Cavs’ Garland: ‘I think you will see the best basketball from us as we try to make a playoff push’

On Wednesday night, the Cleveland Cavaliers(20-34) got a glimpse of what this team could be when they are entirely healthy. Cleveland got Larry Nance Jr. and Jarrett Allen back against the Charlotte Hornets(27-27), and while they were missing their leading scorer Collin Sexton(Left groin strain), it did not matter.

The Cavaliers got a game-high 25 points from Taurean Prince off the bench. Kevin Love and Darius Garland had 17 points apiece, and Jarrett Allen chipped in with 15 points and eight rebounds as Cleveland defeated the Hornets on the road 103-90. 

Terry Rozier led the Hornets with 22 points.

Cleveland had 27 assists on 37 made field goals, led by Garland’s seven assists.

“It was fun for me,” Garland said after the game. “I was just making different reads and making plays.”

Cleveland moved to two games behind the 10th-seeded Bulls for the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. 

According to Allen, who returned after missing eight games due to a concussion, the Cavs will do whatever they can to get into the play-in tournament. 

“We have 18 games to go, and we’re going to fight to get into that play-in game,” Allen said.

Garland added: “I think you will see the best basketball from us as we try to make a playoff push.”

At this point, it should be interesting to see what the Cavs look like at full strength, and they will pretty much be at full strength when Sexton returns. 

After Thursday’s showdown against the Warriors, Cleveland will have an interesting eight-game stretch, which will include games against Bulls(2x), Wizards(2x), and the Raptors. The Bulls are the 10th seed, Washington is the 12th seed, and the Raptors are the 11th seed, so these games are an excellent opportunity for Cleveland to move up the Eastern Conference standings. 

However, no matter what happens, it will be good for this young group to be involved in playoff-caliber basketball, which could help the young players going forward.

Notes:

Nance Jr. returned after missing seven games due to illness. He scored five points in 20 minutes off the bench against the Hornets.

Love recorded his 8,000th career rebound on Wednesday night. He is just the fifth player in NBA history with 13,000 points, 8,000 rebounds, and 1,000 three-point made field goals, joining LeBron James, Dirk Nowitzki, Antawn Jamison and Jason Kidd.

Spurs’ Popovich: ‘It’s a mental toughness thing to get through the schedule’

On March 22, the San Antonio Spurs began their season-long nine-game homestand against the Charlotte Hornets. At the time, the Spurs were 22-18 and the seventh-seed in the Western Conference after going 3-2 on a five-game road trip.

Two weeks later, the Spurs(24-23) are 2-6 in the first eight games of this homestand, and San Antonio is now tied with Memphis for the eighth seed in the West. The Spurs will finish off this homestand on Monday night against the struggling Cavaliers(17-32). 

The Spurs, who have lost two straight, have one of the most demanding schedules for the second half of the season along with the Memphis Grizzlies as each team is scheduled to play 40 games over the next 68 days. The Spurs have played nine games over 15 days, followed by a stretch where they’re playing 17 of 22 games on the road, including seven back-to-backs.

The Spurs and Grizzlies are the only two teams without any two-day breaks, have 11 back-to-backs, and will play more games on the road than at home over the next ten weeks.

In their last outing, San Antonio lost to the shorthanded Indiana Pacers in OT 139-133, which was San Antonio’s second straight overtime loss. Indiana was without their leading-scorer Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon.

After the loss to Indiana, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich made it clear that the team has to keep working.

“We’ll just keep going,” Popovich said. “It’s a mental toughness thing to get through the schedule, and we just move on.”

Playing at home is usually great for young players, and young players tend to perform better at home, but with nine games and 15 nights, and the limited amount fans, home is not the same. The Spurs should defeat the Cavaliers(lost five straight) on Monday night, but based on the way both teams are playing, who knows what will happen.

