Atlanta Hawks v Orlando Magic - Game Five

NBA Playoffs: Hawks look for close out, Magic look for threes

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The dynamics of this series — the dynamics that put the Atlanta up 3-1 and give them to close out Orlando on Thursday night at home in Game 6 — have not changed.

Atlanta will largely single-cover Dwight Howard and he will put up impressive numbers. Hedo Turkoglu will stink. Jamal Crawford will again have Hawks fans wondering where this guy has been hiding all season. Jason Richardson will hobble due to stitches on his foot.

One thing was different in Game 5 — Orlando knocked down its threes. The Magic shot 36.6 percent on threes in the regular season then 21 percent through the first four games of this series. Atlanta, because they can single-cover Howard with Jason Collins, does a better job than most defending the arc, but Orlando was just missing. The regression to the mean was coming.

It arrived in Game 5 when Orlando hit 11 of 26 (42.3 percent) from beyond the arc.

Put simply, if the Magic can do that again they will force a Game 7 Saturday. If they revert to shooting in the 20s, well, there are a lot of nice golf courses in the Orlando area.

Al Horford and Josh Smith have both been impressive this series for the Hawks, balancing out the beast that is Dwight Howard. J.J. Redick returned to form in Game 5 for the Magic and started to balance out Crawford, who may be the best player in this series so far.

It’s Game 6, there are no more secrets. If Atlanta can create some turnovers and use missed three-pointers by Orlando to lead to some easy transition points, they are advancing to face Chicago. If Orlando takes care of the ball and the threes are falling, everyone is heading back to Orlando for Game 7.

It seems both obvious and simple to say that this game and this series will come down to made shots, but there it is.

76ers tie NBA-record losing streak, dropping heartbreaker to Celtics

Isaiah Thomas, T.J. McConnell

After a rare period of on-court competence, the 76ers led the Celtics by five with two minutes left tonight.

Then, Philadelphia snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

The 76ers yielded a 9-0 run to close an 84-80 setback.

They’re now 0-16. Combined with their 0-10 finish to last season, that’s a 26-game losing streak – tied for longest in NBA history. Last year’s 76ers already shared the record.

Philadelphia is also in danger of the worst start to a season. The 2009-10 New Jersey Nets began 0-18, and last year’s 76ers won only one game sooner.

The 76ers will try to avoid the all-time longest streak at the Rockets on Friday. If that goes unsuccessfully, they’ll try to avoid matching the worst season start at the Grizzlies on Sunday. And if both fail, they could set the worst-start record against the Lakers on Tuesday.

76ers-Lakers – it’s shaping up to be a big one.

Timberwolves read mean tweets about themselves (video)

Flip Saunders, Karl-Anthony Towns, Tyus Jones
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The Timberwolves didn’t select the meanest tweets about these players, but credit Karl-Anthony Towns, Tyus Jones, Shabazz Muhammad and Zach LaVine for being good sports.

LeBron James: I’m healthier than a year ago


LeBron James received an injection in his back before the season.

It’s working.

Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

LeBron James now says he feels better than he did even a year ago.

“I feel better in the mornings; I feel better throughout the games; I feel better throughout the day,” James said before a Cavs shootaround Wednesday in preparation for their game against the Toronto Raptors. “It was a rough start to the season for me last year and for our team. Obviously the way we’ve been playing, a lot is predicated on my health and being able to lead these guys out on the floor and not from the sidelines.”

LeBron certainly looks healthier than he did at this point last year. He’s moving much better and giving more effort.

But comparing November to November means very little for the Cavaliers, who hope to play deep into June.

The key question: Did LeBron properly time his injection? There’s a limit on the number he can have in a year, and it takes time to recover after one. Cleveland doesn’t want LeBron to peak to early.

It’s good for the Cavs that LeBron feels better now, but his health in the playoffs remains the priority.

Report: Suns signing Bryce Cotton

Bryce Cotton
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Eric Bledsoe missed the Suns’ loss to the Spurs on Monday with a knee injury.

So, Phoenix is bringing in a reinforcement – Bryce Cotton.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The Jazz waived Cotton before the season despite Dante Exum‘s injury leaving them with just two other healthy point guards. That says something about Cotton – but also Utah’s depth.

Cotton – who went undrafted out of Providence last year – is quick, varies his speed well and can leap. There’s reason to believe in his potential at age 23. But his 6-foot-1 frame limits him defensively, and he’s not much of a distributor.

Phoenix will rely on Brandon Knight and Ronnie Price at point guard if Bledsoe is unavailable. The Suns can also use fewer two-point guard lineups – giving more minutes at shooting guard to Devin Booker, Archie Goodwin and Sunny Weems.

Cotton provides insurance while Bledsoe is banged-up with what seems to be a minor injury. But he might have to show something to keep drawing an NBA paycheck once Bledsoe gets healthy.