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Bob's Corner: Jazz cop a clip

BOB'S CORNER: Aussie and Boomers star Joe Ingles has had to mostly watch a dramatic turnaround in Game 6 as his Utah Jazz were despatched from the NBA Playoffs by a Kawhi Leonard-less LA Clippers, our US correspondent BOB CRAVEN all over it in this week's round-up.

The underdog LA Clippers sent the Utah Jazz, the team with the best regular season record in the NBA this year, home for the season tonight with a 131-119 win at home in Game 6 of their Western Conference semifinal, giving them the best-of-7 series four games to two. 

The Jazz took the first two games of the series and then lost four straight.

Utah was up big at the half, 72-50, but they were outscored in the second half, 81-47. 

The Clips, who played without injured All-Star Kahwi Leonard for the last two games, were led by second-year player Terrance Mann, who scored a career-best 39, including 20 just in the third quarter. 

He had only scored 25 points total in the first five games of the series.  Donovan Mitchell led the Jazz, also with 39.

In the Eastern Conference semifinal played tonight, the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Atlanta Hawks in Atlanta, 104-99, to even the series at 3 games apiece.  Both teams shot poorly.

Seth Curry - the other Curry - scored 24 for the Sixers on 8-of-14 shooting, including 6-of-9 from beyond the arc.  Joel Embiid added 22 points, 13 boards and 2 blocks. Ben Simmons had another quiet game with 6 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists. 

He was 2-of-6 from the field and 2-of-4 from the line, but only played 25 minutes, due mostly to foul problems.

Atlanta was led (again) by young PG, Trae Young, with 34 points, 5 boards and 12 assists, but he shot only 13-of-30 from the floor.

The deciding Game 7 will be Sunday in Philadelphia.

*The Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Brooklyn Nets in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference semifinal, 104-89, in a ho-hummer. 

They were up by 11 at halftime and never seemed in danger of letting it slip away. The Nets were trying but didn't have anything like the energy level of the Bucks. The Series is now tied at 3 games each with Game 7 coming up in Brooklyn.

The home team has won every game so far, and it seemed obvious early on that the Nets were willing to wait until Game 7 at home to really try to end the series. The Bucks came out strong and continued on from there.

Khris Middleton led them with a line of 38-10-5, plus 4 steals.  Giannis Antetokounmpo was very aggressive and attacked the rim relentlessly.  His line of 30-17-3 not only did not include a 3-point attempt, but of his 12 FG's made, 11 were in the paint and 10 were in the "restricted area" of less than two metres from the hoop. 

Guard Jrue Holiday was also big with a line of 21-8-5 and 4 steals.

Final examples of the difference in energy levels showed the Bucks with a 26-4 advantage in fast break points and the fact that they shot twice as many free throws as the Nets. 

Kevin Durant led the Nets with 32 points, but it took him 30 shots to get there.  Very different from his spectacular effort in Game 5 when he scored 49 on only 23 FG attempts.
(*Since writing, the Bucks broke the home-winning run by claiming Game 7 and the series.) 

Earlier in the Western Conference Semifinals...

The Phoenix Suns are through to the Western Conference Finals after sweeping the Dallas Mavericks in four straight games.

The other Western Conference semifinal has been much more interesting.  The Jazz took the first two games at home in Utah, then the Clips took the next two games at home in LA.  Joe Ingles has been starting all the games and was average (at best) in Game 1, but then was a big help and the model of consistency in the next three games. 

Aussie Joe scored 19 points in each of Games 2, 3 and 4 and added a handful of rebounds and assists in each.

Back in Salt Lake City for Game 5, Ingles had 12 points, 6 boards, 6 assists and 2 steals in 32 minutes, but Utah came out of halftime flat and essentially lost the game in the third quarter. 

Earlier in the Eastern Conference Semifinals
The Brooklyn Nets and the Milwaukee Bucks each won their games at home, and after five games, the Nets were leading 3-2, heading back to Milwaukee. 

Game 5, however was one for the ages.  Brooklyn relies heavily on its trio of superstars:  James "The Beard" Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.  Irving hasn't played yet, and Harden has missed one game and playing but hobbling now with a hammy strain.

Durant turned in a historic game. Down by 16 and playing poorly at the half, the Nets and Durant went into overdrive.  Durant played all 48 minutes and had an amazing triple-double with 49 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists. 

He added 3 steals and 2 blocks and was 16-of-23 from the field, 4-of-9 of those from 3-point land, including a dagger from deep and some free throws in the last minute to put the game away.

