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Q& A: Chicago Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com A year ago, on the night of the 2017 NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls switched gears. Jimmy Butler was traded to Minnesota, taking with him any pretense that the Bulls were a legitimate playoff team. In that moment, Chicago committed to a rebuild, which is to say, a dive into the draft lottery where coach Fred Hoiberg and his team presumably would be rewarded not for how many games they won but how many they lost. By whatever means necessary. Soon after Butler was moved to the Timberwolves, veteran point guard Rajon Rondo was waived. A few months later, Dwyane Wade was cut loose (via a handsome buyout) to bounce through Cleveland to Miami. The Bulls moved forward with three young pieces courtesy of the Wolves -- wing Zach LaVine, guard Kris Dunn and the No. 7 pick in 2017, rookie forward Lauri Markkanen -- and a general acceptance that getting from there to here was going to bring a lot of pain. Some of that was literal: Bobby Portis slugged teammate Nikola Mirotic in a preseason practice, breaking two facial bones and putting Mirotic on the shelf for 23 games. Some of it was figurative: the frustration of a season that began as a 3-20 mess and ended in a 10-28 slog. In between, though, the Bulls somehow put together a 14-7 stretch that offered a glimpse of what 2018-19 might be. It also cost them precious lottery balls, eventually leaving them with the No. 7 pick (and No. 22, after dealing Mirotic in February to New Orleans) in Thursday’s (Friday, PHL time) Draft. Hoiberg, who went from an alleged coaching “hot seat” during two .500 seasons, wound up with more job security as a coach headed toward 50 defeats and beyond. He spoke with NBA.com about his and the Bulls’, er, challenging season. This is edited from a pair of longer conversations, one at the end of the regular season, the other within the past week. NBA.com: So you go through everything that was 2017-18, dutifully lose 55 games and wind up at No. 7 instead of in the top three for the Draft. The inevitable question is, was it worth it? Fred Hoiberg: Obviously you’re disappointed. You were hoping to move up. But we’re confident we’re going to get a good player with the No. 7 pick and we’re confident we’ll get a good player with the 22nd pick. NBA.com: C’mon, this isn’t our first rodeo. I get that people don’t like to use the word “tanking,” but the Bulls’ marching orders last season were pretty clear. FH: I don’t think you can look at it that way in the midst of your season. The players are competitive, your staff is competitive. You want to play as well as you can and put yourself in a position to win. When you look at the successful stretch that we had in December and January, you think about carrying those things forward and then adding, based on who we get, to the roster. There was some real frustration that we didn’t get a lot of wins at the end. But we developed some younger players and saw what we had with some of our guys. NBA.com: When you guys had that run before the season’s midpoint, winning seven in a row (first team in NBA history with such a long winning streak immediately after a losing streak of 10 in a row) and 10 of 12, did you and the front office ever consider a Plan B? As in, maybe, show potential free agents how good your supporting cast could be, in hopes of luring big-name help this summer? FH: I think we did. What we showed was a really good foundation and a young core that we can build around. When I look back at it, I just wish we could have had more opportunity to work with it and see what it would have looked like. When Zach LaVine came back [Jan. 13 from ACL knee surgery], the plan was for him to play about 20 minutes a night. Then his third game, Kris Dunn fell against Golden State and had that concussion [that cost him 11 games, before missing the final 14 with a toe injury]. It’s too bad we didn’t get the full look. But players like Cam Payne, Denzel [Valentine], Bobby, Robin [Lopez], Justin Holiday all had career years.   NBA.com: You had a lot of injuries down the stretch. Not to suggest that they weren’t all legit, but were you instructed at any point by VP John Paxson or GM Gar Forman to dial it back after that 14-7 success? FH: No, we weren’t. And the big thing from the very beginning of last season, the two things we wanted to see, was competing at a high level every night and the development of our players. I think we accomplished that. NBA.com: What -- in your background as a player, coach, competitor, you name it -- prepared you for this past season? FH: Part of what prepared me for this was, I had been through this as a player. I went from four really competitive teams in Indiana, playing with someone as driven and helpful as Reggie Miller, taking me under his wing. There were other great veteran players who helped me just to survive and taught me a lot. Larry Brown was the coach, then Larry Bird my last two years.   Then when I came to Chicago, I knew it would be an opportunity to play. But it was a rebuild. Eventually I got thrust into the role of captain, as the oldest player on team at 28. It really helped me with what we’re going through now. I learned how important it is to keep guys’ morale up and be positive through the ups and downs. I give our guys all the credit in the world for remaining so positive, keeping up a great work ethic and still being sponges in wanting to learn. NBA.com: What were the takeaways from the best and healthiest part of last season? FH: We got a pretty good feel for what Kris Dunn can be. He really evolved into being a closer for our team. Lauri was closing games for us, taking big shots as a 20-year-old kid. Zach had the game against Minnesota. What people fail to remember about Zach, he averaged over 22 points a game in February and really got into a pretty good rhythm. Then he had some knee soreness and wound up sitting for the rest of the year. But we had some flashes of what this can turn into. NBA.com: Niko paid for his role in sparking that hot streak. FH: Niko was great. He missed those first 23, and I thought our team handled that adverse situation about as well as anybody could, not letting it affect us in a negative way. We were able to move past it. You even saw the chemistry that Niko and Bobby played with when they were out there together. NBA.com: How hard was it personally downshifting from a team that had gone to the playoffs to one that didn’t put a priority on winning? FH: When the move was made on draft night, when those three kids came in, right away there was an excitement. Everyone had seen what Zach had done. He was a highlight reel and had those slam dunk championships. He plays the game with ease on the offensive end. His athletic tools and ability to get up and down the floor. Kris, everybody absolutely loved coming out of the draft [in 2016]. Then he had an up-and-down rookie season. Helping him to get that swagger back that he had coming out of Providence took some work, but he was aching to put that work in. Markkanen, I know the guys upstairs knew how good he was but I had no idea. I didn’t study him because we had the 15th pick. He comes over after a grueling summer -- summer league, Eurobasket with all that pressure in front of his home fans -- and he was exhausted. But then you saw every day, “Man, this kid is really good.” You’re thinking, we could probably put the ball in this kid’s hands. Then he goes up and dunks over a whole team and you say, “My God, this kid’s more athletic than we thought. He uses his feet, he’s got anticipation, he’s got toughness.” He showed a little more every day. NBA.com: Was it difficult asking a proud veteran like Robin Lopez to put it in idle over the final 25 games? FH: I think he understood. He’s been a part of a lot of different situations. He was great. He continued to lead. He continued to practice hard. He talked to the bigs as they came off the floor. NBA.com: Was your own health challenged at all by the stress of this season? Your past issues related to your heart are widely known, and coaching an NBA team even in the best of times is a demanding job. FH: After two open-heart surgeries, I do have to sometimes check myself. There are so many things you can over-concern yourself with in this business. Then you look back a week or two later and say, “My God, why did I put so much effort into that one stupid thing that happened?” You have to let go sometimes. My family is so important for me with that. You get some normalcy in your life. [At night, lying in bed, Hoiberg can hear a valve in his heart every time it beats. He let a visitor listen, too, and sure enough... ] If this ever affected me to the point where I had to throttle back, I would move on to something else. When I had my first surgery and they removed the diseased tissue from the aorta that had an aneurysm in it, they got rid of the problem. The valve deteriorated after they put a new valve in and they had to go in again, but the diseased tissue no longer was there. If it was a risk, I’d be doing something else. But it’s a constant reminder. You think you’re going to get used to it, but you never really do. My wife will be lying next to me and she hears it. NBA.com: When you look back on 2017-18, is it like “Casablanca” for you guys? As in, you’ll always have December? FH: It was fun to see how much the work paid off. Everyone was putting so much into it to get out of that slump. You can say, we had something to build on there. But whenever I talked to our team, before or after, it was all about competing on a nightly basis. Being consistent with their effort. I couldn’t be more proud of how they handled it. They were on time. They kept trying to get better. They worried about what they could control. I didn’t have to have even one of those conversations where I sat a guy down and said, “You’re not playing hard enough.” I did have a few conversations where I said, “You need to move the ball more.” [laughs] NBA.com: Big difference, coaching relative kids after the so-called “three alphas” of Butler, Wade and Rondo? Jimmy seemed eager to stay here to win. FH: Jimmy did so many things for this team. He was great to coach. You knew every night you were going to get an unbelievable effort. A guy who never backed down. Who never shied away from the big shot. And was going to defend at a high level every time he stepped on the floor. So Jimmy was missed in a lot of ways. But when you look at the young guys’ abilities, it’s exciting. NBA.com: What do you make of having better job security now that the losses are mounting, compared to those .500 seasons? FH: I don’t think any one of the 30 guys in our position pay attention to that. You can’t do your job if you do. You go in and try to improve as an individual, as a staff, as a team. Our first year, Derrick Rose suffered an orbital fracture in the first workout. We had 10 rotation players who missed double-digit games. Two starters missed 50 or more [Mike Dunleavy, Joakim Noah]. Niko had that botched appendix surgery. The next year was a completely different team. Nobody predicted we’d be a playoff team but we were and had a good chance to beat Boston before Rondo got hurt. NBA.com: When you’re not coaching veterans, is it a purer form, as far as installing “your” system vs. tailoring things to them? FH: You always look for the best system, the best approach. The basics don’t change, but [in 2016-17] we had a lot more isolation players, so we ran more of those types of actions. This [past] year, more ball movement, player movement fit this group better. We had longer, harder practices as opposed to a veteran group as the year went on. NBA.com: Since the end of the season, how much time have you put in on developmental activities and draft preparation? FH: We’ve had a lot of guys in and gotten a lot of work in, in the early part of the offseason. We’re looking forward to working again after the draft with some new young players as part of the roster. It’s all about moving forward. NBA.com: As you look back over the past year, with the script flipping to the point where the Bulls wanted to win by losing and maybe lost -- some draft position, anyway -- by winning, what goes through your mind? FH: What was Donovan Mitchell [the Rookie of the Year finalist chosen by Utah]? The 13th pick? You just never know with the draft. You play hard, you get the culture established the way you want it and things take care of themselves. What really would have been devastating would have been ending the season with negativity, with your team not playing hard, with your team disinterested. That’s something that would be a real cause for concern going into an offseason. But our guys felt good about themselves. Some were sacrificing in a big way and pulling for younger guys. They were playing hard, they were cheering for each other. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsJun 19th, 2018Related News

A prequel based on Batman s butler is in the works

'Pennyworth' has been penned and executive produced by Bruno Heller - showrunner of Fox's Batman prequel 'Gotham' (still shown). Image: 2014 YouTube LLC via AFP Relaxnews T.....»»

