Associated Press

Hardaway Jr., Hawks stun Cavaliers 114-100

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CLEVELAND (AP) — Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 15 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter as the Atlanta Hawks, despite resting center Dwight Howard and missing three other key starters, stunned the Cleveland Cavaliers 114-100 on Friday night.

The Hawks, who beat Boston on Thursday night, outworked and outgunned the defending NBA champions, who blew a chance to move closer to securing the top seed in the Eastern Conference with a flat performance.

Mike Dunleavy added 20 for Atlanta and got a little revenge against the Cavs, who tossed him in as part of a trade for Kyle Korver in February. The Hawks recorded 39 assists.

It was a shocking letdown by the Cavs, who were so impressive in a win over the Celtics on Wednesday night. But they lacked energy from the outset and the Hawks took advantage with their second straight victory, moving a game ahead of Milwaukee for fifth place in the East.

LeBron James scored 27 and Kyrie Irving 18 for Cleveland, which was in a funk for most of the night but took an 87-85 lead in the fourth on a 3-pointer by Korver.

Hardaway took over from there.

Although he was listed as questionable before the game with knee and wrist injuries, Hardaway played anyway and down the stretch he buried a pair of 3-pointers and delivered a vicious dunk during a 12-0 run when the Hawks put it away, shocking a sellout crowd hoping to see the Cavs move closer to locking down home-court advantage in the East.

Cleveland was again without starting center Tristan Thompson, who missed his second straight game with a sprained thumb.

TIP-INS

Hawks: Didn’t play any of their starters from a March 3 matchup with Cleveland. … The decision to sit Howard wasn’t announced until 40 minutes before tip-off. When he met with reporters, coach Mike Budenholzer wasn’t certain about his starting lineup and he initially said Dennis Schroder would play. However, after going through a warmup, Schroder was scratched and Jose Calderon started. … Paul Millsap (swollen left knee) and Kent Bazemore (bone bruise) aren’t ready to play in consecutive games as they recover from injuries. … G/F Thabo Sefolosha announced he’ll make a donation from his court settlement after breaking his leg in a fracas outside a Manhattan nightclub in 2015. Sefolosha will reportedly receive $4 million and give “a substantial portion” to Gideon’s Promise, an Atlanta-based organization that helps support and train public defenders.

Cavaliers: Coach Tyronn Lue plans to rest James and Irving for the playoffs if the Cavs clinch the No. 1 seed. “If we can take care of business like we’re supposed to, I think that we’d like LeBron and Kyrie to get some rest,” Lue said. “I think J.R. (Smith) and Korver and Kevin (Love) and those guys should play a little bit because they’ve been out for so long and just try to keep J.R.’s rhythm and establish Kevin’s rhythm and the same thing with Kyle.” … Lue offered few details about Thompson’s injury or a timeline on a possible return. Thompson got hurt Tuesday against Orlando and missed Wednesday’s game in Boston, snapping his streak of consecutive games played at 447.

 

Report: CJ McCollum has been playing through fractured lower back

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CJ McCollum hit two critical free throws late Tuesday to put Portland up three late on Dallas and secure the win.

But he had a rough night overall, shooting 2-of-14 overall. His shooting numbers are down across the board through this restart, not terrible but down from the level the world has seen from one of the games most feared scorers.

Now we know why: A fractured lower back. Dwight Jaynes of NBC Sports Northwest broke the news.

Sources told NBC Sports Northwest prior to the game that McCollum has been playing with a L3 vertebral transverse process fracture (non-displaced) since last Thursday. In layman’s terms, he has a fracture in his lower back. He has played three games since the injury.

While this injury is not as bad as “a fractured back” sounds, it has slowed other players who had it, including Utah’s Mike Conley.

Portland has had success despite a slowed McCollum, in part because Gary Trent Jr. has stepped up and taken on a larger role on both ends of the court (including drawing a charge on Kristaps Porzingis that sealed the Blazers win over the Mavericks).

