Al Horford hits game-winner to give Hawks Game 5 win over Wizards

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The Hawks and the Wizards battled through an ugly but competitive Game 5 contest, only to give us one of the postseason’s more exciting finishes.

In the end, it was Al Horford grabbing an offensive rebound and getting a put-back to go with 1.9 seconds remaining that was the difference, and Atlanta came away with the 82-81 victory to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.

John Wall returned to the starting lineup for the Wizards, and played through the five fractures on his non-shooting hand. While he was far from dominant, he was plenty effective, and at times spectacular. Wall finished with 15 points on 7-of-15 shooting, to go along with seven assists, four rebounds and four steals.

Horford, meanwhile, was the man for the Hawks. In addition to coming up with the game-winner, he got the job done on both ends of the floor all night long, leading his team in scoring with 23 points on 10-of-18 shooting, to go along with 11 rebounds and five blocked shots.

Again, this game was far from aesthetically pleasing. The two teams combined to shoot 9-of-38 from three-point distance, and committed a ridiculous total of 42 turnovers.

The Hawks barely scored at all during the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter, and were only able to put up three points on free throws during that painfully long stretch. Their first field goal of the period didn’t come until Kyle Korver knocked down a long three with just under five minutes to play which cut the Wizards lead to three. That was part of a 14-0 run that put the Hawks back in control with under two minutes left.

Then came the late-game heroics.

Paul Pierce was stripped of the ball with the game tied and under 20 seconds left, and that led to a perfectly-executed two-on-one Atlanta fast break that gave the Hawks a two-point lead. Pierce was clearly fouled by Korver on the play, but nothing was called, and he seethed on the bench during the ensuing timeout while plotting his revenge.

Pierce came through on the next possession, knocking down a big-time three to give Washington a one-point lead with eight seconds left. But his effort ultimately went to waste.

Dennis Schröder came flying in for a layup attempt with a few seconds left, and as the shot came off, Horford was in the right place at the right time to convert the game-winning finish.

Despite the ugly statistics, this was a highly-competitive contest that came down to the game’s final possession. Wall played well enough to be emboldened for Game 6 at home, and given just how close the games in this series have been, it wouldn’t at all be surprising to see these two teams back in Atlanta on Monday for a decisive Game 7.

Marcus Smart’s potential game-winner sits on rim, rolls off, gives Kings win

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Boston came in on a 10-game winning streak where they had played well on both ends of the court, but they also got some lucky rolls of the basketball.

Not Sunday.

With Boston down one, Marcus Smart put up a floater as time expired in Sacramento, it looked like the shot would fall, and…

Give the Kings credit, at a rough start they have gone 5-2 in November, and that despite injuries to Marvin Bagley Jr. and De'Aaron Fox. Buddy Hield had 35 points to lead the Kings, including going 7-of-12 from three.

The Celtics had a balanced attack with six players in double figures, but their offense was not as sharp as it has been. This was the first game it looked like they missed Gordon Hayward, who is out with a fractured hand.

Report: Last summer the Lakers, among others, were hoping Suns would buy out Aron Baynes

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Aron Baynes has been critical to the Suns racing out to a 7-4 start with the fourth-best net rating in the NBA. When Deandre Ayton was suspended for 25 games (after testing positive for a diuretic, a banned substance), Baynes has stepped up and been exactly what the Suns needed. He is scoring 15 points per game, shooting 46.5 percent from three (which is opening up the floor for guys like Devin Booker), and providing a big body defensive presence in the paint.

You can see why the Lakers and other teams were hoping Baynes would hit the market this summer. From Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Suns center Aron Baynes has emerged as a cornerstone piece for Phoenix early this season, supplying defense, leadership and, yes, shot-making. Phoenix acquired Baynes on draft night, and in the weeks to come contenders such as the Lakers hoped Baynes would reach a buyout with the Suns to hit the open market, sources said. Suns general manager James Jones and new head coach Monty Williams wanted Baynes — and are now receiving the rewards for the offseason move. Through 11 games, Baynes is averaging 15 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 46.8 percent 3-point shooting (two 3s made per game). Baynes will enter free agency next July, and as one team executive said, “He is positioning himself for well over $10 million per year.”

