Hawks cruise to underwhelming Game 1 win over Nets

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The Atlanta Hawks surprised everyone by posting 60 regular season wins, and finishing as the top-seeded team in the Eastern Conference.

But after winning 40 of their first 48 games, Atlanta largely cruised in the second half of the season. And, without Thabo Sefolosha — who missed 23 games with a calf injury before being ruled out for the season with a leg fracture — the Hawks posted a record of just 17-13 in the 30 games he missed.

Facing a Brooklyn Nets team that needed the Pacers to lose on the final day of the regular season in order to sneak into the playoffs (with a sub-.500 record), Atlanta took Game 1 as expected. But it wasn’t as easy as it should have been, and that should be cause for concern .

The Hawks won by a final of 99-92, but allowed the Nets to creep back within contention far too often in this one to come away feeling at all satisfied.

Atlanta led by as many as 16 points in the second quarter, but saw the lead whittled down to just seven before the halftime intermission. Brooklyn closed to within three in the third, before the lead ballooned to 16 points once again.

It was a 14-point Hawks lead with under nine minutes to play, but Brooklyn had it down to just four with 1:33 to play, and made Atlanta work to the end to close the game out.

The Nets are not a good basketball team, even by the most objective of standards. When the Hawks were at their best, they moved the ball to create open looks for their shooters, just as they’ve been able to do all season long. Kyle Korver led all scorers with 21 points on 6-of-12 shooting, which included going 5-of-11 from three-point distance. That’s honestly unconscionable from a defensive standpoint, yet even with Atlanta’s fifth leading scorer getting loose to that extent, Brooklyn still managed to close the gap and make a game of it on multiple occasions.

The Nets don’t have the athleticism to stop the Hawks defensively, especially during the stretches when Atlanta expertly moves the ball as it had during the pinnacle of its regular season success. But the lack of a killer instinct the Hawks displayed in Game 1 could be telling, and if they can’t correct it in the first round of the playoffs against a substandard opponent, it doesn’t bode well for their chances in later rounds against elite teams like Cleveland or Chicago who seem to be peaking at just the right time.

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.