USA Basketball vs. Puerto Rico: Live Score and Highlights

Madison Square Garden will host Team USA as it takes on Puerto Rico in its third exhibition game en route to the FIBA World Cup to be held in Spain. You can catch all the action at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

All eyes will be on Derrick Rose after the Chicago Bulls point guard sat out Wednesday night’s exhibition game against the Dominican Republic on account on knee soreness. The former MVP has played just 46 games over the last three seasons due to repeated injury, but he could be a major contributor for Team USA this summer.

Even without Rose, however, Team USA boasted six players scoring in double figures on Wednesday. It will look for another ensemble effort against Puerto Rico.

For its part, the Puerto Rican team will have its hands full. Its only current NBA representative is J.J. Barea of the Minnesota Timberwolves, though Carlos Arroyo and Renaldo Balkman previously played in the Association. 

But after the United States thrashed the Dominican Republic by a final score of 105-62, it appears that head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s club is finding its rhythm well in advance of the games that actually matter.

Puerto Rico could be just another step along the way.

Keep it here for live coverage and analysis.

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Team USA Basketball vs. Dominican Republic: Live Score, Highlights and Reaction

With Team USA expected to announce its final cuts as early as Thursday, per ESPN’s Marc Stein, the stakes for Wednesday’s 7 p.m. ET showdown with the John Calipari-coached Dominican Republic stand to be much higher than the game’s exhibition status might suggest. 

Now that Kevin Durant has officially bowed out, Team USA has some soul-searching to do—particularly on offense—with just three games left before heading to Spain for the 2014 FIBA World Cup. 

While the 26th-ranked Dominicans might not pose much of a threat on paper, expect some bad hemispheric blood to be brewing when the two teams face off in Madison Square Garden. 

NBA veteran Francisco Garcia leads the charge for the visitors, who tend to rely on their speedy guard play to set the tone. 

Another player to keep an eye on: Kentucky commit Karl-Anthony Towns, a 7’0” specimen and McDonalds All-American whom many expect to follow in the hallowed footsteps of two of Team USA’s own Wildcat alums—DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis.

Playing on its home turf should be all the motivation Team USA needs to dispatch its neighbors to the south. How fluid the team looks prior to the announcement of the final roster, however, is another matter entirely.

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Why Klay Thompson Faces Enormous Pressure to Live Up to Superstar Billing

Whether they intended on sending the message or not, the Golden State Warriors indirectly told sharpshooter Klay Thompson they value his game more than that of three-time All-Star Kevin Love.

The Dubs’ decision was never as simple as Thompson vs. Love, but that’s how it was received by the masses. With enough people subscribing to that theory, and the time that has passed since the start of that debate, perception may well have become reality by this point.

It’s hard to pinpoint where the Warriors’ trade talks with the Minnesota Timberwolves hit a snag. Thompson’s value certainly played a part, but so too did Golden State’s other debits (David Lee, Harrison Barnes, possibly a future first-rounder) and “credits” (Kevin Martin’s weighty contract) in the transaction.

Still, the narrative took on a life of its own. Once Love’s great escape finally opened a door to somewhere other than the Bay Area, the weight on Thompson’s shoulders grew exponentially.

“No pressure, Klay Thompson, but you kinda have to be a soul-snatching backcourt murderer next season,” wrote Grantland’s Jason Concepcion. “At the very least, you need to tighten up that handle.”

Even if the idea that the Warriors picked Thompson over Love isn’t entirely correct, it’s a thought process that Thompson himself might follow. While it undoubtedly turns up the heat he’ll feel next season, it also could serve as a feather in the negotiating cap of his camp, as CBS Sports’ Zach Harper observed:

Thompson and the Warriors have until October 31 to hammer out a contract extension. If nothing comes together, the 24-year-old will be slated for restricted free agency next summer.

Whether he collects now or later, one thing seems certain: He’s about to get paid.

Those aren’t my words, either. That was the assessment of Warriors general manager Bob Myers, per Diamond Leung of Bay Area News Group:

Granted, everyone is cashing in at the moment—the ghost of Ben Gordon left this summer with a two-year, $9 million contract in hand—but Thompson is really looking to boost his bank account.

His agent Bill Duffy, according to Sam Amick of USA Today, “has been seeking a max deal in extension talks with the Warriors.”

As strange as it may sound, Thompson might actually be worth the investment, although that’s more a reflection of the market than his production.

