HOOP HANGOUT • NBA PLAYOFFS • GAMEDAY POST • April 21st 2019

Celtics sweep Pacers; Warriors, Raptors take 3-1 leads

Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS — Gordon Hayward scored 20 points and Marcus Morris started a decisive 3-point flurry late in the fourth quarter Sunday to give the Boston Celtics a series-clinching 110-106 victory at Indiana.

It’s the first four-game sweep for the Celtics since 2011 and their second since 1986-87, becoming the first team to reach the second round of the playoffs.

Bojan Bogdanovic finished with 22 points and Tyreke Evans finished with a playoff career-high of 21 to lead the Pacers. It still wasn’t enough to prevent Indiana from enduring its second first-round sweep in three years — the only two best-of-seven sweeps in franchise history.

WARRIORS 113, CLIPPERS 105

LOS ANGELES — Kevin Durant scored 33 points, Klay Thompson added 32 and Golden State beat Los Angeles to take a commanding 3-1 lead in their first-round playoff series.

Stephen Curry was in foul trouble for the second straight game and finished with 12 points. Andrew Bogut fouled out with 5:50 remaining in the game with eight points and 10 rebounds.

The Warriors were 17 of 19 from the free throw line. They controlled the boards, 49-33, led by Curry and Bogut with 10 rebounds apiece.

Rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the Clippers with a career-high 25 points. Danilo Gallinari added 16 points but was just 5 of 20 from the floor. Patrick Beverley had 12 points and 10 rebounds.

TRAIL BLAZERS 111, THUNDER 98

OKLAHOMA CITY — Damian Lillard scored 15 of his 24 points in the third quarter, and Portland held Russell Westbrook without a basket in the second half in beating Oklahoma City to take a 3-1 lead in their series.

C.J. McCollum scored 27 points, Al-Farouq Aminu had 19 points and nine rebounds and Maurice Harkless added 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Trail Blazers. Portland can close out the series Tuesday at home.

Paul George had 32 points and 10 rebounds for Oklahoma City. Dennis Schroder added 17 points.

Westbrook scored 14 points on 5-for-21 shooting. He missed his final 10 shots and was 0 for 7 for one point in the second half.

RAPTORS 107, MAGIC 85

ORLANDO, Fla. — Kawhi Leonard scored 34 points and Toronto beat Orlando to take a 3-1 lead in their Eastern Conference first-round series.

Pascal Siakam and Norman Powell each scored 16 for the Raptors, who can advance with a home win in Game 5 on Tuesday. Toronto has now won three consecutive postseason games, only the third time that’s happened in franchise history.

Aaron Gordon scored 25 for the Magic, making his first seven shots of the second half. Evan Fournier scored 19 and Nikola Vucevicadded 11 for the Magic, who committed 17 turnovers that became 21 Toronto points.

James Harden started 0-15, but his flops in this series are why fans are roasting him

Nate Scott | USA TODAY SPORTS

The Houston Rockets hung on to beat the Utah Jazz on Saturday night 104-101, but the win was almost in spite of James Harden, who had one of his most ignominious performances in a Rockets uniform.

Harden started the game 0-15 from the field and finished 3 of 20, needing help from his teammates and a great night at the free throw line (he was 14 of 16 from the stripe) to hang close and eventually win the game.

The shooting night was embarrassing, but fans weren’t really getting on Harden for having an off shooting night. He’s a good player and good players sometimes have off nights. What fans were getting after him about were the flops.

There was this piece of theater from Game 3, when a light touch in the back in the post sent him sprawling.

Then there was this masterpiece from Game 2, during which the Jazz’ Joe Ingles got past him, raised his arm a little bit, and Harden grabbed his throat as if he’d been struck by the late Bruce Lee himself.

Fans had a blast with it.

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Steve Kerr pushes for Warriors to re-sign Kevon Looney to long-term deal

Monte Poole | NBC SPORTS

LOS ANGELES – Steve Kerr doesn’t often publicly discuss personnel matters faced by the Warriors. Those questions, he will say, are for general manager Bob Myers.

The coach made an exception Friday. He expressed his desire that the team re-signs center Kevon Looney to a long-term contract when he becomes a free agent in July.

“I was terrified all last year, after we denied the option, that we were going to lose him,” Kerr said. “He was great last year. But it was a bad free-agent market for the players last summer. People just didn’t have money. So, we got lucky in terms of being able to keep him. And he’s turned into such a good player for us.

