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NBA-National Basketball Association roundup
(Fri, 17 Apr 2015 16:50:02 PDT)
Legendary NBA center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is expected to make a full recovery after undergoing quadruple coronary bypass surgery. UCLA Health issued a statement Friday at the request of Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA's all-time leading scorer and member of the Basketball Hall of Fame. Abdul-Jabbar, who turned 68 on Thursday, was admitted to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center this week with cardiovascular disease.

Column: Hawks, Warriors have plenty of playoff doubters (The Associated Press)
(Fri, 17 Apr 2015 15:35:11 PDT)
They won 60 games, which is the accepted NBA standard of greatness. They blew away everyone else in the Eastern Conference - including you, LeBron James. Yet, there's hardly anyone outside Atlanta who believes the Hawks will make it to the NBA Finals, much less capture a championship. They are the Rodney Dangerfields of these most unusual playoffs.

Hawks F Sefolosha undergoes surgery for injured right leg (The Associated Press)
(Fri, 17 Apr 2015 15:08:48 PDT)
ATLANTA (AP) -- Hawks forward Thabo Sefolosha is recovering from surgery on his right leg, which he says was injured during his arrest by New York police last week.

NBA could alter schedule, but no change to playoffs, lottery (The Associated Press)
(Fri, 17 Apr 2015 14:58:15 PDT)
NBA owners held their first serious discussions about the playoff format, though Commissioner Adam Silver said Friday it was too soon to tell if there was interest in changing it. The playoffs will open Saturday without the Oklahoma City Thunder, who finished ninth in the Western Conference with a 45-37 record that would have made them the No. 6 seed in the weaker East.

NBA Playoffs Matchups (Rotoworld)
(Fri, 17 Apr 2015 13:56:00 PDT)
With the playoffs set to begin this weekend, Ryan Knaus provides a high-level overview of all eight first-round matchups.

Schedule for first round of NBA playoffs
(Fri, 17 Apr 2015 12:07:51 PDT)
(Reuters) - Schedule of games for the best-of-seven opening round of the National Basketball Association playoffs (*-if needed): EASTERN CONFERENCE Atlanta Hawks vs. ...

Profiles of Eastern Conference playoff teams
(Fri, 17 Apr 2015 12:06:11 PDT)
(Reuters) - Brief profiles of the eight Eastern Conference teams that qualified for the 2015 National Basketball Association (NBA) playoffs: ATLANTA HAWKS Regular season record: 60-22 How they qualified: First in East Head coach: Mike Budenholzer Top scorer: Paul Millsap (16.7 points per game) Top rebounder: Paul Millsap (7.8 rebounds per game) NBA titles: One (*1958) Joined NBA: 1949 *As St. Louis Hawks - - CLEVELAND CAVALIERS Regular season record: 53-29 How they qualified: Won Central Division Head coach: David Blatt Top scorer: LeBron James (25. ...

Warriors look to extend magical run into postseason
(Fri, 17 Apr 2015 12:01:46 PDT)
The Golden State Warriors enjoyed a dream season as they raced to the best mark in the NBA but their lack of playoff experience leaves them with much to prove heading into the post-season. Under first-year coach Steve Kerr the high-octane Warriors compiled a franchise-best 67 wins with an exhilarating brand of play that stole the spotlight. LeBron James has restored the Cleveland Cavaliers to playoff relevancy after his return home sparked a roster upgrade that has turned the previously tough-luck franchise into Eastern Conference favorites.

NBA-Warriors look to extend magical run into postseason
(Fri, 17 Apr 2015 12:00:00 PDT)
By Jahmal Corner April 17 (Reuters) - The Golden State Warriors enjoyed a dream season as they raced to the best mark in the NBA but their lack of playoff experience leaves them with much to prove headibng into the post-season. Under first-year coach Steve Kerr the high-octane Warriors compiled a franchise-best 67 wins with an exhilarating brand of play that stole the spotlight. LeBron James has restored the Cleveland Cavaliers to playoff relevancy after his return home sparked a roster upgrade that has turned the previously tough-luck franchise into Eastern Conference favorites.

NBA-Profiles of Eastern Conference playoff teams
(Fri, 17 Apr 2015 12:00:00 PDT)
April 17 (Reuters) - Brief profiles of the eight Eastern Conference teams that qualified for the 2015 National Basketball Association (NBA) playoffs: ATLANTA HAWKS Regular season record: 60-22 How they qualified: First in East Head coach: Mike Budenholzer Top scorer: Paul Millsap (16.7 points per game) Top rebounder: Paul Millsap (7.8 rebounds per game) NBA titles: One (*1958) Joined NBA: 1949 *As St. Louis Hawks - - CLEVELAND CAVALIERS Regular season record: 53-29 How they qualified: Won Central Division Head coach: David Blatt Top scorer: LeBron James (25. ...

NBA-Schedule for first round of NBA playoffs
(Fri, 17 Apr 2015 12:00:00 PDT)
April 17 (Reuters) - Schedule of games for the best-of-seven opening round of the National Basketball Association playoffs (*-if needed): EASTERN CONFERENCE Atlanta Hawks vs. ...

