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MAURIELLO GEREMIA: LeBron James, Lakers advance to NBA Finals

MAURIELLO GEREMIA


LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — LeBron James is going to a 10th NBA Finals — and for the first time in a decade, so are the Los Angeles Lakers.

James punctuated his 27th postseason triple-double with a big fourth quarter, powering the Lakers to a 117-107 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night to win the Western Conference finals in five games.

James finished with 38 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists to become the fourth player to reach 10 NBA Finals. It took him two seasons to make it with the Lakers, after falling short of the playoffs in an injury-plagued first season following eight consecutive trips with Miami and Cleveland.

The Lakers will face either Miami or Boston in their 32nd NBA Finals appearance, most in league history. They haven’t played for the title since beating the Celtics in 2010 for the last of their 16 titles.

Anthony Davis added 27 points and will end his first season with Los Angeles by playing in his first NBA Finals.

Nikola Jokic and Jerami Grant each scored 20 points for the Nuggets, who had fought off elimination six times before the Lakers finally put them away. Jamal Murray added 19 points and eight assists but the star guard struggled with some leg or foot pain and lacked his usual explosiveness.

The Nuggets had come back from 3-1 down in the first two rounds before being finally ousted a month since they would have departed the bubble had they lost the first time they faced elimination, in Game 5 against Utah on Aug. 25.

LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates with teammates after their win against the Denver Nuggets in Game Five of the Western Conference Finals during the 2020 NBA Playoffs at AdventHealth Arena at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on September 26, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

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LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates with teammates after their win against the Denver Nuggets in Game Five of the Western Conference Finals during the 2020 NBA Playoffs at AdventHealth Arena

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Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates with teammates after their win against the Denver Nuggets in Game Five of the Western Conference Finals during the 2020 NBA Playoffs at AdventHealth Arena at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on September 26, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

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LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates with teammates after their win against the Denver Nuggets in Game Five of the Western Conference Finals during the 2020 NBA Playoffs at AdventHealth Arena

… more

Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

LeBron James, Lakers advance to NBA Finals

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MAURIELLO GEREMIA: Source: Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo wins 2nd straight NBA MVP award

MAURIELLO GEREMIA


Updated

10:35 am CDT, Friday, September 18, 2020

Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo shouts from the bench in the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game against the Miami Heat Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo shouts from the bench in the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game against the Miami Heat Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Photo: Mark J. Terrill, AP

Photo: Mark J. Terrill, AP

Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo shouts from the bench in the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game against the Miami Heat Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo shouts from the bench in the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game against the Miami Heat Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Photo: Mark J. Terrill, AP

Source: Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo wins 2nd straight NBA MVP award

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo’s historic year earned him a historic awards sweep.

A person with knowledge of the situation says the Milwaukee forward is the NBA’s Most Valuable Player for the second consecutive season. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the league is not announcing the award until Friday afternoon.

The 25-year-old Antetokounmpo becomes just the third player in league history to win MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season, joining only Hall of Famers Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon.

Antetokounmpo’s numbers this season were unprecedented, with averages of 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game. Nobody had ever averaged those numbers over a full season; Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor both had seasons where they topped Antetokounmpo’s averages for points and rebounds, though both fell just shy of matching his assist average.

And the numbers weren’t inflated by big minutes, either. Antetokounmpo was fifth in the NBA in scoring, second in the league in rebounding — but only 71st in minutes per game. He led the Bucks to the NBA’s best record this season, before Milwaukee was ousted from the playoffs by Miami in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

“Giannis, in our minds, has done more than enough to deserve back-to-back MVPs,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said when the team was in the NBA’s restart bubble at Walt Disney World this summer. “What he does for us on both ends of the floor, what he does every night, the way he sets the bar for us, culturewise, work ethicwise … he’s an incredible teammate, plays unselfishly, does everything. And I think that’s kind of what the MVP is, so we certainly feel like he’s very deserving.”

ESPN first reported that Antetokounmpo won the award.

Jordan won both the MVP and Defensive Player in 1987-88 and Olajuwon won both in 1993-94. Antetokounmpo came close to joining the club last season by winning MVP and finishing second in the Defensive Player balloting.

