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NBA Finals Takeaways: Legend of Anthony Davis continues to grow – Sportsnet.ca

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The Miami Heat were game. They hung around. They made the Los Angeles Lakers work for their Game 2 Finals win – it remained a 10-point game for most of the fourth quarter.

But LeBron James and the Lakers weren’t about to allow a Heat team missing Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo due to injury to even the series. James put up 33 points, nine rebounds and nine assists and he may not have been the Lakers’ best player. Anthony Davis was spectacular for the second game in a row with 32 points on 15-of-20 shooting, to go along with 14 rebounds in a 124-114 win that put Los Angeles up 2-0 with Game 3 scheduled for Sunday.

Here are some takeaways from the evening.

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Before there was Giannis Antetokounmpo there was Anthony Davis. While the Milwaukee Bucks star has emerged as the dominant ‘do-everything-seven-footer’ over the past couple of seasons and has two (regular-season) MVP awards to prove it, Davis was there first.

As these playoffs have carried on it’s become more and more evident that the Lakers big man is a more complete player than the Greek Freak. Davis was shooting 38 per cent from three entering Game 2 and 56.7 per cent overall before his 15-of-20 burst, and has shown a wide range of options to get shots off that Antetokounmpo can only dream of at this point in his career. He’s huge man with the quickness and movement skills of a point guard and while Antetokounmpo might be a better ball-handler and passer, Davis can do some of that too and score from all angles – he made 13 of his first 14 shots Friday night.

It will probably always be unwise to suggest anyone is a better player than James as long as No. 23 is alive and breathing, but on this team and in this Finals, the Lakers don’t need him to be the best player on the floor. Davis is doing that job perfectly and it’s a massive reason James is in position to coast to his fourth NBA championship: in Davis he’s got the best teammate he’s ever had and quite possibly the best player in the world other than the King.

Heat looking overmatched

To hear Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra tell it, if it was up to them, Adebayo (shoulder) and Dragic (torn tendon in his foot) would have found a way to play in Game 2.

“I had to play the role of not just head coach, but almost of a parent the last 24 hours,” Spoelstra said before the game. “These two guys are really amazing. Like everybody in our locker room, there’s a real special sense of brotherhood and responsibility. They were both lobbying to play and we ultimately had to take the decision out of their hands for tonight.

“So we have other guys obviously that will get an opportunity tonight and we have learned over the course of really the last three or four months you expect the unexpected. The world has changed and so many things have been thrown at us in the last three or four months, I think our level of grit and perseverance has been tested and proven and it will be again ….”

The Heat’s level of grit and perseverance was never in doubt, but their level of talent? That was fair game as Game 2 unfolded. Without Dragic, their leading playoff scorer and Adebayo, their most athletic big and leader in assists, Miami had no margin for error against the Lakers. They briefly mucked things up for the Lakers by relying heavily on a 3-2 zone, forcing Los Angeles to beat them over the top – the Lakers took a Finals-record 47 threes, making 16 – but they gave up something everywhere else as the Lakers shot 33-of-50 from two, had 16 offensive rebounds and 56 points in the paint.

At the other end, the Heat simply weren’t dangerous enough to threaten the Lakers. Even though Miami’s reliance on cuts and dribble-drive-and-kick promotes an egalitarian approach to scoring, you still need playmakers. Without Adebayo and Dragic on the floor, the Lakers could afford to put Davis on Jimmy Butler for long stretches, forcing him to find his way over, through, or around one of the most mobile seven-footers the NBA has ever seen. Butler still managed 25 points and 13 assists but he was 7-of-17 from the floor and the Heat didn’t have anyone else the Lakers really had to worry about.

The Heat came into the Finals as underdogs hoping their depth would be enough to overcome the Lakers’ star power. With two of their top players down, the Heat are looking a little bit overmatched on the game’s biggest stage.

Howard’s redemption

Dwight Howard seems miscast as the plucky, underdog redemptive story. He was the No. 1 overall pick in 2004, coming straight out of high school and has never not lived up to that billing.

He started all 82 games as a 19-year-old, averaging 12 points, 10 rebounds and nearly two blocks a game in 2004-05. At his peak he finished in the top-five of MVP voting for four straight years beginning in 2007-08, topping out at second 2010-11. He’s a three-time Defensive Player of the Year and led the Magic to the NBA Finals in 2009. He’s earned nearly $250 million in his 16-year career and will end up in the Hall of Fame.

But after James being on track to lead his third franchise to a championship and Davis emerging as a force that looks capable of helping win a few more in LA, Howard has become a feel-good narrative in the Finals. He’s overcome significant back problems and perhaps more significantly an ego problem that prevented him from adapting to the duties of the modern big man. Howard was slow to accept that teams weren’t going to run offence through the post and he wasn’t going to get his touches there – it was a huge source of tension in his one previous season in Los Angeles when the Lakers thought he was going to part of a super team with Pau Gasol, Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant.

