Today is Thursday, March 30, 2017.
|Thursday, March 30, 2017|
|National Basketball Assoc.|
|Cavaliers||vs.||Bulls||8:00 (EDT) Preview|
Thursday, March 30 at 12:25 PM (EDT)
CHICAGO -- As the Cleveland Cavaliers prepare to begin their postseason defense of last season's NBA championship, keeping players fresh will be a top priority for Tyronn Lue.
The Cavaliers enter Thursday night's game against the Chicago Bulls having lost four of their last six games, and they are 6-9 this month. But, as Cleveland approaches the end of the season, Lue has made it clear the big picture -- not the short term -- will be the focus.
After Cleveland's 103-74 loss to San Antonio on Monday night, Lue told reporters he was considering resting key players for large chunks of time over Cleveland's final nine games.
But that will apparently start after Thursday's test against the Bulls, who are a win away from sweeping the season series. According to Cleveland.com, Lue plans to play his full contingent of stars against the Bulls. The lone exception is Kyle Korver, who will miss Thursday's game in Chicago and Sunday's game against the 76ers because of an injury to his left foot.
Guard Iman Shumpert is expected to return Thursday after missing the previous two games with right knee soreness. Forward Richard Jefferson did not practice Wednesday with knee tendinitis, Cleveland.com reported.
While LeBron James, who left Monday's game with back stiffness, and Cleveland's other mainstays are expected to be on the floor against the Bulls, Lue said that may not be the case in the days following.
"I'm going to do what's best for the team and each individual," Lue told reporters on Wednesday, according to Cleveland.com. "We've got a lot of games coming up and we've got to get some kind of rhythm established going into the playoffs.
"It's going to be a game-to-game basis, just seeing how guys feel. If they need (rest), if it's the best thing for us, then we have to do it."
While the Cavaliers are preparing for another long playoff run, the Bulls are hoping to just be in the conversation.
The Bulls (35-39) have struggled over their last 10 games and continue to not play well against other underperforming teams. While Chicago has been perfect against Cleveland this season, the Bulls must find a way to match those kind of efforts the rest of the way if they hope to avoid missing the playoffs for a second straight season. They sit 1 1/2 games out of a playoff spot after the Miami Heat defeated the New York Knicks and the Indiana Pacers fell to the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday.
While Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg admits to doing a certain amount of scoreboard watching in a crowded Eastern Conference playoff picture, he said his team must ultimately take care of its business.
"You do keep an eye on what other teams are doing," Hoiberg said, according to CSN Chicago. "But, at the same time, we talk every day how it's up to us. We've got to go out and play with purpose, play with energy every time we step on the floor and give ourselves a chance to win. Hopefully, if we do those things, we'll be there at the end."
Veteran guard Rajon Rondo, who has taken on a bigger role since Dwyane Wade left the lineup with an elbow injury, has made it clear that the Bulls can't afford to waste time.
"I just try to look at what we're doing and control what we can control," Rondo said, according to CSN Chicago. "We're not playing against the other teams we're racing (to get into the playoffs), so we've got eight (games) left and we want to take advantage of all eight."
|Lakers||vs.||Timberwolves||8:00 (EDT) Preview|
Modest goals remain when Timberwolves host Lakers
Wednesday, March 29 at 9:24 PM (EDT)
MINNEAPOLIS -- The flickering hopes of challenging for a playoff spot were doused by a grueling stretch of road games for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Minnesota begins a three-game homestand against the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday with only the possibility of improvement on last season remaining. Los Angeles is heading toward another high pick in the NBA Draft with the league's second-worst record.
Two of the NBA's youngest teams are all too familiar with their current position: playing out the string in the season's final weeks.
The Timberwolves finished a stretch of seven of nine games on the road with a come-from-behind, 115-114 victory at Indiana on Tuesday.
"We did a great job of staying together, regardless of what was happening in the game," Minnesota center Karl-Anthony Towns told the team's website. "We felt that we had a chance the whole time. ... We did a great job at the end of executing."
Positivity has been fleeting recently for the Timberwolves.
They had won three home games in a row, all against playoff teams, the Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors and Washington Wizards. But Minnesota lost six straight games before Tuesday's win. Six of the seven games were on the road.
Still, the Timberwolves matched last season's win total at 29-44 by beating the Pacers. Point guard Ricky Rubio hit three free throws with 3.4 seconds left to take the lead, and Indiana missed a 3-point attempt at the buzzer.
"That moment is the reason you work in the arena by yourself shooting hundreds of free throws," said Rubio, who had 21 points, 10 assists and was a career-best 13 of 13 from the foul line. "You want to have moments like that, to feel that pressure. It's hard to do it at the end of the game."
Following the three-game homestand, Minnesota finishes the season with five of six games on the road.
Los Angeles' season also has collapsed at the end, though the Lakers were never in position to challenge for the playoffs after November. Like the Timberwolves, Los Angeles (21-53) is trying to find optimism.
For three quarters, the Lakers were handling Washington on Tuesday. Then John Wall and the Wizards took over in the fourth quarter to win in Los Angeles.
"We were playing unselfish," Lakers coach Luke Walton said. "It was beautiful and a lot of fun to watch. Then, unfortunately, the fourth quarter started with us missing some open looks that we had been hitting. Then we had a couple turnovers. (Washington) picked the pressure up ... and they cut into that lead without really even having to get hot."
D'Angelo Russell scored 20 of his 28 points in the first half, and Jordan Clarkson finished with 22 points. Tyler Ennis, one of the young players getting a late-season opportunity, had 11 points.
Rookie forward Brandon Ingram, taken three spots ahead of Minnesota rookie point guard Kris Dunn in last summer's draft, missed the Tuesday game due to right patellar tendinitis, and he is questionable for the Thursday game.
|Clippers||vs.||Suns||10:00 (EDT) Preview|
Slumping Suns return home to face Clippers
Thursday, March 30 at 3:10 AM (EDT)
For the first time since his record-breaking scoring performance, Devin Booker will get an opportunity to be greeted by his home fans Thursday night when the Phoenix Suns host the Los Angeles Clippers.
Booker became the youngest NBA player to score 60 points, and the youngest in Suns history to reach 40, when he poured in 70 points last Friday at Boston.
The 20-year-old became just the sixth player in NBA history to score 70. He joined Wilt Chamberlain, Kobe Bryant, David Thompson, David Robinson and Elgin Baylor in that distinction.
Unfortunately for the Suns, the explosion came in a loss -- one of six straight the club endured on its just completed Eastern swing.
Overall, the Suns (22-53) take a nine-game losing streak into Thursday's game.
"Honestly, it's just time for us to get home," Suns coach Earl Watson said Tuesday after a loss at Atlanta. "With our roster situation, we need to be at home, have our fans give us that extra energy, and it can help carry us and give us better endings in games."
Since the Suns last saw the Clippers, Phoenix shut down Eric Bledsoe and Tyson Chandler for the season, creating the so-called "roster situation."
