NBA

Pacers make NBA history with 57-point rout and Jokic's Nuggets spoil Kawhi's comeback as Ball returns

By Sports Desk May 01, 2021

The Indiana Pacers made history after humbling the lowly Oklahoma City Thunder 152-95 in the NBA on Saturday.

Domantas Sabonis posted a first-half triple-double as the Pacers recorded the largest regular-season road win in league history, according to Stats Perform.

Sabonis finished with 26 points, 19 rebounds and 14 assists for the Pacers, who scored their most points in a game since joining the NBA in 1976.

The Pacers led by 67 points inside the final five minutes, flirting with the record for the largest victory margin (68 points set by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1991).

Doug McDermott added a game-high 31 points, while Oshae Brissett (16 points and 13 rebounds) and Caris Levert (25 points) made solid contributions on the road against the Thunder.

Kawhi Leonard returned from a five-game absence but the Los Angeles Clippers went down 110-104 to the visiting Denver Nuggets.

Back on the court following a foot problem, two-time champion Leonard put up 16 points, six assists and five rebounds as the Clippers were upstaged by Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets.

MVP frontrunner and Nuggets star Jokic scored 30 points and collected 14 rebounds to go with seven assists.

LaMelo Ball also made a return after a 21-game injury lay-off, resuming his Rookie of the Year push with 11 points, eight assists, seven rebounds, two blocks and a steal in the Charlotte Hornets' 107-94 win against the Detroit Pistons.

 

Williamson and Ball star as Pelicans soar, Jazz prevail

Zion Williamson had 37 points on 14-for-17 shooting while tallying nine rebounds and eight assists in the New Orleans Pelicans' 140-136 overtime success against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Lonzo Ball chipped in with a career-high 33 points as the Pelicans overcame a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter. Karl-Anthony Towns' double-double of 28 points and 14 rebounds was not enough for the Pelicans.

The Utah Jazz reclaimed top spot in the Western Conference and the best record in the NBA thanks to a 106-102 win against the Toronto Raptors. Bojan Bogdanovic's 34 points fuelled the Jazz, who moved half a game clear of the Phoenix Suns atop the west. Fred VanVleet's 30 points were not enough for the visiting Raptors.

Trae Young registered 33 points and Clint Capela (20 points and 11 rebounds) and John Collins (13 points and 10 rebounds) had double-doubles for the Atlanta Hawks, who defeated the Chicago Bulls 108-97.

The Golden State Warriors topped the Houston Rockets 113-87 behind Stephen Curry's 30 points. Curry had his 32nd career 20-point quarter (sixth this season, the 18th time he has scored at least 20 points in the third quarter. The two-time MVP has 32 30-point games this season – 15 in his last 17 appearances.

 

Roby and Maledon headline Thunder woes

On a humiliating day for the Thunder, Isaiah Roby and Theo Maledon were particularly disappointing. Roby was one-for-eight shooting, missing all three of his attempts from beyond the arc for two points. Thunder team-mate Maledon made two of 14 shots from the field, including one of his eight three-points efforts as he finished with eight points.

 

Mavs call game

Trailing 124-122, Luka Doncic provided the assist for Dorian Finney-Smith, who nailed the game-winning three-pointer with 9.2 seconds remaining. The Dallas Mavericks beat the Washington Wizards 125-124. Doncic posted 31 points, a career-high 20 assists and 12 rebounds for his fourth game in NBA history with 30-plus points, 10-plus rebounds and 20-plus assists to join Magic Johnson, Russell Westbrook and Oscar Robertson as the only players to do so. Westbrook (42 points and 10 rebounds) and Bradley Beal (29 points) were not enough to lift the Wizards.

