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.

DeMarcus Cousins says Mavericks’ rumored interest flatters him, but he loves Kings

Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) receives a blow to the head from Dallas Mavericks' Dwight Powell as Cousins works to get to the basket in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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The Mavericks’ long-rumored interest in DeMarcus Cousins took its most direct public turn before the season, when Dallas signed Cousins’ brother, Jaleel Cousins. Jaleel is now on the Mavericks’ D-League affiliate, and I bet he will remain there as DeMarcus approaches 2018 free agency.

Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News:

So, DeMarcus Cousins, what do you think about the Mavericks’ long-rumored interest in acquiring you?

“It’s flattering,” Cousins told me, with a laugh, after the Kings’ Wednesday shootaround at AAC. Then, turning serious, he added of the Mavericks, “I respect them.”

“But,” I said, “I’ve also heard that you like it in Sacramento.”

“No,” Cousins corrected, “I love Sacramento.”

Cousins is getting good at this, toeing the line between appreciating another team’s interest and expressing his satisfaction with the Kings.

And give Cousins credit. He keeps producing at a star level for a team that hasn’t provided him with the proper support. Sacramento again appears headed toward the lottery, even as Cousins averages 29-10.

Questions remain, though: How much of Cousins’ attitude is him trying to make the best of an inescapable situation, and will expanded options in the summer of 2018 test his loyalty?

LeBron James dunks, struts past camerapeople and toward crowd, spooks fan (video)

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LeBron James is dominating, and the Cavaliers are rolling over the Knicks.

It’s almost as if something has LeBron particularly riled up. But maybe ease up a little? That cowering fan isn’t Phil Jackson.

Kevin Love drips snot all over his face, maybe into his mouth (video)

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Cameras zoomed in on Kevin Love at the wrong moment:

Need a sensory cleanser? Enjoy this fantastic outlet pass from Kevin Love to LeBron James:

Derrick Rose out for Knicks-Cavaliers with back injury, getting MRI

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 22:  Derrick Rose #25 of the New York Knicks dribbles against the Portland Trail Blazers during their game at Madison Square Garden on November 22, 2016 in New York City.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK (AP) — Derrick Rose is missing the New York Knicks’ game against Cleveland because of lower back pain.

Rose left the Knicks’ victory over Miami on Tuesday in the third quarter with back spasms. Coach Jeff Hornacek says Rose still felt sore on Wednesday when he came in and met with team doctors, so they sent him for an MRI exam to make sure there was no structural damage.

Rose is averaging 16.7 points and this is the first game he’s missed this season.

Brandon Jennings will start in Rose’s place.