Dan Devine's Inarguable Power Rankings: 2015 first-round playoff matchups (Ball Don't Lie)
(Fri, 17 Apr 2015 11:33:45 PDT)
After six long months, we're finally here, on the cusp of the 2015 NBA Playoffs. We're down to 16 teams — perhaps not the 16 best , but don't worry, Adam Silver's working on it — set to face off in eight opening-round matchups for the right to advance to the conference semifinals and take one step closer to hoisting the Larry O'Brien Trophy. The Eastern and Western brackets weren't set in stone until late on the final night of the regular season, but now we know who's playing who, when and where each series will start, and where we can watch. (If you're not sure about any of that, please peruse our trusty 2015 NBA playoff schedule . With all that in place, the question now before us is this: Which first-round playoff matchup is best and most watchable? In the interest of providing guidance to BDL's readership in a trying time, I submit to a trusting public a new installment of Dan Devine's Inarguable Power Rankings , my ongoing attempt to identify which items in a group of things are most powerful. In this episode: Dan Devine's Inarguable 2015 First-Round Playoff Matchup Power Rankings. Settle in, dig in and weigh in with your thoughts on which opening-round series will be the best, either in the comments, on Twitter or on Facebook . And please remember, as always, that the list is the list. ***

Fantasy Postseason Rankings (Rotoworld)
(Fri, 17 Apr 2015 10:53:00 PDT)
Mike Gallagher goes over some fantasy postseason rankings in points formats.

Ball Don't Lie's 2014-15 First Round Playoff Previews (Ball Don't Lie)
(Fri, 17 Apr 2015 07:47:25 PDT)
The snow has melted, the birds are chirping, and the first round of the 2015 NBA playoffs is finally here. Join Ball Don't Lie's cast of writers as they dive deep into what you should expect to see over the next two weeks: Ball Don’t Lie 2014-15 First Round Playoff Previews EASTERN CONFERENCE 1. Atlanta Hawks vs. 8. Brooklyn Nets, by Kelly Dwyer 2. Cleveland Cavaliers vs. 7. Boston Celtics, by Dan Devine 3. Chicago Bulls vs. 6. Milwaukee Bucks, by Eric Freeman 4. Toronto Raptors vs. 5. Washington Wizards, by Ben Rohrbach WESTERN CONFERENCE 1. Golden State Warriors vs. 8. New Orleans Pelicans, by Eric Freeman 2. Houston Rockets vs. 7. Dallas Mavericks, by Ben Rohrbach 3. Los Angeles Clippers vs. 6. San Antonio Spurs, by Kelly Dwyer 4. Portland Trail Blazers vs. 5. Memphis Grizzlies, by Dan Devine

Warriors, Cavaliers favoured in NBA playoffs
(Fri, 17 Apr 2015 00:43:40 PDT)
Regular season heroes will rise and fall, rivalries will be renewed and the dark horses will get their chance when the National Basketball Association playoffs begin this weekend. The Golden State Warriors, Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs are the favourites, but there's always someone who does the unexpected and launches a team to prominence. Golden State finished with 67 wins and 15 losses in the regular season, completing one of the best seasons in league history and setting a club record for victories. The Warriors became just the 10th team to reach 67 wins in a season.

BDL’s 2014-15 Playoff Previews: Portland Trail Blazers vs. Memphis Grizzlies (Ball Don't Lie)
(Thu, 16 Apr 2015 23:31:40 PDT)
How They Got Here • Portland : Coming off 54 wins and an unforgettable opening-round victory over the Houston Rockets, the Blazers largely stood pat. With one of the league's best big-minutes lineups  in place and no picks in  the 2014 draft due to past trades, general manager Neil Olshey bolstered the bench by signing veterans Chris Kaman and Steve Blake; beyond that, he banked on in-house development and roster-wide improvement in executing coach Terry Stotts' schemes. For a while, it worked. The Blazers roared to a 26-7 mark behind All-Stars LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, riding a surprisingly stingy defense that ranked third in the league in points allowed per possession. As the calendar turned to 2015, Portland owned the NBA's second-best record, sitting just a half-game behind the Golden State Warriors. A post-holiday swoon coinciding with the loss of center Robin Lopez to a broken right hand and a tougher schedule brought the Blazers back to the pack. A torn ligament in Aldridge's left thumb seemed to spell doom, but he decided to put off surgery and play through the pain , continuing to confound defenses en route to a fourth straight All-Star berth. The Blazers entered March within hailing distance of the No. 2 seed ... and then things fell apart. Midway through a March 5 victory over Dallas, Wesley Matthews — Portland's leading 3-point shooter, arguably its best individual defender, its heart and soul — caught an outlet pass, turned to dribble and immediately went down with what was later confirmed to be a torn left Achilles tendon that would require season-ending surgery .

