NBA

Clippers snap 76ers' winning streak, Jazz stay hot as Spurs coach Popovich joins exclusive club

By Sports Desk March 28, 2021

The Los Angeles Clippers spoiled Doc Rivers' return as they topped the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers 122-112 in the NBA.

Rivers reunited with the Clippers for the first time since being fired and joining the 76ers in the offseason, having led the Los Angeles franchise to six playoff appearances.

But Rivers did not have much to celebrate after the 76ers had their four-game winning streak snapped on Saturday.

Kawhi Leonard posted 28 points – 19 in the first half – and Clippers team-mate Paul George added 24 of his own in Los Angeles.

Terance Mann had a season-high 23 points for the Clippers on 10-of-12 shooting from the field, while he made both of his three-point attempts.

The 76ers had a six-game road winning run ended, despite a game-high 29 points from Tobias Harris.

 

Mitchell sparks Jazz

Donovan Mitchell put up 35 points as the NBA-leading Utah Jazz defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 126-110. Mitchell was efficient in Utah, where he was 12-of-17 shooting from the field, to go with his five three-pointers from seven attempts in 28 minutes. All-Star team-mate Rudy Gobert (16 points and 14 rebounds) contributed a double-double.

Gregg Popovich became the third coach in NBA history to reach 1,300 regular-season wins following the San Antonio Spurs' 120-104 victory against the Chicago Bulls. Only Don Nelson (1,335) and Lenny Wilkens (1,332) have had 1,300 wins or more. All-Star Nikola Vucevic had 21 points and nine rebounds in his debut for the Bulls after being traded by the lowly Orlando Magic.

Zion Williamson's 38 points led the New Orleans Pelicans past the Dallas Mavericks 112-103. Tim Hardaway Jr. had 30 points off the bench for the beaten Mavericks.

Russell Westbrook's triple-double of 19 points, 19 rebounds and 10 assists fuelled a 106-92 win for the Washington Wizards against the Detroit Pistons.

The Milwaukee Bucks were upstaged 102-96 by the New York Knicks despite double-doubles from two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (23 points and 10 rebounds), Jordan Nwora (21 points and 10 rebounds) and Brook Lopez (12 points and 10 rebounds).

 

Awful Richardson

The Mavericks went down to the Pelicans and Josh Richardson struggled. The shooting guard finished one-of-11 from the field. Richardson missed all four of his attempts from beyond the arc for a measly four points in 34 minutes.

Mike Scott – in the starting five for the 76ers – finished with just three points in Los Angeles. He was one-of-six from the field, making just one three-pointer in 29 minutes.

 

Barnes calls game!

With the Sacramento Kings trailing 98-97, Harrison Barnes nailed a buzzer-beating three after catching a full-court pass to sink the Cleveland Cavaliers. De'Aaron Fox's 36 points set the tone for the Kings, who edged the Cavaliers 100-98.

 

Saturday's results

Washington Wizards 106-92 Detroit Pistons
New York Knicks 102-96 Milwaukee Bucks
Houston Rockets 129-107 Minnesota Timberwolves
San Antonio Spurs 120-104 Chicago Bulls
New Orleans Pelicans 112-103 Dallas Mavericks
Boston Celtics 111-94 Oklahoma City Thunder
Utah Jazz 126-110 Memphis Grizzlies
Los Angeles Clippers 122-112 Philadelphia 76ers
Sacramento Kings 100-98 Cleveland Cavaliers

 

Suns at Hornets

The high-flying Phoenix Suns (30-14) – second in the west – will visit the in-form Charlotte Hornets (23-21) on Sunday. Charlotte have won three straight games to sit fourth in the Eastern Conference.

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  • 'What you're looking at is a great series' – Spoelstra backs Heat to recover from sore Game 4 loss to Celtics 'What you're looking at is a great series' – Spoelstra backs Heat to recover from sore Game 4 loss to Celtics

    Erik Spoelstra has no doubt the Miami Heat can inflict the sort of brutal defeat that the Boston Celtics doled out in Game 4 as the Eastern Conference Finals heads towards its climax.

    A 102-82 loss in Boston on Monday night came on the back of Miami scoring a trifling 11 points in the first quarter, with Jimmy Butler scoring just six points all night and no Heat starter reaching double figures.

    The visitors shot just 33.3 per cent from the field (30 of 90), with Boston's win squaring the series at 2-2 and setting up Game 5 in Miami on Wednesday evening as a pivotal occasion.

