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Timberwolves Fan

Wolves drop game to Boston Celtics late run. posted by Timberwolves Fan

Nothing seems to be going right for the Timberwolves as they lose to the Celtics Friday night. They tried for younger blood by taking out veteran Corey Brewer and bringing in youngster Shabazz Muhammad and still the Timberwolves lose 114-98.

Friday’s trade that sent Brewer to Houston clears playing time and for at least now a starting spot for the hard-working Muhammad, who turned opportunity into a 26-point, five-rebound, five-assist game on a night his team was outdone by Boston’s game-deciding, 8-0 fourth quarter run.

On Friday, Muhammad made shots — 11 of 15 from the field — while teammate Andrew Wiggins went 2-for-10 and Thaddeus Young went 6-for-19, against a Celtics team that had just traded star Rajon Rondo to Dallas on Thursday night.

“I really thought we were going to pull that one out, I was really disappointed,” Muhammad said. “I wanted to come in and win the game, most importantly. But I was very comfortable out there. I’m starting to get really comfortable, and that’s one thing that’s really good for me.”

Toughing it out

Veteran guard Mo Williams traveled to Dallas on Thursday to get a second opinion on his back and celebrate early his 32nd birthday with his wife and children. He said he is relieved to learn his back spasms are only muscular and not something that requires surgery. He played 25 minutes Friday even though Saunders only intended to play him 15 minutes at most. Williams said he’ll play through the pain.

“However many minutes, it doesn’t bother me at all, I’ll fight through it,” Williams said. “To be honest with you, I want to stop talking about it and just play. I didn’t get treatment today because I just want mentally to learn how to tolerate the pain.”

Continue reading "Wolves drop game to Boston Celtics late run."

Houston Rockets

Corey Brewer to Rockets. posted by Houston Rockets

The Minnesota Timberwolves' wing is a little less crowded after Friday, as they've agreed to trade swingman Corey Brewer to the Houston Rockets.

Brewer, 28, is averaging 10.5 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game on 41.8 percent shooting. One of Minnesota's first players off the bench in most contests, a Brewer trade nonetheless became inevitable.

The former Florida star isn't a superstar by any stretch, but he's a smart player who knows what he is at this point in his career. Most of Brewer's best shots come in transition and semi-transition, where he's an expert at using the open floor to get to the rim. A subpar shooter from beyond the arc in his career, Brewer has almost abandoned the three-point shot entirely this season.

Minnesota's willingness to move him despite a fine start is an indicator head coach and team president Flip Saunders has come around to a full-scale rebuild. The Wolves' trade of Kevin Love to Cleveland this offseason started the project, but it seemed like Saunders was taking half-measures by signing veterans in free agency and trading for Thaddeus Young.

But a 5-19 start leaves the Timberwolves with little excuse not to see what they have in their young talent.

Getting Brewer is about the best Houston could hope to do given its salary situation. Brewer is by no means a lockdown defender, but he's a high-energy guy who consistently fights his way to a couple turnovers per game.

Offensively, he is more of a noticeable minus, where his penchant for leaking out for transition buckets can sometimes lead to some questionable decision-making. That, of course, is also an issue defensively when the opposing team gets the offensive board.

Continue reading "Corey Brewer to Rockets."

Nuggets Fan

Kenneth Faried grabs 25 rebounds, saves Nuggets from sloppy loss posted by Nuggets Fan

It's the little things Brian Shaw hates. The times when his players don't box out. The times when the ball bounces in front of them and they still don't go for the ball. The missed free throws. The shoddy defense.

He must have had a hard time sitting through Friday's game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Pepsi Center.

Coming off a blowout loss at Charlotte and a sloppy defeat at Brooklyn, the Nuggets returned home to host the Timberwolves, the worst team in the West, in a game that, on paper, should have been Denver's for the taking.

And until the fourth quarter, Kenneth Faried appeared to be the only Nuggets player who wanted it.

Faried, who turned in one of his finest showings of the season against Brooklyn three nights earlier, came back with an even better one Friday with 26 points and a career-high 25 rebounds while leading the Nuggets to a 106-102 victory over the Timberwolves.

"After 26 points," Shaw said, "I want him to understand that we didn't call plays for him. He got those 26 points going after offensive rebounds every single time.”

But with every one of his baskets, as well as those of his teammates, the Timberwolves seemed to have a response on the other end, ones that were often handed to them by the Nuggets' miscues.

Eighteen turnovers. Too many wide-open shots to count for Minnesota. Many poor decisions.

The Timberwolves (5-23) arrived in Denver sporting the worst defensive rating in the NBA, allowing 113 points per 100 possessions and letting opponents shoot a league-worst 49.8 percent from the field and 65.3 percent from within 5 feet of the rim.

Continue reading "Kenneth Faried grabs 25 rebounds, ..."


Timberwolves Fan

Minnesota Timberwolves Preseason Report 2014 posted by Timberwolves Fan

Just like in the past nine seasons, the Minn. Timberwolves did not manage to enter the playoffs in 2013-14 as well. The team had put together good players such as Corey Brewer for energetic defense, and Kevin Martin for shooting, but still failed to make it even to the playoffs. Chase Budinger was also brought in for fixing the outside shooting issues that the team was experiencing since the last season. The talent was evident in many games, but ultimately they won only 40 and were short of nine games to the playoffs.

The future of Minnesota Timberwolves might become brighter in 2014-15. They have finally got rid of Kevin Love, who was becoming a liability with his selfish attitude, and lack of leadership skills. Love was traded for Andre Wiggins, who was the draft's first pick. Whether the team will be able to retain Wiggins for a long period is doubtful, especially if he improves and becomes a star. Expectations are high for Wiggins, and that might put undue pressure on this player. On the other hand, PG Ricky Rubio is one of the young players that require pressure, as he scores below 10 points per game, which is terrible. After nearly three years in the league, he has excellent assist numbers, and is good in leading the team in steals.

In place of Love, the Timberwolves acquired Thaddeus Young, who averages 18 points per game. Young cannot be expected to replace Love fully in offense, but he has shown excellent performance last year with Philadelphia 76ers. Another important development is bringing back Flip Saunders to coach the team instead of Rick Adelman. Saunders has good experience, and can effectively build the team. The draft has brought in Zach LeVine, a popular UCLA shooter; however, experts still predict less wins this season compared to the previous one.

Continue reading "Minnesota Timberwolves Preseason Report 2014"


KB

Whats up Dumars, Get rid of the old baggage!!!!! Trade Rip posted by KB

     What is taking Dumars so long to move Rip Hamilton.  Al Jefferson was out there from the Timberwolves.  David Lee is about to get traded for two reserves on the same level as Maxiell and Wilcox.  I'm starting to wonder why Joe D is moving so slow, with a team that barely has trade value as it is.  Dumars You need to wake up and smell the free agency...if we end up spending our MLE on somebody like Sheldon Williams, Dumars will officially be on the Hot Seat in my book.

Continue reading "Whats up Dumars, Get rid of the old ..."