It’s hard to make too big a fuss about Thompson getting a mini-max when similar deals were given to Gordon Hayward (four years, $63 million) and Chandler Parsons (three years, $46 million) this summer. Thompson’s three-point cannon and defensive versatility helps compensate for the fact his stat sheets aren’t quite as stuffed as the others.

The market has deemed players like Thompson worthy of that type of salary commitment, and the shooting guard’s value might be higher with Golden State than anywhere else.

He takes on the toughest backcourt defensive assignment, freeing franchise face Stephen Curry to save his fuel for the offensive end. Thompson’s ability to ease Curry’s burden put him on coach Steve Kerr’s radar before the former player-executive-broadcaster held the position.

“Klay guarded Chris Paul the entire Clippers series,” Kerr told Amick. “He has allowed Steph to conserve some energy at the defensive end, and to slide over to a shooter.”

While Curry is more than capable of handling his own at the offensive end (24.0 points, 8.5 assists last season), the All-Star starter fared even better with his brother-in-splash at his side. With Thompson on the floor, Curry was a more efficient shooter and more effective distributor, as seen in the table below, with statistics shown on a per-100-possessions basis, via NBA.com.

“Even if he costs the mini-max (starting at about $15.5M a year, in 2015-16), Thompson does things for the Warriors that they consider integral to who they are and why they can be dangerous in the West playoffs,” wrote Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News.

All of that is said to say this: Thompson doesn’t just want a max deal, he’s going to get a max deal.

That will only increase the scrutiny of his game, because he doesn’t mesh with our image of a “typical” max-contract player.

“He’s a catch-and-shoot master. He’s a good post player for a guard,” Harper wrote. “But he’s not a guy that will regularly break a player down off the dribble, which limits just how deadly he can be long-term on offense.”

Thompson is a scoring guard who needs help scoring.

For his career, 66.8 percent of his two-point field goals and 94.3 percent of his triples have come off of assists, via Basketball-Reference.com. He also struggles getting to the foul line. His 2.3 free-throw attempts average last season was the lowest of all 18 points-per-game scorers.

There are warts in his game, and fans will be quick to point them out. Right or wrong, he’ll be seen as the player who cost the Warriors a shot at Kevin Love. And if the team meets his contract demands, he’ll be sitting alongside Lee atop the Warriors’ payroll in 2015-16, per Sham Sports.

If that wasn’t enough, Golden State might need Thompson to make the leap so it can follow suit. The Warriors won 98 games over the past two seasons and still parted ways with former coach Mark Jackson. There were multiple layers to that story, but like this Love tale, a single theme was left standing at the end of it all: Good isn’t good enough.

The Warriors want to join the other NBA elites, and Thompson may have the biggest say in getting them there. Lee, Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut have either hit their peak or left their best years behind them. Barnes has a long way to go after a disastrous sophomore season, and Draymond Green might have already found his niche as a supportive jack of all trades.

Thompson has room to grow and a need to push toward his ceiling sooner than later.

Through the eyes of the public, the Warriors have placed him on a superstar pedestal. The fact that perception might be a bit misguided won’t decrease the pressure he’s feeling one iota.

 

Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.

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UNC Basketball: Dean Smith’s Legacy Continues to Live on in Today’s Coaches

Dean Smith’s last game as a college basketball coach was in 1997 when his North Carolina team fell to eventual national champion Arizona in the Final Four.

But even though it’s been more than 17 years since Smith was the coach of record in any contest, his influence on the modern game is so prevalent it’s like he’s been an assistant for most of the top programs in the nation.

From current UNC coach Roy Williams, who has referred to his former boss as “one of the great mentors,” to any number of Division I coaches who learned under him, to even longtime rival Mike Kryzewski at Duke, Smith is regarded with the kind of adoration and adulation that legendary UCLA coach John Wooden received.

And rightfully so.

From 1961 to 1997 Smith collected 879 victories, all with the Tar Heels, winning two national championships (1982 and 1993) and reaching the Final Four 11 times. The time span between his first and last Final Four is an astounding 30 years, during which time the tournament expanded from 23 to 64 teams.

