David West’s mid-range jumpers carry Pacers into conference-finals matchup with Miami Heat

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Bradley Beal snatched the ball right from Roy Hibbert’s hands.

The Wizards guard dribbled to the other end and buried a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter, giving Washington its first lead since Thursday’s opening minutes. It looked like the type of sequence that defines a series.

On the next possession, David West made a mid-range jumper.

The Pacers looked weak, leaving Game 6 available for the taking, but the listless Wizards couldn’t seize it. Thanks to West scoring 29 points, Indiana led for all but 29 seconds of the final 44 minutes and finished off Washington, 93-80, in the six-game series.

The Pacers move onto their second straight Eastern Conference Finals, where they’ll face the Miami Heat in a postseason series for the third straight year.

“We’ve been talking about this series all year,” West said. “We’ve had a different path than they’ve had, but we’re here.”

Different is right.

The Heat needed nine games to win eight. The Pacers took 13 – and it weren’t for the Wizards’ lethargy, this series could have been headed toward a Game 7.

Indiana surprisingly easily built a 16-point lead early in the third quarter (on, you guessed it, a West mid-range jumper). For a long time, the Wizards didn’t show up, but they finally woke up.

John Wall got more aggressive, and that made everyone, especially Marcin Gortat, more effective.

There was just too much lousiness to overcome. Trevor Ariza (1-for-5 shooting, –24) looked particularly disjointed, and Washington’s bench shot just 4-for-15.

There was also too much West, who solidified Indiana’s offense on a night his teammates rarely looked in rhythm.

“I told them, ‘If you get in trouble, just find me at the top,’” said West, who took twice as many shots as his next closest teammate (Lance Stephenson, 13 shots for 17 points) and scored his most points in a playoff game in six years. “’I’m going to bring us home tonight.’”

Home will be much more welcoming for the Pacers than it was for Washington.

The Wizards won their most playoff games in 35 years, but it’s also still been that long since they won a home playoff game beyond the first round. Washington, which lost all three of its home games this series, was at least rewarded with an ovation in the final minute after receiving boos in Game 3.

Only time will tell whether this was a breakthrough season for a young and growing team or a subpar team taking advantage of a historically bad conference.

The Wizards seem likely to return a similar roster after surpassing their major goals, though the possibility of big turnover exists. Gortat, Ariza and coach Randy Wittman become free agents this summer.

For the Pacers, steadiness rules – even if they look incredibly unsteady in the process.  In fits and backward stumbles and forward steps, they keep trudging closer to their goal. The end is in sight, and Indiana was specifically designed to beat their next opponent.

Like a David West mid-range jumper, the Pacers aren’t a model of flashiness, but they’re working well enough. For now, at least.

Stephen Curry says Warriors can “send a statement” by not going to White House

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It’s been a simmering topic all offseason: Will the Golden State Warriors — a team with a coach and several players who have publicly criticized President Donald Trump — make the traditional champions visit to the White House?

The first question is will they be invited? As of this point, that has not happened, according to the team.

However, this is something the Warriors plan to discuss and vote on as a team, coach Steve Kerr said. Stephen Curry was clear he plans to vote “no.”

Curry was more clear ESPN’s The Jump with Rachel Nichols.

“Obviously, you don’t wanna rush to a decision on understanding the magnitude of what this means. We have an opportunity to send a statement that hopefully encourages unity, encourages us to appreciate what it means to be American, and stand for something. So whatever your opinion is on either side, that’s what we wanna take advantage of this opportunity…

(Nichols asks if the statement would be not going): Yeah, for me, that’s gonna be my vote when we meet with the team. But it is a collective, it’s not just me, it’s not just KD, it’s about the whole team and what we were able to accomplish as a team, and the opportunity that has historically been afforded to championship teams. So we’ll have that conversation obviously, and we’ll do it as a group, and we’ll have one voice.

Some sports figures did not attend the traditional White House event in the past when Barack Obama was president (even if Tom Brady wants to deny that’s why he bailed), but teams have not skipped it.

There is a philosophical question here: If one opposes the president’s policies/actions, do you make more of a statement by skipping the event or going and saying something while there? What the Warriors know (having done these before) is this is just a feel-good photo-op event designed to make the president look good (whichever president). It’s a pure PR event, like the president welcoming the girl who sold the most Girl Scout cookies or something similar.  The president shakes hands and makes a couple of jokes, the team gives him a jersey with his name on it, and photos are taken. It’s not a place for serious discussion and statements, traditionally. The Warriors can either upend tradition by saying something while there, or they can just decide not to play the game.

It sounds like they are leaning toward the latter.

Which begs the question, will the Warriors even get an invite?

Report: Gerald Green to sign with Milwaukee for training camp (at least)

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How good is the hot chocolate at the BMO Harris Bradley Center?

I ask because it appears Gerald Green is going to be playing in Milwaukee, at least for training camp, according to Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Free-agent swingman Gerald Green has agreed on a contract with the Milwaukee Bucks, league sources told The Vertical.

Green will sign a non-guaranteed deal for training camp and is expected to compete for a regular-season roster spot. Milwaukee has looked to add depth at the wing positions, bringing Green and veteran guard Brandon Rush to camp.

The Bucks have 14 guaranteed contracts, so it is Rush vs. Green for that final roster spot. Green played solidly last season in Boston despite inconsistent minutes, but was not brought back as the Celtics revamped their roster. Green shot 35.1 percent from three last season, can play decent defense, and is a good veteran presence on a team with young players.

As for why I asked about the hot chocolate…

Draymond Green: I laughed in Kevin Durant’s face over Twitter fiasco

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Kevin Durant said he hasn’t slept in two days and isn’t eating due to his Twitter fiasco.

Draymond Green – who was mocked by his Team USA teammates, including Durant, over his own Snapchat snafu – said he got revenge.

Anthony Slater of The Athletic:

Green:

It’s a little payback. I stood right there, over there, laughing in his face. And it felt pretty damn good, too.

The Warriors’ chemistry is either in a touchy spot or light years ahead.

Report: Former No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett signing with Suns

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Getting cut by the NBA-worst Nets was a low point for former No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett, but at least he had a guaranteed salary and got paid out through the end of the year.

That won’t be the case with the Suns.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

This is a no-risk flier for Phoenix. If Bennett plays well enough in the preseason, the 24-year-old will make the regular season roster. If not, the Suns won’t owe him anything.

Bennett has a chance to stick. Phoenix has just 13 players with guaranteed salaries, leaving two standard-contract spots open on the regular-season roster. Bennett will compete with Derrick Jones Jr., Elijah Millsap, Peter Jok and anyone else the Suns sign.

I don’t love Bennett’s odds. He hasn’t looked like an NBA player, and he’s reaching the age where current production matters more than potential. But by virtue of being the top pick a few years ago, he carries more intrigue than the typical player of his caliber.