NBA

Jamal Murray hits another game-winner as Nuggets eliminate Lakers

By Sports Desk April 30, 2024

Despite playing through a calf strain, Jamal Murray hit a pull-up 14-footer with 3.6 seconds remaining, and the Denver Nuggets beat the Los Angeles Lakers 108-106 on Monday for a 4-1 series win.

Murray, who also hit a buzzer-beater to win Game 2, was a game-time decision due to his calf injury but scored 12 of his 32 points in a fourth quarter in which the teams repeatedly traded leads.

LeBron James hit a pair of free throws to tie the game with 26 seconds left to give the Lakers hope, but Murray drove to his left with help from a high ball screen and pulled up for the go-ahead jumper over Austin Reaves.

Without any timeouts to advance the ball, the Lakers managed only a desperation heave from Taurean Prince at the buzzer which never had a chance.

Much like last year, when the Nuggets swept the Lakers in the Western Conference finals, Denver’s late-game execution proved to be the difference.

Nikola Jokić finished with 25 points, 20 rebounds and nine assists, while Michael Porter Jr. concluded his impressive series with a 26-point performance.

James led the Lakers with 30 points and 11 assists. Anthony Davis had 17 points and 15 rebounds but was not involved much in the offence late while playing through a shoulder injury.

The Nuggets will continue their championship defence with a second-round series against the Minnesota Timberwolves, who advanced Sunday by completing a sweep of the Phoenix Suns.

Denver eliminated Minnesota in the first round of last year’s playoffs with a five-game series win.

Thunder complete sweep of Pelicans

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jalen Williams each scored 24 points to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 97-89 win over the New Orleans Pelicans and secure a four-game series sweep.

The youngest team ever to secure a conference’s No. 1 seed, the Thunder answered questions about play-off inexperience by easily securing their place in the second round, outscoring New Orleans by an average of 15.8 points per game.

Oklahoma City trailed 71-70 to start the fourth quarter but held the Pelicans to 18 points in the final frame.

Williams scored 11 of his points in the fourth quarter, including his own 8-0 run that put the Thunder up 93-82 with 3:08 remaining.

The Pelicans played the series without Zion Williamson due to a hamstring strain, with Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum failing to rise to the challenge.

Ingram shot under 35 percent from the field during the series and was 2 of 14 in Game 4. McCollum had 20 points on 9-for-16 shooting Monday but was just 7 of 29 from 3-point range in the series.

Celtics rout Heat for 3-1 series lead

Derrick White scored 38 points, and the Boston Celtics overcame an injury to Kristaps Porzingis to beat the Miami Heat 102-88 for a 3-1 series lead.

Porzingis exited with 2:27 remaining in the second quarter with right calf tightness and did not return. Al Horford started the second half in Porzingis’ place.

White, who is better known for his defensive contributions, went 8 of 15 from 3-point range en route to his 38 points, a career high for both the regular season and post-season.

Bam Adebayo led the way for the Heat with 25 points, 17 rebounds and five assists.

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    Oklahoma City and Chicago have swapped guards, with the Thunder acquiring Alex Caruso from the Bulls in exchange for Josh Giddey on Thursday.

    ESPN was the first to report the trade, which cannot become official until July 6.

    The 30-year-old Caruso is considered one of the NBA's top defenders, having been named to a pair of All-Defensive teams.

    He is also viewed as an important role player for a potential championship contender after helping the Los Angeles Lakers win the 2019-20 title.

    The Thunder finished with the Western Conference's best record this past season, but were knocked out of the play-offs in the semi-final round by the Dallas Mavericks.

     

    A seven-year NBA veteran, Caruso averaged career highs of 10.1 points and 3.8 rebounds this past season, along with 3.5 assists and 1.69 steals while starting 57 of 71 games.

    Giddey, the sixth overall pick of the 2021 draft, started 80 games for the Thunder this past season, but saw his numbers drop from 2022-23.

    After averaging 16.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.2 assists in his second season, the 21-year-old Giddey averaged 12.3 points, 6.4 boards and 4.8 assists in 2023-24. He is a career 46.4 per cent shooter from 3-point range.

    He was investigated for having an improper relationship with an underage girl, but the NBA and police were "unable to corroborate any criminal activity."

    The NBA dropped its investigation.

  • Lakers to hire Redick as head coach Lakers to hire Redick as head coach

    The Los Angeles Lakers will hire JJ Redick as their next head coach, handing him the job despite the former NBA guard having no coaching experience whatsoever.

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    Los Angeles will instead have the 39-year-old Redick – and LeBron James’ podcast partner - on the sidelines next season after the former Duke University star spent the last few years with ESPN following his retirement from the NBA in September 2021.

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    The Orlando Magic selected Redick with the 11th overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft, and he went on to play 15 seasons in the league.

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  • NBA title affirms Celtics' dominance NBA title affirms Celtics' dominance

    Though the 2024 NBA playoffs saw its share of surprising outcomes, in the end the best team reigned supreme.

