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Ian Shankster
Ian Shankster
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Cam W.
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Micky Deming
Micky Deming
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Frank Jenkins
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Frank Jenkins

Fired up for a fun NBA season! posted by Frank Jenkins

Hey gang!

I am excited as the new NBA season approaches. The preseason started last night and that means that we are less than four weeks away from the start of the season. I've got my Gamecenter online so that I can watch games with my computer. I'll spend time on this blog talking about what games I've watched and other exciting news and notes from the NBA. 

I have several teams that I love, but my top two teams are the Magic and the Pacers. I used to live in the Orlando area for several years and now live closest to the Pacers. If I get to any of the Pacer games live, then I'll also post pictures from those.

Let's get ready for a fun year. Over the next couple weeks, I'll give you my insights as to who might win the trophy in June.

Frank

Continue reading "Fired up for a fun NBA season!"


Micky Deming

The Need for Relevance posted by Micky Deming

As a Pacer fan, the obvious highlight of my season was the ESPN 30 for 30 story on Reggie Miller vs the New York Knicks. I loved every second of the documentary. I thought it was put together very well, and the best part was all of the memories it brought back.

On the other hand it was bitter-sweet in some ways. The Pacers have been awful for the last few years, but I have still enjoyed the NBA and told myself, "It's OK that the Pacers aren't competitive because it is still great to watch all of these high profile teams go at it in the Playoffs." 

 But that was wrong. There is something incredible about living and dying with every point in an NBA Playoff series. And Pacer fans got to experience that excitement consistently from the mid 90's to the early 00's. Honestly, I took it for granted. And seeing those old games again, I remembered how much I hated the Knicks and how much I cared about how those games turned out. It reminded me that the Pacers used to matter. And I want that again so badly. I want our games to be meaningful; relevant. I want to sit at work all day and be thinking about what is going to happen in the game tonight.

Which brings us to the lottery. The Pacers have never been a serious contender for the top pick in the lottery. In fact, the last two years they finished 9th in the East, just out of the playoffs, and a long way from the top talent in the draft. To me, it seems silly to act like a top pick in the draft is the only way the team can get good, but a glance at the top of the league shows that you have to score big with a superstar or you will never be good.

Continue reading "The Need for Relevance"


Colin Linneweber

Ron Artest is an alcoholic lunatic posted by Colin Linneweber

Psychotic Los Angeles Lakers small forward Ron Artest claimed this week that he boozed a French cognac during games when he played for the Chicago Bulls from 1999-2002.

 

“I used to drink Hennessy at halftime,” Artest, 30, said in an interview with the Sporting News. “I kept it in my locker. I’d just walk to the liquor store and get it.”

 

Artest, who was born and raised in the Queensbridge projects in Queens, New York, played college basketball at St. John’s University and he was selected by the Bulls with the 16th overall pick in the 1999 NBA Draft.

 

“When I was a 19-year-old father, whew. I was a single pimp! I was wild,” said the unbalanced hoopster who infamously once attended a practice with the Indiana Pacers donning only a bath robe. “A lot of marijuana and alcohol. I still party and have fun, but not like I used to. I used to drink every night and party every night.”

 

Artest, the 2004 NBA Defensive Player of the Year and four-time NBA All-Defensive Team selection, also revealed to the famed athletic periodical that he doesn’t regret as a Pacer inciting the violent brawl in Detroit that halted a contest against the Pistons.

 

The vicious melee “wasn’t my fault…I don’t see anything I could have done differently.”

 

Artest is simply crazier than a shithouse rat.

 

The ghetto ballplayer from Gotham needlessly mugged Pistons center Ben Wallace in the waning minutes of a Pacers blowout victory in November 2004.

Continue reading "Ron Artest is an alcoholic lunatic"


Andy Charles

Jackson just can’t get his way posted by Andy Charles

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Jackson just can’t seemingly learn how to behave – it doesn’t matter where he plays or what he does, he’s always in the headlines for the wrong reasons either on or off the court.

After a relatively quiet start to his career in San Antonio and Atlanta, ever since he arrived with the dysfunctional Indiana Pacers at the start of the 2004-5 season it has been a long downhill run for the swingman.

Within a couple of months of his Pacer debut, he was handed a 30-game ban for his role in the Palace of Auburn Hills brawl and the season after he was charged with criminal recklessness for firing his gun during an altercation outside a strip club in Indianapolis.

