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Hawks-Pistons Preview (The Associated Press)
(Tue, 31 Mar 2015 07:03:10 PDT)
The Atlanta Hawks' strong defense has been a major factor in their rise to the top of the Eastern Conference as well as their success against the Detroit Pistons. The stingy Hawks look to match the franchise record for victories despite possibly resting some key players Tuesday night against the Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills. All-Star point guard Jeff Teague returned from a two-game absence due to an ankle injury in Monday's 101-88 home win over Milwaukee. Atlanta's four other starters were also back on the court after resting in Saturday's loss at Charlotte.

Dose: Down Goes Rudy Gay (Rotoworld)
(Mon, 30 Mar 2015 22:59:00 PDT)
Dr. A takes a look at Monday's six games, as well as a busy injury front. Rudy Gay, among others, is the latest casualty with a concussion.

NBA Playoff Picture Update: Raptors soar past Rockets (Ball Don't Lie)
(Mon, 30 Mar 2015 22:38:38 PDT)
With just a few weeks remaining until the NBA postseason, every night can impact the standings. NBA Playoff Picture 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 ] A Raptors Resurgence?: While the Toronto Raptors have already clinched the Atlantic Division and are still very much in play for the No. 3 seed in the East, the team has been in a slump for more than a month. Since beating the Atlanta Hawks on February 20, Toronto had lost 10 straight to opponents over .500 during a 6-13 stretch overall. Despite their still-impressive record, they've looked like a squad that could be upset in the first round. It's just one game, but the Raptors' 99-96 home win over the Houston Rockets on Monday may represent a change in fortune. DeMar DeRozan was the biggest reason for the victory, in part because of this tough jumper to put Toronto up three points with 18 seconds remaining in regulation: That basket also brought DeRozan to a career-high 42 points (14-of-27 FG, 12-of-17 FT). You can watch his full highlights here: The Raptors needed every one of those points with just two other players scoring in double figures and Greivis Vasquez replacing the injured Kyle Lowry in the starting lineup. Toronto got a break in that Dwight Howard sat out the contest for rest on the second day of a road back-to-back, but this was still a meaningful win over one of the strongest teams in the league. It also brought the Raptors within just a game of the Chicago Bulls for third place in the East. The Rockets can explain away this loss with the absence of Howard and poor outside shooting (8-of-27 on threes), but it was certainly not the ideal performance on a day when starting point guard Patrick Beverley was declared out for the season . DeRozan's career night also stands out given that Beverley is an excellent perimeter defender on a team that now must ask much more of wing Trevor Ariza at that end. Bear Necessities: The Rockets loss also stands out because of the Memphis Grizzlies much-needed home win over the Sacramento Kings. After three straight losses against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, and San Antonio Spurs — arguably the three best teams in the NBA right now — the Grizzlies fed on an undermanned Kings team playing without DeMarcus Cousins and won 97-83 . That result combined with Houston's to lift Memphis back to the No. 2 spot in the West, although the half-game margin could very well become a tie when the Rockets play those same Kings on Wednesday. The Grizzlies will have a chance to lick their wounds further with no game until they face the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday. That should also give the team's equipment managers plenty of time to stock up on fresh jerseys for Marc Gasol. Put a Berth on It: The Portland Trail Blazers are officially the fifth team to clinch a spot in the West playoffs after handling the Phoenix Suns 109-86 at the Moda Center. Four starters scored between 16 and 19 points as the Blazers shot 51.2 percent from the field. The victory also brings Portland just a half-game behind the Los Angeles Clippers in the race for homecourt advantage in the first round, although they can drop no lower than the No. 4 seed once they clinch the Northwest Division title. A Pistol for Avery Bradley: The long march to deciding the East's final playoff team continued apace on Monday, with the ninth-place Boston Celtics traveling to the 11th-place Charlotte Hornets and leaving town with a comfortable 116-104 win . Avery Bradley led the way with 30 points on 12-of-23 shooting, all of which seems like a misprint. The win put the Celtics back into the No. 8 spot by virtue of holding one more win (and one more loss) than the Brooklyn Nets. But the Nets visit the Indiana Pacers (just a half-game back of both teams) on Tuesday, so it's possible that we'll enter Wednesday with a totally new and confusing tie. It looks increasingly likely that this race will go down to the final days of the season, driving us all insane in the process. The Dirt of Buck: Two days after giving all their starters a much-deserved rest against the Hornets, the Hawks brought back their core and summarily bested the Milwaukee Bucks 101-88 . The Bucks are now only 1 1/2 games in front of the Miami Heat for the No. 6 seed, a key spot because it would allow them to avoid the Hawks and Cavs in the first round. The Hawks gained little from the win, but they do have an outside shot at besting the Warriors for the NBA's best record at 4 1/2 games back. Tuesday's Most Important Games Pacers at Nets , 7:30 p.m. ET: It's pretty simple — if the Nets win, they'll be a half-game ahead of the Celtics for the final playoff spot in the East. If the Pacers win, they'll enter a tie with the Celtics for that same spot. Is that enough to get you to watch two middling squads? Spurs at Heat , 8:00 p.m. ET: This NBA Finals rematch — seriously, they played each other last June, look it up — concerns each team primarily insofar as it allows them to put pressure on the teams ahead of them. A Spurs win would put pressure on the Clippers to avoid seeing their lead slip to a half-game later in the night, and the Heat can get within a game of the idle Bucks. Warriors at Clippers , 10:30 p.m. ET: The Warriors have virtually nothing to lose or gain from this one, so we could see them make like the Hawks and rest their key players in their first game since locking down a No. 1 seed. If Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and others do sit out, then the Clippers can take advantage and potentially increase their lead on the Blazers and Spurs. - - - - - - - Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at efreeman_ysports@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @FreemanEric

