NBA

Celtics start strong, Harden leads Rockets past Jazz

By Sports Desk April 14, 2019

The Boston Celtics topped the Indiana Pacers 84-74 in game one of their NBA Eastern Conference first-round playoff series, while the Houston Rockets defeated the Utah Jazz in the west.

A surprising 20-point performance from Markieff Morris assisted Kyrie Irving's 20-point effort in Boston's opener on Sunday.

Cory Joseph, who averaged 6.5 points per game during the regular season, led a cold Indiana squad with 14 points

The Portland Trail Blazers took a 1-0 lead in their Western Conference matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder after winning 104-99.

Damian Lillard led all scorers with 30 points, but C. J. McCollum and Enes Kanter also had big games for the Trail Blazers.

Thunder star Russell Westbrook posted 24 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, but Oklahoma City could not overcome terrible three-point shooting, as they made just five of 33 attempts.

Eastern Conference top seeds the Milwaukee Bucks saw off the Blake-Griffin less Detroit Pistons 121-86 in game one.

The Bucks moved ahead early and stayed there behind a well-rounded scoring attack thanks to Giannis Antetokounmpo's 24 points and 17 rebounds.

Griffin was absent for the Pistons due to a knee injury and will likely have to a huge impact to turn the series around when he makes his debut.

Meanwhile, James Harden's 29 points and 10 assists led Houston to a convincing 122-90 victory against Utah.

Rudy Gobert contributed 22 points and 12 rebounds for the Jazz, but constantly found himself overwhelmed in the paint by a swarm of Rocket slashers. Not to mention Harden driving to the basket.

 

McCollum provides support for Lillard

Portland's McCollum scored 24 points for, only trailing Lillard on the night against Oklahoma City.

Luke Kennard scored a team-high 21 points in Detroit's loss to Milwaukee.

 

 

Turner, George struggle in losses

Myles Turner scored five points on two-of-six shooting for the Pacers.

Paul George scored 26 points, but was four-of-15 from deep and had a horrendous first half.

Joe Ingles scored three points on one-of-four shooting for the Jazz.

 

Lillard showcases credentials

Trail Blazers star Lillard showcased why he is one of the NBA's best clutch scorers with a deep three down the stretch.

Antetokounmpo nearly took off from the free throw line on the break on this slam.

 

Sunday's results

Boston Celtics 84-74 Indiana Pacers
Portland Trail Blazers 104-99 Oklahoma City Thunder
Milwaukee Bucks 121-86 Detroit Pistons
Houston Rockets 122-90 Utah Jazz

 

Nets at 76ers

Everyone will be watching to see if the Philadelphia 76ers can bounce back from a game-one upset. The Brooklyn Nets have little playoff experience, but put on an inspiring performance to take down the third-seeded 76ers on Saturday. This game will be critical for Philadelphia, as they could have to head to Brooklyn down 2-0 if they cannot respond.

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    Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti said Russell Westbrook is the "most important player" in the NBA team's history following his trade to the Houston Rockets.

    On Tuesday, the Thunder announced they had finalised the trade that sent Westbrook to Houston in exchange for two future first-round selections, two pick swaps and Chris Paul.

    Westbrook, who spent his first 11 seasons with the franchise, will "always remain part of the Thunder family", Presti said.

    "Russell Westbrook is the most important player in the brief history of the Oklahoma City Thunder," Presti said in a statement.

    "He has left an indelible mark on this team, city and state. None of us could have anticipated the player he has become, and we are all deeply proud of what he has contributed to the success of the franchise and to our community."

    Westbrook was the second top-level player the Thunder sent away this offseason. They moved Paul George — who finished third in the MVP voting in 2018-19 — to the Los Angeles Clippers and received five first-round selections, two pick swaps, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari in return.

    The Thunder then dealt forward Jerami Grant to the Denver Nuggets for another first-round pick.

    "We recently had conversations with Russell about the team, his career, and how he sees the future," Presti said. "Through those conversations we came to the understanding that looking at some alternative situations would be something that made sense for him. As a result, and due to his history with the Thunder, we worked together to accommodate this.