Mavs’ Carlisle happy with team’s offensive effort against OKC

When you are making a playoff push, there are certain games you can’t lose, and for the Dallas Mavericks(24-21), that game was on Monday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder(19-27), who were without their leading-scorer Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

While Dallas let the Thunder hang around in the first half and led by eight at the break, the team asserted their dominance in the second half, and more specifically, the third quarter, where the Mavericks pushed their half time lead to 17 entering the fourth quarter. Dallas would go up by as much as 27 points in the fourth quarter and would defeat OKC 127-106 at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Luka Doncic, who missed the last two games due to back tightness/illness, led Dallas with 25 points and seven assists, and Kristaps Porzingis scored 12 of his 20 points in the first quarter with nine rebounds and a career-high-tying five assists. Aleksej Pokusevski led OKC with 21 points. 

Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle was not happy with the team’s play in the first half, but he loved what they did in the second half. 

“The first half was a bit disjointed,” Carlisle said after the game. “Our first quarter was okay. Second quarter was not very good. Second half, I thought we played to our level, our capabilities.”

Dallas did a great job sharing the ball on Monday night. They had 30 assists against the Thunder and shot 53% from the floor. The 30 assists and 127 points made Carlisle happy.

“Overall, I thought there was a lot of very good offensive stuff,” he said. “A 127 points in an NBA game, you’re moving it pretty good and 30 assists; that’s a damn good number.”

After a day off on Tuesday, the Dallas Mavericks continue their five-game road trip on Wednesday night in Boston against the Celtics.

Notes:

Dallas moved to the seventh spot in the Western Conference with the win over OKC after the Spurs fell to the Kings. 

Nicolo Melli scored six points in his Mavs’ debut. Melli and J.j. Redick were acquired by Dallas from New Orleans before the trade deadline.

Giants’ Williams: ‘I think I’m still in the middle of my prime’

Giants DE Leonard Williams got his big contract, and now it’s time to focus on football. 

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, it’s a three-year deal worth $63 million that includes $45 million fully guaranteed.

Earlier this month, the Giants placed the franchise tag on the 26-year-old Williams for the second consecutive year, but ultimately, the two sides agreed on a new contract. 

On Thursday, Williams met with the media, and according to the six-year player, he has a lot to give going forward.

“I’m 26-years-old still,” Williams said. “I think I’m still in the middle of my prime, and I think I have a lot of game left in this league, obviously. I have a lot of personal goals. I’m not trying to reach any specific stat line or anything like that, but I want to just give it my best and keep playing like the player I am and just keep bringing my best to the table.”

One of the reasons Williams got paid was because of his play in 2020. Williams had a career-high 11.5 sacks for the Giants, and he led a defense that played very well at times last season.

Williams explained why he played so well for the Giants in 2020.

“Honestly, something that me and Coach Judge, me and Coach Spencer have talked about is there was something about this year that just felt like I was back in college, back in those high school times when you’re not thinking about what the media is saying,” Williams said. “You’re not thinking about money; you’re not thinking about anything like that. You’re just thinking about the reason why we play this game is the love for the game. I’m not saying that ever left me. But this year, it was just a lot of fun playing in this system, playing with my teammates, playing with this staff. When I’m out there having fun, I just play my best.”

The Bakersfield, California native started his career in New York City after being drafted by the Jets in 2015. After this new contract with the Giants, he will continue to play in the Big Apple, which according to him, is now home.

“I never would have thought about New York being like a home to me or anything like that before,” he said. “But after being here this long and going into another three years, I definitely feel like New York is like a part of home to me. It’s a part of me, for sure. I’m glad to still be able to keep playing at MetLife and keep playing for this area. It’s been going well.”

Blue Coats are one game away from an NBA G League title

The Delaware Blue Coats got revenge against the Raptors 905 on Tuesday night, and more importantly, Delaware is one game away from winning an NBA G League title. 

Behind 76ers two-way contract player Paul Reed, who posted a double-double with 26 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, and three blocks, and Isaiah Joe’s 24 points, the Blue Coats defeated the Raptors 905, 127-100 in the G League semifinals at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Florida. 

Delaware will meet the Lakeland Magic on Thursday at 4:30 pm ET(ESPN2) in the NBA G League Finals.

