NBA

DeRozan beats the buzzer for Bulls, Celtics down Suns and LeBron puts up 43 in Lakers rout

By Sports Desk January 01, 2022

DeMar DeRozan knocked down a buzzer-beating three-pointer as Eastern Conference leaders the Chicago Bulls dramatically defeated the Indiana Pacers 108-106.

The Bulls ended 2021 on a high with a sixth straight victory that came about when DeRozan picked up the ball with around nine seconds remaining, looked around for options on the court before taking on the shot himself when he noticed the clock winding down.

It was the second time in DeRozan's career he had hit a buzzer-beater, while no Bulls player had achieved the feat since Jimmy Butler in 2016.

DeRozan drained 28 points in total to go with six assists and three rebounds, while Coby White had 24 points. DeRozan is the league leader for both total points and points per game in the fourth quarter.

Victory sees the Bulls head into the new year top of the East, with an identical record (23-10) to the Brooklyn Nets.


Celtics stop the skid to down Suns

The Phoenix Suns entered their showdown with the Boston Celtics with the best record in the NBA but lost for the third time in four games with a 123-108 defeat.

Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart each scored 24 points with the former registering 11 rebounds and the latter eight assists as the Celtics stopped a three-game losing streak. Robin Williams had a triple-double of 10 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds.

Deandre Ayton and Jae Crowder missed a third straight game for the Suns due to being placed on the health and safety protocols. Devin Booker put up 22 points, Cam Johnson had 20, Jalen Smith registered 19, and Chris Paul had 14 points and eight assists, but it was all in vain for the Suns.

LeBron James had a season-high 43 points and extended his streak of 30-point games to seven as the Los Angeles Lakers routed the Portland Trail Blazers 139-106 to improve to 18-19 on the season.


Bulls on a hot-streak

Chicago's six-game winning streak has propelled the Bulls to the top of the East and represents their best winning run since December 2017.

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  • Thunder reportedly acquiring Caruso from Bulls for Giddey Thunder reportedly acquiring Caruso from Bulls for Giddey

    Oklahoma City and Chicago have swapped guards, with the Thunder acquiring Alex Caruso from the Bulls in exchange for Josh Giddey on Thursday.

    ESPN was the first to report the trade, which cannot become official until July 6.

    The 30-year-old Caruso is considered one of the NBA's top defenders, having been named to a pair of All-Defensive teams.

    He is also viewed as an important role player for a potential championship contender after helping the Los Angeles Lakers win the 2019-20 title.

    The Thunder finished with the Western Conference's best record this past season, but were knocked out of the play-offs in the semi-final round by the Dallas Mavericks.

     

    A seven-year NBA veteran, Caruso averaged career highs of 10.1 points and 3.8 rebounds this past season, along with 3.5 assists and 1.69 steals while starting 57 of 71 games.

    Giddey, the sixth overall pick of the 2021 draft, started 80 games for the Thunder this past season, but saw his numbers drop from 2022-23.

    After averaging 16.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.2 assists in his second season, the 21-year-old Giddey averaged 12.3 points, 6.4 boards and 4.8 assists in 2023-24. He is a career 46.4 per cent shooter from 3-point range.

    He was investigated for having an improper relationship with an underage girl, but the NBA and police were "unable to corroborate any criminal activity."

    The NBA dropped its investigation.

  • Kane calls for calm but accepts England not good enough Kane calls for calm but accepts England not good enough

    Harry Kane called for some perspective following England's 1-1 Euro 2024 draw against Denmark but accepts his side were not good enough.

    England failed to build on a 1-0 win over Serbia in their Group C opener as they saw Kane's opener cancelled out by Morten Hjulmand in Thursday's match in Frankfurt.

    Gareth Southgate's side once again failed to push on after taking the lead in a game and supporters made their frustrations known.

    The draw means England have still yet to ever win their first two matches at a European Championship, with their place in the last 16 not yet certain.

    And Kane - the third man to score at four different major tournaments for England along with Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney - admits an improvement is needed.

    "We're struggling with and without the ball," he told BBC Sport. "The pressing in both games hasn't been quite right, and with the ball we haven't been good enough – that's from top to bottom, from me to Picks (Jordan Pickford). 

    "It was tough out there with the heat and the pitch. It wasn't our greatest game but we got away with a draw.

    "There's no easy games at major tournaments and I think that's being shown. There are levels we can reach, with and without the ball, but it’s a sign of a good team that you can get results when you’re not playing well."

    England sit top of Group C with four points from two matches and will guarantee a place in the knockouts with a draw against Slovenia on Tuesday, while a win sees them through in top spot.

    "We're top of the group and we've all but qualified," added Kane, who was substituted with 20 minutes to go. "I know there’ll be loads of noise and a bit of disappointment at home, but we experienced this when we drew with Scotland in the last Euros. 

     

    "It's a time to stay calm, reflect and try to improve. Step by step, we'll get there."

    Kane's opener was his fifth goal at the Euros, making him the first England player and the eighth from any country to score five or more in both this competition and the World Cup.

    However, Hjulmand levelled 16 minutes later with a shot from 30 yards - his first goal for Denmark in all competitions on what was his ninth appearance - and England could not find a response of their own.

    Southgate's side dropped deep after going in front, as they did against Serbia and have done in recent tournaments, and Kane believes that is an area that needs working on.

    "It’s not just when we score that [we drop deep]," he said. "It's something we need to get better at. When the teams drop a few players deeper, we're not sure how who's supposed to be pressing. 

    "In the second half we tried to change it a bit with me and Jude [Bellingham] playing in front of their two midfielders and then trying to get up. But it was difficult. Credit to Denmark, they’re a really good side and they carried a threat."

    England have now won just two of their past eight competition meetings with Denmark, and this most recent result means they are unable to rest up against Slovenia.

    Reflecting on the disappointing performance, Southgate told BBC Sport: "The performance was not what we would have hoped. At the moment we're not using the ball well enough, and if you do that you'll suffer as we have at times tonight. There's another level we have to find.

    "There's a huge amount of work to do - that's evident. We have to stay tight. We understand people will be disappointed with the performances, and rightly so. We've got make them better."

  • 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.

     

     

     

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