Source: Philippinetimes PhilippinetimesCategory: NewsMay 18th, 2018Related News

A prequel based on Batman’s butler is in the works

The Batman universe is due to expand once again, with a new TV show exploring the dark hero's origins in the pipeline. The 10-episode series, titled "Pennyworth", will focus on the life of Bruce Wayne's butler and confidant Alfred Pennyworth, and is set to premiere on the MGM-owned network Epix. While the show has been penned and executive produced by Bruno Heller --- showrunner of Fox's Batman prequel "Gotham" --- the action for this series will ensue in a completely new universe according to reports; and Sean Pertwee, who plays Pennyworth on "Gotham", is not involved in the project. Rather, "Pennyworth" will give a new spin to the veteran character, delving into his past a...Keep on reading: A prequel based on Batman’s butler is in the works.....»»

Source: Inquirer InquirerCategory: May 17th, 2018Related News

Celtics’ Stevens remains humble as team continues to thrive

WALTHAM, Mass. --- When Brad Stevens accepted the Celtics head coaching job five years ago, he didn't allow himself to get caught up in thinking about how he could add his name to the franchise's rich history. He was too busy trying to figure out how to avoid being buried under it. "You realize that if you're going to break records here, you're probably going to break bad ones," he recently said. "Because none of the good ones are reachable." While achieving Red Auerbach status may not be on Stevens' radar, in just his fifth season there's no question the 41-year-old is also beyond being the wide-eyed former Butler University coach who arrived in Boston. In a timeframe that has oft...Keep on reading: Celtics’ Stevens remains humble as team continues to thrive.....»»

Source: Inquirer InquirerCategory: May 12th, 2018Related News

Brighter days seem to be in store for Knicks, new coach Fizdale

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst There was only one job that made sense for David Fizdale. Despite all the openings for which he interviewed, his pedigree and background -- and, let’s be honest, ambition -- made one gig stand out above the others. And it’s the one he got, with the New York Knicks. New York agreed to a four-year deal with Fizdale last week, a correct pairing of young coach and franchise that is trying to build back up the right way, with an emphasis on defense and conditioning that is right up Fizdale’s alley. No matter the occasional oddity created by working for Jim Dolan, he is an owner who has been willing to spend money when asked, and his team is in the top media market on earth. When you win there, they have parades for you in the Canyon of Heroes, and you almost always wind up in your particular sport’s Hall of Fame. You can’t not take the shot. The Knicks believe they’re in a place where the things Fizdale did in Miami and what he took to Memphis -- his philosophy of culture-building, team-building, discipline and how he connects to players -- were a good fit for where they are as a franchise. Among the 11 candidates the Knicks interviewed for the job, several had more head coaching experience than Fizdale -- whose tenure in Memphis lasted exactly 101 regular season games and six playoff games. But Fizdale checked the most boxes, and at 43, the Knicks are betting he has a lot of growing and improving to do, just as the team does. The Knicks, of course, looked into just why the Grizzlies fired Fizdale so abruptly last season, after just 19 games. Team president Steve Mills and General Manager Scott Perry didn’t just get started in the league last week; they know a lot of people. The chatter around the league was that Memphis chose star center Marc Gasol over Fizdale after the two clashed during the coach’s season-plus there. As I wrote just after Fizdale was fired, the deterioration in their relationship reached the point of no return when Fizdale went after Gasol hard in a film session, basically dismissing the importance of Gasol’s accomplishments overseas, including as a member of the Spanish national team. That that rankled Gasol to no end should have been no surprise to anyone paying attention. The Spanish team’s international triumphs are a point of considerable and understandable pride for both Marc Gasol and his brother, Pau. They helped lead Spain to the greatest era of basketball accomplishment in that country’s history, including a 2006 gold medal at what was then called the FIBA World Championships. Fizdale tried to fix things with Gasol, even flying to Europe after the season to try and make it right. But Gasol was close with majority owner Robert Pera; Fizdale wasn’t. That closed off a potential area of outreach between the two. Gasol had no interest in rapprochement, a stance that Grizzlies players made clear to Fizdale throughout the season. (Caught most in the middle, per league sources, was Grizzlies veteran point guard Mike Conley, Jr., who did and does have strong relationships with both men.) But, importantly, in his discussions with the Knicks, Fizdale took responsibility for his failures with Gasol. He didn’t blame Gasol or anyone else. As one of his chief calling cards is connecting with players, and not finding common ground with Gasol was an L he has to take. “He knew where he messed up and what he’d try to let it never happen again,” said a source who’s spoken with Fizdale since his firing. But, equally importantly, just because Fizdale couldn’t make it work with Gasol doesn’t mean he’s doomed to a similar outcome with All-Star forward Kristaps Porzingis. The 22-year-old’s relationship with the Knicks has been scrutinized within an inch of its life the last couple of years. The toxicity level reached under former president Phil Jackson has abated some, but Porzingis and the team still have some navigation to do -- a trip that is blurred as Porzingis continues rehabbing and recovering from the torn ACL he suffered in February. (Porzingis’s brother, Janis, who serves as his agent, politely declined comment on the Fizdale hire via text Saturday, though the Knicks were in contact with Janis Porzingis during the coaching search.) Porzingis’s injury keeps the Knicks in flux, a position it seems they’ve been in most years since the Nixon administration. He is a potential superstar -- “potential” is used quite deliberately here, as “The Unicorn’s” stans on social media have made a very talented offensive player into something that he is not, at least not yet -- a transcendent player. But, assuming Porzingis ultimately makes a full and healthy return, New York has a terrific building block around which to build. And, they have a chance to really get in the game in the summer of 2019. First, they’ll have to resolve Joakim Noah’s status -- he has two years and roughly $38 million left on his current deal. It’s likely the Knicks will stretch him and the only question is whether that happens before or after next season. If it’s the former, the Knicks can spread the remainder of his salary across five seasons; if the latter, three seasons. Nothing is certain, but it would be surprising to see Noah still in New York by the start of camp. Why saddle a new coach with an old problem? That would leave the Knicks with more flexibility going into ’19, which is when Perry has said he’d like New York to be ready to pounce in free agency -- and when the likes of Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard (player option) and Jimmy Butler (player option) can be free agents. But until that bridge year, Fizdale will have to max out the existing roster. Charitably, there’s not a lot there at present that’s proven and has led to much winning anywhere. The Knicks will need to be lucky in next week’s Lottery -- preferably, getting a high enough pick to land one of the elite big men that should be among the top four or five picks in the Draft. If that doesn’t happen, the hope in New York is that until the roster improves, Fizdale can develop the talents of the Knicks’ trio of guards -- Frank Ntilikina, Emmanuel Mudiay and Tim Hardaway, Jr. -- in which New York has invested Draft and literal treasure the last couple of seasons. (It will help that Fizdale’s relationship with Hardaway, Jr., goes back to when the latter was a kid and his father, the master of the killer crossover, worked in the Heat organization after Tim Hardaway Sr.’s playing days ended.) The additional hope is that Fizdale will get Ntilikina in elite shape while honing his competitive edge, and that a full season under Fizdale will let the Knicks know once and for all if Mudiay can be a significant contributor. Fizdale will also have to adjust his nomenclature. Last week’s story in the New York Daily News correctly identified Fizdale’s consistent referencing “the Miami Way” as shorthand for how he wanted to do things in Memphis alienated Grizzlies people who were -- again, justifiably -- proud of the “Grit-n’Grind” era that produced seven straight playoff appearances before this season’s 22-60 crater. And, he’ll have to be prepared to be, perhaps, the biggest face of the franchise, in a city whose media is dogged and nonplussed and will often go off cockeyed in a crazy, incorrect direction. But its influence should never be underestimated. Fizdale is from Los Angeles, and he has a great way with most. And it didn’t hurt him to work some for ESPN while he was between jobs. But he’ll have to learn the media landscape in New York quickly -- who to befriend, who to be wary of, who he can trust and who he cannot. (Also: I’m sure the Knicks pointed out to him that while he had several causes which were near and dear to him in Memphis, from advocating the removal of Confederate statues in the city to lending his name to other civic causes, he needs to win games in Gotham first.) At base, the Knicks will want to see players throughout the roster held accountable, and charged to compete on a nightly basis. There was not enough of either last season under coach Jeff Hornacek -- who, in fairness, didn’t have all that much time to put his stamp on what was a poor roster. Fizdale will get more time. The Knicks’ roster will look a lot different in two years than it does now. Fizdale will have to be a lot different coach than he was in Memphis, as well. Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsMay 8th, 2018Related News

