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Spurs-Magic Preview (The Associated Press)
31 Mar 2015 at 9:41pm
There was a time when it looked like the San Antonio Spurs might need much of their eight-game April schedule to secure a playoff position, but as it has been for the previous 17 seasons, postseason basketball is now likely a foregone conclusion. Wins against the Orlando Magic have also fit that description for five seasons, and the Spurs can make a certainty of their playoff fate Wednesday night in their first April contest as they conclude a two-game Florida swing seeking a fifth straight win. After play on Feb. 25, San Antonio (48-26) was 34-23 and in seventh place in the Western Conference, fourth in the Southwest Division and no lock for an 18th consecutive playoff appearance. The Spurs' charge toward the top of the Southwest took another step forward Tuesday with a 95-81 win in Miami to drop their magic number to one.
Raptors-Timberwolves Preview (The Associated Press)
31 Mar 2015 at 1:41pm
In pursuit of one of the top seeds in the Eastern Conference, the Toronto Raptors would seem to catch a break with no teams above .500 remaining on their schedule. The Raptors, though, will also have to play most of those games on the road, where they've struggled mightily. Toronto goes for a rare road victory Wednesday night by continuing its dominance over the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Raptors (44-30) moved one game behind Chicago for third in the East and three ahead of fifth-place Washington with Monday's 99-96 win over Houston.
The NBA has a tanking problem because the NBA used to employ a lot of problem...
31 Mar 2015 at 1:28pm
On Monday evening, the Los Angeles Lakers downed the Philadelphia 76ers on a last-second shot from rookie Jordan Clarkson. Hands were rung and eyes rolled, as a significant portion of NBA fandom could hardly recall what number Clarkson wore prior to this professional event, and yet they could recite the two teams? 2015 NBA draft odds by rote: Los Angeles keeps its pick unless it either continues to win, or in case bad lottery luck pushes the team out of the top five. If it falls out of the top five, the lowly Sixers takes in its own high end lottery pick, and the Lakers? selection. [DraftKings: FREE entry to huge cash Fantasy Basketball Contest with first deposit ] Los Angeles has won three of five, quite the warming trend for a 20-53 club, putting its fans in an impossible position that we see yearly amongst the lower rungs of the NBA. The team?s fans understand that most of the current Lakers won?t have a spot in the rotation when the franchise finally turns it all around, there is no point in rooting for their growth and success, and every added win lowers the team?s odds at the draft pick of their choice ? presuming they get to keep it anyway. Philadelphia? They?ve spent the better part of two seasons auditioning players for rotation spots nine through 15 on the 2017-18 Philadelphia 76ers. The guy they drafted in June of 2013 didn?t play until October of 2014, the guy they drafted in June of 2014 won?t play until October of 2015 , and another really good guy they drafted in June of 2014 possibly won?t play until October of 2017 . Their best young prospect from last season, Michael Carter-Williams, was recently traded for a draft pick that may not make his debut until October of 2016 ? if then. Minnesota coach Flip Saunders recently had to back down from earlier, heated comments he made about Utah Jazz broadcasters that he called ?irresponsible? after they discussed the Timberwolves? decision to rest several key (and also injured) starters as the team worked its way toward its tenth straight lottery appearance. The Wolves have the second-best odds at entering 2015-16 with the last three top overall NBA draft picks on its roster , and yet the team will still be ages away from a playoff berth, and not likely to end a postseason drought that is about to enter its second decade. Phil Jackson?s New York Knicks have the best odds at a top overall pick, but even with cap space and the return of Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks are still several significant moves away from even playoff contention. They?re so far away that Jackson even asked season ticket holders to turn their frowns upside-down as the team readies itself to ask its fans to reward the worst season in Knick history with the highest ticket prices in the NBA. The Sacramento Kings haven?t sniffed relevance in nearly a decade, and yet the team is still content to possibly sit DeMarcus Cousins down for the rest of the season . Cousins, the team?s beleaguered franchise star working for a franchise in turmoil , is coming off his first All-Star appearance, and he?s been hustling since Team USA training camp in July. Sitting Cousins would also give the Kings better odds in keeping its first-round draft pick this year, as a dip out of the top ten this season would mean the selection would move on to the Chicago Bulls. Denver, essentially, gave up on its season midway through 2014-15. Boston, rightfully, has its fans worried that the team may perpetually overachieve its way out of earning the chance to acquire a star . Talk of tanking used to dominate NBA headlines in March and April, but the modern cycle has fans discussing it on draft night in June, and wondering if the