Associated Press

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.

Victor Oladipo’s practice dunk better than anything he – or maybe anyone – did in dunk contest (video)

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Victor Oladipo has grown into far more than just a dunker.

In fact, in Saturday’s dunk contest, he didn’t look like a dunker at all.

The Pacers star missed all three attempts of his first dunk, and a Black Panther mask was by far the biggest draw of his second. Oladipo was eliminated after the first round.

Maybe Dennis Smith Jr. wasn’t the only eliminated dunker who left something in his bag. This Oladipo dunk – 180 degrees, throwing ball off the backboard with his left hand while in mid-air, dunking with his right hand – while preparing in Los Angeles was awesome.

Larry Nance Jr. had the contest’s best dunk. This would have rivaled it.

Pelicans owner Tom Benson hospitalized with flu symptoms

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METAIRIE, La. (AP) — New Orleans Saints and Pelicans Owner Tom Benson has been hospitalized with flu symptoms.

A statement released Wednesday by the NFL and NBA clubs says their 90-year-old owner is resting comfortably at Ochsner Medical Center, a hospital which also serves as a major sponsor and which owns naming rights to the teams’ training headquarters.

Benson has owned the New Orleans Saints since 1985 and bought the New Orleans Pelicans in 2012.

In recent years, Benson has overhauled his estate plan so that his third wife, Gayle, would be first in line to inherit control of the two major professional franchises.

 

Report: Seattle hosting Kings-Warriors preseason game

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Kevin Durant spent his rookie season in Seattle, before the SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder. He has said Seattle fans deserved to see him grow up in the NBA after supporting his promising start.

They’ll get their chance.

Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee:

The Kings and Golden State Warriors have scheduled a preseason game next season in Seattle, according to multiple league sources.

The Oct. 6 meeting between Northern California teams will be the first NBA game in the Key Arena since the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City after the 2007-08 season and became the Thunder.

This game will be loaded with storylines. Not only Durant, but the Kings considered moving to Seattle a few years ago. And of course, the return of NBA basketball to Seattle.

At some point, Seattle will get its own team again. For now, this preseason game creates intrigue there.

Report: Kawhi Leonard cleared medically, seeking second opinion

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he’d be surprised if Kawhi Leonard played again this season, a stark reversal from just a month ago. Back then, even while announcing Leonard was out indefinitely with a quad injury, the San Antonio coach said Leonard wouldn’t miss the rest of the season.

What’s going on?

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

After spending 10 days before the All-Star break in New York consulting with a specialist to gather a second opinion on his right quad injury, All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard bears the burden of determining when he’s prepared to play again, sources told ESPN.

Leonard has been medically cleared to return from the right quad tendinopathy injury, but since shutting down a nine-game return to the Spurs that ended Jan. 13, he has elected against returning to the active roster, sources said.

The uncertainty surrounding this season — and Leonard’s future which could include free agency in the summer of 2019 — has inspired a palpable stress around the organization, league sources said.

At first glance, this sounds like Derrick Rose five years ago. Even after he was cleared to play following a torn ACL, the then-Bulls star remained mysterious about when he’d suit up. His confidence in his physical abilities seemed to be a major issue, and he was never the same player since (suffering more leg injuries).

But the Spurs famously favor resting players to preserve long-term health. They seem unlikely to rush back Leonard. They might even sit players who want to play more often. And Leonard isn’t Rose.

Still, it’s clear something is amiss in San Antonio. Maybe not amiss enough to end Leonard’s tenure there, but the longer this lingers, the more time for tension to percolate.