Paul George named Western Conference Player of the Week

LA Clippers forward Paul George has been named Western Conference Player of the Week for games played from Monday, April 5 through Sunday, April 11, the league announced on Monday.

During the week, George averaged 33.7 points and 5.7 assists while shooting 60.9 perfect from beyond the arc.

The Palmdale, Calif., native has scored 30+ points in three-straight contests while helping lead the Clippers to a five-game winning streak, the longest active streak in the NBA. Against the Phoenix Suns on April 8, George became the first player in franchise history to have at least 30 points and six three-pointers made in consecutive games.

On April 6 against the Portland Trail Blazers, George poured in 22 points in the first quarter, which was the most points scored by a Clipper in a first quarter since 2014. During the week, the seven-time All-Star was the only player to shoot 60% from behind the arc while attempting seven or more threes per game. Also, George was the only player during the week to average at least 30 points while shooting better than 60% from behind the arc.

In his 10th NBA season, the five-time All-NBA player is averaging 23.0 points, 6.2 rebounds, and a career-high 5.4 assists. The Clippers currently rank third in the Western Conference with a 37-18 record and have won 11 of their last 13 games.

Doncic on DeRozan game-winner: ‘He made a hell of a shot’

The San Antonio Spurs(25-26) have had difficulty winning close games of late. During their five-game losing streak, San Antonio lost two games in overtime, and they lost by two points to the Nuggets on Friday night.

Fortunately for San Antonio, DeMar DeRozan came alive against the Mavericks on Sunday night. DeRozan scored 27 of his 33 points in the second half, including the game-winning shot with 0.5 seconds left as the Spurs defeated the Mavericks(29-23) on the road 119-117 to snap their five-game losing streak. 

DeRozan also added eight assists and five rebounds. Kristaps Porzingis led the way for Dallas with 31 points and 15 rebounds, and Luka Doncic added 29 points.

According to the Spurs, since DeRozan was drafted in 2009, he has 27 field goals to tie or take the lead in the final minute of the game (including playoffs). Only four players have more: Damian Lillard (35), Russell Westbrook (32), Kevin Durant (30), and LeBron James (28).

After the game, DeRozan discussed the game-winner.

“Honestly, just trying to get to my spot knowing the clock,” DeRozan said. “Take my time, not rushing, and just going to the move I’ve worked on so many times. Concentrate and knock down a shot.”

Doncic added on DeRozan’s game-winner: “He made a hell of a shot. It was good defending, I think, he made a hell of a shot. Props to him for making the shot.”

Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle had Dorian Finney-Smith guarding DeRozan on the final shot and chose not to bring a double-team. According to Carlisle, that was a mistake.

 “We elected to let [Dorian Finney-Smith] guard him straight-up,” he said. “In hindsight, we obviously should have gone, and that’s on me. That’s my decision. That’s a detailed description of it.”

This was a good win for the Spurs, who continue to be a much better team on the road(13-9) than at home(12-17). However, for the Mavericks, this was a disappointing loss as they had an opportunity to extend their lead in the standings over Spurs and had a chance to get closer to the sixth-seeded Blazers. 

Both teams get back at it on Monday night. The Mavericks host the Eastern Conference’s top-seeded team, the Philadelphia 76ers, and the Spurs continue their five-game road trip in Orlando against the Magic.

Cavs’ Sexton on loss to Raptors: ‘It was embarrassing what took place in the first half’

On Saturday night, the Cleveland Cavaliers had a golden opportunity to move up in the Eastern Conference’s standings against the Toronto Raptors. Toronto was without their top two leading scorers in Pascal Siakam(rest), Fred VanVleet(hip), and they were without Kyle Lowry(foot).  However, Cleveland picked the wrong time to play one of its worst games of the season.

Cleveland allowed a franchise-worst 47 points in the first quarter and a franchise-worst 87 points in the first half on Saturday night. The Raptors shot 85% from the field in the first quarter. Toronto finished the first half shooting 71% from the field and would lead by as much as 38 points. Ultimately, Toronto would snap Cleveland’s two-game winning streak and win 135-115 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

Gary Trent Jr. was sizzling for the Raptors. He shot 17/19 from the field, including 7/9 from three-point range, and had a career-high 44 points.

Collin Sexton, who led the Cavs with 29 points, was embarrassed by what he saw in the first half against Toronto.