When he didn’t get the ball Howard pouted, his teammates grew frustrated with him and his career began sliding. This time around Howard is proving to be the humble servant a non-shooting, non-ball-handling big has to be in the NBA now. At 34 he’s still an effective rim protector, as he showed early on by blocking Butler when it looked like the Heat star was home free. Howard can still run the floor; he’s a lob threat and he sucks in the Heat defence simply by forcing his way to the rim for rebounds and second-chance points.

It’s not the way Howard was supposed to win an NBA title when he was one of the biggest stars in the game, but it’s working for him now.

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Olynyk flashes excellence

As the Heat’s fortunes have risen, Kelly Olynyk’s role has shrunk. The emergence of Adebayo as the primary playmaking big has cut into the Canadian national team veteran’s playing time. He averaged 19.4 minutes a game in the regular season in his third year with the Heat, down from roughly 23 minutes a game the past two seasons. In the playoffs he’s been getting just 12.5 minutes a game and was DNP-CD (Did Not Play-Coach’s Decision) in two of the Heat’s previous four games.

But with Adebayo sidelined Olynyk’s role was bound to increase. The former Kamloops, B.C., high school star acquitted himself well as he came off the bench and played 37 minutes, the second most in his playoff career. He knocked down an open three on his first touch – an element he brings that Adebayo doesn’t – and scored another nice hoop on a give-and-go leading to a layup under Davis’s outstretched fingers.

After picking up a pair of quick fouls he did the best he could around the rim defensively against the Lakers, who always had either Davis or the bruising Howard barrelling around the paint. All of which helped the Heat hang around in the first half. He kept it up in the second half, highlighted by a dribble-drive that he finished while drawing a foul on James that helped keep the Heat to within striking distance – down by 10 – heading into the fourth quarter. That Olynyk had 15 of his 24 points by that point was a big reason why.

He could become a free agent this off-season if chooses but with the economics of the NBA uncertain and Olynyk coming off a less-than-stellar season – mainly due to circumstances outside his control – it would be a surprise if he didn’t pick up his $12-million option for 2020-21 and hope he’ll be in a more marketable position afterwards. More performances like he put up in Game 2 are a reminder of how effective he can be.

What’s next

For the first time in 10 Finals appearances James is on a team that is up 2-0. It’s doubtful he’ll relax. In 2011, James’ Heat team went up 1-0 against the Dallas Mavericks, blew a big lead in Game 2 as the Mavericks tied the series and went on to win the title in six games in one of James’ lower career moments.

“That (Game 2 in 2011) burns me to this day,” James told reporters earlier this week. “I always talk about the best teacher in life is experience, and I’ve experienced a lot … I’ve experienced moments in my career where you have all the momentum in the world and you felt like you had the game under control, and one play here or one play there could change the course of a series or change the course of a game.”

So, it’s unlikely James will allow the Lakers to coast into Game 3. An added incentive is that the sooner the Finals are over the faster James can get home to see the $36-million Beverly Hills mansion he bought in person for the first time.

In a normal year it would be tempting to hold off on writing the Heat obituary until the Lakers had flown across the country and won on Miami’s home floor. That’s not a hurdle that needs to be crossed this time around. The Heat have been competitive in both games but have never really threatened James, Davis and the rest of the Lakers. If they don’t figure out how to steal a win in Game 3 Sunday, it’s hard not to think this series will be done after Game 4 on Tuesday.

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Wentz rallies Eagles to win over Giants – TSN

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PHILADELPHIA — Hurried, harassed and hit repeatedly, Carson Wentz completed the comeback this time.

Wentz threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Boston Scott with 40 seconds remaining and the Philadelphia Eagles overcame an 11-point deficit in the final seven minutes to beat the New York Giants 22-21 on Thursday night.

Wentz led a depleted offence to 22 fourth-quarter points only to miss a 2-point conversion at the end in a 30-28 loss to Baltimore on Sunday.

He wouldn’t be denied against the Giants.

“He battled, faced adversity and hung in there,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “He’s taking a step in the right direction to be one of the top quarterbacks in the league.”

Daniel Jones shook off a stumble that prevented him from an 88-yard touchdown run and had the Giants leading 21-10 following a 2-yard pass to Sterling Shepard with 6:17 left.

But Wentz rallied an offence missing eight starters. His 3-yard pass to Greg Ward cut it to 21-16. After the 2-point conversion failed, the Eagles got the ball at their 29 with 2:02 to go.

Wentz completed passes of 11 and 30 yards to Richard Rodgers. On third down from the 5, a defensive holding penalty gave the Eagles a first down at the 3. But three-time All-Pro centre Jason Kelce was called for a facemask penalty that pushed it back to the 18.