Although things were better for him after a trade to Golden State in early 2007, he was ejected twice during their NBA playoff series win over Dallas, but he did go on to become an important cog in Don Nelson’s team until his demand for a trade this summer.

His latest indiscretion came last week when he had a very public falling out with coach Nelson on the bench at an exhibition game with the Los Angeles Lakers and was suspended for two further games, albeit pre-season warm-ups.

Sadly for the Warriors, Jackson is their best option at the swing position and they are keen to get him back on court, but is a disgruntled player going to be much help to their younger stars in the making, players who have a big future in front of them like Stephen Curry, Anthony Randolph and Anthony Morrow.

But they cannot afford to buy Jackson out given that his contract calls for him to be paid $7.6m this season before an extension kicks in at the start of next season that will earn him $27.8m more over three years.

Continue reading "Jackson just can’t get his way"


Ian Shankster

NBA Playoff Predictions posted by Ian Shankster

At this point in the summer I am going to break down who I think is going to land in the playoffs after the nine.ten. This is based on what has happened so far around the league.

Western Conference Playoffs:

1. Los Angeles Lakers

2. San Antonio Spurs

3. Portland Trailblazers

4. Dallas Mavericks

5. Denver Nuggets

6. Utah Jazz

7. Phoenix Suns

8. New Orleans Hornets 

Easter Conference Playoffs:

1. Cleveland Cavaliers

2. Boston Celtics

3. Miami Heat

4. Orlando Magic

5. Chicago Bulls

6. Atlanta Hawks

7. Toronto Raptors

8. Indiana Pacers 

The turnover from last year is small with the Suns replacing the Rockets in the Western Conference and the Raptors and Pacers replacing the Sixers and Pistons in the Eastern Conference. There is however, some movement in the standings, except at the top. 

Continue reading "NBA Playoff Predictions"


Ian Shankster

The Indiana Pacers and the nine.ten posted by Ian Shankster

As writer and editor of this blog I am going to be referring to the upcoming season as "the nine.ten" for obvious reasons. The Pacers appear to be ready to make another pretty good step towards respectability and perhaps the even the playoffs. With the waiving of Jamal Tinsley it seems they are finally putting the past behind them and with a few notable additions it seems that a leaf which was partially overturned last year is fully flipped for the nine.ten.

The Pacers have guys getting healthy, guys getting older and better and some completely new guys. I like what hustle players, Tyler Hansbrough and Dahntay Jones bring to the team. It seems that our defensive intensity will definitely be taken up a notch. When teams bring in someone like Jones who takes his defense very seriously it almost always rubs off in a positive way on teammates. This is absolutely necessary for the nine.ten if you look at last year and see how many times we scored well over 100 points but still lost games. Any improvement in defense is a good thing for a team like the Pacers. I am also excited to see how Danny Granger responds to being an all-star last year. Is he going to be a one-year wonder resting on his accomplishments of the past or is he going to work harder and try to get back and be a perennial all-star? 

A few other questions I hope to see answered.

How effective can Hansbrough be as a rookie?

Will a point guard emerge as a team leader and the future of the Pacers?

How is Mike Dunleavy going to come out and play and how many times will he score 36 points in a game?

Continue reading "The Indiana Pacers and the nine.ten"


john howard

Thunder release Watson signs with Pacers posted by john howard

Earl Watson has been released by the Thunder.  He began last year as the starting point guard.  Then, became the backup to Russell Westbrook.  Towards the end of the season, Oklahoma City picked up Shaun Livingston.  He has battled injuries in his short career.  The trade for Chucky Atkins also gives the Thunder an experienced backup.  Watson earned 2 wins using the Howard Sports win system.  I is going to sign with Indiana, but must wait 7 days.Continue reading "Thunder release Watson signs with Pacers"


Chris Strickland

Top 10 Reasons Kobe and Artest will work out posted by Chris Strickland

10) They were spotted in Kobe's escalade at an 'N and Out drive-through. And yes, they both got "animal style."

9) When on road trips in Denver, Kobe's got Artest covered for booty calls.

8) Kobe's beer preference is bottles - meaning, he'll never pour anything in a plastic cup.

7) Kobe & LeBron's Nike "puppet campaign" is being replaced by "Kobe and Ron," a new puppet ad-series. However, Nike's yielding to "Crank Yankers" for the directing of this one.

6) Like Kobe, Artest is practically another Dobermamba on defense. Only difference is, Artest may bite.

5) As a peace offering, Artest bought fellow teammate and candy-lover, Lamar Odom, a year's supply of Cookies 'n Cream.

