Trail Blazers beat Heat; Cleveland edge past Lakers

Portland Trail Blazers' Damian Lillard (0) dunks over Miami Heat's James Johnson (16) and Hassan Whiteside (21) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Miami on Sunday night. (AP)
Updated 20 March 2017
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Trail Blazers beat Heat; Cleveland edge past Lakers

MIAMI: Damian Lillard scored a season-high 49 points, including 28 after halftime, as the Portland Trail Blazers continued their playoff push by beating the Miami Heat 115-104 on Sunday night.
Lillard tied a career-high with nine 3-pointers, giving him 1,002 for his career. He shot 14 for 21 from the field, 9 for 12 from 3-point range and made all 12 of his free throws.
Jusef Nurkic added 21 points and 12 rebounds for Portland (32-37), which moved within a game of idle Denver for the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference. C.J. McCollum scored 18 points and Noah Vonleh added 11 for the Trail Blazers.
James Johnson scored 24 points for Miami, which lost for just the second time in its last 17 home games. The Heat (34-36) missed a chance to reach .500 for the first time this season.
CAVALIERS 125, LAKERS 120: Kyrie Irving scored 46 points and LeBron James added 34 as Cleveland had to rally from an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter to edge Los Angeles.
Kevin Love had 21 points and 15 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who needed every bit of their full lineup to withstand a surprising challenge from the Western Conference’s last-placed team and clinch a playoff spot.
James, Love and Irving all sat out the defending champions’ blowout loss to the Clippers on Saturday, angering fans and the national television audience. That night off left them with the energy to lead a 43-point fourth quarter.
D’Angelo Russell scored a career-high 40 points in a spectacular return to the starting lineup for the Lakers, who have lost five straight and 13 of 14. Russell hit seven 3-pointers and had six assists while committing just one turnover in 41 minutes.
SPURS 118, KINGS 102: Pau Gasol scored 22 points and LaMarcus Aldridge added 18 as San Antonio rolled past Sacramento to end a two-game losing streak.
Kawhi Leonard had 12 points in 27 minutes, sitting out the fourth quarter after the Spurs led by as many as 28.
San Antonio (53-16) moved within two games of idle Golden State (55-14) for the NBA’s best record.
Buddy Hield had 18 points, matching his high with the Kings since being acquired Feb. 20 in the trade that sent All-Star big man DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans.
The Spurs had to overcome an abysmal start to win their 10th straight over the Kings. San Antonio missed its first eight shots and 12 of 13 in falling behind 14-2.
76ERS 105, CELTICS 99: Robert Covington made the go-ahead 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter to lift Philadelphia over Boston.
Dario Saric scored key baskets to extend the lead and bolster his bid for NBA Rookie of the Year. Saric had 23 points and helped rally the 76ers from a 13-point hole in the third.
Covington buried a 3 with 3:37 left that put the Sixers up 94-91 and Nik Stauskas hit his own with 38 seconds left for a 103-97 lead that sent fans inside a packed Wells Fargo Center into a frenzy.
The Sixers, who thumped Dallas 116-74 on Friday night, improved to a respectable 17-19 at home. They won 10 games total last season.
Al Horford led the Celtics with a season-high 27 points. Boston guard Isaiah Thomas sat out a second straight game with a bone bruise on his right knee and is questionable for Monday at Washington.
RAPTORS 116, PACERS 91: DeMar DeRozan scored 22 points in three quarters as all five Toronto starters were in double figures against Indiana.
DeRozan added four assists and three rebounds and was able to rest the entire fourth quarter as the Raptors cruised to their second straight victory. Serge Ibaka had 16 points, while Jonas Valanciunas finished with 11 points and 13 rebounds as the Raptors improved to 41-29.
Paul George had 18 points for the Pacers, who lost to Toronto for the eighth time in the last nine regular-season meetings.
It was the first meeting between the teams since Game 7 of last year’s first-round playoff series, which was won by Toronto. They face each other twice more over the next two weeks.
MAVERICKS 111, NETS 104: Dirk Nowitzki had 23 points and nine rebounds as Dallas beat Brooklyn.
J.J. Barea scored 20 points and Harrison Barnes added 19 for the Mavericks.
Brook Lopez had 27 points and Spencer Dinwiddie scored 18 for the Nets.
The Mavericks led 94-92 with more than five minutes left before Barea scored nine straight Dallas points. Barnes followed with two layups that made it 107-101 with 26.5 seconds remaining.
PISTONS 112, SUNS 95: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 23 points as Detroit overcame a sluggish performance for the much of the game, finally pulling away from short-handed Phoenix.
The Suns were without several top players but they still led the playoff-chasing Pistons 65-53 in the third quarter. Detroit finished strong in that period and then built a double-digit lead of its own in the fourth.
Andre Drummond had 18 points and 18 rebounds for the Pistons, and Aron Baynes had 13 points and 17 rebounds.
Tyler Ulis had 17 points and 11 assists for the Suns.
Phoenix was without guard Devin Booker (right ankle), guard Ronnie Price (left leg), guard Leandro Barbosa (illness) and forward Dragan Bender (right ankle). The Suns have also been playing without Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight and Tyson Chandler, choosing to give young players more time.
PELICANS 123, TIMBERWOLVES 109: Anthony Davis had 28 points and 12 rebounds to lead New Orleans past struggling Minnesota.
DeMarcus Cousins added 15 points and 11 rebounds in his return from a one-game absence because of left knee and rib soreness. Reserve guard Jordan Crawford scored a season-high 22 points in 21 minutes for the Pelicans, who have won four of five. Jrue Holiday had 21 points and shot 4 of 5 from 3-point range.
Karl-Anthony Towns scored 33 for the Timberwolves, who lost their third straight. Andrew Wiggins added 25 points and reserve Shabazz Muhammad had 20 for Minnesota. Ricky Rubio chipped in with 10 points and 14 assists for the Wolves, who built a 13-point lead in the second quarter only to fade late as New Orleans closed the game on a 21-10 run.


