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Doc Rivers gives West prediction ‘from afar,’ says Lakers, Clippers ‘still the teams to beat’



LOS ANGELES — Doc Rivers might no longer be on the LA Clippers‘ sideline, but he still thinks the Western Conference will be decided by his old team and the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Philadelphia 76ers‘ coach faced his former team on Saturday for the first time since being let go after the Clippers’ 3-1 series meltdown against the Denver Nuggets in the second round of the playoffs. And although he says the Clippers aren’t running much that is different from when he was calling the plays, Rivers said the Clippers and Lakers are the favorites in the West.

“Listen, Utah has been great. But I still think the Clippers and Lakers are still the teams to beat in the West,” Rivers said before the Sixers fell 122-112 to the Clippers on Friday night.

Rivers admitted the observation was being made “from afar,” saying he doesn’t watch as many Western Conference games now that he’s on the East Coast. But, he said, “I don’t see anyone better than those two teams.”

Entering Saturday night, the Utah Jazz (33-11) had the best record in the NBA. Rivers’ Sixers had the second-best record in the league. While the Clippers were third in the West before their game and the Lakers were holding on at fourth despite being without the injured LeBron James and Anthony Davis, Rivers said it is all about the Los Angeles teams, like it was supposed to be last season when they were considered heavy favorites to win it all.

The Nuggets, who were fifth in the West entering Saturday night, made a splash at the trade deadline to get Aaron Gordon from Orlando and JaVale McGee from Cleveland. And Rivers mentioned that Utah has Bojan Bogdanovic back this season after not having him in the bubble.

“I thought Denver had a great trade deadline — they did great moves,” Rivers said. “Utah is playing unbelievable basketball, so they are going to be right there. Portland, I thought improved their team as well.

“But I still think it’s the Lakers and the Clippers.”

The Clippers played a welcome-back video to their former coach, who was with the organization from 2013 to 2020. Rivers left his imprint all over the franchise, turning what was once a laughingstock into a playoff contender and helping it rise out of the Donald Sterling scandal to its status as a title contender with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Current coach Ty Lue is a Rivers protege.

“They’re a different team,” Rivers said. “They don’t have a lot of the same guys, [but] they run a lot of the same stuff that I run. Going through [their plays at] shootaround today, I thought we were going through our shootaround at times. But I wouldn’t have changed much offensively, either. I mean, they were pretty darn good last year.”

Rivers said he did not get much time to practice last season because of injuries, and then the pandemic pause and disruption in the bubble restart.

He said the Clippers now have more continuity.

“The difference is they’ve had a chance to practice together, you know?” Rivers said. “And you can see that. I think they’ve given the ball to P.G. more, which I think has helped him. So they’ve made some good changes. The biggest change I see also is defensively. I think they are a better defensive team. It’s funny, the numbers don’t exactly say that, but when I watch them, I think they’re going to be a better defensive team, one of the better defensive teams when the playoffs start.”

The Clippers added Rivers’ former point guard Rajon Rondo in a trade with Atlanta for Lou Williams. Rivers won a championship with Rondo in Boston and said his old quarterback will help orchestrate the offense, take some playmaking load off of Leonard and George and provide leadership.

“It was difficult at times last year,” Rivers said of not having a point guard like Rondo. “Especially without the practice time that we didn’t have, to run a play down the stretch where you didn’t already have the ball in P.G.’s or Kawhi’s hands. Now you don’t have to do that. You can actually run a set where Rondo can deliver the ball.

“But I think as important as that’s gonna be, his voice is going to be even more important,” Rivers said. “I think he’s one of those guys that will speak up, will speak the truth and tell everybody and hold everybody accountable. I think that’s important.”

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Gains sizable in NBA Finals ratings from last year, but fourth-lowest average since 1997



NEW YORK — Television ratings for the NBA Finals and playoffs posted sizable increases over last year. But that was the only good news for the NBA as far as viewer numbers.

