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Murray helps Nuggets bounce back with 117-90 blowout of Timberwolves – Basketball

The Canadian Press – May 10, 2024 / 9:31 pm | Story: 486884

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Andrew Nembhard made a 31-foot, tiebreaking 3-pointer with 16 seconds left, Tyrese Haliburton scored 35 points and the Indiana Pacers rallied in the fourth quarter to beat the banged-up and short-handed New York Knicks 111-106 on Friday night in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Knicks still lead the best-of-seven series 2-1 with Game 4 set for Sunday in Indianapolis. New York led by nine with 9:45 remaining and was in position to take a commanding 3-0 lead, but with Jalen Brunson slowed by a right foot injury, the Knicks couldn’t hold on.

Nembhard scored only five points — all in the final minute — while Haliburton finished with his second straight playoff career high. Pascal Siakam added 26 points and seven rebounds, and Myles Turner had 21 points and 10 rebounds.

NUGGETS 117, TIMBERWOLVES 90

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Jamal Murray rebounded from a rough start to the Western Conference semifinals with 24 points to lead Denver on a romp in Game 3 that made Minnesota the last team in the NBA to lose this postseason.

Nikola Jokic, the three-time league MVP, had 24 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists, Michael Porter Jr. scored 21 points and the Nuggets cut the Timberwolves’ series lead to 2-1 on the strength of their 14-for-29 shooting from 3-point range.

Anthony Edwards had a quiet 19 points to lead the Wolves, who went just 10 for 32 from deep even with a 4-for-5 effort from Karl-Anthony Towns. They failed to get Towns (14 points) enough shots, fumbled the ball too often in desperate attempts to drive to the basket and simply played slower than they did in the first two games in Denver, falling behind by as many as 34 points down the stretch.

Game 4 is in Minneapolis on Sunday night.

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The Canadian Press – | Story: 486885

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Canadian Jamal Murray rebounded from a rough start to the Western Conference semifinals with 24 points to lead the Denver Nuggets on a 117-90 romp in Game 3 on Friday night that made the Minnesota Timberwolves the last team in the NBA to lose this post-season.

Nikola Jokic, the three-time league MVP, had 24 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists, Michael Porter Jr. scored 21 points and the Nuggets cut the Timberwolves’ series lead to 2-1 on the strength of their 14-for-29 shooting from 3-point range.

Anthony Edwards had a quiet 19 points to lead the Wolves, who went just 10 for 32 from deep even with a 4-for-5 effort from Karl-Anthony Towns. They failed to get Towns (14 points) enough shots, fumbled the ball too often in desperate attempts to drive to the basket and simply played slower than they did in the first two games in Denver, falling behind by as many as 34 points down the stretch.

Game 4 is in Minneapolis on Sunday night.

The Nuggets became the 30th team in the history of the NBA playoffs to lose the first two games at home in a best-of-seven series, according to Sportradar research. Five of them have rallied to win, most recently the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round in 2021.

This was the step forward Denver badly needed, breaking the 100-point barrier for the first time in three games against Minnesota’s NBA-best defence.

Murray, who totalled just 25 points on 9-for-32 shooting with a minus-38 rating over the first two games and drew a $100,000 fine from the NBA for chucking a heat pack onto the floor from the bench, was roundly booed every time he touched the ball. The stone-faced point guard hardly glanced at the crowd, using a mix of spot-up jumpers and fadeaways to lead the attack, clearly with more spring in his step after three days to rest the strained left calf muscle that has hampered him over the last few weeks.

The defending champions not only brought the energy they promised would return after their no-show at home, but they hit enough of their shots to help keep the Wolves and their active rotations honest. The whistles tightened up, and Wolves defensive ace Jaden McDaniels was limited by foul trouble.

This was by far the most meaningful game staged at Target Center in 20 years since Minnesota beat Sacramento in Game 7 to reach the conference finals, and the raucous atmosphere matched the moment for a fan base that has been as perpetually discouraged as any in American pro sports. The “Wolves in four!” chant that popped up from some confident visitors down the stretch of that head-turning Game 2 dominance in Denver erupted right before the opening tip.