“I’m really, really hoping that we can keep him long term and that we can give him the contract he deserves and he can make some good money and we can enjoy having him on our team for many years.”

This does not imply that Kerr has no desire to see Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson remain Warriors beyond this season, as well. Rather, it is more a matter of not wanting to lose Looney, who has become a valuable member of the rotation and whose cost will be a fraction of what Durant and Thompson will command on the open market.

Looney, 23, is a coach’s dream insofar as he rarely makes mistakes and is not prone to some of the mental errors that can plague young players. He has some physical limitations – he’s an average athlete – but he compensates with sound judgment and hoops intellect.

After a solid regular season, particularly on defense, Looney has been terrific through three postseason games. In 53 minutes off the bench, he has scored 35 points on an absurd 82.1 percent (14-of-17), while adding 11 rebounds, two blocks and two steals, with one turnover.

“He’s gotten better and better,” Kerr said of Looney’s offense. “You can see the confidence growing every game . . . there’s a lot of dunks and a lot of put-backs, but also making that midrange shot. This is the best he has played in his career.”

Looney re-signed with the Warriors last summer for $1.57 million. The Warriors will have full Bird rights this time around and, if so inclined, likely would be looking at deal that would pay somewhere in the range of $5-6 million annually.

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HOOP HANGOUT • NBA PLAYOFFS • GAMEDAY POST • April 20th 2019

Embiid returns to help 76ers beat Nets for 3-1 series lead

Associated Press

NEW YORK — Joel Embiid had 31 points and 16 rebounds, and passed to Mike Scott for the go-ahead 3-pointer with 18 seconds left as the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Brooklyn Nets 112-108 on Saturday to take a 3-1 series lead.

Embiid also had a flagrant foul that led to a scuffle and two ejections during an eventful return to the lineup after missing Game 3 with a sore left knee.

Tobias Harris had 24 points, eight rebounds and six assists for the 76ers. They can advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals for the second straight season with a victory at home Tuesday night.

They got a big boost from the return of Embiid, who scored eight straight points in the fourth quarter after the Nets led by seven. He helped the 76ers overcome the loss of Jimmy Butler, who was ejected in the third quarter after Embiid’s hard foul on Jarrett Allen.

Caris LeVert scored 25 points after being inserted into the Nets’ starting lineup. D’Angelo Russell and Allen each added 21.

Jared Dudley also was inserted into the starting lineup for the Nets and had been agitating the 76ers with his defense and his talking, but was gone midway through the third quarter as one of the central figures in the scuffle that spilled into the stands.

Embiid swung his arm forcefully while fouling Allen, and Dudley quickly moved in and bumped Embiid. Butler then ran in and pushed Dudley to start the shoving. Dudley, Simmons and referee Ed Malloy all got knocked into the seats, and after a lengthy video review, Butler and Dudley were given technical fouls and ejected, and Embiid’s foul was ruled a flagrant 1.

Embiid would later make the biggest mark with his offense. The 76ers were trying to get the ball to him trailing by one after Joe Harris‘ layup, but Embiid couldn’t control the pass under the rim. But he regained the ball and found Scott in the corner for a 3 and a 110-108 lead.

Allen then turned the ball over after three Sixers surrounded him and Harris closed out the scoring with two free throws.

NUGGETS 107, SPURS 103

SAN ANTONIO — Nikola Jokic had 29 points and 12 rebounds, Jamal Murray added 24 points and Denver beat San Antonio, rebounding from a flat performance tie the series at two games apiece.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 24 points and nine rebounds for San Antonio. DeMar DeRozan added 19 points before he was ejected with five minutes remaining after arguing with an official over an offensive foul.

Game 5 is Tuesday night in Denver.

BUCKS 119, PISTONS 103

DETROIT — Khris Middleton had 20 points and nine rebounds and Milwaukee beat Detroit to take a 3-0 series lead.

The Bucks can finish off the Eastern Conference series Monday night in Detroit.

The Bucks overcame 27 points, seven rebounds and six assists from Blake Griffin in his return from a right knee injury. He missed the first two games of the series after sitting out four of the final six in the regular season.

Brook Lopez and Eric Bledsoe each scored 19 points for Milwaukee. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 14 points and 10 rebounds, struggling with foul trouble.