Chase Hughes

How Can the Washington Wizards Improve to Contender Status? posted by Chase Hughes

Last night I was listening to an interview with former NBA head coach P.J. Carlesimo on 106.7 The Fan.  He was commenting on the opening days of the NBA regular season, specifically about the Eastern Conference and his thoughts on who were the better teams.  Not surprisingly he named the top three teams as the “factors,” those being Cleveland, Boston, and Orlando.  He said that there are not any teams even close to those three but on the outside looking in is the Washington Wizards.  The Wizards were the only team he mentioned as the fourth best team and he said this about three times.  These comments got me thinking about what the Wizards need to do this regular season to take the next step and breach that label, in what areas can they improve to develop into the fourth Eastern Conference power? 
First of all, this piece is not in discussion of anything to do with the playoffs, I am not assuming that the Wizards are clearly the fourth best team or that they will even make the playoffs at all.  What I am saying is that the Wiz are in that second tier bunch that follows the top three, which in my opinion also includes the Toronto Raptors, Atlanta Hawks, and the Philadelphia 76’ers (3rd tier: MIA, CHI, NJ, DET).  Carlesimo added that this is the way the East is presently, that come December we could be talking about another team that has emerged or perhaps a top team will regress and make way for one that is on the brink.  We know that this is Gilbert Arenas’ team but what pieces need to fall into place for Washington to make that jump?  I offer several possibilities, some more plausible than others for how the Wizards can materialize into a contender:

Continue reading "How Can the Washington Wizards Improve ..."


Chase Hughes

5 Predictions for the 2009-10 Washington Wizards posted by Chase Hughes

  1. Gilbert Arenas will average over 8 assists per game –            It is quite obvious that with all the new offensive weapons and a healthy roster, Gilbert Arenas’ scoring average is going to go down.  He isn’t going to be able to keep up a 29.3 ppg season like he did in 2005-06.  My guess is that his numbers will drop down to around his career average of 22 ppg.  Maybe even a little bit lower as there are going to be plenty of guys begging for the rock.  Scoring averages aside, with Gilbert Arenas back in the line-up everyone will benefit.  Gil still gets respect for his scoring capabilities, as evidenced in the two games last year in which he tallied 20 assists and no turnovers.  He has the ability to draw the double team and help defense, much like Kobe, Dwyane, and Lebron, giving him opportunities to pass the ball off to the open man.  In the two games he played last year, you could see that Gilbert still has a quick first step but is more cautious with it.  That hesitancy makes opponents play on their heels which allows Gilbert to blow by them on a drive and get the basket or draw the foul.             What is going to happen is Gilbert will come out this season as a type of player we aren’t used to seeing wear number “0.”  His essentially two years away from the game have undoubtedly changed his perspective as a floor general.  What will emerge is a Gilbert Arenas that involves his teammates while still showcasing the killer instinct that makes him the great scorer he is.             Gilbert’s career assist average is 5.5 apg, a great figure for a small forward but not up to par with the best point guards in the league.  Here are his assist averages over a few seasons:
Continue reading "5 Predictions for the 2009-10 Washington Wizards"


john howard

Thunder continue to make small moves in the right direction. posted by john howard

The Thunder traded away Damien Wilkins and Chucky Atkins for Etan Thomas and two second round picks.  The move was an even swap money wise.  Wilkins and Atkins make nearly 7mil together and that is what Thomas will make this year.  The Thunder are well under the cap and Thomas' contract expires this year.  So, not only will they have freed up money next year, they will also have 5 draft picks.  2 in the first round and 3 in the second round. 

So, financially and on paper it makes a lot of sense.  Also, the Thunder were heavily loaded with guards.  Sefaloosha and newly drafted James Harden have the 2 guard covered.  And Russell Westbrook is the starting point guard.  Shaun Livingston has played well enough this summer to be the back up.  Second year player Kyle Weaver can play both and is ever improving.  So, there just wasn't any room for those other 2 guys. 

Etan Thomas will likely take the role that Malik Rose played last year.  A veteran with leadership and tough inside defensive play.  This was yet another brilliant move by the front office.

For Minnesota, Atkins gives them some insurance at point should Ricky Rubio not show.  Also, Wilkins is in his last year and this is a make or break  year.  He has shown sings of being a contributor in this league.  If he breaks through this year, then the management looks like a genius.  If he flops, they clear up 3mil in cap space and it's no big loss.  It's a risk worthy of a second round pick.  And, Atkins is worth the insurance of a late second round pick.  So, this was a good move for them as well.

Continue reading "Thunder continue to make small moves ..."


john howard

Richardson traded again. This time to Minnesota posted by john howard

Quentin Richardson has traveled from New York to Memphis to Los Angelos, and now to Minnesota.  He takes with him $9mil for one year.  Last season he earned 3 wins for the New York Knicks (a Howard Sports statistic).  In return, the Clippers get Sebastian Telfair (3 wins), Craig Smith (2 wins), and Mark Madsen (0 wins). So, it was a good trade for the Clippers.  They gained a backup to Baron Davis.  Minnesota meanwhile gets to unload a huge salary after this season.  Richardson also fills a void that was created when Foye was traded to Washington.  Also, Ricky Rubio doesn't appear to coming soon.  After the terrific play of Flynn this summer in Las Vegas, Telfair became expendable.

Continue reading "Richardson traded again. This time to Minnesota"

john howard

Minnesota summer league a success posted by john howard

Minnesota has a long way to go, but they made progress this summer in Vegas.

Johnny Flynn is the real deal and should be the starting point guard from day one.  He averaged 15 points and 7 assists.  And, shot lights out!  Over 50% from 3-point and 91% from the line. He had over 5 turnovers, but that is to be expected.  Scoring and dishing at that level in summer league shows that he is going to be a good player.

Wayne Ellington also showed that he can play.  He averaged 14 points and 3 rebounds while also shooting lights out. 

Corey Brewer was the 3rd leading scorer at 12 ppg and played solid. He isn't the player that I thought he was going to be, but he can still contribute.

Oleksiy Pecherov was acquired this summer from Washintong.  He 9pts and 7 rebounds and shot well below 40%.  He will be a bench player at best, but is still developing.

Bobby Brown and Gerald Henderson are two other notables that played, but not much.

Overall, Minnesota did very well in Las Vegas and they have 2 new players they are going to really like.

Continue reading "Minnesota summer league a success"

Minnesota Timberwolves News

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NBA Playoff Picture Update: Pelicans overtake Thunder out West, Heat stay alive in East (Ball