“It was embarrassing what took place in the first half tonight,” Sexton said. “We pretty much just came out being soft. They just pretty much got whatever they wanted when they wanted it.”

Cavs head coach J.B Bickerstaff was clearly disappointed after the game and thought the team lacked toughness in the first half.

“We just didn’t have any grit,” Bickerstaff said. “I thought we let them do what they wanted to do. They were beating us up one-on-one. We weren’t good helping one another. It was a bunch of different things, but it starts with the fight and the toughness that I don’t think we started with.”

This will be one of those games Cleveland wishes it could have back. If they would have defeated Toronto on Saturday night, the Cavs would have had sole possession of the 11th seed in the Eastern Conference and would have put them one step closer to the 10th-seeded Bulls(final spot in playoffs).

However, this is what young teams do. They look great at times, and they look bad at times. Saturday night was that “bad at times.” Fortunately for Cleveland, they get back at it on Sunday night when they host the New Orleans Pelicans.

Notes:

Cleveland was again without Jarrett Allen(concussion) and Larry Nance Jr.(illness).

The team announced on Saturday that they’ve signed Mfiondu Kabengele to a 10-day contract. Kabengele was a first round pick of the Nets in 2019. He is the nephew of NBA legend and Basketball Hall of Famer Dikembe Mutombo.

Spurs’ Popovich thinks Jokic could be the best passer in basketball

It has been rough sledding for the San Antonio Spurs of late. San Antonio has lost five straight and 10 of their last 12, including Friday’s 121-119 loss to the Nuggets, as Denver swept the two-game set at Ball Arena and extended their winning streak to eight games.

Denver(34-18) defeated the Spurs 106-96 on Wednesday night.

The Spurs trailed by as much as 18 points in the first half on Friday night but made a furious run in the fourth quarter with a chance to tie, but Keldon Johnson came up short on his drive to the basket, and DeMar DeRozan missed a putback at the buzzer.

It appeared that San Antonio could get routed in this contest. The Spurs never led in this game and trailed by 13 points entering the fourth quarter. However, Derrick White did everything in his power to bring the Spurs back, including scoring 14 of his team-high 25 points in the final quarter, but it wasn’t enough.

On Friday night, San Antonio saw the greatness of Nikola Jokic on full display. Jokic had a triple-double with 26 points, 14 assists, and 13 rebounds, and in the two-game set against the Spurs, Jokic averaged 25.5 points, 12.0 assists, and 11 rebounds.

After the loss to the Nuggets, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich had high praise for the three-time All-Star.

“That’s why they are a helluva team,” Popovich said. “Jokic is maybe the best passer in the league. Certainly, the best big-man passer and better than most wings, so sure, he sets the table for everybody; he’s great.”

Jokic is special and a legitimate MVP candidate. There are not many things he can’t do on a basketball court, and with the addition of Aaron Gordon before the trade deadline, Denver looks like a team that can make a run at an NBA title.

As for the Spurs(24-26), who are 9th in the Western Conference, it does not get any easier as they continue their five-game road trip on Sunday night against the Mavericks.

Watch below as Pop talks Jokic:

Cavs’ Love: ‘I do feel like we’re playing a good brand of basketball now’

The Cleveland Cavaliers(19-32) finished off their three-game road trip the right way as they routed the OKC Thunder(20-32) 129-102 0n Thursday night . Cleveland’s 27-point win was their largest margin of victory this season, and the team finished 2-1 on this road trip. Also, Cleveland matched their win total from last season.

With Thursday’s 27-point win and their 125-101 victory over San Antonio on Monday, Cleveland has won two straight games by 20 points or more on the road for the first time since April 2017 and the second time in franchise history.

Cleveland got another big-time effort from its backcourt of Collin Sexton(27 points) and Darius Garland(21 points), who combined for 48 points, and Taurean Prince, who scored 22 points off the bench. The Cavaliers had six players in double figures, including all five starters.

The Cavs had excellent ball movement on Thursday night and finished the game with 35 assists on 48 made field goals, led by seven assists from reserve Matthew Dellavedova.

“35 assists on 48 field goals,” Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “That’s ball movement, that execution, that’s unselfish play.”

Kevin Love, who had 18 points and 11 rebounds on Thursday night, which was his second double-double in three games, likes how the Cavs are playing right now.