The Suns might need more than just Watson's hoped-for better ending against the Clippers, who have won the first three meetings this season by an average of 13 points. Los Angeles has beaten Phoenix in 12 of the past 14 head-to-heads.
The game is also more important to the Clippers (45-31), who find themselves in a tight three-team battle for the fourth, fifth and sixth playoff spots in the West.
Utah (46-29) currently resides in fourth, the only spot among the three that will have home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Utah leads Los Angeles by 1 1/2 games and Oklahoma City (43-31) by 2 1/2.
They didn't set any records, but the Clippers put up a bunch of impressive numbers Wednesday in a 133-124 home win over Washington.
J.J. Redick led the way with a season-best 31 points, while Chris Paul (27 points, 13 assists), Blake Griffin (26 points, 10 rebounds) and DeAndre Jordan (23 points, 18 rebounds) all recorded double-doubles.
Paul, who had in-season thumb surgery, has missed two of the first three meetings with the Suns this year. Griffin, who was sidelined due to knee surgery, had to sit out one.
All the key players are healthy now, with the possible exception of key reserve Austin Rivers, who had to leave the Wednesday win in the second quarter with a hamstring injury. He is unlikely to play against the Suns.
Despite having high-powered potential, the Clippers have alternated wins and losses in their past five games, with three wins interspersed by losses to lightweights Dallas and Sacramento.
"I'm not worried about us when we play in the playoffs being ready and playing hard," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said before Wednesday's game. "But I still am concerned about consistency. Can you fix it? I don't know. We'll see."
The Clippers will be playing the second night of a back-to-back for the 13th time Thursday night. They went just 3-9 in their first dozen second-night affairs.
|Rockets||vs.||Trail Blazers||10:30 (EDT) Preview|
Lillard, Trail Blazers look to drive past Rockets
Thursday, March 30 at 2:20 AM (EDT)
PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Portland Trail Blazers have put themselves in the driver's seat in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Now the Trail Blazers have to stay on course.
Portland (36-38) edged ahead of Denver (35-39) with a 122-113 victory over the Nuggets on Tuesday night at Moda Center. The Trail Blazers won the season series 3-1, which is the tiebreaker should the teams finish with the same record.
Portland has six of its final eight games at home, beginning Thursday night against the Houston Rockets. The Nuggets will play six of their last eight games on the road.
"You're in the driver's seat when you control your own destiny," Portland's Damian Lillard said. "We got in the driver's seat after the Lakers' game (a 97-81 win Sunday), but we didn't have the keys to the car.
"(Tuesday) was a battle for the keys to the car. We got the keys; now we have to control where it's going. We know what the destination is, but we have to make sure to stay locked in to get it to where we need to go."
Portland has won 12 of its last 15 games. Guard C.J. McCollum scored 39 points against Denver, but the spotlight was on center Jusuf Nurkic, who recorded a career-high 33 points, 16 rebounds and three blocked shots against the team that traded him in February.
"I knew he'd be ready to play," McCollum said. "He's had this game circled since he got here. We have a slogan for the big Nurk: 'From the bench to the playoffs.' We knew he'd be aggressive, he'd be efficient. He did what we expected."
It's not clear what kind of lineup Houston (51-23) will field when it visits Moda Center. Guard James Harden is struggling with a sore left wrist, and coach Mike D'Antoni may choose to rest him Thursday night. Forward Ryan Anderson is already out for most of the rest of the regular season with a sprained ankle.
Harden made only 5 of 20 shots in a 113-106 loss to Golden State on Tuesday night, but he finished with 24 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds for his 20th triple-double of the season. It's the first time in NBA history that two players (Harden and Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook) have had at least 20 triple-doubles in the same season.
If it's up to Harden, he'll play against the Trail Blazers. Harden said he is determined to play in every game this season.
"I think it matters, because you aren't leaving your teammates out to dry," he told the Houston Chronicle. "I worry about always having my teammates' back. No matter what, I am always going to be out there unless I'm injured. For the coaching staff, the fans, the front office, I am here to play.
"It's my job to make my teammates better. As long as I can do that at a high level, everybody eats."
|Nets||vs.||Pistons||7:30 (EDT) Preview|
Late slide dims Pistons' playoff hopes
Thursday, March 30 at 1:49 AM (EDT)
A buzzer-beating shot by the Brooklyn Nets' Brook Lopez sent the Detroit Pistons into a tailspin.
Another last-second basket on Tuesday -- a tip-in by Miami's Hassan Whiteside -- virtually knocked them out of playoff contention.
The Pistons will try to snap their five-game losing streak when they host the Nets on Thursday night. They will also try to salvage the finale of the three-game series after losing at Barclays Center twice.
Detroit seemed to be in good position for a playoff berth before Lopez made his baseline shot on March 21. The Pistons proceeded to go 0-4 on a road trip filled exclusively with Eastern Conference opponents sporting losing records. They returned home to play Miami in a game with major playoff implications and gave away a four-point lead in the final 30.1 seconds.
Instead of moving within a half-game of the Heat for the eighth-best conference record and final playoff berth, the Pistons (34-41) dropped 2 1/2 games back with seven remaining. The Pistons now trail seventh-place Miami and eighth-place Indiana by three games.
"We still didn't shoot the ball very well, but we didn't let it bother us. We stayed in there and fought really, really hard," coach Stan Van Gundy said. "It's a game we should have won. A couple of different decisions by me and we would have won the game."
Van Gundy was especially mad at himself for leaving in swingman Stanley Johnson during Detroit's final possession instead of bringing in veteran point guard Beno Udrih. Johnson got tied up on a double-team and lost a jump ball to Miami's James Johnson, allowing the Heat to take possession down by one.
The Pistons played their second straight game without starting point guard Reggie Jackson, who has been slowed by knee and fatigue issues. He'll likely sit out again on Thursday.
Van Gundy tweaked his lineup for the Heat game, moving forward Tobias Harris back to the sixth-man role he often has played during the second half of the season. Harris scored 19 points in 30 minutes.
"We were getting off to better starts and then our bench just had nothing," Van Gundy said. "Just trying to get a little bit of balance. For the most part, it was pretty effective bringing him in off the bench. I thought our rotations were better. That's probably the only decent move I made all night."
The Nets (16-58) have gone 2-2 since beating the Pistons. They lost at home to Philadelphia 106-101 on Tuesday, shooting 40.4 percent overall and 28.1 percent on 3-point attempts.
"You never know what it is. Is it focus? Is it fatigue, fighting through a little fatigue? But whatever it is, we did not have it," Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. "We did not have the juice from the beginning. It was an uphill battle all game, and we obviously didn't shoot the ball well."
Lopez had another strong game, with 26 points, nine rebounds and six assists, but no other Net had more than 11 points.
"I just felt like we relaxed a little bit after we won three of four, and it's a valuable lesson for us to be able to learn that this league is tough on any given night," point guard Jeremy Lin said. "I'll be the first person to say that I didn't play nearly close to what I'm capable of, so I have to live with that and just get better for the next one."
|Wednesday, March 29, 2017|
|National Basketball Assoc.|
Davis, Cousins lead Pelicans past Mavericks
Thursday, March 30 at 12:11 AM (EDT)
NEW ORLEANS -- Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins both exceeded their lofty scoring averages for the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday.
