Michael Redd calls surprise start “one of the proudest moments of his career” after Suns beat the Bobcats

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Michael Redd arrived at the US Airways Center in Phoenix more than four hours before his Suns were set to face the Charlotte Bobcats on Saturday. The reason, he said, was just to get some extra work in and to keep himself prepared for when his time would come to play more minutes.

He found out shortly before tip-off that his time was now.

Redd was in the starting lineup for the first time in over two years, and made it count by scoring a team-high 17 points in the Suns’ 95-89 victory over the NBA’s worst team.

“One of the proudest moments of my career,” Redd said afterward, when asked what this performance meant to him. “To get the win was obviously the key. But to come back, through the tears, through the hurt, through the hours of rehab, training to come back and accomplish this, is maybe the most proud moment of my career, actually.”

Redd’s last start came on Jan. 10, 2010, in the game where he suffered a devastating and career-threatening knee injury for the second time. The start on Saturday came courtesy of a thigh bruise suffered by Jared Dudley in Phoenix’s Friday night loss to the Rockets. It also came as a surprise.

“He didn’t even tell me, actually,” Redd said, when asked when he was told he’d get the start. “[Coach] told me during the pre-game scouting, ‘Mike, you have [Reggie Williams].’ I said, ‘Okaaaay.’ So everything had to switch from coming off the bench to having a starting mentality. I was honored by the fact that he would even ask me to do that, that he would have enough faith in me and trust in me.”

Things didn’t start off on the highest of notes for Redd. He missed his first four shots, but hit six of his final eight to finish the night at 50 percent shooting, which included draining four of his seven three-point attempts. He blamed adrenaline for the slow start, and credited his teammates for helping him stay positive as he was able to work through it.

“My teammates kept encouraging me,” Redd said. ” ‘Mike, you’re going to be just fine, you’ve got to run the bugs out.’ The adrenaline was going, but once I hit my first three, I kind of settled in.”

Not only did Redd score, but he did so when his team needed that boost the most. The Bobcats played well for much of the night, and built their lead to as many as 10 early in the third quarter. Redd scored five straight points to begin the Suns’ run to right the ship, and then hit a three that erased the lead completely and tied the game at 67.

Some of Redd’s looks were self-created, but on several of his attempts, he was left wide open. He admitted that he was surprised by that, and said it’s been a long, long time since he’s had that much space to operate.

“Yeah, I haven’t seen that since the Ray Allen and Big Dog (Glenn Robinson) days (playing for the Bucks), when Ray Allen was over here, Glenn was right here, and Sam Cassell was right there, so I’d be left open,” he said. “I haven’t seen that in a long time. I’m usually seeing double teams and all kinds of traps, so it was great.”

If Redd can maintain any type of consistency with his offense, it would be equally great for a Suns team that is committed to keeping Steve Nash and making a run at the playoffs. Alvin Gentry has already tinkered with the lineups and rotations plenty this season, and keeping Redd with the starters for at least another couple of games should be the logical choice. Dudley can come off the bench, and can still play the same number of minutes he’s accustomed to playing, while providing energy, cohesion, and stability for the second unit.

It’s been 10 years since Redd played in Milwaukee with the guys he mentioned. It only seems like that long since he has been completely healthy, when he was a player opposing teams needed to plan for on the offensive end of the floor. But after getting back into the starting lineup and looking good while doing so, that time might once again be upon us.

Gregg Popovich will not coach Game 4 following death of his wife, Erin

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San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will not be on the sidelines again for Game 4 Sunday following the death of his wife, Erin, to a lengthy illness.

Ettore Messina will again coach the Spurs.

Popovich also missed Game 3. His San Antonio Spurs are down 3-0 to the Golden State Warriors in the first-round matchup. None of that matters compared to the loss of a woman he loved and was married to for four decades.

Erin Popovich’s passing has cast a pall over the series, especially with Warriors coach Steve Kerr being very close to the Popovichs dating back to his playing days with the Spurs.

The reaction and sadness about Erin’s passing has reached well beyond this series.

Our thoughts are with the Popovich family in this difficult time.

Anthony Davis’ 47 points, Pelicans sweep Trail Blazers out of playoffs

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Anthony Davis scored 33 of his franchise playoff-record 47 points in the second half, and the New Orleans Pelicans completed a first-round playoff sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers with a 131-123 victory on Saturday.

Jrue Holiday capped his 41-point performance with an 18-foot pull-up jumper that gave the Pelicans a six-point lead with 40 seconds left.

Rajon Rondo added 16 assists, and Davis also had 11 rebounds and three blocks for New Orleans, which is moving on to the second round of the playoffs for only the second time since the NBA returned to the city 16 seasons ago.

C.J. McCollum scored 38 for the Trail Blazers, who responded to a blowout loss in Game 3 by keeping Game 4 close until the final minute. Al-Farouq Aminu scored 27, Damian Lillard added 18 points and Jusuf Nurkic had 18 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out.

