Dallas Mavericks power forward Maxi Kleber had no regrets about ending up on the wrong end of a Kawhi Leonard highlight but believed the LA Clippers‘ reaction to the spectacular dunk crossed the line.
Kleber fell on his backside on the baseline after Leonard’s thunderous dunk over him in transition with 3:59 remaining in the third quarter of Saturday’s Game 1. Paul George and Marcus Morris Sr. celebrated the dunk by flexing and yelling toward Kleber as they walked within a few feet of him.
“I think the staredown should’ve been a technical foul, in my opinion, but that’s not my decision,” Kleber said after the Mavericks’ practice Sunday. “I didn’t really care. I get up and try to keep playing, and we kept playing. Stuff like that happens. Obviously, it was an amazing dunk.”
The dunk pulled the Clippers to within two points, but the Mavs pulled away late in the fourth quarter for a 113-103 win.
After stealing the ball from Mavs guard Tim Hardaway Jr., Leonard built up a full head of steam before Kleber attempted to block his shot. Kleber said he couldn’t take a foul to stop the fast break because he already had three fouls, but he had no hesitation about challenging Leonard at the rim.
“This is the playoffs, so I’m going to try to contest a shot,” said Kleber, Dallas’ primary defender against Leonard. “I don’t care about [being on a highlight]. You don’t try to give up easy baskets.
“I honestly didn’t expect him to jump up and dunk, but it’s not going to hold me back, because at the end of the day, every possession counts. I couldn’t foul. I would do it every time again.”
The crowd of 7,000 went wild after the dunk, and Dallas coach Rick Carlisle called a timeout in part to attempt to halt any momentum created by the play.
“The reality is a play like that, it gets the building going, but it’s two points,” Carlisle said. “We’ve just got to respond the right way by executing the next offensive play and the next defensive play. That game at that time could have gone either way, so I really liked the way we kept our composure, kept executing and were able to make some plays.”
Kevin Durant powers Team USA’s rout of Czech Republic on record night
SAITAMA, Japan — The best thing Team USA had going for it this summer was Kevin Durant committing to play. Saturday he reminded everyone why.
On a night when he became the all-time leading American scorer in the Olympics, Durant added another tremendous performance to his Team USA resume in a 119-84 victory over the Czech Republic.
The victory assured Team USA second place in their group and a place in the quarterfinals on Tuesday. Their opponent and game time will be determined in a draw Sunday with the only certainty being there cannot be a rematch with France until at least the semifinals.
Because of their two blowouts wins the last two games, Team USA will end up with a favorable position and avoid top medal contenders Australia, Spain and potentially even Luka Doncic-led Slovenia in the quarters.
Durant finished with 23 points on 8 of 11 shooting, which of course was important for the cause, but his playmaking and defense was just as helpful as he put up eight rebounds and six assists as well. In the third quarter he was masterful, scoring 10 points with four of his assists as it went from a tight game into a comfortable blowout.
He’d had a pedestrian start in Tokyo, scoring just 20 points total in the first two games and shooting just 40%. Even in the run-up games in Vegas, Durant wasn’t moving at full speed as he admitted everything seemed like practice and he shot just 43% percent. Then he fouled out of the opening loss to France, a key factor in the Americans’ offensive struggles.
With Doncic, who scored 48 points in his first Olympic game, off to an impressive start and Australia’s Patty Mills putting up great performances, Durant had faded into the background in the tournament’s first week.
All that lethargy was gone Saturday as he looked for his shot early. The Czechs had gotten off to a strong start, making eight of their first 11 shots and building a 10-point lead. But Durant led a charge to overtake them, his 3-pointer in the second quarter giving the U.S. the lead for good.
It was a relevant basket, not just because it put the team in front, but because it pushed Durant past Carmelo Anthony for the all-time scoring lead. Durant’s international career is impeccable including the 2010 World Cup in Turkey, where he established himself as a centerpiece of the national team for the next decade.
