NBA

Mitchell leads Jazz to fourth straight win in NBA thriller, Hornets edge Hawks

By Sports Desk December 05, 2021

Darius Garland missed a buzzer-beating winner as the Utah Jazz extended their winning streak to four games with a thrilling 109-108 NBA victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday.

Garland's potential game-winner from three-point range hit the rim, with both Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley unable to tip in the rebound with 2.9 seconds remaining.

Donovan Mitchell starred for the in-form Jazz, who improved to 16-7 for the season, posting 35 points – including four three-pointers – and six assists.

It was All-Star Mitchell's third consecutive game with 30 or more points for the Jazz, who are hot on the heels of the Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference.

Utah had led by 15 points at one stage but needed a Mike Conley three-pointer followed by a Rudy Gobert dunk (six points and 20 rebounds) to re-claim the advantage late in the game before Garland had the chance to snatch victory on the buzzer.

The result saw Cleveland's winning streak stopped at four games, despite Garland's 31-point display.

 

Bridges' Hornets edge Hawks, Rockets soar

The Charlotte Hornets overcame the absence of LaMelo Ball (COVID protocols) to win 130-127 against the Atlanta Hawks, despite Trae Young's exceptional 25 points and 15 assists. Miles Bridges scored 32 points with four assists and three steals for the Hornets. He has six 30-point games this season having only managed three in his first three campaigns combined. Bridges is averaging 20.4 points and 7.3 rebounds – one of only 14 players to be averaging 20/7 this term.

Brandon Ingram put up 40 points, but it was not enough for the New Orleans Pelicans, who went down 118-108 to the streaking Houston Rockets. Houston have won six consecutive games to improve to 6-16.

 

Beal silenced by Raptors

Bradley Beal was shut down, managing just 14 points as the Washington Wizards lost to the Toronto Raptors 102-90. Beal went four of 12 from the field. It was the third game in a row that Beal has scored less than 20 points.

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  • Europa League final: Rangers success surely hinges on halting Eintracht's flying wing-backs Europa League final: Rangers success surely hinges on halting Eintracht's flying wing-backs

    In a pre-match news conference lacking much talk of the opposition, there was one question that stood out in that regard ahead of Rangers' Europa League final clash with Eintracht Frankfurt.

    Gers captain James Tavernier was pointedly asked for his opinion on Eintracht wing-back Filip Kostic, given the pair are likely to see a lot of each other on the flank they'll share.

    "Obviously I respect how he's been playing, he's a top player," Tavernier said. "But, I've just got to bring the best version of myself when the game starts and try to cause him all the problems, try to make him deal with me for the majority of the game. That's all I can really do."

    Tavernier's response didn't offer any particularly great insight, but his mentality of wanting to cause Kostic as many problems was at least another identifier of how their duel could be such a key battle.

    Of course, it's worth pointing out that Tavernier, a right-back, remarkably heads into Wednesday's game as the Europa League's top scorer on seven goals, and realistically – or, unrealistically – only a hat-trick from Eintracht's Daichi Kamada can prevent the Englishman from at least ending the season with a share of the competition's golden boot.

    Further to that, he netted 19 times over the course of the 2020-21 season and could yet match that figure this term – he also has an impressive assists haul of 17.

    If it needs reiterating, he's a huge contributor for Rangers in the final third.

    So, given he's technically a right-back, there's obviously an element of Tavernier needing to be solid defensively on Wednesday, but some might suggest it's even more essential he's as sharp as ever going forward as that would not only give Rangers a credible threat on the right, but it would potentially keep Kostic occupied in a deeper position.

    Granted, Eintracht's set-up with a back three should always ensure they have an extra man to cover for Kostic's runs forward, while the two attacking midfielders supporting Rafael Borre up top often occupy narrow, deeper berths in order to maximise the space out wide for their biggest threat.

    Yet there's always the possibility of an overload in behind Kostic if the conditions are right, such is his attacking influence.

    After all, the frequency at which Kostic delivers into the box is frankly astonishing. This season, he has been the executor of 519 crosses and corners, 140 more than any other player in the top five leagues – Trent Alexander-Arnold is second with 379.

    Kostic's 78 successful crosses from open play is also a season-high. Of course, you would expect him to lead the way given he's attempted so many more than anyone else, but his 26.8 per cent accuracy (crosses/corners) is right in line with the average (among players with at least 100 attempted). That in itself is impressive given his greater frequency.

    Another way of looking at it is, he is producing one accurate open-play cross every 45.4 minutes. While that may not sound incredible on the face of it, his 12.4 expected assists (xA) is the 10th highest among players in the top five leagues, highlighting just how much of a weapon he is in terms of his creative quality.

    So, while he may be classed as a wing-back in terms of his position on a team line-up graphic, the Serbian is there for his attacking tendencies.

    A cursory glance at his map of open-play chances created proves that point.

    But Rangers must also be aware of the danger posed on the opposite flank.

    Ansgar Knauff has been one of the stars of Eintracht's journey to the final, with the 20-year-old becoming something of a revelation in the past few months.

    As recently as mid-January he was turning out for Borussia Dortmund's second team in the third tier. Then he joined Eintracht on loan and has since scored important Europa League goals against Barcelona and West Ham.