ROCKETS 104, JAZZ 101

SALT LAKE CITY — James Harden overcome a horrible shooting performance and scored 14 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter, leading the Houston past Utah for a commanding 3-0 lead in their first-round playoff series.

Harden made a 3-pointer and added two free throws with 42.4 seconds left to give the Rockets a 101-97 lead. After Donovan Mitchell made two free throws, Harden missed another 3-point attempt, but P.J. Tucker, who finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds, grabbed the rebound, was fouled and made one of two free throws.

?WATCH: Russell Westbrook Taunts Damian Lillard With The Rock A Baby After A Thoroughly Filthy Rejection

Russell Westbrook’s violent block of Damian Lillard’s layup was so darn beautiful

Andy Nesbitt | USA TODAY SPORTS

The fun in this Portland vs. Oklahoma series has been watching star point guards Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook going at it the first few games.

Lillard was a force in the first two games, leading the Trail Blazers to two straight wins at home.

They continued their battle Friday night in Oklahoma City and Westbrook got the last laugh as the Thunder held off the Trail Blazers, 120-108, to get their first win of the series.

And the most memorable play from the game came on the defensive end for Westbrook, when he chased down Lillard and blocked his layup from behind in such a beautiful way early in the third quarter.

Check this thing out:

My. Goodness.

Here, watch it again. Westbrook never quits:

Can’t wait for Game 4 on Sunday night.

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Pascal Siakam after career playoff night leading Raptors’ Game 3 win: My ‘confidence’ is growing

Pascal Siakam’s career playoff night helps Raptors hold off Magic in Game 3

Ben Rohrbach | Yahoo Sports

With Kawhi Leonard struggling and the Orlando Magic threatening in Game 3, Most Improved Player favorite Pascal Siakam saved the Toronto Raptors from falling behind in the first round and facing more questions about ghosts of playoff past.

When Nikola Vucevic’s 3-pointer gave the Magic their first lead of the game midway through the third quarter, Siakam answered with a triple of his own. Orlando retook the lead for a fleeting moment, but Siakam scored or assisted on nine straight points during a 16-0 run that buried the offense-challenged Magic in too big a hole.

By the end of that run, Siakam had already surpassed his previous career playoff high of 24 points, which he set in Toronto’s disappointing Game 1 loss to Orlando. The 25-year-old Cameroonian totaled 30 points, adding 11 rebounds and four assists in a 98-93 win that gave the two-seeded Raptors a 2-1 edge in the series.

“It’s playoff time,” Siakam told ESPN’s Jorge Sedano afterwards. “It’s time to go.”

The Magic had no answer for Siakam, a 6-foot-9 stretch forward with the athleticism and skill to bounce around the halfcourt and score at every level. He made 13 of his 20 field-goal attempts, converting three of his four 3-point tries.

He was Toronto’s representative on our list of seven co-stars who could swing the 2019 NBA title, and he has shown no fear in his first playoffs as a central figure.

Siakam scored all of 66 points as a reserve on the Raptors team that were swept out of the second round by Cleveland Cavaliers season. He has 73 through three games of this series, and Toronto has needed all of them to ward off another playoff scare.

“I put in a lot of work,” added Siakam, who went from seminary student with limited basketball experience to NBA prospect at a Basketball Without Borders camp in 2012. “I’m just happy I’m here and a lot of African kids can look up to me and know that it’s possible. That’s why I’m here, and Most Improved Player will show that.”

Leonard, the All-NBA forward whose arrival transformed Toronto into perennial pretender to legitimate contender, could not buy a basket in Orlando on Friday. He was suffering from an illness and finished 5-for-19 from the field in 37 minutes. So, when the Magic sliced the deficit to four with two minutes to play in the fourth quarter, it was Siakam who found his way to the hoop for his 29th and 30th points.

Siakam became the first Raptors player to exceed 30 points and 10 rebounds in the playoffs since Chris Bosh in 2008. His improvement from frisky bench player to borderline All-Star has had as much, if not more, to do with Toronto reestablishing their legitimacy as a title contender. Now, if only the rest of the Raptors could help hold off the Magic — a game opponent but a .500 one nonetheless — in Round 1.

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Durant, Green double-technical rescinded

ESPN

The NBA has rescinded technical fouls called against the Warriors‘ Kevin Durant and the Clippers‘ JaMychal Green during Thursday’s Game 3, the league announced Friday.

Both players appeared surprised by the third-quarter call, since they were just exchanging a few words when the double-technical was given.

