Knicks head coach Mike Woodson says he’s ‘expecting to win’ Game 5 vs. Pacers

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The Knicks are facing elimination Thursday night, trailing three games to one in their playoff series against the Pacers. New York hopes that returning to play at Madison Square Garden, where the team was 31-10 during the regular season, may help them snap out of their offensive funk and force a Game 6 back in Indiana on Saturday.

Hope is not a strategy, as they say, so Knicks head coach Mike Woodson is likely to shuffle his lineups in search of one that can shoot much better than the 35 percent his team showed in its last two losses. He also is approaching the game with a supreme level of confidence.

From Marc Berman of the New York Post:

After today’s morning shootaround at Tarrytown, with do-or-die Game 5 on tap tonight, Woodson sounded very confident the series is heading back to Indianapolis.

“I’m expecting to win tonight,’’ Woodson said. “This has got to be a wakeup now. If we lose, we go home and none of us want to go home. I sure as hell don’t. I think we’re going to show a lot of pride.’’

The Knicks don’t need to show pride, they need to make shots.

New York has been a jump shooting team all year, with Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith both capable of getting hot from outside. The problem in this series against the Pacers has been Indiana’s defense, which has been immaculate at times — both in the way they’ve defended on the ball, and in their rotations and closeouts on the three-point shooters.

Woodson didn’t come close to making one of those silly guarantees, but his “expectation” might be enough if he was able to convey that to his team in time for them to bring an increased level of fortitude into what could potentially be the Knicks’ final game of the season.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?

Hawks’ DeAndre’ Bembry out with fractured wrist

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In their season opener Wednesday, Atlanta second-year man DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench and played 17:45, scored six points and was +13 on the night. It was a good start to his career.

But now he is going to miss some time with a fractured wrist.

Bembry underwent an MRI, which revealed a fracture in his right wrist, the Hawks announced Friday. He will return to Atlanta with the team (the Hawks lost to the Hornets Friday night) and will meet with team doctors at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center on Monday. His status will be updated after that.

“We just may play some other guys more, we may use some of the young guys,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told the AP before Friday night’s game. “We’ll just figure it out tonight and as we move forward. I don’t think there’s anything guaranteed for anybody, it’s unfortunate for DeAndre’ and for us.”

 

Danny Ainge says Celtics will apply for Disabled Player Exception

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It’s not likely Gordon Hayward returns this season. His agent said as much, although a return in March is not out of the question. (It’s better PR wise for the Celtics to say he is out for the season, then if he returns early great, it’s better than setting a deadline he doesn’t meet.)

With that, the Celtics are going to apply for the Disabled Player Exception, which could help them land a replacement player, Danny Ainge told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Globe on Friday the club is applying for the Disabled Player Exception, which would provide the Celtics $8.4 million to pursue a player to fill Hayward’s roster spot.

“We’re in the process of doing that,’’ Ainge said. “We have a while to do that. There’s no urgency, but we will apply for that.”

There are limits to what that money can get the Celtics. The money is the same as the mid-level exception, the Celtics can go over the cap to use it, and the player can be obtained via free agency or trade. However, the player must be in the last year of his contract.

It gives the Celtics options. It also does not mean Hayward cannot return, it only means NBA-approved doctors determined he is not likely to return before a mid-June deadline.