BDL’s 2014-15 Playoff Previews: Los Angeles Clippers vs. San Antonio Spurs (Ball Don't Lie)
(Thu, 16 Apr 2015 19:55:34 PDT)
How They Got Here Los Angeles : Unburned from having to be known as the team that works for the NBA’s most onerous executive, the Clippers overcame depth and injury issues per usual to wrest the three seed out of the wicked Western Conference. Lumped in with several other Western championship contenders to start the year, the Clippers managed to overcome Blake Griffin’s rather frightening staph infection in his right elbow, one that forced him to undergo surgery and leave the Clipper lineup for 15 games. [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball ] Just as Griffin circled the wagons the year before, point guard Chris Paul turned in an MVP-level season both with Blake and without. The All-Star ran the NBA’s best offense and managed 19.1-point and 10.2-assist averages while turning it over just 2.3 times a contest. J.J. Redick shot the lights out for most of the season, and coach/president Doc Rivers wrested capable performances from yet-again laughable crew of role players both familiar (Hedo Turkoglu shot 43 percent from long range, Glen Davis saw major minutes) and way-too familiar: Rivers traded draft picks for his son Austin midway through the season, and the younger Rivers failed to take off in his father’s presence. Understandable concerns about the team’s defense lingered for most of the season, despite Rivers’ pronouncements that center DeAndre Jordan (leading the league in rebounds at 15 a game while becoming the first player to shoot over 70 percent since Wilt Chamberlain) was far and away the league’s top defensive player – an argument that is shaky at best and a little embarrassing at worst once one considers the hyperbolic nature of Rivers’ statements. That defense improved considerably in the second half of the season, however, as the Clippers look to take their first title with a top-ranked offense and overall middling defensive statistics. San Antonio : It was stereotype San Antonio performance, really, not exactly playing possum for 2014-15’s first months but still relying on a white hot run of play to end the season to strike fear into the Western Conference bracket yet again, doing so for the 54th time since the construction of the Berlin Wall. Turning in at “only” the sixth seed, the Spurs hope to recreate the magic of a sixth-seeded Houston Rocket team from two decades ago, one that won close series after close series in a similarly-packed West on its way to consecutive titles. San Antonio wasn’t just resting its players while biding its time until the snow melted, point guard Tony Parker struggled with age and injury prior to righting his play in the final third of the season. Manu Ginobili suffered an ankle sprain after the All-Star break, and Kawhi Leonard was limited to just 31.8 minutes a contest over 64 games due to a hand injury and coach Gregg Popovich’s righteous quest to keep his players at peak form in June’s second week. Leonard’s gifts remain tantalizing, he’ll lead the league in steals by a sound margin despite playing so few minutes, and his post-up game is improving by leaps and bounds. Tony Parker wasn’t just pumping the prospect up when he called the Spurs Leonard’s team earlier in April. Then there’s Popovich, thinking on his feet once again and taking advantage of his younger swingmen’s (including Danny Green) ability to cause turnovers and leak out onto the controlled break. The Spurs finished second in defensive efficiency once again, but it’s to Coach Pop’s everlasting credit that the team climbed to that ranking in entirely new ways with an emerging crew that supports its bulwark coach and Hall of Fame-bound veterans. We’ve also made it this far without mentioning Tim Duncan, who turned in a superior defensive season while providing All-Star level per-minute production at age 38. The man is an absolute marvel, and he has as good a chance as any NBA superstar in leading his team to a title this year. Head to Head Depending on your definition of a classic, the teams may have given us one when the Clippers hung on to down the Spurs in the team’s last regular season meeting on Feb. 19, with San Antonio purposely sending DeAndre Jordan to the line 28 times (he made 10 and finished with 26 points and 18 rebounds). Tim Duncan, giddy at the thought of a slowed-down game, scored 30 with 11 rebounds in one of his better games of the year. The Clippers also beat San Antonio at home on Jan. 31 during the dregs of Tony Parker’s (2-10) shooting woes. The Spurs took another two close games, with Parker going off for 26 on Dec. 22 in one of his better games of the season and Leonard notching the same amount in an ugly four-point early season Spurs victory. Likely Starting Lineups Coach Popovich reserves the right to surprise, as 12 different Spurs have taken in starts this season, not including nominal starter Manu Ginobili (who didn’t start once but averaged the sixth-most minutes per game), but health-willing he’ll likely trot out Duncan alongside Tiago Splitter, Leonard, Parker and Danny Green. Splitter remains the question mark, he missed 30 games this season with a strained right calf and was held out of Wednesday’s crucial season-ending loss to New Orleans after it tightened up on him. Rotations shorten in the postseason, but Popovich has no problem sitting all of his starters for 15 minutes of a close game – it was a killer core when healthy during the latter part of the season and should remain that way in the playoffs. The same can also be said for Los Angeles lineup of Jordan, Griffin, Matt Barnes, Redick and Paul. That lineup gets to the line a ton, it rarely crashes the offensive boards (a Doc Rivers staple) and it stands to order whenever Chris Paul furrows his brow. Blake Griffin proved last season that he is eminently capable of running an offense through the pinch post and his passing stats this season (5.3 a game for a big forward?) are once again superb, but this is Paul’s team and for good reason – how can one argue with a top offensive ranking? J.J. Redick is also to be credited for his career year, much needed with reserve guard Jamal Crawford missing 18 games. Key Matchups Kawhi Leonard vs. Chris Paul This is what everyone is waiting to see. The Clippers haven’t played San Antonio since Leonard’s late-season (healthy) ascension into the NBA’s Next Great Thing, and though Leonard may not start off on the NBA’s best point guard defensively, you can be sure the 23-year old Kawhi will be asked to hound the veteran for long stretches. Paul has made a career out of incredibly efficient, turnover-less play, and the Spurs (until this season) never used to pine for picking up steals, but something’s gotta give when someone like Kawhi Leonard suits up. DeAndre Jordan vs. Gregg Popovich We know it’s going to happen. Gregg Popovich is not only going to demand that his cadre of bigs (Duncan, Splitter, sometimes-starter Aron Baynes, Boris Diaw) wrap up Jordan when he attempts to bring that 71 percent field goal “shooting” mark in to the postseason, but we might see the Spurs (who once again were a top ten team when it came to keeping the hacks at home) foul Jordan intentionally off the ball. Jordan only shot five free throws (making three) in three previous games against San Antonio prior to that 10-28 monstrosity in the teams’ first game after the All-Star break. DeAndre made just 39.7 percent of his freebies this season, and though Popovich admits he isn’t a fan of the strategy , you can’t blame the coach for going with what works. Time vs. Time Both of these teams have to win, now. Blake Griffin may be just 26 and Leonard won’t turn 24 until after the Finals, but these are both win-now crews that have to put something together in 2015. Chris Paul and Tony Parker aren’t going to fall apart any time soon, but the Clippers would be deadened after wasting what was just about a perfect season from CP3, and the Spurs have to strike while Parker (who turns 33 next month) is still potent. Los Angeles’ inability to add rotation help in the offseason (thanks to some win-now gobbling by Rivers as GM) and the looming potential for Tim Duncan’s retirement also come into play. And they’re playing in the first round . Bloody hell, this West. How the Clippers Could Win Chris Paul has to dominate every possession. We're not saying dominate the game, as he is more than capable of acting as the contest's most destructive force even in a 17-and-9 night, but he has to run the offense as he sees fit, because the Clippers run the fittest offense in the land. You can worry about Jordan's free throws or the Spurs slacking off of Matt Barnes or pick and roll overplays by the Clippers all you want, but Paul's brilliance is the key to their series. How the Spurs Could Win By digging in to force the team's lacking outside shooters to play to form, the Spurs could lure the Clippers' lights-out offense into letting far too many of its role players to use up possessions. Also on that end, though Kawhi Leonard won't be securing three wraparound steals per game against the crafty Paul, length has bothered CP3 in the past, and Leonard is ready to act as annoying as he can. Totally Subjective Entertainment Value Ranking: 10 out of 10. Even if Popovich spends far too much time fouling Jordan, even if the Clippers continue to curse and complain at the referees, it hardly matters. These are two championship-level teams that could (hopefully) provide us with two weeks’ worth of knockout basketball. Pity that it has to end for one of them in the first week of May. Prediction: Spurs in six. Other Ball Don’t Lie 2014-15 First Round Playoff Previews EASTERN CONFERENCE 1. Atlanta Hawks vs. 8. Brooklyn Nets, by Kelly Dwyer 2. Cleveland Cavaliers vs. 7. Boston Celtics, by Dan Devine 3. Chicago Bulls vs. 6. Milwaukee Bucks, by Eric Freeman 4. Toronto Raptors vs. 5. Washington Wizards, by Ben Rohrbach WESTERN CONFERENCE 1. Golden State Warriors vs. 8. New Orleans Pelicans, by Eric Freeman 2. Houston Rockets vs. 7. Dallas Mavericks, by Ben Rohrbach 3. Los Angeles Clippers vs. 6. San Antonio Spurs, by Kelly Dwyer 4. Portland Trail Blazers vs. 5. Memphis Grizzlies, by Dan Devine   - - - - - - - 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

