Associated Press

Damian Lillard scores 27 as Trail Blazers start fast, top Hawks 113-97

Leave a comment

ATLANTA (AP) — Damian Lillard scored 27 points and the Portland Trail Blazers took control with a dominant opening quarter to beat the Atlanta Hawks 113-97 on Saturday night.

C.J. McCollum had 22 points and Allen Crabbe added 16 for Portland, which raced out to a 17-3 lead and never trailed.

The Trail Blazers, who have won seven of nine, began the night 2 1/2 games behind Denver for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot.

The Hawks have lost three straight, including the last two at home.

Atlanta held out four-time All-Star forward Paul Millsap after he experienced tightness in his left knee during pregame warmups. Ersan Ilyasova, who started for Millsap, had 23 points. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 22.

The Trail Blazers took command with a strong start, making 11 of their first 12 shots from the field. A jumper by Lillard pushed the advantage to 32-12, and Portland outscored the Hawks 40-18 in the quarter – its biggest margin in any period this season.

Atlanta’s Dwight Howard drew a technical foul after he swung his elbow and Jusuf Nurkic hit the floor midway through the third period. Nurkic was left sitting on the court, rubbing his chin. Officials called the technical following a review of the play.

The Hawks twice cut the deficit to 11 early in the fourth, including at 89-78 following a layup by Malcolm Delaney. The Trail Blazers quickly answered with a layup by McCollum.

Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer immediately called a timeout, charged onto the court and confronted Howard, apparently about the center’s lack of defense on the play.

Howard remained in the game, but the Hawks’ comeback attempt never regained its momentum. Lillard had a 3-pointer and three free throws in a 10-0 run that increased the lead to 101-80.

TIP-INS

Trail Blazers: Portland forward Evan Turner had two points and eight rebounds in 18 minutes after missing 14 games with a broken right hand. The Blazers were 7-7 without Turner, who got hurt on Feb. 7. Turner entered with 3:35 remaining in the first quarter. He played with a protective pad covering part of his right hand. … Instead of returning to Portland, the Trail Blazers flew to Atlanta following Wednesday night’s 110-106 win at San Antonio. … Noah Vonleh had 10 points and 10 rebounds. Nurkic had 12 points and nine rebounds.

Hawks: Howard had 14 points and 10 rebounds. … Ilyasova hit two 3-pointers for six of Atlanta’s first eight points. … The Hawks tried to recover from their woeful 4-for-25 first quarter by shooting 60 percent (12 of 20) in the second. Even so, they outscored the Trail Blazers only 28-23 and still trailed 63-46 at halftime. … Kent Bazemore left in the fourth quarter with a bruised right knee.

 

Report: Pacers bring back Lance Stephenson in time for playoffs; deal for three-years, $12 million

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Indiana Pacers need healthy bodies for their playoff run, and they had three rotation guys injured between Al Jefferson, Glenn Robinson III, and Rodney Stuckey. Wednesday, the Pacers waived Stuckey to create an open roster spot to bring in some help (they were not going to pick up his option for next season anyway).

Who are they bringing in? The prodigal son Lance Stephenson returns, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

The surprising part of the deal was the security Stephenson got, as first reported by Adam Zagoria at his blog — three years, $12 million, with a player option for the final year. (This has since been confirmed by other sources.) Other teams were looking at giving Stephenson a 10-day contract, the length of the Pacers’ offer is a surprise.

Stephenson played in six games for Minnesota recently, averaging 3.5 points per game off the bench, but an ankle sprain kept the Timberwolves from really having to decide whether to keep him for the season. Stephenson knows how to create shots for himself and can be a good defender when focused, something we saw with the Pelicans at the start of this season — he became a key part of their rotation averaging 9.7 points and 4.8 assists per game until he tore his groin.

