The Nets made it more difficult on themselves than it needed to be, but when it was all over in Indiana on Friday, Brooklyn came away with a 117-109 win over the Pacers that clinched home court advantage for them in the first round of the playoffs.
Brooklyn led by as many as 24 points in the third quarter, before seeing it disappear completely after a three-pointer from Lance Stephenson put the Pacers up two with five minutes remaining in the game. The Nets regained their composure, however, and closed the game on an 18-8 run to seal it.
Deron Williams continued his strong play of late, and finished with 33 points and 14 assists. Afterward, he held out hope that his team might be able to climb up a position in the standings before the season is through.
“We could still get the 3 seed,” Williams said, via the Associated Press. “We have to hope for Indiana to lose some games, but it’s still possible. I think we have a good thing going right now.”
The win ensured that the Nets will finish no worse than fourth in the East, which will get them a first round date against either the Hawks or the Bulls. Atlanta currently leads Chicago for the fifth seed by a half game after Friday night’s action.
As for Brooklyn overtaking Indiana for that three seed, it’s a bit of a tall order considering that there are only three games remaining in the regular season, and the Pacers do hold a two-game lead over the Nets for that spot.
The schedule is likely what is giving Brooklyn its glimmer of hope. The Pacers are on the road against the Knicks and the Celtics before finishing at home against the Sixers, while the Nets play at Toronto before hosting the Wizards and then the Pistons to close out the regular season.
This not only changes the Kings dreams of making the playoffs in the West, it also alters the trade deadline and free agency.
Rudy Gay, the Kings wing and second-leading scorer, has been diagnosed with a torn left Achilles tendon, according to the team. During the third quarter of Wednesday night’s game against the Pacers, Gay drove out of the right corner and, untouched, fell to the floor hard. He had to be helped off the court by teammates.
Team doctors made the initial torn Achilles diagnosis, which will need to be confirmed by an MRI scheduled for Thursday. He would be out not only for this season but likely the start of the next one as well.
Without Gay, a lot more will fall on Matt Barnes and, once he returns from his calf injury in a couple of weeks, Omri Casspi. Those two are a drop off from what Gay brought to the Kings — this season the team gets outscored by 10 points per 100 possessions when he is off the court — and with that team’s playoff chances have taken a hit (they are 1.5 games out of the eight seed after Wednesday’s loss to the Pacers). Don’t be surprised if the Kings look to add a scorer at the trade deadline.
Gay was not happy in Sacramento and said he planned to opt out of the $14.3 million final year of his contract to be a free agent next summer, which made him someone potentially traded before the deadline (although the Kings being in the playoff hunt impacted that). Gay averaged 18.7 points and 6.4 rebounds a game for the Kings, and while his game was a little old school — more isolation and midrange shots than teams prefer — he put up points. Enough that he was drawing trade interest heading toward the deadline from Oklahoma City and other squads.
That is all off the table now. At age 30, if Gay does still opt out of his contract for next season this will impact what he would make on the free market.
Kevin Durant playing the Thunder invites extra emotions.
Russell Westbrook felt them – in the form of a flagrant foul by Warriors center Zaza Pachulia, who stood over Westbrook for emphasis.
Pachulia is really embracing his role doing the dirty work for star-studded Golden State.
That rumor No. 1 pick Ben Simmons won’t play this season?
It just won’t die.
Even after Simmons tried to quash it, even after the 76ers’ CEO outright denied it, even after Simmons returned to practice, even in an otherwise optimistic report.
Chris Haynes of ESPN:
76ers rookie forward Ben Simmons could make his much-anticipated NBA debut shortly after the All-Star break, league sources told ESPN.
Barring a setback in his recovery, sources say the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft has a chance to take the hardwood near March. There still remains the possibility Simmons sits the entire season, sources said, but his situation will continue to be thoroughly evaluated throughout his comeback quest.
76ers coach Brett Brown said there’s “no chance” Simmons plays in Philadelphia’s nationally televised game against the Rockets next week. Other than that, there isn’t much clarity.
It mostly sounds as if Simmons is still too far from returning to say something definitive.
The Hornets did so much right in their 107-85 win over the Trail Blazers, even a bad pass went through the hoop.
Roy Hibbert reacted fantastically to blunder/basket (blasket?).