Eric Freeman

  • LaVine nabs Rising Stars MVP, Porzingis and Wiggins score big

    Eric Freeman at Ball Don't Lie 1 day ago

    Zach LaVine's big moment this All-Star Weekend was supposed to be his performance in Saturday's dunk contest. That's still likely to be the case, but the Minnesota Timberwolves guard offered a pretty excellent opening act with an MVP performance in Friday's BBVA Rising Stars Challenge.

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    LaVine scored 30 points to help lead Team USA to a 157-154 win over Team World in a characteristically defense-averse contest. He had plenty of opportunities for amazing dunks, although it did sometimes appear as if he was holding back so as not to give too much away of what he has planned for Saturday night.

    Nevertheless, LaVine made it a point to assert himself all game long. That shouldn't come as a surprise, because he made it clear earlier in the day that he intended to capture MVP honors:

    Zach LaVine says he wants Rising Stars MVP because Wiggins won last year pic.twitter.com/o6alXlMAtv

     

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  • Tracy McGrady recreates classic All-Star highlight, shows his age

    Eric Freeman at Ball Don't Lie 1 day ago

    The NBA All-Star Celebrity Game is typically the silliest event of All-Star Weekend, a chance for youngish celebrities, WNBA players, and retired NBA greats to run around for 40 minutes while Kevin Hart tries his best to make everyone laugh. It's not the worst way to kill two hours of TV time, if only because there's something enjoyable in seeing celebrities prove (or not prove) their athletic talent. (We see you, Jason Sudeikis.)

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    However, Friday's event in Toronto stood out for introducing some rare emotional depth into the proceedings. It started very early, when seven-time All-Star Tracy McGrady, playing for Team Canada due to his past involvement with the Toronto Raptors, attempted to recreate his legendary dunk from the 2002 All-Star Game, when he passed it to himself off the backboard. Here's a reminder of what that looked like:

    And here's what the 36-year-old McGrady did on Friday:

    Seriously, we keep celebrities and politics separate in the United States. Get it together, Win.

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  • Popovich ponders the Warriors more than any team he's ever faced

    Eric Freeman at Ball Don't Lie 1 day ago

    The Golden State Warriors and their pursuit of 73 wins is the biggest story of the season, a genuinely historic run that has arguably made the eventual NBA Finals result feel inevitable. Yet the rest of the league is not giving up — rival coaches and players are trying to figure out some way to stop one of the most potent and versatile attacks the sport has ever seen.

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    San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich obviously plays a key role in trying to get his nearly as impressive 45-8 team ready to meet that challenge. In fact, Popovich says he thinks about the Warriors more than any opponent he's ever faced, although not necessarily because he thinks it will help him to beat them. From Marc Stein for ESPN.com:

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  • All-Star Saturday odds: LaVine to dominate the dunk contest again

    Eric Freeman at Ball Don't Lie 1 day ago

    This weekend's All-Star Saturday events in Toronto offer the usual mix of exciting young players, big names, and time-tested formats. This year, we're handicapping all three events — the Taco Bells Skills Challenge, the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest, and the Verizon Slam Dunk — so you know who to watch closest. Read on for a look at the favorite, the contenders, and the dark horses.

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    However, it's not as if it's impossible to imagine a scenario in which LaVine does not win. The most likely is that he tries very difficult dunks and only makes them on the fourth or fifth tries, if at all, thereby losing himself some points from the judges and taking some of the excitement out of his mere presence on the Air Canada Centre court. The other, less probable outcome is that LaVine was a one-year wonder who does not bring the same level of creativity and show-stopping style.

    So, yeah, LaVine will probably need to miss some dunks.

    Keep an Eye On

  • D'Angelo Russell took a LeBron James pass where it hurts

    Eric Freeman at Ball Don't Lie 3 days ago

    Basketball is not typically called a contact sport, but it still carries the possibility of bodily harm. It's easy to get an elbow to the face in the post or any number of knocks during a loose ball. There are many occupational hazards in the NBA.

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    For instance, sometimes LeBron James will fire a pass right into an opponent's nether regions:

    Oof. That's Los Angeles Lakers rookie guard D'Angelo Russell on the receiving end of this errant pass late in the third quarter. Russell fell to the floor and was helped off the court, but he did return to finish with 15 points in his 28 minutes. The Lakers fell to LeBron's Cleveland Cavaliers 120-111.

    Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com quoted several Lakers about the rough moment after the game:

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  • Kawhi's last-second winner completes Spurs' comeback vs. Magic

    Eric Freeman at Ball Don't Lie 3 days ago

    San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard has often been described as a different kind of superstar, a guy who dominates with league-best defense and smart decision-making on the offensive side. These ideas are borne out by the stats — Leonard averages an impressive 20.0 ppg but is most easily lauded for his efficient shooting percentages.

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    There's a lot of truth to this opinion, but in many ways it's just as reductive as the idea that volume shooters lack a sophisticated understanding of the game. Because Kawhi showed Wednesday night that he's perfectly capable of taking the ball with the game on the line and breaking down a defender one-on-one.

    With the Spurs tied 96-96 with the Orlando Magic with only 13 seconds remaining in regulation, Gregg Popovich called one of his trademark excellent out-of-bounds plays — he gave the ball to his best player and let him take a game-winning shot over the defending Aaron Gordon. Take a look:

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  • Markieff Morris and Archie Goodwin tussled on the Suns bench

    Eric Freeman at Ball Don't Lie 3 days ago

    It has been a rough season for the Phoenix Suns, who came into the campaign with hopes of challenging for a playoff spot and have instead developed into one of the most negative stories of the season. They fired head coach Jeff Hornacek last Monday, have had several important players succumb to injury, and figure to spend the next few months doing their best to end up with a top-three draft pick. Interim head coach Earl Watson will hope to prove himself so he can become a candidate for the full-time job, but his main job may be nothing more than making sure things don't get any worse than they are right now.

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    Morris, Goodwin, and Watson all downplayed the incident after the game. From Paul Coro for the Arizona Republic:

  • Bucks and Celtics swap awful fouls in last second in rare finish

    Eric Freeman at Ball Don't Lie 3 days ago

    The ability to stay calm and collected in big moments is considered one of the greatest virtues an NBA athlete can possess. Members of the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics will wonder exactly what caused them to lose their composure in the final second of Tuesday night's game at the GMO Harris Bradley Center.

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    Trailing 93-74 after a dominant third quarter for the Bucks, the Celtics steadily erased that deficit to tie it at 109-109 with 23 seconds left in regulation. Milwaukee countered with a Greg Monroe bucket with exactly one second on the clock, leaving Boston with an unlikely attempt at winning or forcing overtime on the final possession.

    They attempted to get the ball to Kelly Olynyk at the rim, but the pass appeared a bit high at first glance. Fortunately for the Celtics, Jerryd Bayless decided to push Olynyk to send him to the line for two shots:

    Bradley tried to explain himself after the game. From Rich Rovito for the Associated Press:

  • Warriors turn it on late, surge past impressive Rockets

    Eric Freeman at Ball Don't Lie 4 days ago

    The Golden State Warriors have been so impressive this season that it's now standard practice to praise playoff teams for giving them any challenge whatsoever. For instance, the Oklahoma City Thunder are now identified as the team most likely to beat the defending champions in a playoff series because they played them reasonably well until crunch-time excellence guided the Warriors to an eight-point win on Saturday. Under most any circumstances, Golden State would have come out of that game as the team everyone talked about. But their dominance demands that we grade their opponents on a curve.

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    As with so many Warriors opponents, though, they couldn't do it for all four quarters. Golden State tied it back up on an Andre Iguodala three-pointer late in the third and scored the first eight points of the fourth for a game-changing 11-0 run. Harrison Barnes kept the lead strong with 17 fourth-quarter points (of 19 total) to help the Warriors close out the 123-110 win. Houston managed only 17 points in the quarter.

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  • Hood forces OT, Hayward beats buzzer for big Jazz win over Mavs

    Eric Freeman at Ball Don't Lie 4 days ago

    Although they have not garnered much attention, the Utah Jazz have been one of the NBA's hottest teams over the past few weeks. They came into Tuesday night's road game at the Dallas Mavericks having won six in a row, good enough to rise to .500 at 25-25. Another victory would give them more wins than losses for the first time since the last days of November, when they were 8-7.

    It took 53 minutes to get it, but Utah left Dallas with their first win at the American Airlines Center in exactly six years and a month. And they did it with two very dramatic shots.

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    Down 10 early in the fourth quarter and 104-101 with 20 seconds left in regulation, the Jazz opted to trade quick twos from Gordon Hayward with free throws for Deron Williams and Raymond Felton. Having made up no ground, they had to take a three to force overtime with just a few seconds left. Rodney Hood came through:

    The Jazz have been inconsistent enough to inspire caution. But they have a clear opportunity to establish themselves as a playoff team over the next few weeks.

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