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Nets Fan

Blueprint for Brooklyn Nets to Rebuild Via NBA Trade Market posted by Nets Fan

10-21 start, a disappointing 44-win finish and a second-round playoff loss bookended a discouraging season by management's standards. Now it seems as if general manager Billy King is looking to reconstruct his roster.

So, what does a team that pays a bigger luxury tax than any other do when its season starts to implode? It begins to prioritize the money just a little bit more. And there's nothing wrong with that.

You can't blame an owner who wants to spend when he wins but doesn't when he loses. Actually, there are advantages to keeping salary lower on unsuccessful teams, considering that getting below the luxury tax for a season helps you avoid paying a repeater tax in future years.

The Nets are in a unique situation: Most of the time, if an older team is underperforming and wants to deal away some of its bigger contracts, it'll look for young talent around which it can build.

The NBA's current climate promotes a sort of break-it-down-and-start-over environment for expensive teams that can't seem to find success. Except there is one problem which is specific to the Nets: The team doesn't have any valuable draft picks at any point in the near future.

We're talking nothing. Zilch.

Brooklyn could go five straight years—after sending its first-rounder to the Celtics this past summer—without selecting with its own first-round pick. 

Brooklyn may be four under .500 right now, but the schedule is in one of its lighter periods, starting with Sunday's home game against the Detroit Pistons, which the Nets won 110-105. Tuesday, the Nets host the

Continue reading "Blueprint for Brooklyn Nets to Rebuild ..."

Timberwolves Fan

Wolves drop game to Boston Celtics late run. posted by Timberwolves Fan

Nothing seems to be going right for the Timberwolves as they lose to the Celtics Friday night. They tried for younger blood by taking out veteran Corey Brewer and bringing in youngster Shabazz Muhammad and still the Timberwolves lose 114-98.

Friday’s trade that sent Brewer to Houston clears playing time and for at least now a starting spot for the hard-working Muhammad, who turned opportunity into a 26-point, five-rebound, five-assist game on a night his team was outdone by Boston’s game-deciding, 8-0 fourth quarter run.

On Friday, Muhammad made shots — 11 of 15 from the field — while teammate Andrew Wiggins went 2-for-10 and Thaddeus Young went 6-for-19, against a Celtics team that had just traded star Rajon Rondo to Dallas on Thursday night.

“I really thought we were going to pull that one out, I was really disappointed,” Muhammad said. “I wanted to come in and win the game, most importantly. But I was very comfortable out there. I’m starting to get really comfortable, and that’s one thing that’s really good for me.”

Toughing it out

Veteran guard Mo Williams traveled to Dallas on Thursday to get a second opinion on his back and celebrate early his 32nd birthday with his wife and children. He said he is relieved to learn his back spasms are only muscular and not something that requires surgery. He played 25 minutes Friday even though Saunders only intended to play him 15 minutes at most. Williams said he’ll play through the pain.

“However many minutes, it doesn’t bother me at all, I’ll fight through it,” Williams said. “To be honest with you, I want to stop talking about it and just play. I didn’t get treatment today because I just want mentally to learn how to tolerate the pain.”

Continue reading "Wolves drop game to Boston Celtics late run."

Celtics Fan

Nelson embracing new role with rebuilding Celtics posted by Celtics Fan

When Jameer Nelson was traded from a title contender in Dallas to a rebuilding situation in Boston last week, his friends apparently took the news harder than he did.

"People calling me, asking me if I'm OK,'" Nelson said after Monday's practice - his first with the Celtics. "I'm like, 'I'm OK.' I'm playing basketball for a living, something I love to do."

Nelson, who along with Brandan Wright and Jae Crowder, came to Boston from Dallas in exchange for Rajon Rondo and Dwight Powell.

Not only is Nelson playing for a weaker team, but his role on the court is more undefined as well.

When he signed with Dallas, Nelson knew he was coming in to be the starting point guard.

Here in Boston, Nelson will fight for minutes with Marcus Smart, Evan Turner and Phil Pressey.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens named Smart the starter on Sunday with Turner and Nelson serving as Smart's backup.

Of course Nelson would love to be playing a prominent role on a title contender right about now. But that's not the hand he was dealt which is why being part of Boston's rebuilding efforts isn't something he's looking to run away from at the first chance he gets.

"My job is to play no matter where it is," Nelson said. "I give everything I have for the team that I'm on. Everything I have for the guys in the locker room."

That was certainly true during his 10 seasons with the Orlando Magic where he was not only a starter, but played an instrumental role in helping mentor the team's younger players through multiple rebuilding processes.

Continue reading "Nelson embracing new role with rebuilding Celtics"


Celtics Fan

Boston Celtics Preseason Report 2014 posted by Celtics Fan

Boston Celtics were very hopeful of coming on top with players like Jared Sullinger anchoring the offense, Jeff Green presumed to take up bigger role, and Kelly Olynyk who was supposed to make Rookie of the year. However, nothing played out as expected. Sullinger was shooting from the floor, but showed promise in stretching four and rebounding. Green did not make much of an impact and Olynyk was struggling to succeed.

Beginning of January, the Celtics were impressive at 13-18, but during the month, they dropped to 2-15, and then it was downhill. The return of Rajon Rondo did not have the desired effect on the team. Brad Stevens, the coach, had the challenging task of juggling young players and keeping veterans on their best play. Danny Ainge the team manager, opted to keep Rondo, and managed to snag certain draft picks. In the offseason, the Celtics required wings assistance for effective shooting. Secondly, Bradley's free agency was restricted and found difficulty trading Green.

The selection of Marcus Smart was first quite debatable, but later it proved to be the right move. His strength plays him as a very good defender; however, the challenge would be translating his talents into much more. Selecting James Young was a good move, even though it was later in the first round. With his ability to shoot, Young will be quite effective as Green's reserve, which could also point towards trading of Green.

The Boston Celtics are still in the rebuilding phase, but are keeping their options open for immediate contention as well. The contracts of Keith Bogans, Thornton, and Brandon Bass will be expiring soon, there is enough cap room, and many draft picks. The team could even trade Rajon Rondo if they find the right replacement. The team could look quite different by the end of the season.

Continue reading "Boston Celtics Preseason Report 2014"


Celtics Fan

Betting on the Boston Celtics After Ray Allen’s Departure posted by Celtics Fan

Even if you are trying out your hand betting on one of your favorite NBA teams, then you will probably agree that an online Sports Casino is a better option. It is much more convenient than walking into a casino or gaming house to place your bet. The transport cost, time wasted and privacy are some of the advantages that people who place bets online enjoy. They can place their bets at the comfort of their homes without setting aside long periods of time for it.

