DeMar DeRozan; Kyle Lowry

Raptors storm from 11 back in fourth quarter to knock off Hawks

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Atlanta has been playing with a little fire of late, ever since the hot Knicks (winners of eight in a row heading into Sunday night) put pressure on them for the final playoff spot in the East.

This was the kind of loss the Hawks can’t afford if they want to make the postseason.

Atlanta was in charge for the first three quarters of this game — the Hawks shot 50 percent as a team while holding the Raptors to 36.7 percent shooting. The Hawks were up 11 and in charge. DeMarre Carroll was 7-of-12 for 17 points — it was that kind of game.

Then the fourth quarter happened.

The Hawks shot 6-of-22 overall and 1-of-10 from three in the fourth, plus they had four turnovers, a couple of them key. Meanwhile the Raptors shot 60 percent in the final frame, got 13 points from Kyle Lowry and 10 from DeMar DeRozan and stormed back for a comfortable 96-86 win.

The win keeps the Raptors two games ahead of Brooklyn for the Atlantic Division lead, plus the Raptors remain half a game up on the Bulls for the three seed (although I expect they fall behind the Bulls before the season ends).

Atlanta is now 2.5 games up on the Knicks, a gap the Knicks can close to 2 games with a win over Cleveland Sunday night. The Hawks do have a three game advantage over the Knicks in the loss column. The Hawks still control their own destiny, but they can’t afford letdown losses like this.

What let Atlanta down at the end of this game. Check out the Hawks possessions down the stretch after a pretty Paul Millsap a pick-and-pop three that had the Hawks up 3 with 3:50 left:

• Jeff Teague misses floater going one-on-three in transition.
• Teague misses a spinner in the lane.
• Millsap misses a spinner in the lane.
• Good ball movement got Millsap a wide open corner three, he missed it.
• In transition Hawks don’t attack but kick back to Teague for three, he misses.
• Shelvin Mack hits a floater in the lane to end 8-0 Raptors run.
• Coming out of timeout Lowry steals inbound pass right out of Millsap’s hands breakaway layup.

That was the ballgame.

Give the Raptors credit here — Lowry had 25 points on the night and made tough shots (like a floater across his body) late in the game, DeRozan hit some key midrange pull-ups in the final minutes on his way to 21 on the night. The Raptors played well and earned the win.

A win that gives the Knicks hope.

Watch Nerlens Noel say goodbye to Joel Embiid after learning of trade

Philadelphia 76ers Media Day
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Nerlens Noel had a plane to catch — he is headed to Minneapolis because that is where his new team the Dallas Mavericks are right now (Dallas faces Minnesota on Friday night).

But first, Noel wanted to say goodbye to his buddy Joel Embiid.

Noel was traded to the Mavericks for Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut (who will be traded again by the deadline or waived by Philly after), and a protected first-round pick in the 2017 draft that will almost certainly convert to two second-round picks (2017 and 2018). It’s a great landing spot for Noel, Dallas will re-sign him this summer and see him as the future of the franchise at the five.

What we as fans tend to focus on is things like that last paragraph — who “won” or who “lost” the trade, how it fits on the court — and we can forget these are human beings. They are leaving their home, their friends, and in many cases asking family to pack up and move with them. There is a human side, a human cost to these trades, which we can’t overlook.

Report: Boston finally willing to put Nets pick in Paul George trade talks, still may not be enough

Eastern Conference forward Paul George of the Indiana Pacers (13) reacts during the second half of the NBA All-Star basketball game in New Orleans, Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Max Becherer)
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They are the two biggest pieces on the trade deadline day chess board: Boston has the rights to swap picks with Brooklyn’s first-round pick this season (and the Nets will finish with the worst record in the league), and then Boston owns the Brooklyn pick outright next season.

So far, Boston hasn’t been willing to put those pieces into play, even for an elite player such as Jimmy Butler or Paul George. The thinking in Boston has been very logical: Cleveland is in the middle of its title window, Toronto also is a win-now team (hence the Serge Ibaka trade), and Washington is in the same boat. However, with those Brooklyn picks the Celtics are not going to peak until three years or so from now, right as those other teams fade. Boston could be patient because they have next.

