Leonard outduels Westbrook as Spurs beat Thunder

admin   •   February 1, 2017   •   4594

Jan 31, 2017; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) reacts after a shot during the second half against the Oklahoma City Thunder at AT&T Center. Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

(The Sports Xchange) – If all anyone expected was a duel in the Alamo City between two of the NBA’s erstwhile MVP candidates, San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, they might have been disappointed by the way the Spurs’ 108-94 win over the Thunder on Tuesday at the AT&T Center played out.

Yes, Leonard (36 points and eight rebounds) and Westbrook (27 points and 14 assists) both led their respective teams in scoring and were spectacular in their own ways.

But it was the Spurs’ bench that proved to be the difference, helping to turn the tide at the end of the third and the beginning of the fourth quarters after San Antonio (37-11) squandered an 18-point lead over a horrid seven-minute stretch. The Spurs’ reserves responded by outscoring Oklahoma City 15-2 and, once the starters returned the Thunder had no answer.

Overall, the Spurs’ bench racked up 32 points to 22 for Oklahoma City’s reserves, with most of that damage coming in the pivotal stretch bridging the third and fourth quarters.

Leonard scored 30 or more points for the 15th time this season while LaMarcus Aldridge added 23 points and was the only other San Antonio player in double-figure scoring.

“We’re fired up just playing against Russ out there, just out there competing every possession,” Leonard said. “The way he’s been playing has been ridiculous, so you definitely want to rise up to the challenge. We lost two games in a row so we were fired up off that just thinking about ourselves.”

Westbrook, who is the only player in the NBA averaging a triple-double, had just six rebounds; he has still has never had a triple-double against San Antonio.

“Overall, we played more competitively for more of the 48 minutes than we have recently,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “We played good defense in the first half and the fourth quarter, but it’s still a 48-minute game. We have to figure that out.”

Stephen Adams added 16 points and a game-high 12 rebounds for the Thunder (28-21). Victor Oladipo scored 15 points, Domantas Sabonis hit for 13 and pulled down 10 rebounds and Anthony Morrow tallied 11 points for Oklahoma City.

The Thunder had 20 turnovers that led to 24 points for San Antonio.

“In the third quarter, we took the lead but we needed more sustainability — we did what we wanted to do, but we just didn’t do it for long enough,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “There were some positive things we can take from this game but with our margin for error we can’t have a lapse for a half or a bunch of turnovers that are difficult to overcome.”

(Compiled by Peter Rutherford)

Pacers’ Oladipo showing the promise he once projected

UNTV News   •   December 25, 2017

Dec 23, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo (4) drives to the basket against Brooklyn Nets guard Allen Crabbe (33) during the first quarter at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

(Reuters) – Benefiting from an off-season trade, Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo is finally becoming the franchise player he was projected to be.

The 2013 top-two draft choice had been seen as ancillary to the deal when Indiana sent cornerstone Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

But Oladipo appears focused on proving his worth in a new lead role with the Pacers.

“I was already motivated before (the trade to Indiana), Oladipo told Reuters following a recent win over Atlanta.

“Then (the trade) just happened. It might have added on a little bit but I was already motivated.”

The fifth-year player has translated his motivation into career-best production as he averages 25.3 points per game on 48.6 percent shooting, which includes 42.5 percent from three-point range.

He adds five rebounds and nearly two steals a night.

The Pacers, who were expected to fall off a cliff in the absence of George, are holding steady at 19-14, the fourth best record in the Eastern Conference.

Oladipo has been particularly devastating in the month of December, erupting for scoring binges that included a 47-point night in a win against Denver.

Always known for his slashing athleticism and versatile defense, Oladipo has found a shooting comfort back in Indiana where he starred as a college player.

“He’s come into the season with confidence, and I think to prove himself,” said Pacers coach Nate McMillan who has enjoyed extensive film sessions with his new guard.

“There was a lot of conversation out there that the Pacers didn’t get enough in (trading away George). I think he’s proven to the league that he has talent.”

The Orlando Magic were intrigued by Oladipo’s talent when they drafted him as the second overall pick in the 2013 draft.

After three solid but not spectacular seasons with the Magic, Oladipo was shipped to the Thunder.

Playing alongside ball-dominant superstar Russell Westbrook, Oladipo had the role of unsung sidekick.

So when the Pacers landed Oladipo, expectations were low.

He is proving otherwise and appears headed for his first ever All Star appearance.

“We felt like he had potential and he’s showing that he did,” McMillan said. “He’s playing with confidence. And when you have that kind of ability and play with that kind of confidence, good things are going to happen for you.”