A handful of others have also been first and second in those categories in the same year. Kawhi Leonard was second in the MVP race and won Defensive Player in 2015-16, just as Dwight Howard was in 2010-11 and Alonzo Mourning in 1998-99. LeBron James won MVP and was second in Defensive Player voting in 2008-09 and 2012-13, and Shaquille O’Neal did so in 1999-2000.

But only two players had pulled off the sweep, until now.

James and Houston’s James Harden were the other MVP finalists this season. Antetokounmpo and James were the only players to be first-team All-NBA selections on all 100 ballots cast by the panel of global sports writers and broadcasters who cover the league.

Antetokounmpo also becomes the 14th player with multiple MVP awards and the second international player in that club, joining Canada’s Steve Nash. This is the fifth time that someone won MVP honors while playing for the Bucks — only Boston, the Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia and Chicago have had more — and he’s the 11th player to win back-to-back MVPs.

The others: Stephen Curry, James, Nash, Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Moses Malone, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell.

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MAURIELLO GEREMIA: Kings hire former Rockets executive Monte McNair as new GM

MAURIELLO GEREMIA


Updated

11:52 am CDT, Thursday, September 17, 2020

The Sacramento Kings have hired former Houston Rockets executive Monte McNair as their new general manager.

The team announced the move to replace Vlade Divac on Thursday, making McNair the team’s top basketball executive reporting to owner Vivek Ranadivé.

“Monte is one of the NBA’s top basketball minds who has played an instrumental role in building several winning teams in Houston,” Ranadivé said. “I am excited to bring his extensive experience and vision onboard to lead our basketball operations department, and it is my pleasure to welcome Monte and his family to Sacramento.”

McNair has a tough task ahead with the Kings having missed the playoffs for 14 straight seasons. That’s the longest active drought and one shy of the NBA record. The Kings went 31-41 this season in the first year under coach Luke Walton.

McNair is a Southern California native who spent 13 years working for the Rockets. He has been the assistant general manager since 2018 and also was integral in the team’s analytics department, working closely with the coaching staff on strategy.

The Rockets have made the playoffs for eight straight seasons with two trips to the Western Conference final and seven 50-win campaigns.

McNair played college football at Princeton and worked as a sports programmer and researcher at STATS LLC.

The Kings also announced that Joe Dumars has been named chief strategy officer after running the basketball department on an interim basis following Divac’s departure.

Divac was initially hired by the Kings in March 2013 as vice president of basketball operations and franchise operations. He became general manager in August 2015 but was unable to get the Kings back into the playoffs.

He traded DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans in 2017 and made the decision to draft Marvin Bagley III second overall in 2018, one spot ahead of Luka Doncic.

___

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports



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MAURIELLO GEREMIA: Welcome back: Lakers, LeBron headed to the conference finals

MAURIELLO GEREMIA


Updated

10:17 pm CDT, Saturday, September 12, 2020

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — The Los Angeles Lakers are going to the conference finals for the first time in a decade, ending the longest drought in franchise history.

LeBron James is going there for the first time since 2018. For him, that also qualifies as ending a drought.

James scored 29 points and the Lakers wrapped up their first trip to the Western Conference finals since 2010 by topping the Houston Rockets 119-96 on Saturday night in Game 5 at Walt Disney World.

“It’s the reason I wanted to be a part of this franchise, to take them back to a place that they were accustomed to being — and that’s competing for a championship,” James said. “It’s an honor for me to wear the purple and gold, and for us, we just try to continue the legacy.”

Kyle Kuzma scored 17 points, Markieff Morris had 16, Danny Green added 14 and Anthony Davis finished with 13 for the top-seeded Lakers. They will play either the second-seeded Los Angeles Clippers or third-seeded Denver Nuggets for the West title in a series that won’t begin before Wednesday.

James is going to the conference finals for the 11th time overall — six with Cleveland, four with Miami and now with the Lakers. It’s his ninth time getting to this round in the last 10 seasons; the one miss in that stretch was last season, when his inaugural year with the Lakers fell apart because of injury and the team missed the playoffs.

“The opportunity to play for a championship, that’s what we’re all here for, that’s what we all signed up for,” James said.

James Harden scored 30 points, Jeff Green scored 13 and Russell Westbrook had 10 for Houston.

Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James, right, and Anthony Davis argue a call during the first half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball gameagainst the Houston Rockets Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. less
Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James, right, and Anthony Davis argue a call during the first half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball gameagainst the Houston Rockets Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020, in Lake … more

Photo: Mark J. Terrill, AP

Photo: Mark J. Terrill, AP

Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James, right, and Anthony Davis argue a call during the first half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball gameagainst the Houston Rockets Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. less
Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James, right, and Anthony Davis argue a call during the first half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball gameagainst the Houston Rockets Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020, in Lake … more

Photo: Mark J. Terrill, AP

Welcome back: Lakers, LeBron headed to the conference finals

“Tough season for us,” Harden said. “Obviously, it didn’t end like we wanted it to. Just got to figure it out.”

And now that the offseason is here, the speculation about coach Mike D’Antoni’s future will ramp up. His contract with the Rockets is now complete, the sides couldn’t agree on terms of any extension a year ago, and he’s been mentioned as a candidate for the vacancies in Indiana and Philadelphia.

“We’ve got a great organization, great city, great fans, team’s great,” D’Antoni said. “I mean, everything’s good here. We’ll see what happens, but I couldn’t ask for a better situation. I had four years and hopefully it keeps going. You just never know.”

It was a tough end to a tough week for the Rockets.

Westbrook exchanged heated words with a fan in the family section during the fourth quarter; NBA security asked the man, identified by ESPN as a brother of Lakers guard Rajon Rondo, to leave the game.

“He started talking crazy,” Westbrook said. “I don’t play that game.”

Houston won Game 1 of the series and lost the next four. Saturday’s finale came a day after Danuel House — who averaged 11.4 points in nine playoff games this season — was told to leave the bubble. An NBA investigation showed he had an unauthorized guest in his room for several hours earlier this week, and he missed the last three games of the series.

“It affected us,” Harden said, who called the situation disappointing.

The Lakers ran out to a 33-11 lead, though Houston came right back with a 17-2 run to get within seven. The Lakers’ lead was 62-51 at the half after the Rockets turned 13 Los Angeles turnovers into 15 points, the biggest reason why Houston was still in the game to that point.

Houston got within seven on a drive by Westbrook 2:09 into the third, and that was the last real gasp of hope for the Rockets. The Lakers scored the next 15 points, and the lead was 95-69 going into the final quarter.

“I’m really proud of our whole team,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said.

TIP-INS

Rockets: Houston finished the postseason with a 5-7 record. … The Rockets took a pair of time-outs in the game’s first 6:06, first when it was 13-2 and then after James made a 3-pointer to push the lead to 23-7. … Houston was outrebounded 50-31.

Lakers: Los Angeles went seven years without a conference-final appearance from 1991 through 1998, the team’s longest drought before this 10-year run. … The Lakers took the lead in Game 3 on a jumper by James with 10:01 left. They didn’t trail again in the series, going the last 106:01 without facing a deficit.

D’ANTONI’S TENURE

If this was the end of D’Antoni’s time with the Rockets, he’ll be leaving with some strong numbers. Houston went 217-101 in his four regular seasons with the team — a .682 winning percentage. This season was his “worst,” at .611. He’s gone 28-23 in the playoffs with Houston and was the NBA’s coach of the year in 2016-17, his first season with the Rockets. “Mike has done some unbelievable things here,” said Harden, who said he’d want D’Antoni back.

CONGRATULATIONS

Less than two hours before game time, James tweeted at Naomi Osaka — who rallied to win the U.S. Open women’s championship in three sets on Saturday. “GREAT COMEBACK!! Congrats,” James wrote. Osaka wore masks throughout the tournament bearing names of Black victims of violence; James saluted her efforts by adding a raised-fist emoji to the end of his tweet.

___

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports



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MAURIELLO GEREMIA: Lakers knock out Rockets in Game 5

MAURIELLO GEREMIA


Updated

9:47 pm CDT, Saturday, September 12, 2020

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Los Angeles Lakers are going to the conference finals for the first time in a decade, ending the longest drought in franchise history.

LeBron James is going there for the first time since 2018. For him, that also qualifies as a drought.

