Kurt Helin

Associated Press

Cavaliers to rest LeBron James against Pacers Wednesday night

2 Comments

The Indiana Pacers just caught a break.

The Pacers are trying to secure a playoff spot — they are the seven seed in the East, two-and-a-half games up on the nine seed Bulls — but faced their toughest test the rest of the season Wednesday when they take on the Cavaliers. Except, now the Cavaliers are going to be missing one key player.

This gives LeBron the chance to do a little more coaching.

While the Cavaliers still have Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and the rest of the roster available Cleveland is just 1-3 this season without LeBron.

The Pacers were likely to make the playoffs anyway — they close the season with the Nets, Knicks, and Bucks, all winnable games. Plus the Bulls just suck.

In theory, if the Cavaliers lost every remaining game and the Raptors won out Toronto could get the top seed, but that’s not happening. Cleveland will get the top seed, and more rest for LeBron heading into the playoffs is a good thing.

Tony Parker says Spurs may play everyone in games against Warriors

Getty Images
7 Comments

Predicting what Gregg Popovich will do next is a fool’s errand. You’d have better odds on that oversized Wheel of Fortune in the front of a Vegas casino they try to sucker the tourists into playing.

Popovich has rested a lot of key players lately, but he suited everyone up Monday night for a potential first-round playoff preview against Utah (which the Spurs won on a Kawhi Leonard jumper). That got Tony Parker thinking: Maybe Popovich will play everyone Thursday night when the Spurs take on the Warriors in Oracle Arena. Here’s what the French point guard told ESPN.

“I think we’ll play,” Parker said. “Utah, I thought he was going to rest everybody. But we played Utah, so I don’t see any reason we’re not playing Golden State.”

That goes against the conventional wisdom that Popovich would rest key players — if not all the key players — Thursday night in Oracle. The teams then face off again Sunday in San Antonio.

In theory, if the Spurs win both those head-to-head matchups and the Warriors lose one of their other two games — both against the depleted Grizzles — the Spurs could tie the Warriors at 70 wins and get the top seed on a tiebreaker. But I find it hard to believe Popovich is betting on that.

My guess is Popovich will rest players — maybe not all, but some — in these two games. First, let the Warriors continue to tire themselves out going for 73 wins.  Second, get your older core players more rest. Finally, leave the last taste in the Warriors’ mouths of these two teams in a serious game as the one the Spurs won in San Antonio last month.

But I wouldn’t bet a penny on my predictions of what Popovich will do.

Quincy Acy deflects pass — while on bench. That’s not allowed.

3 Comments

You don’t see a lot of bench interference calls in the NBA.

Sacramento’s Quincy Acy earned one Tuesday night against Portland. It wasn’t intentional. The Blazers were inbounding the ball on the baseline in the corner near the Sacramento bench. You can see Acy calling out and trying to point out to DeMarcus Cousins that a player had slid behind him near the basket — but Acy was reaching out in front of him just as the inbounder tried to throw his pass, and it hit Acy’s outstretched arm. The ball caromed to Cousins, but the referees correctly blew the play dead.

Yes, that’s a foul.

Five takeaways from NBA Tuesday: Should Warriors think rest not record?

Getty Images
6 Comments

What you missed from a night around the NBA while cooking breakfast for yourself and 10,000 of your closest friends….

1) Warriors blow lead at home and lose to Timberwolves, should Steve Kerr start thinking rest over record?
I know that Steve Kerr said the Warriors are not pushing for 73 wins. I know after Tuesday’s loss Kerr denied that fatigue was an issue and part of the reason they have lost two-of-three at home. But the reality is the Warriors have been sloppy with the ball of late — 23 against the Timberwolves Tuesday — and if Stephen Curry‘s shooting can’t bail them out (21 points on 25 shots Tuesday, 0-of-8 in the first half) they are vulnerable. Curry looks tired to me, and that’s why the shots aren’t falling. Which brings us to the issue of rest.

It’s not necessarily physical, but Draymond Green admitted the team has seemingly been distracted by the chase for 73 wins — a number that will be hard to reach after the Warriors blew a 17-point lead and fell to Minnesota in overtime 124-117 Tuesday. Golden State is now 69-9 and would need to go 4-0 the rest of the way to break the record. They have two games left against beat up Memphis, and two left against the Spurs. But if they are serious about winning a title, a little mental break and some rest before the playoffs start may be what the team needs.

The Warriors finally got healthy Tuesday — Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut were back — but the bench had its worst outing in recent memory. The Warriors defense was not sharp all night, allowing open looks and space for drives — particularly by Andrew Wiggins, who had 32 points on 11-of-19 shooting. Curry and the offense could not cover up that play one more time, not against an improving Timberwolves team. The Warriors need to get right before the games get more serious in a couple of weeks, and if rest is part of that it should come as a higher priority than a regular season wins record.

2) Bulls playoff dreams on life support after loss to Grizzlies (while Memphis’ look solid again). Let’s be honest: The Chicago Bulls are not making the playoffs. Chicago is two games back of Detroit with four to play — and the Pistons have the tiebreaker. Chicago would need to win out — including beating Cleveland and Miami the rest of this week — and hope the Pistons lose three out of four so Chicago can get in the postseason. While technically not impossible, that’s not happening.

That’s the reality of Chicago’s 108-92 loss to Memphis Tuesday. Jimmy Butler is trying to play through pain but is clearly not right (2-of-8 shooting for 5 points), Derrick Rose is never going to be the guy who can carry a team again, Pau Gasol is solid but at age 35 is past his prime, and the Bulls defense is terrible. That’s not a playoff team.