4) Finally, Kobe has a legit MC to battle Shaq with.

3) Ron Artest also prefers Aston-Martin jumping...jump-starting them, that is.

2) Forget a "safe word," Kobe's got a "safe sentence." All he has to say is "I helped bury Michael Jackson," and Artest will back off.

1) When it comes to crazy people, Bryant's got experience. Kobe's dealt with Jack Nicholson for years.

Continue reading "Top 10 Reasons Kobe and Artest will work out"


Christopher Arroyo

National Champs send four in NBA Draft posted by Christopher Arroyo

The people who saw the 2009 NBA Draft on Thursday were in for a special treat when they saw Blake Griffin go No. 1.

 

Very predictable however.

 

Then, Hasheem Thabeet went No. 2, which was also predictable. Then things got a bit interesting.

 

The early shocker was Stephen Curry going number seven to the Golden State Warriors. But what was really neat was that all of the North Carolina players that declared were drafted.

 

The first Tar Heel chosen was Tyler Hansbrough, who went at number 13 to the Indiana Pacers. This was a good pick, for the Pacers and here is why. Indiana is not known to carry much toughness, especially in the frontcourt.

 

If you had the treat to see this guy in college then you would know that he’s the real deal for toughness. I think he will start the season on the bench, but he will emerge into that starting position around December.

 

The second Tar Heel chosen was Ty Lawson, who was picked by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Now I know many of you were wondering why Minnesota picked four guards in the first round, which three were point guards. But, rest assured, they ended up trading Lawson to the Denver Nuggets for a future first round pick.

 

This is the BEST team for Lawson. You’re putting one of the top, and under-appreciated, point guards in the draft on a team that is surrounded with rising talent. He is also going to appreciate being an apprentice to Denver’s Chauncey Billups.

 

Probably the most respected guard in the league and known for his patience and leadership on and off the court. Sadly, he will be a bench player for a few years but, learning under Billups will definitely make him one of the top point guards in the league. This was really the best move of the draft Denver should be strong under the point guard position for at least the next 10 years if all goes well.

Continue reading "National Champs send four in NBA Draft"


Chase Hughes

posted by Chase Hughes

Thursday, June the 25th has officially passed as the Washington Wizards remain in a state that few could have foreseen a week ago. After months of speculation and a calamitous draft lottery, Wizards fans can relax and look at back at what has happened. No Blake Griffin, no Ricky Rubio, no 5th overall pick, no 2nd round pick. It was fun but you kind of wish Ernie Grunfeld could have let us know that all of our mock drafts and trade scenarios would be obsolete. What’s left of the Wizards roster seems to be an incomplete project… still.
You have to think that the Wizards’ brass has something else up their sleeve, another maneuver that will balance the Wizards and give its fans the expectations of a great season. I still think that the team is improved but there seem to still linger significant holes. One large void to fill down low still remains and it is perplexing why the Wizards didn’t plug it with the “largest” plug in the draft. I am talking of course about Dejaun Blair. My friend and I were contemplating the possibility of the big man from Pitt slipping to the second round. It seemed impossible and then it happened. He was sitting there, all 270 pounds of him, just waiting for the Wizards to pick him and enable him to thrive in a reserved role on a playoff team. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones. The Washington Post covered the draft later in the night, with Michael Lee acknowledging the experts were in on it to:



“When Pitt forward DeJuan Blair was still on the board after the first round, some of us reporters were fascinated by the possibility of the Wizards adding a rugged but undersized offensive rebounding machine. I still cannot believe that dude slipped all the way to San Antonio at No. 37 after he manhandled Thabeet in Big East play.”


Continue reading ""

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Ball Don’t Lie’s 2013-14 Playoff Previews: Miami Heat vs. Charlotte Bobcats (Bal