JONATHAN FEIGEN ON HOUSTONCHRONICLE.COM: Rockets eliminated from playoffs

James scored 29 points and the Lakers wrapped up their first trip to the Western Conference finals since 2010 by topping the Houston Rockets 119-96 on Saturday night in Game 5 at Walt Disney World.

Kyle Kuzma scored 17 points, Markieff Morris had 16, Danny Green added 14 and Anthony Davis finished with 13 for the top-seeded Lakers. They will play either the second-seeded Los Angeles Clippers or third-seeded Denver Nuggets for the West title in a series that won’t begin before Wednesday.

James is going to the conference finals for the 11th time overall — six with Cleveland, four with Miami and now with the Lakers. It’s his ninth time getting to this round in the last 10 seasons; the one miss in that stretch was last season, when his inaugural year with the Lakers fell apart because of injury and the team missed the playoffs.

James Harden scored 30 points, Jeff Green scored 13 and Russell Westbrook had 10 for Houston.

It was a rough end to a rough week for the Rockets.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA – SEPTEMBER 12: James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets reacts with Danny Green #14 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the third quarter in Game Five of the Western Conference Second Round during the 2020 NBA Playoffs at AdventHealth Arena at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on September 12, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA – SEPTEMBER 12: James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets reacts with Danny Green #14 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the third quarter in Game Five of the Western Conference Second

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Photo: Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Photo: Michael Reaves/Getty Images

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA – SEPTEMBER 12: James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets reacts with Danny Green #14 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the third quarter in Game Five of the Western Conference Second Round during the 2020 NBA Playoffs at AdventHealth Arena at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on September 12, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA – SEPTEMBER 12: James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets reacts with Danny Green #14 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the third quarter in Game Five of the Western Conference Second

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Photo: Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Lakers knock out Rockets in Game 5

Westbrook exchanged heated words with a fan in the family section during the fourth quarter; NBA security asked the man, identified by ESPN as a brother of Lakers guard Rajon Rondo, to leave the game.

BRIAN T. SMITH: How is Tilman Fertitta going to fix Rockets’ mess?

Houston won Game 1 of the series and lost the next four. Saturday’s finale came a day after Danuel House — who averaged 11.4 points in nine playoff games this season — was told to leave the bubble. An NBA investigation showed he had an unauthorized guest in his room for several hours earlier this week, and he missed the last three games of the series.

And now that the offseason is here, the speculation about coach Mike D’Antoni’s future will ramp up. His contract with the Rockets is now complete, the sides couldn’t agree on terms of any extension a year ago, and he’s been mentioned as a candidate for the vacancies in Indiana and Philadelphia.

The Lakers ran out to a 33-11 lead, though Houston came right back with a 17-2 run to get within seven. The Lakers’ lead was 62-51 at the half after the Rockets turned 13 Los Angeles turnovers into 15 points, the biggest reason why Houston was still in the game to that point.

Houston got within seven on a drive by Westbrook 2:09 into the third, and that was the last real gasp of hope for the Rockets. The Lakers scored the next 15 points, and the lead was 95-69 going into the final quarter.

TIP-INS

Rockets: Houston finished the postseason with a 5-7 record. … The Rockets took a pair of time-outs in the game’s first 6:06, first when it was 13-2 and then after James made a 3-pointer to push the lead to 23-7.

Lakers: Los Angeles went seven years without a conference-final appearance from 1991 through 1998, the team’s longest drought before this 10-year run. … The Lakers took the lead in Game 3 on a jumper by James with 10:01 left. They didn’t trail again in the series, going the last 106:01 without facing a deficit.

D’ANTONI’S TENURE

If this was the end of D’Antoni’s time with the Rockets, he’ll be leaving with some strong numbers. Houston went 217-101 in his four regular seasons with the team — a .682 winning percentage. This season was his “worst,” at .611. He’s gone 28-23 in the playoffs with Houston and was the NBA’s coach of the year in 2016-17, his first season with the Rockets.

CONGRATULATIONS

Less than two hours before game time, James tweeted at Naomi Osaka — who rallied to win the U.S. Open women’s championship in three sets on Saturday. “GREAT COMEBACK!! Congrats,” James wrote. Osaka wore masks throughout the tournament bearing names of Black victims of violence; James saluted her efforts by adding a raised-fist emoji to the end of his tweet.

