Lakers close on play-offs but must battle on without Kobe

Kobe winces in pain after tearing his achilles

Kobe winces in pain after tearing his achilles

Kobe Bryant has been ruled out for between 6-9 months after suffering a torn achilles in the Lakers’ close-fought win against Golden State on Wednesday.

The Lakers have the advantage in the battle for the final play-off spot with Utah Jazz a game behind in 9th spot. However, Bryant has been the driving force in his side’s charge for the post-season whilst playing 40+ minues in his last seven games which could have contributed to the injury.

Bryant said about his injury: “It was a move I make a million times and it just popped,”

“I can’t walk! I just have to look about coming back quicker and healthier and start from there.”

The 5x time NBA champion has been inspired form, helping the Lakers to five wins in their last six with some incredible performances including a triple-double against Dallas and a 47 point haul on the road in Portland. ‘Kobe‘ averages 27.6 points per game this season having scored 30+ points in a game on an impressive 35 occasions whilst reaching the 40 point mark eight times.

Head-coach Mike D’Antoni must find a way to ensure his team complete the job of making the play-offs. Winning their last two games against San Antonio and Houston will be enough to finish the season as the 8th seed while Utah will still fancy their chances of making the play-offs as they hold the tie-breaker over the Lakers.

Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard have strenghtened their partnership in recent weeks and will hope this will continue as the team looks to cope with the loss of Bryant. The Lakers were beaten 4-1 by Oklahoma in the second round of the play-offs last season and a repeat clash is on the cards with the Thunder currently leading the Western standings.

LAKERS: v San Antonio tonight; v Houston Wednesday (LIVE on ESPNUK)
UTAH: @ Minnesota tomorrow; @ Memphis Wednesday (LIVE on ESPNUK)

Chapman revelling in new role and now wants Play-offs glory

Joe Chapman has always been the go to man for the Newcastle Eagles, but now the reigning MVP is more than happy to be creating chances for his team-mates after taking on a new role this season.

“I’ve had to be more of a leader and assist and it’s been great making others better. It was challenging learning a new role, but it was fun at the same time!” the 28 year-old admitted.

The adjustment has certainly not restricted Chapman’s scoring prowess. Just ask Newcastle’s play-off opponents, Sheffield. They were on the receiving end of an incredible 41 point display back in January after the Eagle shot 10-16 from 3-point range. Probably the best example of how productive the new role has been, was Chapman’s triple-double – a rare sight in the BBL – after an impressive stat-line of 18 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists against Durham.

Chapman finished the regular season with 489 points at an average of 15.3 points per game, behind Charles Smith (21.2) and Darius Defoe (15.7) in the team scoring charts, while BBL rookies Kareem Maddox (15.1) and Damon Huffman (14.7) both also averaged 10+ ppg. As well as being a reliable and consistent scorer, Chapman dished out 176 assists at an average of 5.5, bettered only by Surrey Heat’s Chavis Holmes.

The American guard was given a well earned rest in Newcastle’s final league game and the Eagles will hope their star man will return ‘fully charged’ ahead of their play-off clash with Sheffield this weekend. The defending BBL Play-Off champions have been plagued with injuries throughout the season, but Chapman has stepped up for his team, competing in over 1,000 minutes on court.

Looking ahead to the battle with the Sharks, Chapman is expecting a tough game and insists his side have to improve on their home form if they are to progress.

“Sheffield are a good team in great form at the moment so it’s important we play with a sense of urgency and play well at home on Friday which is something we haven’t done all year.”

Newcastle had a poor run of games at Sport Central in February and March when Cheshire, Surrey and Plymouth inflicted three straight home defeats on Fab Flournoy’s men. Sheffield lost in their only visit to Tyneside in January but will return full of confidence following a rewarding transformation having began their campaing with just two wins in their opening 10 league games.

Atiba Lyons was awarded the coach of the month award for March after leading his side to the BBL Trophy title and sealing a play-off spot before finishing the season with a 17-16 record. The Sharks claimed an 80-70 victory against the Eagles last week in a play-off dress rehearsal and also bolster two former Eagles, Andrew Bridge and Olu Babalola amongst their ranks, who will know full well what response to expect from the Eagles come crunch time.

“They play with a lot of energy and we have to match that! They also have a few players that have played for our organisation so they know our plays pretty well and it will come down to our energy,” added Chapman.

Since 2005, Newcastle have won 17 titles including the play-offs on five occasions but failed to win anything in 2010-11 and will want to avoid a repeat this season. Chapman feels it is unfair to compare last year’s achievement of the clean sweep with this year and praised his side for their efforts in a tough campaign.

“We have a few new guys who have never been champions before so going 26-8 is great. With injuries and only playing 11 games together as a whole unit, I think we did pretty well.”

