Orlando Magic Jersey

In his second year with the Orlando Magic, Bismack Biyombo took a step back. Biyombo’s massive contract looms large as the offseason approaches.

It is no secret, but not much went right for the Orlando Magic this past season. Injuries and overall poor play shut down a scorching start.

For Bismack Biyombo, the 2018 season was also one to forget. He saw a drop in numbers across the board, even with a chance to take over for Nikola Vucevic, who missed plenty of games due to injury.

One of the team’s highest-paid players, Biyombo has been relegated to the bench. His strong defensive play just cannot outweigh his offensive limitations. Still, Biyombo received plenty of playing time last year.

As fans clamored for Khem Birch to take over his role, Bismack Biyombo felt his role as the primary backup big slip. He still managed to garner playing time and was the only player to play in all 82 games, but Khem Birch appeared just as a effective, and at a fraction of the cost.

Without a role, and the youth creeping up behind him, his future in Central Florida will be an interesting case study. He is probably one of the best defensive big men on the roster, but with his price tag and flawed game, will he be worth keeping around for three more seasons?

Scattered throughout the season, Biyombo showed flashes of what he was signed to do. Protect the rim, snatch rebounds and be available for easy lobs at the rim. Those games just did not come around enough to stop the losses from piling up.

Despite all the issues, he was someone head coach Frank Vogel could count on. A veteran who has played in Eastern Conference Finals, as well as lottery bound squads, Biyombo has seen it all.

That contract hangs over his head, but figuring out the right role for him remains elusive.

 

Philadelphia 76ers Jersey

The Philadelphia 76ers will attempt to begin a new winning streak after losing to the Miami Heat 113-103. The series is now tied 1-1 with Game 3 to be played in Miami on Thursday night.

The Philadelphia 76ers, down all night, fought to climb back to within two points of Miami with three minutes left. Miami substituted Dwyane Wade back into the game while the 76ers countered with Robert Covington. Miami promptly went on an 8-0 run and held on to win game two of this series.

Philadelphia 76ers, welcome to the real NBA playoffs. Throw out the first game where Miami played a disinterested second half. In game two, Miami played aggressively all night and Philly received their first playoff punch in the face. Game two will be a better representation of how Miami will play the rest of the series. It will be interesting to see how Philly responds on Thursday. Now for the analyzing part, and it’s not pretty.
STARTERS — ADVANTAGE HEAT

Goren Dragic and James Johnson both had excellent games, combining for 38 points on 15-21 shooting. Josh Richardson provided support with 14 points and was a solid defensive presence.

The Sixers were led by Ben Simmons and Dario Saric, who combined for 47 points on 18-38 shooting, however Saric also had five turnovers. Robert Covington was only 3-13 shooting and J.J. Redick 4-13.
BENCH — ADVANTAGE HEAT

It helps Miami to bring a still-effective top 50 player of all-time off their bench. Dwyane Wade was the difference tonight, scoring 28 points on 11-17 shooting. Miami also received contributions from Wayne Ellington and Kelly Olynyk with 11 points each.
COACHING — ADVANTAGE HEAT

Brett Brown was heard in a third quarter huddle telling the 76ers when Miami overplayed them on the perimeter to take the ball to the basket. Brown should have told the Sixers that in the second quarter when Miami began to exert their defensive dominance.

When it became apparent that Miami was going to stick to the 76ers’ shooters all evening, Brown should have instructed Simmons back down his defender earlier and have the other Sixers screen away from Simmons.

Why does T.J. McConnell get minutes in the second half and not Markelle Fultz? This would have been a good learning experience for Fultz. It would have been good for Fultz’s growth to play regular minutes in a game where the 76ers struggle.

By not playing him, Brown may set Fultz back emotionally. Fultz, who may still be in a fragile mental state anyway, may be questioning why he didn’t play. Brett Brown, I have news for you — T.J. is not the answer for a spark off the bench.

The 76ers had a team on the floor that cut the Miami lead from 12 to two points late in the fourth quarter. Why substitute? Finish with what got you there. The time outs are twice as long, so fatigue should not be an issue. Hopefully Brown is not going to over-rely on his tank players.