reboot will take two or three years, as could be the case with the Lakers , as opposed to the single-year dive. This is where the hand-wringing comes in. The NBA could do away with the weighted lottery. It could fine teams for blatantly sitting winning prospects. Khrushchev's shoe, on the table, Mark Madsen shooting three-pointers, all that fun stuff. [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball ] The NBA doesn?t need to revisit how it deals with such thing. The NBA, simply, needs to get rid of bad general managers. The NBA is also well on its way toward achieving that. By now the GM shaming has become a well-worn trope (and you?re welcome!). The deal that sent a Kings first-rounder to Cleveland (and eventually Chicago) for J.J. Hickson was laughed at as much then as it is now, as the Bulls watch the Western standings. Brooklyn GM Billy King was mocked almost from the outset of his time with the team. Even while pegging the 2012-13 Lakers for a championship run, we all wondered why the Lakers felt compelled to send a potential first-round pick Phoenix?s way in the Steve Nash sign-and-trade. Fans had no idea what Minnesota was chasing when it declined to give Kevin Love the contract he deserved or when it handed Kevin Martin four years and $27.7 million in 2013. We?re slowly getting away from this, however. Several teams, unfortunately, have had to play dumb this season in order to make up for past mistakes. Teams are getting smarter, though. Even the Knicks, just a few months from being roundly mocked for trading draft picks for Andrea Bargnani, declined to send a draft pick to Toronto for a player in Kyle Lowry that was soon to be a free agent. Phil Jackson?s longtime buddy and former assistant coach Charley Rosen may want the team to trade the top overall pick for Greg Monroe (something that isn?t NBA-legal) on draft night, but Charley Rosen (thankfully) does not work for the New York Knicks. Meanwhile, the Lakers might be playing possum currently, and might enter 2016 without Kobe Bryant, without Byron Scott, with three high-end draft picks, cap space, and the waves of Malibu to offer. The game has passed some general managers by, like Washington?s Ernie Grunfeld ( who once traded the aforementioned Jordan Clarkson for freaking cash considerations ), but they?re probably not long for the league in that role. King is out of Brooklyn as soon as new owners swoop in . Soon enough, general managers won?t have to take several rebuilding years to clean up the messes of their predecessors, as we?re currently seeing in Detroit, Orlando, Sacramento, Philly, New York, Minnesota, and ? That?s a lot of teams, but the NBA has also rid itself of several very poor general managers over the last few years. This isn?t to say that parity will hit and the ranks of competition will level, as you still may have GMs being hired partially because they?re from the same state that the team plays in , but things are changing in ways that don?t have to lead to a change of the lottery rules. This is what happens when you let Dwight Howard run your franchise, or David Kahn, or Joe Dumars, or Doug Collins, or James Dolan, or when you basically give up on basketball while trying to sell your team . A goodly chunk of the NBA is in a bad place because the work of some lacking ex-GMs put their teams in bad places. Outfits in Philadelphia, Los Angeles and New York aren?t guaranteed future success with the NBA draft still three months away, but these front offices had to start somewhere. There are five to a side in basketball, stars matter, and there will always have to be 25-win teams. This is part of the reason why so many of us follow the NBA, and the biggest reason why comparisons to other sports or leagues are anachronistic at best and pointless at worst. The NBA?s job right now, as it recovers from the work of so many executives who were stuck in 1991 while working in 2011, is to get smarter. Not more unhinged. We?ve tried that already, and it didn?t work. - - - - - - - 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
Pelicans-Lakers Preview (The Associated Press)
31 Mar 2015 at 11:48am
While they haven't fared well in recent matchups with playoff-contending teams, the New Orleans Pelicans are capitalizing on an advantageous part of their schedule. With Ryan Anderson's return imminent, the Pelicans seek a third straight victory as they try to sweep the season series from the lowly Los Angeles Lakers in the opener to a three-game road trip Wednesday night. They took a 102-88 victory over Sacramento on Friday, and Anthony Davis scored 28 points in a 110-88 win against Minnesota on Sunday. The Pelicans shot 57.3 percent and limited the Timberwolves to 2-of-12 shooting from 3-point range.
76ers-Wizards Preview (The Associated Press)
31 Mar 2015 at 10:25am
John Wall has been sensational on the Washington Wizards' homestand, though it isn't translating into enough victories. The lowly Philadelphia 76ers visit next, and they may be able to slow down Wall now that the energetic Ish Smith is starting at point guard. The Wizards also usually excel on the glass and will attempt to keep Nerlens Noel off the boards in Wednesday night's matchup. Wall is averaging 30.3 points, 8.0 assists and 7.0 rebounds while totaling 31 free-throw attempts three games into this five-game stretch at home, though Washington (41-33) has won once.