 

Saturday's results

Charlotte Hornets 107-94 Detroit Pistons
Golden State Warriors 113-87 Houston Rockets
Atlanta Hawks 108-97 Chicago Bulls
Miami Heat 124-107 Cleveland Cavaliers
Orlando Magic 112-111 Memphis Grizzlies
New Orleans Pelicans 140-136 Minnesota Timberwolves (OT)
Indiana Pacers 152-95 Oklahoma City Thunder
Denver Nuggets 110-104 Los Angeles Clippers
Utah Jazz 106-102 Toronto Raptors
Dallas Mavericks 125-124 Washington Wizards

 

Nets at Bucks

The Milwaukee Bucks (39-24) could welcome back two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (ankle) for Sunday's visit of Eastern Conference leaders the Brooklyn Nets (43-21).

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    Damian Lillard predicted Team USA's stunning defeat to France at the Tokyo Olympics would be portrayed as "the end of the world" but vowed the gold medal was still a target.

    The Portland Trail Blazers star was one of a host of under-performing players in blue as Gregg Popovich's team were beaten 83-76 at the Saitama Super Arena.

    France's shock win meant the US team's 25-game winning streak in men's basketball at the Olympics came to an end, raising doubts about their ability to challenge for glory at these Games.

    Exhibition defeats to Australia and Nigeria ahead of the Olympics getting underway were red flags, but most expected the Americans to find match-winning form once the stakes were raised.

    "I think we have a history of dominance and, maybe not always blowing people out, but we have a history of winning," Lillard said.

    "It's not often that you see Team USA go out there and lose, especially to start. So, I think that's why a lot of people make it seem like the end of the world.

    "But our job as professionals and this team, representing our country in these Olympics, we got to do what's necessary, and we still can accomplish what we came here to accomplish, and we got to make sure we keep that in mind."

     

    Evan Fournier of the Boston Celtics starred with 28 points for France.

    Fournier began the 2020-21 NBA season with the Orlando Magic and averaged 19.7 points per game, before that figure dropped to 13.0 for his outings with the Celtics following a trade in March.

    Here he served up a reminder of how he can perform, and the US opposition suffered.

    Lillard, who made just three of his 10 field-goal attempts, said: "You know who we see each night sometimes in the NBA, they are completely different when they play for their countries.

    "They got more freedom, and the comfort level is obvious. So we put ourselves in a dogfight, and they made plays to win it."

    Kevin Durant called it "a make-or-miss game".

    "And we didn't hit the shots that we were supposed to late in the game in the fourth quarter, but I think we will be better next game," Durant, who scored 10 points, added.

    There are Group A games to come for the Americans against the Czech Republic and Iran, and those could allow Durant, Lillard and co to find form ahead of the knock-out rounds.

    Team USA have won the last three gold medals at the Olympics, and Bam Adebayo, who scored 12 points and had a team-high 10 rebounds, pointed to French desire for a slice of such glory as being a telling factor on Sunday.

    "You can definitely tell they're tired of the USA winning," Adebayo said. "Everybody wants that feeling of getting that gold medal. And we can't rely on talent all the time to just bring us home."

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    Team USA have won gold in the last three Games, but they saw a 25-game winning streak in the tournament come to an end on Sunday against an inspired France side.

    Les Blues, who also beat a much-fancied USA in the World Cup quarter-finals in 2019, are ranked seventh in the FIBA rankings but proved too strong for the world's top team with an 83-76 win at the Saitama Super Arena.

    Despite his side's long unbeaten run in the competition coming to an end, Popovich – taking charge at his first Games – was quick to put the loss into some perspective.

    "People shouldn't be surprised that we lost to the French team or the Australian team or the Spanish team or the Lithuanian team," he told reporters. 

    "It doesn't matter who it is – the gap in talent shrinks every year, as there are more and more great players all over the world. 

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    Sunday was a positive day on the whole for Team USA – especially compared to Saturday, when they failed to win a medal on the opening day of a Games for the first time since Munich 1972 – as they picked up four gold, two silver and four bronze.

    That haul includes a maiden gold in the women's taekwondo thanks to teenager Anastasija Zolotic, who beat Tatiana Minina of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) in the final of the -57kg weight category event. 

