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Kevin Durant's out for the season, needs 3rd surgery in 6 months on right foot (Ball Don't Lie)
(Fri, 27 Mar 2015 12:27:20 PDT)
Kevin Durant's 2014-15 season is officially over. [DraftKings: FREE entry to huge cash Fantasy Basketball Contest with first deposit ] The Oklahoma City Thunder announced Friday afternoon that Durant, the league's reigning Most Valuable Player, will be shut down for the remainder of the season so that he can have another surgical procedure on his injured right foot, his third such surgery in the span of six months. He is expected to resume basketball activities in four to six months, according to Thunder general manager Sam Presti. [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball ] Presti had announced last Friday that Durant would be "removed from basketball activities" following a setback in practice. Over the last week, which had been earmarked for "consultation and evaluation regarding the persistent soreness in his right foot," Durant and team personnel visited with a pair of specialists, according to a team statement issued Friday. "These in-person consults were designed to further supplement the previous evaluations of Dr. Bob Anderson," Presti wrote in the team statement. "Several conference calls and discussions amongst the specialist team concluded that, while the majority of the soreness in Kevin's foot was related to the continued inflammation of the cuboid bone and would subside with rest, the evaluation process also determined that the Jones fracture of the fifth metatarsal, which had shown significant healing previously, was now demonstrating signs of regression. "With the focus of this process being aimed entirely on Kevin's long term health and stability, it was the consensus of the specialists team, in addition to a collective decision by Kevin, his representation and the Thunder, that to address the setback of the fracture site, a bone graft procedure would be the most proactive and recommended approach," Presti added. Such grafts are apparently standard procedure for the "5 to 8 percent" of Jones fracture surgeries that don't result in initial success. Durant will have the surgery early next week in New York; he won't be back on the court until late summer, at the earliest. Durant, 26, was limited to just 27 games after suffering a Jones fracture to his right foot just before the start of the 2014-15 NBA season. (He had missed only 16 regular-season games total during his first seven professional seasons.) He returned to the Thunder lineup in early December, making nine appearances before landing back on the shelf for last two weeks of the month with a sprained right ankle . After coming back on New Year's Eve with a 44-point, 10-rebound, seven-assist explosion against the Phoenix Suns, Durant largely looked the fire of old. He averaged 27.8 points in 36.6 minutes per game on his signature stellar shooting splits (51.1 percent from the field, 40.5 percent from 3-point land, 84.3 percent from the foul line) through the All-Star break , joining with Westbrook to help lead OKC to a 13-8 finish to the first half that got the Thunder back in the hunt for a playoff berth after an injury-plagued 3-12 start. The issues with Durant's surgically repaired foot never fully subsided, though. He played just 10 minutes in the 2015 NBA All-Star Game and suited up for only one post-All-Star-break contest — a Feb. 19 win over the Dallas Mavericks — before exiting with just over three minutes left in the fourth quarter . Three days later, Durant underwent another procedure on the foot , this time to replace a screw in the foot that had been causing the persistent discomfort. Durant spent the ensuing weeks continuing to rehab and work his way back to health in the hope of returning to the lineup to aid the Thunder's push for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. New concerns arose last Thursday, though, as Durant sat out Thunder practice "with another bout of soreness in his surgically repaired right foot." A day after that latest setback, Presti ruled Durant out indefinitely, saying, "He's not making the progress we had hoped." The end of Durant's season comes as Oklahoma City continues to play without power forward and chief interior defender Serge Ibaka, who underwent surgery to "alleviate the soreness and swelling he had been experiencing" in his right knee; starting shooting guard Andre Roberson, who's sidelined for two to three weeks with a sprained right ankle ; and veteran reserve Nick Collison, who's out with a sprained left ankle . The Thunder's chances of securing that eighth and final playoff spot — they enter Friday's action at 41-31, three games ahead of the ninth-place Phoenix Suns, with 10 games remaining — and springing an all-time upset of whichever top-flight squad they face (likely the Golden State Warriors, perhaps the Memphis Grizzlies or Houston Rockets) now fall squarely on the shoulders of Russell Westbrook. The All-Star guard has been sensational in carrying the Oklahoma City offense over the course of the last couple of months; he will need to be even more so to keep the Thunder from missing the playoffs for the first time since 2009, and to avoid Oklahoma City's first opening-round knockout since 2010. The cold, hard reality that Durant will not be coming back this season also confirms what many noted upon the injury to Ibaka and Durant's initial shutdown — that the much-discussed "scariest No. 8 seed ever" won't actually exist. For the third straight year, a Thunder team that entered the season expecting to return to the NBA Finals has seen its championship hopes squashed by a brutal, unconquerable injury to one of its three most important players. As a result, as Grantland's Zach Lowe wrote last week, Oklahoma City "has likely lost its last chance to chase a ring with Durant before he becomes the most talked-about expiring contract since LeBron James in 2009-10." The Thunder will put on a brave face. They will say they are confident, that they look forward to the opportunity — how’s that for reframing? — to show Durant that they’re the team for him. But don’t let the false bravado fool you. They know Durant leaving is in play. They know the cap landscape. They were the loudest non-Philly voice against lottery reform, whipping up a frenzy of small-market panic. They traded future first-round picks for Dion Waiters and Enes Kanter in separate deals, and though those players are young and the picks protected, those are the sort of win-now moves the Thunder hadn’t engaged in until this season. They are the mark of a team that knows time is precious — that failure today carries a scary downside that is no longer so far in the distance. [...] The Thunder are right to be confident of their place in pole position of the Durant sweepstakes, even with Durant’s hometown Wizards hoarding cap space. But Durant is now effectively an expiring contract, and impending free agency at that late stage can take unpredictable turns. You just never know. This season was Oklahoma City’s last grasp at certainty, and it’s gone now. Such concerns, however, pale in comparison to the daunting long-term specter of Durant — one of the most dynamic, magnetic, compelling and unstoppable offensive forces in NBA history, a player who fully came into his own across the board last season, only to see it all fall apart before getting a chance to run it all back — having the remaining years of his prime curtailed by the sort of consistent foot issues that have scuttled the careers of so many other talented big men in the past. For the time being, we'll have to take whatever solace we can find in the news that the bone-graft approach provides the best chance of safe healing , and hope that Durant's evident status as one of those 5 percent to 8 percent of people unlucky enough not to get the hoped-for result from the initial procedure doesn't bode ill for the third time around. - - - - - - - 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.