“I always talk about trending in the right direction, but I do feel like we’re playing a good brand of basketball now,” Love said. “Just getting Larry(Nance Jr.) back and JA(Jarrett Allen). More bodies out there, more guys that can do different things. It’s going to be a huge luxury for us.”

Cleveland is playing a good brand of basketball right now. Garland is playing with confidence, Love is starting to look like himself, and Sexton continues to score the basketball at a high level, and hopefully, Nance Jr. and Allen will return soon.

With 21 games left, they will have to finish strong if they want to participate in the Play-in Tournament. Currently, they are three games behind the Bulls for the 10th and final spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs and 1/2 game behind the Toronto Raptors, who they host on Saturday night. Cleveland has two games left against the Bulls, so they have shot.

It’s now or never for the Cavs, and based on what we saw on this three-game road trip, maybe they do have a run in them.

 

 

 

Clippers sign Malik Fitts to 10-day contract

The LA Clippers have signed forward Malik Fitts to a 10-day contract, the team announced on Friday.

Fitts, 23, appeared in 14 games for the Agua Caliente Clippers this season, averaging 11.1 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.4 assists. A training camp invitee this season, Fitts appeared in two preseason games for the Clippers.

Fitts played two collegiate seasons at Saint Mary’s, where he appeared in 68 games and averaged 15.9 points and 7.3 rebounds while shooting 47.3 percent from the field. Prior to transferring to Saint Mary’s, the 6-foot-8 forward played his first college season at South Florida, where he appeared in 27 games and averaged 7.4 points and 4.6 rebounds. A native of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., Fitts was named to the 2019-20 All-WCC First Team and the 2018-19 All-WCC Second Team.

Mavs’ Carlisle on win over Bucks: ‘Really proud of the team’

In the Mavericks’ 102-93 road loss to the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night, Kristaps Porzingis was rolling in the first three quarters. Porzingis was 10/19 from the field and had 23 points entering the fourth quarter. However, in the fourth quarter, Porzingis did not have any field goal attempts and ended the game with 23 points.

On Thursday night against the Bucks(32-19), the Mavericks trailed 84-80 entering the fourth quarter after a 12-0 run by Milwaukee to end the third. However, this fourth quarter belonged to Porzingis. He went 4/4 from the field and scored 11 of his 26 points in the quarter as the Mavericks defeated Milwaukee 116-101 at American Airlines Center. 

Porzingis also added 17 rebounds. Luka Doncic led the way for Dallas with 27 points, nine rebounds, and nine assists, while the Bucks, who were without Giannis Antetokounmpo(left knee soreness), was led by Donte DiVincenzo’s 22 points.

After the game, Porzingis discussed his impact in the fourth quarter.

“It felt good to come in right away and hit that pump-fake 3,” he said. “After you hit one like that, you feel good. I got a couple more, and that was it. We made a good run and were able to seal the game.”

Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle was happy with Porzingis and the play of the team against Milwaukee.

“I thought [Kristaps Porzingis] played a great all-around game tonight,” Carlisle said. “This is really a great sign on the second night of a back-to-back this kind of performance — 10-for-20, plus-17 in the game, 17 boards. Really proud of the team. Great bounce back after the disappointment of last night.”

This was a nice bounce-back win for the Mavericks. Obviously, not having Giannis on the court helped, but Dallas faced some adversity in this game and responded well. Also, they gained a game in the standings after the Blazers fell to the Jazz on Thursday night, so this win has a lot of benefits. The Mavericks are off until Sunday when they continue their three-game homestand against the Spurs. 

Doncic on Mavs’ loss to Rockets: ‘Anybody can play a bad game, right’

Coming into Wednesday night’s game against the Houston Rockets(14-37), the Dallas Mavericks(28-22) had won a season-high five straight, including defeating the Utah Jazz on Monday night, who have the best record in basketball. Conversely, the Houston Rockets had lost five straight and have the second-worst record in basketball, but that’s why you play the game. 

Led by John Wall’s 31 points and Christian Wood’s 22 points, the Rockets shocked the Mavs 102-93 at Toyota Center. Kristaps Porzingis and Luka Doncic had 23 points apiece for the Mavs. Porzingis also chipped in with a team-high 12 rebounds. 

The Rockets led for most of the game and took an 11-point lead into the fourth quarter. Dallas tied the game with under three minutes to go, but Houston went on a 13-4 run to close out the game and get the victory.