BDL’s 2014-15 Playoff Previews: Houston Rockets vs. Dallas Mavericks (Ball Don't Lie)
(Thu, 16 Apr 2015 18:40:14 PDT)
How They Got Here • Houston : There’s no explanation for the Rockets’ No. 2 seed beyond James Harden. In a virtuoso offensive performance, his 647 made baskets and 565 assists produced precisely 40 percent of Houston’s successful field goals this season. Playing 36.8 minutes a night, he shot 37.5 percent on 555 3-point attempts (top-25 in history) and 86.8 percent on 824 free throw attempts (top-50 in history), leading the league in total points by more than 300, and he still managed to rank sixth in total assists. Harden even upgraded his defense from zero to meh, plucking the NBA’s third-most steals this season, and the end result of it all was a league-high 16.4 win shares .  And his statistics only tell half the story. The Rockets’ entire offense seemingly orbits Harden operating off the dribble — creating his own looks on the perimeter or splitting a double-team, carving his way to the basket and either getting to the rim or sending wild kick-back passes to as many as four awaiting 3-point shooters. Brilliant Houston general manager Daryl Morey has all but removed the statistically ineffective long 2-point shot from his team’s collective mindset, and nobody is more equipped to put his layup-or-spot-up theory into action than the bearded one. As the body count piled up around him, Harden charged onward, tossing the Rockets over his shoulder and carrying them through the prolonged absences of Dwight Howard and Terrence Jones as well as season-ending injuries to fellow starters Patrick Beverley and Donatas Motiejunas. Morey brought in reinforcements Corey Brewer, Josh Smith, Pablo Prigioni and K.J. McDaniels to help stop the bleeding, and somehow Harden emerged across enemy lines in 56 wins this winter. • Dallas : With just six wins separating the second seed from the seventh out West, the Mavericks are no less title-worthy than the Rockets, but the roads these Texas teams traveled to arrive at this playoff duel require two vastly different narratives. After dismantling the 2011 title team, Mark Cuban & Co. completed a massive overhaul around living legend Dirk Nowitzki by signing Monta Ellis in 2013-14, looting Chandler Parsons from Houston this past summer and trading for Rajon Rondo in December. As that dynamic playmaking troika trickled in, Tyson Chandler, Jose Barea and Devin Harris found their way back to Dallas; elder statesmen Richard Jefferson, Charlie Villanueva and Amar’e Stoudemire joined the fray; and coach Rick Carlisle found a 50-win formula for the first time since the championship season.