Timberwolves-Rockets Preview (The Associated Press)
(Fri, 27 Mar 2015 07:59:26 PDT)
The Houston Rockets are on the verge of securing a playoff spot, and they've got their long-absent star big man back to complement MVP candidate James Harden. The team focus, however, might be on Harden now getting used to playing without his backcourt mate as Patrick Beverley ponders potential season-ending wrist surgery. The Rockets will play a second straight game without Beverley on Friday night, but it comes against a visiting Minnesota Timberwolves team dealing with an entire roster's worth of ailments. Houston (48-23) rallied for a 95-93 win in New Orleans on Wednesday and can clinch a playoff spot Friday with a victory.

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)

Kings-Pelicans Preview (The Associated Press)
(Thu, 26 Mar 2015 21:40:18 PDT)
The New Orleans Pelicans can still make a charge for the Western Conference's final playoff spot, but they've done themselves no favors with a costly losing streak. The visiting Sacramento Kings have trended in exactly the opposite direction, and could continue the Pelicans' slide by matching a season-best winning streak at five Friday night. New Orleans (37-34) has lost four straight and sits 3 1/2 games back of eighth seed Oklahoma City with 11 to play. Anthony Davis returned after missing the first two games of the Pelicans' losing streak, but has been unable to turn the tide despite solid production.

James Harden's focus vaults him into NBA MVP conversation (The Associated Press)
(Thu, 26 Mar 2015 13:01:18 PDT)
This time, away from the glare of television cameras in a quiet hallway of the arena where he has carried the Rockets to a 48-23 record, Harden leaned against the wall and finally agreed that he is different this time around. ''Knowing how to get shots, knowing how to get my teammates shots, and once I feel comfortable I can worry about doing other things.'' This comfort level in his third season with the Rockets since a trade from Oklahoma City has helped him improve in just about every way. Most important to Harden: He has helped keep the Rockets among the top teams in the Western Conference in a year where Dwight Howard his missed 37 games. This season, he is 10th in the NBA with 3.7 defensive win shares, which estimate the wins a player brings a team with his defense, up from 2.7 last season.

'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.

Rockets edge Pelicans in Howard's return
(Wed, 25 Mar 2015 22:47:54 PDT)
The Houston Rockets capped a good-news, bad-news kind of day with a 95-93 NBA victory over the New Orleans Pelicans. The Rockets welcomed Dwight Howard back from a two-month absence with swelling in his right knee. "I felt pretty good," Howard said. Just as they welcomed back Howard, however, Rockets coach Kevin McHale said Wednesday that Patrick Beverley's wrist injury will sideline him for up to 10 days before he is re-evaluated.

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. ...

Clarkson shines in OT to lead Lakers over Wolves, 101-99 (The Associated Press)
(Wed, 25 Mar 2015 21:24:59 PDT)
Jordan Clarkson took a step back before helping the Los Angeles Lakers take one forward. Jeremy Lin added 19 points for the Lakers (19-51), who snapped a five-game road losing streak and won for the second time in three games. Clarkson has been a surprise for a Lakers team playing without injured superstar Kobe Bryant, starting 27 games and averaging 10.2 points per game. He connected on all six of his free throws in overtime and added a driving layup with 34.5 seconds left to put the Lakers ahead 99-97.

