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?

Report: Jonathan Kuminga, top prospect for 2021 NBA Draft, to earn $500K in NBA minor league

Jonathan Kuminga
Jonathan Kuminga
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Jonathan Kuminga didn’t crack our list of the top 50 players in five years last summer, but he drew consideration and rated as the top prospect in the 2021 high school class.

Now, he’s fast-tracking his ascent – turning pro by signing with the NBA’s minor league and positioning himself for the 2021 NBA Draft.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Kuminga will join Jalen Green, Isaiah Todd and Daishen Nix in this professional-pathway program.

We’ll see how well this setup, run by Brian Shaw, prepares young players for the NBA. But the money is nice. Kuminga ($500,000), Green ($500,000), Todd ($250,000) and Nix ($300,000) have approximate salaries that wouldn’t be allowed by the NCAA cartel system.

Hopefully, the competition forces college basketball to treat its players more fairly.

Washington Mystics: We planned all along to pay Elena Delle Donne

Washington Mystics star Elena Delle Donne
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Washington Mystics star Elena Delle Donne – per a panel of doctors chosen by the WNBA and its union – doesn’t face elevated risk of severe symptoms if she contracts coronavirus. That meant the Mystics wouldn’t have to pay her if she sits out this season. Delle Donne has publicly argued her Lyme disease should have medically excused her from the WNBA season, allowing her to collect her full salary.

Like many people amid the pandemic, Delle Donne faced a hard decision: Work and risk exposure to coronavirus or miss out on money and stay safer.

The Mystics have solved her dilemma – agreeing to pay her while she remains away from the team.

Mystics general manager/coach Mike Thibault, via Tyler Byrum of NBC Sports Washington:

“She is being paid and is continuing to rehab from her offseason back surgery. If at some point later in the season, we are all comfortable – I mean all comfortable – enough with both her physical progress and the safety of joining the team in Florida, then we will make those arrangements. If we don’t feel that she will continue to do the workouts in D.C., and get herself ready for the following season.”

“We can do anything we want,” Thibault said. “We have intended to [pay her] from the start. She’s a major part of our team and she’s making every effort to do the rehab that she needs to do.”

“I have told her that there is not going to be pressure put on her to hurry back, I don’t want — I’m in this and she’s in this for the long haul,” Thibault said.

If the Mystics truly planned all along to pay Delle Donne, her public-relations campaign the last couple days seems excessive.

But it’s also possible the public pressure she raised contributed to this decision.

As reigning WNBA MVP, Delle Donne had leverage that other players don’t. That’s why I’m surprised this was up to the Mystics. Other WNBA teams don’t want to face increasing pressure to pay any players who want to sit out. That’s why the panel of doctors existed in the first place.

Perhaps, Delle Donne’s back injury gave Washington a workaround. That’s a reasonable excuse for Delle Donne not reporting while still getting paid. Is the WNBA really going to investigate the Mystics’ assessment of their own player’s physical health when the player agrees?

This is a good outcome for Delle Donne. She made herself so valuable to her employer that it’ll pay her not to work. That’s a heck of an accomplishment by her.

We’ll see how much, if any, of a precedent it sets.

Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox out at least 7-10 days with sprained ankle

De'Aaron Fox sprained ankle
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For a Sacramento team with playoff dreams, this is a punch to the gut: De'Aaron Fox is going to be sidelined until around the start of seeding games — 7-10 days at least — with a sprained ankle.

The Kings’ announced that their point guard sprained his left ankle in practice Wednesday. While he will be re-evaluated in 7-10 days, he could be out longer. This is the same ankle Fox sprained in November that caused him to miss 17 games.

The Kings’ first game is 16 days away against San Antonio.

Fox, arguably the fastest player in the league with the ball in his hands, averaged 20.4 points, and 6.8 assists this season, playing at a near All-star level once he came back from the sprained ankle. Fox is the engine of the Sacramento offense, it is 5.2 points per 100 possessions worse when he is off the court.

Sacramento comes into the restart in a virtual tie with Portland and New Orleans for the ninth seed in the West, 3.5 games back of Memphis. However, the Kings have not been able to get their stars on the court together: Harrison Barnes and Alex Len and remain in Sacramento, quarantining after testing positive for the coronavirus. Richaun Holmes is in quarantine on his Walt Disney World hotel room after leaving the confines of the NBA bubble to pick up a food delivery.

All of which combine to make it an even longer shot the Kings end their 14-year playoff drought this season. The sprained ankle for De’Aaron Fox, if it slows him at all, would be a serious blow to those chances.

 

Spurs: Trey Lyles out rest of season (appendectomy)

Spurs forward Trey Lyles
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The Spurs lost their top big in LaMarcus Aldridge.

Now, they’ll lose Trey Lyles, who often started at power forward next to Aldridge and also played behind Aldridge at center.

Spurs release:

Spurs forward Trey Lyles underwent an appendectomy earlier today in Orlando, Fla.

Lyles will miss the remainder of the 2019-20 season.

San Antonio’s last seeding game is scheduled for Aug. 13 – nearly a month away. Theoretically, Lyles could have tried to return by then.

The NBA dodges a complication with the Spurs ruling him out for the rest of the season.

Lyles left the NBA’s campus for his surgery. (Disney World is in Lake Buena Vista. He underwent surgery in Orlando.) That means he faced exposure in Florida, where coronavirus cases are surging. It would have been tricky bringing him back into the bubble safely while not punishing him for requiring medical attention.

The NBA will probably face this conundrum with someone else later. But the league avoids that situation for now.

San Antonio’s problems are more pressing.

Jakob Poeltl is now the Spurs’ top center, but he fits poorly with DeMar DeRozan because they’re both non-shooters from 3-point range. Rudy Gay should see plenty of time at power forward.

Behind them, options – newly signed Tyler Zeller, Drew Eubanks, Chimezie Metu and Luka Samanic – are uninspiring.

Gregg Popovich truly must muster some magic for San Antonio to extend its record playoff streak.