Baseline to Baseline recaps: Spurs get top seed, Heat slip back

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What you missed while barking at a police dog….

Bucks 90, Heat 85: No Dwyane Wade in this one due to his thigh bruise, and the Heat are now 3-2 when he sits. It didn’t help that Chris Bosh floated around the perimeter this game (except during the Heat’s one fourth quarter run, not so coincidentally) and LeBron’s shot was not sharp (10-of-22). The Bucks offense was better for a night with some nice ball movement. Where has that been all season?

Magic 111, Charlotte 102 (OT): If it hadn’t been for a 19-4 fourth-quarter run sparked by the Magic bench, they would have joined the ranks of the upset tonight. Orlando started the overtime on a 9-0 run and that was it. Not a good defensive effort from either team here. Charlotte is out of the playoff hunt now; the Pacers are the eight seed.

Knicks 97, Sixers 92: Big win for the Knicks as this moves them back into the six spot in the East (meaning likely Miami in the first round, if the Knicks can hold on). Carmelo Anthony had 31 in this game, which is what he has averaged on the Knicks five-game winning streak.

Warriors 95, Lakers 87: Two consecutive Lakers losses to non-playoff teams — that means time to panic in Los Angeles. (Not really, but some fans will.) The Lakers put up a sad offensive rating of 94.6, they were not moving without the ball, and Lakers not named Bryant or Gasol shot just 34.8 percent (Bryant and Gasol shot 54.8 percent together). The Lakers turned the ball over 17 times and the Warriors had 18 rebounds. Golden State also got a combined 68 points out of Monta Ellis, Stephen Curry and David Lee.

Spurs 124, Kings 92: This win clinched the top seed in the West for the Spurs — and they did it with offense. Which is fitting as that is how they got the top seed. This game was close at the half but the Spurs shot 61 percent in the second half, and George Hill’s 12 third quarter points helped that along. Expect the Spurs to start cutting back the minutes of their stars now (if not have them sit entire games).

Nuggets 104, Mavericks 96: Tuesday, J.R. Smith sat on the bench during the key moments of a close game, and Denver lost. Wednesday he played and took over the end of this game. He had two threes and a driving layup as part of a late 10-0 Nugget run to seal the win. There was also a Sean Marion sighting — 21 points on 10-of-14 shooting plus 10 boards.

Pacers 136, Wizards 112: Blistering pace — 106 possessions — and it felt like the 1980s again. Well, the 1980s games where nobody played no defense, anyway. The Wizards transition… no, really all of their defense was weak. The Pacers shot 59.5 percent, got out to a 14 point lead after one quarter and ran away and hid.

Pistons 116, Nets 109: This game was not televised, anywhere, so we’re not convinced it actually happened. The whole “if a tree fell in the forest…” thing. (Why no television? The YES Network chose to show the Yankee game, and Fox Sports went with the Twins.)

Cavaliers 104, Raptors 96: With this move Cleveland moves half a game ahead of Minnesota for the worst record in the NBA. Cleveland is out of the cellar and has won two straight. Which leads to the question: What are they doing? If ever you were going to tank for the lottery, this might have been the time. Whatever.

Our own John Krolic had the best line about this game at his Cavs blog, saying the Raptors are “peacefully protesting defense.” Yet, somehow there are reports that coach Jay Triano may be safe at the end of the season. This is two years in a row with the worst defense in the NBA, folks.

Hornets 101, Rockets 93: This loss does not mathematically remove the Rockets from playoff consideration, but for all practical purposes it does. Kyle Lowry has been awesome lately, really fantastic, but Chris Paul reminded him what the best point guard in the game can look like. Big night for the Hornets’ backup point guard Jarrett Jack off the bench, too.

Suns 108, Timberwolves 98: Largely a battle of the benches since neither team is playoff bound. Phoenix has the better one.

Thunder 112, Clippers 108: The Clippers will not just roll over and die, they shot 50.6 percent and hit 6-13 threes (although some of that was due to lackadaisical defense from the Thunder). That meant the Thunder never quite put the Clippers away (the largest lead was 12) but they also never trailed in the second half, and the game never felt in doubt. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant were a combined 19-for-45.

Report: Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer no longer considering Suns job

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There’s been a lot of talk as the coaching carousel ramps up, long before the NBA season is even over. Now, we know one coach won’t be heading to the Phoenix Suns: Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer.

Budenholzer was reportedly among one of the candidates for the Suns job, but according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowksi the Hawks coach has decided not to pursue the position after being given the opportunity to do so.

The Suns coaching search still includes current interim coach Jay Triano and former Memphis Grizzlies head man David Fizdale.

Via ESPN:

Budenholzer met with Suns general manager Ryan McDonough and owner Robert Sarver early this week, but there was never traction on reaching a contract agreement as the week wore on, league sources said.

As the Suns kept interviewing candidates — including David Fizdale and interim coach Jay Triano — Budenholzer informed the Suns on Thursday that he would no longer be a candidate for the job, sources said.

Phoenix fired Earl Watson just three games into the season. Budenholzer had a hefty resume to consider — he won 60 games in Atlanta in 2014-15, heading to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Suns need someone to guide their young star in Devin Booker. Who they choose will influence the direction of their franchise for longer than the next coach may even be around.

Warriors beat Spurs in glum Game 3

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The Spurs were playing with heavy hearts following the death of Gregg Popovich’s wife, Erin. Kevin Durant and Shaun Livingston appeared to injure their left ankles on back-to-back plays late.