Rockets outlast Pelicans in Dwight Howard's slight return to action (Ball Don't Lie)
(Wed, 25 Mar 2015 21:15:00 PDT)

Irving scores 24 to lead Cavaliers past Grizzlies 111-89 (The Associated Press)
(Wed, 25 Mar 2015 21:05:00 PDT)
The Cleveland Cavaliers' recent dominance carried over to a trouncing of one of the best teams in the Western Conference. The Cavaliers built a 29-point lead in the third quarter, maintained the cushion through the fourth and defeated Memphis 111-89 on Wednesday night, handing the Grizzlies their biggest home loss of the season. Kyrie Irving scored 24 points, Kevin Love added 22 points and 10 rebounds for Cleveland, which won its fourth straight and eighth in the last nine. Since Jan. 15, Cleveland is 28-6 and holds the Eastern Conference's second seed by a three-game cushion over Chicago.

NBA Playoff Picture Update: Bulls run roughshod over Raptors, take control of East's 3 spot (Ball Don't Lie)
(Wed, 25 Mar 2015 20:59:55 PDT)
With just a few weeks remaining until the NBA postseason, every night can impact the standings. The NBA Playoff Picture Update keeps you up to date on all the most important news for all 16 berths and seeds. [DraftKings: FREE entry to huge cash Fantasy Basketball Contest with first deposit ] Pamplona status: The Toronto Raptors held an 11-point lead midway through the third quarter but spit the bit down the stretch, getting absolutely overwhelmed in the fourth by a Chicago Bulls club led by a somewhat unlikely lineup. As of Tuesday, the five-man unit of Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic, Jimmy Butler, Tony Snell and Aaron Brooks had shared the court for all of nine minutes this season, outscoring opponents by a total of two points. That group closed out the Raptors on Wednesday, topping Toronto by a whopping 13 points over the final five minutes and change , finishing off a fourth quarter in which the Bulls got whatever they wanted against the Raptors' hapless defense. The Raptors gave up 39 fourth-quarter points to the Bulls and managed just three stops in the game's final 8:30. — Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) March 26, 2015 The stiffest resistance any Bull faced in the fourth was this bit of final-minute friendly fire, as Taj Gibson took a swipe at pal Joakim Noah: With Snell and Brooks bombing away from deep, Butler and Gasol getting to the line, Mirotic doing a little bit of everything (including checking DeMar DeRozan on the perimeter ), Chicago just stampeded past the Raptors late, finishing off a 116-103 win that moved Tom Thibodeau's third-seeded Bulls 1 1/2 games ahead of No. 4 Toronto in the standings. Moreover, it capped a 4-0 season sweep of the Raptors for the Bulls, ensuring that Chicago would have the head-to-head tiebreaker should the two teams finish the regular season with the same record. How bad did it get for Toronto? The most creative bit of offense the Raptors mustered up in the fourth quarter might well have been this DeRozan pass with about 90 seconds remaining ... which he sent sailing out of bounds, directly to Noah: Noah's post-game breakdown of the play was, as you'd expect, just about perfect: Joakim Noah on DeMar DeRozan passing him the ball pic.twitter.com/61mVpXzOHt — James Herbert (@outsidethenba) March 26, 2015 Go Bulls, indeed. Butler (23 points on 7-for-8 shooting from the field, 7-for-9 from the foul line) led eight Bulls to score at least seven points, as Chicago shot a scorching 60.8 percent from the floor to win their fourth game in five tries and improve to 44-29. Greivis Vasquez scored a Raptors-high 22 points starting in place of injured All-Star Kyle Lowry, but Toronto shot just 33 percent in the fourth quarter and couldn't get a stop when it counted, posting their third loss in the last four games to fall to 42-30. There was a bit of good news for Toronto on Wednesday, though. Thanks to the Boston Celtics' loss to the Miami Heat, which we'll get to in a second, the Raptors clinched their second straight playoff berth. We're sure Dwane Casey's thrilled. Shuffle up and, y'know, deal with it: OK, so this might not be the most thrilling "playoff race" in league history: #EndConferences RT @8pts9secs East playoff "chase" pic.twitter.com/26kuOjhohV — Akis Yerocostas (@Aykis16) March 26, 2015 ... but there was some moving and shaking in the lower reaches of the Eastern Conference bracket on Wednesday. to wit: • The Indiana Pacers beat the Washington Wizards on a buzzer-beating layup by point guard George Hill, helping keep Indy's playoff hopes alive while dropping the fifth-seeded Wiz (who might have been able to use Lionel Messi's friend on that last defensive possession) to 40-32, two games behind the Raptors; • The Brooklyn Nets eked out a 91-88 win over the Charlotte Hornets thanks in part to a monster night from center Brook Lopez (34 points on 16-for-26 shooting, 10 rebounds, three blocks, two steals in 39 minutes) and also, to some degree, thanks to the Hornets' inability to inbound the basketball in a critical situation: • The Miami Heat beat the Boston Celtics despite playing without Dwyane Wade (left knee contusion), Hassan Whiteside (lacerated right hand) and Chris Andersen (left calf contusion) on the second night of a road back-to-back, because no matter who they didn't have, they did have Goran Dragic (22 points, seven assists, five rebounds) and the determination to play hard from the opening tip, which the Celtics didn't. So, where does all that leave us? The Heat, now 33-38, stay put in seventh place. They're now two games behind the sixth-seeded Milwaukee Bucks, who knocked Miami off Tuesday on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Khris Middleton. The Pacers' win, combined with the Celtics' loss, creates a virtual tie for the final spot in the playoffs, with both Indiana and Boston holding 31-40 records. 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, in which the Pacers currently have a two-game lead. Brooklyn and Charlotte both now sit at 30-40, a half-game back of the Celtics-Pacers tandem. The Nets, however, have the edge on the Hornets, by virtue of a 2-1 win in their head-to-head season series. [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr:   The best slams from all of basketball] Bears down, liftoff nearing? The Cleveland Cavaliers laid what noted karaoke matchmaker Tony Allen called "an old fashioned beat down" on the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday. The 111-89 whipping saw the Cavs outscore the grit-deficient and grindless Grizz 69-47 in the second and third quarters behind ping-ponging ball movement (30 assists on 43 made field goals) and a hail of long balls (14-for-34 from beyond the arc). Cleveland's offense was clicking so well that even two guys who clearly hate each other with the fury of 1,000 white-hot burning suns were able to link up on a lob: Meanwhile, in the Big Easy, big nights from James Harden (25 points, 10 assists, six rebounds), Trevor Ariza (22 points, nine boards, five assists, three steals) and Donatas Motiejunas (21 points, eight caroms, two steals) helped make Dwight Howard's long-awaited return to the lineup a happy one, as the Houston Rockets topped the New Orleans Pelicans, 95-93 . That narrows the gap between the Grizzlies (50-22) and Rockets (48-23) to just 1 1/2 games, making the races for both the Southwest Division title and the No. 2 spot behind the conference-leading Golden State Warriors even tighter. Losing games, holding ground: The race for the final playoff berth in the West continues to look like the Oklahoma City Thunder's to lose, but they sent a message that they can be caught by falling to the sixth-place San Antonio Spurs by a not-very-close-at-all 130-91 score . The good news for OKC is that their next-closest competitors also lost — the Pelicans dropped that aforementioned home game to the Rockets and the Phoenix Suns lost 108-99 to the tank-averse Sacramento Kings, who had seven players score in double figures. The 41-31 Thunder are still three games up on the Suns but four games off the pace of the seventh-place Dallas Mavericks, which suggests that they're going to face the NBA-best Golden State Warriors in the first round. Such things happen when you allow the Spurs to shoot 58 percent from the field. Quickly: The Portland Trail Blazers held off the Utah Jazz, snapping their five-game losing streak and improving to 45-25, 2 1/2 games behind the third-seeded Rockets. If the playoffs started today, though, the Blazers still wouldn't have home-court advantage in Round 1, as they'd face a Los Angeles Clippers team that still boasts a superior record, 47-25, after dismantling the New York Knicks with vicious highlight dunks . Thursday's Most Important Only Game Only one game on the Thursday slate, as the NBA steps aside for the Sweet 16 to tip off, so let's get to it: Pacers at Bucks , 8 p.m. ET: The 35-36 Bucks can get back to .500 and open up a 2 1/2-game lead on the Miami Heat in the race to avoid the Cavs and Hawks in the first round, but the key stakes of this game belong to the Pacers. A win would end their virtual tie with the Celtics and move them a half-game ahead in the race for the No. 8 seed, a slight but meaningful advantage ahead of their potentially tiebreak-deciding matchup next Wednesday in Boston.