NBA basketball betting just like other sports betting systems, has come a long way. Online betting is now possible and secure thanks to the clear regulations that govern each of these sports betting systems. Not only are people betting from home on their PCs, they are also using mobile apps to place wagers on their favorite teams. Payment has also become easier and more convenient as these online casinos like  http://www.riverbellecasino.com/ allow for payment to be made by using various electronic payment systems. It's not just sports bettingyou can do online. As mentioned earlier you can now play a variety of casino games online. Gambling in general has never been easier, so whether it's sports betting or casino games you like to play, you're options are nearly endless.

NBA basketball betting is the second biggest sports league that people place bets on after NFL. The game also has a good number of exciting matches each season. The Advantage of NBA is like football it is quite easy to understand for anyone trying to wager for the first time. It is however not a good idea to always wager on your favorite team. The best way is to take time to understand the game and the rules of betting. It is also helpfull to choose a sport that you love, so that you can be motivated to keep up with it.

Continue reading "Betting on the Boston Celtics After ..."


Charles Bisbee

Celtics Thoughts posted by Charles Bisbee

Here are some thoughts on the Celtics as training camps open:

·      It’ll be interesting to see how much KG has left in the tank. His numbers have regressed across the board from just a couple seasons ago. Nonetheless, the intangibles and the desire remain intact and it’s impossible to discount the role they’ll play on a young Celtics squad. Rondo may be the C’s best player, but KG remains the team's heart and soul.

·      Here’s hoping Garnett can effectively light a fire under rookie Jared Sullinger, the talented but scatter-brained big man from Ohio State. Sullinger impressed during Orlando Summer League action, scoring 20 points and grabbing 6 rebounds in just 24 minutes of action during his first game. Talent, however, has never been the issue. If KG can continually keep Sullinger focused and dedicated, the Celts may have the answer at power forward over the next 10-15 years.

·      I’m interested to see how Avery Bradley handles an increased workload when he returns in January. With Keyon Dooling retired and Ray Allen in Miami, Bradley will get the bulk of the load backing up Rondo and aging (but still effective) combo-guard Jason Terry. Bradley is a shut-down defender, but I'm not sure he can produce enough offensively to warrant the minutes. Relatedly, the Celtics lack of depth at guard scares me. Outside Rondo, Terry, and (possibly?) Courtney Lee, there are a lot of unproven youngsters.

·      Paul Pierce refuses to show his age. As the years go by, he only gets craftier. His array of start-and-stops, head fakes, and up-and-unders would make Kevin McHale proud. I think Pierce should play until he’s 50.

Continue reading "Celtics Thoughts"


Charles Bisbee

NBA Anarchy posted by Charles Bisbee

The NBA is completely bonkers right now. With less than two weeks until season’s tip-off, players are being flipped faster than flapjacks at IHOP. Chris Paul has been perfecting his start-and-stop from the comfort of his living room. Dwight Howard can't seem to decipher his own feelings about the Magic. Lamar Odom, as collateral from the Paul fall-out, whined his way to the Mavs, who were spurned earlier in the week by Tyson Chandler (Knicks). Chauncey Billups took his frequent flier miles to the Clips (though he could be dealt again by the time I finish this sentence) and Big Baby was swapped for Brandon Bass.

Wait, there's more! The Celtics thought they had Baby's replacement in David West (Paul’s former right-hand man) but the Pacers swooped in and snagged him for a cool $20 mil. Consequently, the Hornets are trying to fill out a roster with Quincy Pondexter and a collection of ball boys. Vinsanity joined Odom in Dallas, which lost Caron Butler to the Clippers, which matched Golden State’s absurd, $43 million qualifying offer to DeAndre Jordan (he with the career 5.9 ppg). T-Mac, Rip Hamilton, Chris Wilcox, Mike Bibby and Dunleavy are on the move as well, though these names seem like afterthoughts compared to the seismic activity higher up. 

And all this happened in slightly over a week. It’s certainly enough to make the casual fan's head spin. The ramifications of this unforseen, pre-season turbulence on the regular season, though, is what really boggles the mind. With little time to mesh, little time to prepare, and a season packed tighter than Delta coach, teams should be in for a wild ride. We're staring down the barrel of the most slapdash, unforseen and chemistry-bungled season since, dare I say, 1998! Should be a wild ride. 

Continue reading "NBA Anarchy"


Randolph Charlotin

Eye on the Draft - Trade Winds posted by Randolph Charlotin

Reports came out that San Antonio is shopping three-time All-Star Tony Parker. It’s rumored that the Los Angeles Lakers are trying to move PF Lamar Odom. Phoenix just shot down rumors that they are trying to trade two-time league MVP Steve Nash.

And where is Trader Dan during all these talks? Surprisingly quiet. Danny Ainge, notorious for making exchanges, says he plans on staying put at picks 25 and 55.

Is this gamesmanship by Ainge or is he speaking the truth? Boston’s roster is very thin with just six players under contract plus restricted free agent Jeff Green. In a draft that lacks franchise players, the motivation to move up is low.

But more than anything else, what do the Celtics have to offer in potential trades?

Four of the five starters are well into their 30’s and are viewed as declining or will be soon. Expiring contracts (Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Jermaine O’Neal are in the last year of their respective deals) usually don’t become attractive until just before the trade deadline. The most appealing player on the Celtics is Rajon Rondo, but what could Ainge get in return for Rondo that would make the Celtics better?

Fans have suggested that Ainge pry Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets with Rondo, sign and trade Glen Davis, and the top-10 protected 2012 first round pick. I’d like to see those fans’ prescriptions.

It would take a tremendous sell job to convince Paul to come to Boston and sign a long term deal with a Celtics team perceived to be in decline when Paul wants to join a team with a shot to win the championship. And the Hornets, a franchise that would shift into rebuilding mode after such a trade, would want more draft picks in return.

Continue reading "Eye on the Draft - Trade Winds"


Randolph Charlotin

Eye on the Draft 2 - Guarded Concerns posted by Randolph Charlotin

Reggie Jackson. Iman Shumpert. Nolan Smith. Malcom Lee. Marshon Brooks. Just a handful of the names linked to the Boston Celtics’ first round pick. All guards. And each one worries me.