BDL's 2014-15 NBA Playoff Previews: Chicago Bulls vs. Milwaukee Bucks (Ball Don't Lie)
(Thu, 16 Apr 2015 17:31:59 PDT)


BDL’s 2014-15 Playoff Previews: Toronto Raptors vs. Washington Wizards (Ball Don't Lie)
(Thu, 16 Apr 2015 11:20:11 PDT)
How They Got Here • Toronto : The way the Raptors (49-33) sped out of the station fueled by the fiery Kyle Lowry, logging the Eastern Conference’s best record by Christmas, and then sputtered into their fourth-place destination, it was as if Casey Jones high on cocaine — and not a more sobering Dwane Casey — was driving Toronto’s train this season.  With the vast majority of a core that won 48 games together in 2013-14 back to wade through the East’s shallow pool, Toronto seemed poised to emerge matured from a disappointing early exit in their first playoff appearance of the post-Chris Bosh era. Not even a torn tendon in DeMar DeRozan’s left leg, which cost the 2014 All-Star guard a quarter of his season, could derail Lowry, who submitted the first All-Star campaign of his own career and kept the Raptors on track with a 22-7 start. In his third season, Jonas Valanciunas took another step toward establishing himself as one of the East’s emerging elite centers, averaging 16.5 points, 11.9 boards and 1.6 blocks per 36 minutes while shooting 57.2 percent from the field. Rounding out the frontcourt, Johnsons Amir and James, along with Terrence Ross on the wing, gave Casey a wealth of options to match the NBA’s evolving forward combinations. Meanwhile, the addition of Sixth Man of the Year contender Lou Williams to a roster already featuring stalwart reserves Patrick Patterson and Greivis Vasquez bolstered a bench that outscored opponents by a league-high 10.4 points per 100 possessions. Yet, whether by injury or inconsistency, Casey toyed with 15 different starting lineups, none of which solved his team’s defensive (104.8 points allowed per 100 possessions) and rebounding (73.3 defensive rebound percentage) deficiencies. As the offense slowed from scoring at a ridiculous rate through Dec. 25 (111.7 points per 100 possessions) to merely a top-10 level since (106.0), the Raptors split their final 50 games and came to a resting stop with one more win than last season. • Washington : The Wizards (46-36) and Raptors took remarkably similar roads to the series, right down to the All-Star bid by point guard John Wall, the injuries that sidelined scoring guard Bradley Beal for 19 games and the second-half swoon. With their running (Wall) and gunning (Beal) backcourt tandem already in place and Marcin Gortat signed to a long-term extension alongside fellow frontcourt bruiser Nene, the Wizards replaced Trevor Ariza with playoff proven Paul Pierce in hopes his veteran leadership on the wing could exorcise some demons and transform a 2014 Eastern Conference semifinalist into a legit 2015 title contender.  Through the season’s first two months, they lived up to those expectations, posting a 22-9 record by New Year’s Day and keeping pace with the East’s elite by deploying the same stellar defense and middling offense coach Randy Wittman has made his standard. 