PLAYING STYLE — ADVANTAGE HEAT

Miami was aggressive defensively and it showed on the Sixers shooing only 42 percent for the game and an anemic 20 percent from three. Miami wasn’t much better, however Miami had players that could go one-on-one and get their own shot. Philly does not.

At half time both Miami and Philly had only nine assists to nine turnovers, however Miami could break down the Sixer defenders going one-on-one. Also the Philly defenders would run out too hard on shooters, allowing the Miami players to drive by them.
REF REPORT

Not a big fan of either Tony Brothers or Scott Foster, however Miami was the aggressor and was rewarded by the officials. Only issue was all the illegal screens most of the Miami players set most of the evening, not just Hassan Whiteside.

Phoenix Suns Jersey

Phoenix Suns
Phoenix Suns

The Phoenix Suns still have one more game on tap for the regular season, but the franchise will finish with the worst record in the NBA after the Suns fell to the Warriors 117-100 on Sunday.

Phoenix has the worst record in the NBA by 2.5 games since the Memphis Grizzlies beat the Pistons.

This entails that the Suns will have the highest chances of landing the No. 1 overall pick of the NBA Draft during the lottery process with a current 20-61 record.

If the Suns receive the No. 1 pick of the NBA Draft, it’s highly possible that Arizona’s superstar big man Deandre Ayton will begin his professional career just up Interstate-10 in Phoenix, a city he’s familiar with considering he played high school ball at Hillcrest Prep after moving from Nassau, Bahamas.

How does the draft lottery work? The 14 teams that didn’t make the playoffs are entered in the lottery to determine the draft order with a different number of ping-pong balls. The ping-pong balls are placed into a machine, and the team with the worst record receives the most combinations of balls to land the No. 1 overall pick while the team with the 14th-worst record has the least amount of combinations.

Behind closed doors, the 14 ping-pong balls are mixed in a lottery machine, with 1,001 possible combinations, and after the top three picks are randomly selected, picks No. 4 through 14 will be in order from worst-to-best record.

The Suns right now have a 25 percent chance of landing the No. 1 pick, a 21.5 percent chance at the No. 2 pick and a 17.7 percent chance at the No. 3 pick. The Grizzlies have a 19.9 percent chance at the No. 1 pick with Dallas (13.9) and Atlanta (13.8) right behind according to Tankathon.

Ayton is projected to be the No. 1 pick by Sports Illustrated and ESPN among others. Ayton went on CBS Sports Radio at the end of March and alluded that he wouldn’t mind playing in Phoenix, particularly with rising star Devin Booker.

“Honestly, I could see myself in Phoenix. I could see a little Shaq and Kobe 2.0,” Ayton said.

The NBA Draft order will be revealed on May 15 in Chicago followed by the combine, which runs from May 16-20. The NBA Draft will be held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York on June 21.

Portland Trail Blazers Jersey

Portland Trail Blazers
Portland Trail Blazers

The Portland Trail Blazers will have a measure of revenge on their minds when they play host to the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday night at Moda Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.

On Wednesday at the FedEx Forum, the Grizzlies scored a come-from-behind 108-103 victory over the Trail Blazers that could have an impact on Portland’s finish in the Western Conference playoff race.

The Trail Blazers (47-29) can secure their fifth consecutive postseason berth with a win on Sunday are also trying to clinch the third seed in the West playoffs. Their magic number is four in their last six regular-season games to gain the No. 3 spot over the San Antonio Spurs. Portland can’t afford a repeat of what happened at Memphis.

“We have to get Memphis back for that one,” Trail Blazers forward/center Zach Collins said. “We felt like we shouldn’t have lost that game at Memphis. We should have finished that road trip strong.”

The Grizzlies (21-55) have long been out of the playoff picture.

“They’re playing free and loose right now,” Collins said. “They’re getting up and down (with a fast-break offense). We have to be ready for that.”

“We were up seven points with five minutes left and lost,” said Portland guard CJ McCollum, who scored 42 points in the game at FedEx Forum. “But credit (the Grizzlies). They fought back and took the game from us. We have to be ready to compete and come out here and make the statement.

