NBA

Harden returns with 44-point haul in Nets' victory, Lakers win without LeBron

By Sports Desk March 27, 2021

James Harden returned from neck soreness with a 44-point haul to lead the Brooklyn Nets to a 113-111 win over the Detroit Pistons in the NBA on Friday.

As well as his personal Nets high 44 points, which included four three-pointers, Harden had 14 rebounds and eight assists.

Harden set up Blake Griffin for an alley-oop as the new recruit contributed 17 points against his former side.

Detroit had an 11-0 final-quarter stretch, led by back-to-back three-pointers from Frank Jackson, to ensure a tense finale.

But Cory Joseph missed a point-blank look to send the game to overtime on the buzzer, enabling Brooklyn to improve to 31-15.

The Los Angeles Lakers snapped their losing run without LeBron James, with a 100-86 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Montrezl Harrell starred off the bench with a double-double with 24 points and 10 rebounds as they steadied to 29-17 record.

Zion puts up career-best haul in defeat

Former number one draft pick Zion Williamson put in a huge display with a career-high 39 points, going 16-of-19 from the field, 10 rebounds and five assists, but it was not enough as the New Orleans Pelicans lost to the Denver Nuggets 113-108.

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic underlined his MVP credentials with 37 points, six rebounds and nine assists. He scored 22 of his 37 in the second half.

The Milwaukee Bucks were toppled by the Boston Celtics 122-114, with forward Jayson Tatum scoring 34 points and guard Marcus Smart adding 23. Tatum had an injury scare but played on.

Reigning two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo was quiet by his standards with only 16 points, while he had eight rebounds and five assists. The Celtics stay in the playoffs hunt with a 22-23 record, while the Bucks slip to 29-15 in third in the East.

Donovan Mitchell had 35 points along with five rebounds and six assists as the top-of-the-table Utah Jazz defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 117-114 to secure their fourth straight win.

The Portland Trail Blazers edged the Orlando Magic 112-105 without Damian Lillard, with CJ McCollum starring with 22 points, five rebounds and seven assists.

Chris Paul got the edge over Kyle Lowry as the Phoenix Suns won 104-100 at the Toronto Raptors. Paul had 19 points, eight assists and six rebounds.

Heat slide to sixth straight loss

The Miami Heat may have got busy on NBA trade deadline with the addition of Victor Oladipo but he did not play as they lost their sixth straight, going down 110-105 to the Charlotte Hornets.

 

Timberwolves' 22-0 hot streak

The Minnesota Timberwolves' 22-0 run to secure their 107-101 win over the struggling Houston Rockets was the first 22-0 (or better) game-ending run since the Los Angeles Clippers in the 1998-99 season.

 

Friday's results

Brooklyn Nets 113-111 Detroit Pistons
Boston Celtics 122-114 Milwaukee Bucks
Phoenix Suns 104-100 Toronto Raptors
Denver Nuggets 113-108 New Orleans Pelicans
Minnesota Timberwolves 107-101 Houston Rockets
Portland Trail Blazers 112-105 Orlando Magic
Charlotte Hornets 110-105 Miami Heat
Indiana Pacers 109-94 Dallas Mavericks
Utah Jazz 117-114 Memphis Grizzlies
Atlanta Hawks 124-108 Golden State Warriors
Los Angeles Lakers 100-86 Cleveland Cavaliers

 

76ers at Clippers

Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia 76ers (32-13) visit the Los Angeles Clippers (30-16), who are third in the West, on Saturday.

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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.

     

     

     

  • Indiana Pacers star Siakam to sign max extension Indiana Pacers star Siakam to sign max extension

    The up-and-coming Indiana Pacers have retained a core member for next season and beyond, as ESPN reported Wednesday the team has agreed to a four-year, $189.5 million maximum extension with forward Pascal Siakam.

    Siakam, a major contributor to Indiana's surprise run to this year's Eastern Conference finals, will officially sign the new deal when the NBA's moratorium on free agents expires on July 6.

    The Pacers acquired Siakam on Jan. 17 in a blockbuster trade with the Toronto Raptors in which Indiana gave up three players, including valued guard Bruce Brown, and three first-round picks. The two-time All-Star proved to be an excellent fit, as he averaged 21.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 41 games following the trade and shot 38.6 per cent from 3-point range.

    Siakam then averaged 21.6 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists in 17 play-off games to help the sixth-seeded Pacers eliminate two higher-ranked teams, the Milwaukee Bucks and New York Knicks, and advance to the conference finals for the first time since 2014. 

    The 30-year native of Cameroon was also an integral part of the Raptors' 2018-19 NBA championship team and was named the league's Most Improved Player that season.

    Siakam has averaged at least 21 points and seven rebounds per game in five consecutive seasons and has received All-NBA honours twice during that period.

    In 551 regular-season games over eight NBA seasons, Siakam has averaged 17.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists. He entered the league as a first-round pick (27th overall) of the Raptors in 2016.

    With Siakam's new deal now agreed to, the Pacers will have their top five scorers from last season currently under contract. Indiana re-signed All-Star point guard Tyrese Haliburton to a five-year, $260 million max contract last summer and reached a two-year extension with standout center Myles Turner in January 2023.

  • NBA-worst Pistons fire head coach Williams after one season NBA-worst Pistons fire head coach Williams after one season

    The Detroit Pistons fired head coach Monty Williams on Wednesday after going an NBA-worst 14-68 in his first season on the sidelines.

    Detroit gave Williams a six-year, $78.5million contract last June after he was fired by the Phoenix Suns following the 2022-23 season.

    At the time, the deal was the richest ever for an NBA head coach.

    Detroit, though, finished with the worst record in franchise history and set an NBA single-season record along the way when it lost 28 straight games after opening 2-1.

    It’s been an eventful off-season for the Pistons, who hired New Orleans Pelicans general manager Trajan Langdon as president of basketball operations and fired general manager Troy Weaver.

    Detroit also had no luck in the NBA Draft lottery after being tied with the Washington Wizards for the best odds to secure the No. 1 overall pick at 14 per cent.

    The Atlanta Hawks won the lottery despite having just a three per cent chance to win, and the Pistons fell back to the No. 5 selection.

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