Lakers beat 76ers 113-111 in OT on Clarkson's basket (The Associated Press)
30 Mar 2015 at 9:53pm
Byron Scott still has a lot to learn about Jordan Clarkson. The Lakers coach is already sure of one thing: Clarkson isn't the type to wilt under pressure. ''You've got to like to that.'' Clarkson scored 26 points and made the tiebreaking basket with 0.7 seconds left in overtime to lift Los Angeles past the Philadelphia 76ers, 113-111 on Monday night in a matchup of two of the NBA's worst teams. The rookie guard helped the Lakers pull out a game both teams had incentive to lose.
Pacers-Nets Preview (The Associated Press)
30 Mar 2015 at 2:00pm
The Indiana Pacers and Brooklyn Nets are in the mix, and Tuesday night's showdown at Barclays Center appears to be especially crucial with the season series on the line. Indiana (32-41) and Brooklyn (32-40) are neck-and-neck with Miami, Boston and Charlotte with two weeks left in the season, so capturing head-to-head tiebreakers could prove decisive. "It's weird," Pacers guard C.J. Miles told the team's official website. Miles led the way with 28 points, going 9 of 12 from the field and 5 for 6 from 3-point range as the Pacers shot a season-best 58.8 percent (10 of 17) from beyond the arc.
NBA Power Rankings: Top seeds facing balancing act (Yahoo Sports)
30 Mar 2015 at 9:26am
With the Warriors and Hawks having the No. 1 seeds locked up, they now have to balance rest with building momentum.
NBA Playoff Picture Update: Oklahoma City comes back to ruin the Suns' season...
29 Mar 2015 at 9:18pm
With just a few weeks remaining until the NBA postseason, every night can impact the standings. NBA Playoff Picture keeps you up to date on all the most important news for all 16 berths and seeds. [DraftKings: FREE entry to huge cash Fantasy Basketball Contest with first deposit ] Oklahoma City Downs a Dream: The Phoenix Suns aren?t entirely out of the playoff picture at this point, but it will be hard to recover from what the Thunder managed to do to them in 24 swift minutes on Sunday evening. Down 20 early in the offering, the Thunder utilized small lineups and desperate chances on its way to a borderline stunning 109-97 win . The team outscored Phoenix by 20 over the game?s final 24 minutes, with Russell Westbrook nearing yet another triple-double (33 points on 27 shots, nine rebounds, seven assists), Dion Waiters offering his bi-weekly ?this is why we still take chances on him? contribution of 18 points on 20 shots, and bench performers D.J. Augustin and Anthony Morrow combined for 30 points on only 15 attempts from the field. Phoenix never seemed to find a defensive rhythm after the lay-up line that was the first half, and as a result the team is now four games back in the race for the final postseason berth in the West. OKC also moved to 2.5 games up over the New Orleans Pelicans, keeping pace in spite of NOLA?s 22-point win over the hapless (and clearly tanking, as the team?s coaching staff went away from productive lineups in the second half) Minnesota Timberwolves. Rockets Ascend: Afforded the national TV showing and a frustrated opponent to tee off upon, the Houston Rockets elbowed their way into the Western Conference?s second-best record on Sunday afternoon. Despite injuries to three former starters, the Rox rode James Harden?s 9-10 touch from the free throw line to a 99-91 win that was more lopsided than the final score would indicate. Dwight Howard managed a double-double despite playing just 18 minutes, as the Wizards solidified their slot as The Fifth Seed That Can?t Wait for 2014-15 To Be Over . Memphis Blues Again: The Grizzlies have lost 11 of 20 since Feb. 25. This is a bit of a problem, a problem that can?t be solved by sliding Vince Carter into the starting lineup or making snarky remarks about Jeff Green. Working on the road, in the home of the San Antonio franchise that the Grizzlies famously downed in the first-round of the 2011 playoffs, Memphis had no answer for Kawhi Leonard?s length and touch on Sunday evening . In a 103-89 loss that allowed Houston to vault past Memphis and into the West?s second seed, the Grizz were continually kept at arm?s length by a Spurs squad that seemed to have a rotation answer for every Memphis run. Working small by design, the Grizzlies could not keep Leonard (25 points, 10 rebounds) away from his preferred spots close to the basket. San Antonio dominated the glass, kept the ball moving (25 assists; hardly home cooking from the local scorers? crew), and barely broke a sweat in winning its sixth game in seven tries. Quietly, per the team?s custom, the Spurs moved into second place in terms of defensive efficiency on the season over the weekend. Nets Appeal: Smirking in the face of the whole of NBA fandom, the Brooklyn Nets managed to ride into