NBA

Kyrie Irving motivated against Clippers after taking Wizards loss personally

By Sports Desk February 03, 2021

Kyrie Irving used a lacklustre defensive display against the Washington Wizards as motivation to lead the Brooklyn Nets to success against the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday.

The Nets fell to a 149-146 defeat to the Wizards on Sunday, with Irving claiming he "couldn't guard a stick" after Russell Westbrook poured in a game-high 41 points.

The former Boston Celtics point guard responded with a strong display on both ends of the floor against the Clippers, scoring 39 points in a 124-120 success at Barclays Center.

"We just needed to respond, every single night is going to be different. I'm just trying to give what is needed on both ends of the floor," said Irving, who had two blocks and one steal.

"Like I said the other night, I took that personally, just not being able to guard anyone. Tonight I gave up a few drives but I feel like defensively as a team, including with my effort, we just matched it.

"We knew they were gonna bring it, so it was just an exciting game. Great competition for some of the top players in the world to go against each other on TV, so grateful to give the fans what they want."

Irving led a 13-0 run that included buckets from Kevin Durant and James Harden – who became the eighth player in NBA history to reach 50 career triple-doubles – as the Nets established a 10-point lead with four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

The Clippers managed to bring the difference back to one but were unable to stop Brooklyn improving to 14-9 on the season.

"Late in games any coach in America wants the ball in their best players' hands," said Durant, who reached 500 points for the Nets in just his 17th game – a franchise record and the second-best mark all-time for a player on a new NBA team, after Wilt Chamberlain for the Warriors in 1959-60 (14 games).

"We've got three guys who are unselfish and know how to play, and I think we made the right plays down the stretch, especially Kyrie and James, controlling the ball.

"I felt like when those guys [have] got it on top, they've got the defense at their mercy so we've got to continue to be on the same page late in games."

On the Nets' late-game defense, he added: "You're down 10, you're shooting the ball with no conscience, they went in. Sometimes we got hands up on stuff, we gave up an and-one, but it wasn't anything easy I'll tell you that.

"I think they earned every point late in the game and that's what we want at the end of the day."

Head coach Steven Nash was proud of Brooklyn's defensive improvement against the team that entered the game with the best record in the league.

"We have the luxury of offensive talent, but we also have to defend. That is a difficult team to defend and we did a great job," said Nash.

"You know it is kind of tricky when the teams are constantly taking way more shots than you are.

"We'll keep cleaning up and we'll keep getting better. When they put up the effort that they did tonight, we'll be tough to beat."

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  • Champions League final: Only Klopp stands between Ancelotti and immortality on night of destiny in Paris Champions League final: Only Klopp stands between Ancelotti and immortality on night of destiny in Paris

    There is a debate to be had that, even if Real Madrid lose Saturday's Champions League final at Stade de France and Carlo Ancelotti never lifts another trophy again, the Italian will still be able to stake a claim as being remembered as the greatest coach of all time.

    After all, he has already won 22 trophies across a managerial career spanning 27 years that has seen him coach 10 different clubs in five different countries. Indeed, he this month became the first coach to win each of the Premier League, Serie A, Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and LaLiga.

    There is no questioning Carlo's credentials, then, but victory against Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool in Paris really would take the 62-year-old into 'GOAT' territory as the outright most successful coach in terms of major European honours.

    Ancelotti is currently level with Alex Ferguson and Giovanni Trapattoni in that regard with seven UEFA club competition triumphs – three Champions Leagues, three Super Cups and one Intertoto Cup, a much-derided competition that is now defunct.

    Many would suggest a better barometer of determining the true Greatest of All Time would be to simply look at how many Champions Leagues or European Cups, as it was formerly known, a manager has won. In that case, Ancelotti is level with Bob Paisley and Zinedine Zidane with three apiece.

    Triumphing for a fourth time in UEFA's showpiece competition, having previously done so with Milan in 2003 and 2007, and Madrid in 2014, would therefore set Ancelotti apart from the rest.