Durant said after the game that he hoped the technical gets rescinded.

“Me and JaMychal Green, we were conversing about the play that happened before, just like you and I,” Durant said. “Somebody came out of nowhere and tech’d us both. How would you feel? That was pretty quick. Hopefully they rescind that one because I don’t want somebody to think somebody is in my head, that’s why I got that tech. I just want to get that out of the way because I don’t want to jeopardize my team in the future.”

With the technical rescinded, Durant is now five away from an automatic one-game suspension.

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NBA rescinds Kevin Durant’s technical foul from Warriors-Clippers Game 3

Drew Shiller | NBC SPORTS

Well, it didn’t take long for Kevin Durant to have his wish granted.

The technical foul that he received during the Warriors’ Game 3 win over the Clippers has been rescinded, the NBA announced Friday morning.

From the moment referee Jason Phillips blew the whistle, it was widely speculated that the league office would come to this decision.

It was an egregious tech.

“We were conversing about the play before, and then someone came out of nowhere and tech’d us both,” Durant explained to the media after the game. “Hopefully it gets rescinded.”

Durant officially has been assessed two technicals in the playoffs, and would receive a one-game suspension if he gets a seventh.

Also, KD had a decent game Thursday night:

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HOOP HANGOUT • NBA PLAYOFFS • GAMEDAY POST • April 19th 2019

Thunder beat Trail Blazers to cut series deficit to 2-1

Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY — Russell Westbrook had 33 points and 11 assists and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Portland Trail Blazers 120-108 on Friday night to cut their series deficit to 2-1.

Paul George added 22 points, Jerami Grant had 18 and Dennis Schroder 17 for the Thunder. They will host Game 4 on Sunday night.

Damian Lillard scored 32 points, but he had just three in the fourth quarter after scoring 25 in the third. C.J. McCollum had 21 and Enes Kanter added 19.

Oklahoma City closed the second quarter on a 10-1 run to take a 49-39 lead. Lillard was held to four points on 2 -or-6 shooting and the Trail Blazers shot 37.5% in the half.

George hit a 3-pointer, was fouled and made the free throw in the opening minutes of the second half to push Oklahoma City’s lead to 55-43. Westbrook backed down Lillard, hit a bank shot and was fouled. Westbrook brought out his “rock the baby” celebration, then made the free throw to put Oklahoma City up by 15.

Lillard scored 23 points the rest of the quarter to help cut Oklahoma City’s lead to 86-82 at the end of the period. McCollum hit a 3-pointer to tie it at 89 early in the fourth. Oklahoma City regained control, with Westbrook’s jumper with just over two minutes remaining putting the Thunder up 10.

CELTICS 104, PACERS 96

INDIANAPOLIS — Jaylen Brown scored 23 points and Kyrie Irvingadded 19 to help Boston beat Indiana for a 3-0 lead in the first-round series.

The Celtics can close out the Eastern Conference series Sunday in Indianapolis.

Irving also had 10 assists and five rebounds.

Tyreke Evans matched his career playoff high with 19 points for the Pacers. Bojan Bogdanovic had 15, not enough to prevent Indiana from losing its sixth straight to Boston in the regular season and playoff.

Indiana desperately needed a win to avoid facing its second sweep in three years, but Boston started fast and closed it with a 10-4 spurt late in the fourth quarter. And once again, Boston’s defense turned the game by allowing just 12 points in the third quarter.

RAPTORS 98, MAGIC 93

ORLANDO, Fla. — Pascal Siakam had 30 points and 11 rebounds, Kawhi Leonard added 16 points and Toronto held off Orlando to take a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference series.

Siakam was 13 for 20 from the floor and the Raptors held Orlando to 36% shooting. Leonard had 10 rebounds, Danny Green had 13 points and Kyle Lowry finished with 12 points and 10 assist.

Terrence Ross led Orlando with 24 points, and Nikola Vucevic shook off a slow start to finish with 22 points and 14 rebounds.

Game 4 is Sunday night in Orlando.

Lowry’s 3-pointer with 7:48 left gave Toronto its biggest lead at 86-69. The Magic came flying back, and Ross’ 3-pointer with 41 seconds left got Orlando to 96-93. Leonard was short with a jumper on the next possession — but the Magic couldn’t control the rebound, and were doomed shortly afterward. Leonard made a pair of free throws with 12.9 seconds remaining to make it a two-possession game again.