    His impact on the road to Seville has been significant, with his brilliant athleticism, bravery and confidence on the ball making him a real asset on the right-hand side.

    Before Knauff's arrival, Eintracht were rather lopsided, with their other options on the right far from convincing. Sure, Kostic remains their main outlet, but Knauff's emergence has provided them with another – albeit stylistically different – threat on the other side, giving them greater balance.

    Across all competitions since his Eintracht debut in early February, only Kostic (5.6) and Jesper Lindstrom (2.6) have amassed better xA records than Knauff, who is also fifth to those two, Borre and Kamada in terms of xA and xG (expected goals) combined.

    He may not be their deadliest weapon, but he's proven he can offer them a lot, and his team-high 61 dribble attempts in that period proves he's happy to make his markers work for their money.

    Oliver Glasner's team is full of neat, technical players and is also blessed with fine work ethic, as it would need to be to play their high-pressing football.

    But their width and desire to attack from the flanks is fundamental to how they play – while it may be easier said than done, limiting their effectiveness out wide would go a long way to ending Rangers' 50-year European trophy drought.

  • 'I like physicality' - Butler guarantees Heat intensity after Game 1 win 'I like physicality' - Butler guarantees Heat intensity after Game 1 win

    Jimmy Butler has assured he will sustain intensity against the Boston Celtics, following the Miami Heat's 118-107 win in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday.

    Butler was at his best for the Heat, finishing with 41 points on 12-of-19 shooting, nine rebounds, five assists, four steals and three blocks.

    He also took 18 free-throw attempts and only two three-point attempts in comparison, attacking the basket at almost every opportunity.

    Against a Boston team that can be just as physical and aggressive as the Heat, the six-time All-Star said he will thrive on it, but the individual stat line does not matter in relation to wins and losses.

    "I like physicality. I want to run into people and see who falls down first, who's going to quit first," Butler said. at the post-game news conference.

    "I think that's the style of basketball I like to play and so do they. I was zero-for-two from three tonight, I want to go zero-for-zero next game, because I just want to keep banging into people.

    "I think I speak for my teammates, the Miami Heat organisation when I say I know what I'm capable of. I don't do this, score 40 points, I play the way that I play to win, by all means necessary. It just so happens that I scored 40, but if I score 40 and lose I'm gonna be really pissed off.

    "I have so much trust in my teammates and I will continue to play that way. I've been a quote unquote scorer at other points in my career, and it didn't work out too well for me, so I'm glad that I have the guys that I have around me and with me."

    Down by eight at the start of the second half, the Heat turned it around with a 39-14 third quarter in which they were able to get six steals and force the Celtics to none-of-seven from the perimeter.

    Butler's 17 points and three steals as the Heat turned Game 1 around were critical, but he asserted that the team knew they needed to dial up the intensity on the defensive end before coach Erik Spoelstra even addressed them.

    "It's crazy because he [Spoelstra] didn't have to say too much," he said. "We already knew what we were doing wrong – turning the ball over, not getting back. We're at home, we've got to play better basketball, as a team. We did that, went on a little run, but this was just a win.

    "I've said it all season long, whenever we let our defense dictate our offense, we're a much better team – we get stops, get into the open floor, we whip that ball around to our shooters and that's the style of basketball we call Miami Heat basketball. Gritty, dog-like, worried about getting stops instead of worried about getting buckets."

  • 'It's on me': Tatum accepts blame for Celtics' third-quarter collapse in Heat loss 'It's on me': Tatum accepts blame for Celtics' third-quarter collapse in Heat loss

    Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum has taken the blame for his turnovers in the Miami Heat's game-changing 22-2 third-quarter run in Tuesday's Conference Finals Game 1 defeat.

    The Celtics led 62-54 at half-time but were blown away by the Heat in a staggering 39-14 third quarter where Boston gave up eight turnovers, including six from Tatum.

    Boston were not helped by poor shooting offensively, with their two-of-15 (13 per cent) from the field in the third being their worst in any quarter over the last four seasons.

    "They were down at half-time and came out and played hard in the third quarter," Tatum told reporters after the game.

    "It's on me, I had six turnovers. I've got to take care of the ball better, especially in those situations when they're going on runs like that."

    Celtics head coach Ime Udoka said his side lost their composure during the third quarter, with Jimmy Butler starring for the Heat at both ends.

    Butler finished the game with 41 points, including 27 in the second half, while he also had four steals and three blocks.

    "They looked like they came out in the second half and wanted to up their physicality and aggression at both ends," Udoka said.

    "I don’t think we obviously responded well on either end of the floor. We had eight of our 16 turnovers in that quarter.

    "It flipped very quickly. We lost our composure."

    The win gives the Heat a 1-0 series lead but Udoka was eager to point out that the Celtics won three of the four quarters, offering hope moving forward.

    "We won three quarters other than that but obviously that one is going to stand out, 39-14 on two-of-15 is tough to overcome," he said.

    "We won the transition battle, won the second-chance points battle we won the points in the paint, really had one poor quarter that hurt us.

    "It was strictly from a physically standpoint. It wasn’t anything different that they did. At least we bounced back in the fourth."

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