NBA Playoffs: After two moral victories, Pacers search for actual victory

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The Indiana Pacers put up a much tougher fight against the Bulls than anybody thought they would in the first two games of their playoff series, even though they lost both games. Like the old Simpsons quote goes: in a way, both teams were winners; but in a more accurate way, the Bulls were the winners. Now the Pacers will have to win on Thursday or face a 3-0 series deficit, which no NBA team has ever come back from.

In order to avoid that scenario, the Pacers will have to shoot the ball the way they did in game one and contain Derrick Rose the way they did in Game 2. In Game 1, the Pacers gave the Bulls a scare by shooting a blistering 23-48 (48%) on their long two-point jumpers and three-point shots, while the Bulls only shot 10-33 from those areas. In Game 2, the Bulls’ outside shooting didn’t turn around, but the Pacers went cold as well, only shooting 16-43 on threes and deep twos. It’s not easy to make outside shots against the league’s best defense, but it’s something the Pacers will need to do if they want to have a chance in Game 3. If Darren Collison, who is currently listed as a “game-time decision” plays, it will make things much easier for the Pacers, as his combination of blinding quickness and a quality three-point stroke makes it easy for him to harass teams from the perimeter.

The Pacers did manage to contain Derrick Rose much better in Game 2 than they did in Game 1 — Rose still got his points, but he had to work much harder for them than he did in the first game, when he couldn’t buy a jump shot but was able to get into the paint whenever he wanted to. The Bulls’ supporting cast has yet to really show up offensively in this series, so if the Pacers can make their shots and keep Rose from getting whatever he wants whenever he wants it, they can take this game. If the Pacers stay cold from the outside, let Rose go off, or allow the Bulls’ supporting cast get into a groove, they will be in major trouble. It won’t be easy for the Pacers to even up this series, but that’s what a 37-win team should expect when facing off against the team with the best record in the NBA.

Magic sending Raptors draft pick as compensation for hiring Jeff Weltman

AP Photo/John Raoux
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The Raptors promoted Jeff Weltman, still working under Masai Ujiri, to general manager last year.

That paid off for Toronto when the Magic hired Weltman as their new president.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

The Magic have their own and the Lakers’ second-round picks next year. Even the lower of those two selections could be somewhat value.

In other words, Weltman’s already-difficult job is getting even harder simply by Orlando hiring him.

LeBron James still striving to surpass Michael Jordan

AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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LeBron James has discussed chasing Michael Jordan’s “ghost,” motivating himself by trying surpass Jordan as the greatest player in NBA history.

Just 27 points behind Jordan for the all-time playoff scoring lead – a record he could break in Cavaliers-Celtics Game 5 tonight – LeBron is again discussing that pursuit.

LeBron, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

“It’s just a personal goal of mine,” James said Thursday before Cavs shootaround in preparation of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Celtics. “It has nothing to do with passing the rings, passing the points, passing MVPs. It’s just my personal goal to keep me motivated — that’s all.”

“You guys are going to have the conversations about who is greatest of all time and things of that nature,” James said. “It doesn’t matter to me. At the end of the day, it’s so funny that the conversation is always talked about in the NBA about who is the greatest but it’s never talked about in the NFL about who is the greatest quarterback. It’s just like: [Dan] Marino, [John] Elway, [Peyton] Manning and [Tom] Brady. All great quarterbacks, you know — and it should be the same for us.

Jordan or LeBron? Save your hot takes. LeBron just burnt them all.

The greatest quarterback of all time is never debated? Claiming that is now the hottest take in the entire realm of the Jordan-LeBron debate.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue: Kyrie Irving feeling ‘good’ after ankle injury

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BOSTON (AP) — Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue says that Kyrie Irving‘s left ankle is feeling “good” in advance of Cleveland’s Game 5 matchup Thursday night with the Celtics.

Irving was moving around and putting up shots during the Cavs’ morning shootaround.

The All-Star rolled his ankle in the third quarter of Game 4 when he stepped on Terry Rozier‘s foot. Irving was able to stay on the floor and finish the game, scoring a career playoff-high 42 points.

Cleveland leads Boston 3-1 and can wrap up its third straight Eastern Conference title Thursday night.

Several Celtics are also fighting injuries as they try to stave off elimination.

Jaylen Brown is listed as questionable with a right hip pointer. Jae Crowder is probable with a left groin strain, and Amir Johnson is probable with a right shoulder sprain.

Danny Ainge: Lonzo Ball declined to work out for Celtics, who hold No. 1 pick

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LaVar Ball said his son, highly touted draft prospect Lonzo Ball, would work out for only the Lakers.

You thought he was bluffing?

Celtics president Danny Ainge, whose team holds the No. 1 pick, on 98.5 the Sports Hub:

We just tried to get him in for a workout, and they politely said no.

It’s not ideal.

Listen, we’ve drafted guys that wouldn’t come in for workouts before. I mean, it’s not the end of the world. We’ve watched them play a ton. We have a lot of information on them.

Good for Ball. Professional sports teams already hold inordinate power over players entering the workforce. In no other industry are top young employees assigned to a particular company, the worst-performing companies typically getting priority, with no ability to bargain with competitors.

Ball wants to play for the Lakers, who offer proximity to his family and hold the No. 2 pick. He can’t force Boston to pass on him or Los Angeles to pick him. But he can influence decision-making.

It seemed likely the Celtics would draft Markelle Fultz, and though they could still pick Ball, him declining a workout with Boston makes that only less likely. The Lakers will probably draft Ball, but this plan carries risk. If they pass, he could fall once he gets to teams less familiar with him.

Still, Ball deserves to decide for himself how to manage his career – especially in such a closed job market. Not working out for the Celtics is probably his best path to getting where he wans to go.