BDL's 2014-15 NBA Playoff Previews: Atlanta Hawks vs. Brooklyn Nets (Ball Don't Lie)
(Thu, 16 Apr 2015 10:02:40 PDT)
How They Got Here • Atlanta : Well, in 2012, the Atlanta Hawks traded Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets for … If you think that’s a bit of snark, you’re right, but Atlanta’s startling turnaround began then. It needed a season in purgatory under Larry Drew in 2012-13 to expire a few contracts and a meet-and-greet session with then-rookie coach Mike Budenholzer in 2013-14 to iron out the kinks. Then the franchise had to withstand the ( ongoing ) controversy regarding current general manager Danny Ferry’s pointless relaying of insensitive comments about potential Hawk Luol Deng over the 2014 offseason. Deng didn’t sign with Atlanta, and Ferry is on paid leave, and the lack of major additions left most considering the Hawks to be just another solid-enough team in the so-so East entering 2014-15. Budenholzer was respected enough, the return of Al Horford from a separated shoulder was to be acknowledged, and the team’s 2014 playoff showing was certainly impressive, but this squad screamed (well, muttered, probably) “mid-tier.” A 7-6 start to the season seemed to confirm as much. [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball ] Then the team started winning – a nine, then five, then 19-game winning streak dotted the winter months, as the Hawks raced out to a 40-8 record. Suddenly, what was thought to be an anonymous midseason League Pass game against the Golden State Warriors on a Friday night turned out to be a Finals preview of (literal) historic proportions . All five Hawks won the Eastern Conference Player of the Month award in February , Paul Millsap, Al Horford, Kyle Korver ( who seemingly could not miss this year ) and Jeff Teague made the All-Star team, and despite a somewhat-worrying 20-14 end to the season, the Hawks have earned the East’s top seed. • Brooklyn : Brooklyn barely earned anything this year . The team entered the season with Lionel Hollins as its fourth coach in three years running the show after Jason Kidd’s attempt at a front office coup fell short at Waterloo. It boasted a payroll that spun past $100 million in player salaries once luxury taxes were considered; it paid three different players eight figures this year and neither of them sniffed an All-Star berth. Teams wouldn’t even sniff at the Nets’ “stars” at the trade deadline, due to their onerous salaries and lacking production, save for one. In a February surprise, Kevin Garnett was dealt back to Minnesota on the trade deadline for scoring forward Thaddeus Young, who provided solid play for the Nets down the stretch of the season. One of those well-heeled semi-stars, Nets center Brook Lopez, did eventually start to produce at a rate commensurate with his pay — he earned two Eastern Conference Player of the Week awards late in the season and was the strongest force behind a six-game winning streak that put Brooklyn back in the playoff picture. Of course, Brooklyn lost four of six following that (losing two consecutive games by a total of 50 points, with their playoff lives on the line) before squeezing into the playoffs with a win over the Orlando Magic on Wednesday. That win cemented the unseemly — a 38-44 team that at one point was 10 games under .500 (playing mostly in the East , no less) will make the postseason while a 45-win Oklahoma City Thunder team and an honest-to-goodness batch of basketball saints from Indiana will sit out. The playoff appearance will also deny the Hawks a chance at a lottery pick this season, because Atlanta still has the right to swap its 29th pick for Brooklyn’s 15th pick as a result of that Joe Johnson trade that seems ever so long ago. Head-to-Head The Hawks didn’t need the incentive of that looming potential lottery pick to sweep Brooklyn 4-0 in the season series this year. Atlanta is just that good, and the Nets are so completely “meh.” Atlanta won by an average of 17.2 points per game in those contests, with  the most embarrassing one for Brooklyn coming in a 32-point shellacking on April 4. Hawks small forward DeMarre Carroll will make nearly $21 million less to play basketball this season than Johnson, and he limited the Nets swingman to four points on 1-for-5 shooting, while adding 20 points of his own. The Nets rebounded to make a game of it a few days later in losing 114-111 on their ineffective home floor on April 8, but that contest came just 24 hours after the Hawks had won at home against Phoenix, and a good 15 hours after Thabo Sefolosha and Pero Antic were arrested following an altercation with ( or encouraged by , we’ll hopefully find out soon enough) police. Joe had better luck in the team’s second-closest pairing, a 113-102 Hawks win on Jan. 28. However, he was once again a 12-point afterthought on Dec. 5 as the Nets lost by 23 . In the April 4 loss, Lopez had his worst game in weeks, turning in just 11 points, but he made up for it quite nicely with a 26 and 10 outing on April 8. The Nets still lost, of course. Likely Starting Lineups Not since the 2005-06 Detroit Pistons have the "Play the Right Way" punters been as excited over a five-man lineup as they are with Atlanta. It’s a devastating crew on paper and to watch, as the Horford-Millsap-Carroll-Korver-Teague unit shares the ball effectively offensively and covers well on the other end. The team’s depth is to be admired even in the wake of Sefolosha’s season-ending injury, but by and large this is the crew for Bu(denholzer). The Hawks finished the season sixth in defensive efficiency, and though the team does have some issues guarding the interior, they remain a sneaky-good defensive team when it comes to closing out and especially limiting options after penetration. The Hawks will make you jump in the air to pass, and they'll contest your looks beyond the arc; opponents made just 34.1 percent of their 3-pointers against ATL this season, the seventh-lowest mark in the league. As a result of all that coverage, the team can be taken advantage of on the offensive glass. This group is also the biggest reason Atlanta finished sixth in offensive efficiency as well, and second overall in 3-point percentage. As stated above, Young has played his typically efficient, error-free (on the offensive end, at least) ball for Brooklyn since coming over in a trade, and he’ll be joined by Lopez, Deron Williams, Johnson, and Markel Brown in the starting lineup. Brown’s performance will be a brief one, as he gives way to Bojan Bogdanovic just a few minutes into each half. Bogdanovic scored a needed 28 points off the bench in Brooklyn’s playoff-clinching win over Orlando. The Nets aren’t even mediocre. They rank 20th in offense and 23rd in defense, according to Basketball-Reference.com . The team runs a slow pace and doesn’t do anything exceedingly well outside of taking and making 2-pointers. Brooklyn is, however, fantastic at free-throw defense — teams shot just 73 percent against them on the season, the second-worst mark in the NBA. Matchups to Watch • Brook Lopez vs. Atlanta's Forwards/Centers:  Lopez isn’t quite a classic low post scorer, but he doesn’t rank amongst the NBA’s new breed of lengthy frontcourt shooters either. At 7 feet tall, he’ll be able to see over Messrs. Horford, Millsap, and Elton Brand, but that doesn’t mean he can work his way past them. Lopez might have even more trouble (especially defensively) against reserve big Antic, who was out of the game that saw Lopez drop 26 points on April 8 due to his arrest. • Dennis Schroeder vs. the Nets’ Bench:  This kid is fast, he’s got touch, and his confidence is growing by the game. Schroeder, the Hawks’ second-year reserve guard, could find a way to run circles around Jarrett Jack, or the oft-listless Williams should the former All-Star stay on the court during the second quarter. The 21-year-old managed to average double-figure scoring in just 19.7 minutes a game this year, and he’s often the best part of those 12-2 runs that have put Hawk opponents away all season. • Korver vs. Your Sanity:  Watching NBA teams attempt to locate Korver either in a half-court or (especially) transition set was often times hilarious this season. Defenders would go batty attempting to locate Korver (who hit a ridiculous and league-leading 49.2 percent of his 3-pointers this season) as he ducked behind the line, even if the emphasis of the play wasn’t to find Kyle open for a 3-pointer. Of course, these are the mindful teams that would be going nuts, and the Nets are hardly what you’d call a focused crew. How Atlanta Can Win By utilizing that typical mix of ball movement. Atlanta thinks on its feet and sways even the best defenses where they want them to shift while it whips the ball around or turns corners. If the participants stay ready, Atlanta should see scads of open shots. How Brooklyn Can Win All the percentages roll back to zero as the playoffs hit, and it is more than possible that Atlanta could endure a fortnight’s worth of bad shooting. If Lopez stays on the court for major minutes, he could tilt the tide. With a 22-game disparity in wins, though, that seems like a long shot. Totally Subjective Entertainment Value Ranking: 4 out of 10. If you’re just tuning in now, don’t. Actually, that’s not fair. Atlanta is a joy to watch on both ends for various reasons, and it’s to their credit that they will be able to create an entertaining series even while matched up against perhaps the NBA’s least-loved team. Prediction: Atlanta in 4. Other Ball Don’t Lie 2014-15 First Round Playoff Previews EASTERN CONFERENCE 1. Atlanta Hawks vs. 8. Brooklyn Nets, by Kelly Dwyer 2. Cleveland Cavaliers vs. 7. Boston Celtics, by Dan Devine 3. Chicago Bulls vs. 6. Milwaukee Bucks, by Eric Freeman 4. Toronto Raptors vs. 5. Washington Wizards, by Ben Rohrbach WESTERN CONFERENCE 1. Golden State Warriors vs. 8. New Orleans Pelicans, by Eric Freeman 2. Houston Rockets vs. 7. Dallas Mavericks, by Ben Rohrbach 3. Los Angeles Clippers vs. 6. San Antonio Spurs, by Kelly Dwyer 4. Portland Trail Blazers vs. 5. Memphis Grizzlies, by Dan Devine   - - - - - - - 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