No big deal.

Wentz threw a perfect strike to Scott and the backup running back made an excellent catch to give Philadelphia the lead. The 2-point conversion failed, but Jones was sacked by Brandon Graham and fumbled on the ensuing possession.

“We never faltered. We never panicked. We knew we were gonna win,” Scott said. “Carson led us and it was a great team effort.”

The Eagles (2-4-1) and Giants (1-6) are right in the mix in the NFC East, led by Dallas (2-4).

“This was huge for us,” Wentz said. “The NFC East is wide open.”

Wentz threw for 359 yards and two TDs and ran for a score. He was sacked three times and absorbed several hits.

Jones had only the end zone ahead of him away when he took off running from the Giants 12 in the third quarter. He was well ahead of everyone chasing him until he stumbled and got tackled before he could get up at 8.

A pass interference penalty against Nickell Robey-Coleman on third down gave the Giants another try, and Wayne Gallman ran in from the 1 to give them a 14-10 lead.

Jones’ 80 yard run was the longest by a Giants quarterback and tied for the fourth-longest in team history. Patrick Mahomes, the 2018 NFL MVP, couldn’t resist poking some fun at Jones. He tweeted: “I mean i can’t even say anything cause i would never be able to run that far either.”

The Giants ended up losing a game they led by 11-plus points in the fourth quarter for the first time since they blew a 31-10 lead and lost 38-31 to the Eagles on DeSean Jackson’s punt return TD on Dec. 19, 2010.

“The focus is not frustration. The focus is on correcting mistakes and moving forward and that’s where we have to steer it as a team,” Giants coach Joe Judge said.

Jones threw a 39-yard TD pass to Golden Tate in the first quarter. He also had a pick and two turnovers. Evan Engram dropped a third-down pass in Philadelphia’s territory that would’ve prevented the Giants from punting the ball to the Eagles for their go-ahead drive.

“One hundred per cent I have to make that,” Engram said. “We definitely let one get away. It’s just not a good feeling. We played a great fourth quarter and at the end we didn’t finish.”

Questionable play-calling cost the Eagles early in the fourth quarter. Wentz completed a 40-yard pass to Travis Fulgham and the Eagles reached the 7 when Jalen Hurts came in to run an option and gained no yards. After Wentz ran to the 3, Pederson went for it on fourth down. The call was a fade to No. 5 tight end Hakeem Butler, who has no career catches. Logan Ryan broke it up.

The Giants then drove 97 yards to take a 21-10 lead.

Using a no-huddle often on the opening drive, Wentz led the Eagles 75 yards and ran in from the 1 for his fifth TD rushing to make it 7-0. Wentz scrambled 3 yards on fourth-and-1 to keep the drive going and connected with Richard Rodgers for 18 yards to the 1 to set up the score.

But the Eagles reverted to their mistake-prone ways until the final 6 1/2 minutes.

REVOLVING DOOR

Left guard Sua Opeta became the 10th offensive lineman to start for the Eagles this season and fourth to make his first NFL start.

INJURIES

Giants: RB Devonta Freeman (ankle) left in the second half.

Eagles: Jackson, RT Lane Johnson, DT Hassan Ridgeway (biceps) and DB Craig James (hamstring) left in the second half.

UP NEXT

Giants: Host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-2) on Monday Night Football on Nov. 2.

Eagles: Host the Dallas Cowboys (2-4) on Sunday Night Football on Nov. 1.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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Wentz rallies Eagles to comeback win over Giants – TSN

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PHILADELPHIA — Hurried, harassed and hit repeatedly, Carson Wentz completed the comeback this time.

Wentz threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Boston Scott with 40 seconds remaining and the Philadelphia Eagles overcame an 11-point deficit in the final seven minutes to beat the New York Giants 22-21 on Thursday night.

Wentz led a depleted offence to 22 fourth-quarter points only to miss a 2-point conversion at the end in a 30-28 loss to Baltimore on Sunday.

He wouldn’t be denied against the Giants.

“He battled, faced adversity and hung in there,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “He’s taking a step in the right direction to be one of the top quarterbacks in the league.”

Daniel Jones shook off a stumble that prevented him from an 88-yard touchdown run and had the Giants leading 21-10 following a 2-yard pass to Sterling Shepard with 6:17 left.

But Wentz rallied an offence missing eight starters. His 3-yard pass to Greg Ward cut it to 21-16. After the 2-point conversion failed, the Eagles got the ball at their 29 with 2:02 to go.

Wentz completed passes of 11 and 30 yards to Richard Rodgers. On third down from the 5, a defensive holding penalty gave the Eagles a first down at the 3. But three-time All-Pro centre Jason Kelce was called for a facemask penalty that pushed it back to the 18.

