Associated Press

Hornets making strong playoff push, won 8 of last 10 games

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Michael Jordan just might find himself back in the NBA playoffs.

His Charlotte Hornets (32-28) are making a strong push toward the postseason, winning eight of their last 10 games to move up to sixth in the Eastern Conference standings.

Now the Hornets have a chance to gain separation from the middle of the East pack and possibly jump up to a higher seed with nine of their next 10 games at home, including the next seven in a row. Charlotte is two games behind the Miami Heat for the East’s fourth-best record, giving them a chance to claim home-field advantage for a playoff series if they can keep winning.

“There are two things we talked about repeatedly at the beginning of the season – you want to make the playoffs, but you also want to be playing in a way that you can be a factor in the playoffs,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. “We are playing better and better, especially on the road.”

They’re playing even better at home.

The Hornets are 20-9 this season at the place they call “The Hive.”

They’ll open the home stand Friday night against Indiana, which is just a half-game behind Charlotte in the East standings in seventh place, giving added significance to the game.

“It’s important, it’s really important,” guard Kemba Walker said of the upcoming home stand. “We definitely want to take care of business. We are able to get some rest and try to take advantage of our home court.”

Clifford attributes Charlotte’s recent success to the improved play of Walker and the overall team defense. The Hornets have allowed only one of their last 12 opponents to score 100 points.

Walker, who is 18th in the league in scoring, is averaging 23.8 points and 5.5 assists over the last 10 games. He had 26 points against Phoenix and 30 points versus Philadelphia in wins on Tuesday and Wednesday night, respectively.

As Walker goes, so go the Hornets this season.

The 6-foot-1 point guard is averaging 23.5 points per game in the team’s 31 wins and 17.7 points in its 28 losses.

“He has improved every year but the jump from last year to this year is really significant,” Clifford said.

Walker is shooting 37 percent from 3-point range after averaging just 31.7 percent in his previous four seasons with the Hornets making him a candidate as the league’s most improved player.

Clifford said Walker’s pick-and-roll game has also improved dramatically, particularly how he’s learned to set up the defense.

“He has the dribble-through like (Steve) Nash used to do, his pull-up game, he is drawing fouls on the bigs and scores on both sides of the basket,” Clifford said.

Said Jeremy Lin: “He’s shooting the ball great. He’s playing with great poise and he’s definitely controlling the game. Coach is going through him and he’s doing a great job of producing.”

Now the Hornets turn their attention to maintaining momentum down the stretch, where they have six more back-to-back games.

“I know we control our own record and own situation and that’s what we have to focus on,” Lin said.

Watch Jamal Murray hit insane hand-switching layup around LeBron

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Are. You. Kidding. Me.

You are not going to see a better layup these playoffs than this one by Denver’s Jamal Murray, going around LeBron James near the end of the first half of Game 4.

Murray went up thinking dunk, had to change his mind because of LeBron, brought it down, went around him, and spun it in off the glass. Insane. It had some people on Twitter referencing the legendary Michael Jordan hand-switching shot. Not sure I’m willing to compare this Murray shot to a layup that helped launch a dynasty, but it’s close.

Murray had 16 in the first half but the Nuggets trailed at the break 60-55 in a high scoring first half. Anthony Davis had 19 to lead the Lakers.

Former Louisville star Donovan Mitchell “sad, angry, disgusted” with Breonna Taylor decision

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NBA players — like large swaths of the United States — are shaking their heads at the decision not to prosecute the police sho shot Breonna Taylor in her home. That includes LeBron James, who said the walls of Taylor’s neighbors got more justice than she did.

Now former Louisville star Donovan Mitchell has spoken out on the issue.

The hate and racism in too many of the responses to that Instagram post highlight the injustice and additional hurdles Black people in America have to clear every day.

Louisville has faced a night of protests and backlash to the decision by the grand jury, which included the two police officers getting shot (they both survived).

 

Report: Bulls paying Billy Donovan $6 million-plus annual salary

New Bulls coach and former Thunder coach Billy Donovan
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
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Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf just spent the NBA hiatus – at least if you looked beyond “The Last Dance” itself – getting dragged for not spending enough to give Michael Jordan another year of title contention in Chicago.

Paying to hire Billy Donovan is a way for Reinsdorf and the Bulls to repair their reputations.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

I’d be surprised if all four years are fully guaranteed. Coaching contracts of this length usually contain a team option or two.

But that’s still a hefty salary. Especially in these times. Especially considering it was believed the Bulls would keep Jim Boylen for financial reasons.

Donovan left the Thunder despite them offering him a new contract. He likely knew he could get more elsewhere.

Credit Chicago for being the team to spend. The Bulls needed a solid coach after Boylen and Fred Hoiberg.

Donovan won’t solve all Chicago’s problems, but he should help on multiple fronts. This upgrade costs nothing but Reinsdorf’s money, which every Chicago fan is perfectly willing to spend.

NBA playoff schedule 2020: Date, time, matchup for every game

NBA playoff schedule 2020
AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images
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And there were four.

The NBA is down to the conference finals — and the bubble has provided us with upsets galore. There are some unexpected teams in the NBA’s Final Four, but of course LeBron James is still there. The Lakers are the heavy favorites at this point.

Here are a few notes on the NBA playoffs schedule 2020:

• The NBA is continuing to push the pace with games every other day — except in the East, when ESPN wants a break not to clash with the NFL, and to let the West catch up. The fast pace of games will return with the NBA Finals.
• Families for the players, and with the final four now the coaches, are in the bubble.
• The NBA has released an NBA Finals schedule to teams and their target is still a Sept. 30 Game 1. If either conference finals goes seven games that date will need to be pushed back.

Here is the NBA playoffs schedule 2020 (all times are Eastern):

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

No. 3 Boston Celtics vs. No. 5 Miami Heat

Game 1: Heat 117, Celtics 114, OT
Game 2: Heat 106, Celtics 101
Game 3: Celtics 117, Heat 106
Game 4: Heat 112, Celtics 109 (Miami leads series 3-1)
Game 5: Sept. 25, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 6: Sept. 27, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)*
Game 7: TBD (ESPN)*
*If necessary

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers vs. No. 3 Denver Nuggets

Game 1: Lakers 126, Nuggets 114
Game 2: Lakers 105, Nuggets 103
Game 3: Nuggets 114, Lakers 106 (Lakers lead series 2-1)
Game 4: Sept. 24, 9 p.m. (TNT)
Game 5: Sept. 26, 9 p.m. (TNT)
Game 6: Sept. 28, TBD (TNT)*
Game 7: Sept. 30, TBD (TNT)*
*If necessary

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: Second Round results

Eastern Conference

No. 3 Boston beat No. 2 Toronto 4-3

No. 5 Miami beat No. 1 Milwaukee 4-1

Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers beat Houston 4-1

No. 3 Denver beat No. 2 Los Angeles Clippers 4-3

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: First Round results

Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers beat No. 8 Portland 4-1

No. 2 L.A. Clippers beat No. 7 Dallas 4-2

No. 3 Denver beat No. 6 Utah 4-3

No. 4 Houston beat No. 5 Oklahoma City 4-3

Eastern Conference

No. 1 Milwaukee beat No. 8 Orlando 4-1

No. 2 Toronto beat No. 7 Brooklyn 4-0

No. 3 Boston beat No. 6 Philadelphia 4-0

No. 5 Miami beat No. 4 Indiana 4-0