On top of that, they had three teammates score in double figures, and the Pelicans needed all of that offense to hold off the Dallas Mavericks 121-118 at the Smoothie King Center.
Davis and Cousins both surpassed their scoring averages by two points as Davis finished with 30 and Cousins had 29.
"They're for sure in a groove," said Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday, who added 18 points. Teammates Dante Cunningham and Jordan Crawford had 15 each.
"We're all learning each other," said Cousins, who was acquired in a trade with Sacramento during the All-Star break last month. "It's still a process, but we're on the right path. Every game we're getting better."
Cousins chipped in 16 rebounds and Davis had 13 as the Pelicans (32-43) moved past the Mavericks (31-43) into 10th place in the Western Conference, 4 1/2 games behind the Portland Trail Blazers for the final playoff spot.
Though New Orleans' playoff hopes are faint, the Pelicans have won seven of the past 10 games, averaging 112.6 points during that stretch compared to 102.6 the rest of the season.
The Pelicans shot 50.6 percent (42 of 83) from the floor, including 40 percent (12 of 30) on 3-point attempts. They are 8-0 when scoring over 120 points and 10-1 when shooting 50 percent or better from the floor.
"Scoring is coming kind of easy right now," Holiday said.
It came easy for both teams. Only three Pelicans that played failed to score at least 15 points.
Dallas used 11 players and each of them scored. Dirk Nowitzki led the way with 23 points, Harrison Barnes scored 19, Seth Curry had 18, Yogi Ferrell 15 and Wesley Matthews 10.
"Our first half was sub-par," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "Our second half was terrific. When you're on the road against teams who are really playing for something, you need to have two terrific halves to win."
The Pelicans led by 12 points at halftime, but the Mavericks scored the first 10 points of the third quarter.
Cousins stopped the run by converting a three-point play, and Davis scored 10 consecutive New Orleans points as the Pelicans took an 84-72 lead.
Ferrell scored seven points as Dallas pulled within 89-83 after three quarters.
Nowitzki scored the Mavericks' first eight points of the fourth quarter, and Ferrell's jumper gave Dallas a 100-99 lead.
Holiday's basket and Crawford's 3-pointer gave New Orleans a 104-100 lead with 6:50 left.
Dallas got within two points once and three points six times, but the Pelicans never relinquished the lead. The Mavericks' only chance to tie came at the very end, but Matthews' 3-pointer missed at the buzzer.
"We showed some fight in the second half, but we were a step slower than they were," Nowitzki said. "They got whatever they wanted in the first-half, but we fought. We came out right away and had a nice little run to get back in the game, but down the stretch I just feel like we couldn't get stops in a row to really make it interesting.
"We always kept it around five, but we just could not find a way to get it down to three or tie it. But give them credit. Their big guns were on. Crawford hit big shots from the bench and we were in for a long night."
NOTES: Pelicans C Anthony Davis extended to four his streak of consecutive games with at least 30 points and 13 rebounds. He entered with a streak of three consecutive games with 30 and 15 before the NBA changed two rebounds he was credited with against Denver last Sunday, leaving him 13 rebounds in that game. ... F DeMarcus Cousins returned to the Pelicans' lineup after missing two games due to a sprained ankle. ... Mavericks G Devin Harris was ejected in the second quarter after receiving two technicals for vehemently arguing a foul call against him. ... New Orleans signed G Quinn Cook to a second 10-day contract. ... Dallas G Seth Curry returned to the lineup after a one-game absence to rest a sore shoulder. ... Mavs C Salah Mejri missed the game because of a sore knee, and coach Rick Carlisle said he hopes Mejri will be back for the team's next game at Memphis on Friday. ... The game started a five-game trip for Dallas and a four-game homestand for New Orleans.
Grizzlies snap skid with win over Pacers
Thursday, March 30 at 12:19 AM (EDT)
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Asked if he felt he'd have a torrid shooting night following pregame warmups Wednesday night, Mike Conley said he knew more than 24 hours earlier.
When the team plane landed in Memphis Tuesday following an 0-4 road trip, he admitted his attention, and focus, was on leading the Memphis Grizzlies out of their slump.
In the Grizzlies' 110-97 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night at FedExForum, Conley was locked in from the outset, scoring 36 points -- including 16 in the first quarter. Vince Carter added 21 as the Grizzlies (41-34) snapped a four-game losing streak.
"My mindset was it was a `must-win (situation)' and I just wanted to make a statement, not only with my team, but with the coaches and the city that we weren't playing the basketball we need to be playing right now and we are better than this," Conley said. "That it means something. That it means more. I just wanted to be aggressive."
Conley said his shot was falling early -- he was 4 of 4 from beyond in the arc in the opening quarter -- and that he "took advantage" of that.
"Guys did a really good job of playing off that," Conley said. "The energy was great from (everyone). I'm just happy with our effort."
Paul George led the Pacers (37-38) with 22 points and Aaron Brooks scored 18. Thaddeus Young finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Indiana slipped into a tie for seventh place in the East with the Miami Heat, both teams 1 1/2 games ahead of the Chicago Bulls in the race for the conference's last two playoff spots.
George said the Pacers had no defensive answer for Conley, who made 13 of 21 shots including 7 of 12 3-point attempts.
"We made him uncomfortable (Feb. 24 in a 102-92 Indiana win) at home," George said. "Tonight it was the exact opposite. We allowed him to kind of orchestrate the whole offense and he got comfortable early. He's a flame-thrower. Once he gets hot it's over."
Playing without injured starters Marc Gasol and JaMychal Green, the Grizzlies started their 22nd lineup of the season -- Conley, Tony Allen, Carter, James Ennis and Brandan Wright -- and it clicked from the outset. Memphis led by 14 at the end of the first quarter and by 19 at halftime.
Wright, filling in for Gasol at center, made only his third start for the Grizzlies and scored 13 points on 6-of-10 shooting. Zach Randolph had 17 points off the bench.
Memphis shot 57.1 percent through three quarters and maintained a double-digit lead for most of the game. The Grizzlies built their biggest lead (25 points) midway through the third quarter when Allen drove for a layup after freezing his defender with a crossover move.
"What you saw as a (Grizzlies) starting lineup...that's the league now," Memphis coach David Fizdale said. "That's like your prototypical NBA team when you talk about speed and space.
"We were desperate (with the injuries to Gasol and Green), so I was just looking at the situation. I said 'How can we give Mike the best chance to get off to a great start? I said `Let's spread them out and try to be right attacking the rim on rolls and get Mike downhill as much as possible.' I lucked up."
The Grizzlies used a torrid-shooting first half to grab a 72-53 lead. Conley led with 22 points through the opening two quarters, a total that included 6-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc. Carter added 13 and was perfect on his three 3-point attempts.
Memphis scored a season-high 38 first-quarter points and their 72 first-half points were two shy of a franchise record. The Grizzlies scored 70 or more points before halftime for the first time since April 2008.