With just more than one week remaining until the NBA postseason, every night can impact the standings. The NBA Playoff Picture Update keeps you up to date on all the most important news for all 16 berths and seeds. [DraftKings: FREE entry to huge cash Fantasy Basketball Contest with first deposit ] The Pell-I-can't! When Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr announced he wouldn't be resting anybody for Tuesday's matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans — a game that the Warriors didn't need after having clinched home-court advantage , but that the Pelicans needed desperately in their pursuit of the West's No. 8 seed — I wondered whether the Pelicans might wind up on the business end of the same sort of brutal, race-changing beat the Dubs handed the Phoenix Suns. This time, though, the bounce went the other way: After draining a tough 3-pointer with Quincy Pondexter draped all over him to tie the game at 100, Stephen Curry had a crack at another game-tying 3-ball to once again knot the contest at 103. As he pulled up, Pelicans forward Dante Cunningham elevated to contest; Curry jumped into him, but didn't get a foul call. As he came down, Curry released the ball, allowing it to bounce next to him before retrieving it with just more than two seconds remaining and launching a 3. It rolled around the inside of the rim before bouncing out, giving the Pelicans a huge 103-100 win that moved them past the Oklahoma City Thunder into eighth place. It was a fitting conclusion to a wild game that featured 11 ties, 16 lead changes and an array of dramatic moments in the closing minutes. There was Anthony Davis' huge and-one finish through contact out of the pick-and-roll to give the Pelicans a four-point lead with 1:21 remaining: ... followed by Curry's stepback bomb over Pondexter: ... followed by Tyreke Evans getting a benefit-of-the-doubt foul call against Andre Iguodala after dribbling the ball off his own leg and falling down, which led to a trip to the line for what would become the game-winning free throw: ... followed by Curry getting a great look at an 8-foot runner that would have given the Warriors the lead with 10 ticks left: ... followed by the potential game-tying miss. Which, by the way, was a pretty fortunate outcome for the officials, who would have had to explain to Monty Williams and a legion of angry Pelicans fans why Curry was allowed to attempt the shot in the first place. Curry's touch seemed to represent either A) a violation of the rule against a shooter being the first person to touch the ball if his shot fails to hit the backboard, the rim or another player, or B) a violation of the rule against a ball-handler being the first player to touch the ball after dropping the ball while in the air. Either way, as FanSided's Jared Wade noted , something illegal happened on that play. Luckily, it didn't wind up mattering. Davis missed eight of his 10 shots in the first half, thanks in part to the interior defense of Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green. In the second half, though, he played like a superstar desperate to make his postseason debut. The 22-year-old marvel scored 23 points on 8-for-11 shooting after intermission, teaming up with center Omer Asik for score the first 10 points of the third quarter and chopping Golden State's halftime lead down to two just three minutes into the second half. Nearly the entire rest of the game was played within a two-possession margin — a hard-fought, nip-and-tuck finish that was anything but the "scrimmage" that the Warriors allegedly believed they were in for — with Davis' shot-making and shot-deterring tilting both the game and the race for the eighth seed in New Orleans' favor. The All-Star power forward finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks, two assists and two steals in 40 minutes to lead the way. Pondexter added 20 points on 6-for-7 shooting, including a perfect 4-for-4 mark from beyond the arc, along with tight perimeter defense. Evans chipped in 12 points, nine assists, six rebounds and four steals for the Pelicans, who now sit a half-game up on the Thunder ... who didn't have such a great night. [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball] Second verse, same as the first: Just two weeks removed from taking a 39-point beating at the hands of the Spurs, Scott Brooks' squad once again fell victim to a San Antonio pasting on Wednesday. The Spurs walloped the Thunder, 113-88 , to run their winning streak to eight and improve to 18-3 over their last 21 games. This game was over nearly as soon as it got started, as the Spurs clamped down to hold the Thunder to a season-low 10 points in the first quarter on 4-for-21 shooting, with San Antonio scoring nine points off six Oklahoma City turnovers to take a 19-point lead after 12 minutes. Your emblematic early-game possession: Kawhi Leonard continuing his larcenous ways by victimizing Kyle Singler to create a runout dunk. Leonard maintained his brilliant recent form, scoring 23 points in the first half alone to stake San Antonio to a 22-point halftime lead. Oklahoma City never even really flirted with a run to get back into things; as a result, Leonard didn't play after the 7:40 mark of the third. He finished with 26 points — matching his regular-season career-high, which he's now hit four times this season, and in two straight games — to go with three steals, two rebounds and two assists in just 24 minutes. Five other Spurs scored in double figures, led by 12 points, nine rebounds and four blocks from Tim Duncan. The future Hall of Famer also added three assists, including this honey of an alley-oop feed to Leonard: San Antonio led by as many as 34 points against a Thunder team that, frankly, looks absolutely spent after fighting so hard to maintain playoff positioning without injured stars Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka. With Russell Westbrook continuing to seem somewhat the worse for wear (17 points on 7-for-16 shooting with six steals, two assists and four turnovers) after spending February and March playing the role of Superman, Oklahoma City just looked completely outclassed by the in-form Spurs, leading coach Gregg Popovich to express some postgame sympathy for the Thunder, according to Royce Young of ESPN.com : "No matter how you slice it, it is just not a fair fight," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "Nobody is going to give back the win. We are going to take the win and I thought we played well, but you just still feel badly when you see Kevin in that chair out there and the other guys are hurt. It is just not a fair fight." [...] "You've got to feel badly for these guys," Popovich said. "You feel sorry for them, but you're proud of them at the same time because they play the right way and they do everything they can to win. They don't cry. They just go play." That, unfortunately, hasn't been enough of late. Oklahoma City's now lost four straight and six of seven to fall to ninth place in the West, a half-game behind the Pelicans. And with New Orleans holding the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Thunder thanks to a bonkers game-winning 3 by Davis two months ago, Oklahoma City no longer controls its own destiny, no matter what Westbrook and Dion Waiters seem to think. If the Thunder don't finish one game up on New Orleans, they'll be watching the playoffs for the first time 2009. All's not lost just yet. The Thunder finish the season with matchups against the playing-out-the-string Sacramento Kings, the not-quite-world-beating (but recently reinvigorated ) Indiana Pacers, a Portland Trail Blazers squad likely already resigned to opening the playoffs on the road and a Minnesota Timberwolves team with little incentive to win again this season. The Pelicans, on the other hand, still have three games left against Western playoff squads, including a last-day-of-the-season date with these Spurs. The door's still open. But for the Thunder to walk through it and into the playoffs, they'll have to start playing like they belong there. “Nobody going to come through the door and save us,” said Waiters after the game, according to Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman . At this stage, though, it's not clear whether the Thunder can save themselves.Survive and ... well, just survive: Goran Dragic scored 11 of his team-high 28 points in the fourth quarter, pairing slithery drives to the cup with deadeye shooting to push the Miami Heat to a 105-100 win over the Charlotte Hornets. The win lifts Miami back into ninth place in the Eastern Conference, a half-game behind the eighth-seeded Boston Celtics and a half-game ahead of the Pacers. The loss drops 11th-place Charlotte a full two games back of Boston with just five games left on its schedule. [read full article]

From Yahoo Sports

NBA Playoff Picture Update: Pelicans overtake Thunder out West, Heat stay alive in East (Ball

