Associated Press

NBA playoff picture after Sunday: Orlando, Brooklyn earn tickets to playoff party

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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.

SUNDAY’S SCORES
Raptors 117, Heat 109
Spurs 112, Cavaliers 90
Thunder 132, Timberwolves 126
Hornets 104, Pistons 91
Nets 108, Pacers 96
Mavericks 129, Grizzlies 127
Rockets 149, Suns 113
Bucks 115, Hawks 107
Magic 116, Celtics 108
Knicks 113, Wizards 110
Warriors 131, Clippers 104
Trail Blazers 115, Nuggets 108
Pelicans 133, Kings 129
Lakers 113, Jazz 109

• The Brooklyn Nets and Orlando Magic are going to the playoffs. With their wins and the Miami Heat’s loss, Brooklyn and Orlando have punched their tickets for the postseason. Neither were projected as likely playoff teams before the season and it speaks to the turnaround in both organizations that we are here.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

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

Sunday’s playoff movers and clinchers:

• The top five spots in the East are locked in place now: 1) Bucks, 2) Raptors, 3) Sixers, 4) Celtics, 5) Pacers.
• Boston and Indiana will face each other in the first round, starting in Boston.
• Brooklyn and Orlando have qualified for the playoffs. For both Brooklyn and Orlando, this represents a milestone in an effort to turn a floundering organization around and it should be celebrated. Coaches Kenny Atkinson and Steve Clifford did impressive work.
• Detroit, Charlotte, and Miami are in a fight for the final playoff spot, however, only Detroit controls its own destiny. If the Pistons win their final two games (Tuesday against the Grizzlies and Wednesday at the Knicks) they are in. The Hornets (who beat the Pistons Sunday to stay alive) and Heat need help, starting with the Pistons dropping at least one game.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

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

Sunday’s playoff movers and clinchers

• The Warriors have secured the No. 1 seed, meaning for the final time the West playoffs will go through Oracle Arena.
• That is the only seed locked in place in the West. We have known who the eight playoff teams are for a while but every other seed could still change.
• Denver rested its three biggest stars and lost to Portland, combine that with Houston’s sixth win in a row and the Rockets are just half a game back of the Nuggets for the No. 2 seed.
• Portland’s win and Utah’s surprise loss to the Lakers means the Trail Blazers have a magic number of one (Portland win or Utah loss) to secure home court in the first round. Those two teams almost certainly will meet in the 4/5 series, but it is not a lock yet.
• Wins by the Spurs and Thunder saw them jumping the Clippers, who fell from the six to the eight seed on Sunday. The Spurs and Clippers are now tied at 47-43 with one game to play, but since San Antonio has the tiebreaker it is the seven seed. Both of those teams are just half a game back of the Thunder, who have one fewer loss but two games to play still.

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

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

TUESDAY’S BIGGEST GAMES:

• The NBA is dark Monday so the NCAA can have the floor for its championship game. Here are the big games for next Tuesday.

• Memphis at Detroit (7 pm ET). The Pistons control their own destiny in the race for the eight seed in the East, but they need to win out to secure it. Memphis is trying to win (they owe Boston a first-round pick and want to convey it this year, which means the pick needs to land outside the top 8, the odds of that improve dramatically if the Grizzlies keep winning) and will not be a pushover.

• Philadelphia at Miami (7:30 pm ET). Miami has to win to keep any dream of a playoff berth alive (and they need help, but lose and it doesn’t matter). The Sixers are locked in as the three seed, without motivation they may rest key players.

• Denver at Utah (9 pm ET). The Nuggets are just half a game up on the Rockets for the two seed, after resting key players and losing on Sunday the Nuggets may want to go hard for the win on Tuesday. The Jazz almost certainly are the five seed, but their slim chance of the four seed is alive only if they win out.