The Blue Coats dished out 36 assists against Raptors 905, their highest assist total for any game this year, including the regular season. Delaware also had 17 steals as a group, which is also a season-high mark.

Toronto 905 routed the Blue Coats 138-107 in the regular season, and they evened the score against them on Tuesday, and they will have the same opportunity against Lakeland, who defeated the Blue Coats 115-107 in the regular season.

“The thing is lining up pretty good, where Toronto got us pretty good in the middle of the season, and we had a chance to kind of redeem ourselves here,”  Blue Coats head coach Connor Johnson said. “Lakeland got us. We played a poor first half in the regular season. Now, we got one chance to play for the most important one at the end.”

Just as they did to start the season when they won seven straight, Delaware is playing some good basketball right now, and having Joe, who is on assignment from the 76ers, around elevates this team. He’s a weapon, and if he continues to shoot at this level(12 three-pointers made in the last two games), the Blue Coats will probably capture their first G League title.

Photo: Juan Ocampo (NBAE via Getty Images

Williamson, Morant, Ball headline NBA Rising Stars rosters

NBA All-Star Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans and 2019-20 Kia NBA Rookie of the Year Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies lead the list of 20 players selected by NBA assistant coaches for the 2021 NBA Rising Stars rosters.

NBA Rising Stars, the league’s annual showcase of premier young talent during NBA All-Star, will not be played this year due to the limitation of having All-Star events all on one night.  To recognize deserving players, the NBA kept the custom of having the league’s assistant coaches vote for Rising Stars rosters, which comprise 10 first- and second-year NBA players from the United States (U.S. Team) and 10 first- and second-year NBA players from outside the United States (World Team).

Williamson and Morant lead a U.S. Team roster with 10 players from 10 different teams.  Joining Williamson and Morant are Charlotte Hornets guard and two-time reigning Kia NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month LaMelo Ball; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards; Sacramento Kings guard and two-time reigning Kia NBA Western Conference Rookie of the Month Tyrese Haliburton; Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro; Atlanta Hawks forward De’Andre Hunter; San Antonio Spurs guard/forward Keldon Johnson; Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr.; and Golden State Warriors center James Wiseman.

Six countries are represented on the World Team roster, including five players from Canada.  The World Team is composed of Heat forward Precious Achiuwa (Nigeria); Pelicans guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Canada); Washington Wizards forwards Deni Avdija (Israel) and Rui Hachimura (Japan); New York Knicks guard/forward RJ Barrett (Canada); Nuggets guard Facundo Campazzo (Argentina); Grizzlies forward Brandon Clarke (Canada); Oklahoma City Thunder guards Luguentz Dort (Canada) and Théo Maledon (France); and Warriors guard Mychal Mulder (Canada).

The World Team includes five players who participated as campers in Basketball Without Borders (BWB), the NBA and FIBA’s global basketball and development community outreach program: Avdija (BWB Europe 2018; BWB Global 2019), Barrett (BWB Global 2017), Campazzo (BWB Americas 2009), Dort (BWB Global 2017) and Hachimura (BWB Global 2016).

NBA opening-night rosters for the 2020-21 season featured 107 international players from 41 countries, marking the seventh consecutive season that opening-night rosters had at least 100 international players.  A record nine international players have been named NBA All-Stars this season, including a record five international players voted to start the All-Star Game and a record six All-Star selections from Europe.

Doc Rivers to coach Team Durant in 2021 NBA All-Star Game

 Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers and his staff will coach Team Durant in the 2021 NBA All-Star Game, which will be played on Sunday, March 7 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta.

With tonight’s 112-105 home victory over the Chicago Bulls, Philadelphia (20-10, .667) clinched the best record in the Eastern Conference through games played on Sunday, Feb. 21, earning Rivers a spot as an NBA All-Star Game head coach for the third time.  He guided the Eastern Conference in the 2008 and 2011 NBA All-Star Games as the Boston Celtics’ head coach.

Each head coach in the 2021 NBA All-Star Game will lead the team that includes the captain from the same conference.  Rivers and his staff will coach the All-Star team captained by the Brooklyn Nets’ Kevin Durant.  As previously announced, Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder and his staff will coach the All-Star team captained by the Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James.