With just more than one week remaining until the NBA postseason, every night can impact the standings. The NBA Playoff Picture Update keeps you up to date on all the most important news for all 16 berths and seeds. [DraftKings: FREE entry to huge cash Fantasy Basketball Contest with first deposit ] The Pell-I-can't! When Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr announced he wouldn't be resting anybody for Tuesday's matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans — a game that the Warriors didn't need after having clinched home-court advantage , but that the Pelicans needed desperately in their pursuit of the West's No. 8 seed — I wondered whether the Pelicans might wind up on the business end of the same sort of brutal, race-changing beat the Dubs handed the Phoenix Suns. This time, though, the bounce went the other way: After draining a tough 3-pointer with Quincy Pondexter draped all over him to tie the game at 100, Stephen Curry had a crack at another game-tying 3-ball to once again knot the contest at 103. As he pulled up, Pelicans forward Dante Cunningham elevated to contest; Curry jumped into him, but didn't get a foul call. As he came down, Curry released the ball, allowing it to bounce next to him before retrieving it with just more than two seconds remaining and launching a 3. It rolled around the inside of the rim before bouncing out, giving the Pelicans a huge 103-100 win that moved them past the Oklahoma City Thunder into eighth place. It was a fitting conclusion to a wild game that featured 11 ties, 16 lead changes and an array of dramatic moments in the closing minutes. There was Anthony Davis' huge and-one finish through contact out of the pick-and-roll to give the Pelicans a four-point lead with 1:21 remaining: ... followed by Curry's stepback bomb over Pondexter: ... followed by Tyreke Evans getting a benefit-of-the-doubt foul call against Andre Iguodala after dribbling the ball off his own leg and falling down, which led to a trip to the line for what would become the game-winning free throw: ... followed by Curry getting a great look at an 8-foot runner that would have given the Warriors the lead with 10 ticks left: ... followed by the potential game-tying miss. Which, by the way, was a pretty fortunate outcome for the officials, who would have had to explain to Monty Williams and a legion of angry Pelicans fans why Curry was allowed to attempt the shot in the first place. Curry's touch seemed to represent either A) a violation of the rule against a shooter being the first person to touch the ball if his shot fails to hit the backboard, the rim or another player, or B) a violation of the rule against a ball-handler being the first player to touch the ball after dropping the ball while in the air. Either way, as FanSided's Jared Wade noted , something illegal happened on that play. Luckily, it didn't wind up mattering. Davis missed eight of his 10 shots in the first half, thanks in part to the interior defense of Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green. In the second half, though, he played like a superstar desperate to make his postseason debut. The 22-year-old marvel scored 23 points on 8-for-11 shooting after intermission, teaming up with center Omer Asik for score the first 10 points of the third quarter and chopping Golden State's halftime lead down to two just three minutes into the second half. Nearly the entire rest of the game was played within a two-possession margin — a hard-fought, nip-and-tuck finish that was anything but the "scrimmage" that the Warriors allegedly believed they were in for — with Davis' shot-making and shot-deterring tilting both the game and the race for the eighth seed in New Orleans' favor. The All-Star power forward finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks, two assists and two steals in 40 minutes to lead the way. Pondexter added 20 points on 6-for-7 shooting, including a perfect 4-for-4 mark from beyond the arc, along with tight perimeter defense. Evans chipped in 12 points, nine assists, six rebounds and four steals for the Pelicans, who now sit a half-game up on the Thunder ... who didn't have such a great night. [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball] Second verse, same as the first: Just two weeks removed from taking a 39-point beating at the hands of the Spurs, Scott Brooks' squad once again fell victim to a San Antonio pasting on Wednesday. The Spurs walloped the Thunder, 113-88 , to run their winning streak to eight and improve to 18-3 over their last 21 games. This game was over nearly as soon as it got started, as the Spurs clamped down to hold the Thunder to a season-low 10 points in the first quarter on 4-for-21 shooting, with San Antonio scoring nine points off six Oklahoma City turnovers to take a 19-point lead after 12 minutes. Your emblematic early-game possession: Kawhi Leonard continuing his larcenous ways by victimizing Kyle Singler to create a runout dunk. Leonard maintained his brilliant recent form, scoring 23 points in the first half alone to stake San Antonio to a 22-point halftime lead. Oklahoma City never even really flirted with a run to get back into things; as a result, Leonard didn't play after the 7:40 mark of the third. He finished with 26 points — matching his regular-season career-high, which he's now hit four times this season, and in two straight games — to go with three steals, two rebounds and two assists in just 24 minutes. Five other Spurs scored in double figures, led by 12 points, nine rebounds and four blocks from Tim Duncan. The future Hall of Famer also added three assists, including this honey of an alley-oop feed to Leonard: San Antonio led by as many as 34 points against a Thunder team that, frankly, looks absolutely spent after fighting so hard to maintain playoff positioning without injured stars Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka. With Russell Westbrook continuing to seem somewhat the worse for wear (17 points on 7-for-16 shooting with six steals, two assists and four turnovers) after spending February and March playing the role of Superman, Oklahoma City just looked completely outclassed by the in-form Spurs, leading coach Gregg Popovich to express some postgame sympathy for the Thunder, according to Royce Young of ESPN.com : "No matter how you slice it, it is just not a fair fight," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "Nobody is going to give back the win. We are going to take the win and I thought we played well, but you just still feel badly when you see Kevin in that chair out there and the other guys are hurt. It is just not a fair fight." [...] "You've got to feel badly for these guys," Popovich said. "You feel sorry for them, but you're proud of them at the same time because they play the right way and they do everything they can to win. They don't cry. They just go play." That, unfortunately, hasn't been enough of late. Oklahoma City's now lost four straight and six of seven to fall to ninth place in the West, a half-game behind the Pelicans. And with New Orleans holding the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Thunder thanks to a bonkers game-winning 3 by Davis two months ago, Oklahoma City no longer controls its own destiny, no matter what Westbrook and Dion Waiters seem to think. If the Thunder don't finish one game up on New Orleans, they'll be watching the playoffs for the first time 2009. All's not lost just yet. The Thunder finish the season with matchups against the playing-out-the-string Sacramento Kings, the not-quite-world-beating (but recently reinvigorated ) Indiana Pacers, a Portland Trail Blazers squad likely already resigned to opening the playoffs on the road and a Minnesota Timberwolves team with little incentive to win again this season. The Pelicans, on the other hand, still have three games left against Western playoff squads, including a last-day-of-the-season date with these Spurs. The door's still open. But for the Thunder to walk through it and into the playoffs, they'll have to start playing like they belong there. “Nobody going to come through the door and save us,” said Waiters after the game, according to Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman . At this stage, though, it's not clear whether the Thunder can save themselves. Survive and ... well, just survive: Goran Dragic scored 11 of his team-high 28 points in the fourth quarter, pairing slithery drives to the cup with deadeye shooting to push the Miami Heat to a 105-100 win over the Charlotte Hornets. The win lifts Miami back into ninth place in the Eastern Conference, a half-game behind the eighth-seeded Boston Celtics and a half-game ahead of the Pacers. The loss drops 11th-place Charlotte a full two games back of Boston with just five games left on its schedule. [read full article]

From Yahoo Sports

NBA Playoff Picture Update: Pelicans overtake Thunder out West, Heat stay alive in East (Ball

