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NBA Power Rankings: Celtics, Spurs drop at regular season’s end

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At the top would be every lazy sports columnist’s dream finals matchup — the Lakers versus the Bulls in Phil Jackson’s final year. (Well, final year for now, anyway). But do you really think the recent struggles of the Celtics and Spurs tell you much about those teams in the playoffs?

1. Lakers (53-20, LW #1). They’ve won seven in a row, only one loss since the All-Star break, and are now just four games back of the Spurs (losers of three in a row). That leaves the Lakers are four games back with nine to play, it would still take a miracle to catch the Spurs, but you can start talking about it now.

2. Bulls (53-19, LW #3). Winners of four in a row and gaining a lot of confidence heading into the playoffs. Which as a team entering its first playoffs as a unit matters more than it does for some of the veteran units that are contenders. We had questions about the Bulls offense but it has been improved lately.

3. Heat (51-22, LW #5). Winners of five in a row, eight of their last 10 and the big three are playing well together. Six of those wins came against playoff teams, but seven of their final nine are against teams below .500 so don’t be shocked if they push the Bulls for the top seed.

4. Thunder (48-24, LW #6). Kendrick Perkins made some plays against the Blazers Sunday. OKC is coming together at the right time but are poised to face Denver in the first round. Denver will be a tough out.

5. Mavericks (52-21, LW #7). Odd stat of the week, the Mavs are 15-0 when Peja Stojakovic plays at least 15 minutes.

6. Magic (47-26, LW #8). Five straight wins and the best center in the game, solid four seed, but nobody mentions them among the contenders in the East. You’ll see more Gilbert Arenas this week, which may not be best for then Magic.

7. Spurs (57-16, Last Week #2). Three straight losses with no Tim Duncan (and they lost Manu for much of Sunday, even though that is not as serious). What matters is getting both healthy by the playoffs, but that may costs them games now. Doesn’t matter because the Lakers can’t make up four games in the remaining nine… can they?

8. Celtics (51-21, LW #4). They are struggling coming into the playoffs. Fooled us once with that trick, we’re not falling for it again. But, they need to get Shaq back with a few games under his belt before the playoffs.

9. Nuggets (44-29), LW #11). He’s not going to win it (Tom Thibodeau is with the Bulls), but George Karl has to move on to your Coach of the Year ballot now.

10. Blazers (42-31, LW #9). Damn that Gerald Wallace trade was brilliant. He can score and with him and Nicolas Batum they can defend the forward spots very well. There are going to be no easy outs for the West’s top teams in the first round.

11. Grizzlies (41-33, LW #10). They went 2-1 against the Spurs, Celtics and Bulls last week. They are going to make the playoffs, and read the Blazers note about tough outs in the West.

12. Sixers (37-36, LW #12). There was a time a couple weeks ago when the Sixers looked like a dangerous team in the first round. Not so much any more.

13. Rockets (38-35, LW #13). They are 7-3 in their last season and playing with a real push for the playoffs, but nobody in the west is coming back to them at all. They are 2.5 games back of Memphis, which has an easy schedule from here on out.

14. Hawks (42-32, LW #15). The Hawks are coasting to a five seed in the playoffs. Which should last about one round for them.

15. Hornets (42-32, LW #14). No David West the rest of the way, and that makes for an undersized front line of Emeka Okafor and Carl Landry. That is an anagram for “we’re in trouble now.” (Well, it should be an anagram of that.) They are 3.5 games ahead of the Rockets.

16. Suns (36-36, LW #17). This summer, we are starting a “free Steve Nash” campaign. Vince Carter has gone to the bench, as it should be.

17. Jazz (36-38, LW #18). Their defense has been a disaster since the trade. Disaster.

18. Knicks (35-34, LW #16). They are 3.5 games ahead of the eight-seed pacers and 4.5 ahead of the nine-seed Bobcats, they are almost certainly not falling out of the playoffs. But their defense remains terrible and now the offense is joining it.

19. Bobcats (30-42, LW #23). They beat the Celtics and Knicks last week to keep their playoff hopes alive, but they need to beat the Bucks Monday to make sure they stay alive. They remain one game back of the Pacers for the last spit.

20. Warriors (32-42, LW #19). Of the teams on the bottom third of this bracket, this is the one we can recommend watching. They are very, very entertaining right now, with Monta Ellis leading the way.