Kyle Korver scores 11 points in 65 seconds as Hawks bring down Bucks (Ball Don't Lie)
(Mon, 30 Mar 2015 20:28:15 PDT)
With six minutes remaining in the third quarter of Monday's game, the Atlanta Hawks led the Milwaukee Bucks by five points, and Kyle Korver was scoreless. With 4:40 remaining in the third, the lead was 16, and Korver had 11. Things escalate quickly in the Highlight Factory these days. [DraftKings: FREE entry to huge cash Fantasy Basketball Contest with first deposit ] Korver missed his first four shots, all from 3-point range, but finally got unstuck midway through the third. With the shot clock winding down, he took a pitch-back from center Al Horford and stepped into a 30-footer that soared past the outstretched hand of Bucks center and ex-Hawk Zaza Pachulia before finding sweet nylon, getting himself on the board with 5:49 left in the third. After a missed layup by Milwaukee point guard Michael Carter-Williams, Atlanta pushed the ball up the court, with DeMarre Carroll finding Korver flowing to the left corner. A quick pump-fake allowed a backtracking Buck to breeze past into the crowd, giving Korver a wide-open look at a just-inside-the-line jumper to make it two in a row. With the sharpshooting All-Star suddenly feeling it, the Hawks again pressed off a Milwaukee miss; this time, Carroll found Korver racing toward him on the right side of the court, which the heady Hawks swingman turned into a dribble handoff that freed Korver for an off-the-catch fading bomb that splashed through for a third straight jumper that got the Philips Arena faithful roaring. Yet another Bucks miss, this time on a midrange look by Khris Middleton, again allowed the Hawks to race out off the rebound. Korver had already leaked out off the shot and was waiting on the left wing. As point guard Jeff Teague dribbled into the front court, he just angled himself toward Korver, handed it off and watched the long ball fly, barely even disturbing the net as it connected at the 4:44 mark. All told: four shots, 11 points, 65 seconds. It's not quite Tracy McGrady in 2004 , but it ain't a bad way to spend a minute and change. The blink-and-you'll-miss-it burst took the lid off the basket for Korver, who had gone a pedestrian-by-his-standards 7-for-23 from 3-point land over the previous 4 1/2 games, and not a moment too soon: Korver on 11-point run: "I just needed one to go in. Then one finally did and I was like 'Let's go.'" #ATLHawks — Chris Vivlamore (@CVivlamoreAJC) March 31, 2015 The mid-third explosion caught the attention of quite a few NBA observers, including a pair of former Bucks: BTW Kyle Korver can really shoot — Ekpe Udoh (@EkpeUdoh) March 31, 2015 we hear you Korver, loud and clear. — Kendall Marshall (@KButter5) March 31, 2015 Thankfully, it also caught the attention of the Bucks. Korver wouldn't score another bucket the rest of the way, as Milwaukee responded in kind with an 11-2 run over the ensuing 3 1/2 minutes to draw within two possessions and keep Atlanta from running away and hiding. Unfortunately for Milwaukee fans, though, the offensive troubles that have plagued Jason Kidd's club all season long — and especially since shipping out top scoring guard Brandon Knight at the February trade deadline — reared their ugly head yet again. The Bucks managed just two points on 1-for-9 shooting in a four-minute, 40-second stretch spanning the end of the third quarter and the start of the fourth, allowing Atlanta to push its lead back up to a baker's dozen. Milwaukee couldn't string together enough buckets and stops to get any closer than nine from there, as the Hawks kept the Bucks at arm's length and finished off a 101-88 win . [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball ] Do-everything forward Carroll led five Hawks in double-figures with 23 points on 9-for-13 shooting, eight rebounds, five assists and two blocks in 34-plus minutes in the win, which improved the No. 1-seeded Hawks to 56-18 on the season. Mike Budenholzer's squad needs just one more win to tie the franchise record for victories, set back in 1986-87 and matched in 1993-94, and two wins in the final eight games to set a new all-time mark in what's become a season for the ages in Atlanta. Sophomore wunderkind Giannis Antetokounmpo scored a team-high 18 points on 7-for-9 shooting to go with six rebounds and four assists, while Pachulia chipped in 17 points, 13 boards and three assists for the Bucks, who have now dropped eight of their last 10 games, and 17 of 23 since the All-Star break. The Bucks now sit at 36-38, holding just a 1 1/2-game lead on the Miami Heat for the No. 6 seed in the East — a.k.a., the right to avoid either these Hawks or the Cleveland Cavaliers in the opening round of the playoffs — and, as their coach saw it, they played like a team that didn't seem to feel compelled to fight for a chance at surviving and advancing: Jason Kidd blasted team after loss to Hawks: "We didn't play hard enough tonight. We had another no-show tonight." — cfgardner (@cf_gardner) March 31, 2015 Kidd: "We have one or two guys fighting, but at the end of the day you need everybody on the same page. We're not getting that right now." — cfgardner (@cf_gardner) March 31, 2015 The Bucks don't have a whole lot of time before the playoffs start to find that collective spirit. Perhaps they can take some inspiration from their Monday night opponents, who took a minute out during the third quarter to show them just how quickly your fortunes can change. - - - - - - - Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YourManDevine Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL , "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.

Carroll, Korver lead Hawks to 101-88 win over Bucks (The Associated Press)
(Mon, 30 Mar 2015 20:09:53 PDT)
Kyle Korver was unstoppable for 65 seconds. The rest of the night, DeMarre Carroll carried the Atlanta Hawks. Carroll scored 23 points in a dazzling all-around display Monday, leading the Hawks past the Milwaukee Bucks 101-88 and showing the kind of effort the top seed in the Eastern Conference wants over the final two weeks of the regular season. ''We're trying to get our mojo back, get our momentum back going to the playoffs,'' said Carroll, who made 9 of 13 shots, grabbed eight rebounds, dished out five assists and blocked a pair of shots.