Why even the #WengerOut brigade should lament Arsene Wenger's exit from Arsenal

Updated 20 April 2018
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Why even the #WengerOut brigade should lament Arsene Wenger's exit from Arsenal

  • The Frenchman revolutionised the game in England across all leagues, not just the Premier League.
  • After initial success he found the going tough in the second half of his reign, but will still go down as an all-time great.

Over the past few seasons it has been fashionable to view Arsene Wenger as some sort of figure of fun — a man living in the past, left behind by the modern game, but too stubborn to realize it.
In time, though, even the most ardent, frothing-at-the-mouth #Wenger Out believer would have to agree that the Frenchman will go down not just as one of the best managers Arsenal have had, but also among the greatest in English club football.
As with any caricature, there is a hint of truth in the picture created, crude as it sometimes is. Yes, Wenger’s past few years at the Emirates have been painful to watch. Yes, he was stubborn when it came to both activity in the transfer market and belief in his methods and tactics. Yes, it is fair to say he leaves the club, on the pitch at least, in a bit of a mess. And, yes, he should have left two or three years ago.
But if there is one thing that any sane fan should remember about Wenger’s 22 years as Arsenal boss, it is this: He was a game-changer, a manager who oversaw not only a revolution of the Gunners, but also of the English game.
As soon as Wenger landed in England in 1996, he banished Arsenal’s Tuesday drinking club and munching of Mars bars — in their place came stretching sessions and broccoli. Hardly profound or radical in today’s game, but this was the era when change in English football invariably meant no pies and pints on a Friday night.
The technical, passing, possession football that is now the norm for any side with ambitions to remain in the Premier League, let alone win it, and the idea that eating vegetables rather than a tub of lard would help player performance, were brought in by Wenger alone.
He won the double in his first full season in charge, signed unheralded foreign talent such as Emmanuel Petit and Patrick Viera — who went on to become world-class players — and created teams that were a joy to watch, culminating with “The Invincibles” of 2003-04, who won the Premier League without losing a match.
The irony is that the one-time revolutionary ended up being viewed as a throwback, a stuck-in-the-mud anachronism; a manager who harked back to a time when playing with the owner’s chequebook was not seen as the only path to success and when paragraphs were favored over 140 characters.
And that perhaps explains why so many Arsenal fans seemingly wanted him gone: Wenger is not of the Twitter generation, of instant opinions for the 24-hour news agenda and of hype over humility. The man who was once seen as the future stuck to principles that were deemed as belonging to the past.
It is clear there is a lot of bad blood at the club — a ridiculous Facebook post by an Arsenal fan claimed Wenger’s announcement he was leaving made it the “greatest day in Arsenal’s history.”
But for all the bluster and nonsense, Wenger’s legacy will be that of “The Invincibles” — one of the greatest club sides of modern times; of beautiful football played at pace and with artistry; of being a decent, yet flawed, man who was never anything but articulate and courteous.
Having been in charge of Arsenal for 22 years, he is undoubtedly the last of a kind, and in the era of trigger-happy owners, short-term fixes and sensationalism over stability, that is something everyone, even the #WengerOut brigade, should lament.