“We know they’re going to go out there and play hard. They have a lot of guys trying to compete for minutes, to establish themselves in the NBA or to get new contracts.”

The Blazers will be without starting small forward Moe Harkless (knee) and reserve power forward Ed Davis (ankle). Point guard Damian Lillard returned to action Friday after the birth of his first child, Damian Jr., compiling 17 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds in a 105-96 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers at Moda Center.

The Grizzlies are giving substantial minutes to reserves as they play out the season. Some people call it tanking; others say it is developing younger players. Center Marc Gasol is an example. In Friday’s 107-97 loss at Utah, the Grizzlies’ best player was 11 for 12 from the field, including 6 for 7 from 3-point range, while scoring 28 points in only 23 minutes. He didn’t play the final 16 minutes.

Gasol played the good soldier but seemed irritated by the lack of playing time.

“They’re just trying to compete,” Gasol said of the Memphis substitutes who were seeing more action. “I’m trying to help them with details and tell them where to be. Small things matter a lot, especially at the defensive end.”

Sunday night’s game can be seen locally on NBC Sports Northwest with Kevin Calabro, Lamar Hurd and Brooke Olzendam. Brian Wheeler and Michael Holton will have the call on Rip City Radio 620 AM.

Sacramento Kings Jersey

Tuesday night’s game between the Kings and the Dallas Mavericks tipped off just a few minutes behind schedule, even though entrances to Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center were temporarily closed when protesters descended onto the arena for the second time in less than a week.

Hundreds of protesters blocked the entrances to the arena ahead of the 10 p.m. ET tipoff in response to the March 18 fatal police shooting of Stephon Clark, an unarmed 22-year-old black man who was killed in his grandparents’ backyard in Sacramento. Most fans were prevented from entering Golden 1 Center, and the Kings later released a statement saying refunds would be given.

“Tonight’s demonstrations beginning at City Hall migrated to Golden 1 Center, preventing ticketed guests from safely entering the arena,” the Kings said in a statement. “The safety of our guests is our number one priority. Due to law enforcement being unable to allow ticketed fans to safely enter the arena, the doors were closed to maintain guest and public safety.

“We continue to work with law enforcement and City leadership to ensure the safety and security of fans and the public on Thursday and at future events.”

Some fans who arrived to the game early were let in and permitted to move down into the lower bowl of the arena. Although no official attendance was given, the crowd was estimated at around 4,000.

That was twice the number of people who were allowed in for the Kings game on Thursday, when protesters formed a human chain around the arena and forced the start of the contest to be delayed.

Mavericks forward Harrison Barnes expressed support for the protesters, saying he’s hopeful they will stir debate that he believes is long overdue, not just in Sacramento but around the country.

“If they were doing this somewhere else in the city, would they still be garnering the same attention?” Barnes asked following the Mavericks’ 103-97 victory over the Kings. “Would it be at the front of every opposing team that’s coming in here? Would it be national news that the Sacramento Kings are locking fans out of their stadium? Why are they locking fans out of the stadium? Oh, because this young man was killed. Then the dialogue keeps going that way.

“There’s never an easy way that’s easy for everyone who’s involved to accept it and be on board, but the point is to bring attention to something, to start a debate, and that’s what they’re doing.”

Dirk Nowitzki agreed with Barnes’ sentiment.

“Hopefully [the protests] keep the discussion going in all sorts of communities, not only here,” Nowitzki said. “It’s just unfortunate that things like this continue to happen. Communities need all the help they can get.”

Clark was killed by two Sacramento police officers who were responding to a report of someone breaking car windows in a South Sacramento neighborhood. Police thought Clark was holding a gun, but he was found only with a cellphone. Protests have taken place throughout the city since.

On Thursday, the game between the Kings and the Atlanta Hawks started after a 19-minute delay because of the protesters, who were locked arm in arm surrounding entrances to the Golden 1 Center.

San Antonio Spurs Jersey

San Antonio Spurs star LaMarcus Aldridge earned himself the Western Conference Player of the Week award.