Darius Defoe and Anthony Martin were the only two players to feature in every game with Smith, Huffman, Maddox and Flournoy all missing several games due to injury while Chapman was rested against Leicester on Sunday.

Leicester Riders completed the clean sweep over Newcastle with a win on the final day and were also victorious in their battle with the Eagles to win the BBL Cup. Rob Paternostro’s men completed the season with a perfect 17-0 home record whilst winning 30 games in total. Chapman acknowledged their achievements and gave his verdict on who he feels should be given the BBL League MVP award.

“Leicester has had a great season and what I like about them, is they share the ball and play great defence. Their whole team deserves MVP recognition because I believe team success brings individual success but there can only be one so I’d give MVP to either Drew Sullivan or Jay (Couisnard) because they have both played great in big games.”

Chapman also paid tribute to his 37 year-old team-mate Smith, who he described as still being one of the best in the league whilst recognising Alex Owumi’s great season in Worcester.

Do you agree with Joe Chapman’s verdict, who would get your vote for MVP?

And will the Eagles, as Chapman desires, be the last team standing with the Play-Offs trophy aloft at Wembley Arena on April 28th?

Game Night! ft. NY Knicks @ OKC Thunder

Melo continues hot streak for Knicks while the Lakers faulter in play-off charge

Carmelo Anthony took his points total to 177 in his last four games with another 36 in New York’s 12th straight victory after beating OKC (56-21) 125-120. The Knicks 50-26) had a productive second quarter to inspire a 50th win this season with JR Smith netting some huge shots late on. Russell Westbrook had an impressive all-round performance for the Thunder with 37-11-8 although Oklahoma missed out on the chance to return to the top of the Western standings.

Knicks‘ centre Tyson Chandler (15pts) was delighted with the win:

“This was huge for us, it’s very hard to come into this building and get a win, I’m really proud of the way we kept fighting”

Serge Ibaka came out firing in the first quarter and had 9 points, 3 rebounds and 4 blocks after the opening 12 minutes as OKC opened up a slender 31-30 advantage. Chris Copeland came off the bench to score 11 points alongside Anthony in a dominant second quarter for the Knicks as they took control to lead 65-56 at the interval. OKC battled back and closed to within a point before Melo struck two triples late in the quarter and New York led 96-89 after three.

The hosts compiled a 13-4 burst in the final quarter capped by a Durant jumper as the Thunder took the lead at 105-104. Jason Kidd responded with his fourth 3-pointer of the game before soon after Westbrook took his tally to 30 points as OKC went up by one with 4:00 left. However, the visitors kept their streak alive with an 11-2 spell over the next three and a half minutes with Smith adding five points in quick succession before Melo sealed the win.

Anthony has now taken over as the leading scorer in the league with an average of 28.4 points per game

The Lakers (40-37) dropped outside of the play-off places after a 109-95 defeat against their LA rivals. CP3 (24pts/12as) and Blake Griffin (24pts/12rbs) both recorded double-doubles as the Clippers (51-26)completed a 4-0 sweep over the Lakers and won the Pacific Division title for the first time. Kobe Bryant did his best to lead his side to victory with 25 points and 10 assists while Dwight Howard matched his points haul in the absence of Steve Nash and Ron Artest.

Utah Jazz (41-37) capitalised on the Lakers’ defeat with a 97-90 win on the road against fellow play-off hopefuls, Golden State (44-33). Mo Williams led the way with 25 points while Steph Curry had 22 points for the Warriors as they missed out on a victory which would have secured their post-season spot. One team, in the West, already in the play-offs are Memphis and the Grizzlies (52-25) ground out a tough 89-87 on the road against Sacramento (27-50) after Marc Gasol (15p-10r) produced a late block to secure the win.

Dallas (38-39) kept alive their fading play-off hopes with a 97-91 victory against Portland (33-44), who launched a late fightback before falling short. The Mavericks were led by Chris Kaman’s double-double of 26 points and 11 rebounds while Will Barton had a 22p-13r double-double for the Trail Blazers, who are already out of post-season contention following EIGHT straight defeats. Anthony Davis led the New Orleans Hornets (27-50) to a 95-92 win in Phoenix (23-54) with a 20 point haul.

Detroit (26-52) snapped an 18-game losing streak against the Chicago Bulls (42-34) with a 99-85 victory despite Carlos Boozer‘s 21p-10r double-double. The Bulls‘ defeat handed the Central Division title to the Indiana Pacers. Cleveland (24-52) used a strong final quarter to defeat Orlando Magic (19-59) 91-85 while the return of Paul Pierce inspired a 107-96 win for Boston (40-37) over the Washington Wizards (29-48).

London seal final play-off spot as regular season concludes

The quarter-final line-up for the BBL play-offs has been finalised as the regular season came to an end this weekend.

