Pelicans clinch playoff berth and eliminate Thunder with win over Spurs

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A slight real or imagined, Anthony Davis thinks the Warriors don’t respect his team.

He’ll get a chance to do something about it.

Davis led the Pelicans to a 108-103 win over the Spurs tonight, clinching the No. 8 seed and a first-round matchup with Golden State for New Orleans and eliminating the Thunder from the playoff race.

Afterward, Davis hugged Pelicans coach Monty Williams.

“I love him, man! I love him!” Davis said. “…He told us, three weeks ago, we were three games out, and everybody counted us out. He said, ‘I’ve been around a long time. Anything can happen.'”

Something did.

The Pelicans won eight of their final 11, passed the Thunder and Suns and made the playoffs for the first time since 2011.

New Orleans hasn’t escaped that “anything can happen” mindset.

The Pelicans jumped to a 20-point lead early in the second quarter and never trailed again. As dangerous as the Spurs are, New Orleans controlled this game and was in little danger of losing late.

But the Pelicans – especially Davis, who who had 31 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks – showed little joy or relief until the final seconds were ticking off.

Chris Paul led New Orleans’ last postseason team, and three straight losing seasons followed before this year’s 45-37 breakthrough.

The Pelicans will begin the playoffs Saturday at Golden State. Tonight, like a win over the Warriors last week, shows the Pelicans are capable of rising to the occasion. They probably won’t win the series, but they can sure make it interesting.

Davis is a legitimate MVP candidate, as his home fans frequently reminded him tonight. However this season ends, he deserves this stage, a chance to shine in at least four straight nationally televised games.

His win-now supporting cast – Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday, Omer Asik, Ryan Anderson – has stepped up, but this is Davis’ team. He got the New Orleans here.

Remember, this playoff race would have already been decided for Oklahoma City if not for this:

Like I said, Davis and the Pelicans come up big when they need to.

In February against the Thunder, tonight against the Spurs and – maybe, just maybe – in the playoffs against the Warriors.

Anything is possible.

Kings’ Buddy Hield fined $25,000 for kicking ball into stands in celebration

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This was a $25,000 celebration by Buddy Hield.

Sacramento led by one in the final seconds against Boston Sunday, but the Celtics had a final shot and Marcus Smart‘s attempt at a game-winning floater hung on the rim seemingly forever… then fell off. The ball was tipped out to mid-court and — as you can see in this video — Heild kicks the ball into the stands as part of the celebration.

Kicking or throwing the ball into the stands is a standing $25,000 fine, and the league came down with that on Hield on Monday. It was not a surprise.

Hield was the reason Sacramento won the game, scoring 35 points to lead the Kings, including going 7-of-12 from three. He’d likely make that trade for the win again.

Kawhi Leonard out vs. Thunder Monday night, third straight game due to knee bruise

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This isn’t load management. This is a bruised knee.

The first Clipper game with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George sharing the court will have to wait as Leonard is going to miss his third straight game with a knee contusion Monday night against the Thunder. Ramona Shelburne of ESPN broke the news.

The Clippers are going to be cautious with bringing Leonard back from this, thinking long term with his health, as they should. Los Angeles is playing for games in May and June, not games in November.

This means tonight the Clippers will be the Paul George show again — in two games he has scored 70 points in 44 minutes. This will be George’s first game against the Thunder since he demanded a trade out of the city last summer, landing him on the Clippers with Leonard.

Kevin Love tries to ignore trade rumors, ‘let the chips fall where they may’

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Cleveland Cavaliers GM said he has no interest in trading Kevin Love.

You can count the number of people around the league who believe him on one hand. There’s a good chance Love is still on the Cavaliers at the end of this season, but that’s more about him being in the first year of a four-year, $120 million contract extension than it is Cleveland’s willingness to trade him (or interest from other teams, if money was not an issue). The Cavaliers are rebuilding, and if they can get young players and picks for Love, they have to consider it.

With Portland off to a slow start, and Love growing up in the Pacific Northwest, that rumor has floated around. There are others. Love is just trying to ignore them and play ball, he told Arash Markazi of the Los Angeles Times.

“I know there’s talk about me possibly being the missing piece somewhere,” Love said. “There’s been constant chatter since I signed that I could be traded. It’s one of those things where I’m going to keep doing right by the team, by Cleveland and by the organization. If my number is called, so be it, but I’m going to stay true to my commitment and let the chips fall where they may.”

Love, who has been open in recent years about his struggles with anxiety and mental health, said dealing with the trade rumors that constantly swirl around him can be a challenge on that front.

“A big aspect of mental health is just staying in the present but it’s so hard,” he said. “You have to try to not get too far ahead of yourself or get worked up. You can get that anxious feeling or fear for the future, but you have to try to stay focused on getting better and let things work out the way they should.”

Kevin Love has played well to start the season, averaging 18.3 points and 11.3 rebounds a game, shooting a respectable 34.7 percent from three. He could help a lot of teams, particularly ones in the West who want to be in the mix for a ring but who look at the Lakers and Clippers and think, “we have to get better fast.”

The rumors around Love are just going to get louder the closer and closer we get to the trade deadline. Love will have to do a lot of work to tune all that out.

 

Bulls big man Luke Kornet out following surgery on sinus obstruction

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Just before last Christmas, Luke Kornet broke his nose. Apparently, that never healed quite right.

Kornet underwent surgery to repair a sinus obstruction on Monday, the Chicago Bulls announced. There is no timetable for his return, although coach Jim Boylen suggested it could be less than two weeks.

Bulls coach Jim Boylen added this at practice, via NBC Sports Chicago.

“Kornet had sinus surgery this morning. He had blockage and some issues from a previous fracture from when he was in New York. We just felt it was time to go in there and clean that thing out. That happened this morning at 6 AM. He’s out. Surgery went well. We’ll have more to report as we go. Originally, it was a seven-ten-day thing where he’d be back. I think it’s one of those things they don’t know until they get in there how extreme it is. But he had blockage and it needed to be done.”

This does not impact the Bulls much on the court as Kornet has fallen out of the rotation in recent games (in part because of the sinus condition, in part because he just hasn’t played well). Kornet signed a two-year, $4.5 million contract with the Bulls over the summer.