Associated Press

NBA playoff picture after Friday: Boston takes control of four seed in East

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Every night between now and the end of the 2018-19 NBA regular season, we will take an updated look at the NBA Playoff picture — what the standings look like, the potential matchups, who clinched, who moved up and down, all to set the stage for the NBA’s second season.

FRIDAY’s SCORES
Charlotte 113, Toronto 111
Orlando 149, Atlanta 113
San Antonio 129, Washington 112
Boston 117, Indiana 97
Rockets 120, Knicks 96
Timberwolves 111, Heat 109
Thunder 123, Pistons 110
Grizzlies 122, Dallas 112
Jazz 119, Kings 98
Suns 133, Pelicans 126
Nuggets 119, Trail Blazers 110
Warriors 120, Cavaliers 114
Lakers 122, Clippers 117

• Boston moves one game up on Indiana for the four seed in the East with the win, plus the Celtics now own the tiebreaker between the teams, meaning the Celtics’ magic number for home court in the first round is just one (Celtics win or Pacer loss). While not officially a lock yet, these teams are almost certain to meet in the first round of the playoffs.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

X – Clinched Playoff Spot, Y – Clinched Division, Z – Clinched Conference

Friday’s playoff movers and clinchers:

• Boston now has full control of the four seed after beating Indiana, the Celtics are one game up on the Pacers in the 4/5 seed race, plus Boston has the tiebreaker (making it a two-game lead in practice, Boston’s magic number for the four seed is one).

• The Celtics are now just 1.5 games back of the 76ers for the three seed (two back in the loss column). Philly would have to go 1-2 in its final three games to open the door for Boston to move up.

• Orlando’s win combined with Detroit’s loss jumps the Magic all the way up to the six seed in the East, half-a-game ahead of the Pistons and Nets. All three of those teams are tied in the loss column.

• Miami’s loss drops them a full game back of the eight seed in the East and makes it a long shot Dwyane Wade will get to extend his last dance into the playoffs. If the Heat win out — against the Raptors, Sixers, and Nets — they will get in, but that’s a tall order.

• Charlotte keeps its slim playoff hopes alive with a Jeremy Lamb game-winner to beat Toronto. The Hornets need help from Brooklyn or Detroit (losing out) to make it, but the dream is not dead.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

X – Clinched Playoff Spot, Y – Clinched Division, Z – Clinched Conference

Friday’s playoff movers and clinchers

• With this win, Nuggets secure home court in the first round (they likely finish the No. 2 or 3 seed, but 4 is mathematically possible). Big step for a team that finished one game out of the playoffs the past two seasons.

• Golden State’s magic number is one (Warriors win or Nuggets loss) to secure home court throughout the Western Conference playoffs.

• Utah is just one game back of Portland in the 4/5 race and having home court in the first round. The Jazz have won seven in a row.

• The Clippers loss and the Thunder’s win leaves Oklahoma City just half a game back of Los Angeles for the six seed (and the teams are tied in the loss column. The Clippers close out the season against the Warriors and Jazz.

• Just one game separates the 6/7/8 seeds.

IF THE PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY:
Detroit at Milwaukee
Brooklyn at Toronto
Orlando at Philadelphia
Indiana at Boston

San Antonio at Golden State
Oklahoma City at Denver
L.A. Clippers at Houston
Utah at Portland

SATURDAY’S BIGGEST GAME:

• Brooklyn at Milwaukee (5 pm ET, NBATV). This is a potential first-round matchup, and if the Nets want to avoid that pairing they could use a win here on the road. The Bucks have locked up the top seed, does Giannis Antetokounmpo play? The other Bucks stars?

Jonathan Isaac, Al-Farouq Aminu not expected to be back for Magic when games restart

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Jonathan Isaac was having a breakout season for Orlando. He had become a go-to defensive stopper for the Magic, a long, athletic, switchable defender averaging 2.4 blocks and 1.6 steals a game. He was going to get All-Defensive team votes this season and looked like a future Defensive Player of the Year candidate. (On offense he’s averaged 12 points and 6.9 rebounds a game, both career bests, but he is still a project.)

He hyperextended his knee and suffered a bone bruise in January, but it looks like neither he nor veteran Al-Farouq Aminu (torn meniscus) will be on the court for the Magic when games restart in July, reports Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel.

Injured forwards Jonathan Isaac (knee) and Al-Farouq Aminu (knee) most likely will not be healthy enough to return…

“Not a whole lot of news there,” [Magic president of basketball operations Jeff] Weltman said when asked about the possibility of Isaac or Aminu returning. “As always, we’re going to wait and see how they respond to rehab. They’re both working very hard.

