NBA MVP takes down the Bucks at the buzzer

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NBA MVP takes down the Bucks at the buzzer

From Comcast SportsNet
MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Derrick Rose faked like he was going to drive to the basket again, creating just enough of a cushion on defender Brandon Jennings. Then he slid to his left in a split second, drilling a winning shot at the buzzer. The reigning league MVP sure knows how to thrill a stadium filled with Bulls fans -- even when he isn't playing at home. Rose's off-balance shot just inside the 3-point line capped a 30-point night that powered the Chicago Bulls to a 106-104 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday. "It was like a kid, all the things that you dream about," Rose said. "It felt good. You're on the road, going against a team that's giving you their all and you hit a nice shot like that." Rose was mobbed by his teammates near halfcourt as a predominantly pro-Bulls crowd roared in approval, bursting out in chants of "M-V-P!" Joakim Noah added 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Bulls, who have won eight straight. "It was like a movie," Noah said. "Hit the shot, no time left on the clock, you hear the horn, the ball goes through the net. It must be an unbelievable feeling to hit a shot like that." Jennings noted that Rose wasn't having a particularly good night shooting from outside, so the Bucks were expecting him to drive. "I tried to make him take as difficult a shot as he could," Jennings said. "I was playing him to go to the basket, of course. He hit a step-back jump shot with a hand in his face. Hey, man, you go ahead and take that one." Bucks coach Scott Skiles said Rose made an incredibly tough shot look easy. "What a luxury to have, you don't even need to run a play," Skiles said. "You can just bring it in, throw it to a guy and he can get whatever shot he wants." Ersan Ilyasova had a career-high 32 points and Drew Gooden added a season-high 27 for the Bucks, who were coming off a home win over Philadelphia on Monday. The Bulls held Jennings to 11 points on 4 for 18 shooting. Jennings had scored 27-plus points in his previous three games coming into Wednesday. With the Bulls often double-teaming Jennings on defense, especially early, Gooden was left open for several outside shots -- and he cashed in, scoring 16 first-half points to keep the Bucks in the game. "I mean, it was a little difficult," Jennings said. "But like I said, Drew was hitting shots, Ersan was playing big for us." Once again, the Bradley Center was taken over by Bulls fans -- although Chicago's home-away-from-home-court advantage wasn't quite as pronounced as it was in the Bulls' Feb. 4 victory at Milwaukee, a Saturday night game that drew a huge crowd comprised mostly of Bulls fans. Still, the Bucks received a jarring greeting when they took the floor before Wednesday's game -- mostly boos -- and the crowd was decidedly pro-Bulls most of the game. When Milwaukee's Mike Dunleavy Jr. missed badly in the second quarter, he was subjected to "Airball!" chants. It left the Bucks in the odd position of having to talk about tuning out the crowd at home. "It hurts a lot that we lost this one, just the fact that we played so hard for 48 minutes," Jennings said. "Guys were down there battling. We didn't let the crowd get to us at all." The crowd apparently did get his attention before the game. "I told the guys before the game, we're just going to tune that out and play basketball," Jennings said. The Bulls have won all four meetings with the Bucks this season. With the Bulls up by two, Rose lost the ball out of bounds and officials initially ruled it went off a Bucks player. After a replay review, the call was reversed and the ball went to the Bucks with 55.2 seconds left. Milwaukee's Beno Udrih then drove for a layup, tying the game with 42.9 seconds left. Rose drove on Jennings, then tried to hit a turnaround jumper -- and drew a foul on Jennings and hit both shots for a 104-102 lead with 32.5 left. Ilyasova scored inside, tying the game again with 24 seconds left and setting the stage for Rose's last-second shot. "It was a great play by him," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He took the clock down, he didn't leave any time because it was one of those games where whoever had the ball, you thought they were going to score next." Notes: The Bulls were without guards Richard Hamilton and C.J. Watson because of injuries. Hamilton has a right shoulder injury, while Watson has a left ankle sprain. ... The Bucks were without defensive ace Luc Richard Mbah a Moute because of a right knee injury, and Udrih played despite left knee soreness. Stephen Jackson continues to sit out with hamstring soreness, and no timeline has been established for his return.

Young Kings' inexperience rears ugly head in loss to Jazz

Young Kings' inexperience rears ugly head in loss to Jazz

SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings showed their age Wednesday night at Golden 1 Center. They couldn’t buy a basket early. They could do no wrong in the second and third quarters. And when the chips were down, they couldn’t stop a charging Utah Jazz team from pulling away for the 112-82 blowout.

Utah led by as many as 20 in the first quarter and it looked like it was going to be a long night. The Kings shot just 31.6 percent in the game’s first 12 minutes and they allowed the Jazz to knock down 5-of-11 3-pointers early.

“We started off slow and in a hole and tried to come back,” Willie Cauley-Stein said.

The Jazz pushed the lead to 24 in the opening minutes of the second quarter and then Ben McLemore happened. The fourth-year guard went off for 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting in the second as the Kings cut Utah’s lead to just seven at the intermission.