The Nuggets controlled the noise by creeping to a 28-20 edge after the first quarter, their largest lead of the series to date, and they didn’t stop there. They were up by 20 points late in the second quarter.

The Wolves got NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert back after he missed Game 2 for the birth of his son, but the Nuggets zipped the ball around so well outside of the paint so well that his long arms were largely a nonfactor.

Aaron Gordon swished back-to-back 3-pointers and Porter hit one on the next possession midway through the third quarter to make it 72-50 and thwart another mini-Wolves rally.

By early in the fourth, fans began to file out of their seats. Frustrated by the accumulation of calls against them on the night, Wolves reserves Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Kyle Anderson each were slapped with technical fouls during a timeout with 5:54 left for arguing with the officials.

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA

lining up a 31-foot, tiebreaking 3-pointer with 16 seconds to go, giving the Pacers a critical 111-106 victory in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

“I probably held the ball a little too long or should have been more aggressive to attack the blitz,” Haliburton said after finishing with 35 points, his second straight playoff career high. “It was a big, big shot. Drew just really stepped up in the moment we needed him.”

So did Haliburton who, at times, almost single-handedly willed the Pacers back from a nine-point deficit in the final 9:45 to get within 2-1 of the Knicks of the best-of-seven series instead of falling into the dreaded 3-0 deficit that no team has overcome.

Indiana is 4-0 at home this postseason and hosts Game 4 on Sunday.

Haliburton finished with 35 points, his second straight career high, and had seven assists.

For Nembhard, it was a redemptive moment. He was scoreless through 46 minutes before breaking free for a tiebreaking layup with 1:55 to go. His only other basket of the game came on that stepback 3.

Pascal Siakam added 26 points and seven rebounds, while Myles Turner had 21 points and 10 rebounds for the Pacers.

“This one means a little more than the one in Los Angeles,” Nembhard said, referring to his regular-season game winner against the Lakers. “I think we kind of got into a little bit of a rhythm playing at the end and it was even kind of random. It opened up some space for guys to make plays.”

Donte DiVincenzo led the Knicks with 35 points, going 7 of 11 on 3-pointers. Brunson had 26 points and six rebounds, including a tying 3 with 42 seconds left, but he barely hit the rim on another 3 that would have tied it at 109 with 13 seconds left.

Brunson entered averaging a postseason league-high 35.6 points and played through a right foot injury. But he acknowledged he didn’t make the right call on the that essentially sealed New York’s loss.

“A terrible decision and something you learn from,” Brunson said after appearing to try to draw a foul on the play. “I knew the time, I knew everything that was going on. I just made a terrible decision.”

Alec Burks, who came in having played 1 minute in the postseason, scored 14 points in 21 minutes for the Knicks, who played without starting forward OG Anunoby. It’s unclear whether Anunoby can recover from his injured left hamstring to play Sunday, although he traveled with the team to Indianapolis.

The Knicks had already lost All-Star Julius Randle and key contributors Bojan Bogdanovic and Mitchell Robinson to season-ending injuries.

Indiana was desperate for a win after blowing second-half leads in each of the first two games and this time, turning the New York fans chants of “Let’s Go Knicks” into the energy needed to fuel their finishing kick with WNBA rookie Caitlin Clark watching from a suite with her boyfriend, Connor McCaffery, and her Indiana Fever teammates.

Haliburton got it started by completing a three-point play and then making back-to-back layups to cut the 98-89 deficit to 98-96. Siakam tied the score at 99 with a three-point play at the 6:58 mark and when DiVincenzo broke free on a fast break, Haliburton swatted the ball away.

Siakam responded by making one of two free throws to give Indiana a 100-99 lead at the 5:42 mark.

The teams traded the lead four more times, with Brunson’s 3 tying the score at 106. Nembhard broke the tie by beating the shot-clock buzzer, the Pacers’ defense got the stop it needed, and Aaron Nesmith sealed the win with two free throws.

“You just tip your cap when a guy makes a 3 like that with the game on the line,” Thibodeau said. “Haliburton had the ball, a pretty good double team I thought, good rotation and he made a tough shot.”

