Why there’s a 100 percent chance the NBA lottery is fixed

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The NBA lottery is fixed. There’s no question about it. Just as last year’s draft order was determined by a David Stern-led conspiracy, this year’s will be determined the same way.

Think about it. If the NBA lottery really were legitimate, why not conduct the draw publically rather than in a back room? If the league conducted the lottery in the open, nobody could ever question the results.

So, don’t bother tuning in tonight. I’ll tell you why it’s totally fixed.

Orlando Magic

Odds of winning the lottery: 25 percent 100 percent

The NBA doesn’t technically have compensatory picks, but we all know Stern takes care of teams that lose superstars. The Cavaliers lost LeBron James, and then they won the Kyrie Irving lottery. The Hornets lost Chris Paul, and then they won the Anthony Davis lottery. Now, the Magic lost Dwight Howard, and it’s their turn to land the top spot.

Charlotte Bobcats

Odds of winning the lottery: 19.9 percent 100 percent

The Bobcats might be the league’s most stale team. That’s part of the reason Charlotte is changing its nickname back to the Hornets, but a new star would go much further. Charlotte once packed the stands for NBA games, and with a good team, ticket sales will surge again. Plus, Stern wants to boost Michael Jordan’s profile.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Odds of winning the lottery: 15.6 percent 100 percent

Stern desperately wants to create a Cavaliers-Heat rivalry to boost rankings, and to do so, he must make the Cavaliers better. Dan Gilbert remained loyal during the lockout, and especially after LeBron became the worst example of players seizing control from teams, Stern will reward Gilbert with a second No. 1 pick.

Phoenix Suns

Odds of winning the lottery: 11.9 percent 100 percent

Robert Sarver might not be selling the Suns, but he’s at least dipped his feet in the water more than other owners. It’s particularly important for the NBA that its franchises for sale are as valuable as possible, raising the value of all franchises in the process. If Sarver decides to sell anytime in the next five years, having the No. 1 pick on his team would raise Phoenix’s value.

New Orleans Pelicans

Odds of winning the lottery: 8.8 percent 100 percent

Selling the New Orleans franchise proved so difficult, the NBA took over the team for a while. Even then, the league needed time to find a buyer. You think Tom Benson ponied up $388 million for only one No. 1 pick? He’s getting at least two from Stern. The NBA showed it was committed to keeping a team in New Orleans, and for that decision to be financially viable, the Pelicans need more talent, which Stern will gladly provide.

Sacramento Kings

Odds of winning the lottery: 6.3 percent 100 percent

This just reeks of the Hornets situation last year. The NBA brokers the sale of a team shortly before the lottery, and – poof – that team gets the No. 1 pick. Why do you think these sales occur this time of year? Stern sweetens the pot with a No. 1 pick.

Detroit Pistons

Odds of winning the lottery: 3.6 percent 100 percent

The Pistons’ attendance has been extremely volatile in the last decade. When the team was good, the Pistons led the league in home fans. Lately, they’ve ranked near the bottom. So, the marginal value of giving Detroit the No. 1 pick is extremely high. Stern also has a habit of rewarding the new owners with the No. 1 pick, and though Tom Gores had to take a backseat to more pressing matters in Cleveland and New Orleans, he’ll finally get that No. 1 pick promised to him when he bought the Pistons in 2011.

Washington Wizards

Odds of winning the lottery: 3.5 percent 100 percent

It’s the second term of a basketball-loving president, and if the NBA is going finally cash in on the marketing that would come with Barack Obama attending more games, the Wizards must be better sooner than later. Obama has been spotted at Wizards games before, but if those games became higher profile, Obama would probably attend more. That’s the type of cache the NBA could use as it expands globally.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Odds of winning the lottery: 1.7 percent 100 percent

Glen Taylor might not be selling the Timberwolves, but he’s at least dipped his feet in the water more than other owners. It’s particularly important for the NBA that its franchises for sale are as valuable as possible, raising the value of all franchises in the process. If Taylor decides to sell anytime in the next five years, having the No. 1 pick on his team would raise Minnesota’s value.

