NBA

Vucevic dominates for Bulls as Mitchell return inspires Jazz

By Sports Desk February 05, 2022

Nikola Vucevic was tasked with dominating the middle against the depleted Indiana Pacers and the Chicago Bulls center was up to the task.

Vucevic earned a 29th double-double of the season, scoring a season-high 36 points and adding 17 rebounds as the Bulls earned a 122-115 triumph on Friday.

DeMar DeRozan contributed 31 points to the cause against a Pacers side devoid of Goga Bitadze, Malcolm Brogdon, Isaiah Jackson, T.J. McConnell, Myles Turner and T.J. Warren due to injuries, while Domantas Sabonis is unavailable due to health and safety protocols.

The Bulls consequently remain top of the Eastern Conference after winning for the fourth time in six outings, with Vucevic going 16 of 21 from the field.

In credit to the Pacers, they were only trailing 65-62 at halftime and briefly led when Lance Stephenson landed a three-pointer with a little under three minutes of the third quarter remaining, but a 10-0 stretch in the fourth ensured the Bulls were in control.


Mitchell return inspires Jazz against out-of-sorts Nets

Donovan Mitchell missed eight straight games as a result of a concussion but made up for lost time as the Utah Jazz, fourth in the West, outclassed the out-of-form Brooklyn Nets 125-102.

Mitchell ended the game with 27 points on the back of eight-for-10 shooting, while he drained six three-pointers and added six assists in 22 minutes of action. His tally was a franchise record for most points scored under 22 minutes.

Bojan Bogdanovic was a valuable ally with 19 points and 11 rebounds, as the Nets were consigned to a seventh consecutive defeat.

James Harden (hamstring), Kevin Durant (knee), LaMarcus Aldridge (ankle) and Joe Harris (ankle) were all again absent for a Nets team who have plummeted to sixth in the East.


Doncic triple-double sparks Mavs comeback

Not for the first time in his career, Luka Doncic was the hero for the Dallas Mavericks as they overturned a 16-point second-quarter deficit to defeat the Philadelphia 76ers 107-98.

Doncic earned a 44th career triple-double, finishing with 33 points, 13 rebounds and 15 assists in a game that was paused for 44 minutes during the opening period after it was ruled one of the rims was crooked.

Reggie Bullock made a pair of big three-pointers down the stretch in a 20-point showing, while Jalen Brunson put up 19.

The Mavs snapped a two-game losing streak, while the 76ers - for who Joel Embiid had 27 points and 13 rebounds - have lost two on the spin for the first time since the middle of December.

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  • Kidd lauds 'special' Doncic's love of the big stage after game-winning 3 Kidd lauds 'special' Doncic's love of the big stage after game-winning 3

    Luka Doncic loves the big stage, and that's what makes him "special" to Dallas Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd.

    Doncic again displayed his ability to perform in the biggest moments on Friday as he drained a 3-pointer over four-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert to lead the Mavericks to a 109-108 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, one that leaves them 2-0 up in their Western Conference final.

    The Mavericks came back from an 18-point deficit to tighten their grip on the series, with Doncic leading the way. The five-time All-Star ended the game with 32 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds, becoming just the fourth player in NBA history to manage four triple-doubles across a five-game postseason span.

    Kidd hailed Doncic's game-winning impact, saying there was no other option but to try and get him the ball when deciding what play to run during the timeout with 13 seconds remaining

    "As you've seen, he loves that stage," Kidd told reporters. "He doesn't run from it. He made a big shot. Luka is special. He loves those type of moments.

    "The play was to get Luka the ball and let Luka do what he does in those moments."

    Doncic believes the comeback, the Mavericks' third-biggest in their postseason history, was down to his team's mindset as he ruthlessly snatched the game away from the Timberwolves.

    "Like I always say, stay together, positive energy," Doncic explained. "We believed until the end.

    "I just saw some space and decided to shoot a 3. Get to my spot, step back. That's it."

  • NBA: Doncic's late 3-pointer gives Mavericks 2-0 lead NBA: Doncic's late 3-pointer gives Mavericks 2-0 lead

    Luka Dončić drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 3 seconds remaining and finished with a triple-double as the Dallas Mavericks rallied for a 109-108 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves and a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals on Friday night.