I’m not opposed to selecting a guard in the draft. Just not at 25.

Depth at the position wasn’t as bad as it looked as Delonte West played well behind Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen. The trade deadline acquisition of Jeff Green allowed the Celts to put a big backcourt of Green and Paul Pierce on the floor. Von Wafer was available if Doc Rivers cared to use him.

Free agency will leave the backcourt very thin, but there are affordable options starting with West and Wafer.

Then there’s the wild card combo guard Avery Bradley, the 2010 first round pick. If the Celtics really are interested in any of the guards named above, does that mean Bradley has fallen out of favor with Ainge and head coach Doc Rivers already?

And is a combo guard that much of a need? Truth is a combo guard is an undersized two guard playing the point. We saw in the playoffs the value of a true point guard as superstars Russell Westbrook of Oklahoma City and Derrick Rose of Chicago played one-on-five in their respective Conference Championships, derailing their teams’ playoff runs.

Based on evaluations of the guards listed above, they all have glaring weaknesses, from volume shooter/scorer, to lack of a jump shot, to poor decision-making as a point guard.

A combo guard off the bench for Boston should work. Someone to take a load off Rondo and Allen would only make all three players better by splitting minutes three ways. But is a combo guard good enough to become a full time two guard in the future?

Continue reading "Eye on the Draft 2 - Guarded Concerns"


Randolph Charlotin

Eye on the Draft 1 - Bigs Problem posted by Randolph Charlotin

First off, my knowledge of the NBA Draft is nowhere close to my NFL Draft IQ. Not even close. I don’t follow college basketball until the NCAA Tournament and I have zero familiarity with foreign players, whether they are European or South American.

What I strongly believe in is my knowledge of the Celtics and the team needs. And what should be on the top of their list are big men. I’m not talking Glen “Big Baby” Davis wide big. I’m talking 6’10” neighborhood.

Let’s look at the facts: Centers Kendrick Perkins and Semih Erden were moved at the trade deadline. Shaquille O’Neal retired and Nenad Krstic signed with a Russian team.

Boston is down to Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O’Neal, and restricted free agent Jeff Green. None of them are long term fixtures at PF or C. And the options for free agents are either out of the Celtics’ price range or just aren’t very good players when sifting through the bargain bin of free agents.

The NBA Draft is less than a week away and it is the first step towards finding a player or two to groom into an eventual starter.

I’ve had enough of people saying this is a weak draft class. If a team’s scouting department is good, they can find the great players in a weak draft. Danny Ainge and his staff found gems year after year in the second round. If they can find players that late, they can find two drafting late in the first and second round.

Not much is known about Ainge’s research. The Celtics announce some of the players they bring in for workouts (click the links for the workout updates from Celtics.com: Workouts 1 Workouts 2), but that doesn’t cover scouting trips. Beyond that is mock draft watching and taking mental notes of the changes following updates.

Continue reading "Eye on the Draft 1 - Bigs Problem"

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NBA Playoff Picture Update: Pelicans overtake Thunder out West, Heat stay alive in East (Ball

