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.

Raptors’ Norman Powell had a couple monster dunks Monday (VIDEO)

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“Give all praise to Norman Powell with his energy, his athleticism, his passion, just everything he brought to us this series.”

That was Kyle Lowry talking about what his Raptor Norman Powell, who put up a career playoff best 25 points in the Raptors’ Game 5 win. Powell played good defense on Khris Middleton and drained some deep threes to help Toronto pull away in this one. Lowry was so impressed after the game at a press conference he told the media to ask Powell questions, not him.

Oh, and Powell threw down some huge dunks, too. Just check out the video.

Pacers offseason plans has Paul George question hanging over it

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The questions started less than an hour after the Indiana Pacers season officially ended.

Will Paul George commit to playing for the Pacers beyond next season? Will Jeff Teague re-sign with his hometown team? What does Indiana really need to become a championship contender?

Nobody wants to learn the answers more than George.

“If we want to win, (Cleveland is) a team that we have to work toward stacking up against,” he said following Sunday’s 106-102 loss to the defending champion Cavaliers. “At some point, if we want to be serious as a team, we’ve got to look at how we can match up against them.”

Obviously, that starts with George. At 26, the four-time All-Star has already played in two conference finals, won an Olympic gold medal – and been eliminated in the playoffs by LeBron James‘ team four of the last six years. George is signed through next season and Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird has already promised George would get a max deal.

If George makes an all-NBA team, as expected, the value of that deal could jump by roughly $75 million.

That’s a lot of money to leave on the table if he decides to test free agency when his contract expires following the 2017-18 season.

But there was enough concern that George might go anyway that there were rumors he could be dealt at the trade deadline. And lingering uncertainty could affect what the Pacers do this offseason and there will certainly be more trade speculation about George, with his hometown Los Angeles Lakers likely in any discussion.

So far, George isn’t saying anything about his thoughts.

“I’m not even at that point yet,” he said.

The one thing Indiana can’t afford – getting nothing in return for their best player.

Bird declined to discuss George on Monday while in New York to deliver the Pacers’ bid to host the 2021 All-Star Game. Bird’s problem is this: He can’t do much until the NBA draft, which is two months away, or until free agency opens in July.

That gives George roughly two months to produce an answer.

While George hasn’t said what he wants to see from the organization, he seemed to enjoy being reunited with longtime friend and 2010 draft mate Lance Stephenson. And re-signing Teague may help, too.

But will it be enough to convince George the Pacers are moving in the right direction?

“You take a year like last year, with that group, we felt like if you added a couple pieces to that group we’d have something again,” George said. “We’ll see what moves the team makes and how it stacks up going forward.”

TEAGUE TIME

Teague has repeatedly told reporters all season how much he’s enjoyed playing in his hometown. He was the only player on the Pacers roster to start all 86 games this season.

Bird made it clear last summer after acquiring Teague that the Pacers were trying to sign him to a contract extension. But there’s still no deal and now Teague is on the verge of becoming a free agent and getting a lucrative contract because of changes to the salary cap.

“I love Indiana, man, you know me – born and raised. I’ve got the tattoos on my arm. I’ve wanted to play for the Pacers my whole life,” he said.

UNDER CONTRACT

Many expected the Pacers to be one of the top four teams in the East after making so many moves last season.

Instead, under first-year coach Nate McMillan, Indiana never really got in sync with the exception of a seven-game winning streak at midseason and the five-game winning streak that got them into the playoffs. He doesn’t anticipate going anywhere this offseason.

“I do have a contract for next season,” he said.

TURNING THE CORNER

The Cavs’ series exposed one significant flaw in Myles Turner‘s game – strength. Turner got shoved around inside through each of the first three games before finishing the series with a flurry Sunday.

McMillan made it clear even before Indiana’s final playoff game that Turner must get stronger so he can be a more physical player next season.

More AP NBA: apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

Warriors put up historic 45 in first quarter on way to 128-103 Game 4 rout, sweep of Blazers

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This game was never in doubt. Much like the entire first-round series.

Golden State had Kevin Durant back and he hit a pull-up three to open the game, and pretty soon the Warriors had stretched the lead to 12-0 on a Klay Thompson three (and eventually were up 14-0).

That led to the Warriors putting up a historic 45 points in the first quarter, tying for the most points in an NBA playoffs first quarter ever. The Warriors were up 23 after one, and never looked back on their way to a 128-103 Game 4 rout, completing the sweep of Blazers.

There’s not much to analyze here, this game is was similar to so many games over the past couple seasons where the Warriors overwhelmed their opponents. Portland fought, but this was not going to be their game or their series. Here are some highlights.

Stephen Curry had 37 points, Draymond Green 21, and Klay Thompson had 18.

Damian Lillard had 34 points for Portland.

It may have been a disappointing ending to the season for Portland, but the team found a center late this season in Jusuf Nurkic who balances out what Lillard and C.J. McCollum bring on the outside. The Blazers have to figure out how to become a better defensive team this summer, but they took a step forward after the All-Star break that they can build on.

The Warriors will get some rest before taking on the Jazz or Clippers in the next round.

Hawks battle back to knot series with Wizards, 2-2

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Paul Millsap shoved Markieff Morris out of the way, grabbed an offensive rebound in the middle of the paint and pushed through a shot while Marcin Gortat bumped him to the floor.

The Wizards knocked down Atlanta. They didn’t stop the Hawks.

Millsap and Atlanta showed plenty of fight, topping Washington 111-101 in Game 4 Monday to tie their first-round series 2-2 after falling behind 2-0.

Have the Hawks seized meaningful momentum? History says no.

Teams that have won the first two games of a best-of-seven series at home then lost the next two on the road have won 81% of the time. The Wizards’ regular-season superiority still speaks loudly, and up to two more home games – starting with Game  5 Wednesday – also help.

Still, credit Atlanta for making the series competitive after digging such a big hole.

Millsap (19 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and two steals) soundly outplayed Markieff Morris (nine points on 3-of-10 shooting, -10) in the latest round of their personal feud. Millsap also got plenty of help with seven Hawks scoring double digits.

Kent Bazemore (16 points, seven assists and three steals) played meaningful defense and hit a couple big shots. Jose Calderon (10 points, five assists, +29 in 20 minutes) provided a huge spark. Dwight Howard (16 points and 15 rebounds) asserted himself for the first time this series. Taurean Prince (11 points on 5-of-7 shooting) picked his spots well. Dennis Schroder (18 points on 6-of-15 shooting) had his ups and downs. Tim Hardaway Jr. (15 points) at least offset some of his defensive shortcomings.

This was a total team win.

Washington, on the other hand, got little outside its starting backcourt. Bradley Beal (32 points) thrived, and John Wall (22 points and 10 assists) was still good in an off-by-his-standards performance. But the Wizards crumbled when either sat – especially with both on the bench in the late third/early fourth quarters. Erasing those few minutes with staggering would’ve helped, though it wouldn’t have been the answer tonight.

This has become a far less certain series than Washington hoped, but the Wizards don’t need a wild fix. They just need their top players to play better. Maybe going home will help.