David West, Roy Hibbert accuse Shane Battier of taking shots at their knees

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Shane Battier hasn’t been able to be very effective for the Heat during the Eastern Conference finals, which may be the reason he’s had to resort to a more physical style of play against the big men of the Pacers.

Battier has been in the middle of a few minor confrontations in the series, and the Pacers players — specifically David West and Roy Hibbert, the bigs that are giving Miami so many problems — said after shootaround on Thursday in advance of Game 5 that part of their preparation is to be aware of Battier taking shots at their knees.

From Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com:

“I (learned) to always have my guard up and protect my knees,” West said. “(Battier) has got this funny way of moving into your knees. We’re very conscious of that. We talk about making sure we protect our knees.”

“I know what (Battier) brings to the game and it’s worked for him in the past. He has to do whatever he has to do to make sure his team wins,” Hibbert said. “I’m going to watch my knees, watch my groin. … To tell you the truth, I don’t care. I’m in there, I’m playing tough. He has to do what he has to do.

“Obviously I don’t like it but it’s a part of the game. I don’t want to look back say I gave in to a dirty player.”

Battier has a reputation of being an above average defender, though he’s not nearly as strong defensively as he’s been given credit for, especially during his days with the Houston Rockets.

But despite the fact that he’s lost a step in this advanced stage of his career, Battier is still one of the smarter defenders in the game, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to learn that he’s resorting to some alternative tactics to try to battle the size disadvantage that he and his team face during this series.

Battier has already been guilty of one objectively dirty play, leading with his knee on a drive to the basket where he caught Hibbert in the groin during Game 1. The referees actually reviewed the play to determine if it should have been called a flagrant foul, which is beyond rare for a play made by the offense.

The officiating has become a topic in this series, and the Pacers knew what they were doing by putting this out there the day of a critical Game 5 on the road. The referees now will be watching for these tactics from Battier, whether subconsciously or not, and may whistle him a bit more closely than they have through the first four games of the series.

It’s worth noting that Battier’s inability to impact the game defensively is of far less concern than is his shooting. During the Heat’s run to a championship last year, Battier shot an extremely high percentage, and was huge in knocking down several big time shots. So far against Indiana, Battier is a combined 2-of-14 from the field, with all but one of his attempts coming from three-point distance.

Chicago does humor with “Beauty and the Bull” snapchat musical

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The Beauty and the Beast movie is both a hit and ripe for satire. Or just amusing spinoffs.

Enter the Chicago Bulls, with Benny the Bull mascot and Robin Lopez pitching in on a musical takeoff of the film promoting the team.

Well played Bulls.

LeBron James drives through Wizards defense, dunks on

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Even when they are getting beat — and the Cavaliers have some issues to shake out before the playoffs start — there are a couple times a game that LeBron James makes a play that is stunning.

For example, splitting defenders out high with his dribble then going in and dunking on Ian Mahinmi. LeBron did that Saturday night.

The Wizards beat the Cavaliers and Cleveland has issues that are bigger than LeBron’s goggles (Boston can tie Cleveland for the top spot in the East with a win Sunday), but never doubt LeBron’s explosiveness.

Raptors’ Patrick Patterson taunts Mavericks’ bench after three, Rick Carlisle talks back (VIDEO)

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Toronto handed Dallas its 41st loss of the season Saturday night, which means with the Mavericks’ next loss their streak of winning seasons will come to an end at 16.

Toronto was talking a lot of smack while getting that win. At least Patrick Patterson was when he was draining corner threes in front of the Mavericks’ bench. On the one above, Patterson chirps and coach Rick Carlisle goes back at him verbally. They both pick up technical fouls for their trouble.

I’m surprised this doesn’t happen a little more during games, there’s a lot of talking down there

Serge Ibaka, DeMar DeRozan lead Raptors past Mavericks, 94-86

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DALLAS (AP) — DeMar DeRozan and Serge Ibaka scored 18 points apiece, and the Toronto Raptors clinched a playoff berth after their fifth straight victory, 94-86 over the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night.

The Raptors, who came back from 15-point deficits to win each of their last two games, made it a little easier on themselves Saturday. Toronto scored the game’s first seven points and never trailed in dealing the Mavericks’ playoff hopes a damaging blow.

Harrison Barnes scored 23 points for Dallas, which missed 18 of its first 22 3-pointers and finished just 7 of 28 from behind the arc.

Patrick Patterson added 14 points for Toronto, including a perfect 4 for 4 on 3-pointers.

The Mavericks fell four games behind Denver for the final playoff spot in the West.

Toronto led by as many as 16 points in the first half and by 15 early in the fourth quarter before a 10-0 Dallas run made things more interesting.

Dorian Finney-Smith‘s free throws with 7:57 to go brought the Mavs within 79-74, the closest they had been since 7-2 early in the game. But Ibaka made consecutive jumpers to restore a nine-point lead, and Dallas got no closer than six after that.

The Raptors had their biggest lead at 42-26 in the first half. Barnes scored Dallas’ last 11 points of the half to help cut into the lead, but Toronto led 54-44 at the break.

J.J. Barea‘s long 3 at the third-quarter buzzer again brought Dallas within 10 at 74-64.

TIP-INS

Raptors: Coach Dwane Casey said he was hopeful that guard Kyle Lowry would return from wrist surgery before the end of the regular season. “I know he’s doing a lot of conditioning, a lot of work to keep his body in shape,” Casey said. “Just let him rehab, let him do his thing and trust our medical people.” Lowry has missed the last 16 games. . Toronto was also without starting forward DeMarre Carroll due to a sore lower back. P.J. Tucker started in his place.

Mavericks: Seth Curry with 11 points and Yogi Ferrell with 10 were the only other Mavs in double figures. . Nerlens Noel started his second game in a row at center for the Mavericks, who have gone to a big lineup. They’ve moved Dirk Nowitzki to power forward, Barnes to small forward and Curry to point guard.

STREAK IN JEOPARDY

The Mavericks took their 41st loss of the season. Their next loss will end the NBA’s second-longest streak of .500 or better seasons – currently at 16 seasons. Their last sub-.500 season was 1999-00, when they finished 40-42 and Mark Cuban became owner of the team in January 2000.

San Antonio has the longest streak of .500 or better seasons with 20, including this season.

ABOUT THURSDAY NIGHT

Cuban couldn’t resist giving his opinion on Barea’s ejection from the Mavericks’ victory over the Clippers on Thursday night. Barea was called for a flagrant 2 foul for pushing Blake Griffin, a player with a 10-inch height advantage over Barea.

“I just feel bad for Blake,” Cuban said. “It’s hard to come back from a knockout like that. We sent flowers to his family, condolences. I can only guess that he’s going to be drinking through a straw for a long, long time.”