“It’s nice to see him back in there and getting rhythm and feeling good about himself,” Dave Joerger said of McLemore. “He is able at his size to get off of people that are holding. With his athleticism, he can be an effective cutter and he can be an effective pin down player.”

The 24-year-old wing finished the night with 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting, but he was one of just three Kings players to notch double-figure scoring as the ball movement dried up for long stretches.

Utah made adjustments in the second half to slow McLemore and the Kings did a poor job of responding. They over dribbled the ball, leading to just 14 assists on the night.

The Jazz on the other hand looked like a finely oiled machine. With big man Rudy Gobert anchoring the post, they made cuts at the rim and found open shooters all around the perimeter.  

“They hit shots, a lot of shots, a lot of threes,” Willie Cauley-Stein said. “That breaks the game wide open when you’re hitting threes and a lot of stuff is going in.”

Sharpshooter Rodney Hood dropped in 5-of-5 from long range, scoring 18 points in just 24 minutes of play. Gordon Hayward knocked down 3-of-5 from deep for a team-high 20 points. Overall, Utah outscored the Kings 39-6 from 3-point range.

Despite the rough start and the barrage of 3-point makes by the Jazz, Sacramento cut Utah’s lead to just two midway through the third quarter. And then the playoff bound Jazz dropped a 52-24 run on Sacramento to finish the night off.

Joerger allowed his core of young players plenty of time on the floor. Skal Labissiere played a team-high 33 minutes in the loss, coming away with nine points and seven rebounds.  

“I’m definitely learning a lot,” Labissiere said. “It’s the best way to learn to be out there against guys like that. Whenever I’m out there, I’m always learning something. I just try to give my best.”

Rookie Georgios Papagiannis added eight points and three rebounds in 20 minutes and Buddy Hield struggled for one of the few times in a Kings uniform, scoring just two points on 1-for-7 shooting.

It’s a process. With the playoff chatter over and done with, the Kings are bound to have a few more night’s like this in the final seven games of the season as they transition to a full youth movement.

 

How Warriors became better team right before the return of Kevin Durant

How Warriors became better team right before the return of Kevin Durant

When Kevin Durant returns, which could happen as soon as next week, the Warriors will be an appreciably better team than they were when he left.

Better because in Durant’s absence, veteran wing Andre Iguodala found the best of his game and fully regained his shooting confidence.

Better because David West, who spent the first two quarters of the season acclimating to his new teammates and the third on the injury list, has settled in and turned up his fire and production to a level that pleads for more playing time.

Better because Stephen Curry is dancing and Klay Thompson is cooking and Draymond Green is destroying opposing offenses.

Better because everybody on this team can sense the postseason and is making the mental adjustment, while knowing they’ll get an emotional bounce from Durant’s presence on the floor.

“Obviously, you hate to see KD go down; he’s going to be back soon,” Curry told reporters after a 110-98 win over the Spurs in San Antonio. “But we never really lost confidence in ourselves. There was no panic. We’ve just battled.”

Consider that the Warriors, who own the best record in the NBA, are coming off two nights during which they also proved to be the best team. Going into Houston and San Antonio on successive nights, they extended their seven-game win streak to nine, the longest active streak at a time when all playoff teams wish to peak.

By wiping out a 22-point deficit to a Spurs team that simply doesn’t allow that but did anyway even with Green completely off his offensive game.

And this was done with Durant observing and cheering from the bench in street clothes while also learning more about his teammates and appreciating what they’ve been able to accomplish.

Most notably, as a team, what they’ve done on defense. After recovering from the body blow that was losing Durant, losing five of seven in the process, the Warriors have pulled off a dazzling stretch during which they’ve taken apart all comers.

Prior to holding the Spurs to 41 percent from the field, the Warriors limited the explosive Rockets to 38.8 percent, the Grizzlies to 44.7 (34.8 in the decisive second half), the Kings to 48.2, the Mavericks to 35.9, the Thunder to 42.5, the Bucks to 40.4, the Magic to 37.2 and the 76ers to 43.8.

“We play a finesse style . . . but when we’re at our best, you talk about our defense,” Curry said. “It’s about having each other’s back, trying to do little things, physically, to keep teams out of the paint and off the glass.”

What has happened is most everybody in the playing rotation has grown in the absence of Durant. And while some had to if the Warriors were to withstand his loss, that they managed to do so is significant. The evidence is visible and palpable, never more than late Wednesday night.

“We have what it takes to win all sorts of ways,” Curry said. “Whether you’re down 15 and can’t figure out what’s going on in the first quarter, or you put together a beautiful performance for 48 minutes, it doesn’t matter. Night in and night out, you’ve just got to be ready to play."

At no point this season have the Warriors had reason to feel as good as they do returning home to Oracle Arena, where they will play six of their final seven games. Winning five more games gives them the No. 1 overall seed, regardless of what the Spurs do.

They’re on top of their game and they’re a few games away from adding the man who was their best player through the first 60 games.

By all appearances and insinuations, Durant will be back for the final two or three games of the regular season. That beats any trade-deadline deal eight days a week.