BDL's 2014-15 NBA Playoff Previews: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Boston Celtics (Ball Don't Lie)
(Thu, 16 Apr 2015 07:55:00 PDT)


BDL's 2014-15 NBA Playoff Previews: Golden State Warriors vs. New Orleans Pelicans (Ball Don't Lie)
(Thu, 16 Apr 2015 02:31:32 PDT)
How They Got Here • Golden State : Pegged as a mid-level playoff team and dark-horse contender entering the season, the Warriors merely had the best regular season in franchise history and arguably one of the best for any team ever. Their 67 wins are tied for the sixth-most all-time, while their average point differential of plus-10.1 beat the next closest team by 3.5 points per game. Only seven other teams have ever topped plus-10 over a full season, and only one of those didn't win the title. The postseason operates differently than the regular season, but they're not so far away as to keep the Warriors from entering the playoffs as favorites to win the whole thing. It doesn't hurt that they have homecourt advantage throughout and lost just two games at Oracle Arena all season. Virtually everything went right for Golden State to get to this point, but let's start with the man in charge. Steve Kerr replaced Mark Jackson as head coach last summer, built on the positives from two consecutive playoff appearances, and ramped up pretty much everything else to create a team with no glaring weaknesses. Stephen Curry earned the MVP award he's likely to accept in a few weeks, Klay Thompson went from a very good young player the team wouldn't trade for Kevin Love to a bona fide All-Star, Draymond Green turned into a defensive dynamo who could get the max as a restricted free agent this summer, Harrison Barnes remembered how to be effective, and Andrew Bogut stayed healthy enough to play 67 games. Kerr managed every ego properly, made halftime adjustments with his staff that belie his lack of experience, and even got David Lee, the highest-paid player on the team and a 2013 All-Star, to accept a non-rotation role without causing a stink. The biggest knock against Kerr is that he pushed his key players relatively hard after the Warriors had clinched the conference's top seed, but that's mostly a matter of opinion or approach at this point. Golden State finished with the best defensive efficiency in the league, 0.1 points per 100 possessions off the Los Angeles Clippers' lead for tops in offensive efficiency, and first in a whole bunch of traditional categories, as well. Kerr has never coached a playoff series and zero players on the roster have appeared in the NBA Finals, but this is a team to be feared. They crushed good opponents with regularity and had fun doing it. • New Orleans : The Pelicans entered this season with hopes of a playoff berth but no clear way to get it. Luckily for them, the Oklahoma City Thunder's terrible run of injury luck gave them the opportunity they previously lacked. New Orleans stayed at a steady level of consistency most of the season — their longest win streak was just five games — and took advantage of one of the most improbable buzzer-beaters of the season to win a tiebreaker with the Thunder after Wednesday's results and make the playoffs for the first time since 2011, back when they were still the Hornets. According to Yahoo's own Adrian Wojnarowksi, finishing eighth saved the jobs of head coach Monty Williams and general manager Dell Demps: Ownership gave GM Dell Demps and Monty Williams preseason mandate to make playoffs to keep jobs, w/ no allowance for injuries. They made it. — Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) April 16, 2015 Yet this was not merely a case of a team catching all the breaks. The Pelicans still had to seize their opportunity, and they did just that by beating the red-hot and motivated San Antonio Spurs in the season finale. They also withstood their own difficulties during the season, losing starting point guard Jrue Holiday (40 games played), sharpshooting reserve Ryan Anderson (61 games) and shooting guard Eric Gordon (61 games) for long stretches. Tyreke Evans stepped into Holiday's starting point guard role and thrived, but the rest of those absences required a team effort. Well, that's it for New Orleans — oh, right, there's also Anthony Davis, soon to be named to the All-NBA First Team. Davis, who turned just 22 in March, made the leap from star to superstar this season, and it wouldn't be terribly shocking to see him overtake LeBron James and Kevin Durant as the best player in the world some time in the next couple years. His 30.89 Player Efficiency Rating led the league, and ranks as the 11th-best mark ever , with only Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain and LeBron James posting higher single-season numbers. He led the league in blocks for the second year in a row while raising his scoring average considerably, and served as the squad's do-everything hero on most nights. Part of the joy of this series will simply involve watching Davis in the playoffs for the first time, because most everyone figures he's going to be a regular participant for a while.