While Kawhi Leonard missed all but nine games this season, the San Antonio Spurs relied on LaMarcus Aldridge for support. It was after a down year that led to offseason speculation, a trade demand and a contract extension. However, Aldridge has produced his best statistical campaign since signing in the 2015 offseason, with 23.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 33.5 minutes per game.

Once again, for the week of Mar. 19 to 25, Aldridge stepped up. This was part of the Spurs’ six-game winning streak, which was snapped Sunday vs. the Milwaukee Bucks. For this performance the NBA gave him the Western Conference Player of the Week award. The following stat-line averages resulted from four games played (3-1 record):

34.8 points
9.3 rebounds
2.3 assists
2.00 blocks
34.8 minutes
59.6 percent (56-94) from the field
86.7 (26-30) from the foul line

Aldridge joined Tim Duncan and David Robinson as the only Spur to win Player of the Week at least 10 times. Not even Leonard clinched this recognition.

Without one-half of San Antonio’s “Big 2,” if it can be called that, does the Texas product deserve All-Star consideration? Houston Rockets star James Harden has dominated the conversation, with LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers sprinkled in. Spurs fans, though, want to see the team’s leading scorer (he’s led the team in scoring 52 times this season) up for consideration, for the NBA’s top honor.

 

It might be Harden’s year, but will Aldridge receive votes? Fans will not learn this until after the season ends, any positive nod at the latter’s season should go a long way toward how he led this battered and bruised team through a tumultuous 74 games and counting.

If not MVP consideration, there’s a case for Aldridge to make the All-NBA First or Second Team when the awards show takes place this summer. Will he place when other big men including Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Davis and Nikola Jokic have had spectacular seasons of their own?

What’s next for the six-time All-Star? Potentially the playoffs, pending the Spurs get there with eight games to go. If they get Leonard back for this run, how far can they go?

Toronto Raptors Jersey

Toronto Raptors
Toronto Raptors

The Toronto Raptors have prided themselves on their fourth-quarter defence all season and never before was it more evident — and more needed — than Tuesday in Orlando.

Holding the Magic to without a field goal for more than seven minutes of the final quarter, the Raptors rallied for a 93-86 victory despite subpar play for the majority of the night.

Tightening the defence with a group that included the seldom-used Lucas Nogueira and Lorenzo Brown, Toronto won going away for its ninth straight road victory to extend a franchise record.

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Opinion | Damien Cox: Raptors woe-are-us complaints come across as convenient excuses

It was also Toronto’s 24th road win of the season to match the most in any year in franchise history.

Kyle Lowry made seven three-pointers as part of a 25-point night to lead the offence but it was a stifling fourth quarter defence that turned the game.

The Magic got only two free throws from Bismack Biyombo in the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter as Toronto took control. Nogueira, Delon Wright, Brown, Lowry and Pascal Siakam simply smothered Orlando and the Raptors made just enough shots to win handily.

The Raptors played without DeMar Derozan, out with a hip and thigh contusion, and Fred VanVleet, who said out a second straight game with a sore right hand.

DeRozan missed his first game of the season — only Jakob Poeltl has a chance to play all 82 regular season games this year — and his absence created some different looks for Toronto.

Malcolm Miller, whose two-way contract could be converted to a full NBA deal in the next three weeks to make him eligible to be on the post-season roster, made is fourth start of the season and played rather insignificant minutes. And without DeRozan’s presence to take care of a big offensive load, the Raptors looked a bit out of sync without him in the lineup.

Miller was scoreless in only eight minutes and the Raptors went to Norm Powell with the rest of the starters to open the third quarter.

Powell looked more comfortable at times than he has in the last couple of weeks and knocked down a couple of shots in the second quarter to help Toronto stay in the game.

After a long stretch of lethargic play found them down 10 points late in the second quarter, the Raptors finished the half on an 11-0 run to take a 52-51 lead at the intermission.

Utah Jazz Jersey

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) The Utah Jazz struggled from long range. They were on at the free-throw line.

Donovan Mitchell scored 28 points, and the Jazz beat the Sacramento Kings 103-97 on Saturday night for their ninth straight victory.