With just more than one week remaining until the NBA postseason, every night can impact the standings. The NBA Playoff Picture Update keeps you up to date on all the most important news for all 16 berths and seeds. [DraftKings: FREE entry to huge cash Fantasy Basketball Contest with first deposit ] The Pell-I-can't! When Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr announced he wouldn't be resting anybody for Tuesday's matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans — a game that the Warriors didn't need after having clinched home-court advantage , but that the Pelicans needed desperately in their pursuit of the West's No. 8 seed — I wondered whether the Pelicans might wind up on the business end of the same sort of brutal, race-changing beat the Dubs handed the Phoenix Suns. This time, though, the bounce went the other way: After draining a tough 3-pointer with Quincy Pondexter draped all over him to tie the game at 100, Stephen Curry had a crack at another game-tying 3-ball to once again knot the contest at 103. As he pulled up, Pelicans forward Dante Cunningham elevated to contest; Curry jumped into him, but didn't get a foul call. As he came down, Curry released the ball, allowing it to bounce next to him before retrieving it with just more than two seconds remaining and launching a 3. It rolled around the inside of the rim before bouncing out, giving the Pelicans a huge 103-100 win that moved them past the Oklahoma City Thunder into eighth place. It was a fitting conclusion to a wild game that featured 11 ties, 16 lead changes and an array of dramatic moments in the closing minutes. There was Anthony Davis' huge and-one finish through contact out of the pick-and-roll to give the Pelicans a four-point lead with 1:21 remaining: ... followed by Curry's stepback bomb over Pondexter: ... followed by Tyreke Evans getting a benefit-of-the-doubt foul call against Andre Iguodala after dribbling the ball off his own leg and falling down, which led to a trip to the line for what would become the game-winning free throw: ... followed by Curry getting a great look at an 8-foot runner that would have given the Warriors the lead with 10 ticks left: ... followed by the potential game-tying miss. Which, by the way, was a pretty fortunate outcome for the officials, who would have had to explain to Monty Williams and a legion of angry Pelicans fans why Curry was allowed to attempt the shot in the first place. Curry's touch seemed to represent either A) a violation of the rule against a shooter being the first person to touch the ball if his shot fails to hit the backboard, the rim or another player, or B) a violation of the rule against a ball-handler being the first player to touch the ball after dropping the ball while in the air. Either way, as FanSided's Jared Wade noted , something illegal happened on that play. Luckily, it didn't wind up mattering. Davis missed eight of his 10 shots in the first half, thanks in part to the interior defense of Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green. In the second half, though, he played like a superstar desperate to make his postseason debut. The 22-year-old marvel scored 23 points on 8-for-11 shooting after intermission, teaming up with center Omer Asik for score the first 10 points of the third quarter and chopping Golden State's halftime lead down to two just three minutes into the second half. Nearly the entire rest of the game was played within a two-possession margin — a hard-fought, nip-and-tuck finish that was anything but the "scrimmage" that the Warriors allegedly believed they were in for — with Davis' shot-making and shot-deterring tilting both the game and the race for the eighth seed in New Orleans' favor. The All-Star power forward finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks, two assists and two steals in 40 minutes to lead the way. Pondexter added 20 points on 6-for-7 shooting, including a perfect 4-for-4 mark from beyond the arc, along with tight perimeter defense. Evans chipped in 12 points, nine assists, six rebounds and four steals for the Pelicans, who now sit a half-game up on the Thunder ... who didn't have such a great night. [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball] Second verse, same as the first: Just two weeks removed from taking a 39-point beating at the hands of the Spurs, Scott Brooks' squad once again fell victim to a San Antonio pasting on Wednesday. The Spurs walloped the Thunder, 113-88 , to run their winning streak to eight and improve to 18-3 over their last 21 games. This game was over nearly as soon as it got started, as the Spurs clamped down to hold the Thunder to a season-low 10 points in the first quarter on 4-for-21 shooting, with San Antonio scoring nine points off six Oklahoma City turnovers to take a 19-point lead after 12 minutes. Your emblematic early-game possession: Kawhi Leonard continuing his larcenous ways by victimizing Kyle Singler to create a runout dunk. Leonard maintained his brilliant recent form, scoring 23 points in the first half alone to stake San Antonio to a 22-point halftime lead. Oklahoma City never even really flirted with a run to get back into things; as a result, Leonard didn't play after the 7:40 mark of the third. He finished with 26 points — matching his regular-season career-high, which he's now hit four times this season, and in two straight games — to go with three steals, two rebounds and two assists in just 24 minutes. Five other Spurs scored in double figures, led by 12 points, nine rebounds and four blocks from Tim Duncan. The future Hall of Famer also added three assists, including this honey of an alley-oop feed to Leonard: San Antonio led by as many as 34 points against a Thunder team that, frankly, looks absolutely spent after fighting so hard to maintain playoff positioning without injured stars Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka. With Russell Westbrook continuing to seem somewhat the worse for wear (17 points on 7-for-16 shooting with six steals, two assists and four turnovers) after spending February and March playing the role of Superman, Oklahoma City just looked completely outclassed by the in-form Spurs, leading coach Gregg Popovich to express some postgame sympathy for the Thunder, according to Royce Young of ESPN.com : "No matter how you slice it, it is just not a fair fight," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "Nobody is going to give back the win. We are going to take the win and I thought we played well, but you just still feel badly when you see Kevin in that chair out there and the other guys are hurt. It is just not a fair fight." [...] "You've got to feel badly for these guys," Popovich said. "You feel sorry for them, but you're proud of them at the same time because they play the right way and they do everything they can to win. They don't cry. They just go play." That, unfortunately, hasn't been enough of late. Oklahoma City's now lost four straight and six of seven to fall to ninth place in the West, a half-game behind the Pelicans. And with New Orleans holding the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Thunder thanks to a bonkers game-winning 3 by Davis two months ago, Oklahoma City no longer controls its own destiny, no matter what Westbrook and Dion Waiters seem to think. If the Thunder don't finish one game up on New Orleans, they'll be watching the playoffs for the first time 2009. All's not lost just yet. The Thunder finish the season with matchups against the playing-out-the-string Sacramento Kings, the not-quite-world-beating (but recently reinvigorated ) Indiana Pacers, a Portland Trail Blazers squad likely already resigned to opening the playoffs on the road and a Minnesota Timberwolves team with little incentive to win again this season. The Pelicans, on the other hand, still have three games left against Western playoff squads, including a last-day-of-the-season date with these Spurs. The door's still open. But for the Thunder to walk through it and into the playoffs, they'll have to start playing like they belong there. “Nobody going to come through the door and save us,” said Waiters after the game, according to Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman . At this stage, though, it's not clear whether the Thunder can save themselves. Survive and ... well, just survive: Goran Dragic scored 11 of his team-high 28 points in the fourth quarter, pairing slithery drives to the cup with deadeye shooting to push the Miami Heat to a 105-100 win over the Charlotte Hornets. The win lifts Miami back into ninth place in the Eastern Conference, a half-game behind the eighth-seeded Boston Celtics and a half-game ahead of the Pacers. The loss drops 11th-place Charlotte a full two games back of Boston with just five games left on its schedule. [read full article]

From Yahoo Sports


NBA Playoff Picture Update: The Spurs send the Warriors, and everyone else, a message (Ball

