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Matthews helps Blazers hold off Raptors

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PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland guard Wesley Matthews scored 21 points, but it was his defensive work on the game’s final possession that keyed the Trail Blazers’ 106-103 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Saturday night at the Moda Center.

Matthews twice thwarted Toronto guard DeMar DeRozan on drives to the basket, allowing the Blazers to hold off a torrid fourth-quarter rally by the Raptors.

With Portland leading 104-103 and 11.8 seconds remaining, Matthews forced a jump ball on a DeRozan move to the hoop. After Toronto won the tap and called timeout with 5.6 seconds left, DeRozan committed a turnover on another drive under defensive pressure from Matthews.

Matthews had fouled DeRozan on a long jump shot on the previous possession, resulting in two free throws that gave the Raptors a 103-102 lead with 25.4 seconds remaining.

“My mentality (on the final possession) was, ‘I owe us one,'” Matthews said. “I had to get us one back. That’s unlike me to be undisciplined, to jump at that (DeRozan shot with 25.4 seconds to play). But he had it going, so I felt like any time it left his hands, it was going to go in.”

DeRozan scored 30 of his game-high 36 points in the second half and also had 12 assists for the Raptors (25-22), who were playing the second of back-to-back games after winning 90-80 at Denver on Friday night. Guard Kyle Lowry added 23 points and eight assists for Toronto.

Forward LaMarcus Aldridge scored 27 points and grabbed 15 rebounds for Portland (34-13), which snapped a two-game losing streak. Matthews and guard Damian Lillard each scored 21 points for the Blazers.

Lillard’s basket with 11.8 seconds proved to be the winner, allowing Portland to stave off a torrid late rally by the Raptors, who trailed by 16 points with nine minutes to play only to take the lead in the closing seconds.

“We understood what we had to do,” DeRozan said. “We were down big, and the only way to get back in the game was to get stops.”

More than that, though, was the offense provided by DeRozan and Lowry.

Held to six points in the first half, DeRozan cranked it up with 16 points in the third quarter as the Raptors closed a 69-50 deficit to 75-70 with a 20-6 run. Portland held an 83-74 edge going into the fourth quarter and increased the lead to 93-77 early in the fourth. Toronto stormed back, though, closing to within 102-101 on a Lowry 3-pointer with 2:52 remaining.

Neither team scored again until Lowry sank two free throws with 25.4 seconds to go to give the Raptors a 103-102 lead.

Lillard made a running bank shot from the right side with 11.8 seconds left to pull Portland back on top 104-103.

“I came up off a down screen,” said Lillard, who also had seven assists and six rebounds with no turnovers. “My first thought was to try to turn the corner and attack as fast as I could. I was able to get a pretty good look and make the floater.”

After the DeRozan turnover, Portland forward Nicolas Batum made two free throws with .1 of a second left for the final margin.

“The first half wasn’t us,” Toronto coach Dwane Casey said. “We picked it up in the second half, but you can’t spot a good team like Portland that many points and expect to survive.”

Aldridge had 18 points and 11 rebounds and Lillard added 15 points — 12 in the second quarter — to stake Portland to a 17-point lead at the half. Lowry had 12 points for the Raptors, who shot only 35 percent from the field and were outrebounded 28-19 through the break.

Portland jumped to a 13-point first-quarter lead as Toronto and settled for a 31-19 lead at the end of the quarter. Aldridge had already secured his 30th double-double of the season with 12 points and 11 rebounds, though he was only 4 for 11 from the field.

The Blazers increased their advantage to 41-24 midway through the second quarter, but the Raptors used a 10-2 run to cut the margin to 43-34. The Blazers outscored the visitors 14-6 the rest of the half to go into intermission ahead 57-40.

NOTES: Portland F LaMarcus Aldridge had his eighth game of at least 25 points and 15 rebounds this season. … Toronto reserve G Greivis Vasquez sat out the game with flu-like symptoms. … The Blazers have won six in a row over the Raptors in Portland. … Toronto entered the game having won three in a row and nine of 13.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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NBA releases schedule for Summer League 2021

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On Wednesday, the NBA announced the broadcast schedule for the MGM Resorts NBA Summer League 2021. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NBA had to cancel the Las Vegas Summer League last year in 2020. Fast forward to today, the 17th annual NBA Summer League will air live this year in Las Vegas, Nevada from August 8-17. During the 10-day tournament, the 75 total games will be broadcasted on these network channels: NBA TV, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, and ESPNews.

