It’s a slow night in the NBA, made a little bit slower by the fact the league has rightfully cancelled Indiana’s game in Boston Tuesday night in the wake of the tragedy at the end of the Boston Marathon.
But that game wouldn’t impact the standings — the Pacers are locked in as the three seed in the East, the Celtics are locked in as the seven seed (and will face the Knicks in a fun first round matchup).
But the other two games will have some impact. Here’s the deal:
• Raptors at Hawks (8 p.m. ET): The Hawks are currently the five seed in the East and need to win this game to maintain that spot. Lose and they fall into a tie with the Bulls — and Chicago has the tiebreaker having won the season series so the Hawks become the six seed. Atlanta needs to beat Toronto Tuesday and the Knicks Wednesday to hold on to that five seed (or they need the Bulls to lose to the Wizards on Wednesday).
The five seed team will face the Nets in the first round, the six seed team gets the Pacers.
• Trail Blazers at Clippers (10:30 ET): The Clippers still have a shot at the three seed but they need to win this game, then they need to beat the Kings on Wednesday and they would need Denver to lose on Wednesday at home to the Suns. Bottom line, it’s a long shot but the Nuggets could get the three.
The more likely concern is home court in the first round if the Clippers face the Grizzlies in a rematch of a first round series from last year. If the Clippers win their remaining two games they get home court. If they lose Tuesday to Portland (or to Sacramento Wednesday) then the Grizzlies can secure home court by beating the Jazz on Wednesday.
(And yes, the Clippers can be the four seed and still be the road team in the first round. NBA rules state that because the Clippers won the Pacific Division they can fall no lower than the four seed, but that if the fifth seed team has a better record the five seed gets home court. To answer your next question, I have no idea why. The league should just take the team with the eight best records in order, everybody in the West plays the same schedule anyway. But those are the rules, live with them.)
Paul George to the Lakers is a capital-T thing.
George is from Southern California, and he keeps indicating his dissatisfaction with the Pacers. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent in 2018. Even Lakers president Magic Johnson is talking about George.
Where do rumors like this originate?
Mitch Lawrence of Sporting News:
A SoCal native, he’s been talking about playing for his hometown team, the Lakers, for a long time. He’s never made his long-term intentions a secret within the Pacers’ locker room, according to former teammates. He wants to wear the purple and gold.
Did George say he dreamed of playing for the Lakers growing up? Did he say it’d be cool to join his boyhood favorite team if the situation presented itself? Or did he say he wanted to get the heck out of Indiana to join the Lakers as soon as possible?
There are so many ways his comments to teammates could get misconstrued as they get passed down in the game of telephone.
But the Lakers threat – to whatever degree it’s real – looms, and it’ll impact how the Pacers handle their offseason.
Jazz Center Jeff Withey was accused of domestic violence in a police report filed by his ex-fiancée.
Withey played a small role in Utah’s first two playoff games, but once the accusation over an alleged 2016 incident became public, he hasn’t seen the court. Withey received a DNP-CD in Game 3 against the Clippers, and the Jazz deactivated the center for Game 4 last night.
Ryan McDonald of the Deseret News:
The team called it a “strategic basketball-related decision.”
Withey was always going to see a reduced role with Rudy Gobert returning from injury.
Though Gobert didn’t play in Game 3, the Jazz had two injured players – Gobert and Alec Burks on the inactive list – so Withey was active but never played. But Withey was active for Game 1, which Gobert started healthy before injuring his knee 11 seconds in.
Therefore, deactivating Withey in Game 4 for Joel Bolomboy, a little-used second-round rookie who has yet to play in the postseason, is a curious choice for basketball reasons. It’s almost as if that wasn’t the reason.
The Rockets bench made a big production when an intentionally fouled Andre Roberson kept missing free throws in the Thunder’s Game 4 loss to the Rockets yesterday.
Russell Westbrook stuck up for his teammate.
Royce Young of ESPN:
I didn’t see it. I didn’t see it at all. Probably the guys that don’t play, probably over there the ones laughing, if I had to guess.
Good guess. It appears Montrezl Harrell and Bobby Brown – whose only playing time this series came late in Houston’s blowout Game 1 win – led the jeers.
But the most important thing for the Thunder is Roberson making his free throws. They need him on the court to defend James Harden, which exposes him to hacking. If Westbrook deflecting attention onto the Rockets’ benchwarmers helps Roberson at the line, great. But if not, the Rockets will keep having reasons to laugh.
Paul George-to-the-Lakers rumors have swirled for a while.
New Lakers president Magic Johnson will only fuel them.
Asked how he’d interact with the Pacers star to avoid tampering if they ran into each other, Johnson said on Jimmy Kimmel Live:
We’re going to say hi, because we know each other. You just can’t say, “Hey, I want you to come to the Lakers,” even though I’m going to be wink-winking like [blinks repeatedly]. You know what that means, right?
In explaining how he’d avoid tampering, Johnson probably tampered. Accidental tampering appears to be his specialty.
The Collective Bargaining Agreement says team employees can’t permissibly “induce, persuade, or attempt to entice, induce or persuade, any Player who is under contract to, or whose exclusive negotiating rights are held by, any other Member of the Association to enter into negotiations for or relating to his services or negotiate or contract for such services.” But the league arbitrarily enforces tampering, so who knows whether he’ll be punished?
Johnson almost certainly could have gotten away with the hypothetical conversation he laid out. But going on television and describing it — even as fantasy, even not directly to George — could constitute tampering in itself,
If Johnson helps attract George to Los Angeles, it’d well be worth it. At least he’s trying something.