Hawks down Milwaukee to clinch top seed in NBA's East
(Mon, 30 Mar 2015 19:52:13 PDT)
DeMarre Carroll scored a game-high 23 points and the Atlanta Hawks, already assured of the best record in the NBA Eastern Conference, ripped the Milwaukee Bucks 101-88. Al Horford scored 18 points on Monday while Paul Millsap contributed 15 points and nine rebounds and Carroll added eight rebounds as the Hawks improved to 56-18, 4 1/2 games behind Golden State for the top record in the league. Atlanta's Kyle Korver scored all 11 of his points in a 65-second span of the third quarter, boosting the Hawks' lead from five points to 16 on the way to their third victory in four games.

NBA Power Rankings: Top seeds facing balancing act (Yahoo Sports)
(Mon, 30 Mar 2015 09:26:13 PDT)
With the Warriors and Hawks having the No. 1 seeds locked up, they now have to balance rest with building momentum.

NBA Playoff Picture Update: Oklahoma City comes back to ruin the Suns' season (Ball Don't Lie)
(Sun, 29 Mar 2015 21:18:23 PDT)
With just a few weeks remaining until the NBA postseason, every night can impact the standings. NBA Playoff Picture 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 ] Oklahoma City Downs a Dream: The Phoenix Suns aren’t entirely out of the playoff picture at this point, but it will be hard to recover from what the Thunder managed to do to them in 24 swift minutes on Sunday evening. Down 20 early in the offering, the Thunder utilized small lineups and desperate chances on its way to a borderline stunning 109-97 win . The team outscored Phoenix by 20 over the game’s final 24 minutes, with Russell Westbrook nearing yet another triple-double (33 points on 27 shots, nine rebounds, seven assists), Dion Waiters offering his bi-weekly “this is why we still take chances on him” contribution of 18 points on 20 shots, and bench performers D.J. Augustin and Anthony Morrow combined for 30 points on only 15 attempts from the field. Phoenix never seemed to find a defensive rhythm after the lay-up line that was the first half, and as a result the team is now four games back in the race for the final postseason berth in the West. OKC also moved to 2.5 games up over the New Orleans Pelicans, keeping pace in spite of NOLA’s 22-point win over the hapless (and clearly tanking, as the team’s coaching staff went away from productive lineups in the second half) Minnesota Timberwolves. Rockets Ascend: Afforded the national TV showing and a frustrated opponent to tee off upon, the Houston Rockets elbowed their way into the Western Conference’s second-best record on Sunday afternoon. Despite injuries to three former starters, the Rox rode James Harden’s 9-10 touch from the free throw line to a 99-91 win that was more lopsided than the final score would indicate. Dwight Howard managed a double-double despite playing just 18 minutes, as the Wizards solidified their slot as The Fifth Seed That Can’t Wait for 2014-15 To Be Over . Memphis Blues Again: The Grizzlies have lost 11 of 20 since Feb. 25. This is a bit of a problem, a problem that can’t be solved by sliding Vince Carter into the starting lineup or making snarky remarks about Jeff Green. Working on the road, in the home of the San Antonio franchise that the Grizzlies famously downed in the first-round of the 2011 playoffs, Memphis had no answer for Kawhi Leonard’s length and touch on Sunday evening . In a 103-89 loss that allowed Houston to vault past Memphis and into the West’s second seed, the Grizz were continually kept at arm’s length by a Spurs squad that seemed to have a rotation answer for every Memphis run. Working small by design, the Grizzlies could not keep Leonard (25 points, 10 rebounds) away from his preferred spots close to the basket. San Antonio dominated the glass, kept the ball moving (25 assists; hardly home cooking from the local scorers’ crew), and barely broke a sweat in winning its sixth game in seven tries. Quietly, per the team’s custom, the Spurs moved into second place in terms of defensive efficiency on the season over the weekend. Nets Appeal: Smirking in the face of the whole of NBA fandom, the Brooklyn Nets managed to ride into the East’s playoff bracket by taking advantage of a miserable Los Angeles Lakers team, ticking off those of whom that want nothing to do with watching BKN past the third week of April. Joe Johnson, still a guy that plays basketball for a lot of money, helped helm his team’s fourth quarter stand after the Lakers threatened. Brooklyn center Brook Lopez continued to add to what has been a fabulous March turn by adding 30 points in the face of a Laker frontcourt that seemed to have no idea what to do with a big man that can walk and chew gum at the same time. The team’s 107-99 win put the trillion-dollar squad a half game up over the same Boston Celtics team that … Boston Blows It : The Celtics shouldn’t have been favored against a Los Angeles Clippers team that had no business losing to a C’s group working eight games below .500 in late March, and yet the Celtics still managed to make it worse with lethargic and uninspired play from the outset. Brad Stevens’ crew managed to make an interesting game in spite of the slow start, returning to force former Celtics coach Doc Rivers to put his Clipper starters in late in the fourth quarter following a Boston run, but the same spark that inspired the Marcus Smart-driven run in recent weeks just wasn’t there for the Celtics. Smart, in particular, appears to have hit the rookie wall. Celtic wing Jae Crowder had his moments, and the application of a Hack-a-DeAndre Jordan acted as an intelligent move as the Celtics came back, but Boston dug itself too deep a hole in the opening moments. As a result, following the 119-106 dive , the team now stands a half-game behind Brooklyn for the East’s final postseason seed. Miami Acts its Age : Officially listed as “questionable” heading into an anonymous Sunday afternoon game in Detroit, Dwyane Wade managed to turn back the clock on his way to a 40-point outing in the Heat’s win over the Pistons. That total ranks as the second-highest output of Wade’s season thus far, made all the more impressive in the face of the fact that helper Luol Deng had to leave the game after just 18 unproductive minutes due to a painful knee contusion. With 21-year old (!) Andre Drummond adding a season-high 32 points, the Heat needed everything they could get from their franchise player in the 109-102 win . (There’s also the whole part about Dwyane Wade having to drain fluid out of his troublesome left knee just a day before keeping his Heat a game and a half up on the Nets for the seventh spot in the East.) Quickly : The Pacers badly needed Rodney Stuckey to return in order to keep their playoff hopes alive, which somehow isn’t the saddest thing to happen in Indiana this month … Cleveland and Philadelphia paid tribute to the NCAA Tournament by missing a ton of shots and taking far too long to finish their game on Sunday afternoon, the Cavs eventually held on despite Kevin Love’s back injury … Pesto goes with anything. Monday's Most Important Games Boston at Charlotte , 7:00 p.m. ET: It’s to the discredit of all involved that a 32-41 team and a 31-41 outfit are battling in late March for the chance to make the playoffs in the East, but this is what happens when Danny Ainge intelligently decides to rebuild on the fly and Michael Jordan decides that he wants to prove himself to Jerry Krause. The C’s have lost two of three to Charlotte on the year, but the Hornets will be likely working with a hobbled Al Jefferson and Mo Williams. Houston at Toronto , 7:30 p.m. ET: This could act as the trappiest of all trap games, as the Rockets are coming off of a solid road win over the Wizards and the Raptors could be looking to turn things around after not bothering to guard anyone in the 2015 calendar year. Toronto has it in them to down the West’s current second seed at full strength, but with Kyle Lowry likely out the Raps will be up against it. Milwaukee at Atlanta , 7:30 p.m. ET: The Hawks might sit all of their starters again, and Milwaukee might still struggle to score 78 points. - - - - - - - Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KDonhoops