With just about two weeks remaining until the NBA postseason, every night can impact the standings. The NBA Playoff Picture Update keeps you up to date on all the most important news for all 16 berths and seeds. [DraftKings: FREE entry to huge cash Fantasy Basketball Contest with first deposit ] Spurs of the moment: Another Sunday, another statement game from the San Antonio Spurs. After dismantling the East-leading Atlanta Hawks on March 22 and hammering a potential Round 1 opponent, the Memphis Grizzlies, on March 29 , the Spurs faced off with the Golden State Warriors — winners of 12 straight, owners of the league's best record and home-court advantage throughout the entire NBA playoffs  — and mopped the floor with 'em. The 107-92 final's impressive enough — it's the largest margin of defeat the Warriors have tasted during this season for the ages — but it scarcely tells the story. Golden State never led, trailed by as many as 28 and finished the third quarter down 22 before turning the final frame over to the likes of Leandro Barbosa, Justin Holiday, James Michael McAdoo and Festus Ezeli. San Antonio blitzed Steve Kerr's crew from the opening tip. Emerging star Kawhi Leonard keyed both a game-opening 8-1 run (six points of his own, plus an assist on a Tim Duncan jumper) and a 14-3 mid-quarter jolt that knocked the 63-win Dubs on their heels and gave the Spurs a 15-point lead less than eight minutes into the contest. The Spurs' ball movement had the Warriors' league-best defense scrambling early ... ... and often, as San Antonio logged 27 direct assists on 44 made field goals. The Spurs beat the Warriors with backdoor cuts in the half-court, with alley-oops on the break, with long-distance bounce passes in transition, and with just about every other weapon Pop and company could muster. San Antonio's most dangerous weapon, once again, was Leonard, who served as the tip of the spear that punctured the Warriors' free-flowing offense: The quick-as-a-cat perimeter mauler with the massive hands snared a career-high seven steals on Sunday. He opened the game by making life miserable for Harrison Barnes (four points on 2-for-7 shooting) and later switched assignments to cool down a Stephen Curry early third-quarter explosion. The MVP candidate scored 13 points on 5-for-5 shooting in just under two minutes to cut the Warriors' deficit to 14; Popovich called a timeout and put Leonard on Curry; Curry didn't score another point for the rest of the quarter, and the Spurs ripped off six straight to rebuild the lead. Leonard's offense might never impress quite as much as his masterful defense, but his ascent into something like San Antonio's primary scorer continues. The 23-year-old tied a regular-season career-high with 26 points on 11-for-17 shooting in just 24 minutes, topping the 20-point mark for the 12th time in his last 19 games. He showed his combination of improving handle, increased confidence and strength against contact with plays like this drive and finish right through Andre Iguodala: Duncan (19 points on 6-for-7 shooting, seven rebounds) and Danny Green (18 points on 7-for-10 shooting, 4-for-6 from 3-point land, six rebounds, three assists, three blocks, great defense on the Warriors' Klay Thompson) also turned in great games for the Spurs, who have now won seven straight, 10 of their last 11 and 17 of their last 20 overall. During that stretch, San Antonio's outscoring its opposition by 15.2 points per 100 possessions — the best net rating in the league over that span, head-and-shoulders above even the league-best Warriors' historic full-season mark . There remain bits of disharmony in the system that keep the Spurs from looking exactly like the well-oiled machine that overwhelmed the Miami Heat last June — Tony Parker (eight points on nine shots in 23 minutes) still seems to look more like a caretaker than a gamebreaker, the "Foreign Legion" shot a combined 6-for-22, etc. But as the regular season draws to a close, San Antonio's offense is humming and its defense is suffocating, which is the kind of thing that can make a No. 6 seed look an awful lot like the team to beat. The Warriors likely won't panic much about Sunday's whitewashing: "This is the first time I think since Christmas that we haven't really been in a game," Curry said, according to Raul Dominguez of The Associated Press . For his part, Kerr intimated after the game that Golden State will have some different looks to offer San Antonio should these two teams meet in the postseason and Pop decides to once again sic Kawhi on Curry. Even so, after seeing San Antonio short-circuit his squad — making the Spurs the only team to have beaten the Warriors twice this season (Golden State also beat San Antonio right after the All-Star break ) — you wouldn't blame Kerr if he'd just as soon not see No. 2 in black and silver again come playoff time. “Kawhi was phenomenal,” Kerr said after the game, according to Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News . “He was the best player on the floor.” Which helped serve notice that, on any given Sunday, the Spurs can still be the best team on the floor, too. Star Wars: Sunday's marquee matinee matchup between the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder largely lived up to its billing, with MVP candidates James Harden and Russell Westbrook matching big shots in trying to propel their teams to a much-needed victory in their respective tight playoff fights. But despite a league-leading 11th triple-double — 40 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds — for the Thunder star ... ... it was his hirsute former teammate who'd carry the day: [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr:   The best slams from all of basketball] Harden scored a game-high 41 points on 12-for-22 shooting (6-for-9 from 3-point land) to go with six rebounds, six assists and three steals in 38 minutes to push the Rockets to a 115-112 win . It was the league-leading 10th 40-plus-point performance for Harden this season. He cranked up the heat late, scoring eight points in a 70-second span to break a 100-all tie, to quell a comeback that had seen the Thunder rise up after trailing by as many as 13, and give the Rockets just enough breathing room to finish the game at the foul line. And I mean just enough — Oklahoma City had a chance to tie it up in the closing seconds, but Westbrook's 3-point try came up short , thanks in part to a close contest by Rockets wing Corey Brewer. It was a little too close of a contest for Russell's liking, actually: Westbrook on if he was anticipating a foul from Brewer on the last play: "He did. He did actually." — Royce Young (@royceyoung) April 5, 2015 Be that as it may, it was lacking defense on the interior (54 points in the paint for the Rockets, including 22 in 23 minutes from Dwight Howard) and in transition (26 fast-break points or Houston) that did Oklahoma City in far more than a swallowed whistle. Steven Adams and Mitch McGary battled foul trouble throughout, and Enes Kanter continued to put up big numbers (21 points, 17 rebounds, including 10 on the offensive glass) while giving just about all of it back on the other end. It's bad enough that Oklahoma City has given up 106.5 points per 100 possessions since the All-Star break, a bottom-five mark over that period. But during the 1-5 skid that's put their playoff hopes in jeopardy , that's dropped to 112.7 points-per-100 allowed, barely above the defensive efficiency marks of league lowlights like the Minnesota Timberwolves and Los Angeles Lakers. With no Kevin Durant , with  no Serge Ibaka and with San Antonio coming to town Tuesday, the 42-35 Thunder must stop the bleeding immediately if they're to hold off the New Orleans Pelicans, who sit a half-game behind OKC in the race for the eighth playoff spot out West. Houston, on the other hand, has now won three in a row, seven of eight and 10 of 12 to improve to 53-24. The Rockets now have a one-game lead over the Grizzlies in the race for the No. 2 spot in the West and seem to be weathering their recent rash of injuries well, thanks to both the depth provided by general manager Daryl Morey and the irrepressible offensive orchestration of their bearded wonder. Here comes the Ax and here comes the Smasher: When the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers met on Sunday, the result — as has tended to be the case over these past couple of "Freaky Friday" seasons — was  demolition . There were flashy, thunderous dunks: And there was Chris Paul dribbling the ball through Carlos Boozer's legs at midcourt in a moment that neatly encapsulated just how vastly the fortunes of the two Staples Center tenants vary right now: The Clippers won, 106-78 , and the game wasn't that close. Well, that's not entirely true. This