Smart move by Phoenix’s management to hold on to Baynes as an Ayton insurance policy (one they ended up needing). Plus, when trying to change a team’s culture (as Jones and Williams are working to do in Phoenix), you can’t have enough hardworking professionals in the locker room. Baynes brings that.

The Lakers thought they would have DeMarcus Cousins in the paint, but he tore his ACL over the summer. The tag team of Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee has worked surprisingly well for Los Angeles to start the season.

In what will be a down free-agent market next summer, Baynes is going to be in demand. His payday is coming.

Dion Waiters on suspension: ‘It’s a minor setback. It happens. It’s life.’

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Dion Waiters has yet to set foot on the court for the Miami Heat this season and is currently sitting out a 10-game suspension by the team for “conduct detrimental to the team.” He is not suspended for the gummy bears incident, but rather a series of team infractions (remember he was suspended for opening night, too, after a run-in with coach Erik Spoelstra). However, the fact this suspension came after that well-publicized disruption to the Heat is not a coincidence.

With his time off, Waiters went back to Syracuse, where he played in college, to talk to his old coach Jim Boeheim, someone Waiters sees as a father figure.

While there, Waiters talked about his suspension publicly for the first time,  speaking with Donna Ditota of Syracuse.com.

“I just wanted to come up and talk to Coach,” Waiters said. “I know that’s a person who will always be there for me if I ever need anything. It’s a chance for me to come up, be around, talk to the coaches, things like that. And that’s important….

“I’m not going to lie to you, I’m in a great place,” he said. “I can only control what I can control at the end of the day, so some things you just can’t allow to take your head the other way, some things happen for a reason. If you stay locked in, if you believe and trust in yourself, trust in the work you put in, you know, it’s a minor setback. It happens. It’s life. You learn from it. The only thing I can do is move forward. Stay focused. Stay even-keeled. Let everything else take care of itself.”

Some will want to read that as Waiters being dismissive, but in reality this is the attitude Miami wants Waiters to have — that he can move on, get past whatever issues are going on between him and the team, and come back to bolster the Miami rotation.

That said, thanks to the impressive play from rookies Kendrick Nunna Heat-style player right out of central casting — and Tyler Herro, Miami hasn’t been hurting for quality guard play. Waiters, when he returns, is going to have to earn his spot in the rotation.

How did Paul George score 70 points in 44 minutes? ‘I got new shoulders’

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Paul George is back.

Not that he really went all that far away, the man did finish third in MVP voting last season, but he faded at the end of that campaign due to shoulder pain, which led to both shoulders being operated on during the offseason. That delayed his entry into the 2019-20 NBA season by a few weeks.

He has come back looking smooth: He scored 37 points in 20 minutes against Atlanta, the most points scored in fewer than 21 minutes played in NBA history. PG13 has scored 70 points in 44 minutes across the two games with an 80.9 true shooting percentage, hitting 56.3 percent from three, and he scored the most points in a Clippers home debut (37).

How is he doing it?

“I got new shoulder. I can’t say nothing else to that, I got new shoulders. And they haven’t been this healthy in a long time.”

George has looked fluid on the court, playing great defense and clearly just having fun out there.

The Clippers have yet to play George and Kawhi Leonard at the same time because pain in Leonard’s knee has kept him in street clothes the past two games.

The Clippers have George on a minutes limit right now and are letting Leonard have all the time off he wants (George will ultimately get some load management nights, too). While that’s led to pushback from some fans — and LeBron James, trying to score some PR points on the other team in town — the Clippers shrug it off. They don’t have their sites set on November wins, they are targeting April, May, and they hope June.

George already looks in peak playoff form.