PBT First-Round Playoff Previews: Brooklyn Nets vs. Atlanta Hawks

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SEASON RECORDS

Nets: 38-44 (8th place in Eastern Conference)
Hawks: 60-22 (1st place in Eastern Conference)
Atlanta won the regular season series 4-0.

KEY INJURIES

Hawks: Atlanta’s Thabo Sefolosha is out for the season with a leg fracture suffered during an incident with police.

Though he only averaged 18.8 minutes per contest and recently missed 23 games with a calf injury, his defensive presence was of immense help to the bench unit, and the team suffered there in his absence.

Nets: There’s an outside chance that Mirza Teletovic may be back, after being ruled out for the season back in January. The team announced he has been cleared to resume basketball-related activities, and he practiced on Friday. But he will be continued to be listed as OUT for now. Alan Anderson, who missed the last seven games with an ankle injury, also practiced.

OFFENSE/DEFENSE RANKINGS

Nets: 101.9 points scored per 100 possessions (18th in NBA); 105.0 points allowed per 100 possessions (24th in NBA).
Hawks: 106.2 points scored per 100 possessions (T-6th in NBA); 100.7 points allowed per 100 possessions (7th in NBA).

THREE KEYS TO THE SERIES

Can the Hawks regain their early-season dominance: Atlanta crushed all comers in the first half of the season, rattling off a 19-game winning streak at one point, and winning 40 of their first 48 games — outpacing even the Warriors in the process. But the second half of the season wasn’t as easy. Sefolosha missed a total of 30 games, and the Hawks went just 17-13 in those contests. Whether it was due to losing their key defensive reserve, coasting to the regular season finish line, or no longer being able to surprise the opposition, Atlanta needs to find a way to get back to playing the elite level of basketball the team showcased for much of the season, and if they can, the Nets won’t be the only team that will have a ton of trouble in stopping them.

Nets must keep games close: In three of the four losses to the Hawks this season, Brooklyn was blown out by 17, 11 and 32 points. They lost the final one by just three, but Paul Millsap didn’t play, and the Nets entered the fourth period trailing by 12 points. (And, that was the day after the aforementioned police incident, so Sefolosha and Pero Antic didn’t play, either.) Brooklyn’s best chance to hang is to make the open shots when they come (which hasn’t happened lately), and to stay at home defensively, because they’re not athletic enough from a team-wide standpoint to help and recover before the Hawks zip the ball around to find the open shooters. The Nets can’t let huge deficits become the norm in this series, because they simply don’t have the offensive firepower to get out in transition and answer with huge runs of their own. Stay close and, well, at least there’s a chance.

Don’t leave Kyle Korver: In the four games between the teams during the regular season Korver is shooting 61.9 percent from three-point distance. The Nets can’t leave him to double-team someone else, and they shouldn’t send help, either, because that’s when the Hawks’ offense is at its best.

PREDICTION

We saw what the Nets look like when a team uses expert dribble penetration to set up its offense, and moves the ball well to create open shots. The Bulls shredded Brooklyn by doing exactly that just a few days ago, and the Hawks have shown that they can employ that strategy even better, and have done so consistently on a season-long basis. The Nets don’t have any advantages over this Hawks team, and Lionel Hollins knows it. I trust that he knows his team better than I do.

Hawks sweep it in 4 games.

WNBA suspends Riquna Williams 10 games for domestic violence

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NEW YORK (AP) The WNBA has suspended Los Angeles Sparks guard Riquna Williams 10 games for a domestic violence incident.

The WNBA handed down the suspension Tuesday. Williams was arrested on April 29 and charged with two felony counts, one involving the assault of an individual with whom she was in a relationship and the other involving a threat to another person with a firearm. Her criminal case is ongoing.

The league conducted its own investigation and consulted with a panel of experts in the field of domestic violence. Among other factors, the WNBA said it took into account the nature and seriousness of the allegations, including the involvement of a gun.

The WNBA also will require Williams to participate in counseling.

Williams’ suspension will begin with Thursday’s game against the Dallas Wings.

Report: Bulls signing Luke Kornet for guaranteed $4.5M over two years

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Just three 7-footers have averaged 3.5 3-pointers per game and made 35% of them each of the last two seasons:

The Bulls will now have most of them.

Markkanen is Chicago’s top young player. Kornet will join him with the Bulls next season.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

I’m a little surprised Kornet got more than his minimum ($3,383,360 over two years). But it’s worth taking a flier on him.

In addition to his outside shooting, Kornet has shown good timing as a shot-blocker in two seasons with the Knicks. The 24-year-old must get stronger and improve as a rebounder to play major minutes.

But the Bulls won’t have to press him into action. They also have Thaddeus Young, Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., Daniel Gafford and Cristiano Felicio as bigs.

Pistons claim Christian Wood off waivers

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The Bucks waived Christian Wood late last season to ensure avoiding the luxury tax. The Pelicans claimed him. Wood had played well in limited minutes with the 76ers, Hornets and Bucks and in the NBA’s minor league since going undrafted in 2015.

New Orleans gave him his biggest opportunity yet. In 24 minutes per game over eight games, he averaged 17 points and eight rebounds.

But the Pelicans filled their roster for next season and waived Wood.

Detroit will take advantage.

Pistons release:

The Detroit Pistons announced today that the team has claimed forward/center Christian Wood off waivers.

Wood’s $1,645,357 minimum salary is unguaranteed until the regular season. So, Detroit could still waive him before the season. But it seems he’ll at least go to training camp and get a shot at a regular-season roster spot.

The Pelicans also could’ve kept him through the preseason then waived him before the regular season. They seemingly did him a favor of allowing him to get somewhere he has a realistic chance of sticking.

Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond will start in the frontcourt for the Pistons. Markieff Morris and Thon Maker appear to be first in line is backups.

But don’t be surprised if Wood earns playing time. At minimum, the 23-year-old should provide nice depth at both power forward and center.

The Pistons have also now acquired four members of last year’s Bucks – Tony Snell, Thon Maker, Tim Frazier and now Wood.

Knicks: Reggie Bullock has spine injury

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Reggie Bullock had his agreed-upon salary cut by more than half with the Knicks. He’ll reportedly miss at least a month of the regular season.

All because of a mysterious health issue.

The Knicks have finally disclosed what’s happening.

Knicks release:

Reggie Bullock underwent successful surgery today at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York for a cervical disc herniation. The team will plan to provide an update on his rehab and progress around the start of training camp.

Bullock is a good shooter from the wing. New York could use him. Many teams could use him.

But Bullock must get healthy first.

At this point, we probably shouldn’t expect much from him any time soon. The best indication: how eagerly his agent praised the Knicks for their handling of this situation. Again, Bullock settled for less than half his initially agreed-upon salary.