“There’s a difference of being healthy and then being safely healthy. It will have been a long, long time since those guys played and you know organizationally that we’re never going to put our guys in a position where they’re exposed to any sort of risk of injury. So that being said, we’ll just continue to see how they progress.”

Put plainly, the risk is not worth the reward. Isaac is a key part of what the Magic want to build in the future and they do not want to push him too hard to return for this handful of games.

Come July, the Magic will head down the street to the Walt Disney World resort complex in Orlando as the eighth seed in the East with a 5.5 game lead over the ninth-seeded Wizards (who will not have John Wall back). If Washington can close that gap to four games or fewer during the eight “seeding games,” then there will be a two-game play-in series between the teams, with the Magic just needing to win one of the two to advance (assuming they are still the eight seed).

After that, it’s on to the first round of the playoffs and the Milwaukee Bucks.

Isaac’s defense would be helpful against Bradley Beal and/or Giannis Antetokounmpo, but the Magic are thinking bigger picture.

Winning percentage will determine final seedings in NBA restart; regular tiebreakers used

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Heading into the NBA’s restart in Orlando, the Trail Blazers are the nine seed in the West, followed by the Pelicans and Kings. All three of those teams are 3.5 games back of Memphis for the eighth seed, however, Portland gets the nine seed because it played two more games than either New Orleans and Sacramento, went 1-1 in those two games, and that gives Portland a slightly better winning percentage (.439 to .438).

That winning percentage matters because it’s how the league will determine seeding in a situation where teams have played a different number of games, reports Tim Bontemps of ESPN.

In practical terms, this may not matter much.

In the West, if Portland and New Orleans both went 8-0 in the seeding games then winning percentage would play a role with the Blazers getting the higher seed. However, that scenario is highly unlikely. More likely is wins and losses in Orlando will decide this and other tiebreakers (New Orleans beat Sacramento in their one head-to-head meeting, but our projected schedule for those teams has them playing twice, so the head-to-head tiebreaker is still up in the air). Because of how the records shake out, tiebreakers are irrelevant to Portland — it will not tie any teams, winning percentage will decide their seed.

In the East, winning percentage is irrelevant for the playoff chase — either Washington gets within four games of Orlando hand forces play-in games for the final playoff spot, or it doesn’t and Orlando is in.

Eight teams not headed to Orlando considering mini-camps, summer games to help players

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Nine months is a long time to go without playing a basketball game.

That’s what the eight teams not going to the NBA season restart in Orlando — Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Golden State, Minnesota, and New York — face. And for all of those teams except the Warriors, developing young players to be the future core of the franchise is their goal, and no games from March to December will set that effort back.

Which is why the teams are talking about “mini-camps” — think college spring football — with two teams at least playing each other during those camps, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Among the front-office ideas presented to the NBA, sources said:

• A combination of voluntary and mandatory workouts for two weeks in July.
• Regional minicamps in August that include joint practices for a period of days and approximately three televised games.

Those teams also want other “voluntary” team workouts and to start their training camps for next season earlier than the teams headed to Orlando.

The NBA isn’t going to grant teams everything on their wish list, but there should be some allowance for organized mini-camps and scrimmages/exhibitions. This would be particularly important to New York (and maybe Chicago), where a new coach will be installing a new system and trying to start a new culture.

Those eight teams missed out on 17 or so “meaningless” games with their season put on hold, games that would have meant something in terms of developing young players and giving guys key minutes. The league should — and almost certainly will — take steps to allow those off-season camps and scrimmages, helping teams get their player development programs back on track.

Gregg Popovich’s powerful statement: ‘Our country is in trouble and the basic reason is race’

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As protests continue across the nation — sparked by the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, but really the culmination of decades of systemic and, sometimes, overt racism across the United States — NBA voices have spoken up. Players, coaches, and staff have done more than take to social media, they have participated in and led marches across the nation, and put their money where their mouth is.

One of those voices is Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.

He had spoken to Dave Zirin at The Nation, and on Saturday he released a powerful video statement through the Spurs.

Popovich has been at the forefront of NBA voices willing to speak out on social issues and criticize President Donald Trump. Popovich’s voice carries a lot of weight, both as a leader of men, and as a former Air Force officer who underwent intelligence training and specialized in Soviet studies.

In addition to coaching the San Antonio Spurs, Popovich will coach the USA Basketball team in the Tokyo Olympics, now set for July of 2021.