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Clippers need Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to put Donovan Mitchell in the spotlight

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At the halfway point of Game 2, Donovan Mitchell had more total points on the series than Kawhi Leonard and Paul George combined.

Kawhi Leonard has the biggest hands in the game and somehow his fingerprints are missing in this series and for most of the playoffs.

Paul George has every reason to go on a Playoff Redemption Tour considering what happened to him last year – and the year before and the year before – but he hasn’t made it on stage yet and it’s getting late and the people are there to be restless.

The Clippers are 0-2 behind the Jazz in the second round, just like the Mavericks before, and much of that is down to another 0-2: their stars are behind the other star on the other team for the second series in a row.

Donovan Mitchell follows Luka Doncic in being a problem for the Clippers, crushing them in Game 1 for the Jazz, and then returns on Thursday with an almost as stellar performance in Utah’s 117-11 win. That in and of itself is reasonably understandable. Mitchell has established himself as the spring and summer player in his brief stint in the NBA, when the lights go on and his team longs for a savior.

Same for Doncic; His style of play, his competitive character and his toughness are suitable for a different level of basketball and motivate him to advance straight away with the stakes at this time of the year.

But shouldn’t Leonard and George’s Clippers, who are supposed to make the difference, get the same results, punching in the chest, having to shoot big shots in tense moments, instead of Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris and … Patrick? Beverly?

Kawhi and PG weren’t terrible on Thursday; they just weren’t great. None of Clipper’s were the best players on the floor. Neither of them had what could be described as an oh-wow moment. Neither was a factor in the final minutes, and certainly not the result, a defeat that put the Clippers in another hole to start a series.

Leonard was defiantly defended by Bojan Bogdanovic, who stripped him once in a revealing stop towards the end of the fourth and mostly kept the former two-time final MVP silent when it mattered. The numbers will say 21 points for Leonard, but no one can remember one who yelled out loud. He also had three turnovers and sometimes seemed out of sync.

Isiah Thomas and Brendan Haywood rave about yet another epic playoff performance by Donovan Mitchell.

For a player who mastered load management during this compressed season, Kawhi has only had one day off between games since May 28.

After all, he had games of 45 and 41 points in the preliminary round. George, on the other hand, is still waiting for a signature game and a stretch. You can argue that Leonard is forced to carry more than his share of a burden designed to be treated equally by both of them.

Instead, George had his second consecutive subpar shooting game, and for the third straight playoffs he struggled particularly to find consistency from the depths, hitting just 32% that postseason.

Again: As a duo, Kawhi and George don’t have craters yet; they just didn’t get the intensity, impact, and pop that Doncic did on round one or Mitchell on round two.

Mitchell had surpassed the Clipper duo in the first six quarters of this series with 72-66 points and has only nine points less for the two games combined. But the numbers don’t tell the whole story; Mitchell made moves that upset teammates, turn up the volume in the home arena and blow the wind out of the other team’s socks.

Mitchell has been the league’s most prolific goalscorer for the past two post seasons combined, notably ending up badly with a sore ankle in Game 2. If he didn’t punish the Clippers, his supporting cast always seemed to respond with a timely 3-pointer if LA mustered enough energy to streamline the score

That’s what a top-notch playoff performer is supposed to do, but in those Clippers playoffs, that performer has been on the other team nine games so far, with the exception of two solid Kawhi efforts.

The suspicion limelight only gets deeper for George as the rest of this series progresses. If you recall, the core of his playoff problems happened to be traced back to Utah three years ago, when he and Oklahoma City lost six games to the same Jazz franchise. The next year, Damian Lillard’s epic winner’s basket came over George along with his mocking wave of farewells. Then last season, when George played poorly in the playoffs and came away empty-handed in a Game 7 against the Nuggets, the noise of the crowd pointing at him was deafening.

But basketball is fun sometimes. Stories, perceptions, and reputations can suddenly tip over when someone brings a sledgehammer to them. What Kawhi and George still have is the luxury of time. There’s another game that starts a whole different conversation.

These two couldn’t prevent the Clippers from falling 2-0 again. To even out they have to do to jazz what Mitchell does to the Clippers. It is certainly possible, and given the sudden sensitivity of the situation in which you find yourself, do you have any other choice?

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Shaun Powell has been reporting on the NBA for more than 25 years. You can email him here, find his archive here, and follow him Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs, or Turner Broadcasting.

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Montreal Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme symptom-free, hopes to return in days

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MONTREAL – Canadien’s interim coach Dominique Ducharme said on Sunday that he had remained symptom-free two days after testing positive for COVID-19 and that he hopes to be back behind the bench during the Stanley Cup semi-final series in Montreal against Vegas.

Ducharme wore a dark blue collared Canadiens shirt, white hair and a familiar short stubble on his chin and spoke to reporters from an unknown location during a 12-minute video conference, his first comments since his mandatory isolation.

“I wish I could be on the rink now. I don’t feel any different than I did a week ago,” said Ducharme as the Canadiens prepared to host Vegas in Game 4 on Sunday night.

Montreal has a 2-1 lead in the series, Game 5 in Vegas is scheduled for Tuesday. If necessary, Game 6 will be played in Montreal on Thursday and Game 7 in Vegas on Saturday.