Game 4s: Jazz look for 3-1 lead, Wolves aim to tie Rockets

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press Russell Westbrook is averaging a triple-double, so he gets plenty of attention. Ricky Rubio just had a triple-double, earning him some time in the headlines. Donovan Mitchell has been great in his first three playoff games, so the fascination with the rookie star is only growing. It’s easy to notice those guys. Rudy Gobert should be getting noticed as well. Utah is taking a 2-1 lead into their Western Conference first-round series against Oklahoma City on Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time), and Gobert is probably as responsible for the Jazz being in that position than anyone. He’s controlling the backboards, he’s changing shots, he’s thwarting Westbrook and he’s showing why he’s the likely Defensive Player of the Year. “It makes the guards’ jobs a lot easier,” Mitchell said of the French safety net with the 7'9" wingspan who protects the rim for the Jazz. “You feel more secure on the wing. ... The whole season, I’ve been saying if somebody gets by me, it’s like, ’All right, go ahead, try it. Because I’ve tried it. And it doesn’t work.” Westbrook probably would agree: He’s 1-for-7 in this series with Gobert waiting at the rim for him. There’s two Game 4s on the schedule Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), with Houston at Minnesota leading off before the Oklahoma City-Utah game. The Rockets fell in Game 3 to the Timberwolves on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time), but still lead that series 2-1. Westbrook is not happy, and the reigning NBA MVP wasted little time in vowing that things will be different in Game 4. He was talking about slowing down Rubio, but he might be better served getting himself going again. Going back to the regular season, Westbrook hasn’t shot better than 40 percent in any of his last six games — the worst such streak of his career. ___ Here’s a look at Monday’s (Tuesday, PHL time) games: ROCKETS AT TIMBERWOLVES Rockets lead 2-1. Game 4, 8 p.m. EDT (8am, PHL time) NEED TO KNOW: The Timberwolves bounced back from a 20-point loss in Game 2 with a sellout-crowd-inspired 16-point victory over the Rockets in Game 3 that was the franchise’s first win in the playoffs since 2004. Jimmy Butler had 28 points and Karl-Anthony Towns had 18 points and 16 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who were more aggressive than they were in Games 1 and 2. “I felt like they outworked us, and that should never happen,” Rockets guard Gerald Green said. KEEP AN EYE ON: The Rockets shooting three-pointers. They needed 41 attempts to make 15 behind the arc in Game 3, as many as the Wolves swished in 27 tries. Harden was just 3-for-8, his rainbows often drifting to the left, as the Wolves kept up what has been a better-than-usual defensive performance in this series. “We’re just making it harder on them, making them take tough shots and just trying to find ways to stop a high-powered offense,” Towns said. PRESSURE IS ON: Rockets center Clint Capela. After a 24-point, 12-rebound production in Game 1, Capela had only seven points on six shots in Game 3. On the other end of the court, Towns finally got going after two bad games thanks in part to Capela’s defense. The Rockets could use a strong response from the Swiss standout in the attempt to keep the Wolves from tying the series. INJURY UPDATE: Butler, who missed a total of 21 games this season due to trouble with his right knee, clutched his left ankle in pain after twisting it late in the first half of Game 3. He didn’t miss any time, though, and didn’t even acknowledge the injury when asked about it in his postgame interview. “At the end of the day if you tell your mind it doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t,” Butler said. ___ THUNDER AT JAZZ Jazz leas 2-1. Game 4, 10:30 p.m. EDT (10:30am, PHL time) NEED TO KNOW: Utah has won each of its last five first-round series as the No. 5 seed, and the Jazz are halfway to extending that streak. The crowd in Salt Lake City was extremely loud on Saturday and will likely be again on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). The Thunder are 5-6 in their last 11 games, and no one needs to remind them of how low the success rate is for teams that go down 3-1 in a series. KEEP AN EYE ON: Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook from deep. Paul George has been great from three-point range (15-for-31) in the three games, but Westbrook and Anthony are a combined 9-for-31. The Thunder need to get something going consistently from the perimeter to soften up Utah’s stout interior defense. PRESSURE IS ON: Utah. Most would think it’s the team trailing that would feel the most pressure, but Utah has a chance to take total command of the series. A loss would be doubly deflating; not only would the Jazz lose home-court, but they would go back to Oklahoma City for Game 5 with the Thunder thinking they have control of the matchup. INJURY UPDATE: Westbrook was getting treatment on some sort of upper-body issue in Game 3 and was coy about it afterward, pointing out that most players are ailing at this time of year. But if he’s limited in any way, that’s obviously a huge problem for the Thunder. ___ AP Sports Writer Dave Campbell in Minneapolis contributed to this report.....»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsApr 23rd, 2018Related News

Butler, Towns lead T-wolves past Rockets in Game 3

MINNEAPOLIS --- Jimmy Butler hit four 3-pointers among his 28 points and Karl-Anthony Towns snapped back from a bad start to the series with 18 points and 16 rebounds, leading the Minnesota Timberwolves past the Houston Rockets 121-105 in Game 3 on Saturday night for their first postseason victory in 14 years. Jeff Teague scored 23 points and Andrew Wiggins pitched in 20 points with another four 3-pointers, helping the Timberwolves match the fire-away Rockets from behind the arc and cruise down the stretch behind a 50 percent shooting performance. Derrick Rose added 17 points off the bench for the Wolves, who will try to even the series with a win in Game 4 on Monday night. ...Keep on reading: Butler, Towns lead T-wolves past Rockets in Game 3.....»»

Source: Inquirer InquirerCategory: Apr 22nd, 2018Related News

Towns, Timberwolves return home in big hole against Rockets

By Dave Campbell, Associated Press MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The first taste of the NBA playoffs for Timberwolves All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns has been rather bitter, thanks to the three-point-happy Houston Rockets. The two-game totals tell a frustrating story for the 22-year-old: just 13 points, 5-for-18 shooting and a 2-0 deficit in the series against the Rockets. Towns has found himself the subject of pointed criticism from analysts, fans and even his own team. The switch-heavy Rockets have double-teamed Towns to a stifling effect, and the Timberwolves sure haven’t helped their seven-footer out by getting him the ball in favorable situations in the post. “They’re coming to double. He knows that. He has to face up, be strong with the ball, make quick moves,” point guard Jeff Teague said. “But we have to figure out how to get him running, get him some easy buckets.” The team’s struggles have taken a little luster off Minnesota’s first postseason home game in 14 years, but the fans who remember the Timberwolves reaching the Western Conference finals in 2004 will surely be eager to witness the playoffs in person no matter the daunting challenge in this first round. “This organization, all of our fans, they deserve this moment,” Towns said. And they want a win. The Timberwolves host the Rockets on Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time) in Game 3. Earlier in the day, Miami takes on Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference and New Orleans hosts Portland, both in Game 4. Later, Utah visits Oklahoma City in Game 3. Towns tried his best to shrug off the bad vibes and stinging rebukes when speaking with reporters on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). “You dwell too much on the past, you forget that you’ve got to take care of the present,” Towns said. The chatter on TV and Twitter, he said, has escaped him. “I live my life very Amish-like,” Towns said. “Other than video games, I don’t think I have a reason for electronics. It’s a life that I’ve always loved.” ___ 76ERS AT HEAT 76ers lead 2-1. Game 4, 2:30 p.m. EDT (2:30am, PHL time) NEED TO KNOW: It’s simple: The team that has imposed its will is 3-0 in this series. Philadelphia took the pace where it wanted it in Games 1 and 3. Miami out-toughed the 76ers in Game 2. The Heat have to find a way to keep Philadelphia’s 3-point shooting in check; the 76ers made 18 shots from beyond the arc in Game 3. Joel Embiid is back from a concussion and a broken bone around his eye, and an already-confident Philadelphia bunch seems to have even more swagger now. KEEP AN EYE ON: 76ers guard Marco Belinelli. The 76ers are 25-6 when he plays and 14-1 when he scores at least 15 points. In this series, he’s 13-for-27 on shots from 20 feet and deeper, and many of those makes have been daggers for Miami. PRESSURE IS ON: Heat center Hassan Whiteside . Backups Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo have played a combined 145 minutes in this series, while Whiteside has played only 41, with 11 points, nine fouls, seven turnovers and three field goals in the three games. There’s no room for error now for Miami, so either Whiteside will figure it out fast in Game 4 or the Heat will get someone else into his spot. HISTORY LESSON: This is the fourth time in Dwyane Wade’s career that the Heat have trailed an Eastern Conference opponent 2-1. In the three previous Game 4s in that scenario, Miami has won all three with Wade averaging 26.7 points in those second-round games against Indiana (2004 and 2012) and Toronto (2016). ___ TRAIL BLAZERS AT PELICANS Pelicans lead 3-0. Game 4, 5 p.m. EDT (5am, PHL time) NEED TO KNOW: The sixth-seeded Pelicans are on the cusp of a surprising sweep of the third-seeded Blazers, and their margin of victory has grown in each game. They dominated Game 3, leading by as many as 20 points in the first half and 33 in the second. Veteran guard Rajon Rondo has masterfully run the offense, and the Pelicans have played unselfishly with a different scoring leader in each game: Anthony Davis with 35 in Game 1, Jrue Holiday with 33 in Game 2 and Nikola Mirotic with 30 in Game 3. KEEP AN EYE ON: Portland’s body language, intensity and aggressiveness. Guard Damian Lillard challenged the Blazers to ramp up those aspects of their game, stressing that the Pelicans were “a lot more aggressive than we were and we didn’t dish it back out. I think in the playoffs and in a situation like this, when a team is coming for you like that, you’ve got to maybe go out of your way to do it back, even if that means foul trouble or some altercations happen out there.” PRESSURE IS ON: Lillard. The Pelicans have sold out to stop the Portland star, who missed 9-of-14 shots in Game 3. “It’s either going to be a tough shot, or I’ve got to give the ball up,” Lillard said. “I’ve got to trust making the right play, and when it comes time I’ve got to take my chances and I’ve got to take those tough shots.” INJURY UPDATE: Blazers starting forward Evan Turner missed Game 3 because of a toe injury in Game 2. The team did not update his status on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). ___ ROCKETS AT TIMBERWOLVES Rockets lead 2-0. Game 3, 7:30 p.m. EDT (7:30am, PHL time) NEED TO KNOW: The Rockets cruised to a 20-point victory in Game 2 despite only 12 points on a staggering 2-for-18 shooting performance by James Harden. After squandering their chance to steal Game 1 on the road in a three-point loss, the Wolves are back home in a big hole against the team with the best record in the NBA. They’ll need a big boost from a home crowd celebrating the team’s return to the postseason to send the series back to Houston for a Game 5. KEEP AN EYE ON: Gerald Green. The 32-year-old journeyman, once acquired by the Wolves in the franchise-altering 2007 trade that sent Kevin Garnett to Boston, made five three-pointers in Game 2 for postseason career-high 21 points. PRESSURE IS ON: Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau. Though cornerstones Towns and Andrew Wiggins are getting their first taste of postseason, Thibodeau and veterans Jimmy Butler, Jamal Crawford, Taj Gibson and Teague he brought in last summer have plenty of playoff experience. The Wolves have been largely directionless on offense against the Rockets and their underrated defense. INJURY UPDATE: Rockets forward Ryan Anderson, who has sat out the first two games with a sprained ankle, is likely to play in Game 3. Forward Luc Mbah a Moute, who dislocated his shoulder in the second-to-last game of the regular season, said this week he wouldn’t rule out a return in this series. ___ THUNDER AT JAZZ Series tied 1-1. Game 3, 10 p.m. EDT (10:00am, PHL time) NEED TO KNOW: In the first two games, the higher-rebounding team has been the winning team, with Game 1 going to Oklahoma City and Utah taking Game 2. A critical part of this trend will be Thunder center Steven Adams and his presence on the floor. He played just 22 minutes in Game 2 before fouling out. The Thunder will have to do better against Utah center Rudy Gobert and forward Derrick Favors, who combined for 31 rebounds in Game 2. KEEP AN EYE ON: Russell Westbrook. He has taken a secondary role at times in this series, but that might change. With Oklahoma City’s inability to close in Game 2 after leading in the fourth quarter, Westbrook could look to be more of a scorer in Game 3. He’ll need more help from Carmelo Anthony, who has made just 11 of 31 field goals in the series. PRESSURE IS ON: George. The man who called himself “Playoff P” before the series began came out with 36 points and eight three-pointers in the opener. He followed that with a dud, just 18 points on 6-for-21 shooting. INTRIGUING MATCHUP: Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell vs. Thunder guard Corey Brewer. Mitchell used his speed to slice through the Thunder defense for 13 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter of Game 2 . He was essentially unstoppable once he decided to stop shooting three-pointers. The Thunder could be forced to put George on him more if Brewer struggles defensively again. ___ AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds in Miami and AP Sports Writers Cliff Brunt in Oklahoma City and Brett Martel in New Orleans contributed to this report......»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsApr 21st, 2018Related News