Rivers is in his first season as the 76ers’ head coach after spending the previous seven seasons as the LA Clippers’ head coach.  He is Philadelphia’s first NBA All-Star Game head coach since Larry Brown in 2001.

The 70th NBA All-Star Game is part of NBA All-Star 2021, which will be held on one night, March 7.  TNT’s NBA All-Star coverage will begin at 5 p.m. ET with TNT NBA Tip-Off presented by CarMax, followed by the Taco Bell® Skills Challenge and MTN DEW® 3-Point Contest starting at 6:30 p.m. ET.  Coverage of the NBA All-Star Game will begin at 8 p.m. ET, with AT&T Slam Dunk taking place at halftime.

Cavs’ Drummond: ‘We’re still not too far off from being a playoff team’

It’s been a challenging three games for Cleveland Cavaliers as they went up against some of the best teams in the league, and while they competed in those games, it’s clear, Cleveland is not ready to compete at that level consistently.

Behind Giannis Antetokounmpo, who scored 24 points, and Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday scored 20 points apiece as Milwaukee swept the two-game set against the Cavaliers 124-99 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. 

Cleveland is now on a three-game losing streak after losing the Clippers and the Bucks. Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff believes his team has to learn how to beat the top teams in basketball.

“You have to learn,” Bickerstaff said. “You play against teams that are championship level teams, and you learn areas where you need to improve versus in order to compete with the best.”

The Cavaliers have lost five of six, and the next five games won’t be easy, but according to Andre Drummond, who scored a game-high 28 points and 11 rebounds, believes the Cavs are still in a good spot.

“Staying the course is our main thing right now,” Drummond said. “Obviously, it’s a long season. We’re playing a lot of games. We have a lot of young guys who are still getting acclimated to the game.

“We’re not going to hang our head on the losses. We’re going to take them as learning experiences. We’re still in the fight; we’re still not too far off from being a playoff team, so we’re going to continue to fight for that position. Give it the best we got.”

The next five games are against teams that are all in the playoffs out west, so this will be an arduous road trip, which mean we will learn a lot about these young Cavs this week. 

 

 

 

 

Lopez-Sanchez added to Smith-Vlasov undercard

Featherweight action star Adam “BluNose” Lopez and Jason “El Alacrancito” Sanchez are ready for a phone booth battle. Lopez will defend his NABF belt in a 10-rounder against Sanchez Saturday, Feb. 13, on the undercard of the vacant WBO light heavyweight world title bout between Joe Smith Jr. and Maxim Vlasov at MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

In a six-round heavyweight special attraction, 21-year-old knockout artist Jared “The Real Big Baby” Anderson will take on Kingsley Ibeh, who went 2-0-1 last year inside the MGM Grand Las Vegas Bubble.

Lopez-Sanchez and Anderson-Ibeh will stream live on ESPN+ at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT, preceding the ESPN telecast (10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT) featuring Smith-Vlasov and Richard Commey-Jackson Marinez.

Lopez (14-2, 6 KOs), from Glendale, Calif., has earned his reputation as the “Glendale Gatti” with a series of action-packed fights. Following his controversial TKO loss to Oscar Valdez in November 2019, Lopez returned last June with a majority decision over Louie Coria in one of the year’s best fights. Sanchez (15-2, 8 KOs) challenged Valdez for the WBO featherweight world title in June 2019 and dropped a competitive unanimous decision. He has split a pair of bouts since then, most recently falling short via 10-round decision to Christopher “Pitufo” Diaz last June.

“On February 13, we’re back on the big screen,” Lopez said. “Mark your calendars, call off work, do what you have to do. You don’t want to miss this one. This is the year ‘BluNose’ gets his strap. Stay tuned, ladies and gentlemen.”

Sanchez said, “l’ve never been more ready. I just came back from a loss, so I am more determined and hungrier than ever. I will not take another loss, and that is my biggest motivation.”