• Houston at Oklahoma City (9:30 pm ET, TNT). This is a potential first-round matchup (it would be the matchup if the playoffs started today). With a win, Houston would lock up at least the three seed and keep alive their dreams of wresting the two seed away from Denver. OKC could finish anywhere from 5 to 8, but it doesn’t want to lose and end up eighth and facing the Warriors in the first round, a win helps with that.

Rockets focused on basketball after fallout from Daryl Morey’s tweet

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HOUSTON (AP) The Rockets are back home in Houston, looking to leave behind the distractions from their trip to Asia.

Their two games in Japan were overshadowed by the aftermath of a tweet by general manager Daryl Morey in support for anti-government protesters in Hong Kong, angering fans and officials in China.

In their first practice since returning, the Rockets insisted they wouldn’t let the fallout distract them from preparing from the season.

“Guys can handle it,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We still got good work in. Everything’s fine, but you know what happened (is) regrettable, and it happened, but as I said, our work will get done.”

Veteran P.J. Tucker denied that dealing with this situation has been a distraction to this team trying to contend for its first title since winning back-to-back championships in 1994-95.

“Not really, honestly,” he said. “This time of season, everybody’s getting in shape, getting ready for the season, focusing in. So with all of the things that go on in life, and whatever, this is still our job, so we still come in and do our job every single day.”

The Rockets were in Hawaii on Oct. 4 to play a preseason game against the Los Angeles Clippers on the first leg of a trip that included two games in Japan when Morey tweeted an image that said: “Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong.” His tweet was in reference to pro-democracy demonstrations in the semiautonomous Chinese territory that has been mired in escalating violence between protesters and law enforcement.

The tweet was deleted soon after it was posted, and Rockets owner and billionaire casino and restaurant owner Tilman Fertitta quickly rebuked his GM with a tweet saying that Morey does not speak for the team. He added: “Our presence in Tokyo is all about the promotion of the NBA internationally and we are NOT a political organization.”

Despite the swift response from Fertitta, the damage was already done. Former Rockets star Yao Ming took offense to Morey’s support for the anti-government protesters and as president of the Chinese Basketball Association, suspended its ties to the Rockets over the tweet.

Events in China promoting the Lakers-Nets series were canceled, NBA media partner Tencent said it was evaluating its plans to cover the league, and China state broadcaster CCTV did not air either preseason game.

The tweet also caused some Chinese corporations to suspend relationships with the NBA and it is unclear what can be done to mend the relationship.

D’Antoni was asked if there is anything the coaches and players can do to help repair things with China.

“We’ve just got to keep playing and keep trying to be good ambassadors for the game, that’s all the players can do,” he said. “And then we’ll let the NBA and the Houston Rockets sort things out.”

Morey hasn’t spoken publicly since the tweet, with his only comments on the issue coming in two more tweets on Oct. 6. In those tweets he did not apologize for his initial tweet but did say that his tweets “in no way represent the Rockets or the NBA.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver backed Morey’s right to express his opinion and said: “We are not apologizing for Daryl exercising his freedom of expression.”

Morey was at the Toyota Center on Sunday but did not speak to reporters and was not at the small portion of practice that media was permitted to attend. While Morey stayed out of the spotlight it was up to the players and D’Antoni to address how the Rockets can move past what happened.

James Harden understands that as the face of the team, people want him to be a spokesman for the Rockets in all issues, but right now he wants to keep his comments on basketball.

“We’ve just been focusing on us and getting better,” he said. “Whatever is going to happen is going to happen. We focus on what we can control in this locker room … we had an unbelievable road trip, a great experience in those cities, and now we’re back and just trying to get better.”

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AP Sports Writer Stephen Hawkins contributed to this report.

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More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Tacko Fall reportedly earns two-way contract with Celtics

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Internet goobers can now rejoice, Tacko Fall will be joining Boston Celtics on a two-way contract this season.

The 7-foot-6 Fall, who played college ball at USF, has quickly become an internet darling based on his sheer size. His lanky frame and ability to shoot the 3-pointer hasn’t hurt Fall’s reputation as a fan favorite, either.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Fall will be signed to a two-way contract but is expected to spend most of his time in the NBA G-League.