L.A. native Jordan Bell honors Nipsey Hussle with shoes & speaks of his profound influence: “I was like ‘damn, I’m not buying no jewelry, I’m buying a house.'”

See previous related stories here and here.

Jordan Bell honors Nipsey Hussle before Warriors’ Game 3 vs. Clippers

Dalton Johnson | NBC SPORTS

The death of fallen rapper Nipsey Hussle, a Los Angeles icon, hit Warriors center Jordan Bell hard. 

“I thought it was fake at first,” Bell, who was born in L.A. and went to high school in Long Beach, told NBC Sports Bay Area’s Logan Murdock on March 31, the day of Hussle’s death. “I started seeing more and more, so I went on Twitter and starting looking for verified accounts tweeting about it.

“You saw pictures of him shot in the head and all that s—. I don’t know, it just f—ed me up. And finding out he died right before the game was tough, really tough.”

As the Warriors’ first-round playoffs series heads to L.A., Bell is honoring Hussle with a pair of customized shoes for Game 3 against the Clippers. 

Hussle was shot in an L.A. strip mall outside of his own clothing store about 45 minutes before the Warriors’ 137-90 win over the Hornets.

Many Warriors looked at Hussle as inspiration, someone who was setting an example to uplift undervalued and impoverished neighborhoods. 

“He was setting examples with his actions. He was showing kids how to get money and keep money,” Bell said. “I was like ‘damn, I’m not buying no jewelry, I’m buying a house.'”

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KD reacts to critics who say he needs to step it up & shoot more: ‘You know who I am’… But do we?

Rachel Nichols, Brian Windhorst and Scottie Pippen react to Kevin Durant’s “You know who I am” interview in response to his battle with Patrick Beverley in the Golden State Warriors vs. Los Angeles Clippers first-round series in the 2019 NBA playoffs. They then (3:20) react to KD’s interview and Steve Kerr’s interview, in which they seemed to disagree on how many shots Durant should take.

Kevin Durant breaks down ‘David and Goliath’ matchup with Patrick Beverley

Nick Schwartz | USA TODAY SPORTS

The Golden State Warriors began their opening playoff series against the Clippers as a historically lopsided betting favorite to advance, but the Warriors surrendered a 31-point lead at home in Game 2 in a stunning collapse. The series shifts to the Staples Center for Game 3 on Thursday, and there’s plenty of evidence that the Clippers’ strategy to try to irritate Kevin Durant is working.

Durant has been primarily guarded by Clippers guard Patrick Beverley, who, despite giving up more than eight inches in height to the former league MVP, has done a fantastic job. Durant has yet to complete a game in the series on the floor, after being ejected following a confrontation with Beverley in Game 1, and fouling out in Game 2.

When asked about the Clippers’ strategy on Wednesday, Durant gave an insightful breakdown of LA’s gameplan, and called Beverley a “pitbull.”

“In this series it’s kind of weird because when the guy is that small, you know, you’ve got the advantage, but the refs see… we hear David and Goliath a lot growing up, so that story is pretty much prominent in people’s minds. So when you put that out there on the court against me, then the refs [are] going to give him a little bit more. So when he runs up on me like a pitbull, grabbing me, holding me, I don’t mind it. That’s how he makes his money. That’s how he feeds his family. But if I throw something back, then let us play. You get what I’m saying? I got four, five offensive fouls like that. I’m just trying to figure out each possession how I can be more effective without getting offensive fouls.”

Durant claimed that he could score on Beverley every possession if left in a one-on-one situation, but said that he plans to focus on sharing the ball and keeping his teammates involved.

“They’re playing a gimmick defense which has been working. Locking everything on the perimeter, guys not even looking at the 3-point line, they’re just forcing guys inside the 3-point line. For us, when I get the ball in my spots, I’ve got a pest, Patrick Beverley, who is up underneath me, who I could definitely shoot over the top and score every time if it’s a one-on-one situation, but we’ve got a guy that’s dropping and helping and then we’ve got another guy that’s just sitting on me, waiting for me to dribble the basketball.

If I put the basketball on the floor, I can probably make 43 percent of my shots if I shoot them like that, but that’s not really going to do nothing for us – the outcome of the game, because we’ve got a nice flow. Everybody touching the rock, everybody shooting and scoring. I’m not going to get in the way of the game because I want to have a little back-and-forth with Patrick Beverley. I’m Kevin Durant. You know who I am.”

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