Yet for as much credit as he gets for the wins and titles, what continues to keep Smith relevant and keeps him impacting the game so long after retirement has very little to do with his famous Four Corners offense or anything on the court. Instead, it’s how his relationships with players and coaches away from the gym served as a backbone for how some of today’s best coaches handle their interactions with both superstars and walk-ons.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said as much in a recent blog he posted on his personal website, CoachCal.com:

It may seem crazy to think that something so logical as making it about the kids as innovative, but Dean Smith made it part of the foundation that we coach on today. You’ve heard me say many times that during the season it’s about our team but the minute it’s over it’s about each individual player. Well, I got that straight from Dean Smith. He spoke that way through the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s and he inspired me to do the same. Dean Smith was the original players-first coach.

Calipari and Smith never faced each other in a game as head coaches, but that didn’t mean Smith didn’t influence the career of one of today’s most successful program leaders. Calipari’s blog talks of learning how Smith never let anything get in the way of his interaction with his players: a laundry list of talent that ranged from Michael Jordan to Jerry Stackhouse to Rasheed Wallace. And this wasn’t just when they were in the program, but after, as Calipari recalls working at a UNC camp one summer when he learned how dedicated Smith was to his players:

If a call came through from one of his players, it did not matter who was in his office, what meeting he was in or what he was doing; she (Smith’s secretary) was to break in on the conversation and put him through to the player – who, by the way, may have played for him 20 years ago and just needed his advice on something.

Smith recently turned 83 years old, and in November he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama. It might have been one of his last coherent memories, as the Hall of Fame coach is suffering from dementia, according to the Washington Post’s John Feinstein.

Feinstein wrote back in February that Smith hasn’t had his wits about him for some time, which is something the writer first noticed almost a decade earlier. As heartbreaking as that sounds, though, he ended his piece on Smith with the most fitting of disclaimers, noting that “Dean Smith can no longer remember all the lives he touched. But he should be remembered every single day—on his birthday, today and forever.”

Smith had an arena named after him while he was still coaching, but his legacy will live on far beyond the on-campus Dean E. Smith Center that UNC packs for every home game. He’ll be remembered in every situation where a basketball coach takes the time to think about his players before worrying about the scoreboard or the stat sheet.

 

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

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Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Dallas Mavericks: Live Score and Analysis

The Oklahoma City Thunder visit the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night, with both teams fighting to earn a playoff spot at opposite ends of the spectrum.

OKC is 7-3 in its last 10—two games behind the streaking San Antonio Spurs for first place in the West.

The Mavs are 13 games above .500 but still in ninth place. They have an identical record to the eighth-place Phoenix Suns, and the Memphis Grizzlies are only a half-game ahead.

The game tips off at 8 p.m ET. TNT has the national TV feed.

Keep it right here for all the action!

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Live NBA chat: Making sense of the West

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NIT 2014: Schedule, Live Stream and Bracket Predictions for Quarterfinals Day 1

While the average college basketball viewer will tune into all of the NCAA tournament March Madness action, the hoops lover will be double-dipping with the NIT now that the quarterfinals are here and the action has picked up even more.

With the field down to just eight schools, it’s anyone’s championship to win, as these squads with a chip on their shoulders will fight for the right to play at Madison Square Garden in New York in the semifinal round. 

We’ve already seen some exciting games unfold throughout the NIT, and that’s only set to improve now that the best teams are advancing deep into the tourney.

Let’s break it all down.

 

 

Quarterfinal Day 1 Preview

Belmont at Clemson

Out of the Ohio Valley Conference, Belmont is a mainstay in the NCAA tournament. But after proving unable to win their conference tourney this year, the Bruins are busy trying to prove themselves in the NIT against a top foe.

In doing so, the No. 5 seed Bruins will go up against the No. 3 seed Clemson Tigers on Tuesday on ESPN, with the winner advancing to New York in the NIT semifinals.

Belmont has had some good fortune against ACC teams this season, having beaten then-12th-ranked North Carolina on the road back in November. A win over the Tigers on Tuesday night would make it 2-0 for Belmont against arguably the premier basketball conference.

That will be easier said than done against this Clemson team. Finishing a signature win or two away from making the Big Dance, the Tigers have star power with K.J. McDaniels (17.3 points per game) and have been in a plethora of tight games.

Expect this one to come down to one or two possessions. 

 

Southern Miss at Minnesota

No. 3 seed Southern Miss will get yet another chance to knock off a power-conference foe in the NIT, only a win over Minnesota would be much more than a victory.

It would send Southern Miss to Madison Square Garden.