    Coach Spoelstra said: "More than anything, our offense really hurt us at the beginning. They weren't getting the sort of purposeful execution that you need to on the road. [Boston] were able to get some relief points from that and get to the free-throw line. They did a better job of getting into us and rotating guys into the paint."

    It was 57-33 by the halfway mark, and Spoelstra admitted the Heat simply failed to ignite. Yet he says Miami can swiftly set the game aside and dominate the next time the teams meet on court, saying it would not surprise him if the tables are turned.

    "We've got guys that love these kinds of moments, the playoffs. You've just got to stay together," Spoelstra said.

    "This is part of the playoffs. There are these extreme highs and lows, a lot of emotion. You just have to stay the course, stay together. What you're looking at is a great series. It's 2-2. You have to embrace that. Hopefully this competition beings out the absolute best in all of us.

    "They got the best of us tonight. We'll take this hit and then get to Miami and get ready for Game 5. Whatever they have done to us, we can do to them."

    Jayson Tatum led Boston with 31 points. The Celtics led by 32 points at one stage before Miami began to claw back the deficit late on.

    "We're not making any excuses. They outplayed us tonight, for sure," said Spoelstra.

  • Mourinho proving the hunger remains as Abraham-inspired Roma target European glory Mourinho proving the hunger remains as Abraham-inspired Roma target European glory

    You would have been forgiven for thinking the days of Jose Mourinho leading teams to European finals were over.

    From 2002 to 2010, Mourinho-coached sides appeared in two Champions League finals and one UEFA Cup showdown. On each occasion, 'The Special One' triumphed.

    He had to wait seven years for his next appearance in a continental showpiece, but he kept up his 100 per cent record – Manchester United beating Ajax to lift the 2016-17 Europa League trophy.

    But that was an early peak in Mourinho's United tenure. His stock has since fallen. He was sacked in 2018 and then lasted just 18 months at Tottenham, the only club he has managed so far where he has not won a trophy.

    He might have had the opportunity to win the EFL Cup with Spurs, though he was sacked before that rescheduled match could take place. Hard lines.

    It was hard not to feel Mourinho's race had been run. He can no longer be considered among the truly elite managers, and that was reflected as he rocked up at Roma.

    Not that Roma, three-time champions of Italy, are by any means a small club. They were in the Champions League semi-finals as recently as 2018.

    Yet, their last title came in 2001 and their last trophy of any description came in 2008 when they won the Coppa Italia for the ninth time. Ironically, Mourinho's Inter then beat Roma in the Supercoppa Italiana at the start of the following season, the last time the Giallorossi had a chance to win a piece of silverware.

    But Mourinho is a winner, and now he has the chance to remind everyone of that. He is back in a European final as Roma get the opportunity to win their first major European trophy. No other coach has reached the final of a major European competition with four different clubs.

    "I am a coach with a certain history and Roma are a big club," he told UEFA's Italian website. "I did feel a little bit of responsibility to make this a big competition.

    "The Conference League is our Champions League. This is the level we are at, the competition we are playing for. The club has not reached a game like this for a very long time."

    The Europa Conference League may have been scoffed at when it was introduced but for fans of Roma, and their opponents Feyenoord, continental glory that would otherwise have evaded them is now within their grasp.

    With a record-breaking striker leading the line in the form of Tammy Abraham, Mourinho might just have a fifth European title under his belt.

    Life in the old dog?

    Mourinho has overseen 54 games so far at Roma, triumphing in 28 of them to give him a win percentage of 52.

    That is a slight dip from the 55 per cent in 2020-21, though that was over three fewer matches, but an improvement on the 46 per cent (from 35 games) and 42 per cent (from 24 fixtures) in 2019-20 and 2018-19 respectively.

    Roma won 18 Serie A games this season, ensuring a place in the Europa League through a sixth-placed finish.

    His 47 per cent win ratio in the league ranks him 10th out of Roma coaches to have overseen at least 10 games, while his 52 per cent in all competitions puts him joint-sixth, alongside predecessor Paulo Fonseca, of those bosses to have taken charge of at least 20 matches.

    Perhaps Mourinho's decline is highlighted by the fact he is placing so much emphasis on winning UEFA's third-tier club tournament, but from Roma's perspective, that desire will surely be welcome.

    Abraham the key?

    Having been deemed surplus to requirements at Chelsea, Abraham has become something of a cult figure at Roma.

    Abraham called Mourinho "the best manager in the world" in an interview with talkSPORT in April, and he has certainly thrived under the Portuguese's guidance.

    He has scored 27 goals across all competitions this season, one better than the previous best tally he had managed, which was 26 goals for both Bristol City (in 2016-17) and Aston Villa (2018-19), albeit both of those campaigns were in the Championship.