Rudy Gobert had 22 points and 13 rebounds for Utah, and Ricky Rubio added 14 points, nine rebounds and five assists. The Jazz (40-30) won for the 21st time in their last 23 games.

Sacramento went 14 for 21 from 3-point range, but Utah made 31 of 38 at the line. Gobert went 8 for 10 as six different Jazz players shot at least four free throws.

”That’s what we wanted to do,” Gobert said. ”Put pressure on the rim. We got in the bonus pretty early in the third and the fourth, so we were able to get on the line.”

The free throws helped make up for a disparity on the perimeter. Utah went 6 for 24 from beyond the arc, and Sacramento was 9 for 14 on foul shots.

The Kings (23-48) lost to the Jazz for the third time this season. Buddy Hield scored 23 points, and Bogdan Bogdanovic finished with 12.

”When you’re shooting well or you’re not shooting well, these things come or go throughout the course of the season,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said. ”It’s just like a batting average – you can get hot for a while and then sometimes you’re not for a while.”

De’Aaron Fox made a free throw and dunked off a pass from Garrett Temple to rally the Kings into a 94-all tie with 1:11 remaining. But Joe Ingles, Rubio and Gobert each made two free throws to make it 100-94 with about 23 seconds to go.

Temple then made a 3-pointer for Sacramento, but Ingles made another foul shot and Gobert scored to help Utah close it out.

”I don’t know how many midrange shots we had, but there weren’t many,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. ”We weren’t shooting it from 3 very well, so it became even more important to try to get to the rim, get on the rim or make a play attacking. It was obviously an important part of our offense tonight.”

Ingles finished with 14 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.

Fox and Temple each had 11 points for the Kings, who are 5-5 in March.

”Finding our identity is something we’re finding late, but it’s better to end on a better note,” Hield said.

TIP-INS

Kings: Hield has made 10 3-pointers over his last two games while shooting 55.6 percent from the perimeter. … Sacramento scored 15 points off Utah’s 10 first-half turnovers. … The Kings outscored the Jazz 56-15 in bench points.

Jazz: Ingles made three 3-pointers to push his season total to 179, breaking the Jazz record of 178 set by Randy Foye during the 2012-13 season. … Utah finished with a 48-33 rebounding advantage. … The Jazz have won their last 16 games when Gobert records a double-double.

BEST DEFENDER?

Gobert is making a case for the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award. He blocked four shots against the Kings, and Snyder said there isn’t a better defensive player in the league right now.

”It’s an empirical fact,” Snyder said. ”Empirical from the standpoint that if you look at every number, he’s dominant. Like, not just good, he has been dominant.”

Gobert took it one step further. He feels like he is in a class by himself on defense.

”I don’t like to make my own case, but there’s nobody that impacts the game defensively like I do in the whole world,” Gobert said. ”I watch other games and I don’t see anyone.”

UP NEXT

Kings: Host the Pistons on Monday

Jazz: Host the Hawks on Tuesday.

Washington Wizards Jersey

Washington Wizards
WASHINGTON, DC -DECEMBER 19: Washington Wizards forward Tomas Satoransky (31) make a pass under the basket against New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) on December 19, 2017 at the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. The Washington Wizards defeated the New Orleans Pelicans, 116-106. (Photo by Icon Sportswire)

 

 

 

After their gritty win against the Heat earlier this week, the Washington Wizards travel to New Orleans on Friday to take on the Pelicans and history.

After their gritty win against the Heat earlier this week, the Washington Wizards travel to New Orleans on Friday to take on the Pelicans.

New Orleans may be a bit shorthanded in tonight’s matchup. On Thursday, the Pelicans listed Anthony Davis as day-to-day, after he sprained his left ankle against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday. He’s doubtful for Friday’s game.

The five-time All-Star is averaging 28.1 points, 11.1 rebounds and shooting 36.2 percent from three-point range.

Although Washington may be fighting against a team battling injuries, they’re also fighting a team that’s battling against history. The Pelicans are looking to break their franchise record on Friday to have their 11th consecutive win.

This team is on a roll. Although Davis had to leave the Kings game early, the Pelicans went with Jrue Holiday and NiKola Mirotic to close out the fourth quarter and secure their 10th consecutive win.

