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Mavericks, Spurs Fall Short; Rockets Run Past Clippers

Doncic passes up shot at winner as T-Wolves top Mavs 110-108

DALLAS (AP) — Luka Doncic has drawn plenty of comparisons to LeBron James during a sensational rookie season for the Dallas Mavericks.

If the 20-year-old Slovenian passes up a potential winning shot in a playoff race one of these days the same way he did in a late-season matchup of also-rans, Doncic will be tied to James in a way he might not like as much.

Doncic deferred to Jalen Brunson on a 3-pointer that the fellow rookie missed at the buzzer after Andrew Wiggins hit a go-ahead layup for the Minnesota, and the Timberwolves turned away a fourth-quarter Dallas rally in a 110-108 victory over the Mavericks on Wednesday night.

While he shot just 23% from long range in March and was cold again in his first April game, Doncic had given the Mavericks one of their late leads with the same step-back 3 that has drawn comparisons to reigning MVP James Harden.

But with the clock at 1.1 seconds and Doncic in position for another step-back attempt above the key, he slipped a pass to Brunson on the left wing. If the shot from the two-time NCAA champion from Villanova had gone in, it would have required a replay to see if Brunson got it off in time.

Earlier in his career, James was occasionally criticized for passing up shots late in games.

“For me it’s not a question,” said Doncic, who had 27 points and 12 rebounds after missing two games with a right thigh contusion. “I trusted him. The whole team trusted him. It was a great shot. Sometimes it’s not going to go in.”

Karl-Anthony Towns had 28 points and 13 rebounds as the Timberwolves won for the third time in 11 games and avoided a three-game season sweep by Dallas, which trailed by 12 early in the fourth.

Wiggins scored 19 points, including a tiebreaking layup on an assist from Josh Okogie with 19 seconds remaining.

On the final play, Doncic created separation on Okogie to set up for the step-back try, while Tyus Jones came off Brunson to run at Doncic, prompting the pass.

“That was a great possession,” Towns said. “Tyus pulled all the way over, getting the ball out of Luka’s hands and getting it to Brunson’s hands. To get the ball out of his hands and put it in Brunson’s, it falls in our favor.”

Dwight Powell finished a point off his career high with 25 for Dallas.

Dirk Nowitzki, who has just two home games remaining in what is expected to be the 40-year-old’s final season, scored nine points. The Mavericks were coming off their first two-game winning streak since early February.

Nowitzki scored his first seven points in the first 3½ minutes of the second quarter after joining a presentation from Dallas County officials, who a day earlier declared April the “month of Dirk” while honoring him for recently passing Wilt Chamberlain for sixth on the career scoring list.

 

Nuggets rout Spurs 113-85; Popovich ejected after 63 seconds

By PAT GRAHAM AP Sports Writer

DENVER (AP) — The Denver Nuggets ran San Antonio right off the court. Long before, the officials ran Gregg Popovich.

Nikola Jokic scored 20 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and dished out nine of Denver’s season-high 41 assists as the Nuggets routed San Antonio 113-85 on Wednesday night in a game in which the Spurs coach was ejected after just 63 seconds.

Jamal Murray added 14 points and 11 assists for a Nuggets team that’s currently holding down the No. 2 seed in the West with four games remaining. The squad rebounded from a 116-102 loss to top-seeded Golden State a night earlier.

“We played,” Murray said, “the way we want to play.”

Denver steadily built a commanding lead against the Spurs before emptying the bench with about 5 minutes remaining. Popovich was long gone and didn’t have to endure his team’s implosion.

Popovich appeared livid over a non-foul call and called time out to argue with the officials. After two technicals, he was sent to the locker room at 10:57 of the opening quarter. The last time a coach was ejected within the first two minutes of a game was Washington’s Flip Saunders on Jan. 2, 2012, at Boston, according to research by the Elias Sports Bureau. Saunders was ejected 1:46 into that game.

Following the game, Popovich didn’t have much to say.

“You’ll have to ask the officials,” he said.

Soon after, Popovich joined the scrum where Nuggets coach Michael Malone was conducting his postgame interviews. The exchange between the coaches was nearly as long as Popovich’s appearance in the contest.

Malone: “We were just talking about an NBA record that was set tonight.”

Popovich: “What was the record? What happened?”

Malone: “Somebody got thrown out in 63 seconds.”

Popovich: “Are you serious? That person must have hit somebody. Somebody get hit tonight? Somebody get cursed at or anything?”

And just like that, Popovich was off for the exit.

“That’s one of a kind right there,” Malone said. “I don’t know what to say after that.”

LaMarcus Aldridge and Lonnie Walker IV each had 16 points for the Spurs, who slipped into the eighth spot with the loss.

“You’ve got to give them credit. They played well,” said DeMar DeRozan, who had 11 points. “It’s tough coming into this place, especially on a back-to-back. They use their advantages coming here. They played well. They beat us. We couldn’t make shots. We never got anything going.”

 

Harden’s 31 leads Rockets’ 135-103 rout of Clippers

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The NBA playoffs are still days away. Tell that to the Houston Rockets, who have their postseason mentality locked in.

James Harden scored 31 points, Chris Paul added 29, and the Rockets routed the Los Angeles Clippers 135-103 on Wednesday night in a potential playoff preview.

“(Chris) is dialed in, and James, too,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “When they play like that, it’s pretty tough to lose. We played unbelievably.”

Clint Capela had 24 points and 15 rebounds to help the Rockets win their fourth in a row. They showed little fatigue in cruising past the NBA’s hottest team while playing their last back-to-back of the season.

“It’s the best we’ve played and it’s the right time,” Harden said.

The Rockets currently own the third seed in the Western Conference and the Clippers are sixth, which would pair them in the first round.

“It’d be a tough series,” Paul said. “They’re very disciplined.”

Asked how the Clippers would match up, coach Doc Rivers said, “If we go by tonight, not very well. But we’re a much better team than we showed.”

Paul stunned the crowd by hitting a deep 3-pointer that beat the buzzer to end the third, in which the Rockets outscored the Clippers 34-20.

Rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the Clippers with 20 points and Danilo Gallinari added 16. They had won an NBA-best 13 of 15 coming in, but lost for the first time in three meetings with Houston this season.

“Every once in a while, you get the (expletive) kicked out of you,” said Lou Williams, who had 14 points off the bench. “We hadn’t had one of these in three, four months, so we were due.”

The Rockets set the tone early, shooting 64% in the first quarter.

Houston stretched its lead to 22 in the second before the Clippers closed on a 9-2 run to trail 68-53 at halftime.

Harden and Paul dominated the third. First, Paul ran off six straight points and later Harden scored eight in a row. Paul’s back-to-back 3-pointers sent the Rockets into the final quarter leading 102-73.

“We only got, what, three more games now? Four? To get ready for the great grind of the playoffs,” Paul said. “Everybody’s just trying to get going.”

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Posted by on Apr 4 2019. Filed under Sports.
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