Bulls win 3OT thriller thanks to Nate Robinson, Nazr Mohammed. Up 3-1 on Nets.

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The Nets had this. Deron Williams was his old self and Brooklyn up 14 in the fourth quarter against a Chicago team with no good offense. This series was going to be even and a best of three.

Then Nate Robinson happened — a 23-point fourth quarter explosion in the fourth quarter led a dramatic 14-0 run (10 by Robinson) and shockingly we were headed to overtime. Then we had Joe Johnson sending it to double OT. Then Robinson fouled out as we were headed to triple overtime. Then Reggie Evans fouled out. And Joakim Noah. And Taj Gibson.

But some Bulls player always steps up and this time it was Nazr Mohammed with the dagger in the third overtime. Knocking down shots and outworking Andray Blatche.

After the smoke cleared from a battle of attrition, the Bulls won 142-134. The win gives them a stranglehold 3-1 lead in the first round series. The teams head back to Brooklyn for a Game 5 Monday where there will still be a lot of tired legs.

Brooklyn showed plenty of fight — C.J. Watson and Nate Robinson had to be separated at one point — and plenty of desperation in a must-win game, it’s just that the Bulls had more.

It was a strangely offensive-minded game for a series that saw plenty of grinding so far. Chicago in particular figured out how to put up points on what over the course of the season 58.5 percent shooting. Kirk Hinrich had 13 (he finished with 18) to lead four Bulls in double figures for the first half.

Brooklyn came on in the third quarter behind Deron Williams, who had is best game of the playoffs. He was much more aggressive off the pick-and-roll plus the Nets did a nice job of having Gerald Wallace or someone else bring the ball up then get it to a big man (usually Brook Lopez) out high and have Williams rub off him for a handoff screen, that way the defense couldn’t just load up on Williams. He finished the game with 32 points (11-of-25 shooting) and he had 10 assists.

D-Will sparked a 10-2 run in third quarter as the Nets took the lead 70-68 lead, getting buckets from Reggie Evans and Gerald Wallace as part of that stretch. It seemed like it was going to be the Nets night when Brook Lopez dropped a 28-foot three to beat the clock at the end of the third quarter, putting the Nets up 84-76.

With four minutes to go, the Nets had a lead of 13.

But then came Nate Robinson’s run in the fourth. Advanced stats guys will tell you there really is no such thing as a hot hand, but Robinson is the exception to that rule. To a lot of rules. He gets hot and everything starts to fall. The Nets adjust their defense and suddenly the Bulls are making two quick passes and Carlos Boozer is getting a layup.

Robinson had 23 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter — one point shy of Michael Jordan’s Bulls’ record for points in a playoff quarter — but really words don’t do it justice.

Through the overtimes both teams kept making plays. It was playoff basketball at its best — Joe Johnson stepped up with a runner down the lane to send the game to a second OT and had a key three in that period, and Brook Lopez knocked down key free throws. Lopez finished with 26 points and 11 rebounds.

When Nate Robinson fouled out on an offensive foul late in the second OT you thought the Bulls magic might run out in the third.

Taj Gibson and then Luol Deng hit key jumpers in the third OT. Then when Gibson fouled out the improbable happened — Nazr Mohammed made a jump hook in the lane to put the Bulls up five with :32 seconds left. It felt like a dagger. Lopez made a bucket then Boozer answered with a free throw (he finished with 21 points) and when he missed the second Mohammed grabbed the rebound and put it in over Blatche. That was the dagger.

And it may have been the dagger for the Nets season. Hard to see them coming back from this loss to win three straight and the series.

Report: Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer no longer considering Suns job

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There’s been a lot of talk as the coaching carousel ramps up, long before the NBA season is even over. Now, we know one coach won’t be heading to the Phoenix Suns: Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer.

Budenholzer was reportedly among one of the candidates for the Suns job, but according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowksi the Hawks coach has decided not to pursue the position after being given the opportunity to do so.

The Suns coaching search still includes current interim coach Jay Triano and former Memphis Grizzlies head man David Fizdale.

Via ESPN:

Budenholzer met with Suns general manager Ryan McDonough and owner Robert Sarver early this week, but there was never traction on reaching a contract agreement as the week wore on, league sources said.

As the Suns kept interviewing candidates — including David Fizdale and interim coach Jay Triano — Budenholzer informed the Suns on Thursday that he would no longer be a candidate for the job, sources said.

Phoenix fired Earl Watson just three games into the season. Budenholzer had a hefty resume to consider — he won 60 games in Atlanta in 2014-15, heading to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Suns need someone to guide their young star in Devin Booker. Who they choose will influence the direction of their franchise for longer than the next coach may even be around.

Warriors beat Spurs in glum Game 3

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The Spurs were playing with heavy hearts following the death of Gregg Popovich’s wife, Erin. Kevin Durant and Shaun Livingston appeared to injure their left ankles on back-to-back plays late.

Everyone seemed ready for the Warriors’ 110-97 Game 3 win Thursday to end well before it did.

Soon enough, the first-round series will. Golden State is up 3-0, and all 127 teams to win the first three games of a best-of-seven series won it – most of them via sweep. Game 4 is Saturday in San Antonio.

