For the last three games, the Hawks have been without Kyle Korver, who suffered a broken nose against the Lakers on March 15. But on Sunday, head coach Mike Budenholzer announced that the first-time All-Star will play and start against the Spurs:
Kyle Korver will play and start today vs. Spurs. #ATLHawks
Even though the Hawks have the Southeast Division clinched and the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference all but locked up, Korver’s return is good news. It makes Sunday afternoon’s game even more of a must-watch than it already was, given that the Hawks’ offense has been compared extensively to the Spurs’, where Budenholzer was an assistant under Gregg Popovich for 18 years before joining the Hawks. And there’s a chance this series could be a Finals preview.
Cavaliers clinch playoff spot with win over Pacers
And with LeBron James plus an improving defense, they may be the team to beat.
The Cavaliers became the second team to clinch a playoff spot when they knocked off the Indiana Pacers 95-92 Friday night. The Cavaliers are the two seed (the top seed Hawks are the other team to clinch), the loss made the Pacers the nine seed and put 12.5 games between them with a dozen games left.
LeBron had 29 points and seven boards to lead the way.
Since LeBron came back from a couple weeks off to get his mind and body right — plus a couple trades to bring in Timofey Mozgov and Iman Shumpert to improve Cleveland’s defense — the Cavaliers have been as good as anyone in the East. They are 11-4 in their last 15 games, with the best offense in the NBA in that stretch at 110.4 points per 100 possessions. They have outscored opponents by more than 8 points per 100 possessions in that stretch.
And the Cavs just seem to be getting better.
The Hawks are legit — you could see the last couple games how much they miss Kyle Korver and his work on the weak side — and even with that improved defense the Cavaliers are still 18th in the NBA in defensive efficiency in the last 15 games. Yes, their defense was that bad early in the season. They still are not great on that end.
But they may be good enough to come out of the East. At least we know they are going to get a chance to prove it.
Warriors take down Hawks comfortably in battle of NBA’s top teams
Was this an NBA Finals preview? Maybe, although the Cleveland Cavaliers and seven other teams from the West will have something to say about that.
It was a meeting of the teams with the two best records in the NBA this season, and round two easily went to the Golden State Warriors 114-95. That evens the series after Atlanta won the first meeting on its home court six weeks ago (although that first meeting was close and entertaining).
Golden State led most of the way, taking a small lead in the first quarter and expanding it to a dozen by the half, 59-47. Then the Warriors’ bench helped spark a 14-3 run late in the third quarter that turned this into a route. This became a party at Oracle Arena, a celebration of just how good the Warriors are when their offense — the top rated in the NBA — gets rolling. It was dunks, it was three-pointers, it was Stephen Curry whipping a behind-the-back pass to Leandro Barbosa for a corner three. In the end, Harison Barnes led Golden State with 25 points while Andre Iguodala pitched in 21.
Both teams were without key parts: Golden State’s Klay Thompson is out with a sprained ankle, Atlanta sharpshooter Kyle Korver will miss a few more games with a broken nose. You can dismiss this game as a one-off if you wish. Know that if there is a Finals matchup the Warriors will not dispatch the Hawks quite so easily.
What I do know is if this is a Finals preview I’m okay with that — that matchup would be entertaining.
Kyle Korver to miss at least Hawks’ next three games with broken nose
Kyle Korver broke his nose on Sunday night in the Hawks’ win over the Lakers, and the team has announced that he will miss at least their next three games after undergoing a procedure to repair the injury.
From the Hawks’ press release:
Hawks guard Kyle Korver suffered a broken nose in last night’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers. He underwent a procedure to repair his nose today at the Osborne Head and Neck Institute in Los Angeles, performed by Dr. Jason Hamilton, and was fitted for a custom protective mask. Korver will miss the next three games, including tonight at Sacramento, and his status will be updated as appropriate.
The Hawks, who have a 52-14 record and are the only team in the NBA to have clinched a playoff spot already, play the Kings on Monday night and then have a much-anticipated rematch with the Western Conference-leading Warriors on Wednesday. Korver will also be out for Friday’s game against the Thunder in Oklahoma City. If he misses additional time, he’ll be out on Sunday against the Spurs as well.
The Hawks are fine for now, since they have a 10-game lead over the second-place Cavs for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. It’s highly unlikely that they lose that ground, and head coach Mike Budenholzer has already started resting players anyway. As long as Korver’s injury doesn’t linger into the playoffs, and it shouldn’t, there’s nothing to worry about here.
Marc Gasol no fan of being rested. Even if he needs it.
It’s that time of the season in the NBA where key players are rested for a game or three to make sure they are healthy, and their legs are fresh for the playoffs. Well, for Gregg Popovich that time of the season started in November but the rest of the league is catching up. The Hawks rested key guys against the Lakers (Kyle Korver wanted to sit so bad he broke his nose) but they still won. The Warriors rested all their key guys against the surging Nuggets, and Steve Kerr was willing to sacrifice the game (Denver won). LeBron James said he’d like more rest.
“No, I don’t like rest,” Gasol said. “It’s not my call. It’s never been my call. It will never be my call. I don’t like resting. I know I have a small window. Basketball, itself, gives you a small window because you have a certain amount of games. I take pride in playing every game. To me, it’s important to play every game. But I don’t run the show. There are other people that make those decisions and I’ll respect it. I respect Dave and I’ll have to deal with it.”
Gasol may not like it, but he could use it. He is apparently battling a little bit of a sore leg. He was not himself the night before he was rested (9 points on 9 shots vs. Boston), and even after a few days off wasn’t blowing anyone’s doors off against the Bucks (12 points on 12 shots, although he had 7 assists).
Memphis has faded a bit of late in the West, and Joerger is wisely looking ahead (he’s already been cutting back his stars’ minutes). If fresh this Grizzlies team could come out of the West, they are that good. But they need Mike Conley to get healthy, more consistent wing play (consistency is not Jeff Green’s middle name), and they need their big men to be the best in the game. Gasol and Zach Randolph are the heart of the Grizzlies.
So Gasol may have to suffer through a little more rest.