NBA

LeBron drives Lakers to bounce-back win, Harden lifts Nets in Irving's absence

By Sports Desk February 17, 2021

LeBron James' double-double fired the Los Angeles Lakers back to winning ways, while James Harden stepped up to rally the Kyrie Irving-less Brooklyn Nets past the high-flying Phoenix Suns.

James put up 30 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists as the reigning NBA champions leaned on their defense in the 112-104 victory over the last-placed Minnesota Timberwolves.

Without the injured Anthony Davis, Dennis Schroder played the supporting role for James, posting 24 points, while the Lakers battled to claim eight steals and seven blocks in a closely fought contest.

After taking a two-point lead into the fourth quarter at Target Center, the road side pulled away in the closing stages to improve to 22-7 in second place in the Western Conference.

Harden pulled out the stops with a double-double to lead the Nets to a sensational 128-124 comeback win against the Suns, despite playing without Irving after the star guard felt tightness in his lower back.

Nets coach Steve Nash revealed Irving received treatment at half-time of Brooklyn's win against the Sacramento Kings on Monday but expects the six-time All-Star to only be sidelined in the short term.

The Nets surged, scoring 40 fourth-quarter points to turn around a 24-point deficit, with Harden (38 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds) backed up by Joe Harris (22 points) as they halted the Suns' six-game winning streak.

Jokic burns Celtics but Nuggets fall short, Zion on target for Pelicans

Nikola Jokic lit up the Boston Celtics, scoring 43 points, but the Denver Nuggets could still not make triple-digits as their three-game winning stretch was ended in a 112-99 loss.

Zion Williamson shot an efficient 31 points, sinking 13 of his 16 field-goal efforts and going four-of-four from the free-throw line, as the New Orleans Pelicans snapped a three-match losing run with a 144-113 win over the Memphis Grizzlies.

Meanwhile, Damian Lillard’s 31-point, 10-assist double-double led the Portland Trail Blazers past the Oklahoma City Thunder in a 115-104 win, while centre Enes Kanter pulled down 21 rebounds.

 

Bazley struggles to take his chances

The Thunder never recovered against the Blazers after falling 34-21 behind in the first quarter and forward Darius Bazley was one player that could not find his range.

Bazley shot four from 16 from the field for 14 points during his 36 minutes on court, only dropping one his seven efforts from three-point range.

 

Giannis powers up but the Raps edge the Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo proved unplayable at times, scoring 34 points in the Milwaukee Bucks' 124-113 loss against the Toronto Raptors, as he ghosted past three defenders for one of his buckets.

Tuesday's results

Boston Celtics 112-99 Denver Nuggets
Portland Trail Blazers 115-104 Oklahoma City Thunder 
Los Angeles Lakers 112-104 Minnesota Timberwolves
New Orleans Pelicans 144-113 Memphis Grizzlies 
Toronto Raptors 124-113 Milwaukee Bucks 
Brooklyn Nets 128-124 Phoenix Suns

 

Jazz at Clippers

There has been no stopping the Utah Jazz, who have won eight straight and 19 of their past 20 games to establish a lead in the Western Conference, but a tough challenge awaits when they go on the road to face the third-placed Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday.

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  • 'They tried to embarrass us' – Jimmy Butler on the Boston Celtics' statement-making Game 2 blowout 'They tried to embarrass us' – Jimmy Butler on the Boston Celtics' statement-making Game 2 blowout

    Jimmy Butler said the Boston Celtics "whipped our tail on our home floor" in their 127-102 beatdown of the Miami Heat in Game 2.

    The return of Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart from a foot injury ignited the Celtics on the offensive end just as much as defensively, with the team hitting a red-hot 20-of-40 from three-point range.

    Boston's five that played at least 30 minutes – Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Grant Williams, Al Horford and Smart – shot 17-of-29 from long-range, and combined for 23 assists, which was two more than Miami had as a team.

    Speaking to post-game media, Butler said the Celtics "tried to embarrass us", but pointed out that they were always going to be facing an uphill battle against such an outlier shooting performance.

    "You do have to move on, but I don't like to move on from this. It has to hurt," he said.

    "They tried to embarrass us – they did embarrass us. I think we got to realise that, or use it as fuel, but realise that the game can get out of hand when you're playing against a really good team like them that can score the ball and get stops.

    "They made shots that they missed last game. That's just what it is.

    "It's going to be hard to beat anybody when they shoot 50 per cent from the field and 50 per cent from three. They were the more physical team overall, and they got one on the road.

    "Overall, we just have to be better. We've got a tough job to do to go over there and win, but if they did it, we can do it as well."

    He added: "I look at it as 'it can't get too much worse'. They whipped our tail on our home floor.

    "I guess if they do it on their home floor it's supposed to happen, but I don't see us doing that again. 

