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June 26, 2005

Durant, Love, Arthur excel at NBPA

Friday night and Saturday, the action intensified at the 2005 NBPA Top 100 Camp in Richmond, VA. It's late in the camp and the cream is starting to rise to the top. Recent Texas recruit Kevin Durant, the #2 rated player nationally in the class of 2006, and #2 rated rising junior, late arriving Kevin Love are battling it out for player of the week honors. Darrell Arthur had a pair of big games on Saturday to throw his name into the mix as well.

In a terrific overtime thriller the Nuggets beat the Celtics 90-87 behind a monstrous 27 point performance by Kevin Durant. Durant had his mid-range game working, and he got some help from Villanova bound Reggie Redding, who scored 11 points and chipped in 4 rebounds and 4 assists. Durant and Redding scored on big plays in overtime and the Nuggets held on for the win. St. John's recruit Doug Wiggins had 10 points and 4 assists in the win.

Jerryd Bayless broke out of a slump to lead the Celtics with 14 points. Wayne Ellington finally had a good shooting night canning four 3-pointers for a dozen points. Tywon Lawson made a valiant effort to get the game into overtime, but just couldn't get the Celtics over the hump, finishing with 10 points.

Kevin Love had a 19 point, 11 rebound performance in the Pacers' 86-74 win over the Heat on Friday night, then followed up on saturday with 23 points and 9 rebounds in the morning and 17 points and 9 rebounds in the evening. Since his arrival at the camp the Pacers have been beaten just once, and it's obvious that Love has been a major factor. He has shown the full arsenal of skills here, shooting from the perimeter, using his size in the paint to score and rebound, tossing crisp, accurate passes to his teammates, and playing solid defense. Possibly some of the best basketball he's ever played at this type of high profile event.

The Spurs entered Saturday morning as the only remaining unbeaten team in the Camp. With great balance in both lineups and the unselfish play of guys like Paul Harris, Willie Kemp, and Michael Sanchez, the Spurs had rolled to 5 straight victories by an average of over 20 points per contest. Darrell Arthur and the Wizards ended their streak with an 80-70 win. Arthur scored 16 points and hit four 3s in the process. Arthur is a big time athlete with tremendous face the basket skills. He's had a nice week here, and it will be interesting to see if he can close it out strong and carry some momentum into July.

Prime Time Players

Lance Thomas is playing on the wing this week, and this has given him the opportunity to showcase his ball skills. He is a handful slashing to the basket, and still a terror on the glass. While his mid-range game is improving, he still needs to hone his perimeter shooting.

Taj Gibson, after a slow start, has come on like gangbusters over the past couple of days. He's scored 17, 25, and 22 points in the last three games. The athletically gifted Gibson has made a decision to be more aggressive taking the ball to the basket, and as a result he's been amongst the most productive players in the camp. He added 6 points and 5 rebounds in a win Saturday morning over the Nuggets.

Tyreke Evans has found his groove here and is playing like the elite rising sophomore prospect that we saw this spring. He scored in double figures in both games on Saturday, and is doing a better job attacking the rim instead of settling for jumpers.

Brandon Jennings, the rising sophomore point guard from California, is making a strong case for best playmaker in the camp. In two games on Saturday Jennings averaged 12 points and 10.5 assists. His quickness and poise are reminiscent of former Georgia Tech all-american Kenny Anderson.

Rising junior 2G Austin Freeman has averaged 17 points in his last 4 games in the camp. After a tentative start, Freeman has found a comfort zone and resumed his familiar role as scorer deluxe.

Duke Crews had a monstrous 20 point, 14 rebound effort in a loss to the Celtics. Crews has been the most consistent rebounder in the camp. He gets his points in the paint, and despite his lack of true post size, is too quick and athletic for most defenders to handle down there.

Stanley Robinson had 21 points and 9 rebounds in the evening game on saturday. He has been one of the biggest surprise players in the camp, and looks like an all-american here this week.

Nolan Smith has had a disappointing spring, but his efforts at the camp have been on the elite level. He had a pair of 20 point games on Saturday, and was the underachieving Sonics' best player going into the playoffs.

Playoff Matchups

Gold/Silver Quarterfinals
Spurs vs. Heat
Pistons vs. Suns
Wizards vs. Nuggets
Pacers vs. Kings

Bronze Semifinals
Sonics vs. Rockets
Celtics vs. Mavericks

Scoring Leaders
1. Kevin Durant - 17.6
1. Kevin Love - 17.6
3. Taj Gibson - 16.0
4. O.J. Mayo - 14.9
5. Nolan Smith - 14.3
6. Scott Reynolds - 13.8
7. Gary Johnson - 13.3
8. Qunicy Pondexter - 12.9
9. Austin Freeman - 12.7
9. Obi Muonelo - 12.7
10. Jerryd Bayless 12.6





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