    It has been a record-breaking season for Abraham. A first-half double against Torino on Friday saw the 24-year-old become the highest-scoring English player in a single season in the Italian top flight, surpassing the previous mark of 16 set by Gerald Hitchens at Inter in 1961-62. 

    The only Roma player to score more than the England international's haul of 17 in a debut Serie A season with the club was Rodolfo Volk, who registered 21 in the 1929-30 campaign. 

    He has featured in all but one of Roma's league games, starting 36 times and averaging a goal every 182 minutes, converting 17.8 per cent of his 95 shots, which ranks better than two of his seasons in the Premier League (13.33 per cent in 2017-18 and 16.22 in 2019-20).

    Abraham has scored nine times from 13 Conference League appearances and he has proved many doubters wrong this season.

    With a place in Gareth Southgate's World Cup squad later this year potentially up for grabs, playing a pivotal role in Roma's maiden European success would be some way to cap a fine campaign and seal his name in Giallorossi folklore.

  • Jayson Tatum shines for Celtics after saying he let team-mates down in Game 3 Jayson Tatum shines for Celtics after saying he let team-mates down in Game 3

    Jayson Tatum never doubted himself after a poor Game 3 performance, returning to a starring role as the Boston Celtics dominated the Miami Heat 102-82 in Game 4.

    The Celtics had their backs to the wall in the latest tussle of the Eastern Conference Finals, with the threat of heading back to Miami for Game 5 trailing 3-1, but they made sure it was not a nervous night for the Boston faithful.

    Derrick White – returning to the starting line-up after the birth of his son – started in place of the injured Marcus Smart and scored the first seven points, kick-starting a 26-4 run to open the game.

    The Celtics defense proved to be immense, holding the visitors to just 42 points with less than three minutes remaining in the third quarter.

    Eleven first-quarter points also set a new record for the Heat's worst offensive first quarter in any playoff game in their history.

    After only scoring 10 points in Game 3, Tatum responded in fine fashion, racking up a team-high 31 points on eight-of-16 shooting, hitting 14-of-16 free throws, while adding eight rebounds, five assists and two blocks.

    Speaking later, Tatum highlighted the confidence he has in his ability, despite how dark things can get immediately following a painful loss.

    "Right after it's tough," he said. "You're frustrated with how you played, knowing how important this time of year is, and feeling like you let your team-mates down.

    "But I think I do a really good job of sleeping it off – regardless of if I have 10 points or 46 points – the next day is the next day, and whatever happened, happened.

    "Obviously I was ready to get back to playing, but I didn't doubt myself – I know how to play basketball.

    "Regardless of how many points I score, [it's about] just trying to come out and help us get a win. That's most important."

    With the series now tied at 2-2, Tatum called it "a new series", but he stressed his side need to bring the same intensity after a win, as opposed to just after crushing losses.

    "It's 2-2 – it's kind of like a new series, a best-of-three," Tatum said.

    "Human nature plays a part in [the swings in the series]. When you win a game, you can relax a little bit, but obviously when we lose a game, we feel like the next game is do-or-die, and then we come out and play how we did.

    "We need to have that mindset going into Game 5 – it is a must-win game – and tonight was essentially something like that. Everybody knew it, we could all feel it, and I think it showed with the way we came out."

    When asked if he enjoyed sitting out the fourth quarter after clocking 117 minutes across the first three games of the series, Tatum said: "It was extremely nice – especially because we were winning."

    Celtics coach Ime Udoka made sure to highlight the efforts of White after he finished with 13 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three steals.

    "He checks so many boxes for us, it's not only things that show up on the stat sheet," Udoka said.

    "He's the guy that moves the ball very well, defends extremely well, multiple positions… I couldn't be more happy with him being here, and what he brings to this team."

    Udoka touched on what it will take to come out on top in this series, echoing Tatum's sentiments about bringing the same intensity after a win.

    "Our mindset was right coming out, we came out with the right physicality and focus," he said. "We've just got to muster that same energy when we're coming off a win, as well as a loss.

    "It wasn't our best offensive night, but defensively, obviously we were elite tonight, for the most part.

    "We've got room to grow still, that's the thing with us, and we can always rely on our defense. We've won several games doing that this year when our shots aren't falling.

    "To hold them in the 30s for basically three quarters, it's high-level defense.

    "We can do that even if our shots are not falling, it's mainly about taking care of the ball, not letting them get anything easy, and kind of wearing on them mentally."

    After Game 5 in Miami, Game 6 will head back to Boston, with a potential Game 7 to be played in Miami, if required.

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