was a seven-point game after 12 minutes, a 13-point game at halftime, and a 13-point game midway through the third. But then the floodgates opened, with the Clippers ripping off a 22-5 run that got the lead to 29 after three, followed promptly by a 16-2 burst to open the fourth that pushed the advantage to its high-water mark of 43 points with 8:09 remaining in the game. It's the second one that likely really hurt Lakers fans. I mean, at least the first came primarily with stars Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan on the floor. The 16-2 spurt was produced entirely by the Clippers' threadbare second unit — Hedo Turkoglu, Glen Davis, Austin Rivers, Spencer Hawes and recent addition Lester Hudson. That's the kind of thing that'll make Byron Scott fold his arms in a huff on the Laker sideline. Then again, so is literally everything. The Clippers, who boast the NBA's top offense (110 points scored per 100 possessions) and second-best efficiency differential (+6.9 points-per-100, behind only the Warriors) this season, have now won 10 of their last 11 to keep pace in the pack behind Golden State in the West's second tier. Doc Rivers' club sits just a half-game below No. 3 Memphis and, just as importantly, a full game above the No. 4 Portland Trail Blazers. (That's a weird thing that we'll discuss in some more detail later.) With injured sixth man Jamal Crawford expected to return this coming week , everything seems to be going the Clips' way right about now ... including the schedule, which matches them up with these very same Lakers again on Tuesday night . Quick, somebody find the Pharrell hat : Yeah, his Cleveland Cavaliers beat the division-rival Chicago Bulls to win for the 31st time in their last 38 games, but LeBron James didn't seem too happy afterward, according to ESPN.com's Dave McMenamin : With two weeks until the NBA playoffs open up and fewer and fewer dress rehearsals remaining for James to direct his group into postseason form, he saw Sunday's win as somewhat hollow because of the shoddy way the Cavs closed things out. Cleveland was ahead by 13 with 9:59 remaining, but ended up winning by just five as the Cavs had as many turnovers in the fourth quarter (five) as they had in the first three quarters combined and also attempted 12 of their 15 shots as a team from outside the paint. "I think we turned the ball over and we got out of attack mode," James said. "I think we settled for a lot of jumpers in the fourth quarter. And those are things that we, as a young team, will have to just learn from and get better with it the next time. So, we controlled the game, but we allowed them to get back in the game because of what we did offensively and that's a very good team. You know a Thibs (Tom Thibodeau) team is never going to give up and we have to understand every single possession means everything and we can't take one off." Despite not quite sticking the landing, Cleveland won its 50th game of the year behind an all-around effort from James, who chipped in 20 points on 8-for-17 shooting, 12 assists, 10 rebounds, three steals and a block for his first triple-double of the season. LeBron did a bit of tone-setting, too. In the early going, he took Bulls All-Star Jimmy Butler into the post for several scores just to prove he's too strong for the Chicago defensive ace down there. Later, he locked up power forward Nikola Mirotic just to show the Bulls rookie sensation that, when he puts his mind to it, he can make just about any scorer's life miserable on the defensive end. While LeBron was out here handing down life lessons , his teammates were bombing awary from deep. Like, really deep: J.R. Smith went 8-for-17 from 3-point land — no, he did not attempt a 2, and yes, that is a record — for 24 points. Kyrie Irving added a game-high 27 on 8-for-19 shooting, including a 4-for-5 mark from downtown, as the Cavs extended their lead over Chicago both in the Central Division and for the No. 2 seed in the East to four games. And yet, despite the absence of guards Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich, the Bulls wound up playing Cleveland close enough that Smith and Irving's circus shots — "three heaves that went in," as Chicago head coach Tom Thibodeau called them — constituted the difference. That didn't exactly rattle the veteran Bulls' confidence that they could hang with a Cavs squad that's been arguably the best team in basketball since mid-January. "It would be great to play them in the playoffs," said Bulls center Joakim Noah, who finished with six points, eight rebounds, seven assists and two steals in the loss, which cut Chicago's lead over the Toronto Raptors for the No. 3 seed in the East to just one game. "That would be very, very exciting. That's something I really hope happens." We're with him. Your dreams were your ticket out: Welcome back , Paul George: Our man Jeff Eisenberg has your full on-the-scene story from Paul George's first game back after breaking his right leg last August, so I'll go with the broad strokes. The Indiana Pacers beat the Miami Heat, 112-89 , behind 23 points and 12 rebounds in 19 minutes off the bench from Luis Scola and a somewhat un-Pacer-y 14-for-30 mark from 3-point land, with wings Solomon Hill and C.J. Miles combining for eight triples in 15 tries. Indy pulled even with the Heat at 34-43, but nudged ahead of Miami in the standings by virtue of a 3-1 season-series win over Erik Spoelstra's club. The Pacers now sit in ninth place in the East, one game behind the eighth-seeded Boston Celtics (to whom they lost the head-to-head tiebreaker) and 1 1/2 games back of the No. 7 Brooklyn Nets (ditto). The Heat won their season series with both Brooklyn and Boston, but in order to cash them in, they'll need to stop their current four-game skid and get back on the good foot against the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday. Monday's Most Important Games Only Game Knowing the eyes of the basketball-watching world will be focused on the NCAA championship game , the NBA's scheduling wizards decided to go light on Monday, slating just one game. (Actually, there weren't supposed to be any, but a January snowstorm interceded, so here we are.) Blazers at Nets , 7 p.m. ET: The Nets have been a tough squad to draw a bead on over the past three weeks. Lionel Hollins' crew has won 10 of its last 13 games, but has operated in feast-or-famine fashion, amassing both gut-it-out victories with boat-race beatdowns : In last 13 games, Brooklyn is 10-3 & a minus-8. Avg. margin of victory: 6.8 Avg, margin of defeat: 25.3 http://t.co/qceh9kkxys — John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) April 5, 2015 Sitting in seventh place in the East at 35-41, just a half-game ahead of a Celtics squad that owns a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Nets, Brooklyn could surely use the former on Monday. The Blazers seem to have made the Nets' job a bit easier by deciding to keep three key contributors — All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, starting swingman Nicolas Batum and backup center Chris Kaman — back in the Pacific Northwest. On one hand, it's a bit of a surprise that the Blazers would leave three major rotation players at home while still in the midst of a tough race for home-court advantage in the West playoffs. While Portland's guaranteed a top-four seed after locking up the Northwest Division title on Friday night , the Blazers head into Monday's game at 50-26. The fifth-seeded Clippers now sit at 52-26; the sixth-seeded Spurs are 51-26. If whoever finishes fifth ends the season with a better record than Portland, the Blazers will open the playoffs on the road, so it'd seem to be in their best interest to go after every win they can. Then again, all three players are dealing with injuries — torn thumb ligaments for Aldridge and Kaman , a lower back injury for Batum — and played heavy minutes to help Portland seal up the Northwest. With three more road trips on the way before the end of the regular season, the Blazers' brass seems to have decided that it just made more sense to let the wounded rest rather than flying them across the country for one measly game before flying 'em back for Wednesday's home game against the Timberwolves. While several Blazers didn't make the trip, center Robin Lopez did, meaning we'll get yet another installment in his ongoing rivalry with his twin brother, Brook Lopez. The Brooklyn big man sounds ready for battle, according to Anthony Puccio of NetsDaily : "Ah," Lopez said, laughing. "Same old same old. I hate that guy and we'll probably hopefully destroy him." That probably wouldn't make the rest of the Lopez family too happy, but it'd be just fine for Nets fans eager to see their club get a bit more breathing room. [read full article]

