Heat send Bobcats into extinction with Game 4 win, sweep of first round series

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The Charlotte Bobcats played their last game ever on Monday, thanks to the defending champion Miami Heat completing their four-game, first round sweep with a 109-98 victory.

Charlotte managed to stay close for the first 24 minutes, and even took a 54-52 lead into the half on the strength of 12 points from Kemba Walker, 10 points from Gary Neal, and Miami’s dismal 2-of-12 shooting performance from three-point distance.

LeBron James went down briefly in the third with what appeared to be a thigh injury, after colliding with Bismack Biyombo on a drive to the basket.

While it didn’t look good initially, LeBron was just fine. He played all 24 minutes of the second half, and scored 20 of his game-high 31 points over the final two periods.

For the Bobcats, there were two performances that stood out. Walker ended up with 29 points on 11-of-15 shooting in almost 43 minutes, and for those obsessed with efficiency, Chris Douglas-Roberts turned in an amazing statistical line in that regard, finishing with 14 points on just three shots in under eight minutes of action.

The Charlotte franchise will now become the Hornets moving forward, and the Bobcats will go down in history as having two playoff appearances in their 10-year run, but never being able to win in the postseason even once in eight tries.

The Heat will simply march on, continuing their quest to reach a fourth straight NBA Finals — something which hasn’t happened in 27 years.

They’ll also have plenty of time to rest.

The earliest that a second round series could begin against either the Nets or the Raptors would be Sunday, and that’s only if one of those teams is able to eliminate the other by winning the next two straight.

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.