    The hugely experienced coach has a great record when it comes to Champions League finals, too, with victories in three of his previous four such matches. The only exception to that? In 2004-05 when Liverpool famously beat Milan on penalties in a game they trailed 3-0 at half-time.

    CARLO'S CUP PEDIGREE

    The glitz and glamour of a Champions League final was far from Klopp's mind in that campaign when in his fourth season in charge of Mainz. The 2004-05 season was just as memorable for the German club's supporters as Liverpool's, though, as they finished 11th in what was their first top-flight campaign.

    Seventeen years on, Klopp now has a shot at becoming one of 17 multiple-time winners of the European Cup/Champions League, level with the likes of Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola and even Manchester United great Ferguson.

    He went all the way with Liverpool in 2019, triumphing over domestic rivals Tottenham, but his previous two finals in the competition ended in disappointment, with defeat against Bayern Munich as Dortmund boss in 2013 and against Zidane's Madrid as Liverpool manager in 2018.

    Zidane may have been replaced by Ancelotti in the Madrid dugout, but this weekend presents Klopp – and indeed Liverpool – with a shot at redemption. Having won two trophies already with the Reds this season, Klopp's cup final record looks a lot better than it did just a few months ago.

    He has now won eight of his 18 finals, which compares to 16 victories from 22 finals for Ancelotti across all competitions. In percentage terms, Klopp has won 44 per cent of finals he has contested, while Ancelotti has won 73 per cent.

    A FAMILIAR FOE AWAITS

    Ancelotti and Klopp are no strangers to one another, of course, with Saturday's showdown set to be their 11th meeting in all competitions. Ancelotti edges the overall record from the previous 10 encounters with four wins to Klopp's three.

    Despite managing an Everton side far inferior to Klopp's Liverpool, Ancelotti lost just one of his three Merseyside derbies during his season-and-a-half in charge of the Toffees.

    That includes three successive games without defeat, culminating in a 2-0 win in February 2021 – Everton's first Anfield victory since 1999 and their first win either home or away over Liverpool since 2010.

    Ancelotti certainly had Klopp's number in the most recent of their battles, although the results of his two finals against English clubs in European competition have been mixed – the aforementioned shoot-out loss in 2005 and a 2-1 win two years later, both during his time with Milan and both against Liverpool.

    The Italian has certainly stood the test of time, with his 70 per cent win rate in his second stint with Madrid bettered only by the 75 per cent enjoyed the first time around in the Spanish capital, and now a shot at history – a fourth Champions League and an eighth European trophy – awaits.

    Against a familiar opponent in both Liverpool and Klopp, and in a city where he helped grow Paris Saint-Germain into a force to be reckoned with just over a decade ago, the stage is set for Ancelotti to further strengthen his claim as being the greatest of them all.

  • Jaylen Brown insists the Boston Celtics' defensive input is the 'key' after Game 5 win Jaylen Brown insists the Boston Celtics' defensive input is the 'key' after Game 5 win

    Boston Celtics star Jaylen Brown insisted his side will continue to win games with their defense after defeating the Miami Heat 93-80 on Wednesday.

    The Celtics recovered from a disappointing first half to take a 3-2 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals, setting up a chance to clinch the series and an NBA Finals berth on their home floor.

    Boston scored only 37 points in the first half, shooting 25 per cent from beyond the three-point arc, but only trailed by five points at the main interval.

    Brown asserted that their defence is critical in limiting the damage when they are not clicking on the offensive end, keeping the team in games.

    "Our defence is key," he said after the win. "Every night we come out and hang our hat on that side of the ball. It was great to have, even in a limited role, Marcus [Smart] and Rob [Williams III], to be able to be out there, because their presence on that side of the ball is felt.

    "Every night we give ourselves a chance with our defence. We didn't play great in the first half but we only gave up 42 points. Kept us in the game, we were down five, got settled in the second half and the game opened up and it was over from there.

