When quantity meets quality for the defending champs

PORTLAND — Alfonzo McKinnie wears the satisfied smile of a man who appreciates that his basketball journey has led him to this moment. After bouncing all over the world in hopes of finally landing a consistent place in the NBA, McKinnie has made the most of his opportunity this season with the Golden State Warriors, but especially over the past few weeks of the postseason. “Man, it’s a great feeling, I know that,” McKinnie said recently. “Just being able to be in this position and playing on this stage. It’s…

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Rockets not bringing back defensive guru Bzdelik

The Houston Rockets are not renewing the contract of associate head coach Jeff Bzdelik, one of the architects of the team’s defensive turnaround this past season. “Jeff’s contract was up. It will not be renewed,” Rockets general manager Daryl Morey told the Houston Chronicle. “We’re looking for any way to improve. That goes for players, coaches, front office, everything.” Bzdelik, 66, was convinced to come out of retirement in November after the Rockets’ season got off to a rocky start. Bzdelik started in the NBA 30 years ago as a…

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The Milwaukee ‘Bench Mob’ is overwhelming Toronto

3:55 AM ET Malika AndrewsESPN MILWAUKEE — George Hill is demanding to know how this story got told. It’s true, he said. He did, in fact, jump into a chilly lake to save Paul George‘s drowning dog a few years ago. It was back when Hill and George were teammates on the Indiana Pacers. As both a self-identified “fix it” guy and an animal lover, Hill just had to jump in after the pooch when he saw it struggling to keep its head above water. “I’m just mad the water…

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Lillard — ‘Lot of contact’ by Iguodala on final play

OAKLAND, Calif. — Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard believed there was contact before Andre Iguodala‘s strip that sealed the Golden State Warriors‘ 114-111 win in Thursday night’s Game 2 of the Western Conference finals, but he didn’t blame the referees for not blowing the whistle. After the Warriors fouled with 10 seconds remaining, Lillard isolated against Iguodala on the left wing, attempting to create space to shoot a 3-pointer that would have tied the score. However, Iguodala swiped the ball away with his right hand as Lillard went into…

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East ‘definitely open’ without LeBron

5:04 PM ET Malika AndrewsESPN MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo admits this isn’t how he envisioned the Milwaukee Bucks‘ season playing out. At the beginning of the season, Antetokounmpo said he couldn’t have known his team would advance to the Eastern Conference finals. The landscape of the Eastern Conference changed drastically in the summer of 2018, when LeBron James, who dominated the East for nearly a decade, signed with the Los Angeles Lakers. James’ Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat teams represented the East in the NBA Finals for eight consecutive years.…

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The Bucks weren’t at their best in Game 1, but they proved how hard it is to beat them

MILWAUKEE — At the moment Kawhi Leonard shook Khris Middleton on a backdoor cut for an easy layup midway through the third quarter of Game 1 on Wednesday night, the Toronto Raptors looked like their best selves. The Raptors had managed only five shot attempts at the rim in the first half, but here was a beautiful half-court set that encapsulated how brutally efficient the Raptors can be when they’re maximizing their strengths: Leonard and Kyle Lowry splitting off Marc Gasol in the high post — Lowry fanning out to…

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Bucks trying to avoid another Game 1 letdown after long layoff

7:44 AM ET Malika AndrewsESPN MILWAUKEE — One by one, the Milwaukee Bucks players pulled into the garage in the team’s practice facility. It was Thursday, less than 12 hours removed from their series-clinching Game 5 victory over the Boston Celtics, and Mike Budenholzer had given the team the day off. Yet there was Giannis Antetokounmpo and Pat Connaughton and Brook Lopez. Sterling Brown, Eric Bledsoe, Khris Middleton and the others showed up at the gym, too. At that point, they had no idea whom their Eastern Conference finals opponent…

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Senator asks Canada to ensure Kanter’s safety

With the Portland Trail Blazers and Toronto Raptors each four wins away from a matchup in the NBA Finals, plans are being made to ensure Blazers starting center Enes Kanter can safely participate in all the games. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden is sending a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on behalf of Kanter encouraging safe passage for the Turkish center to Canada for all games. “I ask your government to facilitate Mr. Kanter’s safe passage to and from Canada should the Portland Trail Blazers play the Toronto Raptors…

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NBA draft lottery deep dive

The 2019 NBA draft comes with the debut of new odds throughout the lottery (Tuesday, 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN) — giving more teams a reasonable chance of winning the No. 1 overall pick and a chance to select consensus top prospect Zion Williamson. There are huge stakes throughout the lottery. Landing No. 1 could completely change a franchise. There will be a debate at No. 2 between Murray State’s Ja Morant and Duke’s RJ Barrett, and team fit could ultimately settle things. Multiple teams in the lottery are holding…

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Emotional Embiid ‘can’t explain’ Game 7 loss

TORONTO — Joel Embiid walked off the court in tears following the Philadelphia 76ers‘ 92-90 Game 7 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Sunday, as Philadelphia’s playoff run ended in the final seconds of the final game of the Eastern Conference semifinals. He had played 45 minutes, more than he ever had in regulation, and outstretched every bit of his 7-foot-6 wingspan to contest Kawhi Leonard‘s buzzer-beating shot, the first of its kind to win a Game 7 in NBA history. “Losing the game that way,” Embiid said when asked…

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