With just more than one week 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 ] The Pell-I-can't! When Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr announced he wouldn't be resting anybody for Tuesday's matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans — a game that the Warriors didn't need after having clinched home-court advantage , but that the Pelicans needed desperately in their pursuit of the West's No. 8 seed — I wondered whether the Pelicans might wind up on the business end of the same sort of brutal, race-changing beat the Dubs handed the Phoenix Suns. This time, though, the bounce went the other way: After draining a tough 3-pointer with Quincy Pondexter draped all over him to tie the game at 100, Stephen Curry had a crack at another game-tying 3-ball to once again knot the contest at 103. As he pulled up, Pelicans forward Dante Cunningham elevated to contest; Curry jumped into him, but didn't get a foul call. As he came down, Curry released the ball, allowing it to bounce next to him before retrieving it with just more than two seconds remaining and launching a 3. It rolled around the inside of the rim before bouncing out, giving the Pelicans a huge 103-100 win that moved them past the Oklahoma City Thunder into eighth place. It was a fitting conclusion to a wild game that featured 11 ties, 16 lead changes and an array of dramatic moments in the closing minutes. There was Anthony Davis' huge and-one finish through contact out of the pick-and-roll to give the Pelicans a four-point lead with 1:21 remaining: ... followed by Curry's stepback bomb over Pondexter: ... followed by Tyreke Evans getting a benefit-of-the-doubt foul call against Andre Iguodala after dribbling the ball off his own leg and falling down, which led to a trip to the line for what would become the game-winning free throw: ... followed by Curry getting a great look at an 8-foot runner that would have given the Warriors the lead with 10 ticks left: ... followed by the potential game-tying miss. Which, by the way, was a pretty fortunate outcome for the officials, who would have had to explain to Monty Williams and a legion of angry Pelicans fans why Curry was allowed to attempt the shot in the first place. Curry's touch seemed to represent either A) a violation of the rule against a shooter being the first person to touch the ball if his shot fails to hit the backboard, the rim or another player, or B) a violation of the rule against a ball-handler being the first player to touch the ball after dropping the ball while in the air. Either way, as FanSided's Jared Wade noted , something illegal happened on that play. Luckily, it didn't wind up mattering. Davis missed eight of his 10 shots in the first half, thanks in part tothe interior defense of Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green. In the second half, though, he played like a superstar desperate to make his postseason debut. The 22-year-old marvel scored 23 points on 8-for-11 shooting after intermission, teaming up with center Omer Asik for score the first 10 points of the third quarter and chopping Golden State's halftime lead down to two just three minutes into the second half. Nearly the entire rest of the game was played within a two-possession margin — a hard-fought, nip-and-tuck finish that was anything but the "scrimmage" that the Warriors allegedly believed they were in for — with Davis' shot-making and shot-deterring tilting both the game and the race for the eighth seed in New Orleans' favor. The All-Star power forward finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks, two assists and two steals in 40 minutes to lead the way. Pondexter added 20 points on 6-for-7 shooting, including a perfect 4-for-4 mark from beyond the arc, along with tight perimeter defense. Evans chipped in 12 points, nine assists, six rebounds and four steals for the Pelicans, who now sit a half-game up on the Thunder ... who didn't have such a great night. [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball] Second verse, same as the first: Just two weeks removed from taking a 39-point beating at the hands of the Spurs, Scott Brooks' squad once again fell victim to a San Antonio pasting on Wednesday. The Spurs walloped the Thunder, 113-88 , to run their winning streak to eight and improve to 18-3 over their last 21 games. This game was over nearly as soon as it got started, as the Spurs clamped down to hold the Thunder to a season-low 10 points in the first quarter on 4-for-21 shooting, with San Antonio scoring nine points off six Oklahoma City turnovers to take a 19-point lead after 12 minutes. Your emblematic early-game possession: Kawhi Leonard continuing his larcenous ways by victimizing Kyle Singler to create a runout dunk. Leonard maintained his brilliant recent form, scoring 23 points in the first half alone to stake San Antonio to a 22-point halftime lead. Oklahoma City never even really flirted with a run to get back into things; as a result, Leonard didn't play after the 7:40 mark of the third. He finished with 26 points — matching his regular-season career-high, which he's now hit four times this season, and in two straight games — to go with three steals, two rebounds and two assists in just 24 minutes. Five other Spurs scored in double figures, led by 12 points, nine rebounds and four blocks from Tim Duncan. The future Hall of Famer also added three assists, including this honey of an alley-oop feed to Leonard: San Antonio led by as many as 34 points against a Thunder team that, frankly, looks absolutely spent after fighting so hard to maintain playoff positioning without injured stars Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka. With Russell Westbrook continuing to seem somewhat the worse for wear (17 points on 7-for-16 shooting with six steals, two assists and four turnovers) after spending February and March playing the role of Superman, Oklahoma City just looked completely outclassed by the in-form Spurs, leading coach Gregg Popovich to express some postgame sympathy for the Thunder, according to Royce Young of ESPN.com : "No matter how you slice it, it is just not a fair fight," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "Nobody is going to give back the win. We are going to take the win and I thought we played well, but you just still feel badly when you see Kevin in that chair out there and the other guys are hurt. It is just not a fair fight." [...] "You've got to feel badly for these guys," Popovich said. "You feel sorry for them, but you're proud of them at the same time because they play the right way and they do everything they can to win. They don't cry. They just go play." That, unfortunately, hasn't been enough of late. Oklahoma City's now lost four straight and six of seven to fall to ninth place in the West, a half-game behind the Pelicans. And with New Orleans holding the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Thunder thanks to a bonkers game-winning 3 by Davis two months ago, Oklahoma City no longer controls its own destiny, no matter what Westbrook and Dion Waiters seem to think. If the Thunder don't finish one game up on New Orleans, they'll be watching the playoffs for the first time 2009. All's not lost just yet. The Thunder finish the season with matchups against the playing-out-the-string Sacramento Kings, the not-quite-world-beating (but recently reinvigorated ) Indiana Pacers, a Portland Trail Blazers squad likely already resigned to opening the playoffs on the road and a Minnesota Timberwolves team with little incentive to win again this season. The Pelicans, on the other hand, still have three games left against Western playoff squads, including a last-day-of-the-season date with these Spurs. The door's still open. But for the Thunder to walk through it and into the playoffs, they'll have to start playing like they belong there. “Nobody going to come through the door and save us,” said Waiters after the game, according to Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman . At this stage, though, it's not clear whether the Thunder can save themselves. Survive and ... well, just survive: Goran Dragic scored 11 of his team-high 28 points in the fourth quarter, pairing slithery drives to the cup with deadeye shooting to push the Miami Heat to a 105-100 win over the Charlotte Hornets. The win lifts Miami back into ninth place in the Eastern Conference, a half-game behind the eighth-seeded Boston Celtics and a half-game ahead of the Pacers. The loss drops 11th-place Charlotte a full two games back of Boston with just five games left on its schedule. [read full article]

From Yahoo Sports

NBA Playoff Picture Update: Pelicans overtake Thunder out West, Heat stay alive in East (Ball

