NBA

MVP Jokic leads Nuggets to OT win with another triple-double, Giannis struggles

By Sports Desk December 09, 2021

Nikola Jokic showed why he is the reigning NBA MVP after leading the Denver Nuggets to a 120-114 overtime win against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Jokic posted back-to-back triple-doubles as the Nuggets outlasted the Pelicans in NBA action on Wednesday.

After putting up a triple-double on Monday, Jokic was at it again midweek with a season-high 39 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds.

Jokic scored 11 of his points in OT to help the Nuggets take down the Pelicans – the Serb star posting his ninth career 30-point triple-double, the most in NBA history by a center not named Wilt Chamberlain.

Overall, it is Jokic's 61st career triple-double, one behind Brooklyn Nets superstar James Harden, who ranks seventh all-time.

 

Red-hot Rockets win again

The Houston Rockets capitalised on Kevin Durant's absence in a 114-104 win over the shorthanded and Eastern Conference-leading Brooklyn Nets. Durant was rested and the Rockets extended their winning streak to seven games. According to Stats Perform, the Rockets are the first NBA/NBA/NHL team to have a losing streak of 15-plus games and then a winning streak of at least seven games later that same season (at any point) since the Louisville Colonels in 1895.

Joel Embiid was the source of inspiration again for the Philadelphia 76ers, who prevailed 110-106 against the Charlotte Hornets. Embiid had 32 points to lead the 76ers. It is the ninth time in Embiid's career he has tallied at least 75 points and 20 rebounds in a two-game span. The only other 76ers to do so at least nine times are Hall of Famers Chamberlain and Charles Barkley.

The NBA-leading Golden State Warriors were too good for Western Conference rivals the Portland Trail Blazers 104-94.

 

Giannis struggles as champs fall

Defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks lost 113-104 at the Miami Heat after superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with just 15 points on four-of-13 shooting in 33 minutes.

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  • Liverpool, PSG... Newcastle? Where next for Barcelona outcast Dembele? Liverpool, PSG... Newcastle? Where next for Barcelona outcast Dembele?

    Ousmane Dembele's Barcelona career appears to be drawing to a close, with the club's director of football Mateu Alemany confirming on Thursday that he is up for sale.

    Dembele's representatives have been in talks with Barca since July over a new contract for a player that arrived at Camp Nou in 2017 in the wake of Neymar's departure to Paris Saint-Germain.

    Barca splashed the cash – €105million, to be exact – to bring the winger in from Borussia Dortmund, where he had enjoyed a wonderful campaign in 2016-17 after a move from Rennes.

    Despite Xavi wanting to keep the player, an agreement between the club and Dembele's camp has not been reached and the stand-off has now resulted in Alemany publicly stating the France international will no longer play for Barca now he has turned down their latest offer.

    Dembele has struggled to establish himself as a key player at Barca due to injuries and some reported attitude issues, albeit he has hardly been at Camp Nou during the most stable period.

    He has managed 31 goals and 22 assists in 129 appearances since his debut in September 2017, meaning he has been directly involved in 0.63 goals per 90 minutes, but he has played in just 52 per cent of Barca's LaLiga matches in that time.

    Barca's plan is to move Dembele on now but, with his contract up at the end of the season, potential suitors may wish to bide their time and sign the attacker on a free transfer.

    Stats Perform explores some possible destinations.

    Liverpool

    Could a move to Anfield be on the cards for Dembele? He has often been linked with Liverpool in the past, and Jurgen Klopp's direct approach could well suit a player that performed so well in the Bundesliga – a competition renowned for aggressive pressing and counter-attacks, which the Reds have down to a tee in the Premier League.

    There is the small matter, of course, of Mohamed Salah. Arguably the best player in the world at the moment, the Egypt star plays predominantly from the right, in Dembele's preferred position. However, there is uncertainty over Salah's future, with a new contract not yet agreed. His deal runs out in 2023 and Dembele could present an ideal rotation option and eventual successor. Klopp would surely back himself to get the best out of the 24-year-old.

    PSG

    A team reported to hold a firm interest is Ligue 1 giants PSG. It would be ironic should Dembele – the man signed by Barca to replace Neymar – ended up playing alongside the Brazil star in Paris.

    PSG already, of course, have a star-studded attack. But with Kylian Mbappe expected to leave at the end of the season and Lionel Messi, Neymar and Angel Di Maria not getting any younger, Dembele could provide a relatively cost-effective replacement, and a return to France might reignite his career.

    Bayern Munich

    Or could a move back to the Bundesliga be the trick for Dembele? Bayern Munich have plenty of top-quality wing options, with Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sane and Kingsley Coman, who has just signed a new long-term deal, complimented by youngster Jamal Musiala. Yet in all competitions this season, Dembele has created 2.4 chances per 90 minutes played, and that is better than any of Bayern's current wingers other than Sane (2.6).

    His 6.7 dribbles attempted per 90 ranks behind only Musiala (7.8) and he leads the way in shots (4.5). Most important, perhaps, is Dembele's tendency to cross. He has delivered 6.7 open-play crosses per 90 in 2021-22, exactly two more than Bayern's best wide player in this metric (Coman - 4.7), something that Robert Lewandowski would surely relish.