Plus, the games can be watched live with the ESPN app. WatchESPN is free, but according to ESPN.com, the user must be a subscriber of a major cable service, such as AT&T U-Verse, BendBroadband, or Xfinity. Anyways, through the NBA.com website, tickets can be bought via the NBA Events section of the site. Each of the 30 NBA teams will play a total of five games over the course of the short, competitive tournament.

The Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion stadiums will host six to eight games per day. According to the 2021 schedule, for games 17-22 on Tuesday, August 10th, only six games will be played this day. The 75th game of the competition, the final matchup, will be the championship game. The 28 teams that fail to qualify for the championship game will play their fifth and final game on either August 16th or 17th. The title game is scheduled for Tuesday, August 17th at 9:00 p.m. (EST) on ESPN.

The Summer League 2021 tips off with a matchup between the Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks at the Cox Pavilion. This game is scheduled for Sunday, August 8th at 1:00 p.m. (EST) on NBA TV. The first four teams selecting in the 2021 NBA Draft will also be playing on this day: Detroit Pistons (No. 1 pick), Houston Rockets (No. 2 pick), Cleveland Cavaliers (No. 3 pick), and the Toronto Raptors (No. 4 pick). At the Thomas & Mack Center, the Raptors vs. Knicks game is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. (EST) on ESPN2. Then, the Trail Blazers will face the Hornet at 6:00 p.m. (EST) on NBA TV.

For the opening game on the second day, the Pelicans will play the Bulls at 3:00 p.m. (EST) on ESPN2, followed by the Mavericks versus 76ers at 4:00 p.m. (EST) on NBA TV. There are several different games viewers can choose to watch over this 10-day span. Brandon Clarke was the most recent player to win the Las Vegas MVP award, in the Summer League of 2019. Clarke was drafted 21st overall by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2019 NBA Draft.

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NBA Trade Rumors: Bradley Beal never requested a trade, remains committed to Wizards

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This NBA offseason has been a frustrating one for some die-hard fans, especially Washington Wizards‘ fans. On June 18, 2021, news broke concerning shooting guard Bradley Beal announcing his commitment to play for the USA Basketball Men’s National Team. A few weeks ago, it was reported by USA Basketball that Beal would not play in the Tokyo Olympics. And, this was because the 28-year-old three-time NBA All-Star had to enter the COVID-19 health and safety protocols. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Missouri native.

In an interview published by CBS Sports on July 15, 2021, regarding the chance to play for USA Basketball, Beal told CBS’ Michael Kaskey-Blomain, “It’s an honor. It’s something that you take for granted. Not a lot of guys in the league get this opportunity. We all know that. We didn’t live up to what we wanted to a few years ago (in the 2019 FIBA World Cup), and so now we have an opportunity to get back what’s rightfully ours.”

In 2010, Beal won the FIBA-Under 17 World Cup MVP. Though, everyone can see his passion for basketball. Needless to say, it is an awful experience for any athlete to have to bow out of the Olympics. In addition to this unfortunate news, there is all kinds of speculation across the Internet concerning Beal’s future with the Wizards. From Boston.com, it was reported two days ago that Beal would welcome a trade if he was moved to the Boston Celtics. The report also included three other teams: Golden State Warriors, Miami Heat, and Philadelphia 76ers. This latest news information was originally reported by Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer. Last Saturday, Fischer stated, “Boston’s path to securing Beal would appear far more costly, as the Celtics’ offer almost certainly has to include Jaylen Brown and all of their future draft picks they are able to part with.”

Although the report could still be accurate, many fans are asking for more evidence to help support this claim. This is Beal’s team; he was drafted by Washington third overall in the 2012 NBA Draft. Would the Wizards be wiling to trade their star player for Jaylen Brown and potential future draft picks? This remains to be seen. Plus, everyone should keep in mind that although Beal was open to a trade, at least he never demanded an immediate trade. The latest news is likely just trade rumors and meaningless gossip.

Moreover, the 2020-21 Wizards finished 34-38 (.472), ranking third in the Southeast Division and eighth overall in the Eastern Conference. The team lost four games to one in the first round of the postseason against the 76ers. The Wizards have not appeared in the NBA Finals since the 1978-79 season, and they have not won the championship since the 1977-78 season, when they defeated the Seattle Supersonics in Game 7 105-99. Not to mention, the Wizards were called the Bullets back then.

