76ers’ Harris: ‘We gotta be better’

No team in NBA history has come back from an 0-3 deficit, but the Toronto Raptors are two games away from being the first to do it after winning Game 5 against the 76ers 103-88 at Wells Fargo Center.

The 76ers hold a 3-2 series lead, but the momentum is with the Raptors as the series shifts to Toronto for Game 6 Thursday night.

Toronto was without Fred VanVleet(hip), but Pascal Siakam had a game-high 23 points to go along with 10 rebounds and seven assists.

Joel Embiid led the 76ers with 20 points and 11 rebounds;

Tobias Harris, who had 16 points and seven rebounds, says the 76ers did not bring the right energy in Game 5. 

“To be honest with you, this is a tough loss for us, a game that we wanted,” Harris said. “We didn’t put enough effort into getting the W, but we gotta stick together. We gotta figure out how we can gather that type of energy and be able to be at our best; we really just gotta focus on what’s worked for us through the series in the games that we have won and what has been successful, and we have to just do more of that, we can’t get away from what has really worked during our three games that we have won, and that’s just the motto for the next game, we gotta be better.”

James Harden had 15 points and seven assists on 11 shots(4-11). That’s not bad, but Philly needed more, and Embiid, who is battling a torn ligament in his thumb, says the former MVP has to be more aggressive.

“I’ve been saying all season since he got here, he needs to be aggressive, and he needs to be himself,” Embiid said about Harden. “That’s not really my job. That’s probably on Coach to talk to him and tell him to take more shots, especially if they’re going to guard me the way they’ve been guarding.”

The 76ers shot 38% from the, including 27% from deep. Also, they had 15 turnovers, which led to 20 points for Toronto. But despite the struggles on offense, Embiid is not concerned.

“I don’t know if you can see, but they double me just like last game, really everywhere whether that’s the post, the elbow, the three-point line,” Embiid said. “You can tell they are really trying to get the ball out of my hands, so we didn’t make shots today, but we just gotta keep trusting, and we will be better.”

As they get ready for Game 6, Philadelphia must be better. Embiid looks noticeably uncomfortable with his injured thumb, but he has to fight through it. Harden is either hurt or lost a step, but like Embiid, he has to be better. 

The 76ers are still in control, but they don’t want this series to go back to Philadelphia for Game 7 because anything can happen at that point.

Expect the 76ers to bounce back Thursday night in Toronto.

Cavs’ Bickerstaff on loss to Raptors: ‘They outplayed us’

The Cleveland Cavaliers traveled to Toronto to battle the Raptors Thursday night in their biggest game of the season to date. Coming into this game, the sixth-seeded Cavs had a one-game lead over the seventh-seeded Raptors.

Toronto led for most of the game and had their largest lead of 17 points in the fourth as the Raptors defeated the Cavs 117-104 at Scotiabank Arena.

Pascal Siakam had a season-high tying 35 points, including a career-high tying six threes for Toronto as they had six players in double figures.

With the win, the Raptors(41-32) and Cavs(41-32) are tied for the sixth seed in the East, but Cleveland holds the tie-breaker since they won the season series (3=1).

Teams seeded 7-10  in their conference will have to battle it out in the Play-In Tournament to make the playoffs.

Here’s the Great, Not So Great, and the Bottom Line of the Cavs’ loss to the Raptors.

The Great for the Cavaliers:

-Lauri Markkanen came to play Thursday night, and he had a team-high 20 points. In the last 14 games, Markkanen has had 20-plus points six times. 

-Darius Garland had another double-double with 18 points and 10 assists. This is Garland’s fourth straight double-double. He did not shoot it well(7/18 FG, 1/6 3-PT FG), but he did do his part.

The Not So Great for the Cavaliers:

First Quarter: Cleveland led 10-5 with just under eight minutes in the first, but they were outscored 20-7 the rest of the quarter, including a 15-0 run from Toronto. The Cavs struggled to score as they shot 30% from the field, including 1/8 from downtown. After the first, Toronto led 25-17 and took a 58-48 lead at halftime.

Cleveland’s three-point defense: The Cavs allowed Toronto to make 16 threes, nine of which came in the second half. 

Fast Break Points: Cleveland let the Raptors have a lot of success in transition. The Raptors had 18 fast break points, which means Cleveland allowed too many easy buckets. Cleveland also had 13 turnovers, which led to 17 points for Toronto.