He is the first player in NBA history to have a triple-double with at least 45 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists.

Harden managed to play, and played all but two minutes on that sore hamstring, but he was ineffective on offence:  1-of-10 from the floor, including 0-8 from beyond the arc, for 5 points total.  He did have 6 rebounds and 8 assists, though.

Reserve Jeff Green was huge in helping out the offence.  He played 35 minutes and scored 27 points on 8-of-11 shooting, including 7-of-8 from deep. 

Interesting note: both Durant and Green are the last players still in the league who played for our Seattle Supersonics prior to the team leaving to go Oklahoma City.

In the other Eastern Conference semifinal, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Atlanta Hawks split the first 4 games, with each team going 1-1 at home. 

Game 5 in Philadelphia was a real head scratcher. The Sixers at home blew out to a big lead and led by as many as 26 points. But then they just mailed in the rest of the game and were outscored in the fourth quarter 40-19 and blew the game 109-106. 

Like the Jazz did in the West, they were heading into enemy territory for Game 6 and down two games to three.

In Game 5, Simmons played 38 minutes but spent crucial minutes late sitting on the bench as the coach was in fear of his foul shooting. 

In those 38 minutes, Simmons was 2-of-4 from the field and 4-of-14 from the line, along with only 4 boards and 9 assists.  Joel Embiid was his usual amazing self with a line of 37-13-5, plus 2 steals and 4 blocks.

WNBA updates:  Our Seattle Storm, with its two Aussies (Ezi Magbegor and Steph Talbot) playing major back up roles, continue to have the best record in the WNBA and are undefeated on the road. 

The Las Vegas Aces have the second best record after a recent win over the New York Liberty.  Aces' Aussie post player, Liz Cambage, played a big role in that win with 14 points and 11 boards.

NBA awards updates:  

League MVP from Denver, Nikola Jokic, heads the All-NBA First Team. Joining him are Kawhi Leonard of the Clippers, Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Bucks, League scoring leader, Steph Curry of he Warriors, and Luka Doncic of Dallas.  The Second Team included Joel Embiid of the Sixers,  LeBron James of the Lakers, Julius Randle of New York, Damian Lillard of the Blazers and Chris Paul of Phoenix.

Aussie-American Matisse Thybulle (pictured below)of the Sixers was named recently to the NBA's All-Defensive Second Team. Even though he doesn't play as much as most or all of the other members of the All-Defensive teams, he still is sixth in the league in steals and 21st in blocked shots (despite being a guard).  Others on the Second Team are:  Thybulle's Sixers' teammate, Joel Embiid, the Miami Heat duo of Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler, and Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard.

All-Defensive First Team members are:  Aussie Ben Simmons of the Sixers and Utah's centre (and the Defensive Player of the Year) Rudy Gobert, both unanimous picks. Others on the First Team are Draymond Green of the Warriors, and Bucks' teammates Jrue Holiday and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Former NBL import, PG LaMelo Ball of the Charlotte Hornets, showed versatility as a passer, scorer and rebounder, and this has earned him NBA Rookie of the Year honors, despite missing 21 games with a fractured wrist.

PS - Ben Simmons and the mystery that is a free throw.

An Associated Press reporter had some interesting thoughts on how historic Ben Simmons woes at the free throw line are during these playoffs. 

Through today, he is shooting 22-of-67 from the free throw line (10 games). That adds up to, and I use that term advisedly, 32.8 per cent.  After 67 tries, that is the worst in NBA playoff history. 

The next lowest is Shaq in '06 with the Miami Heat, when he hit 37.4 per cent.  The saving grace for O'Neill year was that they won the NBA title.

There have been 804 times in NBA history where players have attempted 67 or more free throws after 10 games.  Previously, a player shooting less the 40 per cent has only happened five times:  Wilt on three occasions and twice for Shaq.

Through this year's first 10 games for Philly, Simmons has missed 45 free throws.  That's more than three entire teams have missed so far:  Atlanta, Phoenix and Brooklyn. 

The Clippers have actually missed 46, but they've played two more games.  In the three games the Sixers have lost to Atlanta, Simmons is 8-of-29 on free throws.  No wonder he's occasionally being benched as the other teams send in their designated "Hack-a-Ben" sub.

Prior to this season, Simmons has averaged between 56 and 62 per cent from the charity stripe.  In the first half of this season, he was at 67 per cent, and he's gone down to 53 after that, with that percentage plummeting in the postseason. 

He has stated to the press, rather succinctly, that he doesn't know why this is happening.  It's time for him to figure it out if they want a chance to advance.

Jun 20

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