Spurs win, Lakers lose — top seed in the West rests in San Antonio

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I hope y’all like Tex Mex, because the road to the NBA finals in the West runs through San Antonio.

Sure, the two seed Lakers and top seed Spurs play next Tuesday, but now people will want to see that game about as much as they want to listen to a new Go-Go’s album. Or a watch regular season Kansas City Royals game.

Mathmatically the Lakers are still alive, but the Spurs all but wrapped up the top spot in the West they beat the Atlanta Hawks 97-90 in a pretty sloppy game Tuesday. The win kept the Spurs (59-19) two games up on the Lakers in loss column — and three of San Antonio’s four remaining games are against lottery teams. They weren’t likely to lose those if they put out much effort, so even if the Spurs fell to the Lakers (and the Lakers won out) it wouldn’t matter if they won the other three.

Then the Lakers went out and played a sloppy, disinterested game against the Jazz and lost.

The Jazz were one of those lottery teams expected to roll over at the end of the season, but to quote Apollo Creed’s trainer from Rocky, “He doesn’t know it’s a damn show! He thinks it’s a damn fight!” Gordon Hayward hit a game winning free throw, then Kobe Bryant fumbled the ball out of bounds on the last play and walked off the court staring at his hands in disbelief.

That puts the Lakers at 55-22, 3.5 back with four to play and three back in the loss column.

The Spurs magic number is 2 (any combination of Spurs wins and Lakers losses to reach that number and San Antonio clinches the West). Look for the Lakers to start resting guys as they realize they are the two seed (third seed Dallas is two full games back of Los Angeles and is not going to catch them).

San Antonio does have Chicago just 1.5 games back and the Spurs magic number for the best record in the NBA is 4. Meaning the Spurs still need to get some wins to lock up home court throughout (Chicago still plays Boston, Orlando and has a New York/New Jersey back-to-back left, so there may be losses in their future).

All hail the Spurs. They won the regular season prize. Which is not the big prize they covet, but it does come with home-court advantage. And Tex Mex.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.

How to start your Saturday night: Watching 15 minutes of best plays from NBA season

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There are no NBA playoff games Saturday night, the first night since the start of the postseason there hasn’t been one game. Don’t worry, there are two games on Sunday, including Game 7 between the Jazz and Clippers.

But if you need a Saturday night fix, this will have to do: 15 minutes of the best plays from last season, as compiled by NBA.com.

Go ahead, watch it. You’ve got nothing better to do.

 

Paul Millsap says the expected, he will “most likely” opt out of contract

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This is ranked right next to “overeating can lead to weight gain” on the list of surprising things, but we will dutifully report it anyway:

Paul Millsap is going to opt out and officially become a free agent this summer.

Atlanta’s owner as well as Mike Budenholzer, the coach and head of basketball operations, have both said they plan to do whatever it takes to re-sign Millsap with the Hawks. Millsap didn’t sound like someone eager to leave after the Hawks were eliminated from the playoffs Friday.

“It’s been great. I’m looking to expand this and see where the franchise can go. These last four years has been great. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Even with both sides singing Kumbaya, keeping Millsap in Atlanta likely means a five-year contract at or near the max, which for a 32-year-old player means the Hawks would regret the last year or two of that deal.

Not that the Hawks have much of a choice here, they have to come in big and keep him. For one, they can’t afford to lose Al Horford and then Millsap for nothing in back-to-back years. If they were going down the rebuilding road, they needed to trade Millsap at the deadline (or last summer) to make sure they got something in return. Atlanta explored trade options at the deadline, but then pulled back (rumored to be because of an edict from ownership, which didn’t want to see the team blown up after the Kyle Korver trade).

By not making that trade the Hawks signaled their intention to remain a good team — a 43-win team this season that got them the five seed — with Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard, one that draws well at an arena that historically has not been that full, and see if they can add on. They strike me as a team that will win between 42-50 games a year and be middle of the pack in the East for the next few years, unless they can find a way to add an elite player (which is incredibly difficult).

But if the Hawks can’t re-sign Millsap, then the plan gets blown up. So expect them to come in with a big offer come July 1.