Celtics-Hornets Preview (The Associated Press)
(Sun, 29 Mar 2015 19:56:55 PDT)
Of the four teams battling for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, three have contributed to the current level of intrigue mostly by subtraction. The Hornets and Boston Celtics are two of them, and they'll meet Monday night in Charlotte with the home team trying to secure the season series. The Hornets (31-41) sit one-half game behind the Celtics (32-41), who are tied with Indiana and are one-half back of Brooklyn for the No. 8 seed. Charlotte has taken two of three in the season series and would gain the tiebreaker with another win over Boston.

Bucks-Hawks Preview (The Associated Press)
(Sun, 29 Mar 2015 13:05:26 PDT)
The visiting team has taken all three matchups between the Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks this season. Atlanta (55-18) clinched the Eastern Conference's top seed with Friday's 99-86 home win over Miami. A starting lineup of Mike Muscala, Dennis Schroder, Elton Brand, Kent Bazemore and John Jenkins was used for the first time.

Wired: Top NBA Pickups Week 23 (Rotoworld)
(Sun, 29 Mar 2015 12:02:00 PDT)
Ish Smith is hot, while LeBron's Cavs play 2 games this week. Wired looks at alternatives, many that play 4 games in Week 23, including Smith.

NBA Playoff Picture Update: Warriors come out, play, clinch top seed (Ball Don't Lie)
(Sun, 29 Mar 2015 00:03:08 PDT)


Hornets beat Hawks backups 115-100 (The Associated Press)
(Sat, 28 Mar 2015 20:03:09 PDT)
The Charlotte Hornets needed a little pick-me-up after a tough - and potential costly - double-overtime loss to the Washington Wizards on Friday night. The Atlanta Hawks seemed happy to oblige. Kemba Walker scored 21 points and the Hornets beat a Hawks team missing all five starters, 115-100 on Saturday night. The Hawks gave DeMarre Carroll, Kyle Korver, Al Horford and Paul Millsap the night off to rest and Jeff Teague sat out with a sprained ankle, one night after Atlanta clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

Hawks resting starters against Hornets (The Associated Press)
(Sat, 28 Mar 2015 15:59:30 PDT)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- The Atlanta Hawks are sitting all five starters against the Charlotte Hornets one night after clinching the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Pistons-Heat Preview (The Associated Press)
(Sat, 28 Mar 2015 13:34:19 PDT)
Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat are hoping to resume their playoff push in South Beach after a disappointing road trip. Looking to cool off the Detroit Pistons, the Heat try to extend their season-best home winning streak to five Sunday. Miami (33-39) is surely looking forward to getting back on its own court after averaging just 85.5 points during a 1-3 trek. The Heat had another rough night Friday, falling 99-86 at Atlanta as the Hawks clinched the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed.

NBA Playoff Picture Update: The East goes through Atlanta (Ball Don't Lie)
(Fri, 27 Mar 2015 23:52:51 PDT)


Hawks clinch top seed in East with win over Heat
(Fri, 27 Mar 2015 22:16:55 PDT)
DeMarre Carroll scored 24 points, Paul Millsap had 21 and the Atlanta Hawks clinched the top seed in the NBA's Eastern Conference with a 99-86 win over Miami on Friday. Al Horford added 15 points and Dennis Schroder had 12 points and 11 assists for Atlanta, who have bounced back from a three-game losing streak with two straight victories. The Hawks had already secured the Southeast Division title.