With just more than one week 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 ] The Pell-I-can't! When Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr announced he wouldn't be resting anybody for Tuesday's matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans — a game that the Warriors didn't need after having clinched home-court advantage , but that the Pelicans needed desperately in their pursuit of the West's No. 8 seed — I wondered whether the Pelicans might wind up on the business end of the same sort of brutal, race-changing beat the Dubs handed the Phoenix Suns. This time, though, the bounce went the other way: After draining a tough 3-pointer with Quincy Pondexter draped all over him to tie the game at 100, Stephen Curry had a crack at another game-tying 3-ball to once again knot the contest at 103. As he pulled up, Pelicans forward Dante Cunningham elevated to contest; Curry jumped into him, but didn't get a foul call. As he came down, Curry released the ball, allowing it to bounce next to him before retrieving it with just more than two seconds remaining and launching a 3. It rolled around the inside of the rim before bouncing out, giving the Pelicans a huge 103-100 win that moved them past the Oklahoma City Thunder into eighth place. It was a fitting conclusion to a wild game that featured 11 ties, 16 lead changes and an array of dramatic moments in the closing minutes. There was Anthony Davis' huge and-one finish through contact out of the pick-and-roll to give the Pelicans a four-point lead with 1:21 remaining: ... followed by Curry's stepback bomb over Pondexter: ... followed by Tyreke Evans getting a benefit-of-the-doubt foul call against Andre Iguodala after dribbling the ball off his own leg and falling down, which led to a trip to the line for what would become the game-winning free throw: ... followed by Curry getting a great look at an 8-foot runner that would have given the Warriors the lead with 10 ticks left: ... followed by the potential game-tying miss. Which, by the way, was a pretty fortunate outcome for the officials, who would have had to explain to Monty Williams and a legion of angry Pelicans fans why Curry was allowed to attempt the shot in the first place. Curry's touch seemed to represent either A) a violation of the rule against a shooter being the first person to touch the ball if his shot fails to hit the backboard, the rim or another player, or B) a violation of the rule against a ball-handler being the first player to touch the ball after dropping the ball while in the air. Either way, as FanSided's Jared Wade noted , something illegal happened on that play. Luckily, it didn't wind up mattering. Davis missed eight of his 10 shots in the first half, thanks in part to the interior defense of Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green. In the second half, though, he played like a superstar desperate to make his postseason debut. The 22-year-old marvel scored 23 points on 8-for-11 shooting after intermission, teaming up with center Omer Asik for score the first 10 points of the third quarter and chopping Golden State's halftime lead down to two just three minutes into the second half. Nearly the entire rest of the game was played within a two-possession margin — a hard-fought, nip-and-tuck finish that was anything but the "scrimmage" that the Warriors allegedly believed they were in for — with Davis' shot-making and shot-deterring tilting both the game and the race for the eighth seed in New Orleans' favor. The All-Star power forward finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks, two assists and two steals in 40 minutes to lead the way. Pondexter added 20 points on 6-for-7 shooting, including a perfect 4-for-4 mark from beyond the arc, along with tight perimeter defense. Evans chipped in 12 points, nine assists, six rebounds and four steals for the Pelicans, who now sit a half-game up on the Thunder ... who didn't have such a great night. [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball] Second verse, same as the first: Just two weeks removed from taking a 39-point beating at the hands of the Spurs, Scott Brooks' squad once again fell victim to a San Antonio pasting on Wednesday. The Spurs walloped the Thunder, 113-88 , to run their winning streak to eight and improve to 18-3 over their last 21 games. This game was over nearly as soon as it got started, as the Spurs clamped down to hold the Thunder to a season-low 10 points in the first quarter on 4-for-21 shooting, with San Antonio scoring nine points off six Oklahoma City turnovers to take a 19-point lead after 12 minutes. Your emblematic early-game possession: Kawhi Leonard continuing his larcenous ways by victimizing Kyle Singler to create a runout dunk. Leonard maintained his brilliant recent form, scoring 23 points in the first half alone to stake San Antonio to a 22-point halftime lead. Oklahoma City never even really flirted with a run to get back into things; as a result, Leonard didn't play after the 7:40 mark of the third. He finished with 26 points — matching his regular-season career-high, which he's now hit four times this season, and in two straight games — to go with three steals, two rebounds and two assists in just 24 minutes. Five other Spurs scored in double figures, led by 12 points, nine rebounds and four blocks from Tim Duncan. The future Hall of Famer also added three assists, including this honey of an alley-oop feed to Leonard: San Antonio led by as many as 34 points against a Thunder team that, frankly, looks absolutely spent after fighting so hard to maintain playoff positioning without injured stars Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka. With Russell Westbrook continuing to seem somewhat the worse for wear (17 points on 7-for-16 shooting with six steals, two assists and four turnovers) after spending February and March playing the role of Superman, Oklahoma City just looked completely outclassed by the in-form Spurs, leading coach Gregg Popovich to express some postgame sympathy for the Thunder, according to Royce Young of ESPN.com : "No matter how you slice it, it is just not a fair fight," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "Nobody is going to give back the win. We are going to take the win and I thought we played well, but you just still feel badly when you see Kevin in that chair out there and the other guys are hurt. It is just not a fair fight." [...] "You've got to feel badly for these guys," Popovich said. "You feel sorry for them, but you're proud of them at the same time because they play the right way and they do everything they can to win. They don't cry. They just go play." That, unfortunately, hasn't been enough of late. Oklahoma City's now lost four straight and six of seven to fall to ninth place in the West, a half-game behind the Pelicans. And with New Orleans holding the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Thunder thanks to a bonkers game-winning 3 by Davis two months ago, Oklahoma City no longer controls its own destiny, no matter what Westbrook and Dion Waiters seem to think. If the Thunder don't finish one game up on New Orleans, they'll be watching the playoffs for the first time 2009. All's not lost just yet. The Thunder finish the season with matchups against the playing-out-the-string Sacramento Kings, the not-quite-world-beating (but recently reinvigorated ) Indiana Pacers, a Portland Trail Blazers squad likely already resigned to opening the playoffs on the road and a Minnesota Timberwolves team with little incentive to win again this season. The Pelicans, on the other hand, still have three games left against Western playoff squads, including a last-day-of-the-season date with these Spurs. The door's still open. But for the Thunder to walk through it and into the playoffs, they'll have to start playing like they belong there. “Nobody going to come through the door and save us,” said Waiters after the game, according to Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman . At this stage, though, it's not clear whether the Thunder can save themselves. Survive and ... well, just survive: Goran Dragic scored 11 of his team-high 28 points in the fourth quarter, pairing slithery drives to the cup with deadeye shooting to push the Miami Heat to a 105-100 win over the Charlotte Hornets. The win lifts Miami back into ninth place in the Eastern Conference, a half-game behind the eighth-seeded Boston Celtics and a half-game ahead of the Pacers. The loss drops 11th-place Charlotte a full two games back of Boston with just five games left on its schedule. [read full article]

From Yahoo Sports

NBA Playoff Picture Update: Pelicans overtake Thunder out West, Heat stay alive in East (Ball

