NBA

Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James fools everyone with filthy no-look pass against Los Angeles Lakers

Jay Asser 12/03/2018
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LeBron James recently reached 8,000 career assists.

It seems like every week LeBron James makes a pass that captures the imagination.

We all know the Cleveland Cavaliers star is a phenomenal scorer, but his passing sometimes goes under the radar.

This highlight in Cleveland’s 127-113 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, however, was a nice reminder of just how ridiculous James’ court vision is.

That’s pure art. With Kyle Korver standing alone on the perimeter and the Lakers on the verge of scrambling over, LeBron drew both defenders with his eyes and a fake before dropping an easy no-look to Ante Zizic for the dunk.

LeBron is known for making pinpoint, cross-court passes all the time, but we don’t often get these type of dimes from him that conjure memories of Magic Johnson or Pete Maravich.

It also looked familiar to one a certain former great pulled off.

LeBron wasn’t done though.

Had it not been for his beautiful no-look feed, this would have been the biggest highlight to come out of the game.

LeBron sure does love a good nutmeg.

Even at 33, James remains as fun to watch as ever.

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NBA

Stumbling San Antonio Spurs in need of Kawhi Leonard to keep playoff streak alive

Jay Asser 11/03/2018
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Kawhi Leonard has played in just nine games this season.

If Kawhi Leonard is coming back this season, his return can’t come soon enough for the San Antonio Spurs, who are in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time in 21 years.

San Antonio received encouraging news of Leonard reportedly being available to play as early as Thursday against the New Orleans Pelicans, barring a setback.

The two-time Defensive Player of the Year has only been on the court for only nine games, with the Spurs being without their best player and franchise cornerstone for nearly the entire season.

And San Antonio are desperate to get him back for a critical stretch run.

After keeping the machine humming as the third-best team in the Western Conference for most of the season, the Spurs have started to tumble in the standings.

A 104-94 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday dropped them to 37-29, which places them seventh in the standings and just one game from 10th.

San Antonio are just 3-10 over the past 13 games and their schedule to close out the season does them no favours, with match-ups remaining against Houston (twice), New Orleans (twice), Golden State, Washington (twice), Oklahoma City and Portland.

The only bottom-feeders the Spurs will play from here on out are Orlando on Tuesday and Sacramento in their penultimate game on April 9.

The tough finish, combined with the fact there are 10 teams battling for eight spots in the West, means it’s conceivable San Antonio could miss the playoffs for the first time since 1997 – easily the longest such streak in the league.

Leonard, if he’s healthy, could change the whole equation.

Though the Spurs are just 5-4 this season when the forward plays, his presence gives them a singular talent to lean on that is otherwise missing from the lineup.

Knowing head coach Gregg Popovich and the culture San Antonio have cultivated over the years, there’s every chance the Spurs won’t go down easy – regardless of whether or not Leonard plays.

“You’ve got no choice. You can’t give in,” LaMarcus Aldridge said after the Thunder loss. “If you give in, that shows your character. I don’t think anyone of this team is a quitter.”

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NBA

Toronto Raptors have nothing left to prove before playoffs after ending Houston Rockets' win streak

Jay Asser 10/03/2018
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Raptors guard Kyle Lowry scored 30 points on Houston.

Whatever was left to prove for a team sitting first in its conference, the Toronto Raptors delivered on to validate their status as contenders.

Toronto did what no team had done since late January and beat the Houston Rockets 108-105 at the Air Canada Centre on Friday, putting an end to the Western Conference leaders’ 17-game winning streak.

Though the Raptors were already sitting atop the East and in possession of the third-best record in the league, the clash with Houston felt like a litmus test for the team’s ceiling this season.

And Toronto passed with flying colours – a statement that they’re not only capable of reaching the NBA Finals, but of making it a competitive series, especially if they meet the Rockets who they’ve defeated twice already.

James Harden and Chris Paul have arguably been the best backcourt in the league this season, but the Raptors’ own talented duo of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan evened the playing field on Friday.

Lowry and DeRozan combined for 53 points to Harden and Paul’s 54, while the Raptors beat the Rockets at their own game by taking and making more 3-pointers.

“I think the biggest, too, is they’re playing a lot freer and without as much thought, and that shows a lot with the way DeMar is playing,” said Paul, via the Toronto Star. “He’s shooting a lot more threes now, he’s just hooping. And that’s the same we say for us. And they actually look like they have fun playing together.”

Toronto’s reserves, meanwhile, outscored Houston’s second unit 28-22 to once again win the bench battle.

The Raptors’ bench has been a significant reason for their success as they lead the league in defensive rating at 100.1 points allowed per 100 possessions, net rating at 9.4 and average plus-minus at plus-4.1.

“We’ve done it against Cleveland, Boston, the second half of Golden State, and now Houston,” said back-up guard Fred VanVleet, who scored 11 points against the Rockets.

“But this was the difference in terms of, like, crunch time, fourth quarter, the game’s on the line, [head coach Dwane Casey] is over there, he’s thinking about subbing, but he ends up leaving us in there for a little bit longer, and we kind of pay him back.”

It will be difficult to trust Toronto until they prove it in the playoffs – a setting they’ve mightily struggled in – but it’s fair to think this is the year they finally have it figured out.

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