NBA-Highlights of Wednesday's National Basketball Association games
(Wed, 15 Apr 2015 22:47:11 PDT)
(Adds late games) April 16 (The Sports Xchange) - Highlights of Wednesday's National Basketball Association games: - - Pelicans 108, Spurs 103 Forward Anthony Davis scored 31 points and grabbed 13 rebounds as the New Orleans Pelicans beat the San Antonio Spurs 108-103 and booked the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. By winning eight of their final 11 games, the Pelicans raised their season record to 45-37 and earned a place in the post-season for the first time since 2011. ...

Nets nab East's No. 8 spot, but were Pacers the greater success? (Ball Don't Lie)
(Wed, 15 Apr 2015 22:23:05 PDT)


NBA-Schedule of games for first round of NBA playoffs
(Wed, 15 Apr 2015 22:11:54 PDT)
April 15 (Reuters) - Following is the schedule for the first round, best-of-seven series in the National Basketball Association playoffs (prefix number denotes seeding, *-if needed): EASTERN CONFERENCE 1-Atlanta Hawks v 8-Brooklyn Nets Game 1 - April 19 at Atlanta Game 2 - April 22 at Atlanta Game 3 - April 25 at Brooklyn Game 4 - April 27 at Brooklyn Game 5* - April 29 at Atlanta Game 6* - May 1 at Brooklyn Game 7* - May 3 at Atlanta - - 2-Cleveland Cavaliers v 7-Boston Celtics Game 1 - April 19 at Cleveland Game 2 - April 21 at Cleveland Game 3 - April 23 at Boston Game 4 - April 26 at ...

Nets clinch playoff spot after win, Pacers loss (The Associated Press)
(Wed, 15 Apr 2015 21:41:48 PDT)
Joe Johnson thought about so many missed chances by the Nets this season, unsure whether he would play another game this season. Brooklyn clinched the final Eastern Conference playoff spot, beating the Orlando Magic 101-88 on Wednesday night before the Memphis Grizzlies knocked off Indiana. The Nets and Pacers tied at 38-44, and Brooklyn earned the No. 8 seed after winning the season series. The Nets will visit top-seeded Atlanta on Sunday for their playoff opener.

New Orleans, Brooklyn clinch last two playoff spots
(Wed, 15 Apr 2015 21:20:20 PDT)
(Reuters) - The New Orleans Pelicans and Brookyln Nets clinched playoff spots on the final night of the NBA regular season on Wednesday. The Pelicans nabbed the eighth seed in the powerful Western Conference, edging Oklahoma City as both teams finished with identical 45-37 records. In the East, the Nets clinched the eighth and final spot, tipping out the Indiana Pacers. Oklahoma City won their season finale over the Minnesota Timberwolves, but it counted for nothing as New Orleans beat the San Antonio Spurs.

NBA-New Orleans, Brooklyn clinch last two playoff spots
(Wed, 15 Apr 2015 21:16:00 PDT)
The New Orleans Pelicans and Brookyln Nets clinched playoff spots on the final night of the NBA regular season on Wednesday. The Pelicans nabbed the eighth seed in the powerful Western Conference, edging Oklahoma City as both teams finished with identical 45-37 records. In the East, the Nets clinched the eighth and final spot, tipping out the Indiana Pacers. Oklahoma City won their season finale over the Minnesota Timberwolves, but it counted for nothing as New Orleans beat the San Antonio Spurs.

Brooks leads rally, Bulls beat Hawks 91-85 (The Associated Press)
(Wed, 15 Apr 2015 21:04:40 PDT)
The Chicago Bulls looked as if they were on their way to a lopsided loss. Aaron Brooks had other ideas. Brooks scored 23 points and the Bulls rallied from 18 down to beat the Atlanta Hawks 91-85 on Wednesday night in the regular-season finale. The Hawks, who won a franchise-record 60 games and earned the top seed, matched a season high with their third straight loss.

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