Hawks-Hornets Preview (The Associated Press)
(Fri, 27 Mar 2015 22:15:41 PDT)
The regular season has become essentially meaningless for the Atlanta Hawks. Needing a strong late-season push to stay in playoff contention, the Hornets look to snap a three-game skid Saturday night when they host the Hawks, who have wrapped up the Eastern Conference's top seed. Since dropping three straight to Golden State, Oklahoma City and San Antonio while allowing 117.0 points per game, Atlanta (55-17) has been much better defensively against some lesser competition. The Hawks allowed their fewest points in 29 games in Wednesday's 95-83 win over Orlando, then held Miami to 39.0 percent shooting Friday in a 99-86 victory that clinched the top spot in the East.

Stephen Curry goes for 38 as Warriors crush Grizzlies (Ball Don't Lie)
(Fri, 27 Mar 2015 20:23:07 PDT)


Hawks beat Heat 99-86, clinch top seed in Eastern Conference (The Associated Press)
(Fri, 27 Mar 2015 20:21:02 PDT)
After clinching the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs for only the second time in their Atlanta franchise history, the Hawks were left to contemplate the remainder of the regular season. It's is a new dilemma for a Hawks team that barely made the playoffs as the No. 8 seed last year. DeMarre Carroll scored 24 points and the Hawks never trailed in beating the Miami Heat 99-86 on Friday night. Minutes later, the race for the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference ended when Brooklyn beat Cleveland 106-98, leaving home-court advantage in the conference playoffs with Atlanta.

Atlanta thieves stole $4 million, bought Hawks luxury suite, now headed to prison (Ball Don't Lie)
(Fri, 27 Mar 2015 09:23:59 PDT)


Warriors-Grizzlies Preview (The Associated Press)
(Fri, 27 Mar 2015 07:59:26 PDT)
(AP) -- - It has been a season full of firsts and fun for the Golden State Warriors, rewriting the franchise record book and rediscovering what it means to be a winner. Both can be reached Friday night when the Warriors (58-13) visit Memphis (50-22) in a matchup of the Western Conference's top teams. The Grizzlies are the only team Golden State has not beaten this season, and right now they're standing in the Warriors' way of matching the franchise record for wins. ''It's an important game because this is a team that you'll possibly see in the Western Conference playoffs or finals or whatever it will be,'' Warriors forward Draymond Green said following Thursday's practice in Oakland.

NBA Playoff Picture Update: What's at stake in Friday's big matchups? (Ball Don't Lie)
(Thu, 26 Mar 2015 22:31:28 PDT)


Heat-Hawks Preview (The Associated Press)
(Thu, 26 Mar 2015 19:34:59 PDT)
The acquisition of Goran Dragic has been key to the Miami Heat's playoff push, and their eventual reward could be a series with the Eastern Conference-leading Atlanta Hawks. With Dwyane Wade among several injured players, the Heat may need another strong performance from Dragic in this possible first-round playoff preview with the Hawks on Friday night. The Heat have gone 9-7 with Dragic in the lineup since acquiring him from Phoenix in a three-team trade Feb. 19, with the veteran point guard averaging 17.0 points, 5.6 assists and 1.5 steals. He was particularly impressive Wednesday, scoring 22 points with seven assists and five rebounds to lead the short-handed Heat to a 93-86 road win over the Celtics.

Warriors can match franchise record for wins at Memphis (The Associated Press)
(Thu, 26 Mar 2015 15:16:31 PDT)
It has been a season full of firsts and fun for the Golden State Warriors, rewriting the franchise record book and rediscovering what it means to be a winner. Both can be reached Friday night when the Warriors (58-13) visit Memphis (50-22) in a matchup of the Western Conference's top teams. The Grizzlies are the only team Golden State has not beaten this season, and right now they're standing in the Warriors' way of matching the franchise record for wins. ''It's an important game because this is a team that you'll possibly see in the Western Conference playoffs or finals or whatever it will be,'' Warriors forward Draymond Green said following Thursday's practice in Oakland.

