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

Associated Press
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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?

Watch Jamal Murray, Kawhi Leonard score first buckets in returns

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It’s only preseason. But if you’ve sat out an entire season with an ACL injury,  just getting on the court feels like a milestone.

And getting your first bucket back feels memorable.

That happened for the Nuggets Jamal Murray and the Clippers Kawhi Leonard on Monday night.

For Murray, the bucket came on a corner 3 in transition.

Murray also showed flashes he’s getting his handle and wiggle back, something that made him a great fit with Nikola Jokic.

Leonard wasted no time, scoring the Clippers’ first bucket by lulling his defender to sleep and then shooting the pull-up 3.

I feel we’re going to see a lot more of that this season.

The NBA is just better with these two back on the court.

 

Cavaliers Evan Mobley out 1-2 weeks with sprained ankle

2022-23 Cleveland Cavaliers Media Day
Nick Falzerano/NBAE via Getty Images
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The Cleveland Cavaliers might have the best frontcourt in the East this season with All-Star Jarrett Allen and the emerging star Evan Mobley, but it may be a few weeks before we see them together.

Mobley is out 1-2 weeks with a sprained right ankle, the Cavaliers announced a couple of days before their preseason opener. Mobley stepped on a teammate’s foot and rolled his ankle during practice, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.

Mobley, who finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting, averaged 15 points and 8.3 rebounds a game in his first campaign, but his more significant impact was on the defensive end. Mobley earned All-Defensive Team consideration as a rookie — an incredibly rare feat — and with Allen formed an impressive backstop for teams trying to drive the paint.

Reports out of Cavaliers training camp rave about the improvements made in Mobley’s offensive game, but we’ll have to wait a few weeks to see that for ourselves now. Mobley, with a more consistent face-up game and jumper, has the potential to develop into a top 15, maybe even top-10 player in the league. The Cavaliers are banking on the young core of Mobley, Allen, Darius Garland and the just acquired Donovan Mitchell to be able to take the team far in the next few years, with Mobley’s improvement key to just how far they can go.

It sounds like Mobley will be good to go for the start of the season.

Karl-Anthony Towns just cleared to walk Saturday following non-COVID illness

Karl-Anthony Towns Offseaon Workout
Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images
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Karl-Anthony Towns has not been in camp with the Timberwolves, sidelined by a non-COVID illness. Beyond that, there were not a lot of details other than his girlfriend Jordyn Woods saying on social media that she had taken him to the hospital.

Towns spoke to the media for the first time this season on Monday and said he was just cleared to walk again on Saturday, but did not get into detail about whatever illness he is dealing with.

First, it is Towns’ right if and when to disclose what he went through. This is not an on-court injury leading to a loss of playing time, and it is his call to talk about.

Towns has been sidelined before by illness, including COVID. After losing his mother and other family members to the disease, he also had a long battle with it. Fortunately, this is not that virus, but whatever it was it sidelined him for a couple of weeks.

That missed training camp is a setback as the Timberwolves try to get used to a two-big lineup with KAT and Rudy Gobert, plus some other new faces. Still, Towns and Minnesota should be good to go by the start of the season, a team thinking playoffs and much more after spending big this offseason.

Lakers reportedly ‘seriously considered’ Westbrook trade for Hield, Turner

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“If you make that trade, it has to be the right one, you have one shot to do it. So we’re being very thoughtful around the decisions on when and how to use draft capital in a way that will improve our roster.”

That was Lakers GM Rob Pelinka on media day talking about the possibility of the Lakers trading the only two first-round picks they control this decade — 2027 and 2029 — to upgrade this roster around LeBron. Pelinka was clear the Lakers were committed to building a winner around LeBron, “We have one of the great players in LeBron James to ever play the game, and he committed to us on a long-term contract, a three-year contract… He committed to our organization. That’s gotta be a bilateral commitment, and it’s there.”

But should that include a Russell Westbrook trade to Indiana for Buddy Hield and Myles Turner? Shams Charania of The Athletic updated and added to the extensive previous reporting on this trade, saying the Lakers kept the door open right up to the start of training camp but didn’t pull the trigger.

Vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka, owner Jeanie Buss and senior basketball adviser Kurt Rambis seriously considered sending Westbrook and unprotected first-round picks in 2027 and 2029 to the Pacers for center Myles Turner and guard Buddy Hield, sources said. They held a series of meetings in the days leading up to camp to analyze the possible Pacers deal from every angle, with the views of Ham and Lakers executives Joey and Jesse Buss also being strongly considered in the process. The organization even delayed the midweek news conference for Pelinka and Ham as the debate continued…

If they were going to gamble on a make-or-break move of this magnitude, the thinking went, then everyone had to have confidence in the same vision. But when that wasn’t the case, sources say, the choice was made by Pelinka to remain patient and see, yet again, if Westbrook might find a way to make this imperfect fit with the Lakers work.

Hield and Turner would absolutely improve the Lakers. Turner can play the five, is an elite shot blocker who could provide a strong defensive back line next to Anthony Davis, and is a respectable 3-point shooter who can space the floor. He’s a natural fit. Hield brings shooting that the Lakers have coveted for years and need more of now.

That trade would have moved the Lakers up the ladder to a solid playoff team in the West. Would that trade make the Lakers contenders? Probably not. It still would have come back to the bubble version of Davis and LeBron being ready for the final 16-game sprint to have a puncher’s chance (that may be the case regardless of other moves). Also, it would have messed with future free agency plans in Los Angeles — the Lakers can have around $30 million in cap space next summer to chase Kyrie Irving (although Shams reports that’s not in their plans) or other name players, Hield is owed $19.3 million next season and Turner will be a free agent the Lakers would need to re-sign. This deal would end the dream of a free agent taking a little less than the max to come to the Lakers (a dream not likely to come to reality anyway).

As Pelinka said, the Lakers have one shot with trading their two picks to upgrade the roster — they have to hit a home run, this can’t be a solid single. The Lakers were not convinced Hield and Turner could be that home run tandem.

So Los Angeles will go into the season with a starting five of Westbrook, Kendrick Nunn, LeBron, Davis, and Damian Jones, with a bench of Patrick Beverley, Thomas Bryant, Austin Reaves, and Dennis Schroder. The Lakers will see if it fits, how far it looks like this group can take them under new coach Darvin Ham, and watch the market to see what other stars could become available.

The Lakers aren’t done dealing, but it looks like a deal with Indiana is now in the rearview mirror.