Utah Jazz may have inside track for two seed

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Nobody out West has the cushy ride that Miami does the rest of the way this season. That is the Hummer stretch limo of easy paths to the playoffs.

But out in the West, where 1.5 games separate seeds two to five, and just 4.5 separate two seed Dallas to the eighth seeded Spurs, every little advantage helps.

And the Jazz and Suns have that advantage.

NBA.com broke down the remaining schedules for the teams out West, and suddenly Jazz is sounding good. Utah sits just a half a game back of Dallas for second overall, but they have just four games remaining against teams over .500 this season, while the Mavericks have six. The remaining Dallas teams combined have a winning percentage of .532, Utah just .504. Dallas plays two more games, but against quality opponents that could be trouble.

Then again the Suns could beat them both out. Just one game back of Utah, they have a slightly easier route. While they play six teams over .500, the overall winning percentage of teams remaining on their schedule is .499.

Utah may well get that two seed, and the three is not out of the question for the Suns (although Dallas will not lose a lot of games from here on out, they are playing well). Those three teams are in a dogfight.

Denver will have a hard time moving up out of the four/five spot — they have the hardest schedule remaining out West. They play six teams over .500, one below, and the teams left have a winning percentage of .584. That is tough sledding. The Lakers have a pretty balanced schedule — four home, four road, opponent winning percentage of .504 — but despite their sporadic play lately their lead is too big for someone to dislodge them from the top seed.

In the bottom few spots in the West, don’t be shocked to see Portland move up a little. Maybe to sixth. They have the easiest schedule left of any team in the West, an opponent winning percentage of .498.

The currently eighth-seeded Spurs may have a hard time moving out of that slot and avoiding the Lakers in the first round — they have the second toughest schedule left, seven teams left over .500, just two below.

It all shakes out well for the Jazz, a franchise that believes if it gets home court and avoids the Lakers it can reach the conference Finals. They may be in for a shock there. But they could get the two seed.

Larry Nance Jr. throws alley-oop to himself, throws alley-oop to himself (video)

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Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. immediately motioned for the replay to be shown of this dunk. It was necessary to properly appreciate it.

Best dunk of the night.

Donovan Mitchell won the dunk contest, though.

Larry Nance Jr. plays tribute to father — rock-the-cradle dunk in Suns uniform

Associated Press
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Back in 1984, high-flying Larry Nance Sr. won the first NBA All-Star Dunk Contest with this set of dunks — most famously a rock-the-cradle move.

Larry Nance Jr. came into the 2018 Dunk Contest and went nostalgic — all the way back to the Suns’ throwback uniform and the same dunk.

That and a good second dunk got him into the Dunk Contest finals. In that round, Nance Sr. threw an alley-oop to his son for the windmill.

Donovan Mitchell throws alley-oop to himself – off second backboard (video)

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LOS ANGELES – Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell set a high standard with the first slam of the 2018 dunk contest.

Very creative. Very well-executed.

Looks like all that preparation paid off.

Devin Booker’s 3-point-contest victory bright spot for Suns (video)

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Los Angeles – Devin Booker‘s Suns have the NBA’s worst record (18-41).

“I think everyone is fed up with the losing, from the top to the bottom of the organization,” Booker said this afternoon. “So, for us, it’s what’s next?”

A 3-point contest victory.

Overcoming Phoenix’s poor record to draw an invite to All-Star Saturday Night, Booker won the 3-point contest with a whopping 29 points in the final round.

That score left little margin for 2016 champion Klay Thompson, who capped the event with a 25-point round that was otherwise the night’s high. Clippers forward Tobias Harris, in his new home arena, finished third.

Booker was all smiles after the rare victory.

“Season not going how we planned, but I know a lot of the city was ready for this All-Star Weekend, having somebody participate,” Booker said. “So, I’m glad I could win it.

Where he and the Suns go from here is still questionable, but he has a plan.

“I’m going to win the dunk contest next year,” Booker said. “No, I’m just kidding.”

Full results

First round

Klay Thompson 19

Devin Booker 19

Tobias Harris 18

Wayne Ellington 17

Bradley Beal 15

Eric Gordon 12

Kyle Lowry 11

Paul George 9

Second round

Devin Booker 29

Klay Thompson 25

Tobias Harris 17