    Borussia Dortmund

    This may seem an unlikely move, but what about heading back to Dortmund? Dembele was a superstar at Signal Iduna Park in his first spell there, although fans did not take kindly to his wish to leave, and that may well mean this would not get off the ground.

    But, putting any negative emotions to one side, Dortmund have a vibrant attack under Marco Rose, though are likely to lose Erling Haaland in the close-season. While Dembele's wages might be an issue right now, should he remain at Barca for the rest of the season, could Dortmund use funds generated from a possible Haaland sale to bring back a player who played a direct hand in 30 goals (10 goals, 20 assists) and created 100 chances across all competitions in 2016-17.

    Juventus

    Another elite club that could provide a new lease of life for Dembele is Juve. The Serie A giants are not involved in the title race this season, at least according to their coach Massimiliano Allegri, though he will know the Bianconeri nevertheless must challenge for silverware in Europe or in the Coppa Italia. 

    Dembele could provide the spark that is missing in Juve's attack, especially with Federico Chiesa expected to miss at least six months with a serious knee injury, while Dejan Kulusevski has been rumoured to be on the transfer list.

    Newcastle United

    One of these clubs is not like the others but, given their new-found wealth – and, perhaps, the need to make a real statement signing – maybe it would be foolish to discount Newcastle.

    Whether Dembele would fancy swapping Barcelona for the north east of England and a Premier League relegation battle in January is of course up for debate, though what would not be up for debate is Newcastle, with their Saudi Arabia-backed ownership, having the funds to pull such a signing off.

    Dembele would represent a step up in quality and would surely be an instant fans' favourite at St James' Park and alongside Allan Saint-Maximin on the other flank, provide some added star power to help Newcastle survive and, possibly, thrive in future seasons.

  • Irving thriving under pressure in Durant's absence Irving thriving under pressure in Durant's absence

    Kyrie Irving says he is enjoying the pressure placed on him due to the absence of Kevin Durant after delivering a match-winning display for the Brooklyn Nets.

    Irving had 30 points, three rebounds and seven assists in a 119-118 win over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday.

    The All-Star guard is only able to play road games, due to a vaccination mandate in place in New York City. Irving is unvaccinated against COVID-19.

    He made his return two weeks ago and is averaging 20.0 points per game.

    The onus was very much on Irving in Washington, with Durant missing the game due to a knee injury sustained against the Oklahoma City Thunder last week.

    It has been reported that Durant will be out for between four and six weeks and Irving knows he has to step up in his absence.

    "I like the pressure," he told reporters. "I love pressure. It brings out the best in me personally.

    "Then also I'm able to carry that energy with the team whether it be communicating with guys in short conversations on the floor or off the floor.

    "Just trying to demand responsibility from all of us, from myself first, but from all of us, that this isn't going to be perfect. It's not going to ever look perfect.

    "This is just what we have, and we can't replace anybody that's out, but what we can do is fill up the stat sheet with the little things that may show up and things that may not show up.

    "We'll see where we are at the end of the game when we leave it all out there playing hard."

    Irving had initially been left out of the Nets' roster for the season due to his decision not to get vaccinated, though he was recalled when injuries and COVID-19 cases took their toll.

    "It feels incredible [to be back]," Irving said. "I don't take one day for granted.

    "I know it's difficult at times, not only for just me, but for everyone else, just the monotony coming in every single day working on [our games], but this is what we signed up for when we were playing in fifth grade, fourth grade, this was the dream right here. Just getting on the road and trying to win some ballgames and play at a high level."

  • Rivers lauds 'unbelievable' Embiid after stunning demolition of Magic Rivers lauds 'unbelievable' Embiid after stunning demolition of Magic

    Joel Embiid was "unbelievable from the start" as he racked up a half-century of points in the Philadelphia 76ers' 123-110 victory over the Orlando Magic on Wednesday.

    That was the verdict of 76ers head coach Doc Rivers, who watched Embiid match his career-high points tally of 50 in only 27 minutes on court at Wells Fargo Center.

    The four-time NBA All-Star became the first center to score at least 50 points in a match this season, also taking 12 rebounds and providing two assists as he stole the show.

    Embiid emulated the great Wilt Chamberlain, who had been the only other Sixers player in history to register multiple 50-plus points in a game and also claim 10 or more rebounds.

    Rivers said of the 27-year-old's stunning display: "He was unbelievable, from the start."

    He added: "I played with Dominique [Wilkins], and I don't know if I've seen that. 

    "I've seen Dominique score more, but it took the whole game. That was easy, quick, efficient and determined."

    Embiid amassed his half-century and 10 rebounds quicker than any NBA player since 1955.

    He spent only 58 seconds on court in the final quarter after swinging the game firmly in Philadelphia's favour, moving them to 26-18 in fifth spot in the Eastern Conference.

    Magic acting head coach Jesse Mermuys doffed his cap to Embiid, saying it was impossible to contain him.

    He said: "With the way he was playing, there was really no way to go get him. He hit fadeaways, step-backs. I mean, he was impressive."

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