NBA

NBA-leading Jazz make history in ninth straight win, 76ers' Embiid returns

By Sports Desk April 04, 2021

The Utah Jazz enjoyed a record-breaking performance as the NBA leaders crushed the lowly Orlando Magic 137-91.

Utah set an NBA record for three-pointers in a half – 18 in the first – en route to a ninth consecutive victory on Saturday.

Donovan Mitchell (22 points) made six-of-seven shots from three-point range for the Jazz, who finished with 26 threes in total.

The Jazz have now hit 25-plus threes on four occasions this season – only the 2018-19 Houston Rockets have achieved the feat in league history.

Joe Ingles (17 points) contributed five threes, while Bojan Bogdanovic (17 points) was four-of-six from beyond the arc in Utah, where the Jazz extended their franchise-best home winning streak to 22.

"This is one of those nights for us where we played really well, and we played the right way," said Jazz head coach Quin Snyder. "We played a team that is going through a transition. That said, we were happy with the way we played and continue to emphasize our identity as a team."

In Philadelphia, All-Star and MVP candidate Joel Embiid returned from a 10-game absence to help the 76ers past the Minnesota Timberwolves 122-113.

Embiid had been sidelined since last month due to bone bruising in his left knee but made his long-awaited comeback against the Timberwolves, posting 24 points and eight rebounds.

Sixers team-mate Tobias Harris top-scored with 32 points as Philadelphia moved level with the idle Brooklyn Nets atop the Eastern Conference.

Karl-Anthony Towns' monster display of 39 points and 14 rebounds were not enough for the Timberwolves, who also had 27 points from Anthony Edwards.

 

Holiday fuels Giannis-less Bucks

With two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo absent due to left knee soreness, Jrue Holiday starred with a double-double of 33 points (a season high) and 11 assists to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to a 129-128 win at the Sacramento Kings. Milwaukee team-mate Donte DiVincenzo (12 points and 14 rebounds) also had a double-double.

Russell Westbrook's 26 points and 14 rebounds were not enough as the Washington Wizards were swept aside by the Dallas Mavericks 109-87.

The Miami Heat topped the Cleveland Cavaliers behind double-doubles from Bam Adebayo (18 points and 11 rebounds) and Jimmy Butler (15 points and 11 assists).

All-Star Julius Randle posted 20 of his 29 points in the first quarter to inspire the New York Knicks' 125-81 rout of the Detroit Pistons. The Knicks, who snapped a three-game skid, recorded their largest margin of victory since 1996.

 

Horror show for Thunder

It was a forgettable game for the Oklahoma City Thunder, who were humbled 133-85 by the Portland Trail Blazers. The Thunder shot at just 35.3 per cent away to the Trail Blazers. Theo Maledon was one-of-12 shooting from the field, making just one of his seven three-point attempts for seven points in 22 minutes. Thunder team-mate Aleksej Pokusevski was three-of-13 from the field.

It was a similar story for Terrence Ross and the Magic. Ross was two of 11 from the field in 26 minutes off the bench.

 

Turner tames Spurs

Myles Turner was an immovable force during the closing stages, his defense thwarting the San Antonio Spurs as the Indiana Pacers prevailed 139-133 in overtime.

 

Saturday's results

Dallas Mavericks 109-87 Washington Wizards
New York Knicks 125-81 Detroit Pistons
Miami Heat 115-101 Cleveland Cavaliers
Philadelphia 76ers 122-113 Minnesota Timberwolves
Indiana Pacers 139-133 San Antonio Spurs (OT)
Utah Jazz 137-91 Orlando Magic
Portland Trail Blazers 133-85 Oklahoma City Thunder
Milwaukee Bucks 129-128 Sacramento Kings

 

Lakers at Clippers

Bragging rights will be on the line when injury-hit defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers (31-18) face neighbours the Los Angeles Clippers (32-18) – who have dropped two straight games – on Sunday.

Related items

  • LeBron James calls Luka Doncic his favourite player in the NBA LeBron James calls Luka Doncic his favourite player in the NBA
  • Heat's Erik Spoelstra looking forward to 'throwback' Eastern Conference Finals Heat's Erik Spoelstra looking forward to 'throwback' Eastern Conference Finals

    Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said the Eastern Conference Finals will be an old-school defensive slugfest, and that he feels the best two teams made it.

    The Heat needed six games to triumph over the Philadelphia 76ers, while the Boston Celtics came back from 3-2 down against the Milwaukee Bucks to get the job done in Game 7.

    As a reward for getting their series out of the way early, the Heat will have five days of rest before Tuesday's Game 1, while the Celtics have just one proper rest day between series.

    Speaking to the media after Monday's practice, Spoelstra said it is shaping up as a series that will warm the heart of Heat president Pat Riley.

    "Pat's [Riley] probably is going to enjoy this," he said. "This is like a throwback series. 

    "If both teams are really on top of their games, this should be a series where neither team is scoring 130 points. Both teams hang their hats on rock-solid team defense, and making multiple efforts and being disciplined to schemes. 

    "So it will be a lot of plays and things in the margins… really, we were the two best teams in the East most of the season and it's fitting that we're moving into the conference finals.

    "Boston has played as well as anyone in the entire league once they got to 2022. It's not by accident. They're playing very strong basketball. They do it on both ends."

    Heat star Jimmy Butler was asked about his potential matchup against Jayson Tatum, and he had nothing but praise for the Celtics' best player.

