BAS­KET­BALL Champs off to a fast sta , Po land looks sharp

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

IT wasn’t al­ways pretty, but the Cleveland Cava­liers held on for a 105-99 vic­tory over the Or­lando Magic over the week­end to stay un­beaten in the fledg­ling NBA sea­son.

Shoot­ing guard JR Smith, whose con­tract dis­pute dragged on through train­ing camp be­fore the reign­ing NBA champs inked him to a four-year deal worth as much as US$57 mil­lion, gave good value with three three­p­oint­ers in the fi­nal three-and-a-half min­utes as Cleveland won after let­ting most of an 18-point lead get away.

“Not ev­ery game is go­ing to be pretty for us,” Cavs guard Kyrie Irv­ing said. “We un­der­stand that. [We] came off a kind of late win just like this against Toronto yes­ter­day and now Swish [Smith] hit the big shot. For us it’s just about be­ing ready no mat­ter what the score is. We’ve just got to stay re­silient.”

Su­per­star LeBron James had 23 points, nine as­sists and six re­bounds, Irv­ing added 20, and Smith shook off an­other slow start to score 16 points – 11 of them in the fourth quar­ter.

Kevin Love fouled out in the fi­nal minute with 19 points and five re­bounds as the Cava­liers im­proved to 3-0 for the sea­son less than a week after rais­ing their 2015-16 cham­pi­onship ban­ner.

After con­trol­ling most of the con­test, Cleveland opened the fourth quar­ter shoot­ing just two of 12. They went more than five min­utes without a bas­ket from the floor, and the Magic had trimmed the deficit to 88-85 with four min­utes to play.

“I just thought there was a stretch in the game where we messed around, took some bad shots,” Cleveland coach Ty­ronn Lue said.

Lue said Smith is still find­ing his rhythm after miss­ing all but one pre­sea­son game.

But James found him in the cor­ner for a big three-pointer after Or­lando’s El­frid Pay­ton’s jump shot pulled the vis­i­tors within three.

Smith added an­other three-pointer on the Cava­liers’ next trip down and one more in the fi­nal minute.

“The guys just set the ta­ble for me,” Smith said. “It was just time for me to eat.”

In Den­ver, Damian Lil­lard made a float­ing 7-foot shot with three-tenths of a sec­ond re­main­ing in over­time to lift the Port­land Trail Blaz­ers to a 115113 tri­umph.

Port­land erased a nine-point fourth-quar­ter deficit, hand­ing the Nuggets a de­feat in their home opener for the third-straight year.

Lil­lard scored 37 points and CJ McCol­lum added 23 with 10 re­bounds for the Trail Blaz­ers.

Nikola Jo­kic scored 23 points and pulled down a ca­reer-high 17 re­bounds and Em­manuel Mu­diay had 21 points for the Nuggets on what proved an event­ful night at their Pepsi Cen­ter arena.

At half­time the Nuggets re­tired the num­ber 55 of Dikembe Mutombo, the Con­golese great whose Hall of Fame ca­reer spanned 18 sea­sons.

But the night on which he was hon­oured didn’t go en­tirely smoothly. With 9:18 re­main­ing in the fourth quar­ter half of the over­head lights in the arena went out, de­lay­ing the game for 28 min­utes.

Port­land put a fur­ther damper on the fes­tiv­i­ties with their huge rally, scor­ing the last six points of the game to win it.

Manu Gi­no­bili and Tony Parker sat out San An­to­nio’s home opener, but the Spurs still had enough fire­power to beat the New Or­leans Pel­i­cans 98-79.

San An­to­nio never trailed after the first quar­ter and used a 17-4 scor­ing run late in the third pe­riod to take a stran­gle­hold on the con­test.

Spurs for­ward Kawhi Leonard scored 16 of his team-high 20 points in the sec­ond half and San An­to­nio smoth­ered Pel­i­cans power for­ward An­thony Davis, who came into the con­test av­er­ag­ing 47.5 points per game in the young sea­son but was held to 18.

Pel­i­cans coach Alvin Gen­try was asked if games against Western Con­fer­ence pow­ers Golden State and San An­to­nio on con­sec­u­tive days was the tough­est back-to-back the NBA had to of­fer.

“We’re play­ing against a team that won 73 games and a team that won 67 games,” he said. “I don’t know if there’s ever been a back-to-back where you play against teams that won 200 games.” –

Photo: AFP

LeBron James of the Cleveland Cava­liers can’t stop smil­ing, as his cham­pi­onship team has started the year off with three straight wins.

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