    Doncic had 32 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds for his eighth triple-double in 42 career playoff games for the Mavericks, who erased a 16-point deficit midway through the third quarter.

    After winning two on the road, the Mavericks look to take a commanding 3-0 lead as the series shifts to Dallas on Sunday night.

    Naz Reid scored 23 points with seven 3-pointers, but his last shot at the buzzer rimmed out as the Timberwolves endured another off night from stars Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns. Edwards had 21 points on 5-of-17 shooting and Towns scored 15 on 4 of 16 from the field.

    Jaden McDaniels, who had 20-plus points in each of Minnesota’s last three games, didn’t make a basket until midway through the third. He finished with two points on 1-of-6 shooting.

    Kyrie Irving scored 13 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, including a 3 from the corner with 65 seconds left that drew Dallas within 108-106.

    Minnesota committed two turnovers, the last one by Edwards, who recklessly threw the ball out of bounds off a drive with 13 seconds to go.

    Doncic took the inbounds pass and dribbled to set up a screen for Dereck Lively II that triggered a switch by the Wolves. Rudy Gobert covered Doncic, but the Mavs superstar sank the 3 and then flexed his arms and yelled at the stunned crowd as his teammates mobbed him.

    The Wolves pushed their lead to 68-52 on Mike Conley’s free throw with 9:07 left in the third quarter, but Dallas scored eight straight points and was within 79-77 on Irving’s basket with 1:22 to play in the quarter.

  • Atlanta United v Los Angeles FC: Pineda insists Five Stripes 'on the right path' Atlanta United v Los Angeles FC: Pineda insists Five Stripes 'on the right path'

    Gonzalo Pineda insists Atlanta United "are on the right path" as they look to get back to winning ways in MLS.

    The Five Stripes are 12th in the Eastern Conference following a run of eight matches without victory.

    Although, they enjoyed a reprieve in the U.S. Open Cup last time out, defeating Charleston Battery on penalties to reach the quarter-finals.

    And Pineda hopes his side can build on that momentum when they welcome Los Angeles to the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. 

    "I think we are on the right path," he said. "I think it is really encouraging for the team, for the mentality of the team, to win. 

    "There are many positives out of that. We have to hold onto that positivity, and the mentality of the players that fought and put that together on Saturday."

    "I think that, especially being at home, we need to make sure we are on the front foot right away," midfielder Dax McCarty added.

    "Obviously, our stadium is such a fortress. When you score an early goal, you get everyone excited and the other team feels that pressure, which is such a benefit."

    By contrast, LAFC are fifth in the West and on a four-match winning streak across all competitions – during which they have scored 11 goals and conceded just once.

    "The team is in a good way – winning games, scoring goals and not conceding – and we'd like to continue that," head coach Steve Cherundolo said.

    "We feel good about the moment we're in, and our players are confident. 

    "The players have shown an amazing response [to their defeat by San Jose Earthquakes at the start of the month]. We were shooting ourselves in the foot by making some mistakes in portions of the field where we don't usually do that.

    "The message was that we are really in control of our own destiny, which is a great place to be."

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Atlanta United – Thiago Almada

    Atlanta will be hoping for inspiration from the likes of Almada as they look to end their winless streak.

    The Argentina international has scored in two of their last three league games on home soil.

    Los Angeles FC – Denis Bouanga

    Bouanga scored both goals in LAFC’s 2-0 win over St. Louis City last time out in MLS.

    He has now found the net 33 times since the start of last season (including play-offs), seven more than any other player during that time.

    MATCH PREDICTION: LOS ANGELES FC

    Only once in their MLS history have Atlanta endured a longer winless streak, going 12 straight games without victory between May and August 2021.

    Meanwhile, LAFC have won successive games to nil for the first time during the regular season since August 2022.

    That came after they recorded just one victory while keeping a clean sheet in their previous 21 such matches.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Atlanta United: 38.2%
    Los Angeles FC: 32.8%
    Draw: 29.0%

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