The Lakers had made the playoffs before they even tipped off against the Rockets on Wednesday, thanks to the Jazz losing in Memphis earlier in the evening.
The only question for L.A. was whether they’d finish as the seven or eight seed, with the seven being preferable since it would mean avoiding a first round matchup against Oklahoma City. But to get there, they had to secure a win over the Rockets, who had similar aspirations.
In the end, the Lakers pulled it out, after trailing by double digits in the third quarter and by seven with under 10 minutes to play in regulation. L.A. overcame a dreadful night of shooting (36.7 percent) by seeing five of its players finish in double figures to get the 99-95 victory which sets up a date with the Spurs in San Antonio on Sunday.
The Lakers should have had this one wrapped up in regulation, but a mad scramble on the final Rockets possession ended with the ball in the hands of Chandler Parsons, who drilled a three-pointer from a good five feet beyond the top of the arc to tie the game at the buzzer.
Houston went just 1-7 from the field in the extra session, and the Lakers’ team defense — despite a 30-point effort from James Harden — was responsible for this win more than anything else.
The Rockets open the playoffs as the eight seed against the Thunder in Oklahoma City on Sunday. That’s the matchup fans should want to see, considering that Houston ranks number one in the league in pace, while OKC is tied for the league lead in offensive efficiency with the Heat at a blistering 110.3 points per 100 possessions.
Rounding out the rest of the playoff matchups in the West, Golden State and Denver both won as expected, so the Nuggets finish as the three seed and will face the Warriors beginning in Denver on Saturday.
The Clippers ended the season on a seven-game winning streak with a win over the Kings, and will host the Grizzlies in a rematch of the epic first round series the two teams played in a season ago that ultimately went seven games. That four-five matchup gets started in Los Angeles on Saturday night.
These are the kinds of dunks that make me ask, should the NBA allow pro dunkers in the All-Star Saturday Dunk Contest. Some years you get the great Zach LaVine shows, but other years it’s down. NBA players need to focus on their game, not highlight dunks.
Guys like Max Pearce on the other hand…
Here is his latest.
But head to his Instagram page and you get to see a lot of dunks like this.
The Golden State roster is locked in with 15 guaranteed contracts set for next season. We know what their opening day roster is going to look like (and it looks like a champion).
But the Warriors need extra bodies for training camp, so enter Georges Niang, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
Niang was drafted in the second round, 50th overall, out of Iowa State in 2016, by Indiana. He played just 93 minutes total with the Pacers last season, he didn’t get much of a chance to impress in Summer League, and they moved on waiving him in July. Niang put up numbers in college, but there were questions about if he was athletic enough for the next level.
Staying in the G-League (formerly D-League) keeps him close to his NBA dream. If it doesn’t work out, in future years he can make a good paycheck overseas, but for now he chases the dream.
With uncertainty around LeBron James‘ future in Cleveland — and good luck finding anyone around the league who thinks he is staying; LeBron’s options are open, but the sense is he has one foot out the door — the Cavaliers are prioritizing getting a young star to rebuild around back in any Kyrie Irving trade.
At the top of the Cavaliers’ wish list: Kristaps Porzingis.
Except the Knicks have no interest in this trade, reports Steven Marcus and Mike Rose of Newsday.
The Knicks don’t appear interested in trading Kristaps Porzingis, including a possible deal for Cavaliers All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, according to a league source…
“[Knicks president] Steve Mills and [Knicks general manager] Scott Perry on the record were very clear that Kristaps was part of the future,’’ the source said in reference to comments made last month by both executives. “In all the discussions since then — there were other rumors before that Cleveland would want Kristaps — and it didn’t seem that [the Knicks] were interested at all in a conversation.’’
Nor should the Knicks give him up — even if they could dump the anchor Joakim Noah contract in the process.
Irving is a sure thing, an elite scorer and All-Star who averaged 25.2 points and 5.8 assists a game last season and shot better than 40 percent from three. Irving, entering his seventh season, can do more to help a team win next season than Porzingis. He can get more buckets.
But Porzingis could be better — and will be better suited to build a contender around — in the future. Entering just his third season and with the triangle gone, and maybe the shadow of Carmelo Anthony, too, Porzingis should become the focal point of the Knicks next season, and we can see what he will do. KP scored 18.1 points and grabbed 7.2 rebounds a game last season, shot 35.7 percent from three, and while still learning he brings more defense than Irving. Porzingis is a 7’3″ “unicorn” — there isn’t another player like him — and for many years he could be the future of the Knicks. He has the work ethic, he’s shown flashes, they just need to give him a real chance.
Also, the Knicks need to work starting this fall to mend the relationship that Phil Jackson tried to poison.
Bottom line, Irving is good, but the Knicks could build a contender around Porzingis if they handle it right. Not sure they can do that around Irving, and he is older. No way you make that trade if you’re the Knicks. That’s obvious… which is one reason Jackson needed to go.
While we grind through the slow part of the NBA offseason — when even Kyrie Irving trade rumors come with “when we get close to the start of training camp” qualifiers — we continue to get our hoops fix from the best highlights of last season.
Like the top 10 ball fakes, as compiled by NBA.com.
You knew Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving would be on the list, but nice appearance and moves by Ricky Rubio and D'Angelo Russell, too.