after he had watched Williamson dominate down the stretch against his Dallas team. The first overall pick in the 2019 draft either scored or assisted on the final 14 points for the Pelicans, who sensibly turned the offense over to their All-Star with the result on the line.

Williamson had posted a career-high 39 points while going 16-for-19 from the field in a defeat to the Denver Nuggets beforehand, too. It was his fifth game this season with at least 15 field goals attempted and an 80 per cent success rate, the most by any NBA player since Charles Barkley also had five in the 1988-89 campaign.

De'Aaron Fox

Fox is on an impressive scoring run, managing 147 points in his past four outings for the Sacramento Kings, an average of 36.75 per game. The guard had 44 – a new career best, no less – in a big win over the Golden State Warriors, helping streaking Sacramento close the gap to their opponents in the West standings.

There was also a demonstration of his passing skills – albeit perhaps more usually seen on a football field than the basketball court – when Fox aired the ball out to set up Harrison Barnes' dramatic game-winning shot against the Cleveland Cavaliers. "QB1," Fox tweeted about the assist... is it too late for him to enter the NFL Draft?


GOING COLD…

Lauri Markkanen

The Bulls did trade a big man before the deadline – but it was not Markkanen who they moved. Despite the rumours the Finn could be involved in a deal, instead it was Wendell Carter who was part of the package that led to center Nikola Vucevic arriving in Chicago.

So what next for Markkanen? He had averaged 18.19 points per game heading into the previous week, but his production dipped to 11.67. His issues with outside shooting did not help, making just two of his 13 three-point attempts as the Bulls suffered three straight defeats. Even with those recent struggles, though, he is making a career-high 38.2 per cent from deep in 2020-21.

Damian Lillard

Lillard scored 22 points in each of his three outings over the past week, while the six-time All-Star sat out Portland's road win over the Orlando Magic due to a knee issue. His dip in points is, in part, down to some struggles from long range. Lillard has averaged just 2.33 three-pointers made during the recent stretch, down from his 4.29 successful attempts from beyond the arc beforehand.

Still, there has been a slight rise in terms of his assists, including 11 against the Toronto Raptors upon his return to action on Sunday. The Trail Blazers won, too, improving to 7-3 through their past 10 outings.

Bradley Beal

Make no mistake, Beal is having an outstanding season for the Washington Wizards, averaging 31.3 points despite a downturn in his long-range production (33.8 per cent, compared to 37.7 per cent for his career).

Yet the 27-year-old has cooled off a touch. He managed a combined total of 48 points in successive games against the New York Knicks this past week, while his outing against the Detroit Pistons on Saturday was cut short at 17 points and six assists due to a hip injury. It meant his average for the week still sat at a respectable 21.67, though comfortably below his usual lofty standards.

Related items

  • Wimbledon: Djokovic hoping for Nadal clash as he seeks revenge for Roland Garros defeat Wimbledon: Djokovic hoping for Nadal clash as he seeks revenge for Roland Garros defeat

    Novak Djokovic would be delighted by the prospect of facing Rafael Nadal in the Wimbledon final, as he targets revenge for his French Open loss to the Spaniard.

    Nadal remains on course for a calendar Grand Slam after following up January's Australian Open victory with his 14th French Open title earlier this month, having overcome Djokovic in a quarter-final classic on the clay in Paris.

    The Spaniard's Roland Garros triumph moved him two clear of Djokovic's tally of 20 grand slam titles, while his last-eight win over the Serbian was his 29th in the pair's head-to-head rivalry (Djokovic has 30 wins).

    With 59 career meetings, the duo have met one another more often than any other men's pairing in the Open Era, and they could be set for a final showdown at Wimbledon after landing on opposite sides of the draw.

    Speaking to Sky Sports, defending Wimbledon champion Djokovic said he would relish such a contest and insisted Nadal, who has not triumphed on the grass in London since 2010, is among the favourites to take home the title.

     

    "If we get to face each other it means we're both in the finals, which I think we both want," Djokovic said.

    "It's a very long way [away], but of course you have to put him as one of the favourites, even though he hasn't played at Wimbledon for the last three years [including the cancelled 2020 edition], I think.

    "But still, he's Nadal, he has achieved what he has achieved throughout his career and also this year, of course, which gives you a lot of confidence in his case.

    "I'm sure there's going to be a lot of great matches ahead for both of us, and if we get to face [each other] in the final… I'd love to face him in the final and get revenge for Paris!"