From Yahoo Sports


NBA Playoff Picture Update: Pelicans overtake Thunder out West, Heat stay alive in East (Ball

With just more than one week remaining until the NBA postseason, every night can impact the standings. The NBA Playoff Picture Update keeps you up to date on all the most important news for all 16 berths and seeds. [DraftKings: FREE entry to huge cash Fantasy Basketball Contest with first deposit ] The Pell-I-can't! When Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr announced he wouldn't be resting anybody for Tuesday's matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans — a game that the Warriors didn't need after having clinched home-court advantage , but that the Pelicans needed desperately in their pursuit of the West's No. 8 seed — I wondered whether the Pelicans might wind up on the business end of the same sort of brutal, race-changing beat the Dubs handed the Phoenix Suns. This time, though, the bounce went the other way: After draining a tough 3-pointer with Quincy Pondexter draped all over him to tie the game at 100, Stephen Curry had a crack at another game-tying 3-ball to once again knot the contest at 103. As he pulled up, Pelicans forward Dante Cunningham elevated to contest; Curry jumped into him, but didn't get a foul call. As he came down, Curry released the ball, allowing it to bounce next to him before retrieving it with just more than two seconds remaining and launching a 3. It rolled around the inside of the rim before bouncing out, giving the Pelicans a huge 103-100 win that moved them past the Oklahoma City Thunder into eighth place. It was a fitting conclusion to a wild game that featured 11 ties, 16 lead changes and an array of dramatic moments in the closing minutes. There was Anthony Davis' huge and-one finish through contact out of the pick-and-roll to give the Pelicans a four-point lead with 1:21 remaining: ... followed by Curry's stepback bomb over Pondexter: ... followed by Tyreke Evans getting a benefit-of-the-doubt foul call against Andre Iguodala after dribbling the ball off his own leg and falling down, which led to a trip to the line for what would become the game-winning free throw: ... followed by Curry getting a great look at an 8-foot runner that would have given the Warriors the lead with 10 ticks left: ... followed by the potential game-tying miss. Which, by the way, was a pretty fortunate outcome for the officials, who would have had to explain to Monty Williams and a legion of angry Pelicans fans why Curry was allowed to attempt the shot in the first place. Curry's touch seemed to represent either A) a violation of the rule against a shooter being the first person to touch the ball if his shot fails to hit the backboard, the rim or another player, or B) a violation of the rule against a ball-handler being the first player to touch the ball after dropping the ball while in the air. Either way, as FanSided's Jared Wade noted , something illegal happened on that play. Luckily, it didn't wind up mattering. Davis missed eight of his 10 shots in the first half, thanks in part to the interior defense of Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green. In the second half, though, he played like a superstar desperate to make his postseason debut. The 22-year-old marvel scored 23 points on 8-for-11 shooting after intermission, teaming up with center Omer Asikfor score the first 10 points of the third quarter and chopping Golden State's halftime lead down to two just three minutes into the second half. Nearly the entire rest of the game was played within a two-possession margin — a hard-fought, nip-and-tuck finish that was anything but the "scrimmage" that the Warriors allegedly believed they were in for — with Davis' shot-making and shot-deterring tilting both the game and the race for the eighth seed in New Orleans' favor. The All-Star power forward finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks, two assists and two steals in 40 minutes to lead the way. Pondexter added 20 points on 6-for-7 shooting, including a perfect 4-for-4 mark from beyond the arc, along with tight perimeter defense. Evans chipped in 12 points, nine assists, six rebounds and four steals for the Pelicans, who now sit a half-game up on the Thunder ... who didn't have such a great night. [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball] Second verse, same as the first: Just two weeks removed from taking a 39-point beating at the hands of the Spurs, Scott Brooks' squad once again fell victim to a San Antonio pasting on Wednesday. The Spurs walloped the Thunder, 113-88 , to run their winning streak to eight and improve to 18-3 over their last 21 games. This game was over nearly as soon as it got started, as the Spurs clamped down to hold the Thunder to a season-low 10 points in the first quarter on 4-for-21 shooting, with San Antonio scoring nine points off six Oklahoma City turnovers to take a 19-point lead after 12 minutes. Your emblematic early-game possession: Kawhi Leonard continuing his larcenous ways by victimizing Kyle Singler to create a runout dunk. Leonard maintained his brilliant recent form, scoring 23 points in the first half alone to stake San Antonio to a 22-point halftime lead. Oklahoma City never even really flirted with a run to get back into things; as a result, Leonard didn't play after the 7:40 mark of the third. He finished with 26 points — matching his regular-season career-high, which he's now hit four times this season, and in two straight games — to go with three steals, two rebounds and two assists in just 24 minutes. Five other Spurs scored in double figures, led by 12 points, nine rebounds and four blocks from Tim Duncan. The future Hall of Famer also added three assists, including this honey of an alley-oop feed to Leonard: San Antonio led by as many as 34 points against a Thunder team that, frankly, looks absolutely spent after fighting so hard to maintain playoff positioning without injured stars Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka. With Russell Westbrook continuing to seem somewhat the worse for wear (17 points on 7-for-16 shooting with six steals, two assists and four turnovers) after spending February and March playing the role of Superman, Oklahoma City just looked completely outclassed by the in-form Spurs, leading coach Gregg Popovich to express some postgame sympathy for the Thunder, according to Royce Young of ESPN.com : "No matter how you slice it, it is just not a fair fight," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "Nobody is going to give back the win. We are going to take the win and I thought we played well, but you just still feel badly when you see Kevin in that chair out there and the other guys are hurt. It is just not a fair fight." [...] "You've got to feel badly for these guys," Popovich said. "You feel sorry for them, but you're proud of them at the same time because they play the right way and they do everything they can to win. They don't cry. They just go play." That, unfortunately, hasn't been enough of late. Oklahoma City's now lost four straight and six of seven to fall to ninth place in the West, a half-game behind the Pelicans. And with New Orleans holding the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Thunder thanks to a bonkers game-winning 3 by Davis two months ago, Oklahoma City no longer controls its own destiny, no matter what Westbrook and Dion Waiters seem to think. If the Thunder don't finish one game up on New Orleans, they'll be watching the playoffs for the first time 2009. All's not lost just yet. The Thunder finish the season with matchups against the playing-out-the-string Sacramento Kings, the not-quite-world-beating (but recently reinvigorated ) Indiana Pacers, a Portland Trail Blazers squad likely already resigned to opening the playoffs on the road and a Minnesota Timberwolves team with little incentive to win again this season. The Pelicans, on the other hand, still have three games left against Western playoff squads, including a last-day-of-the-season date with these Spurs. The door's still open. But for the Thunder to walk through it and into the playoffs, they'll have to start playing like they belong there. “Nobody going to come through the door and save us,” said Waiters after the game, according to Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman . At this stage, though, it's not clear whether the Thunder can save themselves. Survive and ... well, just survive: Goran Dragic scored 11 of his team-high 28 points in the fourth quarter, pairing slithery drives to the cup with deadeye shooting to push the Miami Heat to a 105-100 win over the Charlotte Hornets. The win lifts Miami back into ninth place in the Eastern Conference, a half-game behind the eighth-seeded Boston Celtics and a half-game ahead of the Pacers. The loss drops 11th-place Charlotte a full two games back of Boston with just five games left on its schedule. 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