Rockets rout Timberwolves 102-82 in Game 2

By Kristie Rieken, Associated Press HOUSTON (AP) — Chris Paul had 27 points and Gerald Green came off the bench to score 21 as the Houston Rockets used a huge second quarter to cruise to a 102-82 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) that gave them a 2-0 lead in the first-round playoff series. Houston fell behind early, but went on top for good with a 37-point second quarter, powered by four three-pointers from Green, and the Wolves didn't threaten again. The top-seeded Rockets won the opener by three behind a 44-point performance from James Harden on a night when most of the team struggled offensively. Things were much different on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) when Harden had just 12 points as one of four Rockets who finished in double figures. Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns had another disappointing game, scoring all of his five points in the first quarter, after being criticized for finishing with eight in the series opener. The All-Star big man went to the bench with about seven minutes left in the third quarter and didn't return. Jamal Crawford scored 16 points for the eighth-seeded Timberwolves, who are in the playoffs for the first time since 2004. Harden said Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) that he knew Paul would have a big Game 2 after the nine-time All-Star scored 14 points and tied a season high with six turnovers in the first game. Early on, it was clear that Harden was right, as Paul had 15 points, three assists, two steals and a block by halftime. Paul, who joined the Rockets in an offseason trade from the Clippers, finished with eight assists and three steals. Houston was up by 22 points with about nine minutes left when Paul made two quick baskets to make it 91-65. The second came on a twirling off-balance layup over Nemanja Bjelica that earned him a standing ovation from the home crowd. The Rockets were up by 15 at halftime and opened the second half with a 10-2 run to make it 65-42 with about nine minutes left in the third. Harden made his first three-pointer to get things going after missing all six attempts in the first half, and P.J. Tucker added another one after two free throws by Jimmy Butler. The Timberwolves had scored seven straight points later in the third when Green, the hometown player who was signed off the street in December, hit his fifth three-pointer to leave the Rockets up 74-53 with about 2.5 minutes left in the quarter. The Timberwolves led by as many as nine early and the game was tied with about eight minutes left in the second quarter before Houston scored 16 straight points, highlighted by three three-pointers from Green, to take a 46-30 lead with about 4.5 minutes left in the first half. Minnesota missed six straight shots, including three that were blocked, and had committed two turnovers as the Rockets built the lead. TIP-INS Timberwolves: Justin Patton sat out with a sore left foot. ... Butler finished with 11 points. ... Andrew Wiggins had 13 points and eight rebounds. ... Minnesota shot 5-of-18 from three-point range. Rockets: Ryan Anderson, who returned to practice Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time), didn't play after also sitting out in Game 1. D'Antoni said Anderson, who has a sprained left ankle, is likely to play Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). ... Trevor Ariza had 15 points. ... Houston made 16-of-52 three-pointers. UP NEXT The series moves to Minnesota for Game 3 on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time)......»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsApr 19th, 2018Related News

Karl-Anthony Towns hoping to find rhythm in Game 2

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com HOUSTON -- Like any good movie or television show, the second viewing always provides a different perspective you might have missed the first time around. The same goes for the playoff debut of Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns. Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau had one view in the immediate aftermath of the Timberwolves’ Game 1 loss to the Houston Rockets Sunday night (Monday, PHL time), when Towns struggled in his playoff debut, scoring just eight points on 3-for-9 shooting, well below his season average of 21.3 points. Thibodeau said his big man had to be more active to deal with he swarming and double-teaming defense the Rockets threw at him. But that uncharacteristic performance -- Towns was held to fewer than eight points just twice in the regular season -- looked much different after a thorough study of the film. “After watching the film I thought he made a lot of good plays,” Thibodeau said after the Timberwolves wrapped up practice Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) at Rice University. “We’ve had a hard time guarding them in the regular season and there’s still a lot of things we have to do better. But offensively, I thought he made good plays. I think he understands what he has to do, he’ll be fine.” The Timberwolves need Towns to be better than just “fine” in Game 2 Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time), particularly if his Rockets counterpart, Clint Capela (24 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks in Game 1) continues to play at a high level in this series. Towns clearly didn’t take offense to Thibodeau’s initial review of his performance, agreeing with his coach after Game 1 that he’s “got to be better on both sides of the basketball.” But he reiterated several times Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) that his objective is to stick with the game plan rather than getting caught up in any game inside the game, just to satisfy someone else’s expectations of what a player of his considerable talents should be able to do in this setting. He did, however, acknowledge the strategic differences between the regular season and postseason atmosphere, and he’ll be sure to adjust accordingly. “I felt good out there, and I never take anything too high or too low. I always stay even-keeled,” he said. “It felt to me like a regular game, but it’s more about playing chess this time, you know. It’s not about playing checkers, it’s about playing chess. And it’s a game about who is the more disciplined team, who sticks to their game plan the most and finds ways to adjust on the fly.” Those adjustments for Towns must include taking advantage of the Rockets’ endless switching on defense, situations where he ends up with a much smaller perimeter player matched up on him. He’ll need to be more aggressive offensively, even if it requires a slight tweak to the game plan he mentioned repeatedly Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). “You’ve got to do it when the game seems that it can be taken, or when its getting out of hand,” Town said. “I have to do a better job of assessing the situations and adjusting on the fly quicker, especially in the playoffs.” It helps that the Timberwolves were within striking distance at the end on a night when they didn’t get the best out of Towns. The same way the Rockets don’t expect to struggle through another 10-for-37 shooting performance from beyond the three-point line or for their superstar point guard Chris Paul to turn the ball over the way he did, the Timberwolves don’t foresee another subpar performance from one of the league’s elite big men. “Just makes us more hungry, more confident,” Towns said. “We felt we played well, but we made some mistakes here and there and it ended up costing us in the end. But if we can tweak things here and there, I think we can be something really special and we could possibly win the series.” As for any suggestions that he needs to be more of a priority, as suggested by TNT analyst Charles Barkley after the game, Towns and his teammates were careful to sidestep any outside influence on the situation. Jimmy Butler issued a quick, “nope,” when asked for a response and ended his media obligation immediately after that. Towns took a more nuanced approach. “I mean, we almost won the game,” he said. “So you’ve got to take it as its given. You’ve got to go with the flow of the game. It’s about following the game plan. We went with the flow of the game, had ourselves a great chance to win at the end. We were up with six minutes left, so our game plans were working. We cost ourselves as players, not as coaches, late in the game not getting some stops and James [Harden] making some tough shots. You can’t control that. It’s just great defense and better offense. “It happens sometimes like that, it doesn't matter when it is. It doesn’t matter if it’s game one or game 82, playoffs or whatever. Sometimes the basketball gods don’t play in your favor that night. I think we did everything we could in that game to put ourselves in a position to win and that’s all you can ask for at the end of the day.” Well, that and maybe for the focus to shift just a little bit more on the best big man on the floor. Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsApr 18th, 2018Related News