With just more than one week 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 ] The Pell-I-can't! When Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr announced he wouldn't be resting anybody for Tuesday's matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans — a game that the Warriors didn't need after having clinched home-court advantage , but that the Pelicans needed desperately in their pursuit of the West's No. 8 seed — I wondered whether the Pelicans might wind up on the business end of the same sort of brutal, race-changing beat the Dubs handed the Phoenix Suns. This time, though, the bounce went the other way: After draining a tough 3-pointer with Quincy Pondexter draped all over him to tie the game at 100, Stephen Curry had a crack at another game-tying 3-ball to once again knot the contest at 103. As he pulled up, Pelicans forward Dante Cunningham elevated to contest; Curry jumped into him, but didn't get a foul call. As he came down, Curry released the ball, allowing it to bounce next to him before retrieving it with just more than two seconds remaining and launching a 3. It rolled around the inside of the rim before bouncing out, giving the Pelicans a huge 103-100 win that moved them past the Oklahoma City Thunder into eighth place. It was a fitting conclusion to a wild game that featured 11 ties, 16 lead changes and an array of dramatic moments in the closing minutes. There was Anthony Davis' huge and-one finish through contact out of the pick-and-roll to give the Pelicans a four-point lead with 1:21 remaining: ... followed by Curry's stepback bomb over Pondexter: ... followed by Tyreke Evans getting a benefit-of-the-doubt foul call against Andre Iguodala after dribbling the ball off his own leg and falling down, which led to a trip to the line for what would become the game-winning free throw: ... followed by Curry getting a great look at an 8-foot runner that would have given the Warriors the lead with 10 ticks left: ... followed by the potential game-tying miss. Which, by the way, was a pretty fortunate outcome for the officials, who would have had to explain to Monty Williams and a legion of angry Pelicans fans why Curry was allowed to attempt the shot in the first place. Curry's touch seemed to represent either A) a violation of the rule against a shooter being the first person to touch the ball if his shot fails to hit the backboard, the rim or another player, or B) a violation of the rule against a ball-handler being the first player to touch the ball after dropping the ball while in the air. Either way, as FanSided's Jared Wade noted , something illegal happened on that play. Luckily, it didn't wind up mattering. Davis missed eight of his 10 shots in the first half, thanks in part to the interior defense of Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green. In the second half, though, he played like a superstar desperate to make his postseason debut. The 22-year-old marvel scored 23 points on 8-for-11 shooting after intermission, teaming up with center Omer Asik for score the first 10 points of the third quarter and chopping Golden State's halftime lead down to two just three minutes into the second half. Nearly the entire rest of the game was played within a two-possession margin — a hard-fought, nip-and-tuck finish that was anything but the "scrimmage" that the Warriors allegedly believed they were in for — with Davis' shot-making and shot-deterring tilting both the game and the race for the eighth seed in New Orleans' favor. The All-Star power forward finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks, two assists and two steals in 40 minutes to lead the way. Pondexter added 20 points on 6-for-7 shooting, including a perfect 4-for-4 mark from beyond the arc, along with tight perimeter defense. Evans chipped in 12 points, nine assists, six rebounds and four steals for the Pelicans, who now sit a half-game up on the Thunder ... who didn't have such a great night. [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball] Second verse, same as the first: Just two weeks removed from taking a 39-point beating at the hands of the Spurs, Scott Brooks' squad once again fell victim to a San Antonio pasting on Wednesday. The Spurs walloped the Thunder, 113-88 , to run their winning streak to eight and improve to 18-3 over their last 21 games. This game was over nearly as soon as it got started, as the Spurs clamped down to hold the Thunder to a season-low 10 points in the first quarter on 4-for-21 shooting, with San Antonio scoring nine points off six Oklahoma City turnovers to take a 19-point lead after 12 minutes. Your emblematic early-game possession: Kawhi Leonard continuing his larcenous ways by victimizing Kyle Singler to create a runout dunk. Leonard maintained his brilliant recent form, scoring 23 points in the first half alone to stake San Antonio to a 22-point halftime lead. Oklahoma City never even really flirted with a run to get back into things; as a result, Leonard didn't play after the 7:40 mark of the third. He finished with 26 points — matching his regular-season career-high, which he's now hit four times this season, and in two straight games — to go with three steals, two rebounds and two assists in just 24 minutes. Five other Spurs scored in double figures, led by 12 points, nine rebounds and four blocks from Tim Duncan. The future Hall of Famer also added three assists, including this honey of an alley-oop feed to Leonard: San Antonio led by as many as 34 points against a Thunder team that, frankly, looks absolutely spent after fighting so hard to maintain playoff positioning without injured stars Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka. With Russell Westbrook continuing to seem somewhat the worse for wear (17 points on 7-for-16 shooting with six steals, two assists and four turnovers) after spending February and March playing the role of Superman, Oklahoma City just looked completely outclassed by the in-form Spurs, leading coach Gregg Popovich to express some postgame sympathy for the Thunder, according to Royce Young of ESPN.com : "No matter how you slice it, it is just not a fair fight," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "Nobody is going to give back the win. We are going to take the win and I thought we played well, but you just still feel badly when you see Kevin in that chair out there and the other guys are hurt. It is just not a fair fight." [...] "You've got to feel badly for these guys," Popovich said. "You feel sorry for them, but you're proud of them at the same time because they play the right way and they do everything they can to win. They don't cry. They just go play." That, unfortunately, hasn't been enough of late. Oklahoma City's now lost four straight and six of seven to fall to ninth place in the West, a half-game behind the Pelicans. And with New Orleans holding the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Thunder thanks to a bonkers game-winning 3 by Davis two months ago, Oklahoma City no longer controls its own destiny, no matter what Westbrook and Dion Waiters seem to think. If the Thunder don't finish one game up on New Orleans, they'll be watching the playoffs for the first time 2009. All's not lost just yet. The Thunder finish the season with matchups against the playing-out-the-string Sacramento Kings, the not-quite-world-beating (but recently reinvigorated ) Indiana Pacers, a Portland Trail Blazers squad likely already resigned to opening the playoffs on the road and a Minnesota Timberwolves team with little incentive to win again this season. The Pelicans, on the other hand, still have three games left against Western playoff squads, including a last-day-of-the-season date with these Spurs. The door's still open. But for the Thunder to walk through it and into the playoffs, they'll have to start playing like they belong there. “Nobody going to come through the door and save us,” said Waiters after the game, according to Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman . At this stage, though, it's not clear whether the Thunder can save themselves. Survive and ... well, just survive: Goran Dragic scored 11 of his team-high 28 points in the fourth quarter, pairing slithery drives to the cup with deadeye shooting to push the Miami Heat to a 105-100 win over the Charlotte Hornets. The win lifts Miami back into ninth place in the Eastern Conference, a half-game behind the eighth-seeded Boston Celtics and a half-game ahead of the Pacers. The loss drops 11th-place Charlotte a full two games back of Boston with just five games left on its schedule. [read full article]

From Yahoo Sports

NBA Playoff Picture Update: Pelicans overtake Thunder out West, Heat stay alive in East (Ball