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba

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The Canadian Press – May 10, 2024 / 2:52 pm | Story: 486783

Former New York Knicks player Charles Oakley says no thanks, he won’t step foot in Madison Square Garden.

Not during these NBA playoffs, and certainly not as long as he has an ongoing lawsuit against Madison Square Garden and team owner James Dolan over a tussle with security at a 2017 game that got Oakley ejected from the arena.

“I guess their lawyer called my lawyer saying it’s a good time for you to come back to the Garden,” Oakley told The Associated Press on Friday.

Oakley, the former NBA enforcer and rebounding machine with the 1990s Knicks, said he has no interest — though he continued to root for the team — in coming back as long as he remained in a dispute with Dolan.

The animosity dates to 2017 when Oakley was arrested after an altercation with MSG security officials after they told him to leave his seat at the arena near Dolan. Oakley was cleared of misdemeanor assault charges in 2018.

So what would it take for Oakley to sit courtside at the Garden?

“They’ve got to apologize,” he said. “We’ll go from there. Can (Dolan) be man enough to say, mistakes happen. And he made one.”

Oakley brought assault and battery claims against Dolan and an amended lawsuit was filed just last month. An order Thursday assigned it to Magistrate Judge Stewart D. Aaron to handle going forward.

“Just be honest,” Oakley said. “Just be transparent over what you put someone through and how you changed their life. This definitely changed my life. My daughter Googled me, they show them pulling me out of the Garden, that’s bad. That’s hell for a kid to see that.”

MSG has denied all claims.

“There’s no kind of agreement. There’s no kind of, `Let’s make this go away,’” Oakley said. “They’re not being transparent about what happened.”

Behind Jalen Brunson, the Knicks are enjoying an NBA renaissance and took a 2-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals into Game 3 Friday night against the Indiana Pacers.

The 60-year-old Oakley played for the Knicks from 1988-98, helping them reach the NBA Finals, but has a splintered relationship with the team because of his past criticism of Dolan.

“It’s been a struggle the last seven years,” Oakley said. “There have been things said that weren’t true. The league didn’t step in. The Commissioner is pretty soft. He didn’t do nothing. The city got behind me and I’m always behind the fans. I love that.”

Oakley had alleged assault, battery and false imprisonment, along with defamation after Dolan and the Knicks implied he had a problem with alcohol. Oakley was sitting near Dolan at a game on Feb. 8, 2017. He was approached by security soon after arriving and began to scuffle with them before he was removed from his seat and arrested.

“I don’t want to get in their way, they’re playing great,” Oakley said. “I’m going to cheer at the guys to do well. I’m not mad at nobody on the floor.”

Oakley stirred some ill-will recently toward his former teammates when he was a guest on an SiriusXM show and said Brunson was the best Knick since Walt Frazier. It was a slight that got back to Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing, Oakley’s former Knicks teammate who he has feuded off-and-on with since they retired.

Ewing took the high road on another NBA podcast and declined to enter the debate.

“They said leadership was a big thing and Patrick wasn’t a great leader,” Oakley told the AP. “Brunson, I think was way more a leader.”

Oakley said at one point Dolan promised to retire his jersey but was only trying to make amends now “for a photo opp. It’s all about him.”

“He doesn’t want to apologize,” Oakley said. “What he did was wrong. But the team is playing well. The Rangers are, too. It’s like 1994 all over again.”

The Knicks lost to the Rockets in seven games in that year’s NBA Finals, but the Rangers won the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1940 a few days earlier.

Here’s the bottom line, Oakley “would love to go” to MSG to see a Knicks game — as long as Dolan made things right.

“I think it’s a bad time to ask me to come to a game,” Oakley said. “The case is still going. You ain’t trying to settle a case. The case is still pending. Take care of your business with the case and let the game worry about the game, you know what I’m saying? You’re not doing anything special. If you were trying to do something special, you wouldn’t have done this.”

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba

The Canadian Press – May 10, 2024 / 1:10 pm | Story: 486755

Donovan Mitchell and the Cleveland Cavaliers took the home-court advantage with a Game 2 victory in Boston, the same way Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks did in Oklahoma City.