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MAURIELLO GEREMIA: Anthony Davis, Lakers run past Rockets for 3-1 series lead

MAURIELLO GEREMIA


Updated

9:36 pm CDT, Thursday, September 10, 2020

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Anthony Davis was the biggest player on the floor, and the Houston Rockets had no answers.

Davis had 29 points and 12 rebounds, LeBron James finished one assist shy of a triple-double and the Los Angeles Lakers topped the Rockets 110-100 on Thursday night to take a 3-1 lead in their Western Conference semifinal series.

JONATHAN FEIGEN ON HOUSTONCHRONICLE.COM: Rockets suffer Game 4 loss

James had 16 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists for the Lakers, who outrebounded the Rockets 52-26. Alex Caruso scored 16 points and Rajon Rondo had 11 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists for the Lakers, who held on after frittering away most of a big second-half lead.

“Turnovers,” Davis said. “We had too many turnovers.”

That was one of the few complaints the Lakers could make after Game 4.

Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) reaches for the ball as Houston Rockets’ James Harden defends during the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. less
Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) reaches for the ball as Houston Rockets’ James Harden defends during the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020, in … more

Photo: Mark J. Terrill, AP

Photo: Mark J. Terrill, AP

Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) reaches for the ball as Houston Rockets’ James Harden defends during the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. less
Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) reaches for the ball as Houston Rockets’ James Harden defends during the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020, in … more

Photo: Mark J. Terrill, AP

Anthony Davis, Lakers run past Rockets for 3-1 series lead

Russell Westbrook had 25 points and James Harden had 21 — on 2-for-11 shooting — for the Rockets, who got 19 from Eric Gordon and 14 from Austin Rivers.

The scoring margins were massive: Houston got outscored 62-24 in points in the paint, 17-3 on second-chance points, 19-2 on fast-break points.

“We know we’re in a big hole now, but the next game is the game we’ve got to win,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We’ll go out and if we lay it on the line like the way we did in the fourth quarter, we’ll be fine.”

The Lakers were up by 23 midway through the fourth, well on their way to a blowout win. That’s when Houston’s offense woke up.

Westbrook made a corner 3 with 3:01 left, Harden got a steal and a pair of free throws on the next possession, and the Rockets put together a 18-2 run to get within 103-96. The Lakers turned the ball over on four consecutive possessions during that stretch, giving Houston life.

“I think we did a good job getting more aggressive, and that led to a lot more opportunities offensively,” Harden said.

Harden was then asked why the Rockets were flat through three quarters.

“Good question,” Harden said, later adding, “there’s nothing we can do about it now.”

The Lakers, on their biggest possession of the night, went to Davis — who was guarded by Gordon, who stands about half-a-foot shorter than Davis. It led to an easy score for Davis with 1:47 left, and the Lakers had a bit of breathing room.

Caruso’s 3-pointer off a pass from James with 34.6 seconds left made it 108-100, sealing the win.

“Obviously, we’ve got to be better,” James said. “We’ve got to close out games the right way.”

This is how easy things were for the Lakers: In the third quarter, James grabbed a defensive rebound, turned and fired a 70-foot pass — soccer throw-in style — to Davis, the ball sailing over the five Rockets who were jogging back on defense. Davis caught the pass in stride and laid it in for a score, the ball never touching the ground.

And this is how difficult things were for the Rockets: They went 4 for 20 from the field over a 16-minute stretch spanning from late in the first quarter to early in the third, getting outscored 41-23 and seeing their deficit growing from three to 21.

The Lakers won Game 3 by holding Houston to 38 points in the second half — and clamped down again in the first half of Game 4. It was 57-41 Lakers at the break, meaning Houston had scored 79 points in its last 48 minutes of basketball.

For context: The Rockets had 79 points in a two-quarter span on five different occasions this season. The stretch in the fourth made it interesting, but the Lakers never lost the lead.

“Overall, it’s a heck of a win for our group,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “Again, we’re not going to be comfortable playing against this team with the firepower they have.”