With just more than one week 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 ] The Pell-I-can't! When Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr announced he wouldn't be resting anybody for Tuesday's matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans — a game that the Warriors didn't need after having clinched home-court advantage , but that the Pelicans needed desperately in their pursuit of the West's No. 8 seed — I wondered whether the Pelicans might wind up on the business end of the same sort of brutal, race-changing beat the Dubs handed the Phoenix Suns. This time, though, the bounce went the other way: After draining a tough 3-pointer with Quincy Pondexter draped all over him to tie the game at 100, Stephen Curry had a crack at another game-tying 3-ball to once again knot the contest at 103. As he pulled up, Pelicans forward Dante Cunningham elevated to contest; Curry jumped into him, but didn't get a foul call. As he came down, Curry released the ball, allowing it to bounce next to him before retrieving it with just more than two seconds remaining and launching a 3. It rolled around the inside of the rim before bouncing out, giving the Pelicans a huge 103-100 win that moved them past the Oklahoma City Thunder into eighth place. It was a fitting conclusion to a wild game that featured 11 ties, 16 lead changes and an array of dramatic moments in the closing minutes. There was Anthony Davis' huge and-one finish through contact out of the pick-and-roll to give the Pelicans a four-point lead with 1:21 remaining: ... followed by Curry's stepback bomb over Pondexter: ... followed by Tyreke Evans getting a benefit-of-the-doubt foul call against Andre Iguodala after dribbling the ball off his own leg and falling down, which led to a trip to the line for what would become the game-winning free throw: ... followed by Curry getting a great look at an 8-foot runner that would have given the Warriors the lead with 10 ticks left: ... followed by the potential game-tying miss. Which, by the way, was a pretty fortunate outcome for the officials, who would have had to explain to Monty Williams and a legion of angry Pelicans fans why Curry was allowed to attempt the shot in the first place. Curry's touch seemed to represent either A) a violation of the rule against a shooter being the first person to touch the ball if his shot fails to hit the backboard, the rim or another player, or B) a violation of the rule against a ball-handler being the first player to touch the ball after dropping the ball while in the air. Either way, as FanSided's Jared Wade noted , something illegal happened on that play. Luckily, it didn't wind up mattering. Davis missed eight of his 10 shots in the first half, thanks in part to the interior defense of Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green. In the second half, though, he played like a superstar desperate to make his postseason debut. The 22-year-old marvel scored 23 points on 8-for-11 shooting after intermission, teaming up with center Omer Asik for score the first 10 points of the third quarter and chopping Golden State's halftime lead down to two just three minutes into the second half. Nearly the entire rest of the game was played within a two-possession margin — a hard-fought, nip-and-tuck finish that was anything but the "scrimmage" that the Warriors allegedly believed they were in for — with Davis' shot-making and shot-deterring tilting both the game and the race for the eighth seed in New Orleans' favor. The All-Star power forward finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks, two assists and two steals in 40 minutes to lead the way. Pondexter added 20 points on 6-for-7 shooting, including a perfect 4-for-4 mark from beyond the arc, along with tight perimeter defense. Evans chipped in 12 points, nine assists, six rebounds and four steals for the Pelicans, who now sit a half-game up on the Thunder ... who didn't have such a great night. [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball] Second verse, same as the first: Just two weeks removed from taking a 39-point beating at the hands of the Spurs, Scott Brooks' squad once again fell victim to a San Antonio pasting on Wednesday. The Spurs walloped the Thunder, 113-88 , to run their winning streak to eight and improve to 18-3 over their last 21 games. This game was over nearly as soon as it got started, as the Spurs clamped down to hold the Thunder to a season-low 10 points in the first quarter on 4-for-21 shooting, with San Antonio scoring nine points off six Oklahoma City turnovers to take a 19-point lead after 12 minutes. Your emblematic early-game possession: Kawhi Leonard continuing his larcenous ways by victimizing Kyle Singler to create a runout dunk. Leonard maintained his brilliant recent form, scoring 23 points in the first half alone to stake San Antonio to a 22-point halftime lead. Oklahoma City never even really flirted with a run to get back into things; as a result, Leonard didn't play after the 7:40 mark of the third. He finished with 26 points — matching his regular-season career-high, which he's now hit four times this season, and in two straight games — to go with three steals, two rebounds and two assists in just 24 minutes. Five other Spurs scored in double figures, led by 12 points, nine rebounds and four blocks from Tim Duncan. The future Hall of Famer also added three assists, including this honey of an alley-oop feed to Leonard: San Antonio led by as many as 34 points against a Thunder team that, frankly, looks absolutely spent after fighting so hard to maintain playoff positioning without injured stars Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka. With Russell Westbrook continuing to seem somewhat the worse for wear (17 points on 7-for-16 shooting with six steals, two assists and four turnovers) after spending February and March playing the role of Superman, Oklahoma City just looked completely outclassed by the in-form Spurs, leading coach Gregg Popovich to express some postgame sympathy for the Thunder, according to Royce Young of ESPN.com : "No matter how you slice it, it is just not a fair fight," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "Nobody is going to give back the win. We are going to take the win and I thought we played well, but you just still feel badly when you see Kevin in that chair out there and the other guys are hurt. It is just not a fair fight." [...] "You've got to feel badly for these guys," Popovich said. "You feel sorry for them, but you're proud of them at the same time because they play the right way and they do everything they can to win. They don't cry. They just go play." That, unfortunately, hasn't been enough of late. Oklahoma City's now lost four straight and six of seven to fall to ninth place in the West, a half-game behind the Pelicans. And with New Orleans holding the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Thunder thanks to a bonkers game-winning 3 by Davis two months ago, Oklahoma City no longer controls its own destiny, no matter what Westbrook and Dion Waiters seem to think. If the Thunder don't finish one game up on New Orleans, they'll be watching the playoffs for the first time 2009. All's not lost just yet. The Thunder finish the season with matchups against the playing-out-the-string Sacramento Kings, the not-quite-world-beating (but recently reinvigorated ) Indiana Pacers, a Portland Trail Blazers squad likely already resigned to opening the playoffs on the road and a Minnesota Timberwolves team with little incentive to win again this season. The Pelicans, on the other hand, still have three games left against Western playoff squads, including a last-day-of-the-season date with these Spurs. The door's still open. But for the Thunder to walk through it and into the playoffs, they'll have to start playing like they belong there. “Nobody going to come through the door and save us,” said Waiters after the game, according to Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman . At this stage, though, it's not clear whether the Thunder can save themselves.Survive and ... well, just survive: Goran Dragic scored 11 of his team-high 28 points in the fourth quarter, pairing slithery drives to the cup with deadeye shooting to push the Miami Heat to a 105-100 win over the Charlotte Hornets. The win lifts Miami back into ninth place in the Eastern Conference, a half-game behind the eighth-seeded Boston Celtics and a half-game ahead of the Pacers. The loss drops 11th-place Charlotte a full two games back of Boston with just five games left on its schedule. [read full article]

From Yahoo Sports

NBA Playoff Picture Update: Pelicans overtake Thunder out West, Heat stay alive in East (Ball