21. Pacers (32-42, LW #20). About the only thing that is consistent about them is a good game from Tyler Hansbrough.

22. Clippers (29-45, LW #22). Eric Gordon is back and it makes you wonder: Is this really a playoff team with him healthy? There are still a lot of questions.

23. Bucks (29-43, LW #21). They are not out of the playoffs mathematically, but six of their next seven are on the road and they are 10-24 this season away from home.

24. Kings (20-52, LW #27). They just went 4-1 on their latest road trip. I’m sure that is generating a lot of excitement in Anaheim.

25. Pistons (26-47, LW #24). You know Detroit, if you had played Rip Hamilton more before the trade deadline, and he played like this, you might have been able to move him.

26. Nets (23-49, LW #25). Fun game Wednesday in New York. What is the over/under on Brook Lopez rebounds against the weak Knicks front line? Seven?

27. Raptors (20-53, LW #26). The worst defensive team in the league. Just wanted to reiterate that.

28. Cavaliers (14-58, LW #29). Joe Tait was back in the radio broadcast booth this week. That is a win for Cleveland.

29. Wizards (17-55, LW #30). JaVale McGee is getting his blocks lately. Rebounding be damned.

30. Timberwolves (17-57, LW #28). Losers of seven straight and no Kevin Love for the remainder of the season. Anthony Randolph teased with his talents for a game then ran into the reality of Kevin Garnett.

Report: NBA restricts teams ads on jerseys; no alcohol, tobacco, politics, more

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The Los Angeles Lakers are not going to have a silhouette of a Patron bottle on their jerseys.

Despite the potential tie in with GM Vlade Divac, the Sacramento Kings are not going to be sponsored by Marlboro.

While NBA teams have been cleared to sell a small patch ad on jerseys for next season — to go on the left shoulder, where the KIA logo was on the All-Star uniforms this season (if you even noticed it) — there are limitations, reports Darren Rovell of ESPN.

In most cases this was not going to be an issue, but the league did not want to risk a local casino or whatever jumping in with a big bid.

Teams are expected to get several million dollars for the ad deals (larger markets will get more, smaller markets less). This is part of a three-year trial program approved by the owners, although once the money starts coming in it’s hard to imagine to owners deciding to scrap the idea.

Draymond Green’s fire drives Warriors in pursuit of title

OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 16:  Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors warms up prior to playing the Houston Rockets in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at ORACLE Arena on April 16, 2016 in Oakland, California. 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 Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Draymond Green
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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Stephen Curry might be the face of the Warriors with the breathtaking long-range shots and ball-handling that makes Golden State so appealing to watch.

Draymond Green is the heart.

The loud, sometimes brash and amazingly versatile Green was the driving force behind the team’s commitment to chase a record 73 wins in the regular season, the key to the team’s dominant small-ball lineup and perhaps Golden State’s most indispensable player.

A knee injury to Curry has done little to slow down the Warriors’ run to a second straight title because fellow “Splash Brother” Klay Thompson has picked up the scoring load to help Golden State take a 2-0 series lead in the second round against Portland.

Making up for what Green does on the court would be almost impossible. In the past four games, Green is averaging 18.3 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists and the Warriors have outscored the opponent by 109 points when he is on the court.

“Draymond is huge for us,” center Andrew Bogut said. “His playmaking ability, his defensive ability, he’s probably the best all-around player in the league at this point.”

It’s been quite a ride for a player so lightly regarded that he wasn’t drafted until 35th overall when he came out of Michigan State in 2012. But Green has improved each year, increasing his average in points, rebounds, assists, field-goal percentage and 3-point shooting in each of his four years capped by his stellar performance this year.

Green averaged 14.0 points, 9.5 rebounds and 7.4 assists per game, becoming the first player to record at least 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 500 assists, 100 steals and 100 blocks in a single season since steals and blocks started being officially recorded in 1973-74.

He set a team record with 13 triple-doubles, was the only player to appear in all 73 wins for the Warriors and had the highest plus-minus margin ever on record with Golden State outscoring the opposition by 1,072 points when he was on the floor.

While Green has played the majority of his time with the presumptive MVP in Curry, it is telling that Golden State has outscored opponents by 13.8 points per 48 minutes with Green on the court and Curry off compared to 1.0 point per 48 minutes with Curry playing and Green resting.

But more than numbers, it’s Green’s defensive versatility that makes the Warriors what they are. He’s able to guard all five positions whether it’s battling with post players who have a decided size advantage or chasing quicker guards on the perimeter and that allows Golden State to employ its so-called “Death Lineup” of five perimeter players that opponents have been unable to neutralize.