    "Our ability to have these types of conversations and work so closely with Russell and his agent Thad Foucher is only possible because of the depth of the relationship that has been built over the last 11 years."

    The deal reunites Westbrook with James Harden in Houston. The pair played together with the Thunder from 2009-12.

    The Thunder could look to trade veteran guard Paul again before the start of 2019-20.

  • Harden and Westbrook will make it work in Houston, says D'Antoni Harden and Westbrook will make it work in Houston, says D'Antoni

    James Harden and Russell Westbrook will "make it work" at the Houston Rockets, insisted head coach Mike D'Antoni.

    The Rockets acquired Westbrook in a blockbuster trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder, reuniting the 2017 NBA MVP with Harden.

    Harden and Westbrook like to control the ball but D'Antoni is confident the latter will fit into Houston's line-up without any drastic changes to accommodate the All-Stars.

    "We're not changing much," D'Antoni said on the The Woj Pod while discussing the addition of Westbrook. "We'll tweak it, but to say you've gotta change and you can't win that way, that's B.S."

    Some critics believe the Rockets do not spread the ball around enough and play too much isolation.

    Now, some are questioning whether it will be even more challenging to play that type of offense with both Harden and Westbrook, who are two ball-dominant players, on the court.

    D'Antoni, however, does not think it will be a problem because the two want to play together, and they previously teamed up in Oklahoma City.

    "They’ll make it work," D'Antoni said. "Do we sometimes go too much one-on-one? Yeah. Do we sometimes iso or not move enough? Yeah, we do sometimes. But I can also make the argument that sometimes teams over-pass. You try to find the balance of what is best for your players."

    D'Antoni explained the Rockets will find what works best for both players to maximise their talents.

    "I will start looking now at tape and trying to figure out the dynamics between the two and how they played in Oklahoma City and how it's changed since then, in the Olympics," D'Antoni said.

    "But it's exciting. Whenever you have great talent, it's exciting because it gives you a chance to win, and that's what we all want to do. But it'll be my job to maximise their talents and what they do best, and it should be really good.

    "I saw it in USA Basketball. You put [the stars] all together and they want to make it work, it doesn't matter. The more talent you have, the better it is. And I think right now with this duo and other people, it'll work. Now, to what degree, we'll see."

  • Kevin Durant chose Nets because he loves the system – GM Marks Kevin Durant chose Nets because he loves the system – GM Marks

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    Durant joined the Nets via free agency after winning two championships and two NBA Finals MVPS with the Warriors.

    Recovering from an Achilles injury sustained in the Finals defeat to the Toronto Raptors, Durant thought highly of Brooklyn and their style of play, which is one of the reasons he chose the Nets over other suitors in free agency.

    Marks told WFAN on Tuesday that in his first conversation with Durant after the announcement, the star said: "I love the system. I love how you guys play. I see how hard you guys play ... you were never out of games. We could never take you guys lightly."

    Marks stood by the fact he did not know Durant's choice to join the Nets until he announced it on Instagram just a few minutes after free agency began on June 30. 

    "What we knew was we were either getting a teleconference call with Kevin that night or we were going to potentially get a meeting," Marks said.

    "We'd seen some media reports earlier in the day that Kevin had crossed several teams off his list and we were still one of them [being considered]. And those reports were there for everybody to read. And when Kevin posted it on The Boardroom Instagram site, that was news to all of us in the office."

    Marks remains excited about the addition of Durant, despite him recovering from an injury that will likely have him sidelined for the upcoming season. Brooklyn also signed Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan.

    Irving joined Durant after he opted out of his deal with the Boston Celtics following a number of reports surfaced about the turmoil he faced at TD Garden.

    "I'm not going to lie, there's been a couple of times I'm definitely excited about — Kevin for sure, the whole group and really the challenge of getting all these guys together on the same page and watching how it unfolds," Marks said.

    "I think that's the magic and that's the real special piece where you see elite talent ... want to play together and see who's going to sacrifice what and who's going to bring what to the table and just see how they all mesh."

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