“Disappointing loss,” Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said after the game. “We gotta be better at the beginning of the game and carry it through, and we didn’t do that.”‘

Doncic, who was 9/26 from the field, added: “Anybody can play a bad game, right? So, we played a horrible game as a team. We just have to flush it out and continue to get better.”

Back to Porzingis, who returned after missing the last two games with a wrist injury, he was 10/19 from the field entering the fourth quarter. However, in that quarter, Porzingis did not have a field goal attempt. When asked why he was not involved in the offense in the fourth, he said the following.

“Good question,” Porzingis said. “It’s just the plays we were running. It happened before also.”

Porzingis not getting touches in the fourth is a problem, and maybe that’s on the play calls or the players for not getting him the ball. No matter what happened, this was a bad loss and one of those games you would love to have back, especially when you’re chasing the Blazers for sixth-seed in the Western Conference. 

Fortunately for Dallas, they’ll have an opportunity to redeem themselves on Thursday night as they host the Milwaukee Bucks.

Notes:

Dallas was without Maxi Kleber(Right Lower Leg; Soreness) and Trey Burke (Injury/Illness – Left Calf; Strain) on Wednesday night.

Wall returned on Wednesday night after missing four games due to swelling in the knee.

Mavs’ Richardson: ‘I think we have a lot of talent from the top to the bottom’

In January, the Dallas Mavericks(28-21) went to Utah to play the Jazz(38-12) in a two-game set, and it was not pretty. Dallas was defeated by double-figures in both games, and was down by 20 points or more in both contests.

Two months later, the Jazz traveled to Dallas to battle the Mavericks on Monday, and this time, it was a much different story. Dallas had five players in double figures led by Luka Doncic’s game-high 31 points to go along with nine rebounds and eight assists. Also, Dorian Finney-Smith had a season-high 23 points, and Jalen Brunson added 20 points off the bench as the Mavericks defeated the Jazz 111-103.

Dallas snapped Utah’s nine-game win streak with the win, which was the longest active win streak in the NBA.

“Every win gives you confidence,” Doncic said. “Any NBA team can beat you, so every win gives you confidence. Obviously, this team is first place in the West, and so it is a big win, and we just have to keep rolling like this.”

The Mavericks are rolling right now. They have now won five straight games, marking their longest win streak of the season. Dallas has won those five games by an average of 13.8 points. In addition, the team has won 13 of its last 18 games and 20 of its last 28 games.

“I like what we’re doing,” Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said after the game. “I like the direction that we’re going. But if you ask the guys in that locker room, they’re going to tell you we haven’t done anything yet; there’s a long way to go here. There’s a lot of ground to make up that we lost early. We’re trying to get into the top six. We’re really not looking at the standings, but we’re just looking game to game.”

Dallas was without their second-leading scorer Kristaps Porzingis(wrist), but without KP, others stepped up and got it done, which speaks to the Mavericks’ depth. Josh Richardson, who had 17 points against the Jazz, discussed how deep Dallas is this season.

“I think we have a lot of talent from the top to the bottom,” he said. “Anytime you got a guy like Tim [Hardaway], JB [Jalen Brunson], Trey [Burke], guys who can shift the whole momentum of a game coming off the bench, and that’s always a big help. I think we have the personal that anybody any night can really hurt you.”

Dallas is getting it done, and hopefully, they can get Porzingis back sooner than later, but for now, they enjoy a big win over the best team in basketball.

Cousins signs 10-day contract with Clippers

The Los Angeles Clippers have signed center DeMarcus Cousins to a 10-day contract, the team announced on Monday.

The 30-year-old Cousins was released by the Rockets in February after 25 games with the team. Cousins averaged 9.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 2.4 assists in 20.2 minutes. The four-time All-Star returned this season after missing all of last season with a torn ACL.

Cousins holds career averages of 20.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.2 blocks in 590 appearances with the Sacramento Kings, New Orleans Pelicans, Golden State Warriors, and Houston Rockets.

The nine-year veteran is one of 11 players in NBA history to average at least 20.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 3.0 assists. Originally the fifth overall selection in the 2010 NBA Draft, Cousins is a four-time All-Star, a two-time All-NBA Second Team member, and an Olympic Gold Medalist with Team USA.

Cousins was solid for the Rockets and played well at times, including 28 points and 17 rebounds against the Mavericks in January. With Serge Ibaka(back) out, Cousins will have an opportunity to impress the Clippers or other teams in the NBA.