Howard returns, Rockets beat Pelicans 95-93 (The Associated Press)
(Wed, 25 Mar 2015 20:15:29 PDT)
James Harden had 25 points and 10 assists, Dwight Howard had seven rebounds and a block on Anthony Davis in his return from a two-month absence, and the Houston Rockets handed New Orleans its fourth straight loss with a 95-93 victory on Wednesday night. Davis had 24 points and 14 rebounds for the Pelicans, but uncharacteristically missed eight free throws, including one that could have pulled New Orleans to 94-93 with 7 seconds left. The Pelicans still had a chance to try for a tying 3-pointer after Harden missed a free throw with 3.3 seconds left, but Corey Brewer intentionally fouled Eric Gordon on the inbounds pass to force free throws.

Rockets' Howard returns vs. Pelicans (The Associated Press)
(Wed, 25 Mar 2015 17:20:42 PDT)
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Houston's Dwight Howard has returned from a 26-game absence, starting Wednesday night against the New Orleans Pelicans.

NBA-National Basketball Association roundup
(Wed, 25 Mar 2015 16:49:44 PDT)
Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose said he feels pain-free in his surgically repaired knee and remains optimistic for a return before the regular season ends. "Whenever I'm ready to come back, that's when I'm going to come back." - - The Houston Rockets hope starting point guard Patrick Beverley can avoid season-ending wrist surgery and are seeking medical advice on their options. Beverley suffered torn ligaments in the wrist Monday night in a victory over the Indiana Pacers. He saw a doctor in Houston on Wednesday and will get a second opinion before deciding on a course of action, coach Kevin McHale said during a shootaround in New Orleans before a game against the Pelicans.

