Mike Woodson, Carmelo Anthony

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.

Report: Age minimum still on table in Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 23:  The full draft board of the first 30 pics of the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft is seen at the Barclays Center on June 23, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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A new Collective Bargaining Agreement is expected to be finished soon, but with months until the current deal expires, both the owners and players can afford to take their time and get the details right.

Both sides reportedly agreed to keep the age minimum – which requires players to be 19 and one year removed from their high school class’ graduation – in place.

Or not?

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

Other issues, like the age limit for players entering the league, are still on the table. The league has long sought to increase the age limit from its current 19, and at least one year removed from one’s high school class, to at least 20 years of age. The union has talked about a “zero and two” setup, similar to that used by baseball — players can enter the Draft out of high school, but if they choose to go to college, they have to stay in college at least two years (in baseball, it’s three years) before declaring for the Draft.

The union wants to lower the age minimum. Adam Silver wants to raise it.

Most likely, the current one-and-done rule remains in place.

But a zero-or-two setup could be an interesting compromise. That would allow players certain they’re ready for the pros out of high school to declare for the NBA draft. In all other cases, Silver would get his wish.

Again, the status quo likely remains in tact. But it’s good both sides are discussing the issue to see whether there’s a better solution.

76ers increase Joel Embiid’s minute limit to 28

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid, left, tries to get around Cleveland Cavaliers' DeAndre Liggins, center, and Kevin Love during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
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Take comfort, chairs and staffers.

The 76ers have raised Joel Embiid‘s minute limit from 24 to 28.

Jessica Camerato of CSN Philly:

This was never a hard limit. Embiid played more than 24 minutes in five of his 12 games with a high of 27 in an overtime contest. Presumably, the new “limit” will also allow for Embiid to sometimes it.

Embiid’s numbers per 36 minutes are eye-popping: 28.6 points, 12.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 3.8 blocks and 6.4 turnovers. A small workload likely factors into his per-minute dominance, and he’s still a long way from typical starter minutes. But I’m interested to see how his production translates over a larger sample.

The 76ers, in their mission to be less bad this season, will also appreciate a few more minutes of Embiid. They defend like the NBA’s second-best defense with him on the floor and the league’s second-worst defense without him. They also score a little better with him. Overall, they get outscored by just 2.2 points per 100 possessions with him and a whopping 14.2 points per 100 possessions without him.

This could give Philadelphia a couple extra wins over the rest of the season. At minimum, it’ll make the 76ers more enjoyable to watch for a few more minutes each game.

James Johnson dunks on Rudy Gobert in crunch time (video)

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Opponents shoot just 41.8% at the rim with Rudy Gobert defending it – which is now second to Hassan Whiteside among the 50 players who defend the most shots at the rim per game.

But James Johnson went up with no fear, scoring two of his 24 points in the Heat’s 111-110 win over the Jazz last night.

Nicolas Batum bounces assist through Dwight Powell’s legs (video)

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The Hornets didn’t just beat the Mavericks, 97-87, last night.

Nicolas Batum got Charlotte style points with this pass through Dwight Powell‘s legs, assisting Cody Zeller.