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Three Things We Learned Thursday: Another Celtics’ loss hurts dream of No. 1 seed

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If you were busy Thursday night planning your summer vacation to go hunt the Loch Ness monster, and that kept you from watching the action around the NBA, don’t worry we’ve got your back. Here are the big takeaways from Thursday night.

1) Boston loses to Atlanta, making the dream of No. 1 seed look like a long shot. After the Celtics had been routed by the Cavaliers Wednesday night, it was going to take some Irish luck to get the No. 1 seed in the East back. Boston basically needed to win out, then get some help by having someone else beat Cleveland.

The first part of that fell apart Thursday night — Boston fell behind early to Atlanta and went on to lose 123-116. To the Celtics’ credit they fought back and got within a couple of possessions in the fourth, Brad Stevens got to play around with lineups and maybe found something that works. If nothing else, Isaiah Thomas and Paul Millsap put on a show.

With this loss, the Celtics are 1.5 games back of the Cavaliers now. But even finishing with the two seed is not bad, Boston will face a first-round matchup they should win (against whom is hard to say, the bottom of the East is still up in the air), then will come a tough second-round series against Washington or Toronto (they would have had to face one of them anyway). Boston has still had a season where Brad Stevens has gotten them to overachieve, they are just not going to get the one seed.

For Atlanta, the win put them half a game ahead of the Hawks in the battle for the five seed.

2) Chicago, Indiana help their playoff causes with wins. The bottom of the East is still the most interesting race as the season winds down — 1.5 games separates the six-seed Bucks from the nine-seed Heat. Anything can happen, which is why every team in that race needs wins.

Chicago and Indiana helped themselves with their victories Thursday night.

The Bulls got a triple-double from Jimmy Butler — — and Nikola Mirotic added 22 as the Bulls beat the Sixers. Add in a soft schedule the rest of the way and the expected return of Dwyane Wade this weekend, and things are looking up for the Bulls.

Indiana had a much tougher matchup but got 23 from Paul George and the Pacers handled the Bucks easily, 104-89. Those wins move the Pacers and the Bulls to 39-40, half a game ahead of Miami, which has a tough game against Toronto on Friday.

3) Highlight of the night: The end of Matthew Dellavedova as we knew him. Indiana’s Jeff Teague stopped up, and that’s when Dellavedova went down like there was a sniper in the building.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.

How to start your Saturday night: Watching 15 minutes of best plays from NBA season

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There are no NBA playoff games Saturday night, the first night since the start of the postseason there hasn’t been one game. Don’t worry, there are two games on Sunday, including Game 7 between the Jazz and Clippers.

But if you need a Saturday night fix, this will have to do: 15 minutes of the best plays from last season, as compiled by NBA.com.

Go ahead, watch it. You’ve got nothing better to do.

 

Paul Millsap says the expected, he will “most likely” opt out of contract

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This is ranked right next to “overeating can lead to weight gain” on the list of surprising things, but we will dutifully report it anyway:

Paul Millsap is going to opt out and officially become a free agent this summer.

Atlanta’s owner as well as Mike Budenholzer, the coach and head of basketball operations, have both said they plan to do whatever it takes to re-sign Millsap with the Hawks. Millsap didn’t sound like someone eager to leave after the Hawks were eliminated from the playoffs Friday.

“It’s been great. I’m looking to expand this and see where the franchise can go. These last four years has been great. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Even with both sides singing Kumbaya, keeping Millsap in Atlanta likely means a five-year contract at or near the max, which for a 32-year-old player means the Hawks would regret the last year or two of that deal.

Not that the Hawks have much of a choice here, they have to come in big and keep him. For one, they can’t afford to lose Al Horford and then Millsap for nothing in back-to-back years. If they were going down the rebuilding road, they needed to trade Millsap at the deadline (or last summer) to make sure they got something in return. Atlanta explored trade options at the deadline, but then pulled back (rumored to be because of an edict from ownership, which didn’t want to see the team blown up after the Kyle Korver trade).

By not making that trade the Hawks signaled their intention to remain a good team — a 43-win team this season that got them the five seed — with Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard, one that draws well at an arena that historically has not been that full, and see if they can add on. They strike me as a team that will win between 42-50 games a year and be middle of the pack in the East for the next few years, unless they can find a way to add an elite player (which is incredibly difficult).

But if the Hawks can’t re-sign Millsap, then the plan gets blown up. So expect them to come in with a big offer come July 1.