“I think there’s a lot of great all-around players in the game,” Green said. “You’ll never hear me call myself that, but they are going to call me that, I’ll take it. I’m not going to shy away from it.”

Green is fueled by doubters and skeptics, using the snub of being a second-round pick or critics who called the Warriors lucky for avoiding some top teams or players on the way to the championship last year as fuel for his raging fire.

That fire sometimes gets too hot and led to the 12 technical fouls Green got during the regular season and the locker room shouting match he had with coach Steve Kerr at halftime of a game in Oklahoma City in February.

“We yell at each other all the time,” Kerr said. “He’s a guy that I know I can get on who won’t shy away but will actually do the opposite. If I yell at him he’s going to play better. Sometimes I yell at Draymond just to get the team to play better. Draymond understands that. When you have a relationship like that, every once in a while it’s going to blow over, which it did in Oklahoma City as everybody knows about but that didn’t mean anything.”

Kerr calls Green one of his favorite players he’s ever been around and credits his vocal desire to pursue 73 wins for the decision to go for the record.

Kerr is not the first coach to have run-ins with Green that did little to diminish his appreciation for his style of play. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said he had plenty of yelling matches with Green in college but has only praise for Green.

“He had basketball IQ, it’s off the charts,” Izzo said. “It’s as good as anybody. He can see the floor and do some things like no player I’ve had. He has incredible toughness. He’d fight Godzilla. It doesn’t matter who it is, where it is or what it is. He has an incredible will to win. Everybody wants to win but he would sacrifice to win.”

AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley contributed to this report.

Miami Heat, Chris Bosh issue joint statement saying he is out for playoffs

FILE - In this April 17, 2016 file photo, Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh, center, claps during the first half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Charlotte Hornets, in Miami. The Heat defeated the Hornets 123-91. Bosh was a cheerleader for Miami's win in Toronto on Tuesday night. He'll be back in that role for Game 2 on Thursday and the question becomes if he'll be back at all this season. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)
Associated Press
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Chris Bosh was putting videos on Instagram of himself out shooting on the court. His wife had taken to social media using the hashtag #letBoshplay. Bosh had reached out and gotten the players’ union involved. Bosh wanted to play, the Heat and their team doctors were not about to let him after he went back on blood thinners due to a clotting issue that can be life threatening.

It was becoming a distraction to a team up 1-0 in the second round of the playoffs.

Wednesday afternoon the two sides put this to rest.

This was never Bosh’s decision to make alone, it had to be him and the organization on the same page. And the Heat organization was not changing its mind.

Miami had to go small and change their style of play without Bosh, but it has worked — Goran Dragic found room to operate, the Heat offense took off, and the emergence of Hassan Whiteside as a rim protector has kept the defense from slipping much.

The Heat needed seven games to vanquish the Hornets in the first round. While technically underdogs in the second round against Toronto, the Heat have real matchup advantages that could see them advance to the conference finals — likely against LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

It is unfortunate that is happening without Bosh, but there are things more important than basketball. Bosh’s long-term health has to be on that list.

Report: Stephen Curry had platelet-rich plasma therapy on right knee

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, center left, sits on the bench during the first half in Game 2 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series between the Warriors and the Portland Trail Blazers in Oakland, Calif., Tuesday, May 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Associated Press
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Not that they need him yet, but Stephen Curry has been doing everything he can to get back on the court for the Golden State Warriors by Game 3 on Saturday.

That includes getting platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy on his sprained right knee, reports Diamond Leung of the Mercury News.

Warriors guard Stephen Curry said Tuesday he received platelet-rich plasma treatment as part of his treatment on his sprained right knee.

PRP, which is said to promote healing, was given to Curry on the second day of his recovery process, he said.

While thought to be exotic when Kobe Bryant used to go to Germany for this treatment on his knees a few years back, now this treatment is relatively common among professional athletes.

The question remains (and likely will until game day) whether the Warriors will bring back Curry for Game 3. On one hand, they aren’t pressured to do so up 2-0 on the Trail Blazers and with some matchup advantages Portland is not going to be able to solve. The Warriors don’t need to rush him back to make sure they win this series.

On the other hand, between the ankle and now knee injuries Curry has missed a lot of time and there is a rust factor — the Warriors want to shake that rust off against Portland, not in Game 1 of the conference finals against a much tougher opponent. Meaning even if you don’t see Curry in Game 3, you will see him in Game 4 (unless something is more wrong with him than is being let on).