Reporting by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles, editing by Gene Cherry

Highlights of Saturday’s NBA games

UNTV News   •   December 18, 2017

Dec 16, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook (0) drives to the basket against New York Knicks small forward Michael Beasley (8) and point guard Jarrett Jack (55) during the first quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Knicks 111, Thunder 96

Michael Beasley had 30 points on 11-of-18 shooting from the field to lead six New York players in double figures as the Knicks spoiled Carmelo Anthony’s return to Madison Square Garden with a 111-96 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday night.

Anthony, who was with the Knicks for nearly seven seasons and ranks as the seventh-leading scorer in franchise history, finished with 12 points — including zero in the second half — on 5-of-18 shooting in his first game back in New York since being traded during the offseason for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a second-round draft pick.

Anthony received a mostly warm reception from the MSG crowd during a highlight video played during introductions. While there were loud cheers for Anthony, who averaged nearly 25 points during his nearly seven-year run but had little playoff success, there was also a smattering of boos.

Heat 90, Clippers 85

Erik Spoelstra became the Miami franchise leader for coaching victories in a win against Los Angeles.

Spoelstra passed current Heat president Pat Riley to set the record with 455 wins. Miami climbed above .500 for the first time in December.

Josh Richardson sank a career-high six 3-points and scored a career-high 28 points to lead the Heat. Clippers center DeAndre Jordan notched a double-double with 12 points and 20 rebounds. He has four consecutive double-doubles — his longest streak of the season — and seven double-doubles in his past eight games.

Rockets 115, Bucks 111

James Harden scored a game-high 31 points and Chris Paul produced 23 of his 25 points in the second half as Houston extended its winning streak to 13 games with a victory over Milwaukee.

Paul had just two points on 0-of-5 shooting before the intermission but opened the second half by drilling three consecutive 3-pointers. He was just as lethal down the stretch, nailing back-to-back mid-range jumpers off screens to lift the Rockets (24-4) to a seven-point lead with 33.7 seconds left.

The Rockets improved to 14-0 with Paul in the lineup.

Cavaliers 109, Jazz 100

LeBron James passed Larry Bird for sixth place in career triple-doubles and Cleveland beat Utah.

James’ 60th triple-double in 15 seasons included 29 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. It was his third triple-double in a now-completed four-game homestand — each game won by the Cavaliers.

James scored 10 points in the fourth quarter. He was 9 of 15 from the field and 10 of 10 from the free-throw line.

Trail Blazers 93, Hornets 91

CJ McCollum scored 25 points and Portland held on for its third straight victory with a win over Charlotte.

The Blazers led by 16 points early in the fourth quarter but had to go back to work after the Hornets fought back to tie at 87 in the final five minutes.

Ultimately, Portland held on when Charlotte’s Kemba Walker missed a 3-pointer at the final buzzer. The Trail Blazers didn’t make a field goal in the final four minutes.

Portland has defeated Miami, Orlando and Charlotte in the last four days on a five-game road trip. They are now 9-5 on the road for the season.

Spurs 98, Mavericks 96

Manu Ginobili hit a running left-handed layup with 3.1 seconds to play for the deciding basket as San Antonio scored the final 13 points to roar from behind and beat Dallas.

The Mavericks led 96-92 after the Spurs’ Bryn Forbes poured in 3-pointer from the corner with 2:13 to play.

After a pair of empty possessions from both teams, LaMarcus Aldridge brought San Antonio to within 96-94 on short jumper with 58.6 seconds to play. Aldridge then hit a contested turnaround jumper in the lane with 23.4 seconds remaining to tie the game.

Celtics 102, Grizzlies 93

A great first quarter and a solid burst to start the fourth kept Boston from back-to-back embarrassments, coming away with a victory over struggling, but still scrappy, Memphis.

Al Horford and Terry Rozier sparked a 16-0 run at the start of the fourth as the Celtics erased a 73-71 Memphis lead built largely on a third-quarter explosion from Marc Gasol, who had 21 of his game-high 30 points during the stretch.

Kyrie Irving led Boston with 20 points, rookie Jason Tatum had 19 points, nine rebounds and two blocked shots. Horford had 15 points and seven boards, Aron Baynes added 13 points and six rebounds while Marcus Smart scored 11 and Rozier added 10 points off the bench.

Suns 108, Timberwolves 106

Phoenix overcame 27 turnovers to grind out a hard-fought win over Minnesota.

The Suns helped themselves with another dominating performance from their bench. One game after putting up 55 points on the Toronto Raptors, Phoenix’s reserves outscored the Timberwolves’ bench 69-20, led by 17 points apiece from Dragan Bender and Troy Daniels, Isaiah Canaan’s 15 points, and 12 points and a career-high 19 rebounds from Alex Len.

