Anthony Davis shines for the LA Lakers just before game 3

Anthony Davis has been heating up

By: Isabel Gomez

After a less-than-ideal performance during Game 1, Anthony Davis bounced back and helped the Lakers go 1-1 in Phoenix. The Lakers got the split on the road and will now play their first playoff game at Staples Center since 2013. 

Davis couldn’t quite get his rhythm going on Sunday and took the blame for the Lakers losing the first game of the series.

“There’s no way we are winning a game, let alone the series, with me playing the way I played. This one is on me,” Davis said after struggling to get 13 points on 5-of-16 shooting.

LeBron James heard what his teammate said and accurately predicted what would happen in Game 2.

“Any time he comes to the press room and tells you we can’t win without him or with him playing the way he played, he always responds. I’m looking forward to that,” James said.

He definitely responded. Davis redeemed himself on Tuesday by leading the Lakers to a 109-103 victory with 34 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists. 

The power forward/center said he felt the biggest difference was just coming out with more energy and playing more aggressively. He made 18 free throws on 21 attempts, which were both career playoff highs for him.

The Lakers were up by as many as 15 points during the game, but the fourth quarter was a competitive one. A dunk by Deandre Ayton gave the Suns an 88-86 advantage with 6:15 on the clock. The game stayed pretty tight until Davis blocked an Ayton hook shot with 3:15 remaining. The Lakers held a one-point lead at that time (93-92), but then Davis and LeBron James, described by head coach Frank Vogel as “two of the top five players in the NBA,” used that as momentum to go on a 7-0 run.

Vogel said that James, who finished the night with 23 points, is an all-time great and consistently shows it. He also praised Davis for showing “great assertiveness” in how he responded on Tuesday.

“He does it in so many ways,” Vogel said of Davis. “He didn’t settle much for the jump shot. He really ran the floor. Rolled hard. Drove the ball hard, and had the intent to attack the paint with or without the basketball.”

There is no question that both stars performing well will be crucial for the Lakers to go all the way. During the regular season, both of them suffered injuries and were out for a significant amount of games. They’re looking healthier now, but injuries are still part of the storyline for this postseason series. 

James played more minutes than Vogel originally wanted him to on Tuesday when Davis found himself in foul trouble early in the game. However, James looked comfortable out there. It’s actually the Suns who have more to worry about. 

Chris Paul only played 23 minutes on Tuesday while clearly struggling with a shoulder injury he suffered in Game 1. The Phoenix guard is listed as probably for Thursday’s game. If his minutes are limited, Cameron Payne will likely see more time in the point guard position. 

Devin Booker and Ayton are currently the two top scorers for the Suns during the postseason. In two games, Booker is averaging 32.5 points and Ayton is seeing 21.5 points while making 87.5% of his shots. The Lakers ended the regular season with the league’s No. 1-ranked defense, so they should have enough power to stop them.

The Los Angeles team will likely use the purple and gold fans as extra motivation, especially since it will be their first playoff game in LA in eight years.

“It’s going to be pretty special for our fans,” James said. “That’s what I came here for to be able to play a playoff game in front of the Lakers faithful.”

Game 3 is scheduled for Thursday at 7pm PT and will be nationally broadcast on TNT.

The New York Knicks are ready for their return to the playoffs

By: Isabel Gonzalez

Some 90s trends made a comeback this year, and the New York Knicks are one of them.

The Knicks haven’t been great for a long time, but they made it into the playoffs for the first time since 2013. Their 41-31 record earned them the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference and home court advantage for the first round. 

Tom Thibodeau is one of top candidates for the NBA Coach of the Year Award. He was named Eastern Conference Coach of the Month for May after the Knicks went 6-3 this month . This included three straight victories to wrap up the regular season.

They will be playing Game 1 against the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday. The Knicks came out victorious in all three of their meetings earlier this year, but this doesn’t guarantee anything.