It’s a little strange to see him back in Pacers colors. It will be particularly strange if the Pacers stay in the seven seed and the Cavaliers remain the two-seed setting up a first-round playoff series. Because I don’t think any of us need to see this again.

source:

Tuesday’s win gives Wizards first division crown since 1979

Associated Press
Leave a comment

Divisions are almost forgotten in the NBA. They exist still as quaint reminders of days gone by, but they don’t matter other than as a potential tie breaker with a non-division-winning team. Winning your division doesn’t even guarantee a team a playoff spot anymore.

Yet, the last time Washington had won a division title they were in the Atlantic division and when you turned on the radio you were likely to hear that new hit Heart Of Glass by Blondie. It was 1979.

That was until Tuesday when John Wall led a 13-point comeback in the fourth quarter against the Lakers to get the Wizards the win and the SouthEast division title.

According to CBSSports.com, that 38-year division title drought was longer than any team in any major U.S. professional sports — NHL, NFL, and MLB.

Congrats to the Wizards. They also have locked up home court in the first round, and they are currently the No. 3 seed in the playoffs (who they face in the first round is up in the air still as only three games separate seeds five through nine).

With Scott Brooks at the helm this feels like a far more dangerous — and healthy — team heading into the postseason. Wizards fans have waited a lot time for a team like this.

Report: Pacers waive Rodney Stuckey, will likely add player before playoffs

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Rodney Stuckey was having a down year for the Pacers when he was healthy, averaging 7.2 points and 2.2 assists per game, with a well below average 48.3 true shooting percentage. Stuckey also was not healthy often, playing in just 39 games.

The Pacers are banged up — Glenn Robinson III and Al Jefferson are hurt — and need a healthy body on the roster for the playoffs, plus they weren’t going to pick up Stuckey’s $7 million option for next season anyway, so they chose to wave him Wednesday, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports.

The question now is who the Pacers bring in to fill that spot. With Jefferson down, do they lean on someone they know in Tyler Hansbrough? Is there someone out of the D-League or free agent pool that intrigues them?

The Pacers need to do something to start winning some games and making Paul George happy.

Paul George on Pacers after loss: “No sense of urgency, no winning pride”

Associated Press
6 Comments

Indiana still has a 75 percent chance of making the playoffs (according to fivethirtyeight.com), they are two games clear of the nine seed with seven games to play.

But they fell to that seventh seed with a loss to Minnesota on Tuesday night, an evening that Atlanta, Milwaukee, and Miami all won. Chicago is the nine seed right now, lurking with its soft schedule, and looking for another team to slip up, and in a key game Indiana did.

The Pacers lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves Tuesday night despite being at home and having a nine-point lead midway through the fourth quarter. Indy had no answer for Karl-Anthony Towns, who dropped 37. Paul George had 37 points as well, and afterwards pissed and frustrated would be good words to describe his mood. Here’s his quote, via Nate Taylor at the Indy Star.

“We should have a professional approach, man, and defend our home court, especially to a team that’s not even in the playoffs,” George said of losing to the Timberwolves (29-44). “That’s what it comes down to. As a team, we’ve got to have a grit and we’ve got to own up, man up….

“There’s no urgency, no sense of urgency, no winning pride,” he said. “This locker room is just not pissed off enough.”

If you don’t have urgency playing for your playoff lives with seven games left in the season, when will you have it?

Yes, this was a frustrated George venting after a loss. However, it also points again to the challenges Larry Bird and the Pacer front office have this summer — George wants to win, wants to play for a contender. Or if not that, maybe in his hometown. If George doesn’t make an All-NBA team (he likely just misses out, forward is a stacked position in the league right now) and the Pacers can’t offer him a “designated player” max, Indiana needs to put a contender around him, or consider trading him so they don’t lose him for nothing in a year. Both of those options present challenges come July.

In the short term, the Pacers need to make the playoffs. Even if they do, play like this against the Cavaliers (their current first-round matchup) or any of the other top-four teams in the East and Indy’s stay in the postseason will be short and uneventful.