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Bucks slip past Celtics in OT 99-94

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Bucks slip past Celtics in OT 99-94

BOSTON (AP) Monta Ellis scored five of his 27 points in overtime and the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Boston Celtics in the teams' final meeting this season 99-94 on Friday night despite blowing a seven-point lead late in regulation.

The Bucks won for the sixth time in eight games, taking three of four against the Celtics, who had a five-game home winning streak snapped despite 35 points by Paul Pierce.

Luc Mbah a Moute scored 20 points and Larry Sanders had 17 and 20 rebounds for Milwaukee.

Jeff Green scored 14 points, Kevin Garnett 12 and Courtney Lee 11 for the Celtics.

Pierce, who scored a season-high 40 points in Boston's previous game, sent the game to OT by hitting a 3 with 2.5 seconds left.

Green had to leave with a towel over his left eye in the closing seconds of OT.

Ellis' consecutive baskets, coming nearly two minutes apart, had given the Bucks a 94-90 lead with just over a minute to play. But, like in regulation, Pierce made a jumper and Garnett hit a long jumper, tying it with 37 seconds left.

After a timeout, Ellis was fouled by Lee and hit the first of two, making it 95-94. Milwaukee came up with the ball after a scramble on the missed free throw and Boston's Pierce was forced to foul Brandon Jennings with 18.5 seconds left. Jennings hit both free throws.

Pierce's 3 from the left wing was blocked and Sanders had a breakaway dunk to seal it.

The Celtics had trailed 88-81 with under a minute to play before Pierce scored five points, tying it on a 3 from the top with 2.5 seconds to play. Sanders airballed a foul-line jumper at the horn, sending the game to OT.

The basket came after a steal by Rondo after Jason Terry missed a wide open 3 and Green batted the rebound out to Pierce.

Jennings' 3-pointer right in front of Boston's bench with 7:56 to play moved the Bucks ahead 74-72, their first lead since the game's opening basket. Boston tied it on Green's two free throws on the ensuing possession, but Milwaukee scored seven of the next nine, making it 81-76 on Sanders' left-handed hook with 4:39 to play.

Pierce's 3-pointer from the left wing - after he let two defenders go flying by - cut it to 83-81 with 2:45 to go. After he got a steal on the other end, he back-rimmed a 3 before the Bucks had a 24-second violation, giving the ball back to Boston with 1:46 left.

But Pierce's jumper rolled out on the next possession and Ellis hit a driving floater from the right side of the lane, making it 85-81 with 1:11 to go.

Sanders then had an alley-oop off Ellis' pass to give the Bucks a six-point edge with just under a minute to play.

Boston, which led by three at halftime, pushed it to 50-43 when Garnett hit consecutive jumpers. The Bucks then scored the next six points, closing it to one, and the score remained tight until the Celtics finished the third quarter by scoring 10 of the last 12 points.

Rondo had a steal in the closing seconds and passed to Lee for a breakaway layup with 1.3 seconds remaining to give Boston a 70-62 edge at the break.

The Bucks answered with Mike Dunleavy scoring the first five points of the fourth in a 9-2 run that narrowed it to 72-71 on Sanders' reverse layup with 9 1/2 minutes left.

Coming off his hot shooting night in Wednesday's win over Cleveland, Pierce looked sharp again. He missed his initial shot then hit seven straight, scoring 17 points until missing a pair of open 3s late in the second quarter.

NOTES: The Bucks' usual starting guards were in there despite suffering recent injuries. Jennings had twisted his right ankle during Wednesday's game in Memphis and Ellis missed the morning shootaround with a sore back. ``We've got to have our guards in the game, so it's good they'll be able to go,'' coach Scott Skiles said. ... Boston coach Doc Rivers didn't feel either team had an advantage even though they've already met three times in a short time. ``It's amazing,'' he said. ``This is the fourth time. It's funny. I don't think any of the lineups have been the same on either team, so it's four new times every time we play them.'' ... Rondo was given a technical in the opening quarter. ... The Celtics next play on Christmas Day in Brooklyn against the Nets, opening a four-game road trip that has them on the West Coast for the final three. ... Milwaukee hosts Cleveland on Saturday night, the opener of three straight at home. ... Pierce and Jason Collins were part of a strange 3-point play when Pierce hit a jumper and Collins was fouled, hitting the free throw.

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Predicting the 2018-19 NBA awards and the NBA Finals: LeBron James will win MVP

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USA Today Sports

Predicting the 2018-19 NBA awards and the NBA Finals: LeBron James will win MVP

With the 2018-19 NBA season kicking off this week, it seems like a good time to put my predictions out into the universe. 

I am fortunate to be a voter for both the All-Star teams and the NBA Awards, but I can assure you of this: much of this is impossible to forecast. I decided to only include the first team selections for All-NBA, All-Defense and All-Rookie because the less I predict, the less I get wrong.

With that said, here is how I expect the major awards, plus the NBA Finals, to shake out... 

MVP: LeBron James, Lakers

Going to L.A. to play with such a bizarre supporting cast was all by design so he could win his fifth MVP award, right? Okay, maybe not. But if LeBron carries that team to even a fifth seed the trophy should be his.