    And the Boston Celtics left no doubt of their superiority by seizing the franchise's record 18th Larry O'Brien Trophy with one of the most successful post-season stretches of the NBA's modern era, maintaining the level of dominance they displayed while winning a league-best 64 games during the regular season.

    Monday's clinical 106-88 victory over the over-matched Dallas Mavericks in Game 5 of the Finals was the fitting conclusion to a stellar play-off run in which the Celtics went 16-3. That winning percentage of .842 is the second-best by an NBA champion since the league moved to a best-of-seven format for all four rounds in 2003, bettered only by the 2017 Golden State Warriors super-team that lost just once during that year's play-offs.

    Detractors will be quick to point out Boston's relatively easy path to glory, as they didn't have to face any of the Western Conference's top four seeds in the Finals and also avoided the East's second and third-best teams, the New York Knicks and Milwaukee Bucks, in earlier rounds. 

    The numbers suggest it may not have mattered.

    Boston finished the regular season with the league's best offensive rating (120.2) and ranked third in defensive rating (109.0), and their 11.2 net rating (the difference between offensive and defensive rating) was the highest by any team since the aforementioned 2016–17 Warriors posted a 12.1 mark en route to capturing their second of three NBA titles within a four-year span.

    And the Celtics cruised through the play-offs despite Kristaps Porzingis, one of the team's three 20-point-per-game scorers, missing 12 total games with a leg injury that rendered him to a reduced supporting role for much of the Finals.

    So, what were the main factors behind Boston's season-long run of brilliance, one this budding dynasty appears to be fully capable of extending beyond 2024? Here's a closer look:

    Three-point markmanship

    Head coach Joe Mazzulla's offence is built around the 3-point shot, as the Celtics hoisted up a league-high 3,482 trey attempts during the regular season - 240 more than the next highest team -  and had a staggering 47.1 per cent of their total shots taken from beyond the arc.

    If you're taking that many long-distance shots, you better have guys that can make them. And Boston certainly did.

    The 2023-24 Celtics became the first team in NBA history with seven players that shot 37 per cent or better from beyond the 3-point line while having 250 or more attempts in a season, and their overall 3-point percentage of .388 ranked second in the league behind only Western Conference regular-season champion Oklahoma City's .389.

    And when Boston was hitting its threes, it was virtually unbeatable. The Celtics were 36-1 in the regular season when shooting over 40 per cent from 3-point range, and 8-0 in the post-season when that number was higher than 37.5 per cent.

    Disruptive defence

    The Celtics also had the NBA's best net rating in 2022-23, a season which memorably ended with a stunning seven-game loss to the eighth-seeded Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals. Miami pulled off the upset by beating Boston at its own game, as it shot a scorching 43.4 per cent from 3-point range for the series while the Celtics struggled to a 30.3 per cent success rate.

    Dallas, which had the second-highest rate of 3-point shots attempted per total field goal attempts during the regular season at 44.1 per cent, was determined to follow the Heat's blueprint in the Finals, but this Celtics team would have none of it.

    The Mavericks made good on over 40 per cent of their shots from beyond the arc in their Game 4 blowout win, but were held under 30 per cent in three of their losses and under 32 per cent overall for the series as Boston's perimeter disruptors - led by six-time All-Defensive Team member Jrue Holiday and Finals MVP Jaylen Brown - put the clamps on Dallas' sensational backcourt duo of Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving.

    Doncic made just 11 of 45 (24.4 per cent) of his 3-point tries for the series, and the ex-Celtic Irving wasn't much better at 27.6 per cent. The Mavericks shot 29.7 per cent as a team from long distance when Holiday was on the court and 29.9 per cent when Brown was in the game.

    Dynamic depth

    Boston was able to navigate Porzingis' lengthy absence, as well as the shooting struggles of top scorer Jayson Tatum for sizeable portions of the Finals, with relative ease due to strong contribtions from a few of its role players, most notably Al Horford and Sam Hauser.

    The 38-year-old Horford stepped into a starting role with Porzingis either unavailable or limited for much of the post-season and handled it with aplomb, especially on the defensive end where the Celtics were a stingier outfit with the grizzled veteran on the court.

    Hauser, an undrafted 3-point specialist whose role off the bench steadily increased during the season, made his presence felt as well by going 11 of 23 (47.8 per cent) from beyond the arc for the Dallas series. The Celtics were a plus-17 with him on the court over the five games.

    A dynasty brewing?

    Under a steady sequence of shrewd moves from former coach turned president of basketball operations Brad Stevens and predecessor Danny Ainge, the Celtics have assembled the NBA's most complete roster and one that has the capability of potentially wreaking havoc for years to come. With Horford hinting at his intentions to return for an 18th NBA season, Boston will have all of its main players back for next season with its core of Tatum, Brown and Porzingis still in their primes. 

    Add in a coach in Mazzulla who's still not 36 years old with still room to further perfect his craft, and it's not hard to envision yet another banner or two hanging from the rafters of TD Garden in the near future.

     

     

     

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