Sure, New York has been one of the league’s biggest surprises this season, but Thibodeau admitted what everyone who follows basketball already knows: the regular season and playoffs are very different from each other. 

“Once you get to the playoffs, teams are locked in to you specifically. They’re going to know you inside and out and you’re going to know them inside and out,” he said. “You just have to be ready to play. Hopefully you’ve built the proper habits to get yourself ready to play.”

Their last encounter on April 21 went into overtime after Bogdan Bogdanovic hit a three-pointer with six seconds left on the clock. That level of intensity would be fun to see during the playoffs, and it’s actually completely possible.

The Knicks have been one of the best defensive teams all season long. They hold the best opponent points per game average of 104.7. However, they have one of the weakest offensive ratings from teams in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Hawks have one of the top 10 offenses but aren’t too hot in the defensive area. 

Julius Randle played really well through the three games against Atlanta. He averaged 37.3 points while shooting at 58.1% from the field and 50.0% from beyond the arc. He showed he can handle the Hawks, but he said he is trying to not think too much about those past games. 

“It doesn’t matter. We got Game 1 coming up on Sunday,” Randle said. “I just gotta be prepared for whatever comes at me. Whatever they throw my way, I’ll be prepared for it. It’s really not about what’s happened in the past.”

He’ll be an important player to watch through the series, but the Knicks have made it clear they believe their strength comes from the entire roster. In April, Randle and Reggie Bullock were asked about the Brooklyn Nets and their Big 3. Their response was that the Knicks were the Big 15.

That was not a one time thing. On Wednesday’s media availability, Randle once again talked about his confidence on his entire team.

Thibodeau agrees with that mentality. The coach said the depth of his team is one of their biggest strengths.

“The thing that I love about our team is if someone is not going good, another guy steps in. If he’s going good, everyone cheers for that guy,” Thibodeau said. “The most important thing is the team winning. That’s where I want the focus to lie.”

The times for the first round are yet to be announced. However, Knicks fans already received the news that 13,000 of them will be allowed during home games at Madison Square Garden.

rookie of the year candidate LaMelo Ball is making an impact on the hornets

Ball is having an impressive rookie campaign

By: Isabel Gonzalez

James Borrego had no idea what he was getting when the Charlotte Hornets drafted LaMelo Ball. 

This week, the coach went on ESPN’s Jalen and Jacoby show and talked about what it’s been like coaching the rookie. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was no Summer League to check out the new NBA talent so Borrego admitted he didn’t know what to expect at the beginning.

“The first two days I had no idea what we had just drafted, it was wild,” he said on the show. “The ball was going all over the place, it was 100 miles an hour. We had turnovers all over the place. I had no idea what we had just drafted.”

Borrego said it only took three or four days for Ball to settle into the group. Fast forward to today and there is no doubt about the positive impact the young player has had on the team. 

Ball was the favorite to win Rookie of the Year since the beginning of the season, but was forced to sit out for six weeks after suffering a wrist injury on March 20. At first, his broken wrist looked like it would be season-ending, but the young guard healed quickly after surgery. When he returned, Borrego said Ball was still the obvious candidate for ROY. 

The coach said Ball is setting the Hornets franchise on a path for success. Off the court, Borrego said, the rookie always brings a lot of energy and has an infectious joyful spirit. On the court, he is a talented play maker that makes good decisions and executes creative passes. 

Borrego has compared Ball to the now-retired NBA legend Manu Ginobili on multiple occasions. One of those times was after Ball’s first game back on May 1 against Detroit, when Ball sent an impressive underhand pass across the court to Miles Bridges. 

The coach said he did not teach him how to do it, and in fact, he didn’t know a lot of players who could pass like that. 

“I just closed my eyes, I had nothing to do with that,” Borrego said. “He’s the only guy I know. Maybe Ginobili would’ve thrown that one as well. I’ve seen him throw some crazy stuff out there. I put Melo in that same Manu category.”