After the season ended, the organization agreed to part ways with head coach Scott Brooks. Perhaps Coach Brooks leaving the team is leading Beal to ask more questions about his own future. According to one report by NBC’s Pro Basketball Talk, Beal was irked over the organization hiring Wes Unseld Jr. over Sam Cassell for the vacant head coach position. How much does this play into trade talks?

Well, we all know that Beal is a competitive player, so three consecutive losing seasons by Washington might not be cutting it for him. Then again, a great player should be willing to give a new coach a chance. Last season, in 60 games played, the six-foot-three guard averaged 31.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game. The 9-year NBA veteran also shot 48.5 percent from the field and 34.9 percent from beyond the arc. In the 2021 All-Star Game, in 31 minutes played, Beal scored 26 points.

On October 17, 2019, Beal signed a two-year, $72 million extension with Washington. He earned $28.7 million this past season, and he will earn $34.5 million in the upcoming 2021-22 season. Beal’s player option for the 2022-23 season is also $37.2 million. So, folks should keep in mind that Beal is still showing his loyalty to the Wizards. He is only considering a trade request before the draft. The key word here is “considering.” Having said this, not even LeBron James is safe from a trade in this league. Ok, maybe only James is safe.

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Grizzlies trade Jonas Valanciunas to Pelicans for Eric Bledsoe, Steven Adams

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According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Andrew Lopez, the New Orleans Pelicans are shipping guard Eric Bledsoe, center Steven Adams, the Nos. 10 and 40 picks of the 2021 NBA Draft, and two future first-round picks to the Memphis Grizzlies for center Jonas Valanciunas and the Nos. 17 and 51 picks of this week’s upcoming draft. So, the Pelicans are giving up the Lakers’ 2022 first-round pick. Valanciunas, the 29-year-old veteran center, averaged 17.1 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game in 62 games played throughout the 2020-21 season. He also shot 59 percent from the field. The seven-foot Lithuanian also ranks fourth overall in true shooting percentage (.616) among active players. On July 11, 2019, Valanciunas signed a three-year, $45 million contract with the Grizzlies. He is set to earn $4 million next season.

Additionally, in 71 games played last season, Bledsoe averaged 12.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.8 assists. The six-foot-one guard also shot 42.1 percent from the field in the 2020-21 season. On November 23, 2020, as part of a four-team trade, Bledsoe and Adams were traded to the Pelicans from the Oklahoma City Thunder, along with two future first-round picks and the right to swap two additional first-round picks. Last season, in 71 games played, Bledsoe averaged 12.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.8 assists. His field goal percentage was 42.1 percent as well. The 11-year veteran is set to earn $18,125,000 in the 2021-22 season. Before he was traded to New Orleans, on March 4, 2019, the guard signed a four-year, $70 million extension. He earned his first All-Defensive second-team selection in the 2019-20 season.

Moreover, in 58 games played last season, Adams averaged 7.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game. The six-foot-eleven center ranks fifth among active players for effective field goal shooting percentage (.591). The eight-year veteran also ranks third in offensive rebounding percentage, with an active statistic of 14 percent. On November 23, 2020, the same day Adams was traded to the Pelicans, he signed a two-year, $35 million extension. For next season, he is projected to earn $17,073,171. To add to this trade news, the Grizzlies and Pelicans are swapping second-round picks in this year’s draft, too. Referencing NBA.com’s “Consensus Mock Draft” article, with the No. 10 pick of the draft, the Pelicans were originally expected to draft either Josh Giddey or Davion Mitchell at this number. However, plans have now changed.

From ESPN’s Bobby Marks, the trade will not be finalized until August 6th, and this is because of the annual salaries of these said players. Free agency will begin on August 2, 6:00 p.m. (EST). Furthermore, per Spotrac’s 2021-22 NBA salary cap table, next season’s luxury tax threshold is $136,606,000. The team’s current available luxury tax space is $22,555,195. The Pelicans and Grizzlies have a salary cap maximum of $112,414,000. Brandon Ingram, Bledsoe, and Adams had a combined cap percentage of 39.2 percent. Considering that Bledsoe and Adams are traded away, this will clear up $35,198,171 of dead cap space.

Yesterday, CBS Sports reported the news pertaining to Lonzo Ball’s desire to remain in New Orleans. With extra cap space, the team is expected to re-sign the 23-year-old guard. Likewise, for the Grizzlies, the teams has a luxury tax space of $37,019,952. Their current cap space is $8,321,229. As stated before, the transactions have not yet been finalized. The Grizzlies’ outgoing cap is now $14 million, but from the contracts of Adams and Bledsoe, they are bringing in $35,198,171.

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