    "The first half has been brutal for us in both of these games, we just got to come out and play harder from the jump and be ready, because they be throwing some haymakers in the first half."

    Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he did not feel like his side played poorly – but that it felt like the Celtics wanted revenge for Game 1.

    "You definitely have to credit Boston," he said. "It's not just that they came in with great urgency and physicality – they did have that, for sure – they also played well. They played really well on both ends.

    "We know what they're capable of defensively – they've done this to some very good offenses. I'm sure they were not happy with us putting up 118 in Game 1, and they came out very disruptive. 

    "They got us out of our normal rhythm and flow, and the shot-making on the other end was very tough to overcome.

    "You get to this point – in the Conference Finals – you just have very good teams. Teams without many weaknesses, it's great competition.

    "This only counts as one, and that's what the experiences players and staff in the locker room understand. We don't like it, but they played extremely well."

  • Udoka: Celtics responded to being 'punked' against Heat with Game 2 win Udoka: Celtics responded to being 'punked' against Heat with Game 2 win

    Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka believes his side responded well to being "punked" by the Miami Heat, claiming a 127-102 win in Game 2 of their playoff series on Thursday.

    A 39-14 third quarter in the Heat's favour effectively decided Game 1 as the Celtics collapsed on the road, but bounced back, cutting down turnovers and putting four quarters together to split the first two games in Miami.

    Marcus Smart and Al Horford's returns to the line-up were critical for the Celtics as they claimed home-court advantage against the Eastern Conference's first seed, but it was a collective effort with 28 assists off 43 made field goals.

    Udoka praised his side's mental toughness in responding against a side that came at them in the opening game of the series.

    "I think we were upset with how that third quarter went, specifically how we got out-toughed," Udoka said post-match. "Wasn't a lot of schemes or defensive or offensive changes, they just came at us and kind of punked us in that third quarter.

    "We looked the other three quarters and how well we had done in winning those quarters, and knew if we just matched their physicality, we could be better. It kind of reminded us of Milwaukee a little bit – the first game – and didn't want to get caught off-guard again.

    "I think our guys have bounced back really well all year, especially the second half of the year. Haven't lost two games in a row in a while, and obviously having Marcus and Al back gave us a little boost as well."

    Smart was an important figure in his return from a foot injury, filling the stats sheet and finishing with 24 points, 12 assists, nine rebounds and three steals.

    Horford provided a little bit of everything meanwhile, ending the game with 10 points, three assists and rebounds as well as a steal and a block.

    Udoka commended the returning duo, allowing the team to capitalise on positive aspects from the first game.

    "It was great to have the vets back, obviously," he said. "A calming presence there. We didn't get off to our best start, we were a little slow to start but we fought right back into it.

    "After, I guess, the first five or six minutes we held them down scoring-wise, but it was a good overall effort. I felt we didn't play as poorly as the last game showed.

    "Like I said, we won three quarters and had a very bad third quarter, it was hard to overcome but we saw a lot of positives and areas we could attack."

  • Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart ignite Game 2 blowout of Miami Heat Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart ignite Game 2 blowout of Miami Heat

    The Boston Celtics rebounded from a disappointing Game 1 to thrash the Miami Heat 127-102 in Game 2 on Thursday.

    With the win, the Celtics have tied the series at 1-1 and snatched home-court advantage, with Game 3 and Game 4 to take place in Boston.

    In arguably their best half of the season, the Celtics were nearly flawless to open the game, shooting nine-of-11 from three-point range in the first quarter on the way to putting up two consecutive 35-point frames, leading 70-45 at half-time.

    The Heat threatened to make things interesting in the third period as Jimmy Butler piled on 16 of his game-high 29 points but the Celtics had an answer every time, shooting 20-of-40 from three for the contest, including 17-of-29 from the five Boston players to play more than 30 minutes each.

    Jayson Tatum finished with a team-high 27 points on eight-of-13 shooting with five rebounds and five assists, while Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart had 24 on eight-of-22 shooting with nine rebounds, 12 assists and three steals.

    Jaylen Brown chipped in an efficient 24 points on nine-of-17 shooting, and Grant Williams was excellent once again for the Celtics with 19 points off the bench, shooting five-of-seven from the field, and was +37 in plus/minus over his 32 minutes. Only Payton Pritchard finished with a higher plus/minus, finishing plus +39 in his 23 minutes, scoring 10 points with two assists in Derrick White's absence.

    After dominating the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals against the Celtics, averaging over 20 points per game on 60 per cent shooting, Bam Adebayo had his second straight disappointing showing. After posting 10 points and four rebounds in Game 1, he followed it up with just six points and nine rebounds. 

    Adebayo is averaging 14 points and seven rebounds in the playoffs thus far, significantly down from his season averages of 19 points and 10 rebounds.

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