    Nadal has beaten Djokovic in 11 of the duo's 18 grand slam meetings, although the Serbian holds a 2-1 advantage over their three Wimbledon contests, triumphing in the 2011 final and the 2018 semi-finals.

    Djokovic begins his Wimbledon campaign by facing Kwon Soon-woo on Centre Court on Monday, with Nadal taking on Argentina's Francisco Cerundolo the following day.

  • Stanton homer ends Yankees' historic no-hit streak against Astros Stanton homer ends Yankees' historic no-hit streak against Astros

    This is shaping up to be a season to remember for the New York Yankees, but they made history for all the wrong reasons on Sunday.

    The Yankees, who boast the best record in the major leagues in 2022, had been held to a combined no-hitter by the Houston Astros in Saturday's 3-0 defeat at Yankee Stadium.

    But rather than come out firing in the teams' next meeting the following day, the Yankees threatened to suffer the ignominy of a stunning second consecutive no-no.

    Jose Urquidy frustrated the home team for 6.1 innings before Giancarlo Stanton finally made good contact and homered 436 feet to center field.

    That was the Yankees' first hit since the eighth inning of Friday's 3-1 home loss to the Astros, a streak of 52 consecutive at-bats – the longest run by a batting team without a hit since at least 1974.

    It also tied the record for the most at-bats without a pitching team allowing a hit over the same period.

    The Astros matched the feats of the 2012 Los Angeles Angels against the Minnesota Twins and Toronto Blue Jays and the 2014 Los Angeles Dodgers against the Philadelphia Phillies and Cincinnati Reds.

    Houston own the only two no-hitters against the Yankees this century, with Saturday's hitless game following a 2003 no-no at Yankee Stadium.

  • 'I've never experienced anything like it' – Leach praises Stokes and McCullum for restoring belief 'I've never experienced anything like it' – Leach praises Stokes and McCullum for restoring belief

    Jack Leach has praised captain Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum for their leadership and says he has "never experience anything" like playing in this England Test side. 

    The Somerset spinner took 5-66 on day four of England's fourth Test against New Zealand to claim his first 10-wicket haul in the format.

    Leach is the first England spinner to take 10 wickets in a Test since Moeen Ali in 2017.

    Not since Derek Underwood against Pakistan at Lord's in 1974 had an England spinner claimed two five-fors in a home Test.

    Stokes and McCullum have put their faith in Leach and been rewarded; he is thriving under the new leadership, with England on course for a clean sweep in their three-match series against the Black Caps.

    "[Under Stokes] it's really attacking, and I am really enjoying bowling attackingly [sic]," Leach told Sky Sports.

    "Stokesy's confidence in his decisions but also in us as players – I have never experienced anything like it.

    "It is very special to be a part of, and that is credit to Stokesy and Baz [McCullum] for setting that up.

    "You realise teams I have played in, the way I have thought, a lot of decisions are made around negativity.

    "A lot of four or five-day games you give up on the win quite early, but now it feels like you are always pushing for that win, so there is never really too bad a situation.

    "My biggest thing is having belief in myself, and that is what Ben and Baz have helped me with."

    Leach's latest impressive showing helped England to bowl out their opponents for 326 in their second innings, leaving the hosts requiring 296 runs for victory in Yorkshire.

    Continuing their attacking approach under Stokes and McCullum, England will enter the final day on 183-2 thanks to strong work by Ollie Pope (81 not out) and Joe Root (55 no).

    Zak Crawley (25) and Alex Lees (nine) fell early on in the chase, but Pope and Root's unbeaten 132-run stand means England now require just 113 runs with eight wickets in hand.

    Should England complete the job on Monday, they will become the first team in Test history to successfully chase a target of at least 250 three times in a single series.

    But Tom Blundell (88 no), who became the highest-scoring visiting wicketkeeper in a Test series in England, vowed that New Zealand will give their all to avoid a whitewash.

    "This team has been known to fight, and we've got to come out there and do that tomorrow," he said. "You put a couple of wickets on there and you just never know.

    "Obviously you've got two guys out there in good form, but if we get one of those, who knows?

    "The wicket is deteriorating. A little bit of variable bounce, obviously with the spin as well. It's quite hard to drive with that older ball. 

    "It looks like it's going to deteriorate even more, and hopefully we can utilise that tomorrow."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.