NBA

Hornets' Ball becomes youngest triple-double scorer in NBA history, Suns move to 7-3

By Sports Desk January 10, 2021

LaMelo Ball created history in the Charlotte Hornets’ 113-105 win against the Atlanta Hawks by becoming the youngster player of all time to score a triple-double.

The first round rookie announced his arrival in the NBA after coming off the bench to post 22 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists in a dazzling 31 minutes on court.

Terry Rozier added 23 points and PJ Washington posted 22 points to help Charlotte improve to 5-5 as the Hawks rallied with De'Andre Hunter scoring 20 points but fall to to 4-5.

Mikal Bridges starred and six players hit double figures as the Phoenix Suns advanced to 7-3 in the Western Conference with a 125-117 win over the Indiana Pacers.

Bridges led the scoring with a career-high 34 points as the Pacers fell to 6-3 in the Eastern Conference despite Domantas Sabonis' 28 points and 22 rebounds.

Earlier in the day, a threadbare Philadelphia 76ers fell to 7-3 after losing 115-113 to the Denver Nuggets as coach Doc Rivers had only seven players available due injury and COVID-19 protocols.

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  • Spot-on Pereira punishes Wolves, more Yorkshire gains for Kane - the Premier League weekend's quirky facts Spot-on Pereira punishes Wolves, more Yorkshire gains for Kane - the Premier League weekend's quirky facts

    Willy Boly had an eventful derby and there was a penalty double for Matheus Pereira as West Brom boss Sam Allardyce maintained his unbeaten record against the team he used to support as a boy.

    Albion claimed a huge victory in their bid to avoid relegation from the Premier League at Molineux on Saturday, beating bitter rivals Wolves 3-2.

    There was no such entertainment at Anfield on Sunday, with a hugely hyped clash between Liverpool and leaders Manchester United ending goalless, while Antonee Robinson's red card was costly as Fulham were beaten by Chelsea.

    Ilkay Gundogan matched his best Manchester City goal tally for a season in a 4-0 rout of Crystal Palace, while Tottenham captain Harry Kane made his mark in Yorkshire yet again 

    With the help of Opta data, we take a look at some of the quirkiest stats from the top-flight action over the weekend.

     

    Boly in thick of the action as Wolves pay the penalty 

    West Brom ended an eight-match winless run to claim three precious points against their big rivals Wolves.

    Defender Boly became the first Wolves player to concede a penalty, provide an assist and score in a Premier League game since Adlene Guedioura in May 2011 - which was also against West Brom at Molineux.

    Baggies midfielder Pereira was on target with two spot-kicks, becoming the fifth player to score a brace of penalties in a top-flight game this season. The last time there were so many penalty doubles was back in the 2010-11 campaign.

    Allardyce was a Wolves fan as a youngster, but his allegiances have long gone out of the window, as the Albion head coach has not lost in 12 Premier League games against Wanderers - his longest unbeaten streak against any side.

     

    Gun firing on all cylinders

    Kevin De Bruyne sparkled once again as in-form City hammered Palace to go second in the table.

    The midfield maestro laid on one of two goals for John Stones, taking his tally of assists for City to a landmark 100.

    Gundogan is another midfielder who has caught the eye this season and the Germany international was on target with a sublime long-range finish at the Etihad Stadium.

    The former Borussia Dortmund playmaker has scored four goals in his past six Premier League games, as many as he could muster in his previous 55 matches in the top flight. His tally of six for the season is the joint-most he has scored for City.

     

    Kane comes up smelling of White Roses again

    Prolific Spurs skipper Kane led by example yet again in a 3-1 win at bottom-of-the-table Sheffield United.

    Kane scored his 19th goal of what is proving to be another outstanding season in Tottenham's first league win at Bramall Lane since 1975, having failed to secure maximum points in their previous seven visits.

    England captain Kane has scored in each of his past six Premier League games in Yorkshire, a run that former Leeds United striker Mark Viduka was the last to achieve in 2003.

    Leeds will have to be wary of the talismanic striker when Jose Mourinho's men return to the White Rose county for a clash at Elland Road on May 8.