Matchups by the Numbers (Rotoworld)
(Wed, 25 Mar 2015 13:57:00 PDT)
Ryan Knaus analyzes the most and least favorable matchups among all 30 teams since the All-Star break. Avoid the Jazz whenever possible.

Sources: Houston's Patrick Beverley has torn ligament in wrist, will be re-evaluated in 7-10 days (Yahoo Sports)
(Wed, 25 Mar 2015 12:51:43 PDT)
Houston's starting guard will be evaluated in seven to 10 days to determine if season-ending surgery could be necessary.

Dwight Howard is set to return to the Rockets, but he won't solve all Houston's woes (Ball Don't Lie)
(Wed, 25 Mar 2015 12:39:50 PDT)
The Houston Rockets, as it is with just about every single NBA team of record, are full of comings and goings. Thanks a lot, injuries. [DraftKings: FREE entry to huge cash Fantasy Basketball Contest with first deposit ] The team confirmed on Wednesday morning that star center Dwight Howard would indeed be returning on Wednesday night, as the Rockets gear up for their playoff push: McHale confirms: Dwight Howard will return tonight in New Orleans. He will start and be on a minutes restriction. pic.twitter.com/ccwTpDtpNV — Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) March 25, 2015 The minutes restriction has not been set, but Dwight has a solid guess: McHale said he would keep Dwight Howard on a minutes restriction tonight. Howard thought he might play around 16 minutes in his return. — Jenny Dial Creech (@jennydialcreech) March 25, 2015 If anyone has a solid guess as to what happens to the Houston Rockets from here on out, with 12 games to go in the regular season, go right ahead and shout it out. Since coming to the Rockets as a heralded (and, if we’re honest, much-loathed) free agent in 2013, Howard has gracefully ceded his franchise status to star guard James Harden. Harden not only leads most ballots in the upcoming MVP race, but he also leads the NBA in total minutes per game, and trips to the free throw line – he’s taken on quite a bit, he’s dashed around as much as anyone, and he’s been inviting people to slap at his arms for years. This isn’t to conclude that Harden is going to fall apart any time soon, far from it, and he’s certainly not going to take a back seat to Howard offensively now that the big man is back. Not because James is a selfish prat, but because he knows that nearly five months of all-out James Harden-y play has kept the Rockets afloat in the maddeningly-deep Western Conference. Dwight Howard seems to agree, which no doubt helps. From a discussion with USA Today’s Sam Amick : "He said, 'I'll be returning soon, but I don't want you to change your game," Harden told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday. "He said, 'I don't want you to do anything different. Just go out there and do what you do, and do it at a high level every single night.' He said, 'I'll adjust to you,' and that right there gave me confidence to just play, and play my game and not worry about anything else. Once you hear that from your other leader, then you know you can just go out there and play the way that I've been playing. "I definitely needed to hear that, and he told it to me. So right there that gave me all the confidence in the world, not to try to force it to get him into a rhythm or try to do anything forceful. I can just play my game. Him telling me that just gave me the green light to just go out there and just be the James Harden that I've been being all season." The Rockets have been nearly as good without Howard as they have been with the center this season in terms of the team’s record, thanks in no small part to the play of Terrence Jones as Howard’s de facto backboard-slapping replacement in the front court. The big forward is currently out indefinitely with a partially collapsed lung , however, a frightening malady without an obvious return date. Mid-season pickup Josh Smith and the sometimes-maddening Joey Dorsey can pick up the slack in Jones’ absence, and Howard can contribute some of the same sort of game-changing athleticism when he is working at full strength, but Jones will be missed. Worse, even if Terrence does manage a regular season comeback, there is no guarantees as to whether or not his conditioning can hold up to an injury like this, or if he’ll be able to leave his body prone to the usual sorts of flights of fancy that made his stint in Howard’s absence so memorable. One possible athletic cog to fill in the holes would seem to be rookie skywalker K.J. McDaniels, but Rockets coach Kevin McHale has only seen fit to play McDaniels 16 total minutes after Houston dealt for him in February, and just 62 seconds since Jones went down. McDaniels did not play at all in Houston’s most recent game, 10-point win over Indiana on Monday. That win had all the makings of a blowout until the Pacers managed to make it respectable in the second half after Houston guard Patrick Beverley left the contest with a wrist injury. Pacers point guards C.J. Watson and George Hill went on to score 20 combined second half points, as Indiana came back in time to make Rockets fans feel awfully, awfully worried about their team’s future. Beverely could be out for the season, depending on decisions stemming from an appointment with the Rockets’ medical staff on Wednesday. If they decide that playing through the wrist sprain could cause further ligament injury and threaten Beverely’s career moving forward, he’ll undergo surgery and sit out the season, per Yahoo Sports’ Marc Spears . If he can play without risking anything beyond this season? Then the man will gut it out. Though not for another week, at least, according to Kevin McHale via Jenny Dial Creech at the Houston Chronicle : “He is going to meet more people [Wednesday] and get a final determination as to what is going to happen,” McHale said. “There probably won’t be any major decisions made for a week-10 days, see what happens.” What happens in the meantime is that 37-year old Jason Terry, who flamed out in Boston and Sacramento last season, will get the starting nod. Pablo Prigioni, a mindful player who at times looks slower than an opium-addled cloth cap, will also receive plenty of minutes. Rookie Nick Johnson, a tweener guard who has shot poorly in the majors and played only so-so ball despite big minutes and shot attempts in the D-League, will be forced into the rotation. Beverley is the team’s enforcer , he’s the squad’s heart and soul , he means business he’s a rude dude with a tough attitude and also the Rockets have played just fine at times without Beverley running the show. We respect the guy, but the Houston has been just fine with Patrick either on the pine or in street clothes. [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball ] If McHale can get creative, utilizing Corey Brewer and Trevor Ariza defensively, the Rockets can steady onward. Two of the team’s better defensively lineups have featured the ancient Terry at point, and it’s worth reminding that Beverely shoots as accurately from the field (38 percent) as Terry does from long range. This doesn’t mean Jason Terry is still a lights-out shooter from beyond, but this is doable. This team won’t have to rue dealing Isaiah Canaan or Alexey Shved unless things go terribly pear-shaped. Even with two significant starters out, a trade deadline acquisition that has been ignored thus far, Josh Smith partially continuing his Josh Smith’ian ways, Howard’s minutes restriction and perpetual injury worries or the fear that the weight of it all might eventually get to Harden (who, never forget, spent significant time working with Team USA last summer), this is still a workable construct. The Rockets might get the rejuvenated Spurs or the nearly-the-same Trail Blazers team that downed them in the playoffs last year in the first round, but you can’t count this crew out in the same way that you can dismiss that borderline-tragic Oklahoma City Thunder. A lot has to go right, and the Rockets know that. Adding an all-world center to the mix can’t possibly hurt as a start, though. - - - - - - - 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