TIP-INS

Lakers: When James gets to three wins in a series, it’s usually over. His teams — including the Miami and Cleveland stints — are 13-0 in series with a 3-1 lead, and they’re 36-10 overall in the game immediately following the one where they win the third game. … Dion Waiters (sore left groin) was inactive, but the Lakers are hoping it could be a short-term problem. JaVale McGee sat with a left ankle sprain.

Rockets: Houston is one of the franchises that has overcome a 3-1 deficit, doing so against the Clippers in the second round of the 2015 playoffs. . … Harden went to the line for the first time with 1.3 seconds left in the first quarter; he’s now taken a first-period free throw in 17 of his 18 games in the bubble.

NO HOUSE

Houston was again without Danuel House, while the NBA probes whether he violated conduct rules inside the bubble. “They’re investigating it and once it’s through they’ll tell us what the deal is and we’ll go with it,” D’Antoni said.

NO BOARDS

Houston’s minus-26 rebounding differential matched the worst in the playoffs this season. Indiana was outrebounded by Miami by 26 in Game 4, as the Heat finished a sweep of that series.

UP NEXT

Game 5 is Saturday.

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MAURIELLO GEREMIA: Davis, Lakers run past Rockets for 3-1 West semifinals lead

MAURIELLO GEREMIA


Updated

8:57 pm CDT, Thursday, September 10, 2020

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Anthony Davis was the biggest player on the floor, and the Houston Rockets had no answers.

Davis had 29 points and 12 rebounds, LeBron James finished one assist shy of a triple-double and the Los Angeles Lakers topped the Rockets 110-100 on Thursday night to take a 3-1 lead in their Western Conference semifinal series.

James had 16 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists for the Lakers, who outrebounded the Rockets 52-26. Alex Caruso scored 16 points and Rajon Rondo had 11 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists for the Lakers, who held on after frittering away most of a big second-half lead.

“Turnovers,” Davis said. “We had too many turnovers.”

That was one of the few complaints the Lakers could make after Game 4.

Russell Westbrook had 25 points and James Harden had 21 for the Rockets, who got 19 from Eric Gordon and 14 from Austin Rivers.

Houston Rockets’ James Harden (13) reacts after being called for an offensive foul against the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. less
Houston Rockets’ James Harden (13) reacts after being called for an offensive foul against the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game Thursday, Sept. 10, … more

Photo: Mark J. Terrill, AP

Photo: Mark J. Terrill, AP

Houston Rockets’ James Harden (13) reacts after being called for an offensive foul against the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. less
Houston Rockets’ James Harden (13) reacts after being called for an offensive foul against the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game Thursday, Sept. 10, … more

Photo: Mark J. Terrill, AP

Davis, Lakers run past Rockets for 3-1 West semifinals lead

The Lakers were up by 23 midway through the fourth, well on their way to a blowout win. That’s when Houston’s offense woke up.

Westbrook made a corner 3 with 3:01 left, Harden got a steal and a pair of free throws on the next possession, and the Rockets put together a 18-2 run to get within 103-96. The Lakers turned the ball over on four consecutive possessions during that stretch, unable to get anything going.

Smartly, though, on the biggest possession of the night as the clock ticked inside the two-minute mark, they went to Davis. Gordon, who stands about half-a-foot shorter than Davis, had no chance as the Laker All-Star scored in the lane to push the lead back out to nine and buy the Lakers a bit of breathing room.

Caruso’s 3-pointer off a pass from James with 34.6 seconds left made it 108-100, and the Lakers escaped.

This is how easy things were for the Lakers: In the third quarter, James grabbed a defensive rebound, turned and fired a 70-foot pass — soccer throw-in style — to Davis, the ball sailing over the five Rockets who were jogging back on defense. Davis caught the pass in stride and laid it in for a score, the ball never touching the ground.

And this is how difficult things were for the Rockets: They went 4 for 20 from the field over a 17-minute stretch spanning from late in the first quarter to early in the third. James had only four points in those minutes, but the Rockets’ drought meant a three-point deficit ballooned to 21.

The Lakers won Game 3 by holding Houston to 38 points in the second half — and set themselves up to win Game 4 by clamping down again, this time in the first half. It was 57-41 Lakers at the break, meaning Houston had scored 79 points in its last 48 minutes of basketball.

