Video: Kenneth Faried sends Enes Kanter’s shot packing

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Last night in Kentucky they held a charity game called the Big Blue All-Stars vs. The Villains (the villains being players who didn’t play for the Kentucky Wildcats, obviously). Good gig, raised $50,000 for the V foundation.

But what you see above was the highlight. Watch future Jazz big man Enes Kanter (who was sort of a Kentucky player, except for the actual playing part) come out and set a nice high pick, roll into space, take the sweet bounce pass and attack the rim…

Where Kenneth Faried is waiting. He needs to come up with his own signature move, ala the finger wag, to go with those blocks if he keeps doing that in Denver. Damn. And Kanter, welcome to the next level of basketball.

Hat tip to Eye on Basketball.

Damian Lillard scores 61 points, win vaults Portland to eight seed

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The Portland Trail Blazers control their own postseason destiny — and they can thank Damian Lillard for that.

Lillard got all the respect he wanted when he tied his career-high of 61 points Tuesday, and the Portland Trail Blazers needed every one of them to beat the Dallas Mavericks 134-131.

Lillard was 9-of-17 from three, plus got to the line 18 times and hit every free throw.

Portland’s win combined with Memphis’ loss to Boston puts the Trail Blazers into the eighth seed in the West — win on Thursday against Brooklyn and Portland is the eighth seed. That is a massive advantage heading into the two-game play-in series, the eighth seed just needs to win one of those two games to advance to the playoffs (and a first-round date with LeBron James). The ninth-seeded team needs to sweep the two games to advance.

Memphis can maintain the nine seed with a win Thursday. Should the Grizzlies lose again (to the Bucks, who have nothing to play for) it opens the door for the Suns or the Spurs to get the nine seed. Or maybe higher.

Portland is not safe just because of the win Tuesday: If it loses to Brooklyn on Thursday and two of Memphis, Phoenix, and San Antonio win, the Trail Blazers will be watching the first round of the playoffs on television like the rest of us. The race in the West is that tight.

It’s hard to imagine Portland losing a critical game, however, with the way Lillard is playing. He said he wants some respect on his f ****** name – and he’s more than earned it.

Watch Devin Booker score 35, keep Phoenix perfect 7-0 and in play-in hunt

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Devin Booker scored 35 points and the Phoenix Suns protected their playoff hopes by beating the Philadelphia 76ers 130-117 on Tuesday to remain undefeated in the NBA restart.

Booker became the Suns’ career leader with his 91st 30-point game, breaking a tie with Walter Davis.

Mikal Bridges added 24 points and Ricky Rubio had 16 points with 10 assists for the Suns, who began the day only one game behind eighth-place Memphis in the Western Conference playoff race.

Phoenix is 7-0 as the only undefeated team in the restart and an unlikely factor in the tight race for a spot in this weekend’s play-in for the final playoff spot.

Phoenix pulled away late after leading only 105-102 following back-to-back baskets by Alec Burks, who led the 76ers with 23 points.

A dunk by Cameron Johnson capped a 10-3 run that stretched the lead to 115-105.

The Suns continued their high-scoring play in the bubble after averaging 120 points in the first six games.

Philadelphia, No. 6 in the East and already assured of a playoff spot, is attempting to prepare for the postseason after losing Ben Simmons to a knee injury.

Shake Milton was Philadelphia’s only healthy starter against the Suns. The 76ers also were without Joel Embiid (left ankle), Tobias Harris (sore right ankle) and Al Horford (sore left knee). Josh Richardson was rested.

Spurs playoffs hopes remain alive with 123-105 win over Rockets

Spurs playoffs
Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — The Spurs aren’t out of it yet.

Keldon Johnson had 24 points and 11 rebounds, and San Antonio kept alive its chances of becoming the first team in NBA history to make 23 consecutive playoff appearances with a 123-105 victory over the Houston Rockets on Tuesday.

San Antonio has won three straight and five out of seven since arriving in the Florida bubble.