It was also a slump-breaker evening for Jayson Tatum, who had his best game of the summer as he put up 27 points with five 3-pointers. Tatum, who was bothered by a minor knee injury in Vegas, had lost his starting spot. Coach Gregg Popovich had positioned him to be an impact scorer off the bench but he was shooting just 40% in the first two games.
Jrue Holiday, who was again terrific defensively as he pressured the ball relentlessly and picked off three steals, had 11 points.
The Czechs were led by Blake Schlib, who played at Loyola-Chicago, with 17 points.
Boston Celtics acquire Josh Richardson, trade Tristan Thompson in separate 3-team deal
The Boston Celtics were involved in a pair of moves to reshuffle their roster Friday that saw them ship out center Tristan Thompson and bring back three players: guard Kris Dunn and center Bruno Fernando from the Atlanta Hawks and guard Josh Richardson from the Dallas Mavericks.
The first deal saw Thompson wind up with the Sacramento Kings, guard Delon Wright go from Sacramento to Atlanta and Dunn and Fernando wind up in Boston, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Boston also received a 2023 second-round pick in the deal, sources said.
Later Friday, Boston struck another deal, with sources confirming that the Celtics landed Richardson from the Mavericks by using the remainder of the trade exception created by the sign-and-trade deal that sent Gordon Hayward to the Charlotte Hornets in November.
Boston now has 13 players with fully guaranteed contracts for next season and are around $5 million in guaranteed money below the projected luxury tax line of $136.6 million for the 2021-22 season, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks.
The Celtics will enter free agency next week with at least one significant decision ahead of them: the possibility of re-signing guard Evan Fournier, whom they acquired with the remainder of the Hayward trade exception in March in the hours leading up to the trade deadline. With their current roster situation, re-signing Fournier would push the Celtics well into the luxury tax for next season.
Richardson, who will turn 28 in September, is about to play on his fourth team in as many years in the wake of back-to-back disappointing seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers and Mavericks. After being acquired by the Sixers in a sign-and-trade for Jimmy Butler two summers ago, Richardson struggled to find a fit in Philadelphia. Then, after being swapped for Seth Curry during the 2020 NBA draft in November, Richardson averaged 12.1 points for Dallas but tied a career low in shooting 33 percent from 3-point range.
He also went from starting all but three regular season games for the Mavericks to coming off the bench for all seven games of Dallas’ first-round playoff series loss to the LA Clippers — including playing less than 10 minutes in each of the final three games of that series.
Richardson, who had a player option for the 2021-22 season, will exercise that option to remain under contract as part of this deal.
Thompson, 30, averaged 7.6 points and 8.1 rebounds in 54 games for the Celtics last season, his first time playing anywhere outside of Cleveland, where he spent the first nine years of his NBA career. But with the emergence of third-year center Robert Williams III, plus the return of center Al Horford as part of the Kemba Walker trade last month, there wasn’t a need for Thompson any longer in Boston.
Now, though, he’s headed to Sacramento, where he will give the Kings insurance at the center spot with starter Richaun Holmes set to be an unrestricted free agent Monday.
Dunn, 27, played just four games during the regular season as he dealt with multiple injury issues, and then saw a total of 33 minutes of action across five playoff games during Atlanta’s run to the Eastern Conference finals. If healthy, the former Providence College star could provide the Celtics some defense on the wing.
Fernando, who will turn 23 in August, averaged 1.5 points across 33 games last year for Atlanta. He was the 34th pick in the 2019 NBA draft.
Wright averaged 10.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists in 63 games split between the Detroit Pistons and the Kings last season. The 29-year-old, now playing for his sixth team, gives Atlanta some depth in the backcourt behind Trae Young, where he can either be his backup or play alongside impending free agent Lou Williams if the Hawks are able to re-sign him.
All five players involved in both deals are on contracts that will expire at the end of the 2021-22 season. Richardson will make $11.6 million next season; Thompson is set to make $9.7 million; Wright will make $8.5 million; Dunn will make just over $5 million and Fernando is set to make $1.7 million.
The Athletic was first to report the Celtics acquiring Richardson.
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