Cavaliers snap Hawks’ six-game winning streak at the buzzer (VIDEO)

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The Hawks came into Friday night’s home contest against the Cavaliers riding a six-game winning streak, although a closer look at the teams they played during that stretch would reveal that it really wasn’t one that was terribly impressive.

Atlanta recorded maybe one quality win in those six games, which came against the Clippers. But the others were over Sacramento, Orlando, Washington, and Charlotte (twice).

So then, you might understand the Hawks’ false sense of security as they took the floor against the Cavaliers. Undermanned from a talent standpoint on most nights, this Cleveland team plays extremely hard under Byron Scott, and will gain confidence if you don’t exert the necessary effort early enough to keep them at bay.

Atlanta thought it had this one under control, as it took a nine-point lead into the fourth quarter. But Cleveland was able to put together a 10-0 run midway through the final period to make it a game, and then were fortunate enough to have someone in the right place at the right time to seal it.

Dion Waiters was isolated at the top of the three-point arc against DeShawn Stevenson, with the game tied at 111 with 12 seconds remaining. But instead of driving to the basket to create, Waiters launched a three that wasn’t close, just glancing off the left side of the iron. The rebound fell into the hands of Alonzo Gee, who went back up with a reverse layup to win it with four tenths of a second to play.

That was hardly the plan, as Byron Scott joked about afterward. From Jason lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal:

BScott said players were hammering Waiters afterwards for jacking the 3, but Waiters insisted it was right shot.

“I wouldn’t take the shot back at all,” Waiters said. “If I had a chance to do it again, I’d take the same shot…maybe get a little bit closer.”

Then he laughed.

Scott told the players in the huddle to get the ball to Waiters and clear out.

“I guess I have to be a little more specific and say try to get to the basket,” Scott joked. “I thought it was a perfect matchup for us. Then (Waiters) bailed him out by shooting a 3 that didn’t touch nothing. Luckily Zo was there to rebound the ball and put it in.”

It’s all fun and games when you get the win — even if it’s just the fourth in 16 tries on the season for these Cavaliers.

Report: Clippers take Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumor ‘very seriously’

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Want to laugh off that Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumor?

The Clippers aren’t joining you.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The Clippers should be concerned. Losing Paul would unravel their entire foundation, dropping them from the fringe of championship contention to out of the title picture completely. It could even help usher out Blake Griffin, who will also be an unrestricted free agent this summer. (To be fair, Paul leaving could also help convince Griffin to stay.)

About a month ago, the Clippers reportedly expected Paul to stay. They even reportedly struck a verbal agreement with him to re-sign before that. But they can’t officially sign him until July, and that leaves the door open for him to leave.

The Clippers should be heartened by their advantages – a prime market and a projected max offer of $205 million over five years.

The most another team projects to be able to offer is $152 million over four years, and San Antonio will have a hard time doing that. Even if they trim their roster to Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Danny Green and Tony Parker, the Spurs would still have to shed two of those players to clear max cap space.

So, never say never, but the Clippers’ concern might be rooted more in the dire consequences of Paul leaving rather than the likelihood of it.

Report: Raptors, Magic can’t trade with each other for a year

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The Magic will send the Raptors a 2018 second-round pick for hiring Jeff Weltman, who was Toronto’s general manager.

But that’s not the only consequence of hire.

Yahoo Sports:

The move invoked the NBA provision that Toronto and Orlando are not permitted to trade players with each other until the earlier of May 24, 2018, or the conclusion of the 2017-18 season for either organization, league sources told The Vertical’s Shams Charania.

The NBA made a similar ruling when the Clippers sent the Celtics a first-rounder to hire Doc Rivers, and I don’t like it now, either. It’s needlessly restrictive, preventing talent from flowing to the optimal locations.

At least Orlando isn’t a logical destination for the Raptor most likely to be dealt: Jonas Valanciunas. The Magic already have enough centers with Nikola Vucevic and Bismack Biyombo – a lesson that influenced their last trade with Toronto, dealing Serge Ibaka.

2017 NBA playoffs have been historically uncompetitive

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The NBA Finals so many wanted to see – Cavaliers-Warriors III – is here.

At least it will be.

Today is the first of six off days before the 2017, which begin June 1 in Oakland.

The lengthy delay is the product of an underwhelming postseason featuring few competitive series and numerous blowouts.

Golden State swept its way through the West, and Cleveland dropped only one game (to the Celtics in the conference finals) while winning the East. There have been only two Game 7s, but considering the magnitude, neither felt that compelling. Blake Griffin‘s injury undercut the Clippers against the Jazz, and Celtics over Wizards felt inevitable with home teams winning each game of the series. Between, there have been several lackluster games and series.

There have been just 74 playoff games this year – the fewest before the Finals since since the NBA instituted a best-of-seven first round in 2003:

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That’s 74 of a possible 98 games – 76%, the lowest since 1999 and seventh-lowest ever.

Even if the Finals go seven games, it will be the fewest games in a postseason since 2007. If the Finals go five or fewer games, it’ll be the shortest postseason in this playoff format.

And it hasn’t just been quantity. The quality of games has been lacking, too.

Though there were more blowouts last year by nearly any measure, the 2017 postseason’s average margin in pre-Finals games (13.5) is fifth-highest all-time and second-highest since 1959 (behind 2016, 14.2).

Combine the two factors, and these are the drabbest playoffs in nearly 50 years. Here’s each postseason plotted by average margin in pre-Finals games and percentage of possible games pre-Finals:

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This probably just confirms what you’ve seen: The 2017 playoffs have been in a rut.

We’re all counting on the Cavaliers and Warriors to salvage this postseason, but considering how deep the hole is, anything less than an epic Finals probably won’t cut it.

Kyrie Irving crosses over Avery Bradley, hits 3-pointer (video)

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Avery Bradley got around one screen then, thanks to Kyrie Irving‘s excellent ball-handling, lunged at another that wasn’t coming as Irving hit a 3-pointer.