"They got off to a fast start and Conley was pushing the ball," said Pacers coach Nate McMillan. "We weren't able to keep up with him and they just kept the pressure on us throughout the game."
The Grizzlies shot 58.7 percent in the first half and led by as many as 22. Memphis made 10 of its 17 3-pointers and scored 28 points in the paint.
The Pacers trailed by 19 at halftime despite shooting 60 percent (12-of-20) in the second quarter.
NOTES: The Indiana Pacers reportedly reached an agreement on a three-year deal with G/F Lance Stephenson. Stephenson will take the place of veteran G Rodney Stuckey, who was waived Wednesday. Stuckey is recovering from a left knee injury and will be out four to six weeks. ... Grizzlies C Marc Gasol missed his third straight game with a left foot strain and F JaMychal Green did not play because of left shoulder soreness. Memphis coach David Fizdale called Gasol's foot strain a "day-to-day" injury. ... The Grizzlies also lost G Andrew Harrison to a right ankle injury in the third quarter. ... Pacers F Thaddeus Young ranks 20th in the NBA in field-goal percentage (51.6 percent). He shot 8 of 12 on Wednesday. ... Grizzlies F Vince Carter passed Ray Allen (24,505) to move into 22nd place in NBA history for career points scored. Carter needs six more games played to pass Kobe Bryant (1,346) for 13th in NBA history for career regular-season games.
Warriors rally vs. Spurs, win ninth straight
Thursday, March 30 at 1:51 AM (EDT)
SAN ANTONIO -- The first eight minutes of Golden State's 110-98 win over San Antonio on Wednesday at AT&T Center belonged, emphatically, to the Spurs.
The ensuing 40 minutes were owned by the league-leading Warriors.
Stephen Curry scored 29 points, 13 in the pivotal third quarter, and the Warriors' gritty defense made the plays to turn a 22-point deficit into a message-delivering victory in a slugfest between the top two teams in the NBA.
Curry's shooting in the third quarter pushed the Warriors ahead, and fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson's nine points in the first five minutes of the fourth kept them there.
Golden State hit just two of its first 12 shots and trailed 29-7 with 3:29 remaining in the first quarter.
"We were actually getting stops early in the game, but San Antonio got one offensive rebound after another," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "Our defense, which was already pretty good, really kicked in and we started rebounding better. That was important."
The Warriors also got a huge performance off the bench from former Spurs forward David West, who poured in 11 of his 15 points in the final quarter.
Golden State (61-14) expanded its lead over the Spurs to 3 1/2 games in the race for the league's best record. The Warriors have seven games to play, while San Antonio (57-17) has eight.
"It was a big win, obviously," Curry said. "Everything was kind of stacked against us after that first quarter. We just couldn't get a rebound and couldn't create any flow on offense because of that. Every game is different, but you can't let go of the rope. Whether it ends with a win or a loss, you can't ever feel you're out of it. We have what it takes to win all sorts of ways."
The victory came one night after Golden State's 113-106 win on Tuesday in Houston. Kerr was satisfied with the work his team did in winning both legs of the Texas Two-Step.
"That's as tough a back-to-back as you're going to find in terms of playing two of the best teams in the league on the road," Kerr said. "Our guys are tough, competitive and they're pretty good."
Thompson ended up with 23 points and Andre Iguodala added 14 for the Warriors, who have won nine straight games since losing to San Antonio on March 11. Curry added a game-high 11 assists.
Kawhi Leonard led the Spurs with 19 points on 7-of-20 shooting. Pau Gasol scored 18 points off the bench, and LaMarcus Aldridge and Danny Green scored 17 and 16 points, respectively, for San Antonio, which had a five-game winning streak snapped.
"They executed better than we did," Green said. "Defensively we had some errors, and they take advantage of them and make you pay. We have to do a better job of scrambling, talking an communicating. We've gotten some leads and we've blown it a couple of times just with sloppy play."
The Spurs jumped on Golden State early, roaring to the first 15 points as Green hit a trio of 3-pointers in the initial four minutes. The lead bulged to 23-3 at the 5:01 mark, but Iguodala poured in seven of the final nine points of the quarter to allow Golden State to creep to within 33-17.
Golden State eventually found its stride, and Shawn Livingston's jumper at the 3:30 mark tied the game at 45 and washed away the Spurs' early momentum. The Spurs led 57-54 at halftime behind 14 points from Green, 12 from Aldridge and 10 from Leonard.
Curry paced the Warriors with 14 points while Thompson added 11 (all in the second quarter) and Iguodala hit for 10. After its rancid beginning, Golden State actually outshot the Spurs 45.2 percent to 42.6 percent.
Thompson's 3-pointer in the second minute of the third quarter gave the Warriors a 59-57 lead, and Curry's bomb from beyond the arc pushed the advantage to 62-57. A runout dunk by Curry with 8.9 seconds to play in the quarter granted the Warriors an 84-77 cushion heading into the final quarter.
"Golden State's a great defensive team," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "I thought they were a little sloppy defensively (in the first quarter) but they got it back, certainly. All their switching bothered us. We didn't get great ball movement. That's why they're the best team in the league."
NOTES: San Antonio was the last Western Conference team to hand the Warriors three losses in a season. The Spurs swept Golden State 4-0 in 2013-14. ... Golden State's bench has scored 50 or more points in six games this season (twice against Portland), with the last time on March 11 at San Antonio when the Warriors' reserves tallied 54 points. ... Next up for the Warriors is a Friday home game against Houston. San Antonio hits the road for a battle with the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday.
Mack, Hayward lead Jazz in rout of Kings
Thursday, March 30 at 2:19 AM (EDT)
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- During all the time he spent watching the action on the court instead of being a part of it in 2017, Utah Jazz guard Shelvin Mack occasionally wondered whether his fortunes would change. Every time he did, his coaches had a message for him.
The lack of playing time wasn't because he wasn't good enough.
"They just kept telling me to stay ready," he said. "Stay ready for the when the time comes."
The time arrived in Utah's 112-82 rout of the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday at Golden 1 Center in a game marked by three lopsided runs.
Mack scored nine of his 14 points in the third quarter to help Utah hold off a big Sacramento rally.
His jumper and two defensive deflections kick-started a 20-4 run that bridged the third and fourth quarters and gave Utah (46-29) its third straight win in Sacramento, the team's longest winning streak in that city since a seven-game run from 1994 to 1997.
Gordon Hayward led Utah with 20 points, and Rodney Hood tallied 18. The Jazz stayed 1 1/2 games ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers in the race for the fourth spot in the Western Conference and home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Clippers beat the Washington Wizards on Wednesday.
Utah canned 53.2 percent of its shots and made 13 3-pointers. Sacramento (29-46) made only 2 of 15 3-point attempts and shot 45.3 percent overall.
"They hit shots, a lot of shots," Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein said. "They hit a lot of threes. That broke the game wide open."
