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in F r e i s t i l 03.09.2018 09:36
von liny195 • 256 Beiträge

NEW ORLEANS — Before the 2017-18 regular season began Ramon Humber Jersey , any conversation regarding the New Orleans Pelicans and brooms had something to do with the possibility the team would clean house.

That would have meant parting ways with coach Alvin Gentry and general manager Dell Demps if the Pelicans missed the playoffs for a third consecutive year despite having one of the NBA’s best players in Anthony Davis.

But now, the broom means something very different.

Energized on both ends of the court, the Pelicans have the broom ready Saturday at the Smoothie King Center to sweep the faltering Portland Trail Blazers out of the Western Conference playoffs with a fourth consecutive victory in the first-round series.

With a win Saturday, the Pelicans would become the first playoff team seeded sixth or lower to sweep a first-round playoff series since the 2001 Charlotte Hornets swept the Miami Heat 3-0 in a best-of-five series.

“Closeout games are the hardest,” said New Orleans guard Rajon Rondo, a 32-year-old veteran who is the Pelicans’ second-oldest player, someone who has served as an on-court coach to his younger teammates. “That’s what I’m going to try to explain to these guys. The first three might have been tough, but this last one is going to be very tough.”

In routing the Blazers 119-102 on Thursday to take a 3-0 series lead, the Pelicans fed off a raucous sellout crowd and led by as many as 33 points in the second half, allowing Gentry to rest his starters. Davis finished with 28 points and 11 rebounds while nursing a sore left thumb, and forward Nikola Mirotic Darius Leonard Jersey , acquired after center DeMarcus Cousins went down in late January with a season-ending Achilles injury, scored a career-playoff-high 30 points, with 14 in the first quarter.

Even though Portland’s normally potent guard tandem of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum had their best game of the series — combining for 42 of the Blazers’ 102 points — Lillard had trouble shaking free of the Pelicans’ trapping defense, which forced the ball out of his hands. Lillard made just 5 of 14 shots, including 3 of 9 from 3-point range.

“They whooped our butt,” said McCollum. “They beat us in every facet of the game: loose balls, rebounds, free-throw line, energy plays, 3-pointers in transition. … You name it, and they did it.”

The Pelicans have made a conscious decision to swarm Lillard and McCollum at every opportunity Marshall Newhouse Jersey , daring other Blazers to beat them. Portland hasn’t adjusted properly to the strategy. Lillard has shot 32.7 percent in the three losses.

“I don’t think (defensive assistant coach) Darren Erman has gotten the credit that he deserves,” Gentry said. “He put together a great defensive game plan. It was him that brought the game plan to me and said, ‘This is what I want to do against them.'”

“You have to continue to mix it up and give them different looks,” Gentry added. “Even doing that, those guys got some shots off and made some real difficult shots. We’ve just got to make sure that we stay locked in and not let them get into one of those zones when it starts to go in and it doesn’t matter what kind of shot they’re shooting that it’s going to go in.”

Making matters worse for the Blazers is their injury status. Both Moe Harkless (left knee) and Evan Turner (right toe) are questionable for Game 4.

Portland coach Terry Stotts said the Pelicans have been tough to handle because a different player each night has shredded the Blazers’ defense.

“Going into the series, those four guys (Davis, Jrue Holiday, Mirotic and Rondo) have played extremely well,” Stotts said. “(Mirotic) is the third different guy who’s had a 30-point night. He’s very efficient, and he made a lot of smart basketball plays as well.”

Former NFL quarterback Oliver Luck is leaving his high-ranking position at the NCAA to become commissioner of the XFL, the second edition of professional wrestling mogul Vince McMahon's football league.

McMahon announced the hire Tuesday Carl Nassib Jersey , four months after unveiling plans to relaunch the XFL, which folded in 2001 after its only season. The new XFL is scheduled to begin in 2020. Luck will start his new job July 1.

He said the XFL presents an opportunity to reimagine football, from how it is played to how it is delivered and consumed by fans.

"Opportunities like this come along very infrequently," Luck told AP in a phone interview. "You've got Vince, who is a visionary. A well-capitalized effort. A guy who has passion for the game, but realizes that there are others who have lived and breathed the game for decades who he was able to bring on board.

"An incredibly fascinating time in terms of technology that exists to engage fans. All of those combined led me to believe the key ingredients to a successful launch are there to deliver great football, which I think was one of the failings of the original league."

Luck said McMahon assured him the XFL will be a more serious endeavor than the first time around, when the league tried to use some of the WWE's sexed-up, tough-talking antics to spice up second-rate football.

"Vince and others have really looked clear-eyed at the original XFL and acknowledged there wasn't enough focus put on the game itself," Luck said.

Luck, the father of Colts quarterback Andrew Luck Bernie Kosar Jersey , played four seasons for the Houston Oilers after being drafted in the second round out of West Virginia in 1982. He graduated from University of Texas law school in 1987.

Luck went on to a successful career in sports management in the professional and college ranks. He joined the NCAA in 2014 as executive vice president of regulatory affairs and strategic partnerships.

Luck has served as president of the now defunct NFL Europe and was general manager for two of the league's teams in Germany. He was later president and general manager of the Houston Dynamo, leading the franchise to two MLS Cup titles. Before joining the NCAA, he spent four years as athletic director of West Virginia, orchestrating the school's move to the Big 12.

"Oliver and I share the same vision and passion for reimagining the game of football," McMahon said in a statement. "His experience as both an athlete and executive will ensure the long-term success of the XFL."

At the NCAA, Luck oversaw all NCAA enforcement, academic and membership affairs and athlete eligibility.

"Oliver Luck has been a key member of my leadership team and he has done a superb job at the NCAA over the last three years," NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement. "His vision and insight have been invaluable to our schools and the national office. Oliver's values and leadership skills helped keep the Association focused on supporting student-athletes."

The XFL plans to have eight league-owned teams, 40-man rosters and a 10-week regular season during the NFL's offseason. Host cities and stadiums are now being sought by the league through requests for proposals.

Follow Ralph D. Russo at Twitter/ralphDrussoAP


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