According to Nielsen, the NBA and ABC on Wednesday, the six-game series between the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns averaged 9.91 million viewers, a 32% increase over last year’s series between the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat, which also went six games. However, the average makes it the fourth-lowest since 1997.

The Lakers-Heat series — which was played in October in the Orlando bubble after the coronavirus pandemic pushed the season back five months — averaged only 7.45 million.

San Antonio‘s 2007 four-game sweep of Cleveland (9.29 million) and the Spurs’ six-game victory over New Jersey in 2003 (9.83 million) are the other series to average fewer than 10 million since 1997.

The numbers were also down 34.5% compared to two years ago, when the TorontoGolden State series averaged 15.14 million.

Milwaukee’s 105-98 victory over Phoenix on Tuesday night attracted the most viewers in the series, averaging 12.52 million. The audience peaked between 11:30 p.m. and 11:45 p.m. EDT at 16.54 million. Only two games in the series averaged 10 million or more.

This year’s playoffs averaged 4.25 million, up 35% over last year but down 18% compared to 2019.

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Two shootings leave 3 wounded in Milwaukee during celebration of Bucks’ NBA championship



MILWAUKEE — Two shootings in downtown Milwaukee early Wednesday as crowds celebrated the Milwaukee Bucks‘ first NBA championship in 50 years left three people wounded, police said.

The shootings both happened about 12:42 a.m. at two locations near Water Street, police said in a statement. TV station WISN had a reporter broadcasting from the scene when multiple shots were heard, prompting people to flee.

The shootings were across the Milwaukee River from Fiserv Forum, where the game was played, and the Deer District plaza, where a crowd of roughly 65,000 had gathered for an outdoor watch party. The area where the shootings took place is on a street heavily populated with bars and restaurants.

During Tuesday night’s game, a police officer was trampled by people trying to get into the Deer District watch party after the area had reached capacity, Milwaukee police Capt. Jesús Ortiz said in an email. The officer didn’t sustain any major injuries but reported being in general pain, Ortiz said.

Following one of the shootings, a 22-year-old man had non-life-threatening injuries, police said, and a suspect was in custody.

In the other shooting, which police said happened simultaneously, a 19-year-old woman and a 32-year-old man had non-life-threatening injuries. One person was in custody and other suspects were being sought, police said.

The two shootings, which were in the immediate area of the celebrations, likely were what was heard during the TV coverage, Ortiz said.

The celebrations came after Giannis Antetokounmpo capped one of the greatest NBA Finals ever with 50 points as Milwaukee beat the Phoenix Suns 105-98 to win the series 4-2.

Fans who packed the streets surrounding the arena had cheered and danced all night as they watched the game on giant video screens, and the massive crowd erupted in jubilation as the game ended. A few fans climbed light poles in the plaza and others jumped off a bridge into the nearby river as fireworks exploded above the arena.

Joy Smith, 50, of Milwaukee, danced after the final buzzer. “Milwaukee is underrated, but we proved to the world we could do it,” she told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Another fan, Sabrina Holland, 37, of Milwaukee, called it “epic.” She said: “Everyone who’s anyone is here.“

Before the game, and at the city’s request, Gov. Tony Evers mobilized 150 National Guard members to help in Milwaukee with traffic control and public safety.

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Sports world reacts to Milwaukee Bucks winning first NBA title since 1971



The Milwaukee Bucks are the 2020-21 NBA champions and have snapped a 49-year title drought, the league’s fifth longest entering this season.

This ring proved to be hard-fought as Milwaukee is just the third team in Finals history to win four straight after trailing 2-0, joining the 2006 Miami Heat and 1977 Portland Trail Blazers. Giannis Antetokounmpo joined Bob Pettit as the only players in NBA history to score 50 points in a finals clincher.

As the franchise and fans celebrate their long-awaited championship, let’s relive some of the best social media moments from the Bucks’ title-clincher.

Antetokounmpo joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the only players in Bucks history to be named Finals MVP. He and his teammates had several notable viewers excited to share their congratulations.

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