NBA

Lakers fall short of escaping play-in tournament as Jazz clinch NBA's best record and Curry wins scoring title

By Sports Desk May 17, 2021

NBA champions the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 110-98 but they did not avoid the play-in tournament.

LeBron James – who appeared to tweak his ankle – posted 25 points for the streaking Lakers, who claimed their fifth consecutive victory, however they did not end the regular season high enough in the Western Conference to bypass the NBA's new play-in format involving the seventh through 10th seeds in pursuit of the playoffs.

The Lakers needed help from the Denver Nuggets but the latter lost 132-116 to the Portland Trail Blazers, leaving the Los Angeles franchise seventh in the west and set to face Stephen Curry's eighth-seeded Golden State Warriors for a playoff berth.

Andre Drummond had a double-double for the Lakers, while Anthony Davis finished with 14 points for the Lakers, who will have to win one of up to two play-in games to clinch a regular playoff position.

Portland locked up the sixth seed and their eighth straight playoff berth, meaning they will go head-to-head with the third-seeded Nuggets in the opening round.

The Utah Jazz, meanwhile, clinched the NBA's best record (50-20) for the first time in their history.

Jordan Clarkson finished with 33 points and All-Star Rudy Gobert contributed 13 points and 16 rebounds for the Jazz, who eased past the Sacramento Kings 121-99.

The Jazz edged the Phoenix Suns (51-21), who pipped the San Antonio Spurs 123-121, for top spot in the NBA – the first time they have finished with sole possession of the league's best record.

 

Curry crowned scoring champ

Curry earned his second scoring title after posting 46 points in the Warriors' 113-101 win over the Memphis Grizzlies. Curry pipped Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal to the award, having finished the regular season with a 32.0 points per game average. Two-time MVP and three-time NBA champion Curry became the first player 33 years or older to lead the league in scoring since Hall of Famer Michael Jordan in 1997-98 (35 years at end of season and averaged 28.7ppg). The 33-year-old also joined Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the only players with multiple scoring titles, MVPs and championships.

James Harden was absent due to injury management, but the Brooklyn Nets still secured the second seed in the Eastern Conference with a 123-109 win at home to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Kevin Durant put up 23 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds. Irving added 17 points as he joined an elite list of shooters. Irving finished the regular season with a 50.6 field-goal percentage, 40.2 three-point percentage and 92.2 free-throw percentage – becoming the ninth member of the 50/40/90 club. He also joined Larry Bird, Curry and Durant as the only players to average at least 25 points per game during a 50/40/90 season.

The New York Knicks secured fourth position in the east via a 96-92 win over the Boston Celtics. The Knicks – back in the playoffs for the first time since 2012-13 – will have home-court advantage for their first-round series against the Atlanta Hawks, who routed the Houston Rockets 124-95.

The Wizards' season appeared dead and buried following an horrendous start, having acquired Russell Westbrook to team up with Beal. But the Wizards will face the Celtics as the eighth seed in the play-in tournament thanks to their 115-110 victory against the Charlotte Hornets. Westbrook recorded 23 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists, while Beal had 20 of his 25 points after half-time.

Tyrese Maxey flexed his muscles as Eastern Conference top seed the Philadelphia 76ers rested their stars in a 128-117 victory over the Orlando Magic. In the absence of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, Seth Curry and Danny Green, rookie Maxey had 30 points, seven rebounds and six assists. He became the only rookie this season with multiple 30/5/5 games – LaMelo Ball and Anthony Edward only had one such game.

Precious Achiuwa's career-high 23 points and 10 rebounds helped the shorthanded Miami Heat rout the Detroit Pistons 120-107. Tyler Herro (16 points and 11 assists) and Gabe Vincent also had double-doubles as the sixth-seeded Heat prepare to face third seed the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round in the east.

 

Houston's woeful season comes to an end

After a blockbuster trade sent wantaway superstar Harden to the Nets in January, the rebuilding Rockets crumbled. A crushing loss to the Hawks left the Rockets with a 17-55 win-loss record – their worst campaign since going 14-68 in 1982-83.

 

Sit back and enjoy!

The Nets produced a stunning piece of offense against the Cavaliers in the second quarter. After dispossessing Cleveland, Blake Griffin played a behind-the-back pass to Irving, who passed the ball ahead to Mike James. James tossed the ball off the backboard for Durant to slam down.