Bob Cousy saves his first Bill Russell comparison in 40 years for Hassan Whiteside (Ball Don't Lie)
(Thu, 26 Mar 2015 13:58:46 PDT)
Since retiring from the NBA in 1963 and again after a brief return to action in 1970, Bob Cousy has seen plenty of incredible defensive-minded big men. The 86-year old, who winters in Florida, doesn’t have to hover over NBA League Pass every night to see all manner of rim protectors cabled to him on either national TV, or through local Miami Heat broadcasts. [DraftKings: FREE entry to huge cash Fantasy Basketball Contest with first deposit ] Those Heat have had an up and down year, as partially exemplified by the ascension or former journeyman center Hassan Whiteside. And just 41 games into Whiteside’s career with the Heat – that’s half an NBA season – Bob Cousy has seen enough. In a good way. He's now comparing Whiteside to the legendary Bill Russell. From Bill Doyle at the Telegram & Gazette : "I have never said this in the 40 years since I retired," Cousy said in a recent telephone interview, "but he is the first big guy, not (Patrick) Ewing, (Hakeem) Olajuwon, Shaq (O'Neal), who reminds me defensively and on the boards of Russell. He runs the floor well, he has excellent timing, he blocks shots and keeps them in play the way Russell did." What. "I don't get excited too often about these guys," Cousy said, "but this kid looks to me like a turn-around guy. "This kid moves to every rebound, he just reacts to everything on the defensive boards and he reacts the way Russell did. He leaves his man and comes over to help. He'll block five or six shots a game and he catches them. The league hasn't caught up with him yet." Cousy paused for a moment and added, "Maybe I'm overreacting." And how did Whiteside respond to Cousy possible overreaction? "That's a great honor," Whiteside said before the Celtics hosted Miami Wednesday. "Everybody knows that Bill Russell is probably one of the best shot blockers that ever lived. That's really a big honor that he thinks of me that way." Whiteside, suffering from a laceration on his right hand, did not play against the Celtics and will be listed as “questionable” for Friday’s Heat game against the Atlanta Hawks. Like the left-handed Bill Russell, however, Whiteside blocks a goodly chunk of his shots with his left hand. And, once again, he’s only 41 games into his season with the Heat, he may only finish the campaign with 50 games to his credit and 33 starts due to injury, suspension, and the fact that Miami didn’t even sign the guy until the third week of November, and didn’t play him until Dec. 1. [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball ] After being selected with the 33rd pick in the 2010 NBA draft, the 6-11 center bounced around with the Sacramento Kings, five different D-League clubs, and professional outfits in Lebanon and China prior to finding a home with Miami. Whiteside does have a bit of a problem with his temper, something he’s copped to , but under the guidance of fellow basketball vagabond Michael Beasley the Heat hope to act as the stabilizing force that can turn Whiteside into a perennial All-Star. Still, Bill Russell ? Blocks weren’t even kept as a statistic during Russell’s Hall of Fame career, and the NBA didn’t even differentiate between offensive and defensive rebounds during his run as the league’s best defender from 1956 through 1969. Still, Boston’s perpetual ranking atop the NBA’s defensive efficiency charts and all manner of black and white game tape show Russell absolutely dominating on that end of the court, acting as a modern NBA player in what was more or less an archaic style of game throughout most of Russell’s career. As a result of this, and the speed in which the game was played in the 1950s and 1960s (Russell’s 1964 Celtics averaged 125 possessions per game, in comparison to the Golden State’s league-leading 99 possessions per game in 2015), Bill Russell put up some borderline-laughable rebounding numbers in averaging nearly 25 a game one year and 22 per contest on his career. It’s highly conceivable that Russell could have enjoyed some seasons with six or seven blocks per game averages: How does Whiteside compare? Not only has the game slowed down, but centers are encouraged to alter shots defensively rather than outright swatting them in the modern era, so as to not leave themselves out of position defensively or on the glass. Whiteside averages “just” 2.5 blocks per game, but he blocks nine percent of the shots taken against his Heat when he is on the floor – that number would lead the league by a wide margin had Whiteside played enough minutes this season, and it would rank him sixth all time in terms of yearly block percentage. Whiteside would fall behind players like Manute Bol and Shawn Bradley on that list, two centers that were asked to swat at just about everything, regardless of defensive positioning. Whiteside’s defensive positioning allows the Heat to act as an average defensive team when he’s on the court, which doesn’t seem like much until you consider the fact that the Heat’s defensive numbers rank them amongst the worst teams in the NBA on that side of the ball when Whiteside is off the court. Whiteside’s 9.8 rebounds per game wouldn’t even rank him in the NBA’s top this season, but because Whiteside doesn’t lope after every block, the percentage of defensive rebounds and total rebounds he reels in tops the NBA. “Tops the NBA” if he’d played enough minutes, that is, which is why Bob Cousy admitted to a possible overreaction after spying some of Hassan Whiteside’s 928 total minutes in 2014-15. For Cousy to laud Whiteside ahead of defensive luminaries such as Hakeem Olajuwon, Dennis Rodman, David Robinson, Nate Thurmond, Kevin Garnett, Dikembe Mutombo or Ben Wallace? Don’t dismiss the Hall of Famer. It’s a small sample size, and Whiteside has disappointed before, but the 25 year old has the potential to be a destructive force on the defensive end for another decade. His offensive game is limited to put-backs and lobs at this point and he barely makes half his free throws, but Whiteside has nailed 61 percent of his shots with the Heat (in a different era, Russell’s top career mark is 46.7 percent) and is far from a liability on that end in averaging nearly double-figure points in just 22 minutes a contest. Bob Cousy may be overreacting, and perhaps he should have credited some centers from previous eras prior to 2015, but Bob Cousy also knows a stud when he sees him. If Hassan Whiteside can continue at his current rate, leading the NBA in both block and rebound percentage at unprecedented levels, he will most certainly have earned those comparisons to the great Bill Russell. - - - - - - - Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KDonhoops

