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Minnesota Timberwolves win NBA draft’s top pick in virtual lottery

The NBA draft lottery was delayed three months. The Minnesota Timberwolves are certainly feeling like the wait was worthwhile.

The Timberwolves won the lottery Thursday night, giving them the No. 1 pick. The lottery was conducted virtually because of the pandemic, with NBA officials doing the actual draw in Secaucus, N.J.

Golden State holds the No. 2 pick, Charlotte got the No. 3 pick and Chicago will pick fourth. The Hornets and Bulls both bucked the odds to move into the upper echelon.

The Timberwolves were 19-45 this season, marking the 14th time in 15 years that they failed to make the playoffs and finished with a losing record. And a month ago, Glen Taylor — who has owned the franchise since 1994 — said he “will entertain” offers for the Timberwolves WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx.

It’ll be Minnesota’s first time holding the No. 1 pick since 2015.

Chicago had a 32 per cent chance of moving into the top four spots, Charlotte about a 26 per cent chance. They leapfrogged four teams that had better top-four odds — Cleveland, Atlanta, Detroit and New York.

For now, the delayed draft — originally set for late June — is scheduled for Oct. 16. The NBA has been hoping for a Dec. 1 start to the 2020-21 season, though Commissioner Adam Silver said on the ESPN telecast of that draft lottery that date now “is feeling a little bit early to me.”

Without fans at games, a major revenue stream is obviously lost for the league and its teams. There have been talks about starting next season with one or multiple bubbles, like the one where the league is playing now at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, but the obvious preference is to have fans returning to games.

“Our No. 1 goal is to get fans back in our arenas,” Silver said on the telecast. “My sense is, in working with the players association, if we could push back even a little longer and increase the likelihood of having fans in arenas, that’s what we would be targeting.”

So not only is it unclear which player is going when — but it’s also unclear when anyone will see their NBA debuts.

Unlike a year ago, when Zion Williamson was clearly going to be the first selection, there is no consensus about the No. 1 pick. Top candidates include Georgia’s Anthony Edwards, Memphis’ James Wiseman and LaMelo Ball — the brother of New Orleans guard Lonzo Ball.

Cleveland got the fifth pick, followed by Atlanta, Detroit, New York, Washington, Phoenix, San Antonio, Sacramento and New Orleans at No. 13.

The rest of the first-round order, starting with the No. 15 pick and going to No. 30, as of now is: Orlando, Portland, Minnesota, Dallas, Brooklyn, Miami, Philadelphia, Denver, Utah, Milwaukee, Oklahoma City, Boston, New York, the Los Angeles Lakers, Toronto and Boston.

Rockets set 3-point record

Houston’s P.J. Tucker celebrates his fourth-quarter three-pointer during the Rockets’ 111-98 Game 2 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday. (Kevin C. Cox/Pool photo via AP)

James Harden had 21 points and nine assists and the Houston Rockets made 19 of an NBA-record 56 3-point attempts to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 111-98 on Thursday for a 2-0 lead in the first-round Western Conference series.

Former Thunder star Russell Westbrook was out for the Rockets again with a right quad strain, but plenty of other Houston players picked up the slack. Danuel House Jr. scored 19 points.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 31 points for the Thunder, and Danilo Gallinari added 17.

Oklahoma City dominated the second quarter and led 59-53 at halftime. The Thunder shot 50 per cent in the half. Houston missed its last 15 3-pointers in the second quarter, and Harden scored just eight points on 2-for-10 shooting in the half.

The Rockets went on a 13-0 run early in the second half to regain the lead. Gilgeous-Alexander, who had been cold in the bubble, made three straight 3-pointers to highlight an 11-0 run that put the Thunder ahead again. The Thunder held on and led 78-77 at the end of the third quarter.

Oklahoma City led 80-77 before the Rockets broke away with a 17-0 run, with just two of the points coming from Harden, the league scoring champion.

Robinson catches fire to lead Heat past Pacers

Miami’s Tyler Herro, left, shoots as Indiana’s T.J. McConnell defends during the second half of the Heat’s 109-100 Game 2 win against the Pacers on Thursday. (Ashley Landis, Pool/The Associated Press)

Goran Dragic had a little simple advice for Duncan Robinson before Game 2: Just shoot.

Robinson listened, hitting his first six shots — all from 3-point range. He finished with 24 points and the Miami Heat beat the Indiana Pacers 109-100 on Thursday for a 2-0 lead in their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series.

“I don’t care if he miss 18 shots, 18 3s,” Dragic said. “`I want you to shoot every time. Don’t pump fake. We need you, and you can see it.’ He didn’t hesitate today, and that’s how we want him.”

Robinson opened the game by making the Heat’s first three buckets, all 3s. He didn’t miss until midway through the third quarter, and Robinson tied the Heat record for 3s in a playoff game with seven. He finished 7-of-8 shooting, all beyond the arc, in a big improvement from Tuesday when he was 2 of 8.

“Just felt a better rhythm in this one for whatever reason,” Robinson said. “But that can’t be the case for me. I got to kind of assert myself and not just have the game necessarily come to me, but be more aggressive. So I thought that was big and then obviously you see some go early, the hoop starts to look a little bigger.”

Dragic scored 20 points, Jimmy Butler had 18 points and six assists, rookie Tyler Herro added 15 points off the bench, and Jae Crowder scored 10.

Lakers crush Blazers, Lillard hurt

Los Angeles’ LeBron James drives the ball against Portland’s Carmelo Anthony during the third quarter of the Lakers’ 111-88 win over the Trail Blazers on Thursday. (Kevin C. Cox/Pool photo via AP)

Anthony Davis had 31 points and 11 rebounds and the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers bounced back from an opening loss to beat the Portland Trail Blazers 111-88 on Thursday night in Game 2 of the first-round Western Conference playoff series.

LeBron James had 10 points, six rebounds, seven assists and six turnovers. He had 23 points, 17 rebounds and a playoff career-high 16 rebounds in Game 1.

The Trail Blazers stunned the Lakers 100-93 in Game 1, but things went horribly wrong in Game 2. A poor performance got worse when All-Star guard Damian Lillard dislocated the index finger on his left hand in the third quarter. He left the game for good, and the team said X-rays were negative.

Bucks bite back to tie series with Magic

Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo dunks on Orlando’s Gary Clark in the second half of the Bucks’ 111-96 Game 2 victory against the Magic. (Ashley Landis, Pool/Getty Images)

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 28 points and 20 rebounds and the Milwaukee Bucks rode a fast start to beat the Orlando Magic 111-96 on Thursday and tie the Eastern Conference first-round series at a game apiece.

The Bucks boasted the NBA’s best regular-season record at 56-17, but went 3-5 in the eight seeding games at Disney’s Wide World of Sports and opened the playoffs by losing 122-110 to Orlando.

Milwaukee bounced back Thursday, building a 23-point lead in the first half, though Orlando got the margin down to nine in the fourth quarter.

Brook Lopez scored 20 points and Pat Connaughton had 15 on 5-of-8 3-point shooting for Milwaukee. Eric Bledsoe had 13 points and Donte DiVincenzo added 11.

Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic followed up his 35-point effort in the opener by scoring 32 points. Evan Fournier and Terrence Ross each had 12, Markelle Fultz had 11 and D.J. Augustin added 10.

The difference between the first and second games of this series was in

The Bucks’ defensive intensity was the difference between the two games.

Orlando had no points in the paint for the entire first quarter and went nearly eight minutes without a basket during a first-half stretch.

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