Lillard’s difficult driving layup had just tied the game at 60 when the Pelicans briefly pulled away, going on an 11-2 run capped by Davis’ 3.

Soon after, Nikola Mirotic added step-back 3. Davis, who scored 19 in the third quarter, then added a layup while falling down after a hard foul by Aminu, after which Davis flexed both biceps while still sitting on the court.

Holiday’s transition 3 made it 87-72, prompting Portland to call timeout while Holiday walked slowly toward mid-court, nodding and smiling wide as he soaked in the crowd’s adulation.

New Orleans led by 13 to start the fourth quarter, but Portland refused to wilt, opening the period on a 15-4 run that included Nurkic’s hook shot, 20-foot jumper and dunk. McCollum’s transition layup made it 104-102 with nearly nine minutes to play.

Portland got as close as a single point on Aminu’s layup with 5:08 to go, but Davis responded with 12 points over the final 4:56, starting with a layup as he was fouled and a 3-pointer. Holiday scored six points during the final 2:52, starting with his 3-pointer. The pair combined for all but one of New Orleans’ points during that pivotal stretch.

Leading up to Game 4, Lillard spoke of the need for the Blazers to ramp up their intensity and physicality. From the tip, it looked as though they’d done so.

In stark contrast to Game 3, when New Orleans led by 18 in the first quarter, this game was tight and testy.

Anthony and Ed Davis received double technical fouls after bumping one another following one of Anthony Davis’ dunks – and that was just the beginning.

McCollum was called for a flagrant foul when he stormed into the lane behind E'Twaun Moore and grabbed the Pelicans guard by the shoulders to thwart a driving layup attempt. Moore then shoved McCollum and was assessed a technical foul.

And in the final seconds of the half, double technicals were assessed to Rondo and Portland center Zach Collins after Rondo lowered his forehead into Collins’ chest and Collins shoved back.

When halftime arrived, New Orleans led 58-56.

 

 

Twins Marcus, Markieff Morris each fined by league for separate instances

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Twins Marcus and Markieff Morris have a special bond, one that includes doing so much together on the basketball court — playing at the same high school, the same AAU team, then going to college together at Kansas, and even playing together in the NBA for a while together with the Suns (they are now on separate teams).

That includes them both getting fined Saturday by the NBA for recent actions during the playoffs.

Washington’s Markieff Morris picked up a $25,000 fine for “attempting to escalate an altercation and pushing a game official,” the league announced. Here is the play in question, just minutes into Game 3.

Toronto’s OG Anunoby draws a foul knocking Morris to the ground, but Morris starts the incident with an elbow to Anunoby’s back, and he does push referee Kenny Mauer. Considering all that, a $25,000 fine is not that severe.

His twin Marcus Morris picked up a $15,000 for “public criticism of the officiating,” which he certainly did following the Celtics’ Game 3 loss to the Bucks. Here are his comments, and they are NSFW.

That $15,000 fine is pretty much the going rate for ripping the referees after the game.

Markieff outdid his brother on this one… if you consider getting the larger fine the “win.”

As expected, likely top-three pick Luka Doncic files to enter NBA draft

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Luka Doncic — the 6’8″ point forward who is putting up impressive numbers against men at the highest levels of European basketball — is bringing is game to the NBA. As expected.

Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports said the expected is now official.

Doncic, 19, submitted draft paperwork this week to formally enter his name, league sources said. Doncic is arguably the most decorated European player to make a jump to the NBA, a wunderkind who’s been playing in the EuroLeague since 2015. He is currently leading Real Madrid in the EuroLeague playoffs, averaging 14.9 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists this season.

The 6-foot-7 Doncic has the ability to play multiple positions, from being a primary ball-handler to shooting and playmaking off the ball. His season in Europe could continue into late May or June. NBA executives have long been intrigued by Doncic’s potential stardom, and several are continuing to make scouting trips for him.

Doncic is expected to go in the top three (likely the top two) come this June’s draft.

If you’re about to bring up Darko Milicic or some other European bust, just stop. This Slovenian has proven he can play — in 54 games this season between Liga ACB (Spain’s league, second best in the NBA) and the Euroleague, Doncic is averaging 14.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists a game. He has shown a gift for passing that should blossom in the more open play of the NBA, plus he just knows how to run a team and make plays. He can score when called upon and has three-point range, can shoot off the bounce, and if you switch a smaller guy onto him, Doncic can just post him up.

He’s not going to be a bust.

However, what his ceiling is remains the debate. He’s not an elite athlete by NBA standards who has struggled at points for Real Madrid when guarded by borderline-NBA level Americans in Europe. Can he defend at the NBA level? Can he be consistent with his jumper? He may be elite, but it’s no given.

He’s going to be good, and his floor is higher than a lot of the other top prospects in this draft class. However, if a GM thinks that Marvin Bagley III or Mohamed Bamba both have a higher ceiling and can reach it, they may go with the Americans. Doncic is going to put some GMs in an interesting position.