Now the Cavs and Mavs will try keep that edge against the top seeds in each conference in their respective Game 3s at home Saturday.

The Celtics, who had the best record in the NBA, had the same problem in the first round, losing Game 2 to Miami before winning the final three games of the series.

“Nobody’s in there defeated or deflated,” said Jayson Tatum, who scored 25 points in Boston’s 118-94 loss. “You never want to lose in the playoffs. We can learn from it. We get it. The world thinks we’re never supposed to lose. We’re supposed to win every game by 25. And it’s not going to be like that all the time.”

It’s a repeat for Dallas, too. The Mavs, seeded fifth in the Western Conference, lost the series opener at the Los Angeles Clippers before getting the road split in what ended up being a six-game victory.

“It doesn’t change anything,” said Tim Hardaway Jr., who had his playoff high with 17 points in Dallas’ 119-110 victory. “We’re going to take their best shot each and every step of the way. We’ve got to be ready to counter that.”

Boston’s outside shooting was the biggest issue in Game 2. The Celtics went 8 of 35 behind the arc — 2 of 18 in the second half.

“Overall we just missed some shots and let it translate, and in the playoffs that can’t happen,” said Jaylen Brown, who missed all six 3s. “We can’t miss shots and then allow them to make shots on the other end. That’s unacceptable.”

The Cavs, seeded fourth in the East, played freely and fearlessly in Game 2, especially Evan Mobley, who finished with 21 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and two blocks while playing center with Jarrett Allen again out with bruised ribs.

Mobley is the first Cleveland player with a 20-10-5 playoff game since LeBron James in 2018.

“He was aggressive, dominant and then it continued through everybody else,” Mitchell, who scored 29 points, said of his 22-year-old teammate. “That was big time.”

Doncic, who has played with a sprained right knee since Game 3 against the Clippers, was shooting 39.5% overall and 24% from 3-point range in the playoffs before going 11 of 21 and 5 of 8 in a 29-point performance against the Thunder.

Kyrie Irving had just the third single-digit scoring game of his 82-game playoff career with nine points, but seemed to sense his shot was off and had just eight attempts, making two, while playing the same solid defense he has most of this postseason and leading the Mavs with 11 assists.

“I know he’s probably not labeled a defender but here of late he’s playing defense at a high level,” coach Jason Kidd said. “I thought tonight he did set the table offensively for a lot of guys. But I thought his defense was really, really good, and we’re going to need that as we go forward.”

THUNDER AT MAVERICKS

Series tied 1-1. Game 3, 3:30 p.m. EDT, ABC

— NEED TO KNOW: Dallas capitalized on the Game 2 victory at the Clippers by winning Game 3 at home three years after losing all three games at American Airlines Center in a first-round series loss to LA. The Mavericks are 8-3 at home in their past two postseasons, including a run to the West finals in 2022. Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging 31 points through the first two games, while Mavs 3-and-D specialist P.J. Washington is coming off a postseason best of 29 points in his playoff debut.

— KEEP AN EYE ON: Irving has had a tendency to turn up his offensive game either when Doncic struggles or the situation in the game dictates it. While Irving’s defense and distributing were big for Dallas in Game 2, look for the eight-time All-Star to be aiming for something closer to his career playoff scoring average of 23 points.

— INJURY WATCH: The Game 2 win was the best Doncic, who is listed as questionable, has looked on his right knee since injuring it against the Clippers. He wasn’t any worse for the wear after a face plant on the first possession had him fiddling with his teeth throughout the first quarter, or when he turned up with a bloodied left knee later. Hardaway had by far his best game of the postseason after missing the final four games of the Clippers series with a sprained right ankle.

— PRESSURE IS ON: Chet Holmgren played a big role in Oklahoma City’s comfortable Game 1 victory but didn’t have the same impact in the loss with 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting. He was 1 of 6 from deep as Oklahoma City finished 10 of 30 (33%), coming off a 16-of-35 showing (46%) in the series opener.