No big deal.

Wentz threw a perfect strike to Scott and the backup running back made an excellent catch to give Philadelphia the lead. The 2-point conversion failed, but Jones was sacked by Brandon Graham and fumbled on the ensuing possession.

“We never faltered. We never panicked. We knew we were gonna win,” Scott said. “Carson led us and it was a great team effort.”

The Eagles (2-4-1) and Giants (1-6) are right in the mix in the NFC East, led by Dallas (2-4).

“This was huge for us,” Wentz said. “The NFC East is wide open.”

Wentz threw for 359 yards and two TDs and ran for a score. He was sacked three times and absorbed several hits.

Jones had only the end zone ahead of him away when he took off running from the Giants 12 in the third quarter. He was well ahead of everyone chasing him until he stumbled and got tackled before he could get up at 8.

A pass interference penalty against Nickell Robey-Coleman on third down gave the Giants another try, and Wayne Gallman ran in from the 1 to give them a 14-10 lead.

Jones’ 80 yard run was the longest by a Giants quarterback and tied for the fourth-longest in team history. Patrick Mahomes, the 2018 NFL MVP, couldn’t resist poking some fun at Jones. He tweeted: “I mean i can’t even say anything cause i would never be able to run that far either.”

The Giants ended up losing a game they led by 11-plus points in the fourth quarter for the first time since they blew a 31-10 lead and lost 38-31 to the Eagles on DeSean Jackson’s punt return TD on Dec. 19, 2010.

“The focus is not frustration. The focus is on correcting mistakes and moving forward and that’s where we have to steer it as a team,” Giants coach Joe Judge said.

Jones threw a 39-yard TD pass to Golden Tate in the first quarter. He also had a pick and two turnovers. Evan Engram dropped a third-down pass in Philadelphia’s territory that would’ve prevented the Giants from punting the ball to the Eagles for their go-ahead drive.

“One hundred per cent I have to make that,” Engram said. “We definitely let one get away. It’s just not a good feeling. We played a great fourth quarter and at the end we didn’t finish.”

Questionable play-calling cost the Eagles early in the fourth quarter. Wentz completed a 40-yard pass to Travis Fulgham and the Eagles reached the 7 when Jalen Hurts came in to run an option and gained no yards. After Wentz ran to the 3, Pederson went for it on fourth down. The call was a fade to No. 5 tight end Hakeem Butler, who has no career catches. Logan Ryan broke it up.

The Giants then drove 97 yards to take a 21-10 lead.

Using a no-huddle often on the opening drive, Wentz led the Eagles 75 yards and ran in from the 1 for his fifth TD rushing to make it 7-0. Wentz scrambled 3 yards on fourth-and-1 to keep the drive going and connected with Richard Rodgers for 18 yards to the 1 to set up the score.

But the Eagles reverted to their mistake-prone ways until the final 6 1/2 minutes.

REVOLVING DOOR

Left guard Sua Opeta became the 10th offensive lineman to start for the Eagles this season and fourth to make his first NFL start.

INJURIES

Giants: RB Devonta Freeman (ankle) left in the second half.

Eagles: Jackson, RT Lane Johnson, DT Hassan Ridgeway (biceps) and DB Craig James (hamstring) left in the second half.

UP NEXT

Giants: Host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-2) on Monday Night Football on Nov. 2.

Eagles: Host the Dallas Cowboys (2-4) on Sunday Night Football on Nov. 1.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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Daniel Jones Tackles Himself on 80-Yard Run – Sports Illustrated

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By the time Daniel Jones had reached the 50-yard line, Fox play-by-play man Joe Buck had seen enough.

“He is gone!” Buck shouted, and every piece of evidence supported this claim. Jones, who has good speed, was four yards ahead of the closest defender, and there were some Eagles pursuers who were already starting to ease up and let the inevitable happen.

And then, Jones’s worst nightmares came to life.

There’s been more than enough negativity to go around for the Giants this season, and this won’t be the space to add on to the pile. The play represented the longest rushing play by a quarterback since Marcus Mariota’s 87-yard touchdown scamper in Week 13 of 2015. It’s the fourth-longest run by a quarterback in league history, and it’s one yard longer than Saquon Barkley’s career high.

All’s well that ends well, and I’m pleased to report that the Giants scored a touchdown four plays later. Jones’s teammates didn’t wait that long to appreciate the humor of the moment, not even attempting to hide their laughter after Jones got too far ahead of his skis.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, whose career-long rush is a mere 28 yards, sympathized with Jones’ plight on Twitter:

Jones was already the team leader in rushing yards coming into Thursday’s game, and he’s widened the gap with his most recent graceful display. Eli Manning’s career long was just 18 yards, so Jones is well on his way to winning over the hearts of Giants fans for years to come.

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