NBA to play in Shenzhen as league seeks China growth
(Wed, 25 Mar 2015 11:31:08 PDT)
The NBA Wednesday announced two games to be played this fall in China in the US pro basketball league's latest effort to mine a massive market with an insatiable taste for hoops. The Charlotte Hornets will go up against the Los Angeles Clippers in Shenzhen and Shanghai in October exhibition games to kick off the 2014-15 season for Chinese National Basketball Association fans. The NBA is expected to announce additional international games in the weeks ahead, part of the US league's quest to make basketball the world's leading sport. The NBA has invested especially heavily in China, where the game is played by an estimated 300 million people and where it has announced a venture to sell NBA apparel and footwear in more than 6,000 stores owned by Adidas and Chinese sportswear brand ANTA.

Clippers and Hornets to play two pre-season games in China
(Wed, 25 Mar 2015 07:44:32 PDT)
(Reuters) - The Charlotte Hornets and Los Angeles Clippers will play two pre-season games in China, including a first visit to Shenzhen, the National Basketball Association said on Wednesday. As part of the league's Global Games China 2015 program, the Clippers, led by eight-time NBA All-Star Chris Paul and five-time All-Star Blake Griffin and Hornets will meet in Shenzhen on Oct. 11 and again in Shanghai on Oct. 14.

Sources: Rockets' Patrick Beverley could miss rest of season (Yahoo Sports)
(Tue, 24 Mar 2015 20:07:18 PDT)
The point guard is expected to find out Wednesday if surgery on his left wrist can be postponed until the offseason.

Rockets-Pelicans Preview (The Associated Press)
(Tue, 24 Mar 2015 12:52:45 PDT)
James Harden and the Houston Rockets are in great position with the playoffs fast approaching, and they're about to get even stronger with Dwight Howard set to return. The injury-plagued New Orleans Pelicans need to quickly turn things around if they hope to make the postseason. Houston tries to hand the Pelicans a season worst-tying fourth consecutive loss as these Southwest Division foes meet Wednesday night in New Orleans. The Rockets (47-23) are in third place in the highly competitive Western Conference with three weeks remaining, while the 10th-place Pelicans (37-33) are a few games behind Oklahoma City for eighth.

Blake Griffin cleared of battery charge in Las Vegas nightclub incident (Ball Don't Lie)
(Tue, 24 Mar 2015 12:11:32 PDT)

Harden scores 44, Rockets pull away from Pacers 110-100 (The Associated Press)
(Mon, 23 Mar 2015 20:12:03 PDT)
James Harden found all the cracks in Indiana's defense Monday night. The three-time All-Star scored 19 of his 44 points in the fourth quarter, including 12 during a decisive 4-minute flurry that helped the Houston Rockets pull away for a 110-100 victory over the Pacers, who have lost six in a row. He's a hell of a player,'' Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. While some teams cringe at the sight of facing the Pacers, Harden seems to have embraced it.