In his 13 games with New Orleans, Mirotic is averaging 15.6 points and 7.9 rebounds. He’s a known three-point shooter. Although his averages have dipped to 33 percent. Before he left the Bulls this season, he was averaging 42 percent from deep.

Against the Kings, Mirotic scored 26 points off of Holiday’s 17 assists.

Although their losing a lot of points on the floor without Davis, the Holiday – Mirotic combo may fill that hole. At least tonight for a team trying to make history.

With Mirotic on the floor, the Wizards’ bigs will still have to look to defend the perimeter.

The other wildcard or wildcat that Washington has to look out for is Rajon Rondo. Although the veteran guard is only averaging 7.9 points, he’s a very good ball handler. He’s averaging 7.7 percent in assists.

Rondo also knows how to show up when it counts. If he didn’t go down during the Bulls’ playoff matchup against the Celtics, Boston was looking at a first round exit last season.

This game like the past few for Washington will have a playoff feel. Although the Pelicans are in the fourth spot in the West, they’re not sitting comfortably.

Tomas Satoransky should try to control the pace of the game. When he plays at his pace he controls the ball more and does a better job of passing. Also, he shouldn’t fall for any vet moves by Rondo.

Holiday can also push the ball up the court, since he can play both guard positions.

If Ramon Sessions gets playing time, he should try not to whip the ball. John Wall can time his passes at any speed. He knows when a teammate is going to reach a certain spot. That’s a gift unique to him. Right now the team is used to Sato’s controlled passes, which works well in slow-paced matchups.

But do what you do and get to the free throw line. This is a depleted team and as many players that Washington can get into foul trouble the better.

(Sessions can play and pass at a very fast pace, but the team isn’t used to him yet.)

Otto Porter is going to be key tonight. He can also push the ball up the floor for Washington, whether it’s a slow or fast-pace, and should share in point guard duties.

In the middle, Emeka Okafor has been averaging 5 points and 5.6 rebounds. Marcin Gortat should win the battle of the paint in this matchup.

Holiday is having the best season of his career, averaging 19.4 points and 5.8 assists. All-Star Bradley Beal should win that matchup if the bigs do their job, and kick it out to him for those second and third chance points.

It’s going to be an inside game tonight, with the Pelicans cutting and slashing towards the basket. Washington just has to stay out of foul trouble and grab those rebounds on both ends. Above all protect the ball.

One other thing, control the pace. If the Wizards control the tempo in the first quarter, don’t play like it’s the final quarter, conserve some energy. Otherwise this team will wait you out until you get tired.

The Wizards blew a 25-point lead but was able to secure the win against the Pels in their last matchup. That’s another type of history Washington doesn’t want to make.

The Wizards should win this game if they remember to control their pace and keep their composure.

Tip off is at 8:00 PM in the Smoothie King Center.

Oklahoma City Thunder Jersey

Andre Roberson has been seen shooting after practice, but because of the physical sessions in the first week of preseason, his involvement in actual practice has been limited.

The Thunder had its sixth practice this week on Friday and Roberson has not been cleared for contact. The Thunder won’t rush Roberson back in his rehabilitation from a ruptured patellar tendon in his left knee.

“He just can’t do those things,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “Someone asked me if he’s jumping in there. Really, it’s been hard for him to jump into anything with the way practice has been. There will be a time as we start to go forward where he’ll be able to do that.”

Donovan’s focus with Roberson, rather, has been on talking to him about his rehab process. In post-practice, Roberson has been seen taking mostly set shots ranging from the restricted area to 3-point range.
“He looks good running, he looks good moving,” Donovan said. “I see him out here. He’s doing stuff all the time. But I think it’s totally different trying to regain your timing and those kind of things.

“Like anything else, you want to be able to develop confidence. When you’ve had the type of injury he had, I’m sure starting, stopping, cutting, moving, there’s a confidence that he’s got to build up, like ‘hey, my foot, my knee, everything’s OK here.’ I think that takes a little bit of time. He’s worked really hard to get where he’s at right now, and he’s done a great job of staying engaged with the team, staying motivated to get back, being involved in practice.”