 

Sunday's results

New York Knicks 96-92 Boston Celtics
Indiana Pacers 125-113 Toronto Raptors
Washington Wizards 115-110 Charlotte Hornets
Phoenix Suns 123-121 San Antonio Spurs
Golden State Warriors 113-101 Memphis Grizzlies
Atlanta Hawks 124-95 Houston Rockets
Brooklyn Nets 123-109 Cleveland Cavaliers
Philadelphia 76ers 128-117 Orlando Magic
Miami Heat 120-107 Detroit Pistons
Chicago Bulls 118-112 Milwaukee Bucks
Minnesota Timberwolves 136-121 Dallas Mavericks
Los Angeles Lakers 110-98 New Orleans Pelicans
Oklahoma City Thunder 117-112 Los Angeles Clippers
Portland Trail Blazers 132-116 Denver Nuggets
Utah Jazz 121-99 Sacramento Kings

 

Play-in tournament

After a day off, the Eastern Conference play-in tournament gets underway on Tuesday. The Wizards will meet the Celtics in a seventh vs eighth battle, while the ninth-seeded Hornets face the 10th-seeded Pacers for a spot in the playoffs.

Related items

  • Haaland a combination of Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic, says Schmeichel Haaland a combination of Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic, says Schmeichel

    Erling Haaland shares many of the same qualities as Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, according to Peter Schmeichel, who has described the Manchester City man as several top strikers "put into one player".

    Haaland produced an incredible display as City swatted aside Manchester United for a 6-3 derby win on Sunday, scoring a treble and teeing up two goals for fellow hat-trick hero Phil Foden.

    The Norwegian – who has scored 14 goals in his first eight Premier League appearances – has now scored a hat-trick in three successive home league games, becoming the first player to do so in the competition's history.

    After watching Haaland tear United apart at the Etihad Stadium, Schmeichel picked out similarities between the 22-year-old and several striking legends.

    "The biggest part of a good striker is patience. I played against some of the best strikers, and when they go missing is when you really have to concentrate," the former United and City goalkeeper told BBC Radio 5 Live.

    "The Cristiano Ronaldos, the Filippo Inzaghis of this world – they disappear then all of a sudden they get the chance.

    "When you look at Haaland, you see different players. That Zlatan-like goal, and Ronaldo is in there too. You see top, top strikers in one.

    "That is why he is so dangerous. He has the luxury of seeing many top strikers and they are all put into one player."

    Haaland's dominant display on Sunday saw him become just the 25th player to record five goal involvements in a Premier League game – and the youngest to ever do so (22 years, 73 days).

    In Haaland and team-mate Kevin De Bruyne, meanwhile, City have the highest goalscorer and top assist-maker in Europe's top five leagues this season (in all competitions).

    Haaland has already found the net 17 times this season, with five of those strikes being laid on by De Bruyne, who has a total of 10 assists in 2022-23.

  • 'Zach doesn't flinch' – Saleh credits returning Wilson after Jets see off Steelers 'Zach doesn't flinch' – Saleh credits returning Wilson after Jets see off Steelers

    New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh lauded returning quarterback Zach Wilson following Sunday's 24-20 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    The Jets looked set for a third loss of the season when Steelers rookie Kenny Pickett scored two rushing touchdowns to hand the hosts a 20-10 second-half lead in Pennsylvania.

    However, the first-round draft pick threw three interceptions as the Jets had the last laugh, with Breece Hall sealing victory when he ran for a two-yard touchdown with 16 seconds remaining.

    Wilson – featuring for the first time since he suffered a knee injury in the Jets' preseason opener – was crucial to their revival, completing 10 of his 12 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown in a brilliant fourth quarter.

    Speaking after the win, Saleh hailed Wilson's ability to handle pressure, declaring: "Zach doesn't flinch.

    "I'm sure there were a couple of plays he wishes he had back. But he got us out of a lot of bad situations with his mobility. I thought he played a pretty good game, [for] his first game back."

    Wilson himself, meanwhile, was delighted by the Jets' late show, adding: "All the ups and downs of trying to overcome adversity, it was just such a good win.

    "I think there was so much growth those last two minutes as an offense, executing a drive as clean as it was and punching it in. It was just awesome

    "It's just the NFL, man. We had some good things early, we scored, then things got stalled out. 

    "My mentality is just keep doing my job, keep chipping away. That was my message and that's what everybody did. 

    "There was some frustration, but it was the right frustration. That was a cool opportunity for us to lose a lead like that and come all the way back for the win."

    Asked whether he was convinced the Jets would get over the line on their decisive late drive, Wilson added: "Yeah, 100 per cent from the beginning. 

    "I think there was no doubt in our minds, especially when I hit a couple of quick passes, we hit a couple of runs as an offense. You could just feel it."

  • When Barca youngster Gavi burst onto the scene at San Siro When Barca youngster Gavi burst onto the scene at San Siro

    When Gavi made his international debut for Spain in October 2021, most onlookers would have been asking who this fresh-faced teen was.

    By the end of the game, they were still asking that, but armed with the knowledge that whoever he was, he was astonishingly good at football for someone born a month after Greece had beaten Portugal in the Euro 2004 final.