CELTICS AT CAVALIERS

Series tied 1-1. Game 3, 8:30 p.m. EDT, ABC

— NEED TO KNOW: After a quick turnaround following its rough seven-game series against Orlando, Cleveland learned lessons from Game 1. Mobley flexed offensive muscle, Mitchell did his usual thing, and the Cavs played their most well-rounded game of these playoffs — six players scored in double figures. Mitchell is averaging 29.8 points in the last five games.

— KEEP AN EYE ON: Boston’s offensive flow. The Celtics relied on too much isolation in Game 2, a strategy that backfired as Cleveland’s defenders either contested shots or forced them into rushing 3-pointers late in the shot clock.

— INJURY WATCH: Allen has missed the past five games with an injury that has made it difficult for him to raise his arms above his head. Allen, who has been a steadying presence all season for Cleveland, has made progress and will likely test the injury at some point. He is listed as questionable. … Boston’s Kristaps Porzingis will miss a fourth consecutive game with a right calf strain.

— PRESSURE IS ON: The Celtics were expected to roll through a series that has shifted dramatically. Boston’s last visit to Cleveland in March didn’t go well. The Celtics blew a 22-point lead in the fourth quarter and lost to a Cavs team missing Mitchell.

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AP Sports Writer Tom Withers contributed to this report.

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA

The Canadian Press – May 10, 2024 / 8:43 am | Story: 486708

NEW YORK (AP) — Indiana Pacers coach Rick Carlisle was fined $35,000 by the NBA on Friday for criticizing the officials and “questioning the integrity of the league” with his pleas for fairness for small-market teams.

Carlisle made his comments after the Pacers’ 130-121 loss to the New York Knicks on Wednesday. He was called for two technical fouls and ejected late in the game as Indiana fell into a 2-0 hole in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Carlisle complained about a number of missed calls, which the Pacers subsequently sent to the league for review, and implied a bias in favor of New York.

“Small-market teams deserve an equal shot,” he said. “They deserve a fair shot no matter where they are playing.”

On Thursday, the Pacers sent 78 plays they believed were officiated incorrectly from the first two games to the NBA office for review, a person with knowledge of the action said Thursday.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither the Pacers nor the league publicly confirmed the plays were actually sent.

Carlisle had said the Pacers identified 29 plays they felt were wrong in Game 1 — referees had already acknowledged one of them on a kicked ball violation they said was called incorrectly — so that meant 49 more in Game 2.

The Pacers host Game 3 on Friday night.

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AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this report.

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA

The Canadian Press – May 9, 2024 / 9:33 pm | Story: 486679

BOSTON (AP) — Donovan Mitchell scored 29 points, Evan Mobley had 21 points and 10 rebounds, and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the top-seeded Boston Celtics 118-94 on Thursday night to tie their second-round NBA playoff series at one game apiece.

Two nights after losing by 25, with Mitchell scoring 33 but getting little help, the Cavaliers seized the lead in the third quarter and answered with a blowout of their own.

Mitchell scored 16 in the third, hitting three straight baskets early in the fourth, including a 28-foot, banked 3-pointer that left him shrugging his shoulders as he backpedalled back down on defence.

Jayson Tatum scored 25 for Boston, and Jaylen Brown added 19 points. But Derrick White, whose 25 points in Game 1 helped the Celtics coast to a 120-95 win, managed just 10 points, missing seven of his eight 3-point tries.

The series moves to Cleveland for Games 3 and 4 on Saturday and Monday, with a return trip to Boston for Game 5 on Wednesday.

Elsewhere in the NBA on Thursday:

MAVERICKS 119 THUNDER 110

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Luka Doncic bounced back with 29 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists to help Dallas beat Oklahoma City and even the Western Conference semifinals at one win apiece.

The Thunder held Doncic to 19 points on 6-for-19 shooting in Game 1. He made 11 of 21 field goals in Game 2.

P.J. Washington added 29 points and 11 rebounds for the Mavericks. He averaged 12.9 points in the regular season.