    "Our defence is what continues to win us games and we've got to keep hanging our hat on that defensive side of the ball."

    In what has been a primarily defensive series, Game 5 was no different, with Miami generating a great amount of offensive impact from their defensive stops.

    Brown was a prominent figure in that regard, coughing up four of Boston's 10 turnovers for the half as the team shot 38.2 per cent from the floor.

    The 25-year-old took over in the second half, however, not turning the ball over once while scoring 19 points off eight-of-12 shooting.

    Post-game, he said there was little variation in approach, despite a dressing down in the first half from Celtics coach Ime Udoka.

    "We knew if we took care of the basketball, we would get some open opportunities and knock them down," Brown said. "Just continue to play basketball and be aggressive, that's why basketball is 48 minutes.

    "I think he [Udoka] was talking to the whole team. I wasn't the only person to have some turnovers but it is what it is. I'm going to keep being aggressive, keep getting into the paint and making them stop me.

    "Miami do a really good job of slapping down, reaching and grabbing and making it tough for you, so it's a little bit of both. I've got to do a better job for sure, but overall as a team, we've got to do a better job too."

  • A tale of two halves as Jaylen Brown lifts Celtics to crucial Game 5 win against the Heat A tale of two halves as Jaylen Brown lifts Celtics to crucial Game 5 win against the Heat

    The Boston Celtics claimed critical home-court advantage and a 3-2 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals, earning a gritty 93-80 Game 5 win against the Miami Heat on Wednesday.

    In all four quarters the Celtics held the Heat to 23 points or fewer, but the offensive side of the ball was also far from clicking early on.

    The Heat led 19-17 at quarter-time and after winning the second frame 23-20, they held an incredibly low-scoring 42-37 lead at the long break.

    In the first half, both teams shot under 39 per cent from the field and 26 per cent from three-point range, but the Heat were winning the physical battle on the boards, pulling in nine offensive rebounds to just two for the Celtics.

    The two teams also combined for just six fast-break points in the first half, illustrating the slow, grinding pace of play as both defences locked in, forcing better ball and man movement.

    Back in Game 1, also in Miami, the Heat who came out of the locker room for the third quarter and went on a rampage to swing that game, but this time the shoe was on the other foot.

    The Celtics doubled up the Heat in the third period, winning it 32-16 as Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Al Horford found rhythm on the offensive end.

    Boston led 69-58 after three quarters, and extended that lead to 23 points in the opening minutes of the final frame, as Brown knocked down three big triples.

    After a first half where he was the subject of plenty of criticism for his loose ball handling – with four first-half turnovers – Brown made the difference after half-time, finishing with 25 points on 10-of-19 shooting and five-of-nine from long range. He also had no turnovers in the second half, and the biggest dunk of the game.

    Jayson Tatum was also at his playmaking best, with 22 points on a mediocre seven-of-20 shooting, but he added 12 rebounds and nine assists, consistently creating opportunities for shooters off the dribble and showing advanced ability to make reads as play unfolded.

    The real story of the Celtics' success was their ability to take away the three-point line for the Heat, though.

    With Jimmy Butler's jump shots not falling – finishing with 13 points on four-of-18 shooting – Miami simply had no avenue to reliable outside scoring.

    The Celtics' ability to chase hard over the top of screens and dribble hand-offs made life miserable for Max Strus and Duncan Robinson, taking away their catch-and-shoot opportunities and turning them into dribblers, far outside their comfort zones. 

    Strus finished zero-of-nine from the field, missing all seven of his three-point attempts, while Robinson was four-of-12, including three-of-10 from long range. As a team, the Heat were just seven-of-45 (15 per cent) from beyond the arc.

    Instead, the Celtics dared the Heat to beat them inside, banking on the stoutness of their terrific interior defensive duo of Horford and Robert Williams III. That pairing combined for 17 rebounds, five blocks, two steals and just one foul.

    Game 6 will head back to Boston, meaning the first-seeded Heat need to win on the road to save their season and force a Game 7.

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