    "He's one of the best in the game right now," he said. "As much attention as he draws on the offensive end – and then I think what's really impressive is the way that he's picked up his defensive intensity. 

    "You got to tip your hat to that and respect him, I think those are the guys that you want to go up against."

  • The bigger, better Boston Celtics deserve favouritism in 2020 Eastern Conference Finals rematch The bigger, better Boston Celtics deserve favouritism in 2020 Eastern Conference Finals rematch

    Two years after meeting in the 2020 Eastern Conference finals, the Boston Celtics are on a mission to flip the script on the Miami Heat.

    In that 2020 series, which the Heat won 4-2 in 'the bubble' to advance to the NBA Finals, the Celtics were the higher seed, and were playing in their third Eastern Conference Finals in the space of four seasons.

    But in hindsight, it was Miami who were built to win that series, despite it being their first time past the second round since LeBron James carried them to the finals in 2014.

    Jimmy Butler was invigorated in his first year in Miami, in his physical prime at 30 years old and was determined to show he was not at fault for pushing his way out of the Minnesota Timberwolves and being traded from the Philadelphia 76ers in the space of a year.

    He was also supported by Goran Dragic, just two years removed from his lone All-Star appearance, who in the series averaged 20.5 points and 4.7 assists per game in 34 minutes.

    As well as having two strong initiators, the Heat also had a complete mismatch in the form of Bam Adebayo against a Celtics team starting Daniel Theis at center, with no competent back-up. Adebayo averaged 21.8 points while shooting over 60 per cent from the field, with 11 rebounds and five assists per game, and was clearly the most dominant player in the series.

    When taking into account an outlier 37-point showing from Tyler Herro on 14-of-of-21 shooting that single-handedly won Game 4 112-109 for the Heat – making it a 3-1 series lead instead of 2-2 heading back to Boston – it begins to become clear that there was not much the Celtics could do, given their personnel.

    Fast-forward a couple of years, 22-year-old Jayson Tatum is now 24 and in the midst of a rapid ascension into the game's best players, 23-year-old Jaylen Brown is now 25 and has developed into a true number-two option, Marcus Smart is now 28 years old and the NBA Defensive Player of the Year, and, more importantly, the supporting cast is built for the long-haul.

    Replacing Theis with Al Horford may be the most consequential addition or subtraction on either side, with the potential to nullify the series-altering presence of Adebayo on the inside. Horford will also have help in the form of Robert Williams III – who became one of the best defensive players in the league this season – while Theis remains as a 'break glass in case of emergency' option.

    Adding to the rise of the Celtics has been the emergence of Grant Williams as a reliable two-way player, capable of slowing down Giannis Antetokounmpo while hitting over 40 per cent of his threes, as well as the trade to add Derrick White as a second defensively sound 'small' guard next to Smart.

    For a team with a real defensive identity – willing to 'switch' every screen and allow their small guards to take on bigger assignments – being able to replace Kemba Walker with a trustworthy, stout defender completely takes away an avenue of attack for a sharp offensive team like Miami.

    What it also means is that the Celtics will not have to waste any minutes on players who have no business in big playoff series – such as Brad Wanamaker and Semi Ojeleye, who combined for 21.8 minutes per game in the 2020 series.

    A run to the NBA Finals would be fulfilling the promises of Boston's advanced numbers, which after the All-Star break had the Celtics as not just a legitimate title contender, but as the favourite, and a historic team.

    During that stretch, the Celtics were the number one offense – with a gap to the Charlotte Hornets at number two – and the number three defense, with a net-rating of 12.7. The Memphis Grizzlies (7.6) were the only other team with a net-rating above 6.0.

    For the Heat, Dragic has been replaced by Kyle Lowry, who is now 36 years old and recovering from his second hamstring injury of the playoffs, and the veteran presences of Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder have been replaced by a combination of Max Strus, Gabe Vincent and the shell of Victor Oladipo.

    Erik Spoelstra boasts arguably the deepest bench in the entire NBA, but this is playoff basketball, which generally comes down to each side's best seven players, nullifying their advantage on the back-end of their roster.

    The identity of this Miami offense through the playoffs has largely relied on the brilliance of Jimmy Butler, who at 32 years old is putting together the best playoff run of his career, averaging 28.7 points per game on 52.7 per cent shooting, with 7.6 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 2.1 steals.

    Miami's second-best scorer this postseason has been Adebayo, way down at 14.6 points per game compared to his 19.1 for the regular season.

    Butler was perfectly matched up against the Philadelphia 76ers, who have no wing defenders capable of matching the Heat star physically – but the Celtics do not have the same problem.

    The Celtics have at least four players – Tatum, Brown, G. Williams and R. Williams – who match up well with Butler, and they showed against the Milwaukee Bucks that they were more than happy to play straight-up defense and force one player to try and beat them with isolations all day.

    If Miami cannot figure out a way to unleash a second scorer in a real way – be it Herro, Adebayo, or even Strus, who averaged 20.5 points in his two matchups against Boston this season – they may be playing straight into the Celtics hands. 

    The one advantage Miami will have is the rest-factor. It will be five days since the Heat's Game 6 win against the 76ers, while the Celtics will only have one true rest day after handling their business in Game 7 on Monday night.

    For the regular season, the Heat won all three of their games with at least three days rest, although the Celtics were the fourth-best team in the NBA coming off one day of rest (28-13, .683 winning percentage).

    If the Heat can take advantage of their fresh legs and win Game 1, anything could happen, but ultimately, just like the Celtics were almost helpless in 2020, the Heat just may not have the horses this time around.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.