Harden, Rockets pass first postseason test

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com HOUSTON — If the long road to June basketball is to come to fruition for the best regular-season team in basketball, it had to start like this for the Houston Rockets. That first step, that first foray into the great postseason abyss, required this sort of confirmation from the No. 1 overall seed in the entire tournament, so to speak. There’s no room for Cinderellas around here, no slaying of Goliath, not on Clint Capela’s watch. Not with James Harden on the case when the Rockets needed it most, and especially at crunch time. And not with Chris Paul, chip planted firmly on his shoulder as always, eyeballing bigger and better things than being the best from late October to mid-April. So it won’t be easy. Nobody said it would be. And let’s be clear, the Minnesota Timberwolves are not a normal eight seed. Not really. A healthy Jimmy Butler and the infusion of veteran talent that helped end the second longest playoff drought in NBA history this season makes that big a difference. They certainly did Sunday night (Monday, PHL time) at Toyota Center, when the Rockets were forced to battle until the very end for a 104-101 win despite a 44-point masterpiece from Harden. But like everyone else who dealt with these juggernaut Rockets all season long, Harden and his crew proved to be too much with the game on the line. With Harden on the bench and the game tied at 85 with 6:49 to play, the script was already written. He came in for Paul with 6:07 to play and the Rockets up a point, and promptly scored on a driving layup. He stole the ball and then scored on a driving floater. After a Capela block, he scored on a driving layup. By the time he knocked down a three-pointer with 4:27 left, the Rockets’ lead was back up to eight points, 94-86, and it was clear that Harden was going to do whatever it took — scoring, playmaking and even defending — to keep Game 1 from going awry. It was vintage work from the maestro who has owned the floor most every night since the season opener, when Harden and the Rockets went into Oracle Arena as the reigning champion Golden State Warriors hung another banner and collected those diamond-laced title rings and walked off the floor winners. “Another day for James,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said after Harden finished one point shy of his playoff career-high. “He’s done it all year and he really stepped up. We were struggling to make shots, struggling to really have any kind of rhythm of play and James put us on his back and he’s been doing it for a while now.” D’Antoni will have to forgive the rest of us, including the frontrunner for the Kia MVP this season, for not digesting his theory about the playoffs being something other than a referendum on his team’s magical regular season. Harden operated like someone keenly aware of what was at stake with the Timberwolves, each and every one of them, trying in vain to slow him down. “Honestly, I just try to be aggressive and make the right play,” Harden said. “Things got slowed up a little bit, just try to be aggressive with my shot and fortunately it went in.” Jimmy Butler is an All-Star and one of the league’s best two-way players. Derrick Rose is a former Kia MVP himself, and still has enough juice left to make things difficult for someone when he locks in the way he did on this night. And neither one of them had any luck slowing Harden down during his second-half blitz. He scored 25 of his points in the final 18 minutes, making play after play when the Timberwolves appeared to be on the verge of potentially pulling off a shocker. “There were several plays in which I thought we defended well and he made shots,” Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. “James is that type of player and we’ve seen it all year, [he’s] very difficult to guard. Basically, you have to guard him with your whole team. And it’s not just his scoring, but his playmaking and all the things that he does.” The Rockets won on a night when they shot a brutal 27 percent (10-for-37) from beyond the three-point line, where they’ve feasted on the opposition all season. They roasted the Timberwolves from distance during their regular season match ups to the tune of 43.4 percent and more than doubled them up in three-point makes during those games, but made just two more Sunday night (Monday, PHL time). Harden was 7-for-12 from deep, a playoff career-high for makes, while the rest of the Rockets shot a combined 3-for-25. And he was draining his shots with hands in his face routinely. “He’s an MVP candidate and you know why,” said Timberwolves big man Taj Gibson. “Every time the game was ‘mono e mono’ and they were in a tight spot, he just took over the game. He made some tough shots, he played phenomenal tonight. We were trying to throw everything at him, he’s a talented player.” He’s clearly much more than that. “I mean yeah, he’s a hell of a player,” Butler said. “Everyone knows that. But you don’t just guard him with one guy. It’s everybody out there, everybody has to be in the correct position. Challenge shots; contest them at the rim, but more than anything, if there is a miss we’ve got to get the rebound and take off the other way. But we didn’t do any of that tonight, we’ve got to be better [in Game 2] on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time).” Thibodeau had to turn to his bench to stay in the game before halftime and they delivered, scoring 19 points and playing with an energy level that matched what the Rockets did regardless of who was on the floor. Rose (nine points), Jamal Crawford (seven) and Gorgui Dieng (three) did all that bench scoring, which was the only way to offset the furious 49 points Capela and Harden combined for before the break. Jeff Teague’s three fouls and Butler’s defensive task, trying to keep Harden under wraps, required so much of his attention that the scoring load had to be picked up by someone else. He went scoreless in the first quarter and just never seemed to get untracked early on, finishing with just 13 points on 4-for-11 shooting. It’s an issue the Timberwolves won’t be able to scheme their way out of in this series, not as long as Capela is the most energetic and effective young big man on either team. He outscored the All-Star Towns 20-3 before the break and out rebounded him 10-5, adding two blocks and a steal to drive home the point that he’s up for this challenge all series long. “Man, Clint was all over the place, both ends of the court offensively and defensively,” Paul said. “You see him defending KAT, who’s a tough cover in the post. You know I’m low, and I weak side and I’m watching him go up for the hook, and then I’m watching Clint block it, and then he’s running. he was unbelievable tonight and we’re going to need that all season.” Capela finished his night with 24 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks while Towns didn’t crack double digits in the scoring column (eight points on 3-for-9 shooting, 12 rebounds in a team-high 40 minutes of action). Chalk it up as a lesson learned for the playoff rookie. That must-win game the Timberwolves won at home over Denver Wednesday night had all the hype and intensity of a playoff game, only it wasn’t. Thibodeau credited the Rockets’ defense, the swarming and double-teaming of Towns, for slowing the big man down. “He has to be more active,” Thibodeau said, before praising the Rockets for perhaps their most underrated trait this season: The ability to lock down defensively. “They’re good, they’re very good. They’re tied together, they do a lot of switching and after the switch they read the ball extremely well. They react, they swarm, and so you have ti make good decisions, you have to make good plays. You have to have the ability to read and react.” Funny, that’s what the Rockets’ best player does perhaps as well as any other player in the league right now. Harden reads and reacts accordingly, always seemingly coming up with the right play at the right time. That’s how you know he’s in the moment right now, as are the rest of the Rockets. No matter how many times and how many different ways anyone tries to deflect attention from the obvious, they comprehend every bit of what lies ahead for a team riding into the postseason on the strength of a 65-win regular season that saw them run away from the competition. They wouldn’t have souls if they didn’t. They wouldn’t be human if they hadn’t already calculated the weight of the best regular season in franchise history times a wide-open postseason equaling something that’s never been done here, which says a lot for a franchise that has two Larry O’Brien trophies to show off. They know how important each and every step on this current journey is, starting with Sunday night’s very first choppy ones. Any suggestion to the contrary is, shall we say, a distant cousin of the truth. But we’ll play along for now, at the beginning. Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsApr 16th, 2018Related News

Harden scores 44 points, Rockets beat Wolves 104-101

By Kristie Rieken, Associated Press HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden scored 44 points and powered a big fourth-quarter run that allowed the Houston Rockets to outlast the Minnesota Timberwolves 104-101 on Sunday night (Monday, PHL time) in Game 1 of the first-round playoff series. Minnesota scored four straight points to get within three with about 30 seconds left. Chris Paul added two free throws after that for Houston, but a tip-in by Karl-Anthony Towns got Minnesota back within three. After a bad pass by Paul gave the Timberwolves a chance to tie it with 1.5 seconds left, Jimmy Butler's shot was short. The Timberwolves had a one-point lead with about seven minutes left when Houston used a 9-0 run, with the last seven points from Harden, to make it 94-86 with about four minutes to go. Harden, who also had a steal in that span, capped the run with a three-pointer that prompted Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau to call a timeout. Jeff Teague ended Minnesota's scoring drought with two free throws after the timeout and added a three-point play after a basket by Harden. Harden made another shot to give him 11 straight points for Houston before another basket by Teague. Harden got Capela in on the scoring after that, finding him for an alley-oop that pushed the lead to 101-93 with less than three minutes left. The top-seeded Rockets had their hands full with the No. 8 Timberwolves on a night where Houston made just 10-of-37 three-pointers. Harden made 7-of-12 three-pointers, but Trevor Ariza, P.J. Tucker, Eric Gordon and Paul combined to make just three of their 22 tries. Houston kept All-Star big man Towns in check, limiting him to just eight points after he'd averaged 21.3 in leading the Wolves to their first playoff appearance since 2014. Andrew Wiggins scored 18 points to lead Minnesota. The Wolves scored the first nine points of the second half to take a 56-54 lead. Tucker made a triple for the Rockets after that, but Minnesota used a 6-1 spurt, with three's from Wiggins and Teague, to go back on top 62-58. The Rockets had managed just six points in the quarter when Gerald Green made a basket with to cut the lead to one with about five minutes left in the third. Derrick Rose added a bucket seconds later, but Houston scored six straight points after that to put Houston up 68-65. Harden got things going when he made a three-pointer while being fouled by Rose and also made the free throw. Minnesota led by a basket after a jump shot by Towns with about two minutes left in the quarter. Harden took over after that, scoring the last six points of the quarter to leave Houston up 76-72 entering the fourth. Harden hit a three-pointer before making a driving layup he was fouled on by Gorgui Dieng. Harden flexed each bicep twice while peering down at the muscles after the shot before making the free throw. The Rockets swept the regular-season series 4-0, winning by an average of 15.8 points a game and it looked like this one might be another blowout early as the Rockets raced out to a 17-6 lead behind 10 early points from Clint Capela. But the Timberwolves got going after that and had tied it up by late in the first quarter. The Rockets led 54-47 at halftime. TIP-INS Timberwolves: Butler, who led the team by averaging 22.2 points in the regular season, finished with 13 points. ... The Wolves made 8-of-23 three-point attempts. ... Towns had 12 rebounds and two assists. Rockets: Ryan Anderson missed the game with a sprained left ankle. Coach Mike D'Antoni said there was a chance he could return for Game 2, but that he would know more in the next couple of days. ... Capela had 20 points and 10 rebounds at halftime, but was limited in the second half and added just four more points and two rebounds. UP NEXT Game 2 is Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) in Houston......»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsApr 16th, 2018Related News

