Basketball

NBA ROUNDUP | Lillard explodes for 49 points against Heat; Saric soars for Sixers

AFP

AFP

Damian Lillard carried his team on his back Sunday, scoring a season-high 49 points as the Portland Trail Blazers stopped the Miami Heat 115-104 at AmericanAirlines Arena.

The 26-year-old point guard from Oakland, California made 12 free throws and nine three-pointers, the same number the entire Heat team did. His 49 points was just four fewer than the Miami  starting lineup.

“That was one incredible performance,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “There may be less than five players in this league that you have to do something different on your pick-and-roll coverage. Lillard is one of those guys.

“Once he got going, there haven’t been many shooting performances like that in the league this year. He was outstanding.”

Despite playing on back-to-back nights, Lillard showed no signs of fatigue, making 14 of 21 shots from the floor.

It was Lillard’s 13th game this season with 30 or more points and his fourth with 40 or more. He started the night seventh in NBA scoring with an average of 26.5 points.

Lillard got help from Jusuf Nurkic, who had 21 points and 12 rebounds as Portland improved to 32-37 on the season.

CJ McCollum added 18 points as the Trail Blazers won their third game in a row and are now one game behind the Denver Nuggets for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference.

Blazers coach Terry Stotts said he hopes his players remain focused during their final 13 games, 10 of which are at home.

“Being at home doesn’t guarantee anything,” Stotts said. “Certainly, it’s an advantage, but we can’t let down our guard.”

In Los Angeles, Kyrie Irving scored 46 points as the Cleveland Cavaliers rolled over the Los Angeles Lakers 125-120 at Staples Center.

Irving connected on 15 of 21 shots from the floor for the Cavaliers, who increased their lead over the Boston Celtics for first place in the Eastern Conference to 2 1/2 games.

LeBron James tallied 34 points, seven assists and six rebounds, and Kevin Love added 21 points and 15 boards for Cleveland, who improved to 46-23.

Elsewhere, JJ Barea tallied 11 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter as the Dallas Mavericks went wire-to-wire to beat the Brooklyn Nets 111-104.

Germany’s Dirk Nowitzki led Dallas with 23 points, including 20  in the first three quarters when the Mavericks took an 82-72 lead. He also became the sixth NBA player to score at least 31,000 career points. 

Saric soars as Sixers rally to dump Celtics

Croatian forward Dario Saric scored 23 points and Robert Covington sank a go-ahead 3-pointer with 3:41 to play Sunday, sparking the Philadelphia 76ers over visiting Boston 105-99.

Covington, who finished with 16 points, and Saric combined for nine points in the NBA contest’s final 5:27 as the 76ers rallied from what had been a 13-point deficit in the third quarter to win for the third time in four games.

Al Horford scored a season-high 27 points and contributed eight rebounds and six assists to lead the Celtics, who fell to 44-26, two games behind Eastern Conference leader Cleveland.

The Celtics, whose three-game win streak ended, were without All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas, who rested a sore right knee. He is expected to return Monday against Washington, third in the East at 42-27.

With the score knotted at 91-91, Covington sank his crucial 3-pointer and 76ers guard T.J McConnell sank a jumper that triggered a 9-2 Philadelphia flurry to seal the win.

The Memphis Grizzlies’ title hopes took a blow Sunday as they announced forward Chandler Parsons will undergo left knee surgery on Monday and is expected to miss the rest of the season.

Parsons, 28, will undergo a procedure to repair a partial tear of the medial meniscus.

He had signed a four-year contract worth $94 million with the Grizzlies in the offseason but has averaged only 6.2 points in 34 games this season, nagged all season by knee injuries. Parsons has undergone two surgeries on his right knee in two years.

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