The Golden Eagles have sprinted out to a 29-6 record this season, narrowly missing the NCAA tournament bubble but making a case as one of the most dangerous teams outside of that 68-school field. The Golden Gophers, on the other hand, notched a No. 1 seed, meaning they weren’t far off from the Big Dance themselves.

A balanced scoring attack of four players in double figures has the Golden Eagles playing hot as of late, and if they can get the three ball going like they did against Missouri (9-of-23), then Southern Miss will be able to really make Minnesota sweat.

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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Miami Heat: Live Score and Analysis

The Portland Trail Blazers (45-25) are on the road to take on the struggling Miami Heat (47-21) at the AmericanAirlines Arena on Monday.

The Heat won a close game, 108-107, in the only other meeting between these two on Dec. 28.

 

Tipoff7:30 p.m. ET

Coverage: NBATV

Injuries (via CBS): LaMarcus Aldridge, POR (questionable, back); Joel Freeland, POR (out, knee) 

 

Keys to the Game

With Aldridge struggling with a back injury, the Blazers need others to step up and fill the offensive void. Most of that responsibility will fall on Damian Lillard.

On the other end, Greg Oden will start at center for the Heat. It will be his first chance to take on the team that drafted him No. 1 overall in the 2007 draft. They’re 4-7 in their last 11 and could use more production from the center position.

 

Andy Bailey covers the NBA for Bleacher Report.

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Houston Rockets vs. Charlotte Bobcats: Live Score and Analysis

The Charlotte Bobcats (34-36) will look to snap the Houston Rockets’ (47-22) three-game winning streak when they host the Western Conference’s No. 4 seed on Monday night. 

After losing three straight games to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat, the Rockets have rattled off three straight wins and emerged victorious in seven of their last 10 games. 

On the other side of Monday’s matchup, the Bobcats are riding high following a 124-94 thrashing of the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday. Over their last 10 games, the Bobcats have posted a record of 7-3, solidifying their place as the Eastern Conference’s No. 7 seed. 

In addition, Charlotte currently sits two games clear of the Atlanta Hawks for the conference’s eighth and final playoff spot while trailing the Washington Wizards by two games for the No. 6 seed. 

And while the Rockets own the league’s fifth-most efficient offense, according to Basketball-Reference.com, the Bobcats grade out as the league’s sixth-most efficient defense, surrendering just 104 points per 100 possessions, per Basketball-Reference

The bad news for Charlotte, though, is that Dwight Howard is set to make his first appearance since March 16 after suffering an ankle injury, according to the Charlotte Observer’s Rick Bonnell

You can catch all of tonight’s action on SportsSouth (Charlotte), CSN Houston (Houston) or NBA League Pass. 

Keep it locked here on Bleacher Report throughout the night as we get set for a 7 p.m. ET tipoff between the Bobcats and Rockets. 

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Sweet 16 2014: Updated Bracket, Schedule, Live Stream and Odds for Round 4

The 2014 NCAA tournament has been chock-full of surprises. If most of the teams comprising the Sweet 16 are still alive on your bracket, pat yourself on the back. It’s been a wild journey to this point, and it only stands to get crazier.

One top-seeded team has already bit the dust, and more may be soon to follow. Each of the tournament’s remaining teams is on a massive hot streak, and all have legitimate shots to go the distance.

The Sweet 16 figures to deliver the most intense action to date. If earlier rounds gave any inclination of what’s to come, we are certainly in for a treat. Let’s take a look at all of the essential need-to-know information as we head into the tournament’s fourth round.

 

All Your Bracket Essentials

 

Sweet 16 Schedule

Can No. 8 Kentucky pull off the upset over struggling No. 4 Louisville? Does Michigan State have the necessary firepower to get past a stout Virginia defense? Will any more top-seeded teams fall before the Elite Eight?

All of these questions will be answered during the Sweet 16. Every single game has its own underlying storyline. None of these games should be missed.

Be sure to note the time and channel for each upcoming contest to ensure you don’t miss a moment of the action.

Each Sweet 16 game can be live-streamed on NCAA.com.

 

Updated Bracket

The full 2014 NCAA tournament bracket can be viewed on CBSSports.com.

 

Updated Odds

Curious what the current odds are for your favorite team—or bracket champion—to go the distance? Here’s a look at the updated odds for the remaining 16 teams in this year’s NCAA tournament.

Las Vegas clearly has a couple of big-time favorites; however, as we know, anything can happen in March Madness.

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