The playoffs begin on Saturday, thankfully, which means it’s that lovely time of spring (and it is spring, right? It’s not going to snow again, is it?) when the minds behind Ball Don’t Lie to offer you their thoughts on the upcoming pairings in the first round of the NBA’s postseason. Kelly Dwyer’s Old Grey Whistle Test For those just hopping to the NBA season, understand that the Charlotte Bobcats didn’t luck or back their way into their second (and final, considering the franchise’s imminent name change) playoffs. Sadly for Charlotte, the Miami Heat didn’t either. You didn’t hear much about the Miami Heat this year, comparatively, because a lack of a 27-game winning streak will do that to a nation’s fancy. The Indiana Pacers held the Eastern Conference’s best record for nearly every day of the 2013-14 regular season, the San Antonio Spurs finished with the league’s best regular season record yet again, and Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant will likely and rightfully lope away with the NBA MVP award, ending LeBron James’run with the hardware. The Heat are the champs, though. And not in the “we’ll call them the champs until someone knocks them out”-way. That doesn’t mean that 2013-14 was a triumphant regular season turn, however. The team won only 54 games, fewer than the Chicago Bulls (57) and Los Angeles Lakers (58) did during their three-peat conquerings in 1993 and 2002, and with Miami mostly working in an embarrassing Eastern Conference that saw the Heat lose twice to the Philadelphia 76ers and twice to the Boston Celtics. Dwyane Wade missed 29 games not just because he sat out on the second night of back-to-backs, but also because of a worrying late-season hamstring pull. Ray Allen shot, gasp, just about an average mark from three-point range. This is also a team that may just have 15 or 16 games between now and the start of the Finals. This is a team that can run LeBron James for huge heaps of minutes, while Dwyane Wade works at his leisure, with Chris Bosh fitting in wherever needed. Ray Allen’s three-point percentage starts over on Sunday. Shane Battier grows angel wings. Erik Spoelstra gets to hammer out a game plan against the same opponent, over and over, rather than working against four other coaches in five nights. Pity those poor Charlotte Bobcats. Kind of. These Bobcats earned this. “Rookie”head coach Steve Clifford should be a Coach of the Year candidate, and had his team been on national television more often he’d probably have won the damn thing. The Bobcats have evolved into a team with solid depth, and most importantly to a playoff drive, the group defends like mad in spite of the presence of Al Jefferson on the floor. Of course, the Bobcats wouldn’t be nearly where there are currently with Jefferson, who turned in a career year some six years after tearing his ACL, working in a new environment with a (damn good) point guard in Kemba Walker who isn’t exactly what we’d call “pass-first.”If you haven’t seen Big Al, prepare for a throwback. Over 22 points and 11 boards in 35 minutes a game, despite needing the season’s first two months to work his way back (mostly on the court) from an ankle sprain. Low post goodness, in a league that frowns on such things. Touch and footwork and a needed go-to option after a play breaks down for a team that ranked just 24th in offense. He should have made the All-Star team, but in a lot of ways it was best that he missed it. The All-Star Game wastes talents like Al Jefferson, and those few days off in mid-February likely helped the player that led Charlotte to a 20-9 record following a showcase that tends to exclude players of a Bobcatian nature. The ride is likely over. LeBron James is basically as tall as Al Jefferson. Kemba Walker had a very good year, but he shot 39 percent to Dwyane Wade’s 54 percent. Chris Bosh is floating, and the other Heat veterans have been through this before. It’s true that, somehow, Charlotte runs deeper than Miami, but none of this will likely matter when LeBron James spies Josh McRoberts’too-cute entry pass from a mile away, swipes it, and turns it into two points before Bobcat fans can even recall that they’ll become the Hornets again this fall. Fair weather NBA fans? Happily introduce yourself to the Charlotte Bobcats, because this is a team worth watching. Also, re-introduce yourself to the Miami Heat, because this is a team worth fearing. Prediction: Miami in four. Dan Devine's One Big Question Every postseason matchup has its own unique set of variables for each team, and prognosticator, to attempt to solve. Here's one that BDL's Dan Devine has been mulling over. How much energy will Miami have to expend in Round 1? LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh begin their bid for a fourth straight trip to the NBA finals against a Bobcats team that looks to be heavily overmatched and whom the Heat swept during the regular season. A closer look at the season series, though, suggests that what appears to be a squash might not be quite as breezy as Erik Spoelstra might like. While the Heat did go 4-0 against the Bobcats, two of those games were nail-biters. There was a one-point Dec. 1 win in which the Big Three all played, but Charlotte point guard Kemba Walker (27 points on 10 for 22 shooting, six assists) largely got where he wanted, and a mid-January overtime victory that saw James (34 points, eight rebounds, six assists) and Bosh (25 points, seven rebounds) carry the day for a resting Wade to come back from a seven-point halftime deficit. One blowout came while All-NBA-caliber Charlotte center Al Jefferson was sidelined with an ankle injury, which represents a sizable asterisk. The other happened when James became Death, Destroyer of Worlds . (That one still holds up.) Still, while the Heat stumbled to the finish line by going 13-14 after March 1 -- including some games, to be fair, where they weren't exactly going all-out for the W -- Charlotte played perhaps their best ball of the year. The Bobcats won three straight to finish the regular season and nine of their last 11, including three tough overtime wins against fellow Eastern playoff squads (the Brooklyn Nets, Washington Wizards and Chicago Bulls). The Bobcats went 16-9 after the February deal to import Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour from the Milwaukee Bucks, a move that added (some) long-range shooting and secondary ball-handling, and helped boost the Bobcats' offense from a dreadful 25th in points scored per possession pre-trade to a middle-of-the-pack 16th afterward. Another