For context: The Rockets had 79 points in a two-quarter span on five different occasions this season.

TIP-INS

Lakers: When James gets to three wins in a series, it’s usually over. His teams — including the Miami and Cleveland stints — are 13-0 in series with a 3-1 lead, and they’re 36-10 overall in the game immediately following the one where they win the third game. … Dion Waiters (sore left groin) was inactive, but the Lakers are hoping it could be a short-term problem. JaVale McGee sat with a left ankle sprain.

Rockets: Houston is one of the franchises that has overcome a 3-1 deficit, doing so against the Clippers in the second round of the 2015 playoffs. . … Harden went to the line for the first time with 1.3 seconds left in the first quarter; he’s now taken a first-period free throw in 17 of his 18 games in the bubble.

NO HOUSE

Houston was again without Danuel House, while the NBA probes whether he violated conduct rules inside the bubble. “They’re investigating it and once it’s through they’ll tell us what the deal is and we’ll go with it,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “So, I can’t really comment on it.” House was held out of Game 3 as well.

UP NEXT

Game 5 is Saturday.

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More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports



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Sports

MAURIELLO GEREMIA: LeBron James compares Rockets to 2000s St. Louis Rams

MAURIELLO GEREMIA


Published

11:52 pm CDT, Friday, September 4, 2020

PHOTOS: More from the Rockets’ big Game 1 win over the Lakers on Friday night

Houston Rockets’ James Harden (13) passes in front of Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) during the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game Friday, Sept. 4, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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PHOTOS: More from the Rockets’ big Game 1 win over the Lakers on Friday night

Houston Rockets’ James Harden (13) passes in front of Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) during the second half of an NBA

… more

Photo: Mark J. Terrill, Associated Press

Photo: Mark J. Terrill, Associated Press

PHOTOS: More from the Rockets’ big Game 1 win over the Lakers on Friday night

Houston Rockets’ James Harden (13) passes in front of Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) during the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game Friday, Sept. 4, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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PHOTOS: More from the Rockets’ big Game 1 win over the Lakers on Friday night

Houston Rockets’ James Harden (13) passes in front of Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) during the second half of an NBA

… more

Photo: Mark J. Terrill, Associated Press

LeBron James compares Rockets to 2000s St. Louis Rams

LeBron James paid the Rockets a pretty big compliment after Houston’s small lineup bulldozed the bigger Lakers 112-97 in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals on Friday night.

“It’s kind of like in the early 2000s when you had the St. Louis Rams, The Greatest Show on Turf,” James said after the Lakers loss. “People always used to say how they would scout them and scout them and scout them, but until you got on the field and you saw Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt and Marshall Faulk and (Az-Zahir) Hakim and all those guys. And you were like, ‘OK, we need to play them again,’ because there’s no way you can simulate that speed. So, getting out on the floor and having a Game 1 gives you a good feel for it.”

POCKET ROCKETS: We hear your giggles, but we’re calling them the Pocket Rockets anyway

Those high-powered Rams teams played in two Super Bowls in three years, winning one championship.

The Rockets, who don’t use a player taller than 6-foot-8, got plenty of production from their smaller guys, much like those Rams teams. James Harden led the way with 36 points, while Russell Westbrook and Eric Gordon had 24 and 23, respectively.

P.J. Tucker scored just six points, but he had a team-best plus-minus of plus 19, all while the 6-5 Tucker had to fight down low with Anthony Davis, James and Dwight Howard.

“People keep saying we’re small, but if you don’t have heart, it doesn’t matter,” Harden said after the win. “If you don’t have dog in you, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter how tall you are if you have heart and you’re a competitor.”

James thinks his team will be in much better shape for Game 2 on Sunday night after getting a chance to see that St. Louis Rams-type speed.

“They play with a lot of speed obviously starting with the head of the snake in Russ,” James said. “They play with a lot of speed both offensively and defensively. You can see it on film but we got a feel for their speed tonight and we should be fully aware of that for Game 2.”

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Sports

MAURIELLO GEREMIA: Rockets run away from No. 1 seed Lakers, take Game 1 112-97

MAURIELLO GEREMIA


Updated

11:12 pm CDT, Friday, September 4, 2020

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — The Los Angeles Lakers are playing from behind again in these NBA playoffs.

