Josh Smith

Josh Smith says he’ll play in Sunday’s Game 4 vs. Celtics

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Atlanta fared surprisingly well in Game 3 without Josh Smith, losing a closer-than-expected contest to a Celtics team that saw both Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen return to the lineup.

The Hawks won’t have to go without him again in Game 4, reports A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com:

Josh Smith acknowledges the left knee sprain that kept him out of Game 3 is still bothersome.

That pain, he says, won’t prevent him from playing in Game 4 on Sunday.

“It’s still a little pain in there, but I understand the importance of this game,” Smith told CSNNE.com. “You can’t play injured, but you can play a little hurt.”

Smith won’t practice on Saturday, and will test the knee at shootaround on Sunday. But he clearly feels it’s a pain management issue at this point, and if that’s the case, expect him to be back in the lineup for Game 4.

Even a little Smith for the Hawks should help them immensely. They got next to nothing from their frontcourt players in Game 3, yet behind big games from Joe Johnson and Jeff Teague, along with a solid all-around 40-plus minutes from Tracy McGrady, Atlanta was able to hang tough and take things to overtime before eventually falling to Boston.

Expect everything the Hawks have on Sunday to avoid going down three games to one to Boston. We’ll see if whatever Smith is able to provide will be enough to even the series.

Al Horford shows he still has hops dunking on Solomon Hill (VIDEO)

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That’s just nasty.

Atlanta’s Al Horford gets the ball out high, but within his range, so when he pump fakes Indiana’s Lavoy Allen goes flying by. That opens up the lane and Horford attacks it, Solomon Hill tries to cut him off, but Horford just finishes threw him.

Pacers and Hawks played an entertaining, close game Friday night.

Dwyane Wade shows he still has hops with dunk on Hornets (VIDEO)

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Dwyane Wade still has some springs.

In what may be his best dunk in recent memory, he shoulders Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to create space in transition, then gets up and throws it down before Nicolas Batum can get there for the block.

Not sure even Wade saw that one coming.

Reigning dunk champ LaVine: ‘I’ve got tricks up my sleeve’

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine is heading back to All-Star weekend to defend his slam dunk title. And he says he has “a few tricks up my sleeve” after dominating the event last year.

LaVine will compete against Detroit center Andre Drummond, Denver swingman Will Barton and Orlando forward Aaron Gordon in Toronto next weekend.

LaVine was one of the breakout stars of All-Star weekend last year with his electric performance in the dunk contest. He says he debated about coming back and made his decision after strong encouragement from his fans.

If LaVine wins, he will become the fourth player in the 31-year history of the event to repeat as champion. Michael Jordan, Jason Richardson and Nate Robinson are the others.

Report: Blake Griffin has second procedure on hand, timeline remains unchanged

Blake Griffin
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Blake Griffin will still return to the Clippers some time in March (barring any setbacks).

That said, he had a second procedure this week to repair the boxer’s fracture in his right hand, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Clippers forward Blake Griffin underwent a second procedure this week on his broke right hand, sources told ESPN. The procedure was a part of the original surgery last week, so sources said the 4-6 week timeframe for his return remains unchanged.

This might help explain why Griffin’s hand looked so swollen and scarred this week. But to be clear, this was a planned second procedure, not a setback.

Griffin suffered the fracture punching a Clippers’ equipment manager while everyone was out to dinner in Toronto recently, while Griffin was still sidelined with a quadricep injury. The Clippers have moved on, but it is likely the league will tack on a couple of game suspension for Griffin upon his return to health.

And no, the Clippers are not looking to trade Griffin in spite of this. So stop asking.