     

    Dire States: Rash Robinson costs Fulham

    Fulham full-back Robinson was sent off late in the first half of the London derby at Craven Cottage for a rash lunge on Cesar Azpilicueta.

    Chelsea had to be patient as they pushed for a winner, but Mason Mount struck to consign Scott Parker's relegation-threatened side to a 1-0 defeat.

    Robinson was the eighth player from the United States to be given his marching orders in the Premier League.

    The former Wigan Athletic left-back's dismissal also made Fulham the first club to have two players from the USA see red, Carlos Bocanegra being the other.

  • Ince accuses Solskjaer of parking the bus Mourinho-style in Man Utd draw with Liverpool Ince accuses Solskjaer of parking the bus Mourinho-style in Man Utd draw with Liverpool

    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer followed the Jose Mourinho method of parking the bus in Manchester United's draw with Liverpool, according to Paul Ince. 

    The Red Devils maintained their place at the top of the Premier League, three points ahead of the champions in fourth, with a 0-0 stalemate at Anfield on Sunday. 

    Despite enjoying just 34 per cent of the possession, United limited Liverpool to very few opportunities as the Reds went three league games without scoring for the first time since March 2005. 

    In fact, United should perhaps have snatched victory in the second half, with Alisson making good saves to deny Bruno Fernandes and a clear-cut Paul Pogba chance. 

    Solskjaer stated after the match that he did not feel his side deserved to win, though, arguing they should have done more throughout to threaten a centre-back partnership of Fabinho and Jordan Henderson. 

    And Ince, who played for both teams, claimed Solskjaer deployed the same tactics that saw Mourinho "absolutely slaughtered" during his time as manager at Old Trafford.

    "You could see the game plan with Manchester United, you saw it from the first whistle – they defended very, very deep," Ince told talkSPORT 2. "I thought United were very poor in the first half. 

    "I remember a few years ago when Mourinho took United to Anfield, he parked the bus and got absolutely slaughtered for it. That's exactly what Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did in the first half. 

    “We knew they were going to defend and rely on their quick players like Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford to counter-attack Liverpool. But I've played in Man United teams… you don't go to Anfield to defend, especially at a time where they've got two of their best midfield players playing at centre-half and they haven't scored in the last two games. 

    "I wanted to see them have a go at Liverpool because they were there for the taking. This was an opportunity for Manchester United to go there and show what they were all about, but they just sat deep and it disappoints me."

    WERE UNITED OVER-CAUTIOUS?

    Solskjaer admitted he was unhappy with his side's first-half display and it was certainly not an enterprising one. 

    United had just one shot in the first half, a Bruno Fernandes free-kick that went narrowly wide, while Liverpool attempted nine. It was the first time since December 2019 that the Red Devils failed to hit the target before the interval in a league game. 

    Part of the problem, Solskjaer said, was an eagerness to release striker Rashford at the wrong moments. The England international was caught offside four times in the first half, more than he ever had in a complete league game before. 

    Still, the leaders were a little more adventurous after the break. They had seven shots to Liverpool's eight and finished the game with four on target, one more than the home side, with Pogba's chance the best of the contest. The expected goals tally for each side was a little over one.

    PLAYING THE PERCENTAGES

    Ince's frustration seemed to be that United were no better on Sunday than they were in December 2018, when a one-sided 3-1 defeat at Anfield spelled the end of Mourinho's time in charge.

    They were certainly happy to give up the ball. United ended this most recent game with 34 per cent of the possession, their lowest figure in a league game at Anfield under Solskjaer and both slightly down from Mourinho's final visit. 

    And yet, United had a far greater degree of control on the game than in their previous two trips to their bitter rivals. 

    Their shot count was done by just one on last season's game, which ended 2-0 to Liverpool, and was higher than in any of their visits to Anfield under Mourinho. Similarly, they faced just one more Liverpool shot than last term and a whopping 19 fewer than they did in December 2018. That 3-1 loss also saw United make 41 clearances, eight more than they had to make on Sunday. 

    And while Mourinho's final game saw them attempt 59 passes into the final third – much higher than the 35 they managed this time – the majority of those were long balls aimed at alleviating pressure on the defence.

    Indeed, United on Sunday attempted 22 passes into the Liverpool box, four more than they managed in Mourinho's last visit to Merseyside, highlighting a greater level of poise about their forward play.