key helper: Josh McRoberts, the beautifully coiffed power forward whose fantastic touch as a high-post passer (five dimes per 36 minutes, assisting on nearly 22 percent of his teammates' buckets while he's on the floor) has paired perfectly with Big Al's left-block mastery, and whose long-range shooting (36.1 percent from 3-point land) has helped give Jefferson room to cook. Gerald Henderson's production has dipped virtually across the board this season, but the versatile wing tends to be a bellwether; he's shooting 45.4 percent from the floor and 37.5 percent from 3 in Charlotte wins, and just 41.3/32.2 in losses. When he tries too hard to create his own offense, he can hurt more than he helps, but when he simply plays his role -- making smart cuts to take advantage of the attention Jefferson draws, or finding openings on the perimeter to be available for spot-up shots off kickouts -- he can threaten. Rookie Cody Zeller has come on since the All-Star break , shooting 50 percent and averaging nearly eight points and five rebounds in 18 1/2 minutes per game by crashing the offensive boards, running the floor and ducking in off the weak side to dunk dump-off passes. Chris Douglas-Roberts has gone from scrap-heap signee to valuable piece in head coach Steve Clifford's rotation, adding complementary scoring and rebounding while providing defensive versatility on the wing and making some big shots . Charlotte is a patient, careful team that turned the basketball over on a league-low 12.9 percent of offensive possessions, and allowed the league's fewest fast-break points and points off turnovers per game this season. They're great at limiting opponents to one shot, leading the NBA in defensive rebounding percentage and finishing seventh in second-chance points allowed. There's real talent and toughness here, actual players who do things; these aren't the Bobcats you remember. They're still not going to spring an upset, though. Even dropping out LeBron's outlier 61-point explosion, Miami still hammered the Bobcats' No. 6-ranked defense in their other three games, scoring at a rate (109.1 points per 100 possessions) commensurate with their second-best-in-the-NBA full-season mark. The Bobcats' pack-the-paint scheme did reduce in the share of shots Miami took in the lane -- 44.7 percent of Heat field-goal attempts against Charlotte came there, down from 47 percent on the season as a whole -- but Miami converted the exact same share of them (62.9 percent) while shooting even better than their full-season mark on the midrange shots Charlotte concedes with its coverage. With James' ability to prosper against any defense, Bosh's elite midrange shooting and Wade presumably ready to rock after having his workload managed all season, Miami has the right weapons to attack Charlotte's defense. While Jefferson will likely continue beasting on Miami's small front line -- Big Al's averaged a shade over 25 points and 15 rebounds against the Heat this season, shooting 57.4 percent -- Charlotte doesn't figure to get reliable enough deep shooting to keep Miami from swarming the interior. And even if the Cats can knock down some pressure-relieving 3s early, that'll probably just remind Miami that it's late April, and that it's now time to flip the now-infamous switch that turns their closeouts and rotations from solid to terrifying. The key to this postseason could be whether Charlotte forces Miami to flip that switch early. If Miami's offense hits the ground running smoothly enough for the defense to get away with just-good-enough effort, then the Heat will be in good shape moving forward. But if the Bobcats can keep their late-season form going and land some shots on Miami early, and if Jefferson can dominate enough to steal a game in Miami, the Heat may find themselves having to put in work that could come back to bite them during the grueling rounds to follow. The 'Cats won't go easily, but I think the resolution will skew closer to the former than the latter. I respect what Jefferson and Clifford have done enough to think they'll notch the first (and last ) win in Bobcats postseason history at home, but Miami should be able to keep its powder dry with stiffer challenges ahead. Prediction: Heat in 5. Eric Freeman’s Guide to Playoff Watchability Over the next two months, basketball fans will hear all manner of insights into key matchups, x-factors, and other series-deciding phenomena. For most people, though, watching so much basketball is a luxury or bizarre form of punishment, not a fact of life. These brave souls must know one thing: is this game between 10 men in pajamas worth the time? Eric Freeman’s Guide to Playoff Watchability attempts to answer this difficult question. The Heat have been one of the league’s most exciting teams during the Big Three era, regularly putting forth amazing showcases of the best contemporary basketball has to offer. However, this team cannot escape narrative. The best Heat moments, either good or bad, have involved games and series that appear to serve as referenda on LeBron James’s place in basketball history, or the moral rectitude of building a team around stars obtained in free agency. In other words, the Heat need the right context to reach their full watchability potential —otherwise they’re just a garden-variety group of generationally unique stars. It’s safe to say that the Charlotte is not the team to bring out Miami’s full possibilities this series. Like the Milwaukee Bucks in last spring’s first round, the Bobcats are a team of limited talent. What head coach Steve Clifford has done this season is quite amazing —the Bobcats are a genuinely effective squad with with the East’s third-best defense by points-per-possession and a big man in Al Jefferson who could ravage the Heat’s interior defense. But they’re not a sexy team by any stretch. Sunday’s Game 1 will mark their first national TV appearance of 2013-14, and many casual fans may still consider them fodder for late-night TV monologue jokes. That’s not to say that this series is wholly unwatchable. The Heat won’t rise to their peak watchability until later in the postseason, but viewers are likely to see one or two unbelievable plays from LeBron and Co. Plus, despite not being world-beaters, the Bobcats do have a lot to offer. At the very least, they will provide something new to discover for all but the most committed League Pass devotees. The playoffs last a pretty long time, so seek out the unfamiliar while you still can. Rating: 4 out of 10 Angry Tweets About LeBron Being a Loser [read full article]