'Frustrated' or not, LeBron James, Kevin Love and the Cavs seem to fit awful well (Ball Don't Lie)
(Thu, 26 Mar 2015 12:41:00 PDT)
The Cleveland Cavaliers destroyed the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night, slicing and dicing the NBA's third-stingiest defense to the tune of 111 points, 30 assists on 43 made field goals and 14 3-pointers, rolling up a 29-point lead on the road against the second-best team in the Western Conference. The dominant, leave-no-doubt win — which Grizzlies talismen Tony Allen deemed an "old fashioned beat down" and Zach Randolph said left him with "a sick feeling in [his] stomach" — improved the Cavs to 28-6 since Jan. 15, the day after their famed bowling trip , which marked their second game with a rejuvenated LeBron James rejoining the new-look starting lineup remade via midseason trades by general manager David Griffin. [DraftKings: FREE entry to huge cash Fantasy Basketball Contest with first deposit ] Cleveland's been an absolute wrecking crew over the past two-plus months, owning the NBA's best record, far and away the No. 1 offense in the league (112.4 points per 100 possessions, a full 2.5 points-per-100 ahead of the Golden State Warriors) and the league's second-best efficiency differential over that span (outscoring the opposition by 10.7 points-per-100, second only to the league-best Dubs). And they haven't rolled up those marks against the league's weaker links. David Blatt's club has a 14-1 record against the West since Jan. 15, knocking off nearly the entire likely Western playoff bracket — the first-place Warriors , second-place Grizzlies , fourth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers , fifth-ranked Los Angeles Clippers ( twice ), No. 6 San Antonio Spurs , No. 7 Dallas Mavericks and No. 8 Oklahoma City Thunder — over that stretch. (Their lone loss to a Western playoff club in that span: the "you've got to make your free throws" overtime defeat at the hands of the third-seeded Houston Rockets.) After another feather-in-their-cap win, you'd have expected the primary storyline to be the Cavs peaking at the right time, playing their best ball of the season as the Atlanta Hawks falter to become, in the eyes of many, the favorite to represent the Eastern Conference in this June's NBA Finals. Instead, the trending topic was a reheated bit of alleged dysfunction, something a bit less exciting, a bit more junior-high-reminiscent, and a bit tougher to pin down. From Frank Isola of the New York Daily News : Kevin Love's future in Cleveland is more uncertain not only by the day but by the latest social media postings from LeBron James. [...] Love is viewed by some as an aloof player who alienated teammates in Minnesota and is now doing the same in Cleveland. [...] several sources close to the situation in Cleveland claim that James has tried to make it work but that he’s frustrated by Love’s inability, and in some ways unwillingness, to get with the program. Remember, James pushed the Cavs to trade Wiggins to the Timberwolves to acquire Love, who could be one-and-done in Cleveland. Isola's wondering about whether Love — who has a player option in his contract for the 2015-16 season, meaning he can opt out and become an unrestricted free agent this summer, which would seem to be a sensible decision for him to make financially, even if he does ultimately want to return to the Cavaliers — is on the way out in Cleveland seems cut from the same cloth as his prior wondering about whether Kevin Durant could soon be on the way out of Oklahoma City. The New York Knicks, the team Isola has long and ably covered for the Daily News, stinks on ice, and needs talent, and will have a bunch of money to spend in free agency over the next couple of summers. As was the case with Durant, Love represents a super-starry name who could be available for the Knicks to pursue; ipso facto, here's a story about how things are falling apart in Cleveland, based on Instagram photos and MVP-race opinions , and how it could wind up benefiting the boys in orange and blue through a potential (and, probably, pipe-dream) pairing that's been bandied about for more than a year and a half . It's possible that whatever weirdness exists in the relationship between James and Love — and there's certainly been enough smoke there over the course of the season to make you at least wonder about the presence of fire — could result in Love donning colors other than wine and gold next season. (All things, after all, are possible through the workings of GM LeBron .) It's hard, though, to see the relationship as so remarkably dysfunctional as to require a drastic shake-up, if only because, for whatever on- and off-court awkwardness there's been, the Cavs continue to crush the opposition when LeBron and Love share the floor. Consider the following: • The Cavaliers have 11 five-man units that have played at least 50 total minutes this season. Ten of them feature Love alongside LeBron. Nine have outscored the opposition — the lone straggler being the early-season group that put Anderson Varejao and Dion Waiters alongside the new Big Three, long since kiboshed due to Varejao's season-ending injury and Waiters' trade to Oklahoma City — with six outscoring opponents by at least 10 points per 100 possessions and five blowing the competition away by at least 20 points-per-100. • The most frequently used of those lineups — the Cavs' post-mid-January starting five, with James and Love alongside Kyrie Irving, Timofey Mozgov and J.R. Smith — has absolutely mopped the floor with the league, outscoring opponents by a staggering 20.2 points-per-100 over the space of 412 minutes and 28 appearances, making it the second-best big-minutes five-man group in the league (behind only the surging Spurs' starting five). • Lineups featuring LeBron and Love together have played 1,650 minutes together this season, outscoring opponents by 10.8 points-per-100, a tick above the similarly stellar mark for James-Irving lineups (+10.3 in 1,656 minutes). • The biggest runs of the Cavaliers' win over Memphis — the late-second-quarter spurt that pushed Cleveland's lead to 13 at the half and the mid-third-quarter surge that put the game out of reach — came with LeBron and Love on the floor together . That's due, in part, to Love becoming a valuable counter to a defensive strategy that stalled the Cavaliers' offense when they met up with the Hawks a few weeks back: So…. watching some stuff… you know how the Hawks murdered the Cavs by trapping Kyrie? MEM tried that. They countered with Love pick and pop — Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) March 26, 2015 That’s a major adjustment to a significant weakness. And Love KILLED Memphis with it. Major credit to Blatt for finding a counter to it. — Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) March 26, 2015 And it's due, in part, to Love — for all the struggling fits and false starts — finding a real comfortable rhythm working off James and Irving against the Grizzlies' front line, as broken down by Sports Illustrated's Rob Mahoney: [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball ] Love played 32 minutes of seamless, proficient basketball—perhaps his most comfortable game of the season. His offense was encouraging in its variety. Love got the best of Memphis' defenders on cuts, deep post-ups, and pops off screens, avoiding those extended stretches of parked irrelevance on the weak side of the floor. [...] Love serves a function that borders on irreplaceable. Short of James playing big minutes at power forward (something he is loathe to do), Cleveland has neither floor-spacing bigs nor particularly solvent small-ball options. Love, then, is the most effective complement to the creation of James and Irving, to the point that the Cavs suffer a losing margin (-0.7 points per 100 possessions, 7.5 points worse than otherwise) without him. Even if accepting that Love hasn't lived up to his billing, there's still no question that Cleveland is a better team for having him and learning more and more how to best utilize his skills. And the Cavaliers most certainly made a concerted effort to utilize Love's skills on Wednesday, getting him involved en route to an efficient 22 points on 10-for-13 shooting, 10 rebounds, four assists, two blocks and a steal in 32 minutes. After the game, Irving and James both emphasized the importance of going to Love early and often, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com : “When we’re coming out like that, Kev’s being ultra-aggressive and he’s taking open shots and he’s knocking them down, we’re practically unguardable out there,” Irving said. “From a confidence standpoint that we have, just in our offense, I told Kevin in the game, ‘Man, you space out the floor so well for us.’ It’s a big piece that we need going forward. We need him to continue to be aggressive and be himself. I know he puts in a lot of hard work, as we all do, but we trust him making those decisions because me and Bron are going to get downhill, we’re going to be aggressive and Kevin is going to do his thing, as well. So, it’s a team thing. I love it.” James, when talking about the impact the Cavs’ sometimes-forgotten forward can have, made sure to gesture his eyes across the locker room to where Love was icing his feet after a 10-for-13 shooting night that also featured two blocked shots against the Grizzlies giants. “It was by design to get Kev involved,” James said. “It’s always by design to get him involved. Tonight, he was very aggressive. One of his first plays he got a dunk. I think that was his first basket, and when you get a dunk, it kind of sets the tone. I think he had three of them tonight. In order for us to do what we need to do at the end of the day and be great, the Big Three got to play at a high level and we did that tonight.” They've been doing it just about every night for about two and a half months now, leaving the wreckage of opposing defenses in their wake. If this is what frustration and "not fitting in" look like, then man ... what the hell would a happy and seamless Cavaliers team be doing to the competition? - - - - - - - Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YourManDevine Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL , "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.