There’s hope neither Durant’s nor Livingston’s injury is serious. Durant walked off on his own, though gingerly. Livingston shot his free throws before exiting.

Durant (26 points) and Klay Thompson (19 points) have carried the Warriors’ offense with Stephen Curry sidelined by his own injury. If Durant isn’t at full strength for Game 4, Golden State could really struggle to score.

But it still might not matter, as the Spurs are overmatched against the Warriors’ dialed-in defense. Draymond Green (10 points, seven assists, six rebounds, four blocks and two steals) led tonight’s effort.

After two losses in Oakland to start the series, returning to San Antonio didn’t do much for the Spurs, who were 33-8 at home and 14-27 on the road this season – the NBA’s largest home-road disparity in a half decade. It’s just had to see San Antonio – whether Popovich returns or Ettore Messina remains acting coach – finding enough sources of offense.

Pelicans move one game away from sweep after bashing Blazers in Game 3

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But for a moment, the Portland Trail Blazers felt as though they could turn the series. For half a quarter, the Blazers had hope. Then, Nikola Mirotic dropped a career-high 30 points, Anthony Davis added a double-double of 28 points and 11 rebounds, and the New Orleans Pelicans moved one game away from completing a sweep of the third seed after a big win on Thursday night, 119-102.

Under the guidance of Mirotic, the Pelicans unleashed a barrage of 3-pointers starting midway through the first quarter. The game was close to being a contest, but Jrue Holiday and Mirotic started to pour it in after being uncorked, with New Orleans taking a 16-point lead going into the second period.

Running up and down the court in a panic, Portland looked nervous in the spotlight. The Blazers racked up 12 turnovers by halftime, all while rattling 3-pointers off the back iron. Portland rushed its offense in the face of unlikely success by the Pelicans, who continued to rain down from deep. New Orleans hit four big shots in the final 1:47 of the half, including three from beyond-the-arc.

Never one to back down, Blazers star Damian Lillard tried to force the issue. He would finish with 20 points on 5-of-14 shooting, but most evidentiary of his night was Lillard lobbing up a wild 28-footer with 24 seconds left in the half as he tried to answer a gutshot 3-pointer from E'Twaun Moore from a moment before. It didn’t work, and the Pelicans took commanding 64-45 lead to start the third quarter.

So went the story of the rest of the game, as Portland couldn’t fully tamp down the New Orleans offensive attack for longer than a few minutes at a time. Even after one 10-0 run for the Blazers in the third, the Pelicans ended it in the most deflating way possible — a wide open dunk for Mirotic on a cut after Portland’s defense fell asleep.

It was an electric atmosphere at Smoothie King, and the sellout crowd that gave us a glimpse of what kind of homecourt advantage the Pelicans could have in the second round. The New Orleans fans were in a back-and-forth with the players, with Smoothie King working to such a fever pitch it felt as though every shot hoisted by the team in red and gold was destined for the nylon.

Demoralized, Portland battled — flailed, really — but the Blazers couldn’t make up any ground as the momentum continued for New Orleans. Finally Blazers coach Terry Stotts relented and waived the white flag for Portland with 7:55 left in the fourth quarter as he subbed in his bench.

Even with a 49-win season under its belt, the questions surrounding the Blazers become more serious. The team that had a 13-game win streak this season now will face rumblings about whether Stotts will remain with the team. An exit for Stotts would be unwise for Portland — he did wonders with a team that didn’t play up to its potential most of the year — but it’s not out of the ordinary for a team looking to break through to look elsewhere, especially after Lillard’s meeting with owner Paul Allen.

Although their work isn’t done yet, New Orleans looks as though it’s a team to be feared in the playoffs. What it needs to do is concentrate on sweeping the Blazers, not only to give themselves confidence heading into the second round but to show their second-round opponent (likely the Warriors) that they aren’t to be taken lightly.

How Porltand can counter in the deciding Game 4 isn’t clear. The Pelicans have looked like the better team for nearly every quarter of the series, and the Blazers clearly don’t have an answer for them on either side of the ball.

Happy New Orleans fans will pack Smoothie King on Saturday for Game 4 at 2:00 PM PST in Louisiana. Davis will look to win his first playoff series, and Portland will try to avoid their most embarrassing sweep since they lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the 1999 Western Conference Finals.

Steve Kerr, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili celebrate the life of Erin Popovich (VIDEO)

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The NBA community has been effuse in their thoughts and condolences to San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich over the past 24 hours. Erin Popovich, 67, passed away on April 18, leaving behind her husband, Gregg.

Many were taken aback at the news, including players like LeBron James and Kevin Durant, both of whom were emotional when they first heard the news of Erin’s passing.

Gregg Popovich was not with the team to coach them in their Thursday night matchup against the Golden State Warriors, as Ettore Messina took the reins for Game 3.

Meanwhile, those close to the Popoviches spoke about Erin, her influence on Gregg, and how much both mean to them. Steve Kerr, who played for Popovich in San Antonio for four seasons, told reporters that Erin was, “The sort of balance that Pop needed.”

Current Spurs Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker also voiced their support for the Popovich family.

Via Twitter:

Here’s hoping Popovich finds some solace in the support he’s received over the past day.