the East?s playoff bracket by taking advantage of a miserable Los Angeles Lakers team, ticking off those of whom that want nothing to do with watching BKN past the third week of April. Joe Johnson, still a guy that plays basketball for a lot of money, helped helm his team?s fourth quarter stand after the Lakers threatened. Brooklyn center Brook Lopez continued to add to what has been a fabulous March turn by adding 30 points in the face of a Laker frontcourt that seemed to have no idea what to do with a big man that can walk and chew gum at the same time. The team?s 107-99 win put the trillion-dollar squad a half game up over the same Boston Celtics team that ? Boston Blows It : The Celtics shouldn?t have been favored against a Los Angeles Clippers team that had no business losing to a C?s group working eight games below .500 in late March, and yet the Celtics still managed to make it worse with lethargic and uninspired play from the outset. Brad Stevens? crew managed to make an interesting game in spite of the slow start, returning to force former Celtics coach Doc Rivers to put his Clipper starters in late in the fourth quarter following a Boston run, but the same spark that inspired the Marcus Smart-driven run in recent weeks just wasn?t there for the Celtics. Smart, in particular, appears to have hit the rookie wall. Celtic wing Jae Crowder had his moments, and the application of a Hack-a-DeAndre Jordan acted as an intelligent move as the Celtics came back, but Boston dug itself too deep a hole in the opening moments. As a result, following the 119-106 dive , the team now stands a half-game behind Brooklyn for the East?s final postseason seed. Miami Acts its Age : Officially listed as ?questionable? heading into an anonymous Sunday afternoon game in Detroit, Dwyane Wade managed to turn back the clock on his way to a 40-point outing in the Heat?s win over the Pistons. That total ranks as the second-highest output of Wade?s season thus far, made all the more impressive in the face of the fact that helper Luol Deng had to leave the game after just 18 unproductive minutes due to a painful knee contusion. With 21-year old (!) Andre Drummond adding a season-high 32 points, the Heat needed everything they could get from their franchise player in the 109-102 win . (There?s also the whole part about Dwyane Wade having to drain fluid out of his troublesome left knee just a day before keeping his Heat a game and a half up on the Nets for the seventh spot in the East.) Quickly : The Pacers badly needed Rodney Stuckey to return in order to keep their playoff hopes alive, which somehow isn?t the saddest thing to happen in Indiana this month ? Cleveland and Philadelphia paid tribute to the NCAA Tournament by missing a ton of shots and taking far too long to finish their game on Sunday afternoon, the Cavs eventually held on despite Kevin Love?s back injury ? Pesto goes with anything. Monday's Most Important Games Boston at Charlotte , 7:00 p.m. ET: It?s to the discredit of all involved that a 32-41 team and a 31-41 outfit are battling in late March for the chance to make the playoffs in the East, but this is what happens when Danny Ainge intelligently decides to rebuild on the fly and Michael Jordan decides that he wants to prove himself to Jerry Krause. The C?s have lost two of three to Charlotte on the year, but the Hornets will be likely working with a hobbled Al Jefferson and Mo Williams. Houston at Toronto , 7:30 p.m. ET: This could act as the trappiest of all trap games, as the Rockets are coming off of a solid road win over the Wizards and the Raptors could be looking to turn things around after not bothering to guard anyone in the 2015 calendar year. Toronto has it in them to down the West?s current second seed at full strength, but with Kyle Lowry likely out the Raps will be up against it. Milwaukee at Atlanta , 7:30 p.m. ET: The Hawks might sit all of their starters again, and Milwaukee might still struggle to score 78 points. - - - - - - - Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KDonhoops
Nets keep up playoff push, beat Lakers for 3rd straight win (The Associated P...
29 Mar 2015 at 8:53pm
Brook Lopez had 30 points and 11 rebounds, and the Brooklyn Nets kept up their playoff push by beating the Los Angeles Lakers 107-99 on Sunday for their third straight victory. Joe Johnson added 18 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for the Nets, who moved into sole possession of eighth place in the Eastern Conference, a half-game ahead of Boston and Indiana. Just like last season, the Nets are trying to overcome a disappointing first half of the season with a strong finish. ''It has been a trend, for whatever reason,'' point guard Deron Williams said.

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