The win ends Memphis’ six-game losing streak and should stop talk of them falling out of the playoffs — the Grizzlies are 3.5 games up on nine-seed Houston with four to play. Zach Randolph‘s 27 points and 10 boards secured the crucial win. That said, the banged up Grizzlies are the team everyone in the top half of the West would prefer to play in the first round of the playoffs, this team is a shell of its former self.

3) Kawhi Leonard hits the game winner as Spurs edge Jazz. Utah is a feisty team that will not go quietly, something the Spurs — the full complement of Spurs, the big names all played — learned the hard way Tuesday night. Utah fought from 16 back to make it a game, but in the end, there was Leonard hitting the contested shot to win the game. This could be a first round series preview, and if so I’ll take it — this would be a fun matchup.

4) This year’s Sixers will not be the worst team in NBA history, win 10th game. The Sixers are bad — 10-68 on the season — but they are not historically bad. Which is something, I guess. Tuesday the Sixers beat what’s left of the injury-ravaged Pelican’s roster 107-93 thanks to 22 points from Carl Landry. That gives the Sixers 10 wins on the season, better than the all-time low for an 82-game season (9-73 by the 1972-73 76ers). Not sure that’s a reason to throw a party, but avoiding ignominy is a good thing.

5) Another day, another Russell Westbrook triple double. Westbrook now has 17 triple doubles on the season, after grabbing another — 13 points, 14 rebounds, 12 assists — in the Thunder’s 124-102 win against Denver. As I noted in the last PBT Podcast, Westbrook would be second on my MVP ballot, he’s been that special this season.

Zach Randolph’s double-double leads Grizzlies past Bulls, 108-92

Getty Images
Leave a comment

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The Memphis Grizzlies solidified their grip on a Western Conference playoff spot, while the Chicago Bulls saw their postseason chances slip further away.

Despite missing several key players, the Grizzlies forced the Bulls out of their offense, stymied Chicago’s leading scorer and captured a 108-92 victory on Tuesday night.

Memphis snapped a six-game losing streak and remained in the Western Conference’s fifth playoff spot.

“It was a great win,” said Zach Randolph, who led the Grizzlies with 27 points and 10 rebounds. “We’ve been searching, and we’ve been desperate for a win.”

Vince Carter added 17 points as Memphis displayed a strong defense missing in recent games. The Bulls, who had won three of four, never got the deficit under double digits in the fourth quarter of a loss that damaged their playoff hopes.

Chicago remained two games behind the Detroit Pistons for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Pistons lost 107-89 at Miami.

“It was very disappointing to throw away an opportunity like this, especially with Detroit losing,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said.

Nikola Mirotic led Chicago with 20 points, going 6 of 9 from 3-point range. Pau Gasol had 17 points and 10 rebounds.

Derrick Rose had 12 points and eight assists, while Bobby Portis also finished with 12 points.

“They just played like they wanted to get into the playoffs,” Rose said of the Grizzlies. He added he was baffled by the Bulls’ lack of effort.

“I think everyone was surprised,” Rose said. “I still can’t believe it.”

Data curated by PointAfter

Bulls leading scorer Jimmy Butler was held scoreless through three quarters before finishing with five points, converting only 2-of-8 shots and missing all four shots outside the arc.

The Grizzlies caused 20 Chicago turnovers, leading to 38 Memphis points. Tony Allen, who guarded Butler much of the night, had four of Memphis’ 13 steals in the game.

“We know he’s prolific,” Allen said of Butler. “I thought I tried to limit his touches. . I just locked in, keyed in and tried my best to compete for the whole 48 minutes. Well, the minutes I was out there.”

Matt Barnes scored 16 points, and Jordan Farmar had a season-high 15 for Memphis, which has stumbled down the stretch, playing without key starters Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, both done for the season.

Memphis, which led by as many as 22 in the third quarter, still held a 91-70 lead after a pair of free throws from JaMychal Green with 8:45 left. But the Bulls clicked off the game’s next 10 points to make it interesting. Mirotic’s 3-pointer near the 6-minute mark capped the run and made it 91-80.

That was as close as the Bulls could get.

“If we come out and play like that every game,” Randolph said, “we give ourselves a chance to win even with the circumstances of our team.”

TIP-INS:

Bulls: Rose, who missed his previous two games with a left elbow contusion, played 35 minutes. … F Taj Gibson missed his fourth game with a rib contusion. E'Twaun Moore missed his second with a left hamstring injury. … It marked only the fourth time this season Butler was held under double digits. … The Bulls are in danger of missing the postseason for the first time since the 2007-08 season.

Grizzlies: Memphis avoided its first seven-game losing streak since November, 2009. … Randolph recorded his 17th double-double of the season. … Memphis reserve G Lance Stephenson, a contributor of late, did not play (coach’s decision). … The win assured Memphis of its sixth straight winning season.

RARE ROSE APPEARANCE

Rose, who played one season at the University of Memphis, made a rare road appearance against the Grizzlies. In his previous seven seasons, Rose played only twice in Memphis, during the 2011-12 season and his rookie year of 2008-09.

SPEAKING OF APPEARANCES

Pau wasn’t the only Gasol in the building. Marc Gasol, who is out for the season with a right foot fracture, was shown on the scoreboard sitting in a suite during the first half. It was the first time Gasol has been seen at a game since he injured the foot Feb. 8 against Portland.