DeMar DeRozan added 23 points. Jakob Poeltl finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds.

Johnson said his mindset since the season restarted has been to fill in whatever role is asked of him.

“Whether it’s hustling, running the floor – just doing whatever I need to do to help us win,” he said. “Help from my teammates has definitely helped the game slow down for me.”

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said Johnson is playing with the confidence they saw when they drafted him 29th overall last year.

“That’s what he does,” Popovich said. “He’s a high-energy guy. He’s very physical. Very competitive. Very coachable. He’s just a winner.”

The Western Conference is guaranteed to have a play-in for its final playoff spot, with Memphis beginning the day with just a half-game over Portland and one game ahead of Phoenix and San Antonio.

The Spurs will need help to be one of the teams playing this weekend for the final spot in the Western Conference, but made sure they couldn’t be eliminated Tuesday with their win.

Russell Westbrook had 20 points and seven turnovers in his first game back in the lineup for Houston after missing two games with a bruised right quadriceps. Jeff Green had 17 points. Ben McLemore added 16.

The Rockets played without guards James Harden (rest) and Eric Gordon (ankle).

The Spurs took control in the second quarter, outscoring the Rockets 35-24. San Antonio led by as many as 29 points.

San Antonio built a 19-point lead in the first half. DeRozan set the tone with 15 points in the opening 24 minutes, with Lonnie Waker IV, Poeltl and Johnson each scoring 10.

Regardless of whether the Spurs make the playoffs or not, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is proud of how his young players have stepped up in during their time in the bubble.

“Part of it is you have to be realistic,” Popovich said. “I don’t think our chances of winning the championship were great at the beginning of this, nor are they now. If that’s a fact, then you need to do everything you can to develop and be prepared for next season.

“The development has been off the charts. We’re thrilled with it. So it’s a win-win no matter what.”

Popovich said it would be “thrilling” to get some help and have a chance to extend their season, but he’s not using it as a measuring stick for the season.

“We’ve already accomplished what we thought we were capable of accomplishing, that’s what’s important. If we got in now it would be icing on the cake.”

Report: Nets to launch full-scale coaching search

Net coach Jacque Vaughn
Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images
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The Nets were reportedly leaning toward keeping Jacque Vaughn as their coach next season. Vaughn – who replaced Kenny Atkinson in March – has only impressed since. Despite Brooklyn’s roster being decimated, Vaughn has guided the Nets to a 5-2 record in the bubble. The fill-in Nets have played hard and remarkably cohesively.

But – despite making a point not to give Vaughn the “interim” title – Brooklyn is treating Vaughn exactly like an interim.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Nets owner Joe Tsai wants a full-scale head coaching process to identify the best partner for team ownership, the front office, coaching staff and players, sources say. Current head coach Jacque Vaughn is the incumbent and will be a significant candidate to retain the job he currently holds.

Several external candidates have emerged for the job, according to league sources: Los Angeles Lakers assistant Jason Kidd, Philadelphia 76ers assistant Ime Udoka, LA Clippers assistant Ty Lue and former Rockets and Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy.

Most of those names have already been connected to the job. The new one: Udoka, who looked like the frontrunner in Chicago until the Bulls decided to keep Jim Boylen.

A wide-ranging search should bring good coaches up for consideration. It’d be foolish to quickly hire someone – especially Vaugh, who went 20-62, 23-59 and 15-37 with the Magic before they fired him in 2015. If Vaughn looks like the best person for the job at the end of the search, great. Hire him. But Brooklyn should explore other candidates first.

The Nets have legitimate championship aspirations with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and enough assets to chase a third star. This would be a great time to get a coach with a track record of success, like Lue or Van Gundy. But maybe an unproven or retread coach impresses enough to warrant the job.

That’s the beauty of running a full-scale search. It allows all those possibilities to get due consideration.

Operating this way, Brooklyn gives itself a better chance of finding a quality coach.