Kyrie Irving added nine points and 11 assists for the No. 5-seeded Mavericks, who host Game 3 on Saturday.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 33 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists, and Jalen Williams added 20 points for the Thunder, who lost for the first time in the post-season and allowed more than 100 points for the first time in their six playoff games.

https://apnews.com/hub/NBA

The Canadian Press – May 9, 2024 / 8:11 pm | Story: 486676

BOSTON (AP) — The Celtics are once again following a troubling script in the second round of the playoffs.

Boston opened its first-round series against Miami with a dominating Game 1 win and followed it up with a lackluster effort in Game 2.

That pattern repeated itself during the Celtics’ 118-94 Game 2 loss to the Cavaliers on Thursday night.

Almost everything Boston did well in a 25-point victory in Game 1 – knock down 3-pointers, defend and rebound — was flipped by the Cavaliers in Game 2.

The Cavs held advantages in 3-point shooting (plus-15 points), points in the paint (60-34), rebounds (44-31) and even fast-break points (14-8).

Most troubling, though, was the Celtics’ performance from beyond the arc.

Boston went 8 of 35 from the 3-point line (22.9%), including 2 of 18 in the second half. Cleveland finished 13 of 28 (46.4%). Teams are now 103-6 this season when holding a plus-20 percentage points advantage from 3.

“I think it was just a bad game,” Celtics forward Jaylen Brown said. “Obviously, we didn’t shoot the ball well tonight. But defensively that was unacceptable. … So we didn’t help ourselves tonight.”

Brown and fellow All-Star Jayson Tatum both shot 7 of 17 from the field, scoring 19 and 25 points, respectively.

The poor 3-point shooting was eerily reminiscent of the last time Cleveland won a game in Boston in regulation – the Cavs’ Game 7 win in the 2018 conference finals. Boston went just 7 of 39 from the 3-point line in that game.

“I definitely think there were times when we went through tough stretches defensively and if affected our offense,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said.

As bad a night as the Celtics had, they were very much in the game entering the second half.

The score was knotted at 54-all at halftime. Then Cleveland went to work in the third quarter, getting 16 points from Donovan Mitchell and going 7 of 10 from the 3-point line. It helped the Cavaliers outscore the Celtics 36-24 for the period.

Cleveland started the fourth quarter on a 12-5 run to push its lead to 102-83 with less than nine minutes to play.

Boston threw in the towel with 4:58 remaining in the game and trailing by 24.

“We expected them to play better and they did,” Celtics center Al Horford said. “They were the better team tonight. You have to give them credit. They responded and we didn’t.”

Brown said he expected the film review of the game to be revealing on a night in which he said the Cavs were more assertive across the board. That will almost certainly include a long look at how they can better contain center Evan Mobley.

Mobley continued to fill in for Cleveland center Jarrett Allen, who sat out Game 2 and his missed five consecutive games as he continues to deal with bruised ribs he sustained in Round 1 against Orlando.

Mobley came out more aggressive on the inside early with Boston’s Kristaps Porzingis remaining sidelined with a strained right calf.

Mobley had 11 points in the first quarter. It included eight of Cleveland’s 22 points in the paint and helped the Cavs take a 30-24 lead into the second. He finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds – his third straight double-double.

Then there’s Mitchell, who finished with 29 points and eight assists after 33 points in Game 1.

Brown said any hopes of bouncing back in Game 3 on Saturday must also start with doing a better job containing him.

“He made some tough shots tonight. Some tough contested 3s, we have to be up. He’s a basketball player. We’ve got to have a little more alertness to him,” Brown said. “We just have to keep making it tough.”

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA

The Canadian Press – May 9, 2024 / 6:39 pm | Story: 486656

BOSTON (AP) — Donovan Mitchell banked in a 3-pointer from a few steps beyond the top of the arc and could only shrug as he backpedaled back on defense. He followed with two baskets in the lane to give the Cleveland Cavaliers a 16-point lead.

“Sometimes you get lucky,” Mitchell said after scoring 29 points to help Cleveland beat Boston 118-94 on Thursday night. “Shooters shoot.”

Two nights after losing the opener by 25 points, the Cavaliers answered with a blowout of their own, beating the top-seeded Celtics in Boston to tie their Eastern Conference semifinal series at one game apiece. The teams now head to Cleveland for Games 3 and 4 on Saturday and Monday.

