Author: Kurt Helin

Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart hits game-winning putback in OT, puts Celtics back in playoffs for now (VIDEO)


That is the ultimate case of right place, right time.

Boston and Toronto had gone into overtime north of the border and both teams needed a win as the fight for playoff positioning. Down one with 2.6 seconds left, Celtics coach Brad Stevens drew up a play that was all Isaiah Thomas — he started his run back at the opposing free throw line and so when he got the inbounds pass he already had a full head of steam and he attacked the rim hard. Lou Williams was running with him and James Johnson slid over to help. Thomas threw up a prayer looking for the foul.

That prayer was answered by Marcus Smart, who had crashed the board on the opposite side and put back what was officially a missed shot. Although it looked almost like a pass. Either way he nailed it as the clock expired.

The win moved Boston into the playoffs, pushing them ahead of Miami into the eight seed. It was an entertaining game with Williams, DeMar DeRozan and even Evan Turner hitting big shot after big shot. Smart just hit the biggest one of them all.

Rockets, Grizzlies tied for second, Pelicans running down Thunder; West playoff races are the best

Glen Davis, Tim Duncan, Aron Baynes

There are just a dozen nights left in the NBA regular season, and you’d like to think the playoff situation is settling into place.

For example, the Golden State Warriors have locked up the top seed in the West.

After that, however, the West is still wide open. Let’s take a look.

No. 1 seed: As previously mentioned, the Golden State Warriors have officially secured up the top spot. They will have home court throughout the Western Conference playoffs.

No. 2-3 seeds: After an impressive win by Memphis over Oklahoma City on Friday night, this is currently a tie between Memphis and OKC. These two teams likely finish 2-3 (the Clippers are two games back and could move into the discussion, but they need some help). Memphis has the slightly easier remaining six games — both teams have three games on the road but the Rockets have a home-and-home against the Spurs remaining. The key for Houston is Sunday against the Thunder. For Memphis,  their big test starts on the road Friday at Utah, followed by more road games against the Clippers and Warriors.

No. 4-6 seeds: The Clippers, Spurs and Trail Blazers are all in this mix and could still finish in any order. Well, not any order, Portland will be the four seed as the winners of the Northwest Division, however, they do not get home court in the first round if the five seed as the better record. Los Angeles and San Antonio are tied at 50-26, with Portland half a game back. The Spurs have the toughest schedule the rest of the way so if you’re betting they may be the team to bet against. That said, they are the Spurs. This is still a crap shoot.

No. 7 seed: Dallas is  locked in here. I mean, they could fall out of it mathematically, but don’t bet on it.

No. 8 seed: Just days ago this seemed like a lock for Oklahoma City, but a couple of losses while New Orleans stays hot, and the Pelicans are just half a game back entering Saturday. The Pelicans have the much tougher schedule the rest of the way, so Russell Westbrook and company should have the advantage over Anthony Davis and company. But the Pelicans have seemed out of it before, be careful betting against them.

Bismack Biyombo bounces Ian Mahinmi out of way, throws down on him (VIDEO)

Charlotte Hornets v Indiana Pacers

Usually, it’s Bismack Biyombo trying to reject guys at the rim. But Friday night it was Biyombo attacking the rim and Ian Mahinmi of the Pacers trying to get in his way.

Score this round for Biyombo. He just bounces Mahinmi out of the way and dunks all over him.

Mahinmi and the Pacers had the last laugh, getting a much-needed win 93-74.

Jamal Crawford returns to Clippers practice, reportedly could play Tuesday

Jamal Crawford
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The Clippers have won 10 of their last 13 games, yet they haven’t gotten the respect from all quarters they believe they deserve as contenders. Part of it is that their defense hasn’t been very consistent — they picked up a dramatic win over Portland this week because Chris Paul dropped 41 and they just outscored the Blazers, not because they could get stops.

The other issue is depth. As in they don’t have any.

But they could pick up a little help soon, as Jamal Crawford — last season’s Sixth Man of the Year — has returned to practice following his calf injury. From Arash Markazi of ESPN.

Also, Doc Rivers may return to a well he is plenty familiar with.

Robinson isn’t a playoff answer, but he’s better than their other options (Austin Rivers, for one).

The real challenge for the Clippers lack of depth in the playoffs isn’t minutes as much — you can play Chris Paul and Blake Griffin more — but the lack of versatility. All the weapons that Golden State or San Antonio have is it means they can attack you in a variety of ways, the Clippers are more predictable. That can be trouble in a seven-game series.

In the West, the little things will matter, and getting Crawford back is more than a little thing for the Clippers.

John Wall joins Michelle Obama’s Gimme Five Challenge

Miami Heat v Washington Wizards
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Michelle Obama has taken on childhood obesity as an issue — and it’s a crucial one, as any parent (and in my case wife of a teacher, too) can tell you. Here latest part of that is the #GimmeFive campaign — she’s challenging people to name five ways they are leading a healthy life.

John Wall is leading a healthy lifestyle — he talked to PBT about having a personal chef and watching what he eats now as part of an improved conditioning program — and he jumped in the campaign. He and fellow Wizard Garrett Temple did a little dancing.

No, not the Dougie.

Good for him, the more people on board with the campaign, the better.