Getting big minutes because the Jazz played without guards George Hill and Raul Neto, Mack came off the bench to make 5 of 8 shots, grab four rebounds and deflect five passes. He played 28 1/2 minutes in his longest stint since Jan. 5. He played in only his second game since missing 11 with a sprained left ankle. Before that, coach Quin Snyder sat him out for seven straight games.
In all, it was only his eighth game since Jan. 13.
"What we've said is: Whoever plays has to try to defend. ... He had five defections, and that's what we want from guys off the bench," Snyder said. "They come in and they do that. The offense sometimes takes care of itself."
With an early 43-19 lead down to 68-65, Mack hit a floating jump shot, then helped to create a miss that led to Jeff Whithey's layup and ensuing free throws. He then found Joe Ingles, who found Hood for a 3-pointer to cap a 10-2 run that ended the period.
Utah then blitzed Sacramento with a 10-2 blast to start the fourth, with Mack contributing a layup during that run.
"He was great," Jazz center Rudy Gobert said. "He really brought a spark defensively. We're going to need everyone."
The Jazz blitzed the Kings with a 11-0 run to start the game and built a first-quarter lead of 43-19. But Sacramento closed the first half with a 24-7 run, then used a 10-2 run to close Utah's lead to 62-60 on Cauley-Stein's short jumper with 4:18 left in the third quarter.
"This is the NBA," Mack said. "You're not gonna blow anybody out in the first quarter."
Gobert finished with 16 points and 15 rebounds for Utah, Ingles added 12 points and Boris Diaw contributed 11.
Ben McLemore scored 22 points, including 17 in the second quarter to spark the Kings' comeback.
Darren Collison added 12 points, and Ty Lawson had 11. But fellow guard Buddy Hield managed just two points on 1-for-7 shooting.
NOTES: Jazz C Rudy Gobert failed to block a shot, ending 42 consecutive games with one. Gobert's streak was the fourth longest in team history. Mark Eaton has the three longest, including a team-record 75-game run spanning the 1985-86 and 1986-87 seasons. ... F Arron Afflalo is not with the Kings because of personal reasons, and the team has not said when he will return. C Kosta Koufos (rest), and G Garrett Temple (rest) sat out for Sacramento. ... Jazz guards George Hill and Raul Neto missed the game, each with a strained groin. In Hill's absence, coach Quin Snyder started G Dante Exum, who played 23 scoreless minutes. The Jazz have used 23 starting lineups this season.
Redick, Paul push Clippers past Wizards
Thursday, March 30 at 2:39 AM (EDT)
LOS ANGELES -- After missing the Clippers' Sunday loss to the Sacramento Kings, J.J. Redick returned with a vengeance Wednesday night in Los Angeles' win over the Washington Wizards.
The veteran guard scored 31 points, and Chris Paul contributed 27 points and 13 assists, sparking the Clippers to a 133-124 victory at Staples Center.
Redick said he felt fresh after having several days to recover from an ankle sprain. He also kept his sense of humor intact, unleashing a few postgame shots at Clippers coach Doc Rivers and assistant coach Mike Woodson.
"It was just an offensive game. Neither team was really getting stops," said Redick, who connected on 9 of 15 shots and made a season-high-tying seven 3-pointers. "It was similar to when Doc and 'Woody' played. It just wasn't a lot of defense. We had the 3-point line, so it was a little harder, too."
Blake Griffin collected 26 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, while DeAndre Jordan finished with 23 points and 18 boards for the Clippers (45-31). Jamal Crawford added 14 points.
The win kept the Clippers 1 1/2 games behind the Utah Jazz for fourth place in the Western Conference playoff race. The Clippers are a game ahead of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
"We just scored a lot," said Paul, who also made 9 of 15 shots and a pair of 3-pointers. "Our defense has to be better. I think that is probably what I paid more attention to. But we scored. J.J. had a big game. Blake, all of us had it going."
John Wall had 41 points on 16-of-23 shooting, and he added eight assists and seven rebounds for the Wizards. Bradley Beal scored 27 points, and Markieff Morris and Jason Smith chipped in 14 points apiece. Morris was ejected in the third quarter.
The Wizards (46-29) are two games back of the Eastern Conference-leading Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics. Washington is a game ahead of the fourth-place Toronto Raptors.
"I knew it was going to be tough against an aggressive team, and we let J.J. get loose and (we were) not helping Bradley defend him," said Wall, who also had three steals. "We let them get a comfortable lead, and to have to play a back-to-back and try to cut it down as much as we did is tough. We fought hard and gave ourselves a chance, but we have to have a better defensive effort from the start."
The Clippers set a season high for first-half points as they built a 74-63 lead at the break. Los Angeles shot 58.7 percent to 49 percent for Washington in the first half.
Overall, the Clippers outshot the Wizards 56.6 percent to 49.5 percent.
"The Clippers made a lot of shots, and they had over 70 at halftime, which is way too many," said Beal, who scored 17 points in the second half. "We were able to put some stops together, but when you're playing catch-up, it's always tough."
The Clippers led by as many as 19 points before the Wizards cut the margin to 114-108 after a jumper by Wall with 8:34 remaining. However, a basket by Paul and a 3-pointer by Crawford pushed the cushion to 119-108 with 6:37 left.
A 3-pointer by Beal sliced the gap to 129-124 with 30 seconds left but two foul shots by Griffin with 18.2 seconds remaining clinched the win for Los Angeles.
"That was a good win, but there's a better Clipper team than tonight," Rivers said. "And we will take the win, we'll take the win against a really good team, one of the better teams in the league. But we're still better than that, and that's what our team has to understand."
NOTES: Clippers G Austin Rivers (sore left hamstring) left the game in the first half and did not return. ... Clippers coach Doc Rivers said Wizards G John Wall would receive some serious consideration for MVP if not for the fantastic seasons being enjoyed by Oklahoma City Thunder G Russell Westbrook and Houston Rockets G James Harden. "He's had an amazing season." Rivers said. "If it wasn't for those other two guys, people would probably be talking about him. And not just in basketball, but I think in his leadership. (He's) a different player." ... The Wizards visit the Utah Jazz on Friday. ... The Clippers travel to Phoenix to play the Suns on Thursday.
Howard, Bazemore lead Hawks past 76ers
Wednesday, March 29 at 11:15 PM (EDT)
PHILADELPHIA -- With an NBA playoff berth hanging in the balance, the Atlanta Hawks are trying to regain their form.
It helped that Dwight Howard and Kent Bazemore were at their best Wednesday night.
Howard collected 22 points and 20 rebounds, and Bazemore, playing his first game after missing the previous five with a bruised right knee, added 19 points as Atlanta held off the Philadelphia 76ers 99-92.
Tim Hardaway Jr. also had 19 for the Hawks, who won their second straight game since ending a seven-game losing streak. Now 39-36, they are tied with Milwaukee for fifth place in the Eastern Conference.
"We've got to keep going," Howard said after his 50th double-double of the season, and his third 20-20 game. "These two games are behind us. We gave seven games away. We're going to need these games going into the playoffs."
Bazemore, who said he is "super close" to being 100 percent, played nearly 20 minutes off the bench and went 6 of 10 from the floor, including 4 of 5 from 3-point range.