“We expected them to play better and they did,” Celtics center Al Horford said. “They responded and we didn’t.”

Mitchell scored 33 points in the opener but got little help. On Thursday, the Cavs All-Star took just six shots and scored six points in the first half, while handing out five assists. Mitchell had 16 points in the third quarter and hit three straight baskets to start the fourth, including the 28-footer off the glass.

“I hadn’t shot much, trying to find ways to get guys involved early, and picking my spots. I was just continuing to find ways to apply pressure on them,” said Mitchell, who finished with eight assists and seven rebounds.

“In the second half it was scoring,” he said. “Sometimes it’s assists. Sometimes it’s rebounds. Whatever it takes. And when it was time to go, it’s time to go. I knew at some point I was going to have to start, obviously, shooting.”

Jayson Tatum scored 25 for Boston, and Jaylen Brown added 19 points. But Derrick White, whose 25 points in Game 1 helped the Celtics coast to a 120-95 win, managed just 10 points, missing seven of his eight 3-point tries.

With the win, the Cavaliers assured themselves of at least a fifth game back in Boston on Wednesday. And after finally getting their first road win in this postseason, they showed that they can win there.

“When we defend the way we defended and our shots fall, what we do travels,” Cleveland coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “And we can win anywhere.”

Evan Mobley had 21 points and 10 rebounds for his third straight double-double, and his fifth of this postseason. Caris LeVert scored 21 off the bench for Cleveland, hitting a pull-up jumper midway through the fourth quarter that gave the Cavaliers a 20-point lead and started a parade of fans to the exits. Many of those who stayed began booing.

A minute later, after the Celtics missed another 3-pointer – they were 8 for 35 from long distance in all — LeVert made a layup and drew a flagrant foul from Tatum. It was a 25-point game, and Boston coach Joe Mazzulla emptied his bench.

Bickerstaff followed soon after, getting some rest for Mitchell, who played a game-high 37 minutes on Tuesday night but was on the bench for the 10-2 Celtics run to start the fourth that blew open the game.

Mitchell hit four of his five 3-point attempts in the third quarter to help Cleveland extend its lead to as many as 14 points. And he remained in the game at the start of the fourth and until the game was put away, with Cleveland up 27 and four minutes left.

“At halftime I was just like, ’I don’t plan on coming out.’ That was the mindset,” Mitchell said. “He asked me if I needed (a break) and I was like, ‘I’m good.’”

According to ESPN, the 24-point win was the biggest in the playoffs by a double-digit underdog since 1991.

Celtics center Kristaps Porzingis missed his third straight game with a strained calf muscle. Mobley started at center in place of Jarrett Allen, who has missed five straight games with bruised ribs, and reached a career playoff high in points.

Mobley scored 11 in the first quarter, when the Cavaliers quickly fell behind by nine – giving the vibes of a second straight blowout. But Cleveland ran off 11 points in a row – eight from LeVert. Boston went ahead by eight in the second before the Cavs sent it into halftime tied.

Tatum had 16 points, six rebounds and four assists at the half, and Mobley had 15, seven, and five.

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA

The Canadian Press – May 9, 2024 / 4:39 pm | Story: 486634

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Timberwolves have been the surprise hit of the NBA playoffs, winning their first six games behind a dominant defense, clutch performances from superstar Anthony Edwards and enviable depth to fuel a relentless approach.

They did the hard part by taking the first two games of their Western Conference semifinal series in Denver from the defending champion Nuggets in commanding fashion. Now they get to take the court in front of their own crowd. Game 3 is on Friday night, a late tipoff that will only intensify the atmosphere inside the success-deprived arena.

“The fans have been great all year,” Karl-Anthony Towns said after practice on Thursday. “I’ve said it before: They have this place jumping like Prince is back.”

Having completed their first-round sweep of Phoenix with two wins on the road, the Timberwolves have not played at Target Center since April 23, a span of 17 days between home games. The team has partnered with 11 downtown bars to host watch parties. Ticket prices on the secondary market were starting in the $250 range for single seats near the rafters, as of Thursday afternoon.