Fourth Quarter: Toronto led 83-75 after three quarters, and they shot it well in fourth. The Raptors shot 60% from the floor. Cleveland cutt the lead to seven with just under 10 minutes to go, but the Raptors went on a 12-5 run to push the lead to 14. Toronto outscored the Cavs 34-29 in the fourth.

Evan Mobley: Coming into Thursday’s game against Toronto, Mobley(two games) was averaging 19 points and 11 rebounds against the Raptors. Mobley shot 14 times in the first matchup and 15 times in the game against the Raptors on March 6, where he had 20 points and 17 rebounds.

On Thursday night, Mobley got up only seven shots and finished with 11 points, eight rebounds, and three blocks. Clearly, he needed more touches.

Bottom Line:

Toronto is playing some good basketball right now and has won seven of their last nine games, so the Raptors are hot basketball team.

This was another game that had a playoff atmosphere, and the Cavs were just not up to the task. The Raptors are a battled-tested team, and they looked that way Thursday night.

Regarding Toronto, three of their final nine games are against teams in the playoffs(1-6 in their respective conference), while five of the Cavs’ final nine games are against playoff teams(1-6 in their respective conference), so you could argue the schedule favors the Raptors.

Quotes:

“They outplayed us,” Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said about Toronto. “Give them credit where credit is due.”

What’s Next:

The Cavs begin a three-game homestand Saturday night in Cleveland against the Bulls.

Best of the Rest:

Kevin Love got the start for Cleveland and had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Lamar Stevens was in double figures for the third straight game as he had 16 points and six rebounds off the bench. Cleveland had six players in double figures Thursday night.

-Chris Boucher had 17 points off the Raptors’ bench.

Watch below as Bickerstaff reacts to loss to Raptors:

Cavs get back on track in win over Raptors

The Cleveland Cavaliers returned to Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse Sunday night to play a big game against the Toronto Raptors.

Coming into the game, the sixth-seeded Cavs were two games up on the seventh-seeded Raptors, so if the Cavs wanted to avoid the Play-In Tournament, this game was a must.

Cleveland led by as many as 18 points in the fourth quarter, and the Cavs would defeat the Raptors 104-96.

The Cavs(37-27) snap their three-game losing streak with the win, while the Raptors(34-30) have lost three straight.

Here’s the Great, Not So Great, and the Bottom Line of the Cavs’ win over the Raptors.

The Great for the Cavs:

-Evan Mobley showed out for a national TV audience Sunday night. Mobley had 20 points, a career-high-tying 17 rebounds, four assists, and three blocks. Jarrett Allen missed most of the game, and Mobley stepped up. This was Mobley’s 16th double-double of the season(tied for the most among rookies). Mobley and Toronto’s Scotty Barnes(19 points, 12 rebounds, and six assists) are both in the running for Rookie of the Year, and both played well Sunday night.

-Lauri Markkanen had a team-high 22 points, a season-high 12 rebounds, and a block against the Raptors. This was Markkanen’s second double-double of the season. Again, without Allen, Cleveland needed their bigs to stand up, and like Mobley, Markkanen stood up. 

-Darius Garland chipped in with his second straight double-double as he had 17 points and 10 assists. He also added three rebounds and two steals. 

-Second Quarter: Cleveland led 30-29 after one quarter, and they picked things up in the second quarter, mainly on the defensive end. They held the Raptors to 23%(5/22) shooting from the floor, including 0/5 from deep. Cleveland outscored Toronto 29-17 in the quarter and took a 59-46 lead at the break.

Defense: The Cavs brought that defensive intensity and energy Sunday night. Toronto had two quarters where they scored less than 20 points; they shot 39% from the field, including 6/25 from three-point range. In addition, the Cavs held a team below 100 points for the first time since February 26.

The Not So Great for the Cavs:

-Jarrett Allen left the game in the first quarter with a left quad contusion. After the win, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that Allen also suffered a fractured finger and is expected to be sidelined indefinitely. 

The All-Star was having a tremendous season, so Cleveland will miss what he brings to the table.

-Cleveland had 19 turnovers, which led to 20 points for Toronto. Garland had seven of the 19 turnovers.

Bottom Line:

Cleveland needed to win this game badly, and they got it done. They got back to who they were earlier in the season, and that’s playing well on defense, but unfortunately, they will have more adversity to overcome with Allen’s injury.