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Ducharme was asked if he would have to spend 14 days in isolation.

“I’m confident I’ll be back before that,” he said.

Ducharme said he was fully vaccinated against the coronavirus and would end the two-week waiting period after his second vaccination on Wednesday.

It is unclear whether 48-year-old Ducharme will be able to return at this point.

“Until then, nothing has been confirmed. The organization is in contact with the authorities. It is a unique situation. We have been isolated since December,” said Ducharme in French.

Ducharme said no one he had contact with, including his girlfriend, tested positive. He said he was following NHL COVID-19 protocols when the Canadiens traveled to Vegas last week to open the series.

The Canadiens were restricted to certain areas of their Vegas hotel and had to take the bus to and from the ice rink.

Montreal, a member of the NHL’s Canadian North Division, is the only Canadian team to cross the line this season after teams were restricted to play within the division in the second round of the playoffs.

“It’s frustrating because I did everything you asked us to. I never exposed myself. I was so unlucky,” said Ducharme, who is in daily contact with his team and employees by phone and video call.

This is the second straight postseason that Montreal assistant Luke Richardson has had to step in in an emergency. Last summer, Richardson and former assistant coach Kirk Muller shared coaching duties after Claude Julien was hospitalized with chest pain after the first game of the Montreal-Philadelphia first-round series.

Julien missed the rest of the playoffs and resumed coaching that season before being sacked and replaced by Ducharme on February 24th.

It was difficult for Ducharme to watch out of isolation as the Canadiens recovered in Game 3 on Friday with a 3-2 win in extra time after two one-goal deficits.

“You feel helpless to watch and hope for the best. It’s a strange situation,” said Ducharme. “A special situation, but it was a special year. We’ve been through a lot. And we’ll get through that.”

The Canadiens had the worst record of the NHL’s 16 playoff qualifiers before upsetting Toronto and Winnipeg in the first two rounds.

The Golden Knights have already seen this scenario this postseason. Colorado Avalanche coach Jared Bednar missed a morning skate due to a COVID-19 test irregularity and was released in time to coach in Game 6 of the second round series against Vegas.

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Brooklyn Nets Guardian Spencer Dinwiddie wants to turn down the $ 12.3 million player option

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Brooklyn Nets Guardian Spencer Dinwiddie plans to turn down the $ 12.3 million player option on his 2021-22 contract and become an unrestricted free agent before the deadline on Monday, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Dinwiddie missed most of the season with a cruciate ligament injury in his right knee and appeared in just three games. He tried to possibly get back to the NBA final, but the Nets were eliminated by the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference semifinals on Saturday.

Dinwiddie, 28, has had a history of ACL injuries. During his junior year in Colorado, Dinwiddie tore his left ACL in one game and missed the rest of the season.

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Dinwiddie was a key player for Brooklyn last season, starting in 49 games when Kyrie Irving and Caris LeVert were out injured. He averaged 20.6 points and 6.8 assists in the 2019-20 season but was diagnosed with COVID-19 in late June and did not travel to Orlando with the Nets to restart the season.

The 6-foot-5 Dinwiddie has averaged 12.9 points and 5.0 assists over portions of seven seasons with the Nets and Detroit Pistons.

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The Uganda Olympic trainer tests positive for Covid after arriving in Japan

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Uganda Olympic Committee President Donald Rukare said the unnamed trainer had no symptoms. It is not yet clear whether the trainer, who is in a government facility, will be banned from participating or sent home.

The entire Ugandan Olympic delegation, which includes 26 athletes and 30 staff, has been fully vaccinated with two syringes of AstraZeneca, Rukare said.

Many received their second dose of the vaccine this month, about three months after receiving their first dose, Rukare said.

The eight others who arrived with the Covid-positive trainer have traveled to Izumisano City in Osaka Prefecture, where they will be housed, according to Izumisano City official Hideo Takagaki. Rukare said the octet is in a bubble and is being tested daily.

Japan's leading Covid-19 advisor says holding the Olympics without spectators is "he wishes"

More athletes and employees of the Ugandan Olympic team are expected to arrive in Japan in the coming days.

Ugandans are among the first to arrive in Japan ahead of the Tokyo Olympics amid security concerns as the country battles a fourth wave of Covid-19. The Asian host nation has fully vaccinated less than 7% of its population, and doctors are warning that an Olympic super-spreader event could bring Japan’s overburdened medical system to the brink. At least 10,000 of the 80,000 people who have signed up for help with the Games have already stopped, and Japan’s top coronavirus advisor said Friday that hosting the Olympics with no spectators would be “desirable”. Uganda’s Olympic athletes are some of the first people in the African nation to receive the vaccine – Uganda has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the world, with only 2 doses per 100 people. The country of 45 million people is currently battling a second wave with reported cases up 130% in the first two weeks of June. Uganda also has a relatively high test positive rate, with 19% of tests being positive according to Johns Hopkins University, suggesting that authorities are not covering all Covid-19 cases. This week has the Uganda Rugby Union tweeted that the Sevens national team withdrew from an Olympic qualifier in Monaco after reporting Covid-19 cases within the team.

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