Paul and Harden lead No. 1 seed Rockets against Wolves

By Kristie Rieken, Associated Press HOUSTON (AP) — So far the trade for Chris Paul to give the Houston Rockets another superstar to help James Harden has worked famously. Now the two, who have both had their fair share of playoff disappointments, will try to carry their regular-season success into the postseason when the Rockets open a first-round series with Minnesota on Sunday night (Monday, PHL time). The guards have been effusive in their praise for one another, with Harden recently joking that his relationship with the nine-time All-Star was "love at first sight." Paul didn't go quite that far, but a huge smile crossed his often serious face when asked how their pairing has worked. "Unbelievable," he said. "You just [don't] get this opportunity too often in a career to play with somebody like James ... you get a chance to appreciate greatness. "What he's doing on a nightly basis and stuff like that, it's crazy and I'm in awe," Paul continued. "I'm grateful I get to play alongside him." When told of what Paul said about him, Harden was quick to answer. "You can tell," he said. "It feels like it's been forever but it's not even been a year yet." Their work in the regular season led the Rockets to a franchise-record 65 wins, their first No. 1 seed and sixth straight playoff appearance. They are looking to win the title for the first time capturing back-to-back championships in 1994-95. For the 32-year-old Paul, it's a chance for him to finally shake off years off playoff woes after making nine playoff trips without advancing past the second round. But if he is haunted by the ghosts of playoffs past, he wouldn't acknowledge it and was dismissive when asked if he thought this was his best chance to win it all. "I don't know," he said. "I don't think about all that." What he and the Rockets do know is that they're facing a talented team in the eighth-seeded Timberwolves, who had to win their last regular-season game to get into the postseason. They ended the NBA's longest active playoff drought with their berth, putting them back in the postseason for the first time since 2004 when they lost to the Lakers in the Western Conference finals. Getting the Timberwolves into the playoffs is a huge accomplishment for the entire team, but might mean just a little more to star Karl-Anthony Towns, who made a vow the night Minnesota selected him with the top overall pick in the 2015 draft. "It means more than I think words can express honestly," he said. "I made a promise to ... Flip Saunders and it meant a lot to me that I was able to keep my word." Some things to know as the Timberwolves and Rockets open their series: BACK HOME The series is a homecoming for Minnesota's Jimmy Butler, who grew up in Tomball, a suburb about 35 miles from downtown Houston. But he insists he won't have any time to get back out there this week. "Nope," he said. "Zero [time]. I ain't even going home. I'm here to work." But he did spend a little time on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) reminiscing about his high school days when he idolized a former Rockets star. "I used to walk around the hallways and in the gym thinking I was Tracy McGrady," he said. "I remember it like it was yesterday. He was my favorite player. I wanted to wear his number, wear his tennis shoes, all of that good stuff." Butler, who returned on April 6 (April 7, PHL time) after missing 17 games with a knee injury, said he's fully recovered from his injury and is "well-rested" entering the playoffs. PLAYOFF HISTORY This is the second time these teams have met in the playoffs. Their other meeting came in Minnesota's first trip in 1997, when the Timberwolves were swept in three games. That Houston team was led by Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and Charles Barkley, and the Wolves featured Kevin Garnett, Stephon Marbury and Tom Gugliotta. LIMIT KAT FROM LONG RANGE The Rockets are resigned to the fact that Towns, who led the NBA in double-doubles, will get his points under the basket and plenty of rebounds. "He's going to get a double-double," Houston coach Mike D'Antoni said. "That's who he is." However, they are not OK with letting him shoot three-pointers. The seven-foot Towns ranked 14th in the league with a 42 percent average from three-point range and knocked down a career-high 120 three-pointers this season. "We [can't] leave him open or let him walk into a 3 because we're not guarding him," D'Antoni said. "We have to be aware of that. You can't take away his post-ups and his moves in there. He's going to score on anybody, but you can do a really good job on the three's." HARDEN'S MOTIVATION Despite finishing as the runner-up for MVP last season and being a front-runner for this year's award, Harden still faces plenty of criticism for some of his past performances in the playoffs, notably, a terrible performance in an embarrassing 114-75 elimination loss to San Antonio in the conference semifinals last season. But he has never been motivated by criticism, and he finds his drive in a far different place. "Just going out there and being the best that I can be," he said. "There's no negativity that someone can say that can motivate me. Some people can get motivated by that. I don't really care.".....»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsApr 15th, 2018Related News

DA s Top 15 Rankings: Jazz, 76ers both hitting their stride

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst (Last week’s record in parenthesis; last week’s ranking in brackets) 1) Houston Rockets (2-1) [1]: Suffered first home loss since Jan. 4 (Jan. 5, PHL time) against Golden State Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) against Oklahoma City, ending a 20-game win streak at Toyota Center. 2) Toronto Raptors (3-1) [2]: It falls to me, the killjoy, to point out that Kyle Lowry is just 25 of his last 76 (.329) from the floor, I guess. 3) Golden State Warriors (2-2) [3]: Remember Klay Thompson? The light-skinned guy who has been known to drop 41 on the road in an elimination game in the conference finals? And lock people up at the other end? Yeah, don’t forget about him. 4) Cleveland Cavaliers (2-1) [4]: Can George Hill (sprained ankle) provide any kind of perimeter defensive help in the first round? 5) Boston Celtics (1-3) [5]: Put me down as wrong about what Terry Rozier could do in the pros. He’s becoming a solid point guard. 6) Utah Jazz (3-0) [10]: Don’t sleep on Utah’s second unit, led by Dante Exum, with cameos from Jae Crowder, Royce O’Neale and Jonas Jerebko. 7) New Orleans Pelicans (3-0) [8]: No-Beard Niko is 31-55 (.564) in three games. 8) Philadelphia 76ers [11]: The Sixers have won 14 straight games and just clinched a 50-win season. They won 10 games in the entire 2015-16 season -- just two years ago. 9) San Antonio Spurs (1-1) [9]: The Spurs have won two games on the road since Feb. 7 (Feb. 8, PHL time) and 14 away games total. Doesn’t bode well for an extended postseason run. 10) Oklahoma City Thunder (1-1) [7]: Did I see a Jerami Grant-Patrick Patterson backstop look surprisingly effective defensively down the stretch against the Rockets Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time)? 11) Portland Trail Blazers (0-3) [6]: Just 4-6 in last 10 after 13-game win streak. 12) Indiana Pacers (2-2) [12]: Among the more impressive things the Pacers have done this season: five wins combined over last year’s NBA finalists, Golden State (two) and Cleveland (three). 13) Miami Heat (2-1) [NR]: Clip’-N-Saves for the playoffs: Heat was 2-2 this season against Philadelphia (currently, the team the sixth-seeded Heat would play in the first round), 2-1 this season against Boston (if Miami finishes seventh) and 1-1 against Toronto (if the Heat ends up in eighth place in the east). 14) Milwaukee Bucks (2-1) [14]: Jabari Parker exceeds 30 minutes for a fourth straight game for the first time this season. 15) Minnesota Timberwolves (1-1) [15]: Will Jimmy Butler be able to scrape off six weeks of rust in one week’s time? Dropped out: Washington [13].....»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsApr 10th, 2018Related News