This season, Cleveland lost Collin Sexton and Ricky Rubio for the season. Markkanen missed time with COVID and an ankle injury, Garland is battling a back injury, and Caris LeVert(foot) and Rajon Rondo(toe) are currently out, but to the Cavs’ credit, they still keep pushing.

Cleveland is now three games up on the Raptors and one game behind the fifth-seeded Celtics(39-27).

Again, as stated previously, the Cavs just need to worry about being one of the top six teams in the East.

What’s Next:

Cleveland begins a three-game road trip Tuesday night in Indiana against the Pacers.

Best of the Rest:

The Cavs had five players in double figures. Cedi Osman added 17 points, and Kevin Love poured in 15 points off the bench.

-Toronto’s Pascal Siakam had a game-high 24 points; Chris Boucher scored 21 points, and Barnes and Gary Trent Jr. had 19 points apiece.

According to Cavs Notes, since 1989-90 season, seven rookies had 20-plus points, 17-plus rebounds, and 3-plus blocks in a single game, including Mobley:

Dikembe Mutombo (11/2/91 and 11/26/91)

Tim Duncan (4/10/98 and 1/19/98)

Elton Brand (11/19/99)

Shaquille O’Neal (4/20/93)

David Robinson (2/3/90)

Chris Webber (3/1/94)

Mobley(Sunday night).

-Toronto was without Fred VanVleet(knee), who missed his fifth straight game, and Malachi Flynn(hamstring).

Watch below as Mobley reacts to big win over Raptors:

Spurs ship Young to Raptors

The San Antonio Spurs have acquired guard Goran Dragić, a protected 2022 first-round pick from Toronto in exchange for center Drew Eubanks, forward Thaddeus Young, and a 2022 second-round pick, the teams announced Thursday.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Raptors are waiving Drew Eubanks. In addition, the 35-year-old Dragić, who appeared in five games this season for the Raptors, will reportedly be bought out by the Spurs.

The 33-year-old Young, who the Spurs acquired in the offseason, appeared in 26 games this season, averaging 6.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 2.3 assists in 14.2 minutes. The 15-year veteran should give the red-hot Raptors, who have won seven-straight, a boost off the bench.

For the Spurs, they get a protected first-round pick, which will be very helpful as they continue to rebuild.

 

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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.

Report: Cavs will sit Drummond as team looks to trade him

It appears that Cavaliers C Andre Drummond’s time in Cleveland is done. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Cleveland is no longer planning to play Drummond as they work to trade the two-time All-Star prior to the NBA’s March 25th trade deadline.

Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman discussed the move with Drummond and his agent, Jeff Schwartz of Excel Sports, and decided together that Drummond would remain with the team but would no longer be active for games, according to the report.

Drummond(rest) did not play in the team’s 128-111 loss to the Clippers on Sunday night.

According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the Cavaliers are engaged in talks with the Toronto Raptors on a potential Drummond trade. 

The 27-year-old Drummond is averaging 17.5 points, 13.5 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game this season.  He played well earlier this season and helped the Cavs get off to a good start. However, Drummond and the team have struggled of late. The Cavaliers(10-18) have lost seven straight and nine of their last 10. In his last three games, Drummond is averaging 9.0 points and 8.3 rebounds.

The nine-year veteran, who acquired by the Cavs from the Pistons last February, is making $28.7 million this season in the final year of his contract. It was clear that once Cleveland acquired the 22-year-old Jarrett Allen from Brooklyn that Drummond’s days with the team were numbered, so what’s happening now is not surprising.

76ers’ Ennis on GM 7 against Raps: We would be champions if we win that game(VIDEO)

Basketball is a game inches. A couple bounces here, and a bounces couple there can change everything. Just ask the Philadelphia 76ers. With the game tied at 90, Kawhi Leonard made one of the most improbable shots to send the Raptors past the 76ers in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The ball bounced up, down, and into the basket. An inch to the left or an inch to the right could have changed the course history, so says Sixers F James Ennis.

“Lucky shot,” Ennis told Paul Gant on Friday after the introductory press conference to announce his signing with the 76ers. “He’s a good player, though. Kawhi’s one of the best players in the league, but it hit the rim like four times. I felt like if we would have won that game, we would have won the whole thing…

“If we would have won that game, we would have beat Milwaukee, and we would have won a championship because I think we matched up well against Milwaukee. We gave Toronto a run for their money.”