From Yahoo Sports


NBA playoff picture update: Blazers' home-court hopes still alive, Mavs and Hawks are in, Pa

If you're anything like me and Detroit Pistons rookie Peyton Siva, when it gets this late in the season, you come out of the weekend like: So let's get caught up on how the weekend that just passed reshaped the playoff picture, which is mere days away from being officially finalized, starting with an instant classic in Rip City. Well, that was awesome. The Sunday night matchup between the playoff-bound Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors was just too good to be limited to 48 minutes. Get caught up quickly on the late-game craziness and overtime back-and-forth here: (If you'd like a longer, more context-rich recap that stretches back to the start of the fourth quarter, Gmo's Rockets' Highlights has you covered.) Despite a season-high 47 points on 16 for 29 shooting from irrepressible flamethrower Stephen Curry, and a combined 72 points from Curry and Klay Thompson on 13 for 27 shooting from 3-point land, the Blazers held off the Warriors, 119-117 , in a celebration of shot-making and scoring-as-liberating-performance-art that would've made Toni and Candace proud. LaMarcus Aldridge's pick-and-pop 20-footer with 39 seconds remaining capped a 26-point, seven-rebound night for him and stood up as the game-winner. Nicolas Batum (18 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, a steal and a block in 44 minutes) did a little bit of everything, and while Damian Lillard was off (13 points on 3 for 13 shooting and some shaky decision-making that has led to post-game grumbling ), reserve guard Mo Williams was there to pick up the slack with 18 points on 8 for 10 shooting, three rebounds, three assists and no turnovers in 22 minutes off the pine. He was pretty psyched about it, which makes sense: This was one of the best games of the yr 2nite. #ripcity —Mo Williams (@mowilliams) April 14, 2014 The win improved Portland to 53-28, securing no worse than the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference and bringing them within a half-game of the Houston Rockets for the No. 4 spot. The Blazers and Rockets are now officially locked into playing one another in the first round, but which squad will have home-court advantage remains to be seen —one more Houston win (either Monday night over the San Antonio Spurs or Wednesday night against the New Orleans Pelicans) will give the Rockets the honors, while Portland can still open the playoffs at home if Houston loses out and the Blazers beat the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday . The Warriors are still assured of a postseason berth, having clinched with their Friday night win over the Los Angeles Lakers. But the loss to the Blazers means they can't finish higher than sixth, ensuring that they're going to get either the Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder or Clippers in the first round. It also opens the door for a Warriors team that has scuffled a bit of late (5-5 in their last 10 games) and could be without center Andrew Bogut (who left Sunday's game early with an apparent rib injury ) sliding even further down the Western bracket, where they're now just a half-game ahead of the No. 7 seed, which belongs to ... DDoS: Dallas denial of service. Eric Bledsoe is very quick, very fast and very good at getting to the basket, which makes him a pretty good late-game option when the Phoenix Suns desperately need a basket to tie the Dallas Mavericks in a game between two of the three teams scrapping for the last playoff spots in the brutally competitive Western Conference. Unfortunately for Bledsoe and the orange-and-purple-loving folks of the Valley of the Sun, though, Brandan Wright appears to be Cloak : Wright's third block of the game (to go with 12 points and 11 rebounds off the bench) sealed a 101-98 win that locked up a playoff berth for the Mavericks, who could finish as high as sixth in the West depending upon how the next three days shake out for the Warriors; Dallas now sits at 49-32, a half-game behind the Dubs for the No. 6 spot, and a half-game clear of the eighth seed currently held by ... Just keep grinding. The Memphis Grizzlies closed Sunday strong with a 102-90 win over the Lakers, their third straight victory, thanks in large part to monster games from center Marc Gasol (18 points, 15 rebounds, four assists and three steals in 36 minutes) and point guard Mike Conley (24 points on 9 for 12 shooting, eight assists, two steals and just one turnover in 34 1/2 minutes). So, naturally, the play we're