However, it didn’t seem like anything new for Ball. He said it “felt normal” because it’s something he did a lot while growing up playing with his dad and brothers.

“Just playing when we was young, it was pretty much passes like that every play,” he said.

Ball is clearly very comfortable in this area. He has thrown a lot of no-look behind-the-back passes and his fair share of left-hand lobs through the season. The 19-year-old leads his team in assists with 6.1 per game. Ball is also averaging 15.8 points and six rebounds through the 48 games he’s played with the Hornets.

Borrego said that Ball’s confidence at such a young age surprised him. He also wasn’t expecting him to show as high of a level when it comes to shooting ability and finishing at the rim. 

Ball is competing against Minnesota Timberwolves’ Anthony Edwards and Sacramento Kings’ Tyrese Haliburton for the ROY honor. Edwards started making a lot more noise since March and is Ball’s biggest competition for the award. However, Ball is in a better position to show he can make an impact on his team.

The Timberwolves hold a 22-47 record and were eliminated from playoff contention three weeks ago. Meanwhile, the Hornets are 33-37, which is not ideal but they still have a chance at making the playoffs for the first time since 2016. On May 11, they officially clinched a spot in the play-in tournament so they do have at least that postseason appearance guaranteed.

Ball doesn’t seem too worried about his personal achievements right now, he said that making it to the playoffs will be all about taking it one day at a time as a team.

“Just going into every game and trying to win, that’s pretty much my main goal. Take it day by day,” he said.

LeBron James is back on the sideline with ankle soreness

Lakers head coach Frank Vogel confirmed Lebron James will miss Thursday’s game against the Clippers.

Isabel Gonzalez @cisabelg

It’s been a “long, super quick” season for the Los Angeles Lakers, as described by LeBron James.

The Lakers star spent six week out due to a high right ankle sprain that occurred on March 20 against the Hawks. Missing 20 games became James’ longest absence of his career, and unfortunately for the Lakers, that count didn’t stop there.

He returned to the court last Friday against the Kings and admitted it had been stressful to not be able to help his team, which currently holds a 37-28 record. He talked about the number of hours he spent doing rehab because of the determination he had to get back.

“It was a lot more than I slept. Over the last six weeks that’s all I’ve been doing, having the urgency to get back and play,” James said. “I knew getting back to 100% was impossible. I don’t think I’ll ever get back to 100% in my career, but I felt comfortable that I could get out on the floor and help my team win.”

Through the two games after his return, James said he started out fine but could feel his ankle getting tight and sore after halftime. He said there hasn’t been much practice time this season, so during his rehab he didn’t experience five-on-five or contact. Instead, he had to focus on individual workouts and a lot of running to keep his conditioning going.

His pain caused him to check out before Sunday’s game against the Raptors was over. James then sat out Monday’s game against the Nuggets for the same reason. The Lakers picked up a much needed win without him, but on Wednesday head coach Frank Vogel announced that he will continue sidelined for at least one more game. James will miss Thursday’s game against the Clippers and then be day-to-day after that. 

The Lakers will also be missing starting point guard Dennis Schroder. On Monday, Vogel confirmed that he will be out 10-14 days due to health and safety COVID-19 protocols.

This is a continuation of what the Lakers have been dealing with for the last couple of months. Forward/center Anthony Davis was out of the lineup for 30 games due to a calf strain and Achilles tendinosis. He returned on April 23, but the time off was noticeable at first.

Vogel said Davis is slowly getting back to where he wants to be in rhythm, timing and conditioning. The coach liked the defensive effort he saw from him on Monday.

While Davis is improving, the Lakers are still missing some key pieces. Kyle Kuzma didn’t shy away from pointing out that his team felt disconnected because of all the inconsistency in the lineup. James agreed with him but also said that at the end of the day, whoever was on the floor had to figure out a way to get it done. 