Ennis recently said that the Sixers would “walk to the Finals” now that Kawhi Leonard is out of the Eastern Conference. On Friday, he still sounded very confident in his team.

The East is up for grabs,” he said. “The West is a lot tougher, but I think we have a team that is elite still. We have a good coaching staff here, good coach, good players. I think we are determined to go farther than we did last year, and I know we will.”

The way Milwaukee flamed out against the Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals, losing the final four games of the series after being up 2-0, Ennis might have a point. Also, after how the Warriors broke down physically(Durant, Thompson injuries), all the top teams in the East should be kicking themselves right now, and with the West getting even stronger, the top teams in the East might be kicking themselves for a long time!

Listen to complete interview with Ennis below as he discusses why he came back to Philly, how much money he left on the table, the playoffs, and more:

 

 

 

Clips’ Frank: ‘We are grateful and honored that Kawhi Leonard has decided to come home’

Kawhi Leonard is coming home, and fortunately for the Los Angeles Clippers, it will be with them. The Moreno Valley, California-native has officially signed with the Clippers, the team announced today.

According to ESPN, Leonard signed a three-year, $103.1 million deal that includes a player option for the 2021-22 season, the source said. He will make $32.74 million next season, $34.37 million in 2020-21 and $36.01 million in the player-option season.

“This is a historic moment for our organization and our fans,” said Frank. “We are grateful and honored that Kawhi Leonard has decided to come home and join the L.A. Clippers. Kawhi is a peerless two-way player, a relentless worker and a natural fit for the serious, professional culture our group has established. He wins everywhere he goes, and he always has, from King High School to San Diego State to the NBA. Having him on our side is a tremendous privilege and a massive responsibility, one we will take very seriously. His expectation, and ours, is to contend for championships.”

Leonard, 28, averaged 30.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists for the Toronto Raptors last season in 24 playoff games en route to an NBA Championship and Finals MVP honor. During the 2018-19 regular season, the three-time All-Star averaged 26.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists.

In his career, the two-time defensive Player of the Year (2016, 2015) has averaged 17.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists over 467 games with the Raptors and San Antonio Spurs. Leonard also won an NBA Championship and captured Finals MVP with the Spurs in 2013-14. The 6’7″ forward has been voted All-NBA First Team twice (2017, 2016), All-NBA Second Team once (2019), and All-Defensive First Team three times (2017, 2016, 2015).

Report: Leonard, George to the Clippers

The Los Angeles Clippers have just broken the internet. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Clippers will sign free agent Kawhi Leonard, but it does not stop there. The Clippers have acquired OKC’s Paul George in exchange for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, and four unprotected first-round picks, one protected first-round pick, and two pick swaps, according to Wojnarowski.

This is a stunner. Many believed Leonard was going to sign with either the Lakers or Raptors, but in the end, the Clippers got it done.

There is going to be a lot of great basketball at Staples Center next season.

Kenny Smith on Kawhi Leonard: ‘Without question, he’s gotta take his time’

The first day of free agency in the NBA saw a lot of big names come off the board. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving went to Brooklyn, Jimmy Butler went to Miami, and Kemba Walker went to Boston, but there is still one big name out there, and that is NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, and according to reports, it seems it will come down to the Clippers, Lakers, and Raptors. Where will he go? Who knows, but according to TNT NBA analyst Kenny Smith, Leonard needs to take his time.

“I think he really has to take his time, honestly because he doesn’t have the opportunity to make this decision again,” Smith told TMZ Sports about Leonard. “This is the biggest decision for him at this stage of his life and his career that he can’t just make that decision that quickly. Kevin Durant and all those guys have had big contracts before. This is his first huge, mega contract, so, without question, he’s gotta take his time.”

Leonard is more than likely going to get a max contract wherever he goes, but he can get an extra year and more guaranteed money if he decides to stay in Toronto. Also, he will have a chance to help the Raptors defend their NBA title. If he does go to the Lakers and joins LeBron and Anthony Davis, obviously that would be a tough team to beat.

Leonard’s last big contract came in 2015 when he signed a max contract at five-years, $94 million with San Antonio. Leonard is always composed on the court and can get to all his spots while taking his time and staying under control, and he seems to be handling free agency in the same manner. He’ll make his decision, but only when he is ready to do so.