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New Orleans Pelicans’ Zion Williamson ‘an unusual force,’ Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle says

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After watching New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson bowl over and barrel through his team on his way to 38 points — and 18 free throws — Saturday night, Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle was at a loss for how to guard him.

“He’s an unusual force and obviously a great player,” Carlisle said after the visiting Mavs fell 112-103. “We’ll have to figure something a little better out next time, but he’s doing this to everybody. We did have some very good possessions guarding him, but he was a beast.

“It presents huge challenges for the defense and for officials. He is just creating collisions out there. This is a Shaquille O’Neal-type force of nature with a point guard skill set.”

Williamson, fresh off a career-high 39 points in Friday night’s home loss to the Denver Nuggets, followed with 38 points on 13-of-20 shooting to go along with six assists and five rebounds. Down the stretch, the Pelicans leaned into Williamson even more.

He scored or assisted on the Pelicans’ final 14 points on Saturday, all in the final 2:47, and helped the Pelicans take a 98-95 lead at that point and put the game away.

“I want to make the best play that’s going to help us win,” Williamson said. “Sometimes, that’s knowing when to shoot it and when not to shoot it. When to make the pass and when not to make the pass. I just want to win. It’s as simple as that.”

New Orleans could not put the game away on Friday, eventually falling to the Nuggets. Williamson said that contest, and the loss that came with it, played a “tiny part” in his aggressiveness in Saturday’s fourth quarter but that, ultimately, it was a new game.

As Williamson handles the ball more and more, his teammates are starting to see him develop into someone who can take over games in the final minutes.

“The ability to go in there and know the angles of the basket and know the angles of everything around the rim, it’s really beautiful,” Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram said. “To be as efficient as he is and go to the rim and sometimes get fouled and play through it, it’s beautiful to see.”

Pelicans guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker said he isn’t surprised that Williamson is making the right reads, because he has seen it happen time and time again this season.

“He’s a great player and very unselfish,” Alexander-Walker said. “He made the winning plays tonight.”

When he wasn’t dishing it off, Williamson was getting to the line frequently. He had season highs with 12 free throws made and 18 free throw attempts.

Carlisle said defending Williamson has become “a real challenge.”

“You’ve got to have a lot of courage to stand in there and get run over by that guy, because he’s coming at you fast,” Carlisle said. “He’s coming at you, like, it’s not just an Amtrak. It’s an Acela. It’s the fast one that doesn’t stop. It doesn’t stop in Westport or wherever. It just goes — phew! — straight to New York City. It’s something else.”

Saturday’s outing was Williamson’s second consecutive game with at least 35 points, five rebounds and five assists, joining Anthony Davis as the only players in franchise history to pull that off in back-to-back games.

Williamson became the eighth player in the shot clock era (since 1954-55) to have at least 75 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists while shooting over 70% from the field in a two-game span, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

According to ESPN Stats & Information research, it was Williamson’s 11th career game with at least 30 points while shooting 60% or better from the field, breaking a tie with LeBron James for the most in NBA history prior to a player’s 21st birthday.

Williamson also became the first player since O’Neal in 1995-96 to have four straight games with 25 points while shooting 65% or better.

But while all the accolades and comparisons are nice, Williamson made it clear whom he wants to be like.

“It’s an honor to hear my name in those categories,” Williamson said, “but I am who I am.”

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

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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

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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

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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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