Anderson (7-0, 7 KOs), from Toledo, Ohio, went 5-0 in 2020, including four Bubble knockouts. He most recently knocked out Luis Eduardo Pena in one round, the fifth first-round stoppage of his young career. Ibeh (5-1-1, 4 KOs), a former collegiate football player fighting out of Phoenix, became an instant ESPN favorite with his go-for-broke style. In his last two bouts, the 6’4, 275-pound Ibeh held unbeaten phenom Guido Vianello to a draw and bested the previously undefeated Patrick Mailata by majority decision.

In other matches streaming on ESPN+:

  • Former junior middleweight contender Carlos Adames (18-1, 14 KOs), from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, will make his long-awaited ring return in an eight-round middleweight fight against an opponent to be named. Adames last fought in November 2019 and lost a unanimous decision to Patrick Teixeira for the interim WBO junior middleweight world title.

  • Lightweight prospect Eric Puente (4-0), from San Diego, will fight fellow unbeaten Sergio Vega (2-0-1, 2 KOs) in a four-rounder. Puente, who is trained by Robert Garcia, won a pair of decisions last year after more than a year away from the ring.

  • A pair of highly talented former U.S. amateur stars will make their professional debuts in separate four-round bouts. Troy Isley, from Alexandria, Va., is scheduled to fight Bryant Costello (1-1, 1 KO) at middleweight, while Las Vegas-born bantamweight Floyd “Cashflow” Diaz will fight Fernando Macias (1-1). Diaz made headlines in 2010 as a six-year-old when his flashy mitt work routine was shown on an episode of HBO’s “24/7 Mayweather-Mosley.”

  • Jahi Tucker (2-0, 1 KO), the 18-year-old prodigy who turned pro last September, will face Eric Rodriguez (1-1, 1 KO) in a four-round welterweight tilt.

DeRozan on Spurs playing the top teams in NBA: ‘We take on the challenge’

The San Antonio Spurs(10-8) have gotten some excellent wins against some superb team this season, including wins over the Lakers and Clippers. Those victories were on the road. On Wednesday night, San Antonio got their biggest home win of the season.

DeMar DeRozan led the way for the Spurs with 21 points, and LaMarcus Aldridge chipped in 20 points as the Spurs defeated the Celtics(10-7) 110-106 at AT&T Center. San Antonio(4-5 at home) has struggled at home this season, but they were up for the task against Boston. 

The Spurs trailed Boston by five after one quarter but had a strong second quarter, led by Lonnie Walker IV, who scored 12 points in that second quarter and helped San Antonio take a 14-point lead at halftime. However, the Celtics came on strong in the third quarter. They outscored San Antonio by 16 points and grabbed a two-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was happy not with the team’s play in the third quarter but was delighted with how they responded in the fourth.

“We kind of let up and coasted a little bit in the third quarter,” Popovich said. “They played very physically, and we didn’t respond. Turned it over, stopped moving. In the fourth quarter, we played solid D, and we attacked the rim pretty good for ourselves and teammates.”

One big defensive play was made by Spurs PG Dejounte Murray, who stripped Kemba Walker late in the fourth quarter, with the Spurs holding a two-point lead. Murray finished with a dunk to put San Antonio up four.

Keldon Johnson, who had 18 points and 10 rebounds against Boston, talked about Murray’s steal and finish.

“Big-time players make big-time plays,” Johnson said. “Like DeMar(DeRozan) hit a clutch shot, D.J.(Murray) made a clutch play. He came down and got a steal, and he went and dunked it.”

The Spurs have now beaten the Lakers, Clippers, and Celtics this season, three teams that are championship contenders. According to DeRozan, San Antonio is excited to take on the challenge of beating the better teams in the league.

“We go out there, especially against these big teams, and compete to the best of our abilities,” DeRozan said. “It’s fun for us. We take on the challenge. We go out there and put it out there on the line.”

Great win for the Spurs. As the season goes on, the Spurs appear to be getting more comfortable with each other. With the possibility of Derrick White(toe) returning this weekend, things could get only better in San Antonio.