"I got to the free-throw line," he said. "I was still getting by guys. I was still making the right plays offensively, making open shots -- pretty much what I want to do on a nightly basis anyway."
Ersan Ilyasova, playing his first game in Philadelphia since he was traded to Atlanta on Feb. 22, had 14 points, all in the first half. Dennis Schroder contributed 14 as well.
Howard set the tone, however, against a depleted Philadelphia front line. The Sixers are without center Joel Embiid (knee) for the season, and another center, Jahlil Okafor, missed his fourth straight game and fifth in the last six with a sore right knee.
That left Richaun Holmes and Development League call-up Shawn Long to battle Howard. Holmes scored a career-high 25 points and Long had 10, but Howard had his way.
"A lot of it was just Dwight," Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer said. "I think they were a little thin on the front line, and I think we could take advantage of it."
Howard made 8 of 17 shots, as well as 6 of 7 free throws -- a bonus, considering he is a notoriously bad foul shooter.
"He's an imposing presence, and I just tried to do the best I could against him," Holmes said. "It's another challenge, playing against the best in the world. He's one of the best in the world. It's another challenge, another way to learn and another way to get better, so I enjoyed it."
Atlanta led for all but the first few minutes, but the Sixers used an 11-2 run to cut the gap to 83-81 with 8:21 left in the game.
Hardaway then nailed a 3-pointer to trigger a 12-5 spurt, putting the Hawks up 95-86 with 1:44 remaining. Schroder scored four points in that run, and Howard chipped in three.
Dario Saric added 15 points for Philadelphia but shot 5 of 18 from the floor.
The Sixers shot 41.4 percent in all, but were 11 of 39 (28.2 percent) from 3-point range. The Hawks, meanwhile, made 9 of 18 attempts from the arc.
Besides Embiid and Okafor, the Sixers were without Sergio Rodriguez for the second straight game because of a strained left hamstring. He will be re-evaluated next week.
Robert Covington was also unavailable after injuring his right knee in Tuesday's victory at Brooklyn.
Paul Millsap, Atlanta's leading scorer, missed the seventh straight game because of a sore left knee. Thabo Sefolosha sat out his third straight with a strained groin.
Ilyasova scored nine straight Atlanta points in one first-quarter stretch and finished the period with 12, helping the Hawks to a 25-18 lead by the end of the period.
By halftime, the Hawks were up 52-43. Besides Ilyasova's 14 points in the first 24 minutes, Howard contributed 13, along with 10 rebounds, and Bazemore scored 11.
Saric and Holmes had 10 first-half points for Philadelphia. The Sixers missed 14 of 20 3-point attempts, while the Hawks went 7 of 11 from the arc. Bazemore made all three of his attempts, and Ilyasova was 2-for-2.
The Sixers crept within four, 74-70, late in the third quarter, but Schroder converted a layup and Bazemore tacked on a three-point play with 4.3 seconds left.
Hardaway then opened the fourth-quarter scoring with a jumper, giving the Hawks an 81-70 cushion, but the Sixers responded with their 11-2 spurt, which included four points by Holmes and three by Saric.
NOTES: Sixers C Tiago Splitter, acquired from Atlanta on Feb. 22, dressed but did not play. He appeared in his first game since Jan. 31, 2016, on Tuesday night in Brooklyn, having undergone hip surgery last February. He was also plagued by calf problems. ... Philadelphia F Robert Covington underwent an MRI on his right knee earlier in the day, but a team spokesman said the results were not yet known. ... Sixers G Gerald Henderson returned after missing Tuesday's game in Brooklyn with a sore hip. He scored five points off the bench. ... The Sixers, 10-72 a year ago, are on pace to triple their victory total. "This group has exceeded expectations all over the place," coach Brett Brown said ... Brown also praised Atlanta F Ersan Ilyasova, an ex-Sixer. "He was a complete, serious pro -- ruthless in his own preparation," Brown said. "He taught more by example than through voice."
Westbrook scores 57 as Thunder down Magic in OT
Wednesday, March 29 at 11:45 PM (EDT)
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Russell Westbrook keeps making the spectacular look so easy this season.
Westbrook recorded the highest scoring triple-double in NBA history Wednesday night, totaling 57 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to a come-from-behind, 114-106 overtime victory over the Orlando Magic at the Amway Center.
For Westbrook, it was just another day at work as he compiled his fourth consecutive triple-double and his 38th of the season, leaving him three shy of the NBA record held by NBA legend Oscar Robertson. The 57 points were one short of his career high.
"You just got to want it more than other people," Westbrook said. "I don't think about getting tired. I just keep going and going. I don't think about it. I just think about making the next play, making winning basketball plays. I'm blessed."
The Thunder (43-31) have won eight of the last 10 games. Westbrook scored 16 points in the fourth quarter Monday when Oklahoma City erased a 13-point deficit in the final 3:31 to win in Dallas. He scored 19 points in the final six minutes of regulation to force overtime Wednesday when the Thunder erased another 13-point fourth quarter deficit.
"Russell was spectacular coming down the stretch and the way he closed the game," Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. "Overall, it's just incredible what he's doing now. He played an exceptional second half again. He just has an incredible competitive spirit."
The Magic (27-48) lost their second consecutive game after leading by 21 points in the third quarter and 13 points in the fourth.
"That (Westbrook's performance) was one of the best," Magic coach Frank Vogel said. "It's tough to rank those over the years, but it's right up there with the best. Give him credit."
Evan Fournier led the Magic with 24 points, while Nikola Vucevic added 11 points and 16 rebounds. Terrence Ross had 23 points and hit five of 11 3-pointers. Bismack Biyombo scored 12 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, and Aaron Gordon had 13 points.
Enes Kanter scored 17 points for the Thunder, including 15 in the second half, while grabbing 10 rebounds. Victor Oladipo scored 13 points.
Westbrook hit 21 of 40 shots and six of 15 3-pointers. He made nine of 11 free throws.
He led a late rally by scoring 19 points in the final six minutes of regulation, hitting a 3-pointer with seven seconds remaining to send the game into overtime.
Oladipo hit a 3-pointer early in overtime for the 107-105 lead and the Thunder never lost the lead. Westbrook scored seven points in overtime.
Until Westbrook's 3-pointer, the Magic led the entire second half. They were up 93-79 when Vucevic scored on a hook shot with 6:18 remaining.
"He's a helluva player, and he's been doing that for 70 games now, carrying that team every night," Vucevic said of Westbrook. "I think the numbers he's putting up are amazing. You just tip your hat when he does stuff like that."
The Magic led by as many as 21 points in third quarter, but the Thunder cut the deficit to 82-72 going into the fourth when Kanter scored 10 points in five minutes. Fournier scored 13 points in the third.
"I was just looking at the scoreboard, taking it one possession at a time," Westbrook said. "I don't take this game for granted. I just try to come out each and every night and compete at a high level."
The Magic made a 13-0 run midway in the third -- including a pair of 3-pointers from Fournier -- for the 72-51 lead.