Everyone seemed ready for the Warriors’ 110-97 Game 3 win Thursday to end well before it did.

Soon enough, the first-round series will. Golden State is up 3-0, and all 127 teams to win the first three games of a best-of-seven series won it – most of them via sweep. Game 4 is Saturday in San Antonio.

There’s hope neither Durant’s nor Livingston’s injury is serious. Durant walked off on his own, though gingerly. Livingston shot his free throws before exiting.

Durant (26 points) and Klay Thompson (19 points) have carried the Warriors’ offense with Stephen Curry sidelined by his own injury. If Durant isn’t at full strength for Game 4, Golden State could really struggle to score.

But it still might not matter, as the Spurs are overmatched against the Warriors’ dialed-in defense. Draymond Green (10 points, seven assists, six rebounds, four blocks and two steals) led tonight’s effort.

After two losses in Oakland to start the series, returning to San Antonio didn’t do much for the Spurs, who were 33-8 at home and 14-27 on the road this season – the NBA’s largest home-road disparity in a half decade. It’s just had to see San Antonio – whether Popovich returns or Ettore Messina remains acting coach – finding enough sources of offense.

Pelicans move one game away from sweep after bashing Blazers in Game 3

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But for a moment, the Portland Trail Blazers felt as though they could turn the series. For half a quarter, the Blazers had hope. Then, Nikola Mirotic dropped a career-high 30 points, Anthony Davis added a double-double of 28 points and 11 rebounds, and the New Orleans Pelicans moved one game away from completing a sweep of the third seed after a big win on Thursday night, 119-102.

Under the guidance of Mirotic, the Pelicans unleashed a barrage of 3-pointers starting midway through the first quarter. The game was close to being a contest, but Jrue Holiday and Mirotic started to pour it in after being uncorked, with New Orleans taking a 16-point lead going into the second period.

Running up and down the court in a panic, Portland looked nervous in the spotlight. The Blazers racked up 12 turnovers by halftime, all while rattling 3-pointers off the back iron. Portland rushed its offense in the face of unlikely success by the Pelicans, who continued to rain down from deep. New Orleans hit four big shots in the final 1:47 of the half, including three from beyond-the-arc.

Never one to back down, Blazers star Damian Lillard tried to force the issue. He would finish with 20 points on 5-of-14 shooting, but most evidentiary of his night was Lillard lobbing up a wild 28-footer with 24 seconds left in the half as he tried to answer a gutshot 3-pointer from E'Twaun Moore from a moment before. It didn’t work, and the Pelicans took commanding 64-45 lead to start the third quarter.

So went the story of the rest of the game, as Portland couldn’t fully tamp down the New Orleans offensive attack for longer than a few minutes at a time. Even after one 10-0 run for the Blazers in the third, the Pelicans ended it in the most deflating way possible — a wide open dunk for Mirotic on a cut after Portland’s defense fell asleep.

It was an electric atmosphere at Smoothie King, and the sellout crowd that gave us a glimpse of what kind of homecourt advantage the Pelicans could have in the second round. The New Orleans fans were in a back-and-forth with the players, with Smoothie King working to such a fever pitch it felt as though every shot hoisted by the team in red and gold was destined for the nylon.

Demoralized, Portland battled — flailed, really — but the Blazers couldn’t make up any ground as the momentum continued for New Orleans. Finally Blazers coach Terry Stotts relented and waived the white flag for Portland with 7:55 left in the fourth quarter as he subbed in his bench.

Even with a 49-win season under its belt, the questions surrounding the Blazers become more serious. The team that had a 13-game win streak this season now will face rumblings about whether Stotts will remain with the team. An exit for Stotts would be unwise for Portland — he did wonders with a team that didn’t play up to its potential most of the year — but it’s not out of the ordinary for a team looking to break through to look elsewhere, especially after Lillard’s meeting with owner Paul Allen.

Although their work isn’t done yet, New Orleans looks as though it’s a team to be feared in the playoffs. What it needs to do is concentrate on sweeping the Blazers, not only to give themselves confidence heading into the second round but to show their second-round opponent (likely the Warriors) that they aren’t to be taken lightly.

How Porltand can counter in the deciding Game 4 isn’t clear. The Pelicans have looked like the better team for nearly every quarter of the series, and the Blazers clearly don’t have an answer for them on either side of the ball.

Happy New Orleans fans will pack Smoothie King on Saturday for Game 4 at 2:00 PM PST in Louisiana. Davis will look to win his first playoff series, and Portland will try to avoid their most embarrassing sweep since they lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the 1999 Western Conference Finals.

Steve Kerr, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili celebrate the life of Erin Popovich (VIDEO)

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The NBA community has been effuse in their thoughts and condolences to San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich over the past 24 hours. Erin Popovich, 67, passed away on April 18, leaving behind her husband, Gregg.

Many were taken aback at the news, including players like LeBron James and Kevin Durant, both of whom were emotional when they first heard the news of Erin’s passing.

Gregg Popovich was not with the team to coach them in their Thursday night matchup against the Golden State Warriors, as Ettore Messina took the reins for Game 3.

Meanwhile, those close to the Popoviches spoke about Erin, her influence on Gregg, and how much both mean to them. Steve Kerr, who played for Popovich in San Antonio for four seasons, told reporters that Erin was, “The sort of balance that Pop needed.”

Current Spurs Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker also voiced their support for the Popovich family.

Via Twitter:

Here’s hoping Popovich finds some solace in the support he’s received over the past day.