Defensive player of the year: Anthony Davis, Pelicans

This always goes to a big man and Davis finished second last year. He's probably going to have a monster season overall.

All-NBA first team: G Stephen Curry, G James Harden, F LeBron James, F Giannis Antetokounmpo, C Anthony Davis

All of these guys are going to make the All-NBA team, it's just a matter of which tier. The toughest one to leave off was Joel Embiid, but you can only pick five.

Rookie of the year: Deandre Ayton, Suns

Luka Doncic has become a popular pick here, but Ayton averaged 18.2 points and 10.0 rebounds per game in the preseason. If that is any precursor whatsoever, he's going to be tough to beat.

Sixth man award: Austin Rivers, Wizards

Rivers is a starting-caliber guard now back to playing off the bench. He should help John Wall and Bradley Beal a ton this year and we know he will get buckets. If he can maintain anything close to his scoring average from last season (15.1), he will be on the short-list for sure.

Most improved: Brandon Ingram, Lakers

Though L.A. has a lot of questions, Ingram seems most likely to benefit from James' ability to make those around him better. He should thrive in a secondary scoring role.

Coach of the year: Billy Donovan, Thunder

The Thunder won 48 games last season, but could improve a lot in Year 2 with Paul George. They have loads of talent and Dennis Schroder will fit nicely on their bench.

Executive of the year: Sam Presti, Thunder

You may be sensing a theme here. I see the Thunder becoming the clear-cut No. 3 team in the West and Presti will get plenty of praise for retaining George and getting something legitimate back for Carmelo Anthony.

All-rookie team: Luka Doncic (Mavs), Miles Bridges (Hornets), Marvin Bagley III (Kings), Jaren Jackson Jr. (Grizzlies), Deandre Ayton (Suns)

This is shaping up to be a really good class. Guys like Mo Bamba (great song), Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Wendell Carter Jr. will likely be in the mix as well. 

All-defensive team: G Chris Paul, G Klay Thompson, F Draymond Green, F Anthony Davis, C Joel Embiid

Thompson should finally get his due this year. He is clearly one of the best defenders at his position, but hasn't received the proper recognition for it.

NBA Finals: Warriors over Celtics, 4-2

Picking the champion of the 2018-19 season is too easy and no one should feel good about that. Sports are better when they aren't predictable. But who will finish second is where it gets interesting. I see the Celtics being that team and winning two games in the Finals, though it won't be a close series.

 

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Peter King awards two Ravens with weekly honors for defensive performance vs. Titans

Peter King awards two Ravens with weekly honors for defensive performance vs. Titans

The Baltimore Ravens' Week 6 dominate performance over the Tennessee Titans is gaining national attention. 

A historic game that displayed the offense and defense firing on all cylinders, it's hard to pinpoint who had the biggest impact. 

So in his latest edition of Football Morning in America, NBC Sports' Peter King awarded not one, but two Ravens with weekly honors.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Za'Darius Smith

Against the Titans, Smith led the Ravens defense with three sacks and five tackles in their historic 11-sack game. On of three Defensive Players of the Week, King explained why Smith's performance stood out.

In the most dominant defensive performance of this ultra-offensive season, the Ravens shut out Tennessee 21-0 and had 11 sacks. Another one of GM Ozzie Newsome’s draft gifts that keeps on giving, Smith (2015, round four, Kentucky) contributed three sacks of Marcus Mariota and five tackles in a virtuoso game. Net passing yards for Mariota: 51.

Smith, who's entering the final year of his rookie NFL contract, has shown over six games he deserves to get paid in the offseason. So far this season the 26-year-old has 20 combined tackles, 5.5 sacks and one forced fumble. 

COACH OF THE WEEK: Don "Wink" Martindale

In his first season as defensive coordinator, Don "Wink" Martindale has seamlessly made the transition from linebackers coach to leading the NFL's No. 1 scoring defense (12.8). But what impressed King the most from the 21-0 shutout was how Martindale's squad got to Mariota from every direction. 

When a unit records more sacks (11) than completions allowed (10), the leader gets an award. Those are the rules. Martindale’s pass rushers got to Marcus Mariota every possible way—up the middle, around the edges, in the pocket, on bootlegs, you name it. The total set a new franchise record and was one short of the single-game NFL mark of 12. And it came with a familiar face watching: Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees used to hold the same position in Baltimore. Shout out to the Ravens social media team for renaming the account RavenSSSSSSSSSSS, one ‘S’ for each sack.

This Ravens defense, who has always been known for its dominance, is ranked first in points allowed (12.8), first in yards allowed (270.8), second in passing yards allowed (188.0) and third in rushing yards allowed (82.8) heading into Week 7. In addition, they have yet to surrender a second half touchdown all season. Trusting of the talent this roster holds, the respect "Wink" has for his players is equally reciprocated. 

"It was really emotional when they told us we had 11 sacks," linebacker Patrick Onwuasor said postgame. "We just went out there and we were like, ‘We have to get Coach Wink . We have to put the Gatorade on him.’ So, we tried to turn him around so he couldn’t see it coming, and we had to get him real good."

Martindale will now face the No. 1 scoring offense in the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. 

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