Just about the buzz to be expected around a franchise that has not only never won an NBA title, but advanced past the first round only once in the 34 seasons prior to this.

“The city is on fire. People are super excited about this team,” coach Chris Finch said. “It’s a team that’s easy to root for because of the way they play. They play hard. They share the ball. I think we have a lot of good guys who play with a lot of personality.”

In the history of the NBA playoffs, including the Nuggets, 30 teams have lost the first two games at home in a best-of-seven series, according to Sportradar research. Only five of them came back to win, with the Los Angeles Clippers the most recent in a 2021 first-round rally past Dallas.

The Nuggets are confident they can be the sixth. But they’ll have to find a way to start fast, minimize the crowd noise and avoid the uncharacteristic frustration they wore throughout their 106-80 loss in Game 2. Point guard Jamal Murray, who has just 25 points in the series on 9-for-32 shooting, was fined $100,000 for throwing a heat pack onto the court.

“Even if we do lose the first quarter,” Murray said, “just the intent, the energy, the focus to get it done I think is big.”

The New York Knicks won’t be as desperate when they take the floor in Indianapolis for Game 3 earlier in the evening. They’ve got a 2-0 lead on the Pacers, who, if they weren’t as flustered in Game 2 as the Nuggets were on their home floor, are carrying some discouragement of their own. Coach Rick Carlisle voiced their displeasure with the officiating after the 130-121 loss in New York.

“They smashed us on the boards again,” guard T.J. McConnell said, “and brought more energy than we did so we have to fix that.”

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KNICKS AT PACERS

New York leads 2-0. Game 3, 7 p.m. EDT, ESPN

— NEED TO KNOW: Carlisle doesn’t complain often about officiating, but after two physical games in New York he felt his team got the short end of the whistles and publicly called out the refs. The Pacers backed him by sending 78 plays to the league office for review, and now all eyes will be on the foul totals when the series shifts to Indiana’s home court.

— KEEP AN EYE ON: Rebounding. Even before this Eastern Conference semifinal series started, Carlisle said repeatedly his team needed to match New York’s ruggedness around the rim. But in the second halves of the first two games, the Pacers frequently failed to finish defensive stops because they couldn’t come up with key rebounds. The Knicks have an 84-66 edge on the glass in the series.

— INJURY WATCH: Knicks All-Star guard Jalen Brunson, who missed the final 15 minutes of the first half in Game 2 with a right foot injury, returned for the second half to play through the discomfort. He’s listed as questionable. The Knicks have ruled out forward OG Anunoby with an injured left hamstring, thinning a rotation that’s already shortened by the absence of Julius Randle, Bojan Bogdanovic and Mitchell Robinson. The Pacers listed All-Star Tyrese Haliburton as questionable with lower back spasms.

— PRESSURE IS ON: Carlisle. The Pacers’ first-round triumph over Milwaukee required wins in all three of their home games and gave Carlisle a playoff series victory for the first time since he led the Mavericks to the 2011 NBA championship.

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NUGGETS AT TIMBERWOLVES

Minnesota leads 2-0. Game 3, 9:30 p.m. EDT, ESPN

— NEED TO KNOW: After recording the franchise’s first four-game series sweep in the first round against the Suns, the Timberwolves are halfway to another one. They’ll get four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert back, too, after he missed Game 2 for the birth of his son.

— KEEP AN EYE ON: Edwards and Towns. The All-Star duo has five playoff games with 25-plus points apiece, a franchise record.

— INJURY WATCH: Murray has been playing through a strained left calf. He’s listed as questionable for Game 3 for the Nuggets, along with guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (bruised right abdomen) and backup Reggie Jackson (bruised left calf).

— PRESSURE IS ON: Nikola Jokic. The announcement of his third NBA MVP award came at an awkward time with the Nuggets reeling from their Game 2 meltdown. The Serbian superstar had only 16 points on 5-for-13 shooting in Game 2.

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AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney in New York and AP Sports Writers Michael Marot in Indianapolis and Arnie Stapleton in Denver contributed.

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA

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