going to show you was made by Zach Randolph, who picked a pretty good time to become a passing wizard: Let's see that from a different angle and at a more Z-Bo appropriate rate of speed, please: I've thought a lot about which new Zach nickname I like best after this, and I've come to the conclusion that it's "Ricky RuZ-Bo." You may feel free to try to sway my opinion in the comments, but it's probably going to be pretty hard. (Also, way to finish the layup, Nick Calathes, thus turning this into an official highlight.) Thanks to Phoenix's Saturday loss, the Grizzlies now hold a one-game lead over the Suns for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Memphis and Phoenix play on Monday night ; if Memphis wins, they're in, and the Suns will see their shockingly successful season come to a disappointing end on Wednesday against the Sacramento Kings. It's kind of a big game out in the desert. Top billin' . The Indiana Pacers are once again atop the Eastern Conference, thanks to an impressive 102-97 victory over the Thunder in ABC's Sunday matinee fueled by Lance Stephenson's NBA-leading and Pacers franchise record fifth triple-double of the season (17 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds), strong play up front from Paul George and David West (a combined 41 points and 18 rebounds), and —will wonders never cease! —legitimate contributions from the Pacer bench, led by recently returned point guard C.J. Watson, who had 20 points in 25 minutes off the bench and steadied Indy's ship on a day where George Hill didn't quite have his fastball. After Friday's loss to the Miami Heat, the Pacers had once again dipped down to the No. 2 spot; now, Indy's just one more win (in Wednesday's finale against the Orlando Magic) or one more Miami Heat loss away from securing home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs, thanks in part to ... Birds of war . Shouts out to the Atlanta Hawks, who became the eighth and final team to earn a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference on Saturday by beating the Heat, 98-85 , behind 18 fourth-quarter points from Lou Williams and another strong outing (25 points, four rebounds, four steals, three assists and no turnovers in 36 minutes) from point guard Jeff Teague, who's averaging 20 points and 5.5 assists per game on 50.7/37.8/90.7 shooting splits over his last 10 games . The Hawks can't get any higher than the eighth seed, but they've made the playoffs for the seventh straight season despite losing expected centerpiece Al Horford less than two months into head coach Mike Budenholzer's first year in charge, which is commendable, if not necessarily the great big goal for general manager Danny Ferry and company. Weep not for the memories. The Hawks locking up the eighth seed means the New York Knicks —who earned wins over the playoff-bound Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls this weekend —are officially eliminated from postseason contention. New York's 14-5 run over the last five weeks has been nice enough, but it wound up being too little and too late —this is what happens when you lose 40 of your first 61 games, even in a historically poor Eastern Conference —and now Carmelo Anthony will miss the playoffs for the first time in his 11-year NBA career. Perhaps this apparently taped-and-edited-off-TV (which feels thematically appropriate) highlight reel celebrating the 2013-14 Knicks set to "One Shining Moment" will make you feel better, Melo: The cherry on top of the Knicks' season-long sundae of absurdity? This, from Amar'e Stoudemire after Sunday's win over the Bulls, as noted by Steve Popper of the Bergen Record : "On paper we might be the best team in the league. We’ve got great players on this team who accomplished so much. We just couldn’t put it together." Best of luck to the Knicks in the on-paper playoffs, which begin on the 12th of never. (By the way, the Knicks have to win their final two games —against cross-borough rivals the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday and the Raptors on Wednesday —just to meet the projected record produced by ESPN Insider Kevin Pelton that set so many Knicks fans and players to raging before the start of this season. It's funny how things work out.) Walk the dinosaur. The Raptors clinched the Atlantic Division title on Friday despite losing to the Knicks thanks to the Hawks knocking off the Nets. They tied a franchise record Sunday with their 47th win of the season, besting the circling-the-drain Pistons, 116-107 , in a game that saw DeMar DeRozan score 14 