With just more than one week 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 ] The Pell-I-can't! When Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr announced he wouldn't be resting anybody for Tuesday's matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans — a game that the Warriors didn't need after having clinched home-court advantage , but that the Pelicans needed desperately in their pursuit of the West's No. 8 seed — I wondered whether the Pelicans might wind up on the business end of the same sort of brutal, race-changing beat the Dubs handed the Phoenix Suns. This time, though, the bounce went the other way: After draining a tough 3-pointer with Quincy Pondexter draped all over him to tie the game at 100, Stephen Curry had a crack at another game-tying 3-ball to once again knot the contest at 103. As he pulled up, Pelicans forward Dante Cunningham elevated to contest; Curry jumped into him, but didn't get a foul call. As he came down, Curry released the ball, allowing it to bounce next to him before retrieving it with just more than two seconds remaining and launching a 3. It rolled around the inside of the rim before bouncing out, giving the Pelicans a huge 103-100 win that moved them past the Oklahoma City Thunder into eighth place. It was a fitting conclusion to a wild game that featured 11 ties, 16 lead changes and an array of dramatic moments in the closing minutes. There was Anthony Davis' huge and-one finish through contact out of the pick-and-roll to give the Pelicans a four-point lead with 1:21 remaining: ... followed by Curry's stepback bomb over Pondexter: ... followed by Tyreke Evans getting a benefit-of-the-doubt foul call against Andre Iguodala after dribbling the ball off his own leg and falling down, which led to a trip to the line for what would become the game-winning free throw: ... followed by Curry getting a great look at an 8-foot runner that would have given the Warriors the lead with 10 ticks left: ... followed by the potential game-tying miss. Which, by the way, was a pretty fortunate outcome for the officials, who would have had to explain to Monty Williams and a legion of angry Pelicans fans why Curry was allowed to attempt the shot in the first place. Curry's touch seemed to represent either A) a violation of the rule against a shooter being the first person to touch the ball if his shot fails to hit the backboard, the rim or another player, or B) a violation of the rule against a ball-handler being the first player to touch the ball after dropping the ball while in the air. Either way, as FanSided's Jared Wade noted , something illegal happened on that play. Luckily, it didn't wind up mattering. Davis missed eight of his 10 shots in the first half, thanks in part to the interior defense of Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green. In the second half, though, he played like a superstar desperate to make his postseason debut. The 22-year-old marvel scored 23 points on 8-for-11 shooting after intermission, teaming up with center Omer Asik for score the first 10 points of the third quarter and chopping Golden State's halftime lead down to two just three minutes into the second half. Nearly the entire rest of the game was played within a two-possession margin — a hard-fought, nip-and-tuck finish that was anything but the "scrimmage" that the Warriors allegedly believed they were in for — with Davis' shot-making and shot-deterring tilting both the game and the race for the eighth seed in New Orleans' favor. The All-Star power forward finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks, two assists and two steals in 40 minutes to lead the way. Pondexter added 20 points on 6-for-7 shooting, including a perfect 4-for-4 mark from beyond the arc, along with tight perimeter defense. Evans chipped in 12 points, nine assists, six rebounds and four steals for the Pelicans, who now sit a half-game up on the Thunder ... who didn't have such a great night. [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball] Second verse, same as the first: Just two weeks removed from taking a 39-point beating at the hands of the Spurs, Scott Brooks' squad once again fell victim to a San Antonio pasting on Wednesday. The Spurs walloped the Thunder, 113-88 , to run their winning streak to eight and improve to 18-3 over their last 21 games. This game was over nearly as soon as it got started, as the Spurs clamped down to hold the Thunder to a season-low 10 points in the first quarter on 4-for-21 shooting, with San Antonio scoring nine points off six Oklahoma City turnovers to take a 19-point lead after 12 minutes. Your emblematic early-game possession: Kawhi Leonard continuing his larcenous ways by victimizing Kyle Singler to create a runout dunk. Leonard maintained his brilliant recent form, scoring 23 points in the first half alone to stake San Antonio to a 22-point halftime lead. Oklahoma City never even really flirted with a run to get back into things; as a result, Leonard didn't play after the 7:40 mark of the third. He finished with 26 points — matching his regular-season career-high, which he's now hit four times this season, and in two straight games — to go with three steals, two rebounds and two assists in just 24 minutes. Five other Spurs scored in double figures, led by 12 points, nine rebounds and four blocks from Tim Duncan. The future Hall of Famer also added three assists, including this honey of an alley-oop feed to Leonard: San Antonio led by as many as 34 points against a Thunder team that, frankly, looks absolutely spent after fighting so hard to maintain playoff positioning without injured stars Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka. With Russell Westbrook continuing to seem somewhat the worse for wear (17 points on 7-for-16 shooting with six steals, two assists and four turnovers) after spending February and March playing the role of Superman, Oklahoma City just looked completely outclassed by the in-form Spurs, leading coach Gregg Popovich to express some postgame sympathy for the Thunder, according to Royce Young of ESPN.com : "No matter how you slice it, it is just not a fair fight," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "Nobody is going to give back the win. We are going to take the win and I thought we played well, but you just still feel badly when you see Kevin in that chair out there and the other guys are hurt. It is just not a fair fight." [...] "You've got to feel badly for these guys," Popovich said. "You feel sorry for them, but you're proud of them at the same time because they play the right way and they do everything they can to win. They don't cry. They just go play." That, unfortunately, hasn't been enough of late. Oklahoma City's now lost four straight and six of seven to fall to ninth place in the West, a half-game behind the Pelicans. And with New Orleans holding the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Thunder thanks to a bonkers game-winning 3 by Davis two months ago, Oklahoma City no longer controls its own destiny, no matter what Westbrook and Dion Waiters seem to think. If the Thunder don't finish one game up on New Orleans, they'll be watching the playoffs for the first time 2009. All's not lost just yet. The Thunder finish the season with matchups against the playing-out-the-string Sacramento Kings, the not-quite-world-beating (but recently reinvigorated ) Indiana Pacers, a Portland Trail Blazers squad likely already resigned to opening the playoffs on the road and a Minnesota Timberwolves team with little incentive to win again this season. The Pelicans, on the other hand, still have three games left against Western playoff squads, including a last-day-of-the-season date with these Spurs. The door's still open. But for the Thunder to walk through it and into the playoffs, they'll have to start playing like they belong there. “Nobody going to come through the door and save us,” said Waiters after the game, according to Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman . At this stage, though, it's not clear whether the Thunder can save themselves. Survive and ... well, just survive: Goran Dragic scored 11 of his team-high 28 points in the fourth quarter, pairing slithery drives to the cup with deadeye shooting to push the Miami Heat to a 105-100 win over the Charlotte Hornets. The win lifts Miami back into ninth place in the Eastern Conference, a half-game behind the eighth-seeded Boston Celtics and a half-game ahead of the Pacers. The loss drops 11th-place Charlotte a full two games back of Boston with just five games left on its schedule. [read full article]

From Yahoo Sports

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