  • Under-protected & unsupported - Ravens must get Lamar Jackson help after latest playoff failure Under-protected & unsupported - Ravens must get Lamar Jackson help after latest playoff failure

    Lamar Jackson got his playoff win last week, but six days on from their revenge over the Tennessee Titans, the Baltimore Ravens were left to reflect on a year in which they will feel they fell short of expectations.

    Their season came to a meek end on Saturday with a 17-3 loss to the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Divisional Round, the Ravens bowing out at that stage for the second successive season.

    Baltimore's offense failed to really get going and the turning point in a close contest came when Jackson tossed a red-zone interception to Bills defensive back Taron Jackson.

    The 2019 MVP's namesake promptly returned it 101 yards for a Bills touchdown that left the Ravens with what proved an insurmountable deficit.

    Jackson then left a chastening game with a concussion, and wide receiver Willie Snead afterwards gave a frank assessment of how the Ravens' signal-caller will respond to this setback.

    "I just think he’ll look back at the whole season — not just this game, the whole season — and he'll make those adjustments that he needs to do to be an elite quarterback; an even more elite quarterback," Snead said.

    "He is an elite runner, an elite passer, but there are steps he can take, better strides that he can take, and he knows that. That's the competitor in him to want to get better each and every offseason, to fix the little things that his game needs improvement on and continue to get better as a passer.

    "I think if he knuckles down on that part of his game and really reaches his full potential in that area, then the sky is the limit for Lamar, man. It's just a matter of time. So, it's really on him. I think this game is going to be a wake-up call for him, hopefully this offseason. So, we'll see what he does next year."

    Yet there is a case to be made that it is Baltimore's front office that needs the wake-up call, with key issues on the offensive side of the ball exposed once more by the Bills.

    If the Ravens are to climb the mountain with Jackson, they must address two key problem areas.

    Interior issues

    Jackson's concussion was suffered as he scrambled to recover a snap way over his head from center Patrick Mekari.

    Mekari was off target with four snaps in a dismal performance indicative of the Ravens' struggles on the interior of the offensive line following the retirement of future Hall of Fame guard Marshal Yanda.

    Yanda has understandably proved tough to replace, and the numbers reflect that.

    Jackson was pressured on 16.2 per cent of his dropbacks in 2019 as the Ravens compiled a league-best 14-2 record.

    In the 2020 regular season, that number rose to 21.4 per cent, and Jackson and backup Tyler Huntley were pressured on 36.6 per cent of dropbacks against the Bills, according to the NFL's NextGen Stats.

    There has been a clear drop-off in Jackson's protection, which has been compounded by a lack of difference-making options at wide receiver.

    Wideout woes

    The Ravens did invest a first-round pick in a wide receiver in Marquise Brown in 2018. 

    Brown made strides in 2020 but the fact tight end Mark Andrews led the team with 50.1 receiving yards per game is illustrative of the lack of a consistent impact from the wideouts.

    Snead, an experienced slot receiver set for free agency this offseason, led the Ravens in percentage of catches that went for a first down with 69.7 and yards after catch per reception with 5.9.

    The latter stat is particularly telling. So many of the league's best offenses boast playmakers who can make things happen with the ball in their hands but the Ravens, with Snead a potential departure, are severely lacking in that regard, Brown having averaged just 4.3 YAC per reception.

    To his credit, speedster Brown was the Ravens' best receiver in terms of plays of 25 yards or more (nine) and touchdowns (eight).

    Yet 2019 third-round pick Miles Boykin has delivered only sporadic spurts of production, and while Devin Duvernay showed signs of promise, he and fellow 2020 selection James Proche will need to become significantly bigger parts of the offense if the Ravens do not add to their receiving corps in the offseason.

    Even if Snead stays, the Ravens require a more dynamic wideout who can take over the chain-moving burden and provide Baltimore with a legitimate YAC threat in 2021.

    Jackson is not without his flaws, as his crushing turnover showed. However, too often in 2020 he had the look of a quarterback not properly protected by the heart of his line and not properly supported by his receivers.

    If the Ravens are to make the most of his incredible dual-threat skill set, that has to change.

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