That win put Portland in as the eighth seed in the West, a spot they can hold with a win against Brooklyn on Thursday. That would put them in a play-in series — where if they won the reward would be LeBron James and the Lakers. To reach that point and threaten Los Angeles, Portland is going to need a lot out of McCollum. The question is how much does he have to give with this injury?

 

Giannis Antetokounmpo ejected after headbutting Moe Wagner

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The Milwaukee Bucks are lucky they have another seeding game remaining because there is a good chance Giannis Antetokounmpo gets suspended a game for this.

The reigning (and soon-to-be two time) MVP let Washington’s Moe Wagner get under his skin. After Wagner took a charge from Antetokounmpo the two had to be separated. They kept jawing, and when they came together again, Antetokounmpo headbutted Wagner.

Wagner may have sold that a little, but that is unquestionably a headbutt. Antetokounmpo deserved the Flagrant II and ejection that came with it.

The one-game suspension that is coming will not cost the Bucks anything, they have the No. 1 seed in the East locked up. However, that one game is aginst the Grizzlies and if Memphis wins it gets the nine seed in the West at worst (eighth of Portland were to lose Thursday).

Wagner has a gift for getting under an opponent’s skin. Antetokounmpo has to do better keeping his emotions in check, because come the playoffs they will get tested like never before.

 

Damian Lillard scores 61 points, win vaults Portland to eight seed

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The Portland Trail Blazers control their own postseason destiny — and they can thank Damian Lillard for that.

Lillard got all the respect he wanted when he tied his career-high of 61 points Tuesday, and the Portland Trail Blazers needed every one of them to beat the Dallas Mavericks 134-131.

Lillard was 9-of-17 from three, plus got to the line 18 times and hit every free throw.

Portland’s win combined with Memphis’ loss to Boston puts the Trail Blazers into the eighth seed in the West — win on Thursday against Brooklyn and Portland is the eighth seed. That is a massive advantage heading into the two-game play-in series, the eighth seed just needs to win one of those two games to advance to the playoffs (and a first-round date with LeBron James). The ninth-seeded team needs to sweep the two games to advance.

Memphis can maintain the nine seed with a win Thursday. Should the Grizzlies lose again (to the Bucks, who have nothing to play for) it opens the door for the Suns or the Spurs to get the nine seed. Or maybe higher.

Portland is not safe just because of the win Tuesday: If it loses to Brooklyn on Thursday and two of Memphis, Phoenix, and San Antonio win, the Trail Blazers will be watching the first round of the playoffs on television like the rest of us. The race in the West is that tight.

It’s hard to imagine Portland losing a critical game, however, with the way Lillard is playing. He said he wants some respect on his f ****** name – and he’s more than earned it.

Watch Devin Booker score 35, keep Phoenix perfect 7-0 and in play-in hunt

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Devin Booker scored 35 points and the Phoenix Suns protected their playoff hopes by beating the Philadelphia 76ers 130-117 on Tuesday to remain undefeated in the NBA restart.

Booker became the Suns’ career leader with his 91st 30-point game, breaking a tie with Walter Davis.

Mikal Bridges added 24 points and Ricky Rubio had 16 points with 10 assists for the Suns, who began the day only one game behind eighth-place Memphis in the Western Conference playoff race.

Phoenix is 7-0 as the only undefeated team in the restart and an unlikely factor in the tight race for a spot in this weekend’s play-in for the final playoff spot.

Phoenix pulled away late after leading only 105-102 following back-to-back baskets by Alec Burks, who led the 76ers with 23 points.

A dunk by Cameron Johnson capped a 10-3 run that stretched the lead to 115-105.

The Suns continued their high-scoring play in the bubble after averaging 120 points in the first six games.

Philadelphia, No. 6 in the East and already assured of a playoff spot, is attempting to prepare for the postseason after losing Ben Simmons to a knee injury.

Shake Milton was Philadelphia’s only healthy starter against the Suns. The 76ers also were without Joel Embiid (left ankle), Tobias Harris (sore right ankle) and Al Horford (sore left knee). Josh Richardson was rested.