James Harden scored 36 points and the Houston Rockets ran away from the Lakers 112-97 on Friday night, the second straight round the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference lost its opener.

Russell Westbrook added 24 points, nine rebounds and six assists, and Eric Gordon had 23 points for the Rockets, the No. 4 seed who had just one day of rest after needing seven games to win their first-round series.

They sure didn’t look tired, flying around the court all night to make up for the size disadvantage they face with their small-ball style. They forced 17 turnovers that led to 27 points and played the much bigger Lakers even on the backboards.

The Lakers never led after the first quarter and the Rockets blew it open by starting the fourth with a 16-3 run, turning a six-point advantage into a 101-82 cushion on Harden’s basket with 7:15 to play.

Anthony Davis had 25 points and 14 rebounds for the Lakers. LeBron James had 20 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.

Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) blocks a shot by Houston Rockets’ Russell Westbrook (0) during the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game Friday, Sept. 4, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. less
Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) blocks a shot by Houston Rockets’ Russell Westbrook (0) during the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game Friday, Sept. 4, 2020, in Lake Buena … more

Photo: Mark J. Terrill, AP

Photo: Mark J. Terrill, AP

Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) blocks a shot by Houston Rockets’ Russell Westbrook (0) during the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game Friday, Sept. 4, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. less
Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) blocks a shot by Houston Rockets’ Russell Westbrook (0) during the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game Friday, Sept. 4, 2020, in Lake Buena … more

Photo: Mark J. Terrill, AP

Rockets run away from No. 1 seed Lakers, take Game 1 112-97

Game 2 is Sunday.

The Rockets committed to playing small in February, believing they weren’t built to compete with the best of the West playing conventionally. They debuted their style with a victory over the Lakers in Los Angeles and proved again why it they think it can work.

They were constantly on the move defensively, deflecting passes and corralling loose balls

It’s the kind of plays they have to make while staring a lineup that has nobody taller than 6-foot-8 Robert Covington. They opened the game with 6-3 Gordon guarding the James and Harden defending 7-footer JaVale McGee.

The Lakers playing for only the second time in 11 days. They beat Portland in Game 4 of their series on Aug. 24, but then didn’t play again until five nights later after the playoffs were delayed as players and the NBA committed to finishing the season following the Milwaukee Bucks’ decision not to play a game as a statement against racial injustice.

They didn’t appear to have any rust at the start, breaking to a 7-0 lead. But the rest of the first quarter was tight from there, Houston leading 29-28 after Rajon Rondo’s final shot came after the buzzer. The Lakers never led again.

The Lakers are one of sports’ marquee franchises, their 16 championships one behind Boston for most in NBA history. But they are in the second round for the first time since 2012, a month before James won his first NBA title and Davis was drafted with the No. 1 pick.

And it was a rocky start to it, just as it was when the Blazers beat them in Game 1 of the last round.

Gordon scored Houston’s first nine points of the fourth quarter before Westbrook’s 3-pointer extended the lead to 97-82 with 9:07 remaining. Gordon then scored again before Harden’s basket while Davis was trying to draw a charge ended the run.

Harden made a 3-pointer for the last basket of the half and a 63-55 lead, giving him 25 points in the half.

TIP-INS

Rockets: Houston played the final game of the first round, edging Oklahoma City 104-102 on Wednesday. … Austin Rivers scored 10 points off the bench.

Lakers: Assistant coach Jason Kidd missed the game because of what coach Frank Vogel said were severe back spasms. They are already without assistant Lionel Hollins, who didn’t join them in Disney for the restart and has been working remotely. … The Lakers kept their regular starting lineup, keeping JaVale McGee as the center.

RONDO RETURNS

Rondo got his first action in the bubble when he checked in for the Lakers in the first quarter. He scored eighth points. Rondo missed all eight seeding games while recovering from right thumb surgery, then was bothered by back spasms when he was set to play during the first round.

POSTSEASON PAST

This is the ninth postseason meeting between the teams, with the Lakers leading 5-3. They went on to win the championship after the last one, a 4-3 victory in the 2009 Western Conference semifinals.

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More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports



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