Highlights of Wednesday's NBA games
(Wed, 25 Mar 2015 22:01:44 PDT)
(The Sports Xchange) - Highlights of Wednesday's National Basketball Association games: - - - Cavaliers 111, Grizzlies 89 The Cleveland Cavaliers thrashed the Memphis Grizzlies 111-89 behind a game-high 24 points from Kyrie Irving. Kevin Love had a double-double with 22 points and 10 rebounds and LeBron James had 20 points, eight rebounds and five assists as the Cavaliers (47-26) blew the game open with a 22-4 run in the third quarter en route to their fourth consecutive victory. ...

NBA-Highlights of Wednesday's NBA games
(Wed, 25 Mar 2015 21:55:34 PDT)
March 25 (The Sports Xchange) - Highlights of Wednesday's National Basketball Association games: - - - Cavaliers 111, Grizzlies 89 The Cleveland Cavaliers thrashed the Memphis Grizzlies 111-89 behind a game-high 24 points from Kyrie Irving. Kevin Love had a double-double with 22 points and 10 rebounds and LeBron James had 20 points, eight rebounds and five assists as the Cavaliers (47-26) blew the game open with a 22-4 run in the third quarter en route to their fourth consecutive victory. ...

George Hill's winning lay-up snaps Pacers' 6-game losing streak (Ball Don't Lie)
(Wed, 25 Mar 2015 19:51:53 PDT)
The fight for the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference has been one of the tightest races in the NBA this season, with positions changing seemingly every day as several teams attempt to become humongous underdogs to the Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers in the opening round of the postseason. A strong second half has allowed the Indiana Pacers to become one of those squads, although a three-game losing streak had sent them from a potential upset pick to a team just trying to claw its way back into the top eight in the standings. The Pacers entered Wednesday night's road game against the Washington Wizards — themselves in the midst of a four-game losing streak — needing a win to keep up with the competition. [DraftKings: FREE entry to huge cash Fantasy Basketball Contest with first deposit ] Indiana got that streak-snapping victory, although not without some drama. Down 76-70 after three quarters, the visitors performed well in the final period to grab a 101-98 lead after two C.J. Miles free throws with 19 seconds remaining. John Wall, easily the Wizards' top performed on the night, erased that margin pretty quickly with a three-pointer to tie. That gave the Pacers a chance to avoid overtime with 11 seconds on the clock. Point guard George Hill was called upon as playmaker, and he ended up with one of the easier late-game forays to the basket in recent memory: Hill's basket finished off a fantastic performance in which he went for a team-high 29 points on 12-of-24 shooting with nine assists and seven rebounds. Rasual Butler missed a prayer three-pointer at the buzzer, and the Pacers ended up with a 103-101 win . [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr:   The best slams from all of basketball] If Hill encountered little trouble on his way to the basket, it may have been because Washington head coach Randy Wittmann opted not to play Marcin Gortat on the possession despite his having blocked a Hill lay-up roughly 20 seconds earlier. There's no easy way to explain this decision, because Nene is an inferior rim protector who isn't clearly better at switching onto a smaller player after a pick. This doesn't appear to have been a difference of strategic opinion — it just looks like Wittmann made a mistake. The Pacers win combined with the Boston Celtics' loss to the Miami Heat to create a virtual tie for the final spot in the playoffs with the both teams holding a 31-40 record. The Celtics currently hold the tiebreaker with a 2-1 advantage in the season series, but a Pacers win in their matchup next Wednesday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse would move the tiebreaker to the criterion of in-conference record, where the Pacers currently have a two-game lead. The Wizards still look headed for a first-round matchup with the Toronto Raptors, but the team has concerns far more serious than their seeding. While Wall was fantastic (34 points and six assists, plus a bunch of highlights) and Gortat was quite good (16 points on 7-of-10 shooting), Washington continues to get few contributions from secondary players. To make matters worse, shooting guard Bradley Beal sprained his right ankle late in the first quarter on Wednesday and did not return. This struggling squad cannot afford to play without such a major player right now, especially when Beal's last extended absence coincided with another rough period of the season . The Wizards don't look in danger of falling too far in the standings, but it's hard to say that they're impressing in the stretch run. - - - - - - - Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at efreeman_ysports@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @FreemanEric

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