The Magic led 49-44 at halftime after Biyombo scored 10 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the second period to spark their early surge. Vucevic got in early foul trouble, giving Biyombo the opportunity to shine.
Westbrook had 21 points, four rebounds and four assists by intermission. The Thunder led by as many as eight points in the first quarter, but they faded defensively in the second period when the Magic scored 31 points. Westbrook also committed seven of the Thunder's nine first-half turnovers
NOTES: The Magic surprisingly beat the Thunder earlier this season in Oklahoma City, 119-117, when F Serge Ibaka scored a career-high 31 points against his former team. The Magic have since traded Ibaka to Toronto. ... Thunder G Victor Oladipo, who came to Oklahoma City after three years with the Magic, didn't sound very nostalgic about his first return to Amway Center. "I wouldn't say I was in tears disappointed about the trade," Oladipo said before the game. "Sometimes, change is good. It ended up being good for me." ... Magic reserve F Jeff Green missed his fourth consecutive game due to back spasms. ... Magic coach Frank Vogel sounded in awe of everything Thunder G Russell Westbrook has accomplished this season. "It's remarkable what he's done," Vogel said. "A great face for the NBA."
Bucks knock off Celtics
Thursday, March 30 at 1:06 AM (EDT)
BOSTON -- Back on Feb. 8, Jabari Parker of the Milwaukee Bucks suffered a torn ACL and was lost for the season, taking his 20.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game averages with him to his offseason.
In that same game, Khris Middleton returned after missing the first 50 games with a hamstring tear that required surgery.
The Bucks lost that game to fall to 22-29, their season clearly in peril.
Don't look now, but Milwaukee is 17-7 since then and has won 13 of its last 16.
"They're really good," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said after the Bucks' 103-100 win in Boston on Wednesday night. "They've been one of the best teams in the East over the past month and a half. Since Middleton came back. So, I'm not surprised at their level, and their level is really high."
Wednesday night marked the Bucks' sixth attempt at rising to three games over .500. This time it worked as they held onto their tie for fifth place in the Eastern Conference.
"It's huge for us to continue our stretch of playing a high level of basketball," said Bucks rookie guard Malcolm Brogdon, who led the Bucks down the stretch. "It's huge for us to do it against this team at their home. It's a huge boost for our confidence. It's about continuing to play like this and not have content."
Milwaukee also knocked the Celtics from their one-day stay atop the conference as Boston, losing at home for the second time in 16 games and the first time in five on this homestand, dropped back to percentage points behind the Cleveland Cavaliers. Even worse for Boston, the Toronto Raptors are just a game and half behind the Celtics.
Brogdon, a second-round pick who has turned into a Rookie of the Year candidate, scored three baskets -- including a tough jumper with 3.9 seconds left -- and set up two others in the final 2:26 as the Bucks blew an eight-point fourth-quarter lead but evened their season series with Boston at 1-1.
"He's not a rookie. He's not a rookie," said Stevens. "And I say that with respect to him. Like that guy. Knows how to play."
Brogdon's reward was a water bottle shower from some teammates as he did a postgame television interview.
"He kept his composure -- he's done that all season for us," said Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd.
The game was tied at 93 when Brogdon chased down a ball deflected into the backcourt, picked it up with 11 on the shot clock and drove down the floor and scored. He then hit a floater in the lane and set up two baskets in a row before hitting the clincher.
The Celtics had the ball out of bounds with 3.9 seconds left, but Marcus Smart's off-balance heave off a deflected pass wasn't close.
As far as playing with more poise than your average rookie, Brogdon, who came out of the University of Virginia, said, "I think college has helped me. Playing four years of college you learn a lot about yourself more than anything. You have an identity to lean (on) and a strong foundation coming into the NBA."
Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 22 points and nine rebounds, while Middleton had 19 points, six rebounds and five assists. Greg Monroe had 16 points and eight boards and Brogdon posted 16 points, nine assists and four rebounds.
"It's a great character test for us," said Kidd. "We've been tested all season. Understanding the ups and downs of an NBA season, it's about March and April playing your best."
Isaiah Thomas scored 32 points and broke Antoine Walker's club record of 222 3-pointers in a season. Jae Crowder led four others in double figures with 13 points -- with Avery Bradley posting 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Crowder, asked about the last Brogdon shot, said, "That's a tough shot. Avery was all over him. Very unfortunate."
Thomas tied Walker's record with a 3-point bomb on a fast break in the third quarter and then broke it with a heavily contested trey with 4:13 left in the game. It was Thomas' 223rd 3-pointer, and last of the game.
But the Bucks made life tough on him, and the Celtics didn't score a single point when he was on the bench in the first half.
"It's just a loss," said Boston's Al Horford, who had 11 points, six rebounds and six assists."
NOTES: Celtics G Isaiah Thomas became the sixth Celtics player to score 2,000 points in a season. Larry Bird and Paul Pierce both did it four times, John Havlicek twice and Sam Jones and Kevin McHale once each. ... Thomas extended his club record with a 3-pointer in his 50th straight game and also posted his 50th 25-point game of the season. ... Guerschon Yabusele, the 16th overall pick in last year's draft, arrived from China and joined the Celtics' Maine Red Claws for their remaining games. ... The Bucks host the Detroit Pistons and the Celtics the Orlando Magic on Friday night.
Heat crank up defense, shut down Knicks
Wednesday, March 29 at 11:21 PM (EDT)
NEW YORK -- On the surface, it appeared the Miami Heat were playing effective defense at halftime. They thought otherwise when the topic was discussed during the break.
Then it was a matter of turning words into actions, and the Heat did so by holding the New York Knicks to 35 percent shooting in the final 24 minutes of a 105-88 victory Wednesday night.
"We came out playing better defense the second half," Miami center Hassan Whiteside said. "Guys came in here, talked about it in the locker room and went to go do it. You can do talk about it but when you add action to it, it's a big difference."
"We had to go back to us," Heat reserve forward James Johnson added. "We had to go back to our details, what we do best and our identity, which is play defense."
The Heat pulled away in a span of about 6 1/2 minutes bridging the end of the third quarter and the start of the fourth. During those minutes, Miami surged ahead with a 17-5 run, holding the Knicks to 2 of 13 from the field.
The improved defense occurred less than 24 hours after Whiteside's tip-in had given the Heat a dramatic one-point win over the Detroit Pistons. Instead of accepting the lulls on the second night of a back-to-back, the Heat (37-38) took care of things and headed back to Miami tied with the Indiana Pacers for seventh place in the Eastern Conference, 1 1/2 games up on the Chicago Bulls.
"We came in at 2 a.m.; it's a back-to-back," Miami point guard Goran Dragic said. "We don't have some key players. Some teams can put an X (and say) we're going to lose this game. We don't function like that. We try to win every game."
Miami improved to 26-8 since losing 30 of the first 41 games. The Heat matched the 2013-14 Knicks for the most wins when being at least 19 games under .500 at any point. They did it by getting steady performances on offense.
