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.
Charles Oakley might not be welcome at Knicks games in New York.
Knicks games in Cleveland? I suspect he’ll get a different reception.
Ian Begley of ESPN:
Charles Oakley plans to attend New York’s road game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday night, the former Knicks player told ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.
Oakley, a Cleveland native, has grown close with the Cavaliers. LeBron James particularly backed Oakley in his dispute with Knicks owner Jim Dolan.
To be clear, Oakley’s feud is more with Dolan than the Knicks, Oakley’s former team. So, assuming Dolan doesn’t attend tonight’s game, this won’t into the fireworks we saw at the last Knicks game Oakley attended.
It’ll just be a chance for more people outside Dolan’s payroll to embrace Oakley.
If your goal over the next few months is to make your star player happy, build a contender around him, and convince him he wants to be here as a free agent in 2018, the Pacers got off to a rocky start Thursday.
George had been linked to the Celtics, while teams such as Denver and Atlanta made runs at him. It was a swirling vortex of rumors with a lot of “will the Pacers pull the trigger or not” intrigue.
What was it like to be in the middle of that? George wouldn’t exactly know, he was learning of things when we were, and he sounded a little ticked when talking about it to the media Thursday.
Those rumors you hear about George going to the Lakers as a free agent in 2018 have some real weight behind them, much of the league thinks that could well happen (2018 is a long way off, but other teams that would like to get in the conversation think that’s PG’s intention).
The Pacers need to change his mind, and it sounds like the first step was in the wrong direction.
The Hawks wanted a stretch four to back up Paul Millsap and likely spend time with Dwight Howard.
Realizing its roster lacked an adequate one, Atlanta traded for Ersan Ilyasova.
The stretch four the Hawks already had — Mike Scott — has barely played this seasonand looked lousy when he has, shooting just 4-for-27 on 3-pointers ((15%).
The Atlanta Hawks Basketball Club has acquired a protected second-round draft pick from the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Mike Scott, the draft rights to Cenk Akyol and cash considerations, it was announced today by President of Basketball Operations/Head Coach Mike Budenholzer.
Money was the driving force behind this trade.
The Suns can count Scott’s entire salary ($3,333,334) toward the floor while paying only the prorated portion remaining ($941,177). So, Phoenix saves the difference ($2,392,157) and gets whatever cash Atlanta sent.
Presumably, the Hawks included an amount less than they would’ve had to pay just to waive Scott themselves ($3,333,334).
The Suns can undertake a reclamation project on Scott. Or they could just waive him. The 28-year-old looks pretty wayward.
Phoenix also gets Akyol as another nearly valueless piece. The window for Akyol, the No. 59 pick in 2005, to join the NBA is rapidly closing, if it hasn’t already. He’ll turn 30 in April.
Even in the likely event Scott and Akyol amount to nothing for the Suns, they still get the financial benefits. And so do the Hawks.
Has legendary Lakers point guard Magic Johnson found someone to follow in his footsteps?
Almost certainly not.
But, in his second trade with the Rockets since taking over the Lakers’ front office this week, Johnson found a point guard to take a flier on: Tyler Ennis, who was exchanged for Marcelo Huertas.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:
The Los Angeles Lakers have acquired guard Tyler Ennis from the Houston Rockets, league sources told The Vertical.
The Lakers sent guard Marcelo Huertas to Houston in exchange for Ennis, sources said. The Rockets will waive Huertas.
Ennis was the No. 18 pick in the 2014 draft. But he has just looked over his head in three NBA seasons with the Suns, Bucks and Rockets. There’s a reason the Lakers got him so cheap. It’s unlikely he’ll stick in the NBA, and D'Angelo Russell is clearly still the franchise point guard.
Still, point guards tend to develop late, and Ennis is just 22. There’s always a chance he’ll rediscover the court vision he displayed at Syracuse.
The Lakers will hope he plays better — just not too much better. Because his fourth-year team-option was declined, they can re-sign him for a starting salary up to just $3,066,713 (what he would’ve earned, with the rookie-scale adjustment under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, if his option had been exercised).
Also in the final guaranteed year of his contract, Huertas is making $233,880 more than Ennis. That’s not much, but if the Rockets were going to waive Ennis anyway — this trade suggests they were — why not save that money?
The 33-year-old Huertas likely drops out of the NBA. He already fell out of the Lakers’ rotation.
And with that spot open and a little extra money to spend — including more from the K.J. McDaniels trade — Houston can be a player in the post-buyout market as it revs up for a playoff run.