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter and punctuate the proceedings with a very loud, very forceful flush atop the dome of Pistons forward Kyle Singler: The combination of the Raptors' win and the Bulls' Sunday loss to the Knicks means both teams enter Monday at 47-33, with Toronto re-taking the No. 3 seed in the East by virtue of being a division winner. The Raptors conclude their regular-season slate with a home game against the worst-in-the-NBA Milwaukee Bucks on Monday and one last meeting with the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, while the Bulls welcome the 23-57 Magic tonight before finishing things off in North Carolina against the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday. Seed toss. Superchunk . Quickly: EASTERN CONFERENCE •If Miami loses to the Wizards on Monday , Indy's No. 1 in the East and the Heat are No. 2. •If the Raptors beat the Bucks and the Bulls lose to the Magic , Toronto locks up No. 3 seed and puts Chicago at No. 4. •The Nets ensured that they can't finish any worse than No. 6 in the East by beating the Magic on Sunday. If the Wizards lose to the Heat, Brooklyn's No. 5. •If the Wizards beat the Heat and the Bobcats lose to the Hawks , Charlotte's locked into No. 7. (Lots of stuff can still happen for the Wizards. Bullets Forever's Mike Prada runs through the various postseason possibilities.) WESTERN CONFERENCE •The Spurs beat the Suns on Friday, clinching the NBA's best regular-season record and securing home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. They're one win away from tying the 2005-06 squad (63-19) for the most wins in franchise history; if they beat the Rockets on Monday and the Lakers in the season finale on Wednesday , they'll finish at 64-18, the best mark of any Spurs team of all time. This is where we remind you that Tim Duncan is 11 days shy of his 38th birthday, and that the Spurs are ridiculous. •The Thunder's Sunday loss to the Pacers gives the Clippers an outside shot of securing the West's No. 2 seed. If OKC beats the Pelicans on Monday, they lock up No. 2 and put the Clippers in third place. But if, by some stroke of unpredictable magic, Oklahoma City loses to a Pelicans team without Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday and Jason Smith (and possibly Tyreke Evans and Brian Roberts, too), the door's still open just a bit for L.A. to take over No. 2 —basically, they need to win their last two games and they need the Thunder to lose their last two games. •If the Rockets beat the Spurs , Houston's the No. 4 seed and Portland's the No. 5 seed. •If Golden State beats the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Warriors lock up the No. 6 seed. •If the Grizzlies beat the Suns , Memphis clinches the No. 8 seed and eliminates Phoenix. •if the Suns beat the Grizzlies, they stay alive; if Phoenix and Golden State both win, Dallas locks up the No. 7 seed. Got all that? Of course you do. Now, to cleanse your palate, here's Russell Westbrook not exactly sticking the landing on his attempt to play after-the-whistle troll. - - - - - - - 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 BDL's Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more. [read full article]

From Yahoo Sports


Heat playoff run could decide James' future in Miami (Reuters)

The Miami Heat may not be entering the playoffs as the top seed but they are still very much the team to beat, and anything less than a third consecutive NBA title could lead to the breakup of their Big Three. No club has won three straight titles since the Los Angeles Lakers in the early 2000s, and the 16-team field for this year's playoffs, which begin on Saturday, has no shortage of contenders for the NBA's Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy. The San Antonio Spurs, who were a whisker away from winning last year's NBA Finals, and the Indiana Pacers, eager to avenge last season's loss to Miami in the Eastern conference finals, are just two of the many teams feeling good about their chances. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh joined forces in 2010 with the goal of creating a dynasty in Miami by stockpiling NBA titles but enter the postseason facing questions about team chemistry and depth. [read full article]

From Yahoo Sports

No bigger playoff long shot than under-.500 Hawks (Yahoo Sports)

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From Yahoo Sports

Pacers coach rules out Bynum for Hawks series (Yahoo Sports)

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From Yahoo Sports

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