Portland Trail Blazers

Odds of winning the lottery: 1.1 percent 100 percent

Just as Paul Allen buys so many late first-round picks, he bought the No. 1 pick, too. Why do you think the league’s other owners put up with a rigged lottery? It’s because the “lucky” owner pays off the rest. Really, everybody wins. Allen gets his top player, and the other teams get cash for a player they didn’t deem that valuable (or else they would have bid higher). Best of all, because this income is under the table, no taxes.

Philadelphia 76ers

Odds of winning the lottery: 0.8 percent 100 percent

Philadelphia is the largest media market in the lottery, and Sterns obviously wants his big-market teams to be better. 76ers fans can be among the league’s most-passionate – and the NBA is getting increasingly better at turning that passion into money – but this season’s malaise sucked the life out of the fan base. Nothing would get Philadelphia fans going like the No. 1 pick in the draft, and even if they boo him on draft night, at least they’ll be watching.

Toronto Raptors

Odds of winning the lottery: 0.7 percent 100 percent

Not only are the Raptors the only NBA team based outside the United States, Toronto has plenty of overseas flavor. The Raptors are the NBA’s gateway to worldwide expansion, and the more fans the league draw sin Toronto, faster the growth will occur.

Dallas Mavericks

Odds of winning the lottery: 0.6 percent 100 percent

In the first full season since Mark Cuban bought the Mavericks, Dallas missed the playoffs. Now that he’s personally involved, Cuban won’t sit quietly as the NBA fixes the lottery – unless his teams wins it. Stern will give into Cuban just this once, helping the Mavericks reach the playoffs next season and allowing the NBA to continue its lottery-rigging ways without Cuban interfering.

Utah Jazz

Odds of winning the lottery: 0.5 percent 100 percent

Greg Miller’s ownership has been a little rocky, lowlighted by a very public feud with Karl Malone, since the death of Miller’s father, Larry H. Miller. Stern and Larry were old friends, and on his way out, Stern will do his old bud one last favor. Salt Lake City might not be the biggest market, but at this point, Stern doesn’t care. He just wants to look out for his friends.

Don’t worry, this post will still be here after the lottery in case you forget why it was fixed. Once you know who won the No. 1 pick, come back to check why we told you all along the whole thing was rigged for that team.

Thunder star Russell Westbrook scores 45, leads 25-point comeback against Jazz

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The Thunder lost three straight games, fell behind by 25 in the second half at home and looked as if they had no interest in returning to Utah.

Then, Russell Westbrook reminded everyone why he’s a superstar.

Westbrook is a singular force who can take over a game and rally his teammates – not a liability who makes everyone around him worse. His confidence and determination in the face of calamity were invaluable tonight. He kept attacking, and as shots started to fall, he and his teammates massively increased their defensive intensity.

The result: A 107-99 Game 5 win over the Jazz that looked highly improbable 21 game minutes before it ended. But Westbrook (who finished with 45 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists) singlehandedly outscored Utah in that final stretch.

The Thunder are hardly out of the woods yet. They still trail 3-2 in the series with Game 6 Friday in Utah. Teams with home-court advantage in a best-of-seven series with a road Game 6 win it just 37% of the time. Those teams win the series just 26% of the time.

But thanks to Westbrook, Paul George (34 points) and plain all-around defensive effort, Oklahoma City still has a shot. At minimum, the Thunder won’t send George into unrestricted free agency with four straight losses.

Not that Oklahoma City erased all concerns.

Rudy Gobert devoured the Thunder’s offense in the paint – at least while he could avoid the foul trouble. Utah was +7 in Gobert’s 30 minutes and -8 in the 18 minutes he sat.

The Thunder made most of their comeback with Carmelo Anthony on the bench. They continued to play well once he returned in the fourth quarter, but by then, the Jazz had lost all rhythm.

Utah – led by Jae Crowder‘s 27 points – looks deeper. Anthony was still Oklahoma City’s third-leading scorer with just seven points.

And the Thunder haven’t won in Salt Lake City this series.

But they’ll make another trip there. Considering where this game and series looked midway through the third quarter tonight, that’s a heck of an accomplishment.

Another massive third quarter lifts Rockets past Timberwolves into second round

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We saw this movie just a couple of nights before, but Rockets fans love the ending and would gladly pay to see it 12 more times this postseason.