London Lions claimed 8th spot in dramatic style with a last-gasp win in Manchester to reach the play-offs.

The visitors raced out to an early lead and looked in control before the Giants mounted a valiant fightback to draw level late in the fourth before London‘s deadline day signing Rod Brown broke their hearts. The guard, who moved from Plymouth in February, layed the ball in, in the dying seconds to finish with 18 points in the nail-biting 87-85 victory. Tayo Ogedengbe led the way for the Lions with 25 points in a winner takes all battle for the final play-off place.

Manchester were down by as many as 21 points in the second quarter but compiled a 19-3 run in the final quarter to give themselves hope before falling just short. Jeff Jones’ men then finished the season on a high with their third straight win on the road after a 114-92 success in Durham to seal 9th place on their return to the BBL after James Jones top scored with 24 points.

The battle for a top four place had involved four team for several weeks and was finally settled after Glasgow and Surrey picked up the necessary victories to cement their places. Plymouth go into the post-season having lost four games in a row and now face a trip to Scotland in the play-offs for the second straight season.

The Raiders first lost to Worcester, who had a double-win over the weekend to finish their campaign in style, and then fell to a tight defeat against Surrey, who prevailed in overtime. Gavin Love’s men went down 106-69 at home on Saturday before the agonizing 101-99 defeat beyond regulation came 24 hours later as Travis Holmes continued his hot streak for the Heat with 27 points.

Surrey sealed fourth place with their overtime win and now face Worcester in the play-offs. Paul James’ men enjoyed a comprehensive win against Plymouth to end their campaign on a high having ended the unbeaten streak of Leicester the previous day. The Wolves had six players in double figures against Plymouth while Arturas Masiulis had a 19 point haul in their last home game of the season.

With the Championship title already wrapped up, Rob Paternostro rested several key stars in the 86-58 defeat against Worcester with several members of the uni team fielded. However, the big stars returned on Sunday for their final league game and Leicester completed a perfect season at home with their 17th win in front of their home fans after beating Newcastle 86-75. The Eagles took the opportunity to rest some of their big names with Damon Huffman, Charles Smith and Joe Chapman all absent as Darius Defoe stepped up with 32 points.

Newcastle completed their home campaign with a 93-80 win over Glasgow to delay their third place finish as Huffman exploded for 36 points on 6-9 shooting from 3-PT range. The Eagles had suffered a defeat in Sheffield earlier in the week as the Sharks were victorious 80-70 in a play-off dress rehearsal. The BBL Trophy winners then finished their season with an 85-72 win in Cheshire to move a game over the .500 mark after double-doubles from Demetrius Jemison (20-10) and Mike Tuck (18-15).

Mersey Tigers became the first BBL team to go a whole season without a win after being beaten by Durham and Glasgow over the week-end. The Tigers lost 87-100 to the Wildcats in their final home game before suffering their 33rd league defeat in Scotland as the Rocks secured third spot with a 90-57 win on Sunday.

Play-Off Quarter-Finals:

Leicester Riders (1) v London Lions (8)
Newcastle Eagles (2) v Sheffield Sharks (7)
Glasgow Rocks (3) v Plymouth Raiders (6)
Surrey Heat (4) v Worcester Wolves (5)

Semi-Finals– Highest remaining seed v Lowest remaining seed while the other two teams play each other.

All ties played over two legs until the Final at Wembley Arena on 28th April.

Gallinari ruled out for the rest of the season

Gallinari will undergo surgery and miss the play-offs

Gallinari will undergo surgery and miss the play-offs

Denver Nuggets’ Danilo Gallinari will miss the rest of the season including the play-offs after tearing the ACL in his left knee.

The injury occured in Denver‘s 96-95 win against Dallas on Thursday and the news comes as a big blow to their post-season preparations.

The Italian forward had started every one of his 71 matches this season, averaging a creditable 16.2 points per game – which marks his best average in his 7 year NBA career.

Gallinari totalled 1, 149 points in all, just two points behind Denver‘s leading scorer Ty Lawson, and the 24 year-old has had 20+ points in a game on twenty-two occasions this season including a career-high 39 point haul against the Mavericks in December.

Fellow starting forward, Kenneth Faried emphasised the depth of the Nuggets roster as they look to cope with the loss of a key member of their team.

“It was disappointing to see one of our team go down but the great thing about our team is that when guys go down, other guys step up,” Faried was speaking before the diagnostic of Gallinari’s injury.

Gallinari was an active contributor to the Nuggets‘ 15 game-win streak that was overshadowed by the Heat Streak through February and March.

Denver (54-20) have already booked their play-offs spot and have an outside chance of catching San Antonio and Oklahoma in the battle for the best record in the West.