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Quick-healing Khris Middleton hopes to gives Bucks a boost

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ST. FRANCIS, Wis. (AP) Khris Middleton has proven to be a quick healer.

One of Milwaukee’s top all-around players plans to make his season debut on Wednesday against the streaking Miami Heat, so long as his surgically-repaired left hamstring feels fine following shoot-around and pregame warmups.

The Bucks’ leading scorer last season, Middleton is about a month ahead of the six-month timeline that the Bucks initially thought would be needed for the torn hamstring to heal. He returns just as new acquisitions Roy Hibbert and Spencer Hawes join a team that is just 4-12 since Jan. 4.

Milwaukee said last week that Middleton was cleared to play. He will be limited initially to about 15-20 minutes a game, coach Jason Kidd said Tuesday.

At 22-28, the Bucks were 10th in the Eastern Conference entering Tuesday’s action, one game back of Detroit for the eighth and final playoff spot.

“We’re going to look at him to save the season,” forward Jabari Parker said after practice with a smile. “Put pressure on him.”

Middleton took the ribbing in stride.

“I wouldn’t say that at all,” he said with a laugh.

Middleton is a scoring threat in a 6-foot-8 frame and he can help defend on the perimeter. The Bucks are giving up 10.7 3-pointers on 29.7 attempts to opponents, among the highest averages in the league. Milwaukee hasn’t held an opponent to less than 100 points since a 98-94 win over Oklahoma City on Jan. 2.

“With the weeks practicing, playing 1-on-1s and lifting, I haven’t thought about my hamstring for one bit, which is good,” Middleton said. “The way I went down, it was a freak incident … just one of those things.”

Middleton scored a team-high 18.2 points per game last season. He hurt the hamstring while working out in late September, about a week before the start of training camp.

Middleton will rejoin a team in which Giannis Antetokounmpo has blossomed into an All-Star. Parker is averaging a career-best 20.2 points per game. At his best last year, Middleton was the Bucks’ best offensive option in the closing minutes of tight games with his ability to hit from the perimeter or drive the lane.

It’s unclear how much playing time Hibbert and Hawes might each get after being acquired from Charlotte last week for backup center Miles Plumlee. The 7-foot-2 Hibbert, who has been bothered by knee issues this year, is known as a rim protector, while the 7-1 Hawes can stretch the floor with his outside shot.

The Bucks already rotate two experienced players in the middle in defensive-minded John Henson and Greg Monroe, whose strength is offense. Seven-foot-1 rookie Thon Maker is also starting to see more consistent minutes.

The Bucks did gain financial flexibility in unloading Plumlee, who was in the first year of a four-year contract worth about $52 million after returning to the Bucks in the offseason as a restricted free agent. Hibbert is a free agent after this season, while Hawes has a player option next season worth about $6 million.

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
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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