The Suns led 103-98 with 3:33 to play but consecutive baskets by Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson put Minnesota back on top by one with 1:22 to go.

Highlights of Tuesday’s NBA games

UNTV News   •   December 14, 2017

Dec 12, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) runs back up the court during the second half against the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center. The Mavericks defeat the Spurs 95-89. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

(The Sports Xchange) – Highlights of National Basketball Association games on Tuesday:

Mavericks 95, Spurs 89

Kawhi Leonard made his long-anticipated season debut Tuesday and looked to be in mid-season form, although his San Antonio Spurs fell apart in the fourth quarter without him and lost to the Dallas Mavericks 95-89.

The Spurs’ All-Star forward missed the first 27 games of the season because of a quad injury. He quickly displayed his all-around excellence, producing 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting and adding six rebounds, one assist, one steal and a block.

Leonard did it all in 16 minutes as coach Gregg Popovich promised a gradual reintroduction. Leonard’s lone offensive rebound was a tip-out to himself that led to a bucket for a 55-50 San Antonio lead, and Popovich pulled him for good soon after.

The Mavericks, sparked by guard J.J. Barea’s aggressive drives to the basket, opened the fourth quarter on an 8-0 run, went up 91-80 with 4:01 to go and held on to snap the Spurs’ four-game winning streak as well as end their own three-game skid.

76ers 118, Timberwolves 112 (OT)

Joel Embiid had 28 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists, and J.J. Redick scored 26 points as Philadelphia pulled out an overtime victory over Minnesota.

Ben Simmons was held scoreless until 1:17 remained in regulation, but he ended up with seven points and eight assists for Philadelphia. The 76ers snapped a four-game losing streak by scoring the first six points of overtime and holding on in the back-and-forth game.

Jimmy Butler scored a season-high 38 points for Timberwolves, who shot only 40.7 percent from the field. Karl-Anthony Towns had his league-leading 22nd double-double with 19 points and 16 rebounds, and Andrew Wiggins scored 20 points for Minnesota.

Knicks 113, Lakers 109 (OT)

Kristaps Porzingis scored 37 points as New York emerged with an overtime victory over Los Angeles.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope paced the Lakers with 24 points. Los Angeles rookies Lonzo Ball (17 points, eight rebounds, six assists) and Kyle Kuzma (19 points) played well in their Madison Square Garden debuts.

Kuzma hit a 3-pointer with 23.9 seconds left to tie the game at 99, but New York’s Michael Beasley had two baskets and an assist on a Doug McDermott layup during a 69-second run in overtime to give the Knicks a six-point lead they would not relinquish.

Cavaliers 123, Hawks 114

Setting a season high with 20 3-pointers, Cleveland topped Atlanta.

LeBron James scored 25 points and tied a career high with 17 assists. He made two 3-pointers. Kyle Korver (19 points) drained six 3-pointers, and Kevin Love (17 points, 12 rebounds) added four treys, as did Jose Calderon (14 points, tying a season high).

Taurean Prince paced the Hawks with 24 points, and Kent Bazemore added 20.

Nuggets 103, Pistons 84

Jamal Murray fired in 28 points and reserve Trey Lyles tossed in 20, leading Denver to the easy victory over slumping Detroit.

Wilson Chandler scored 18 points, while Mason Plumlee supplied 10 points and a season-high 13 rebounds for the Nuggets, who never trailed. Gary Harris added eight points, six rebounds, nine assists and four steals.

The Pistons lost their seventh straight, their longest skid since dropping 10 in a row during February and March 2015. Langston Galloway led Detroit with 18 points.

Nets 103, Wizards 98

Allen Crabbe shook off a rough shooting night to hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 44 seconds left as Brooklyn beat Washington.

Crabbe was among seven Nets in double figures, finishing with 13 points. He shot 3 of 15 overall, 3 of 14 from 3-point range on a night when Brooklyn made 23.3 percent from long range.

Bradley Beal led Washington with 28 points but only scored three points in the fourth quarter. He shot 11 of 33 and missed all seven of his 3-point attempts.

Kings 99, Suns 92

Zach Randolph scored 11 of his 17 points during the final five minutes, and his three-point play with 44.9 seconds left helped lift Sacramento past Phoenix.

George Hill scored 18 points, and Buddy Hield contributed 14 points off the bench as Sacramento ended a three-game home losing streak.

TJ Warren scored 18 points to lead the Suns, who have dropped four in a row and nine of their past 11. Reserve Mike James scored 17 points in 20 minutes, Tyler Ulis added 10 points, and Tyson Chandler had seven points and 10 rebounds for Phoenix.

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