Eight NBA Playoffs storylines to watch

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst Suddenly, we’re not quite as certain that Warriors-Cavs, Part IV, Sure to be Way Better than “Jaws: The Revenge” and “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace”, is going to make air, are we? The 2018 playoffs are just about here, and Stephen Curry isn’t, and Kyrie Irving won’t be, and Joel Embiid might be, and Jimmy Butler will be -- if his team is, that is. And both conference champions from a year ago are equally unsettled going into the postseason, for different reasons. The Golden State Warriors are banged up, while the Cleveland Cavaliers are brand new. Golden State hasn’t looked like an offensive leviathan, while Cleveland has been one of the league’s worst defenses. And, most importantly, each has legit challengers this year in Houston and Toronto in its respective conferences -- deep, tough, elite defensively, hard to stop offensively, and tempered/hardened/driven by recent playoff failures. Which should make late May and early June even more compelling than normal. At the least, we’ll have the Warriors going for three rings in four years, and LeBron James going for an eighth straight Finals appearance -- each representing something special. The postseason, then, should provide some theatre that Meryl Streep will drop what she’s doing to watch. Among the biggest storylines: 1. The Hinkie Referendum, Passed The Philadelphia 76ers’ scintillating run to end the regular season sets up them for a glorious postseason run, that will finalize a season in which the decisions by former GM Sam Hinkie -- the successful ones, anyway -- are rightly celebrated. (The failures of Jahlil Okafor and Michael Carter-Williams to fire as stars after Hinkie took each high in the first round are not only not ignored by Hinkie’s biggest supporters, they are cited as proof that he had to do what he did for as long as he did, because you’re going to have some misses at the top of the Draft. God, I love Hinkie Stans.) It says here that a healthy Joel Embiid and an exponentially improving Ben Simmons are the one team that can give LeBron’s Cavs true night sweats in the Kyrie-less east playoffs. Embiid is a problem for any team, but especially for the defensively indifferent and ineffective Cavaliers, who have no one remotely capable of keeping “The Process” from running wild. Since New Year’s Day, only Curry (120.4), Chris Paul (116.1) and Jamal Murray (114.7) have better Offensive Ratings among point guards than Simmons’s 113.9, per NBA.com/Stats. Who, from among George Hill (6'3"), Jose Calderon (6'1"), Jordan Clarkson (6'5") and J.R. Smith (6'5") is Cavs coach Tyronn Lue going to put on the 6'10" Simmons? Yes, Lue could try James on Simmons, who is no threat to shoot from deep or run through a maze of pindowns. But that doesn’t make him any easier to slow down. No matter who Philly plays in the postseason, the Sixers are going to be a problem. 2. Indiana George and the Tempo of Doom It’s taken the Oklahoma City Thunder much longer than any of us thought, but OKC is a win from the postseason (even if the Thunder can’t beat the Heat in Miami tonight, the Cancun-bound Memphis Grizzlies will be in Oklahoma City Wednesday). And that’s when Paul George will determine whether his future is in the 405 or elsewhere. The Thunder’s up-and-down regular season doesn’t provide much clue to how far they could go in the playoffs, thought OKC looked formidable in ending the Rockets’ 20-game home win streak Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). It was a game that featured Russell Westbrook successfully taking on the challenge of defending James Harden down the stretch. When Oklahoma City plays with pace and gets up and down the floor, it can beat anyone. The Thunder will likely have to take down an elite unit like Houston at some point in the playoffs to convince George to stay. 3. A Series of Fortunate Events With Irving’s injury, the Washington Wizards’ failure to launch and other maladies to Eastern Conference contenders, the Cavaliers have an increasingly clear path back to The Finals. Doing this is best way to keep LeBron: The Sequel in town for an extended run, but the proof will be in the doing, of course. Cleveland will need Larry Nance, Jr., Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson to perform under playoff pressure, which Nance and Clarkson have never had to do and Hood did briefly in the 2017 playoffs with the Utah Jazz. 4. She packed my bags last night, pre-flight/Zero Hour, 9 a.m The Rockets have been the best team in the league most of this season -- an offensive and defensive juggernaut, the logical extension at both ends of the floor of the standards the Warriors set the last few seasons. James Harden will likely walk away with Kia MVP honors after the season and Chris Paul has been everything Houston hoped he’d be. But Houston must finish the deal with a championship to make its own mark. 5. Jurassic Park Everything is set up for Toronto, as well -- the Raptors have the Eastern Conference’s best record and are tied with Houston for the best home record (34-7) in the league. They have home court until The Finals. Their two lynchpins, All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, are healthy. They’ve diversified their offense and learned to love the 3-pointer. They’re back to guarding at an elite level. The East is laid out open for a Toronto run to The Finals. There’s no excuse for the Raps not to. 6. ‘Brow’, Beating We don’t know for sure that the New Orleans Pelicans will make the playoffs. As of this writing, they haven’t clinched yet, although beating the Warriors in Oakland on Saturday went a long way toward their getting to the postseason. But assuming New Orleans is playing next weekend, its success in the playoffs can only help the franchise as it recovers from the recent death of former owner Tom Benson. “The Brow” (aka Anthony Davis) may have got us on April Fool’s Day, but the next couple of weeks will be dead serious. What if the Pelicans manage a first-round upset? Don’t say it’s not possible with the way Davis is playing. That would go an awful long way to quieting the “How the Boston Celtics Will Get Anthony Davis in 2020, Vol. MCMLXXXVII” hot takes. 7.  The Boston Medical Group The Celtics as imagined played exactly five minutes together this season. Everything that’s transpired since has been wrapped in gauze and sutured shut. Kyrie Irving’s latest knee procedure has everyone hopping off the Celtics’ postseason bandwagon -- a mistake, unless coach Brad Stevens pulls a hammy before Game 1 in the first round. Stevens has coached up whatever 12 guys are active pretty damn well since he’s come to the NBA, and he’ll still have a lot to work with in the playoffs: Al Horford, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Terry Rozier (the Celtics hope they can get Marcus Smart back after the first round). The bigger issue, of course, is Irving’s health going forward -- and into next season, after which he can opt out of the last year of his deal and become an unrestricted free agent in 2019. The current belief in Boston is that Irving’s knee -- the cartilage, ligaments, tendons and bones -- is sound and that he’ll have no long-term issues with it. But Irving and the team thought taking out the tension wire that had helped heal his broken patella after his 2015 surgery would do the trick. It didn’t.   There should be no doubt Boston will be all in on Irving. But after missing these playoffs after going out in Game 1 of the Finals in ’15, Irving will again have to show he’s able to handle a season-long campaign and still be able to bring his best to the postseason. 8. Bah Gawd, That’s Kawhi Leonard’s Music! We have all worked on the assumption that Leonard isn’t going to play for the Spurs any more this season as he rehabs his quad injury, even though they’ve never quite actually said he’s out for the year -- and he, as per usual, has said next to nothing. The Spurs have ridden LaMarcus Aldridge’s All-NBA-level season to the cusp of the playoffs, but no one has much expectation they’ll be there very long if they make it without their former Finals MVP. “Do I have any expectation I’ll see Kawhi?,” Danny Green said a week ago, repeating my question to him. “As of right now, my mindset is no. I’m just going to forward without him … if he does come back, great. Our mindset is this is the group we have today, this is the group we’ll have tomorrow. If somebody does come and join, we’ll have them and it’ll be great. But right now we’re moving forward with the expectation that this is who we have.” But, it’s not like we haven’t seen guys come back suddenly for the playoffs after missing large chunks of a season. A fellow named Michael Jordan played just 18 regular season games in his second season with the Bulls in 1986, recovering from a foot injury and not returning to the lineup until mid-March. True, he did get 15 games under his belt before the playoffs. But that did not prepare anyone for his showing up in Boston Garden in Game 2 of the first round against the Celtics and dropping 63 on the home team. There are, to be sure, issues between Leonard and the Spurs, and maybe they’re insurmountable. But if, somehow, “The Klaw” wakes up one morning this month and says he’s good to go, and reports for duty … who doesn’t think San Antonio can’t start assimilating opponents into its collective just like old times? Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsApr 10th, 2018Related News

Butler returns as Wolves beat Lakers

LOS ANGELES --- Jimmy Butler needed about two quarters to look like his old self. Once he did, the Minnesota Timberwolves looked good again, too. Butler scored 18 points in his return from right knee surgery, Jeff Teague had 25 points and eight assists, and the Timberwolves beat the Los Angeles Lakers 113-96 on Friday night. "It feels like Jimmy's that one piece that helps everybody be where their supposed to be at," Wolves forward Taj Gibson said. "I felt defensively it helps us a lot. But it's good to get back to the old ways." Butler played 22 minutes and was 7 for 10 from the field in his first game since getting hurt against Houston on Feb. 23. He had surgery two days later f...Keep on reading: Butler returns as Wolves beat Lakers.....»»

Source: Inquirer InquirerCategory: Apr 7th, 2018Related News

Towns, Crawford help Wolves edge Mavs 93-92

By DAVE JACKSON ,  Associated Press DALLAS (AP) — Karl-Anthony Towns had 21 points and 20 rebounds, Jamal Crawford scored 24 points and the Minnesota Timberwolves held off the Dallas Mavericks 93-92 on Friday night to gain ground in the tight Western Conference playoff race. After shooting just 34 percent in the first half and trailing until midway through the third quarter, the Wolves turned to Crawford, who scored 15 points after halftime. He hit three consecutive shots, including a 3 over a 1:14 stretch of the fourth quarter to give Minnesota a 74-68 lead. Nemanja Bjelica, scoreless for the first three quarters, hit two 3s to extend it to 85-73. The Mavericks got within 91-89 on the second of consecutive layups by Dennis Smith Jr. off a steal with 28.3 seconds to play. But Crawford came to the rescue again, posting up the smaller Yogi Ferrell and draining a jumper over him. Ferrell hit a 3 with 1.3 seconds left, but the Mavericks were not over the limit in fouls and could not foul the Wolves twice in the remaining time. Harrison Barnes led Dallas with 19 points, and Smith had 17. Minnesota entered the night in seventh place in the bunched-up Western Conference but moved into fifth with losses by Oklahoma City and New Orleans. Just three games separated fourth place from 10th in the West. The Wolves play Utah, who entered Friday in eighth place, on Sunday and play 10th-place Denver twice over their final five games. The Mavericks led for the entire first half and took their biggest lead early in the second quarter at 31-22. Minnesota scored five points in the final 2.3 seconds of the half to get within 46-44 at the break. Jamal Crawford hit a 3-pointer off Towns' offensive rebound, and then Towns scored just before the buzzer after Dallas' Maxi Kleber inbounded the ball right to him. BUTLER CLEARED FOR CONTACT Wolves guard Jimmy Butler made the trip to Dallas and has been cleared for contact drills, using a brace on his right knee. "He had a good workout, did the shoot-around and stayed and played after," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He's been diligent with the rehab, going twice a day. He went through the non-contact great, didn't have any problems. This was the next step." Thibodeau didn't put a timeline on Butler's return. Butler had meniscus surgery on Feb. 25, and Minnesota is 8-7 in the games he has missed. TIP-INS Timberwolves: Wolves assistant coach Rick Brunson will stay in Texas to watch his son Jalen lead Villanova in the NCAA national semifinals against Kansas on Saturday in San Antonio. Mavericks: Nowitzki set an NBA record by playing in his 75th game this season, the most by a player in his 20th season in the league. ... Guard J.J. Barea sat out for personal reasons. UP NEXT Timberwolves: Host Utah on Sunday. Mavericks: At Cleveland on Sunday. Dallas plays four of its final six on the road......»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsMar 31st, 2018Related News