Via Twitter:

Who knows if Fall will spend how much time with the Celtics this season. It’s not clear whether he’s actually ready for an NBA role just yet, particularly for a team in Boston that is looking to take over the Eastern Conference in the absence of Kawhi Leonard with the Toronto Raptors.

The Celtics are looking to make an NBA Finals run in 2020, and PFallaul will be an unlikely candidate to play a factor in that goal. Still, it’s a fun story and great to see a fan-favorite make it through and earn a contract.

Jayson Tatum doesn’t think Kobe Bryant taught him any bad habits

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There have been a lot of jokes about how Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum worked with Kobe Bryant two summers ago, and how that may have affected his performance in 2018-19. Tatum increased his shooting in segments between three and 16 feet by a combined 8% last season over his rookie year. Those midrange shots were largely attributed to Bryant’s influence by the social media sphere.

This regression went so far that Tim Bontemps recently wrote a story at ESPN about trying to de-Kobe-ify Tatum this year in Boston. But Tatum has heard those rumors, and he doesn’t believe that Bryant gave him any bad habits. To that end, Tatum said he’s still going to shoot the midrange jumper and he’s not putting Kobe at fault for his lack of progression last year.

Tatum’s comments were… well, just read them below.

Via MassLive:

“I’m still going to shoot the mid-range,” Tatum said after the Boston Celtics blowout of the Orlando Magic. “I seen all the people talking about the de-Kobe-ing. No, Kobe didn’t teach me anything bad. Everything we talked about and he showed me was great.”

“Last year, the jump that I didn’t make that everybody expected was not his fault,” Tatum said. “He’s one of the greatest ever. Everything he taught me was — I’m very grateful and it helped me. I gotta take responsibility for how I played last year and not being that big a jump that people thought. I’m still going to shoot mid-range.”

“I got better last year. Just not what people expected, not what I expected, and I take full responsibility,” Tatum said. “That’s why I’m excited for this year. But Kobe didn’t teach me any bad habits. I didn’t say that.”

Tatum’s problem wasn’t just his shot distribution, it was his shot selection. Not only did he shoot more buckets from three to 16 feet, but Tatum performed significantly worse from 16 feet out to the 3-point line, where he dipped by seven percentage points. He also saw a six percent drop in his 3-point shooting.

Combined with his shot distribution, Tatum’s percentages dropping in key areas made him a much less effective offensive player. Then again, if you watched any of the Celtics the last year — or paid attention to Boston pans online — you would know that they were fed up with some of the forced, Kobe-ish buckets Tatum would take at inopportune moments.

Even if Tatum ends up being a very good midrange shooter, that would cap his potential at DeMar DeRozan. That’s not what Danny Ainge and Boston are looking for, so perhaps someone can talk some sense into Tatum before it’s too late.

Leave it up to a former Laker to ruin the Celtics from within.

Spencer Dinwiddie announces date for investment in his contract

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Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie wanted to create a security out of his next NBA contract. The NBA said no. But then reports surfaced that Dinwiddie was going ahead with the plan anyway. Now it appears that Dinwiddie has made that public, and he is proceeding with his plan to create a digital token and give fans an opportunity to invest in his contract.

In a series of tweets on Sunday, Dinwiddie outlined that he would go ahead and use his next contract as planned. Specifically, folks will be able to invest in Dinwiddie’s guaranteed money, giving him cash up front in exchange for a return of their principal plus interest at a later date.

For his part, Dinwiddie said that the plan is legal and does not violate the CBA.

Via Twitter:

In his tweet thread, Dinwiddie also said that the transaction is between himself and fans, and that the NBA does not have any control over a third-party transaction in this fashion.

This could be a very interesting back-and-forth between the Brooklyn star and the league. If he’s ready to go ahead with his plan, it’ll force the NBA to respond.