Much like Game 4, the Rockets were down at the half in Game 5 Wednesday after having played disinterested defense and with cold shooting from their stars (James Harden and Chris Paul combined to go 3-of-16 from the floor). Minnesota was up 59-55 and had hope.

Then the third quarter the Rockets flipped the switch. Again.

Harden had 15 points in the third — matching the Timberwolves as a team. Minnesota started to double Harden and take the ball out of his hands (especially late in the shot clock), but he often moved the rock and it led to open threes — the Rockets were 6-of-10 from three in the quarter. Houston won the third 30-15, not as overwhelming as the 50-point quarter the game before but once again enough to comfortably pull away from Minnesota and cruise in for a 122-104 win.

With that, the Rockets win the series 4-1 and now await the winner of the Utah vs. Oklahoma City series.

In that series, the Rockets will need to play with more consistent focus than they brought against the Timberwolves — they can’t just play a couple of good halves in the next series and expect that to be enough. Unlike Minnesota, those teams in the next round will make Houston pay a steep price for a lack of focus.

Houston got a massive night from Clint Capela, who led the Rockets with 26 points and 15 rebounds, running the rim hard in transition and making plays inside while the rest of the Rockets launched threes over the top.

Harden finished with 24 points and 12 assists, and Eric Gordon had 19 off the bench in the win.

Minnesota had 23 points from Karl-Anthony Towns and 17 from an energized Jeff Teague.

For the Timberwolves, a team with elite young talent, this was a glimpse of what it will take to reach the heights they envision. This was a good step — the franchise’s first trip to the playoffs since 2004 is not to be diminished. It matters. But there are higher levels this team can attain. Defensively they have to be better, offensively they need to feed Towns more and play to their strengths better. It’s a work in progress.

Houston just showed them where they want to be.

Hawks, coach Mike Budenholzer agree to part ways

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This was expected.

It was pretty obvious Mike Budenholzer didn’t want to stick around and lose a lot of games with the Atlanta Hawks as they rebuild the next few years, especially after he had been stripped of his GM powers. Budenholzer went well down the road with the Phoenix Suns about their open coaching position before thinking better of it. Since then he has set up a meeting with the Knicks about their coaching vacancy, a job he reportedly wants badly.

At this point there was no need for the Hawks and Budenholzer to continue their sham marriage, so they have agreed to amicably separate, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and since confirmed by the Hawks.

Budenholzer said this to Wojnarowski of ESPN:

“I am grateful for the five years that I spent as coach of the Atlanta Hawks, and will always cherish the incredible contributions, commitment and accomplishments of the players that I was fortunate enough to work with here,” Budenholzer told ESPN on Wednesday night. “From ownership to management, support staff to the community, I’ll look back with great pride on what we were able to achieve together with the Hawks.”

For Budenholzer, the long-time Spurs assistant and a strong Xs and Os coach, look for him to both push for the Knicks job and be in the running if/when the Milwaukee Bucks job opens up whenever their season ends. In both cases he’s a fit — those are teams that need a culture and system reset, and Budenholzer proved he can bring that to Atlanta (that was a good team before they let Al Horford and Paul Millsap walk for nothing).

With Atlanta, they likely will turn to a top assistant coach who will get a chance to develop young players on that team (and not cost Atlanta as much as an established coach). Stephen Silas of the Hornets is a rumored name, but there are others.

LeBron James overrules controversial finish with game-winning 3-pointer (video)

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LeBron James‘ turnover with the game tied late looked like a bad call. LeBron’s block of Victor Oladipo on the ensuing possession looked like a goaltend.

Did the Cavaliers get robbed of a crucial possession? Did the Pacers get robbed of two go-ahead points?

LeBron nullified those questions with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give Cleveland a 98-95 win and a 3-2 series lead. The game-winner capped a great game by LeBron (44 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists) and moves the Cavs to the verge of advancing.

When a team with home-court advantage can close out a best-of-seven series with a road Game 6, it has 52% of the time. It has won the series 92% of the time.

The odds are even better with LeBron. LeBron has won 11 straight closeout games, nine of them on the road. He’ll have another opportunity Friday with Game 6 in Indiana.