Towns franchise-record 56 lead Wolves over Hawks 126-114

By Brian Hall, Associated Press MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Karl-Anthony Towns scored a franchise-record 56 points and added 15 rebounds for his league-leading 63rd double-double, and the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Atlanta Hawks 126-114 on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time). Towns was 6-of-8 from three-point range and added four assists for Minnesota, which recovered after a disappointing loss Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) to the lowly Memphis Grizzlies and trailing last-place Atlanta throughout the first quarter. Andrew Wiggins added 17 points and Jeff Teague had 11 points and eight assists for the Timberwolves, who avoided a third straight loss by shooting 53.3 percent, including 13-of-30 from behind the arc. Minnesota (43-33) pulled into a tie with seventh-place Utah, which hosted Boston later Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). Mike Muscala had a career-high 24 points off the bench for Atlanta, which stayed within striking distance of the Wolves by hitting 13-of-27 from three. Dewayne Dedmon had 13 points and 12 rebounds for the Hawks. Atlanta has lost 10 of its past 11 games. Minnesota allowed Memphis to gain confidence early on in the upset on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) and allowed Atlanta to do the same. The Hawks shot 61.1 percent in the first, hit five of their first seven triples and led by as many as six points. Towns took control in the second as Minnesota used a 19-4 run to take a 12-point lead. Towns had 26 points in the first half. The Wolves stretched the lead to 16 in the second half, but the Hawks started to chip away in the fourth. Isaiah Taylor had nine points and Atlanta went on a 14-4 run to close within 110-104 on a three by Muscala. Towns missed five shots during the run. But he went back to work and finished with his first 50-point game and the fourth in team history. TIP-INS Hawks: Starting SG Damion Lee left the game with a dislocated pinkie finger on his right hand, according to the team's Twitter account, but later returned. ... PG Dennis Schroder missed his second straight game with a left ankle sprain. ... Atlanta now has 835 triples this season, adding to its franchise record. The Hawks started the day 10th in the league in three's per game. Timberwolves: PG Derrick Rose missed his fourth straight game with a sprained right ankle. C Cole Aldrich missed his second straight game with an illness. ... All-Star Jimmy Butler took shots in practice and has been trying to work his way back from meniscus surgery on his right knee. Coach Tom Thibodeau said Butler still hasn't been cleared for contact and there is no timetable for his return. ... Tre Jones was named Mr. Basketball as the top prep player in Minnesota in an announcement during the third period. Jones, the brother of Wolves G Tyus Jones, is set to play at Duke next year, following in Tyus' footsteps. ... Minnesota has allowed its opponents to hit 53 three's over the past four games and at least 12 a game in five of the last six games. UP NEXT Hawks: Host Philadelphia on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). Timberwolves: At Dallas on Friday (Saturday, PHL time)......»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsMar 29th, 2018Related News

Thibodeau laments lack of toughness; Wolves try to hang on

By Dave Campbell, Associated Press MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Timberwolves have seven games to go in this strenuous regular season, coming tantalizingly close to the tormented franchise’s first appearance in the playoffs in 14 years. The trouble is their once-sturdy postseason bid is also teetering on the brink of being painfully denied. Beginning a supposedly softer stretch of their schedule that has the potential to help propel them to the finish line, the Timberwolves took an egregious loss on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) to a languishing Memphis team that had lost all 17 road games to date in 2018. The outcome only furthered the doubt among an embittered fan base about whether the Wolves can hang on long enough without All-Star shooting guard Jimmy Butler to finish in the top eight in the Western Conference. “We have to keep pushing forward. For some guys, this is a new experience. This is about your will,” coach Tom Thibodeau said after the 101-93 loss. “You can’t approach it without knowing what you have to put into it.” The word Thibodeau kept using in his postgame lament was toughness, the intangible trait that the truly elite teams use to supplement their top-flight talent. That’s what Butler has provided and then some in his first year with the Wolves, his reunion with Thibodeau after the two developed a strong working relationship in Chicago. Power forward Taj Gibson, another reclaimed asset from Thibodeau’s time with the Bulls, has done the same. Point guard Jeff Teague, the other major offseason acquisition, has hit his stride lately and supplied plenty of his own grit. That’s the experienced portion of the team, along with sixth man Jamal Crawford. Young stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, going through the rigors of a playoff race for the first time, haven’t yet built up that resilience. The Grizzlies pushed around the Wolves with a playoff-style physical approach, and the home team didn’t produce enough resistance. “I like those kinds of games. It was on both ends. Both teams were playing physical, and they were letting us play,” Teague said. “People just haven’t been a part of those kinds of games, so it was an adjustment for some of us.” Teague didn’t have to name names. Thibodeau didn’t either, when he praised the tenacity by Gibson and Teague and left out the rest of the Butler-less starting lineup. Nemanja Bjelica, who has often taken his game to a higher level during extended action in Butler’s absence, was scoreless with a minus-18 rating in 22 minutes against Memphis. Towns was overshadowed by Grizzlies center Marc Gasol. Wiggins was 7-for-17 from the floor, missing 4-of-5 attempts from three-point range. “I just think at times we just miss shots,” Gibson said, downplaying the toughness factor. “It was a gritty game. It came down to the wire. We had good looks. It just didn’t go the way we wanted it to. If you’re playing in this league and you’ve got 40-some wins, you’re a tough team. It’s nothing about grit, nothing about physicality. It just comes down to misses and strong rebounds and knowing your coverages.” The Wolves (42-33) are in eighth place in the conference race, just as close to fourth as they are to ninth. They host Atlanta on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) and play at Dallas on Friday (Saturday, PHL time) before hosting seventh-place Utah on Sunday (Monday, PHL time). Denver, one of the teams trying to bump Minnesota off, appears twice on the final four games of the schedule. Perhaps Butler will join them. He did some light jogging and three-point shooting on the court after practice on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time), but Thibodeau declined to reveal a timetable for his return. Butler has not yet been cleared for contact, so the Wolves can’t simply bank on his return. “I believe we will get it done,” Thibodeau said, “so I told them that today. We’ve just got to keep fighting.”.....»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsMar 28th, 2018Related News

Selden scores 23 as Grizzlies surprise Wolves 101-93

By Brian Hall, Associated Press MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Wayne Selden scored 23 points, Marc Gasol had 20 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, and the Memphis Grizzlies surprised the Minnesota Timberwolves with a 101-93 victory on Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time). Selden and Gasol each hit four three-pointers as Memphis went 15-of-31 from beyond the arc and snapped its 17-game road losing streak, dealing a blow to Minnesota's playoff hopes. The Timberwolves (42-33) started the night tied for seventh in the Western Conference standings with Utah. Jeff Teague had 25 points and seven assists for Minnesota, which lost its second straight game and dropped to 6-7 since All-Star Jimmy Butler was lost to a knee injury. Karl-Anthony Towns had his league-leading 62nd double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Six players scored in double figures for the Grizzlies. JaMychal Green added 11 points and 10 rebounds. Having lost 23 of its previous 24 games, Memphis showed early on it wasn't going to roll over for the playoff-hopeful Wolves. The Grizzlies shot 63.6 percent in the second quarter on their way to a 59-all tie at the break. Teague keyed an 8-0 run in the third as the Timberwolves opened an 82-76 lead. But Selden hit three triples in the fourth as Memphis outscored Minnesota 23-11 in the final period. TIP-INS Grizzlies: Tyreke Evans missed his second straight game for personal reasons. ... F Chandler Parsons returned after missing the past two games with knee soreness. Parsons had three points and five assists. ... Memphis' last road win was Dec. 31 (Jan. 1, PHL time) against Sacramento. It was the team's longest road losing streak since dropping 18 in a row from Jan. 4-March 19, 2008. ... Led by Selden, the Grizzlies got 46 points from their reserves. Timberwolves: Cole Aldrich missed the game with an illness. Derrick Rose missed his third straight game with a sprained right ankle. ... Jamal Crawford scored 10 points but was 3-of-12 shooting. ... The inaugural class of the Minnesota High School Basketball Hall of Fame was honored at halftime. The team includes former NBA players Kevin McHale, Randy Breuer, Khalid El-Amin, Ron Johnson and Mark Olberding, along with WNBA point guard Lindsay Whalen. UP NEXT Grizzlies: Host Portland on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). Timberwolves: Host Atlanta on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time)......»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsMar 27th, 2018Related News