Rockets' Harden hits 44, Pacers lose sixth NBA game in a row
(Mon, 23 Mar 2015 19:51:17 PDT)
NBA scoring leader James Harden struck for 44 points to power the Houston Rockets over Indiana 110-100, delivering the Pacers their sixth consecutive defeat. The Rockets improved to 47-23 with their fourth victory in five games, bouncing back from a loss Saturday at Phoenix to keep the third best record in the Western Conference and fourth-best in the league overall. Rockets reserve Josh Smith added 18 points, Donatas Motiejunas scored 17 and Trevor Ariza grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds for the Rockets, who remain without injured center Dwight Howard but confident they can make a deep run in the playoffs.

Pacers still have no timetable for Paul George's return (The Associated Press)
(Mon, 23 Mar 2015 16:18:37 PDT)
Paul George might be close to playing shape. The Pacers' two-time All-Star told reporters Monday that although he's eager to clear the final hurdle in his 7 1/2-month recovery from a broken right leg by returning to game action, he's not going to push himself to go too soon.

Here come the Spurs: After dismantling the Hawks, San Antonio looks ready to roll (Ball Don't Lie)
(Mon, 23 Mar 2015 09:13:15 PDT)
After an at-times unimpressive start to the season that cast doubt on their chances of defending the NBA championship they won last summer, the San Antonio Spurs have looked to be rounding into form of late, shaking off early struggles as Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard return to health to join the stalwart Tim Duncan for the postseason push. And yet, some skepticism has surrounded the Spurs' rise. [DraftKings: FREE entry to huge cash Fantasy Basketball Contest with first deposit ] Yes, San Antonio has racked up victories over the past couple of months, but more than a few have come against lower-tier competition within the friendly confines of the AT&T Center; they've still dropped a couple of games to stiff opposition at home. Moreover, they scuffled during the post-All-Star portion of their annual Rodeo Road Trip , dropping four straight to the Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors, Utah Jazz and Portland Trail Blazers. Then there was whatever the Spurs coughed up against the New York Knicks on St. Patrick's Day. The profile was there — 19-9 since Leonard's return to the lineup on Jan. 16, the league's fifth-best record during that span, with top-10 marks in both points scored and allowed per possession — but the results have felt less impressive than the stats. No sane person would write off the Spurs, but you'd be more likely to consider them a contender if they'd just take care of business against a quality opponent, especially on the road. And then: Sunday. The Spurs whipped the Atlanta Hawks, turning Philips Arena into their own personal Highlight Factory in a 114-95 beatdown . Even without injured second-unit captain Manu Ginobili, Gregg Popovich's club looked as good as it has since laying waste to the Miami Heat last June. San Antonio raced out to a 26-6 lead eight minutes into the game, generating and canning clean look after clean look en route to an 11-for-14 start from the field, including 10 straight makes in a 5 1/2-minute span. The Spurs' defense came ready to dictate the terms of engagement early, with Duncan and Tiago Splitter locking down the paint and San Antonio's wings aggressively re-routing Hawks cutters as they worked off the ball in Atlanta head coach (and ex-longtime San Antonio assistant) Mike Budenholzer's free-flowing, motion-heavy offense. The result: a dismal 3-for-10 start from the floor for Atlanta, and a season-low 13 points in the first quarter. When the Hawks came to life in the second quarter, sparked by All-Star forward Paul Millsap and reserve point guard Dennis Schröder, San Antonio continually answered right back, with Splitter (nine points and four rebounds in 8 1/2 minutes of second-quarter work) and Marco Belinelli (all 13 of his points in the frame) keeping the Hawks at bay, extending the Spurs' lead to 18 at intermission. The signature half-court ball movement that propelled the Spurs to last year's title was on full display on Sunday: That ball movement today ?? https://t.co/8B3pPQDC5K — San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) March 22, 2015 San Antonio logged 360 passes in Sunday's game, with 30 assists and 11 secondary or "hockey" assists on 46 made field goals, all well above their already top-five full-season averages . The Spurs' interior passing, in particular, was sensational. Duncan, Splitter and Boris Diaw had the high-low game working all day, keeping the Hawks' defenders off-balance and producing repeated good looks near the basket, especially for Splitter, who scored a season-high 23 points on 10-for-14 shooting to go with eight rebounds and two assists in 27 minutes. Speaking of Diaw ... he looked good! Like, "17 points on 8-for-10 shooting, dominate the fourth quarter, snuff out an chance of a late comeback, create inside-out mismatches against opposing frontcourts" good. It's the kind of good we haven't seen all that often from Diaw this season, after he proved to be an indispensable part of the Spurs' title run and was paid as such this summer. But after a fairly long and undistinguished winter hibernation, it's the kind of good we've now seen from Diaw twice in the last three games . He's shooting 53 percent from the floor and 14-for-15 at the foul line in March with a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. If this is a sign of an uptick to come for Diaw, the Spurs' attack could become even more varied and dangerous in a hurry. And speaking of varied and dangerous ... my word, Kawhi: Twenty points on 8-for-14 shooting, 10 rebounds, seven assists and four