Dragic led the Heat with 20 points and nine assists, and he contributed seven rebounds, too. James Johnson added 18 points and seven rebounds, and Josh Richardson had 17 points and a career-high five steals.
Whiteside nearly recorded his 52nd double-double, finishing with 11 points and nine rebounds despite foul trouble as the Heat shot 47.6 percent and hit nearly half of their 3-pointers.
While the Heat are in a crowded playoff field, the Knicks were unable to get consecutive wins for the first time since Dec. 20-22 and were officially eliminated from playoff contention. New York (28-47) is 12-34 in its last 46 games and will miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season and 13th time in the 17 seasons since Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing was traded in September 2000.
"It was hard," Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony said. "Even tonight, even though we won't be playing in the playoffs, it is still hard, especially when you still care about the game and still want to win games despite the situation. That makes it 10 times harder."
Porzingis led the Knicks with 20 points and eight rebounds, and rookie Willy Hernangomez added 12 points. Anthony took two shots in the first half and was held to nine points, marking the third time this season he was limited to fewer than 10.
"It is not (only) this game," Porzingis said. "There have been a lot of ups and downs throughout the season."
Miami closed the first half with a 12-4 spurt over the final 5:19 to get a 49-41 lead. The Heat took the lead for good on a 3-pointer by James Johnson with 3:38 left and ended the half with a 3-point shot by Richardson with 3.6 seconds left.
By the end of the third, Miami held a 77-68 lead despite Whiteside sitting for the final 8 1/2 minutes with four fouls. Miami put it away in the opening three minutes of the fourth, when it opened the quarter with a thunderous one-handed dunk by James Johnson and built an 86-70 lead on a putback by Okaro White with nine minutes remaining.
NOTES: New York G Derrick Rose (sore left knee) sat out after he was limping late in the second half of Monday's win over the Detroit Pistons. Coach Jeff Hornacek said Rose would have played if the Knicks were in contention for the playoffs. ... The NBA released the report on the final two minutes of Miami's 97-96 win in Detroit on Tuesday, decided on C Hassan Whiteside's tip-in before the buzzer. The report stated Whiteside and G Rodney McGruder committed fouls on the sequence before the final shot. ... New York C Joakim Noah was cleared to be on the active roster and began serving his 20-game suspension for testing positive for a banned supplement. Noah can practice and travel with the team but must vacate the arena two hours before the opening tip. ... Miami G Dion Waiters (sprained left ankle) missed his sixth straight game. ... New York F Lance Thomas (sore right hip) missed his fourth consecutive game.
Belinelli boosts Hornets past Raptors
Wednesday, March 29 at 11:52 PM (EDT)
TORONTO -- There was bloodletting in more ways than one Tuesday night when the Charlotte Hornets were thoroughly outplayed by the Milwaukee Bucks.
Late in that game, the blood flowed profusely from just above the nose of Marco Belinelli after he bumped heads with a Bucks player.
He feared he might have broken his nose, but after receiving seven stitches, he was able to play against the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night.
And did he play.
The former Raptor scored 21 points off the bench, 11 in the fourth quarter, as the Hornets kept their flickering playoff hopes alive with a 110-106 comeback victory.
Marvin Williams and Kemba Walker also scored 11 points each in the final quarter to end the Raptors' six-game winning streak and tie the season series at 2-2.
Walker's 3-pointer on a pull-up jumper with 37.5 seconds left broke a 101-101 tie and put the Hornets ahead to stay, completing a comeback from an 11-point deficit in the third quarter.
Williams hit a 3-pointer with 8.7 seconds remaining to make the lead four points.
Williams praised Belinelli's effort.
"It was huge, absolutely huge," Williams said. "He has been big for us all year, as hard as he works and he was still able to get the ball and make the shot."
"They were hot as fire in the fourth quarter," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "We went from one of our best defensive quarters, 16 points in the third, to 44 in the fourth, and that was the difference in the game."
All of the Hornets mentioned how poor they were Tuesday at home in a 118-108 loss.
"Tonight was a big game for us after the bad loss to Milwaukee. Back to back. I think everybody was ready," Belinelli said. "We won a really important game. I wanted to win so bad; we wanted to win. Especially after yesterday, it was a really bad loss for us in front of our fans. We were down by 20 and didn't respond well."
Walker finished with 19 points and Williams tallied 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Hornets (34-41) while Nicolas Batum added 15 points and Frank Kaminsky chipped in 13.
"We just stuck with the game, really," Walker said. "We made big plays, especially defensively down the stretch."
DeMar DeRozan led Toronto with 28 points and eight assists, Cory Joseph had 18 points and Serge Ibaka 15. Jonas Valanciunas added 14 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, while Patrick Patterson and Norman Powell scored 10 points apiece for Toronto (45-30).
"They hit some big shots -- you have to give it to them -- especially 3-pointers when they needed them," DeRozan said. "Every time we scored they came back and answered with a big shot."
The Raptors entered the fourth quarter with an eight-point advantage.
The Hornets tied the game with 7:46 to play and again with 2:43 left. Walker's 3-pointer put Charlotte ahead by one with 1:55 to play.
Powell made one of two free throws with 57 seconds left to tie the game. Walker hit another 3-pointer, and Charlotte led by three.
Cody Zeller fouled out for Charlotte with 29.6 seconds left and DeRozan made both free throws to reduce the lead to one point. Williams responded with a 3-pointer.
"We hit a bunch of 3s," Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. "Basically, at the end of the day, coach (Pat) Riley says most nights it's a make-or-miss league. And we had eight 3s in the fourth, got a couple of stops when we needed them. But, at the end of the day, in the biggest possessions, we got some open 3s and knocked them in."
DeRozan hit a 16-foot jumper at the buzzer to end the first quarter, cutting the Hornets' advantage to 22-19.
Kaminsky completed a 3-point play with a free throw and Charlotte led by 10 in the second quarter.
The Raptors cut into the lead and DeRozan's 18-foot pull-up jumper beat the buzzer to end the first half as Charlotte took a 50-47 lead.
The Raptors led 74-66 after three quarters.
The Hornets scored the first seven points of the fourth quarter.
Ibaka picked up his fifth foul with 10:44 left, and Jeremy Lamb's reverse layup tied the game at 82 with 7:46 remaining.
Powell took advantage of a Hornets turnover to complete a fast break with a layup, and the Raptors took a five-point lead.
Williams hit a 3-pointer with 2:43 left to tie the game at 98.
"It's a tight race, but we have to focus on ourselves first off," Joseph said. "We need to focus on getting better."
NOTES: The Raptors are 1 1/2 games behind the third-place Washington Wizards in the Eastern Conference standings. ... Toronto F DeMarre Carroll returned to the lineup after missing two straight games with a sore lower back. ... Toronto C Jonas Valanciunas recorded his 27th double-double, with 14 points and 15 rebounds. ... Charlotte shot 50 percent (16-for-32) from 3-point range, including 8-for-10 in the fourth quarter. ... The Raptors play the third game of their four-game homestand Friday against the Indiana Pacers. ... The Hornets return home to play the Denver Nuggets at Spectrum Center on Friday.