    Pablo Martin Paez Gavira made his La Roja debut against Italy in the Nations League at San Siro aged just 17 years and 62 days, becoming Spain's youngest-ever player, taking the record from Angel Zubieta, who had debuted in 1936.

    Head coach Luis Enrique popped the Barcelona midfielder in from the start against Jorginho, Marco Verratti and Nicolo Barella, and not only did he hold his own, he was arguably the best player on the pitch as Spain won 2-1 to end the Azzurri's 37-game undefeated streak.

    Almost a year on from that night in Milan, Gavi will return to San Siro with Barca to take on Inter in the Champions League having established himself as a vital cog for both club and country, despite only turning 18 in August.

    He recently signed a new contract at Camp Nou with a €1billion release clause, and Stats Perform has taken a look at what it is that makes Gavi not just the future for Barcelona and Spain, but also the present.

    From school to Cule

    Remarkably, Gavi had only made four starts for Barca before getting the nod for his country in that crucial Nations League game, showing the early impact made.

    His debut for the Blaugrana came just over three weeks after his 17th birthday in the 2-1 home win against Getafe, before making his first start in a 0-0 draw away at Cadiz.

    Barca may have been struggling at the time under Ronald Koeman, but the development of Gavi and Pedri as the potential future of their midfield reminded fans of the halcyon days of Xavi and Andres Iniesta dictating play for them.

    It was therefore fitting that Xavi actually came back as head coach, and not only did it improve the team's fortunes, but it cemented Gavi's place even further and guaranteed he would be getting guidance from one of the best of all time in his position.

    Naturally, given his inexplicably young age, the not-quite-a-man from Los Palacios y Villafranca continued to set records, or at least come close to breaking them.

    His appearance at Cadiz at 17 years and 49 days made him the second-youngest player to make his first start for the club in the 21st century in LaLiga, only behind team-mate Ansu Fati (16 years and 318 days).

    At 17 years and 80 days, Gavi became the youngest player to start his first Clasico in the 21st century, breaking the previous record held by Pedri set just a year prior.

    Then he set another record for his country, but only just, aged 17 years and 304 days, he netted against the Czech Republic to become the youngest player to score for Spain in a competitive game, beating the mark Fati set previously by just one week.

    Overall in his debut campaign, Gavi made 47 appearances for Barca (36 starts), helping them to finish second in LaLiga.

    This season he has featured in all seven of their league games, as well as both Champions League clashes against Viktoria Plzen and Bayern Munich.

    Arguably his most impressive achievement so far, though, remains that performance against an elite Italy midfield that had just won the Euros.

    Another Barella challenge

    He will come face-to-face with one of those midfielders again on Tuesday, as Barella and Inter welcome Barca to Milan.

    Barella has emerged as one of the finest midfielders in Europe in the last few years, playing a key role in the Nerazzurri's Serie A title win in 2021.

    Comparisons have been made between the Italian and Gavi, which may not make Barella feel all that good considering it makes him the veteran of the debate at the age of 25.

    Their well-rounded performances in the middle of the park at club and international level are well-known, but just how do they compare?

    Looking at the stats for their clubs last season, Barella made 48 appearances in all competitions for Inter while Gavi made 47 for Barca, albeit the former made 47 starts compared to 36 for the teenager.

    Barella had 16 goal involvements (four goals, 12 assists), while Gavi had seven (two goals, five assists), and the Italian was more of a threat in attack generally, creating 81 chances from open play compared to 25 from the Spaniard.

    He was also more involved on the ball, averaging 55.84 passes per 90 minutes against 45.15, though Gavi did boast a higher success rate, with 89.23 per cent of his passes finding a team-mate against 85.44 per cent from Barella.

    The Inter man had a better tackle success rate of 59.77 per cent to 49.77 per cent, but the Barca youngster claimed more interceptions (32 to 29) despite playing fewer minutes.

    The impressively combative nature of Gavi is also clear when comparing, as he committed 91 fouls to Barella's 37, which might not sound ideal but for a team that attacks as high as Barca do, tactical fouls are often vital to prevent swift counters.

    It appears Barella has the edge on Gavi at the moment as an overall package, but that is hardly a surprise given the latter is more than seven years younger.

    How their meeting goes at club level this week will be truly fascinating to observe, especially if Barella recalls their Nations League clash.

    It could be argued that Gavi continues to be underrated by some.

    With fellow prodigies Pedri and Fati also featuring regularly for Barca and Spain, while being more of a visible goal threat than Gavi, it is easy for him to get a bit lost in all the praise, though it does not seem to be slowing down his growth as a player.

    In late August, Gavi made his 50th appearance for Barcelona, becoming the first LaLiga player born in 2003 or later to reach this figure across all competitions.

    With his long-term future tied to the Catalan giants and with one of the greatest midfielders the game has ever seen guiding him, the sky really is the limit.

    People will certainly know who he is when he takes to the field at San Siro on Tuesday.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.