steals in 32 minutes, and even that doesn't feel like it tells the story. Leonard grabbed the game by the scruff of its neck early, outscoring the Hawks 10-6 by himself over the first eight minutes before moving on to impose his will on both ends even without getting his own: Leonard and Danny Green (15 points, seven rebounds, three assists) made life miserable on Atlanta's perimeter players, helping hold the All-Star backcourt of Jeff Teague and the returning (and masked ) Kyle Korver to 14 points on 12 shots with 10 turnovers. Leonard has now scored more than 20 points eight times in the last dozen games while also averaging 7.3 rebounds, four combined blocks and steals, and 2.6 assists in 33.9 minutes per contest, shooting 53.2 percent from the floor and 38.2 percent from 3-point land. Related: San Antonio's won 10 of 12. Atlanta never led, never got closer than 12 points after the 6:37 mark of the first quarter, and saw the deficit balloon to 25 early in the third. At that point, Budenholzer had seen enough, getting himself run by referee Joey Crawford after arguing for foul calls following a pair of physical possessions resulting in Hawks misses. It was just as well; we're guessing Coach Bud wouldn't have been too keen to sit there and watch his former mates continue dismantling his squad, sending the Hawks to a season-high third-straight loss and dropping them (well, "dropping" them) to 53-17 on the season. From Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution : In losses to the Warriors, Thunder and Spurs, the Hawks [have] allowed those opponents an average of 117 points per game on 53.2 percent shooting. Defense has been the catalyst of the Hawks’ success this record-breaking season. “I think the last three games, the way teams have been able to get free, get shots, get percentages is a concern,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “It’s a lot of little things. It starts with better individual defense. But I would probably be more concerned if we hadn’t shown an ability to do it a lot of the season. We need to draw on that. We need to know how important it is first to be good defensively and kind of remind us how we are good defensively and get back to doing that.” For his part, Budenholzer's old boss declined to give his crew too much credit for a blowout victory over a team coming off a six-game West Coast swing, according to Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News : “I think we caught a break, to be very honest,” Popovich said. “Everybody knows the first game home after a road trip is always a very difficult game. And when you’ve been on the road (11) days as they were, it usually ends up not being a great game. “With Kyle coming back and not having rhythm, they have to get used to him again. In addition to that, we had a really good night, and they had a poor night. It happens to all of us. “It’s just another game, and we move on.” [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball ] And yet, the trappings of the performance — a dominating, never-in-doubt road win over the best team in the East — help make the Spurs' recent surge seem somehow more real. Watching San Antonio's starters demolish Atlanta's — Duncan-Splitter-Green-Leonard-Parker outscored Atlanta by 22 points in 17 minutes of floor time on Sunday — serves to legitimize the Spurs' outsized numbers since reintroducing Splitter back into the starting five: Since Splitter was put back in the lineup (2/27), Spurs' starters have outscored opponents by 41 points per 100 poss: http://t.co/dJwtS1LwVn — John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) March 23, 2015 Seeing Leonard dominate on both ends lends credence to the idea that, when he and Parker are healthy, the Spurs are an entirely different animal. Watching Belinelli and Diaw get loose reminds you that this bench has enough playmaking and scoring to overwhelm opposing second units, especially if Ginobili and the still-not-quite-there Patty Mills can get right by the playoffs. Seeing the Spurs tic-tac-toe their way through the league's No. 9 defense, a club pitched as a time-shifted spin-off of their own long-running success, served as a reminder that while San Antonio's style has spawned many imitators, there's nothing quite like the original. And watching the ever-dour Duncan dance on the bench after dropping seven dimes, corralling seven boards and blocking four shots ... ... well, no, we don't really know what to do with that. It feels like a sign, though. With just under a month remaining in the 2014-15 regular season, the Spurs — now sitting sixth at 44-25, a scant two games behind the Houston Rockets for the West's No. 3 seed — seem to feel pretty good about themselves. Look on their works, ye mighty, and despair. - - - - - - - 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.

NBA Power Rankings: An MVP candidate on the rise (Yahoo Sports)
(Mon, 23 Mar 2015 08:47:49 PDT)
Watch out, Stephen Curry and James Harden. There is another Western Conference guard who is playing at an MVP level.

Warriors, Hawks prioritizing health over NBA's best record (The Associated Press)
(Sun, 22 Mar 2015 23:28:35 PDT)
Barring a major turn of events, the only thing the Golden State Warriors and Atlanta Hawks have left to play for is the NBA's best record. Warriors coach Steve Kerr and Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer have been regularly resting players to keep them fresh for the playoffs. After all, Atlanta (53-17) began Monday with an eight-game lead over Cleveland in the Eastern Conference, and Golden State (56-13) was 7 1/2 games ahead of Memphis in the West. Golden State routed Atlanta 114-95 last Wednesday, while the Hawks beat the Warriors 124-116 at home in February.

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