But that attitude seems to be shifting a little — Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports reports one of the Nets picks may be in play for George.

We don’t know which pick (17 or 18) nor do we know what other pieces are involved. There’s a lot of variables and more than likely this deal doesn’t happen.

This seems to signal a shift in Boston’s thinking — they may be sliding into a win-now space. It means they see the Cavaliers as vulnerable (maybe due to the rash of injuries and the heavy minutes for LeBron James) and they want to pounce now rather than wait.

Report: Sixers trade Nerlens Noel to Mavericks for Bogut, Anderson, first-round pick

CAMDEN, NJ - SEPTEMBER 26: Nerlens Noel #4 of the Philadelphia 76ers poses for a portrait during media day on September 26, 2016 in Camden, New Jersey. 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 Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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Philadephia has been trying to unclog its frontcourt logjam for a while, but finding little out there in a market with a glut of big men — Brook Lopez, Tyson Chandler, Gregg Monroe, and so on. They have not found a deal they like for Jahlil Okafor despite months of trying.

However, they now have found one for Nerlens Noel.

Dallas has been looking for the big man of their future and has jumped on landing the former Kentucky star, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Marc Stein and Zach Lowe of ESPN added these crucial details.

Those protections make it almost certain Dallas keeps its first round pick this year, so the Sixers get a couple of seconds.

I love this trade for Dallas, but they have to re-sign Noel this summer as a restricted free agent. Dallas has chased the right big man for a while (remember DeAndre Jordan?), and Noel fits what they want at the five — he can protect the rim, he has hops, and he can finish around the rim (63.4 percent of his shots come in the restricted area, and he shoots 72 percent on those). He gets most of his offense off cuts or being the roll man — get him the rock near the basket and he’ll do the rest, but he’s not going to create or step out. Noel provides rim protection in the paint on defense, but if you have a big that can pull him out of the paint it gives him trouble. He’s also young and his game can develop.

Noel can be a piece along with Harrison Barnes in the post-Dirk era coming to Dallas.

I’ve been told (as have other reporters) to expect the Sixers to buy out Bogut, which will make him a very sought after free agent by contenders in a few days (Cleveland? He is not allowed by rule to return to Warriors this season). Unless they can flip him again before the deadline.

What Philly gets out of this of value is not only the pick (eventually) but also Justin Anderson, who shows promise as a “3&D” wing. He’s still got to work on the three part of that, he’s hitting just 30.3 percent from three this season, but he’s a strong defender already able to cover twos, threes, and small fours. Good rebounder as well for his position. You could see him growing into Brett Brown’s rotation.

Reports: Minnesota working hard to trade Ricky Rubio by deadline; Knicks swap for Rose possible

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 28: Ricky Rubio #9 of the Minnesota Timberwolves brings the ball down court against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on December 28, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. 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 Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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On paper, Ricky Rubio seemed a good fit for the Tom Thibodeau’s Timberwolves: He’s a gifted passer and strong defender who knows how to run a team. In practice, his lack of shooting on a team of slashers and a big man inside — Karl-Anthony Towns — allowed teams to clog the lane.

So the Timberwolves are working hard to find a landing spot for him before the trade deadline at 3 p.m. Eastern, according to multiple reports.

This has led to talks with the Knicks of a Ricky Rubio for Derrick Rose swap, and there is more than just smoke with this. Although, if there is enough fire to get a deal done is another question entirely.

A Rose/Rubio swap is a small win for the Knicks — Rubio would find a way to get the ball to Kristaps Porzingis and Carmelo Anthony, plus he improves their defense. Also, it means they don’t have to overpay Rose or another point guard this summer as Rubio is under contract for next season.

For the Timberwolves, they get a guy who will get them some buckets on the drive but who also takes opportunities out of the hands of Towns, Andrew Wiggins and everyone else. Plus Minnesota’s defense gets worse. I’m not sure how that gets them to the playoffs.