    "My eight-year-old self was running around the schoolyard saying I was going to be Olympic champion but she could never have imagined what this moment is like," Zolotic said. 

    "It's unbelievable. It really hasn't sunk in yet. I can't believe it. I'm in a bit of shock. I'm just trying to wrap my head around it. It feels wonderful. I came here confident and ready to take the gold. The stars were aligned."

    Zolotic's win came on the back of two-time Olympic champion Jade Jones suffering a shock elimination to Refugee Olympic Team member Kimia Alizadeh in the last 16, denying the Team GB athlete a shot of winning a historic third gold.

     

    BILES BOUNCES BACK, CHUSOVITINA WAVES GOODBYE

    A lot of focus has been on Simone Biles heading into the Games, though she had a rare off day as the USA finished behind ROC in the women's gymnastics qualifying.

    Biles, who won four golds and a bronze in Rio, was penalised on both floor and vault but still scored a respectable 14.166 to book a spot in the final.

    While Biles still has time on her side, both in Tokyo and in the long term, the 2020 Games will be the last for Uzbekistan's Oksana Chusovitina, who bowed out on Sunday after a record-setting eighth appearance at the Olympics.

    Chusovitina, at the age of 46, just missed out on qualifying for the vault event and was given a standing ovation by the small number of people inside the arena.

    To put Chusovitina's remarkable run of appearances into perspective, she made her debut at the Games in 1992, some five years before Biles was born.

    "It was really nice. I cried tears of happiness because so many people have supported me for a long time," she said. "I didn't look at the results, but I feel very proud and happy. I'm saying goodbye to sports. It's kind of mixed feelings.

    "I'm alive, I'm happy, I'm here without any injuries, and I can stand on my own."

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    Japanese pair Uta and Hifumi Abe made Olympic history as they became the first siblings to win gold medals on the same day of a Games in an individual sport, both enjoying success in judo on day two in Tokyo.

    Uta won the women’s 52kg competition, defeating France's Amandine Buchard. A closely contested bout went to a golden score, with Abe crucially claiming ippon to settle the final in her favour.

    The two-time world champion cried tears of joy in the aftermath, admitting: "I don't know, maybe it may not have been appropriate but I couldn't hold myself back."

    Older brother Hifumi made it a family double, overcoming Vazha Margvelashvili of Georgia to triumph in the men's 66kg final.

    "This has turned out to be the greatest day ever," he said. "I don't think we, as brother and sister, could shine any brighter on this stage known as the Tokyo Olympics. I'm so happy."

     

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    Lee beat Jeongeun Lee in a play-off on the par-five 18th, with the South Korean finding the water to give the 25-year-old three chances to secure victory.

    Though she missed her eagle putt, Lee nudged in for a birdie to cap a comeback which matches the previous best in a woman's major.

    Lee started the day seven shots off the pace, but carded a brilliant 64 to match Patty Sheehan (at the LPGA in 1983) and her compatriot Karrie Webb (at the 2006 Kraft Nabisco) in the history books.

    Her triumph has been one which looked to be coming for some time, with Lee – who birdied four of her last five holes to return to the clubhouse at 18 under par – having come close at the ANA Inspiration and the British Open.

    Jeongeun Lee, the 2019 US Open champion, let her lead slip on the front nine, though recovered to have an opportunity to win with an eagle putt, which she failed to take.

    American teenager Yealimi Noh missed out on the play-off by a shot, with Japan's Akaya Furue two strokes further back, ahead of Atthaya Thitikul at the Evian Resort Golf Club.

    "I never thought about winning while playing, I just tried to make as many birdies as I could, I saw the leaderboard maybe once or twice," a jubilant Lee said.

    "I just tried to play to the best of my ability and it’s really great to win a major!"

    Lee's triumph came just a couple of weeks after her sister, Min Woo, won the Scottish Open.
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