The veteran said the Lakers can hang their hats knowing they can perform well in the postseason because of the experience in the roster. However, the team is currently sixth in the Western Conference, which means dropping one spot would force them into the play-in tournament. 

Vogel said the Lakers were not in an ideal situation right now, but also that the No. 1 goal is to get James’ ankle better, even if it’s not 100%.

“Wherever we end up in the standings, we want him as healthy as possible going into the playoffs,” Vogel said. “Other than that, we are just going to compete and win as many games as we can down the stretch here.”

Anthony Edwards continues making his case for Rookie of the Year

Isabel Gonzalez @cisabelg

Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Anthony Edwards has talent as big as his personality. While the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft was not the favorite to win Rookie of the Year at the beginning of the season, he is certainly making his case now.

When the season started, LaMelo Ball looked like the most probable candidate for ROY, but the Charlotte Hornets guard suffered what at first seemed to be a season-ending wrist injury on March 20. He is healing faster than expected and there’s a chance he could return to the lineup soon, but Edwards started to pick up steam in March and will likely continue to be competitive even if LaMelo does come back.

Edwards is leading all rookies in scoring with 18.3 points per game, as well as in total three pointers with 142 of them.

The 6’4 guard is athletic and has raw scoring ability. He has been scoring in double digits since he put on the Timberwolves jersey, but he’s taken it up a notch in the last two months. 

On March 18, Edwards had a career-best 42 points against the Phoenix Suns, a team that has one of the best defenses in the league. Edwards became the youngest player with a 40-point performance in Timberwolves history and the third youngest in NBA history.

Edwards averaged 24.2 points per game during the month of March and didn’t slow down in April. He’s averaging 21.3 points per game but is also showing he has the potential to help in the Timberwolves weaker area: the defense. The team as a whole has been inconsistent on that side of the ball, but stepping up on the defense helped the Timberwolves pull off a surprising sweep against the Utah Jazz, who currently have the best record in the NBA.

Edwards got five steals during Saturday’s game to complement his 23 points, nine rebounds and four assists. When focused, the 19 year old can be a difference maker. He feels very confident in his ability to read passers and credited his football background for it.

“I tell Coach (Chris) Finch all the time, when I’m in gaps, don’t be telling me do this, do that. I play safety. I play cornerback,” Edwards said after Saturday’s 101-96 victory against the Jazz. “I know what I’m doing. If I bite a little bit and they make a pass, it’s a steal… Football definitely helps me with picking the pass off all the time.”

Edwards struggled offensively during the last game of the Utah series on Monday, particularly from beyond the arc. He struggled again on Tuesday against the Houston Rockets, but Finch was happy with the effort he saw and the fact that Edwards fought to pick up nine rebounds during each of the last three games. Finch said he’s been asking Edwards to work on being more active on the glass. 

Another thing the coach is liking is his strong performance during fourth quarters. He described Edwards as an explosive player who can “put a hot streak together quickly.”

The Timberwolves have the second worst record in the Western Conference at 19-44. They are struggling, but Edwards has been improving and could give them some hope for the future. He is seeing significant playing time, having appeared in all 63 games for Minnesota so far while averaging almost 32 minutes a game. 

Finch said Edwards can be a consistent rim attacker and potentially grow to be one of the best in the league. While he doesn’t expect the rookie to have it all figured out yet, he said Edwards is an important asset to the team.

“He has the ability to make plays that not every player can,” the coach said. “When you see that, you get inspired. When he is playing that way, he plays with great energy and that translates to his teammates.”

It’s not just his own team who sees the potential in him. Edwards is already earning the respect of some of the biggest stars in the league. Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul George talked highly of him during a postgame press conference on April 18.

“He can be a big player. Big time talent, explosive kid. He’s got a powerful game and he can do a little bit of everything,” George said. “He can do a lot of things. You talk about a three-level scorer. He’s elite. I see star, All-Star, possibly superstar. Sky’s the limit for the kid.”

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