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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.

Kyrie Irving reportedly re-aggravates right shoulder, to see specialist

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Kyrie Irving missed 26 games this season with shoulder bursitis, but rather than have surgery he got a cortisone shot eight weeks ago and was able to return to the court for nine games. Eventually, a knee issue sidelined him.

Now he has re-aggravated that shoulder and, once again, will see a specialist, Nets coach Kenny Atkinson told the media on Tuesday.

There are no details on how the re-aggravation happened. Irving had been trying to avoid surgery, but that could be back on the table. The Nets may take a few weeks to make their decision on a next step.

Atkinson may not go there but the rest of us can — it would be a surprise to see Irving back this season. At this point, the smart play is to let Spencer Dinwiddie run the offense the rest of the way, play hard and see what happens in the playoffs, then return next season with a healthy Irving and Kevin Durant.

Irving has played in just 20 games this season, but without him the Nets are still the seven seed in the East at 25-28.

 

Coach John Beilein reportedly to leave Cavaliers, walk away from remaining contract

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The Cavaliers brought in Michigan coach John Beilein to install his motion offense, to develop young players, and to build a culture that could win big in Cleveland.

None of that happened. The Cavaliers are 14-40, they have the worst net rating in the league and are bottom seven in both offense and defense, their young talent — players such as Collin Sexton and Darius Garland — are not developing, and the Cavs’ players have clashed with Beilein and each other, and the team abandoned Beilein’s motion offense less than a month into the season. It’s been rough.

Now he’s going to walk away, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Cavaliers return to practice Wednesday and it is likely J.B. Bickerstaff — a former NBA head coach in Houston and Memphis, and the lead assistant on Beilein’s staff — will take over as head coach. Whether that is for just the remainder of this season, or beyond, remains to be seen.

Bickerstaff would be the fourth Cavaliers coach in less than two seasons since LeBron James left the organization.

Beilein struggled to adapt to the NBA coaching style — the lack of practices, the losing, the fact that good NBA players have more organizational power than the coach, and that he couldn’t treat those players the way he did his college players. He was unable to relate to players, and his relationship with them became an issue when he reportedly said they were “no longer playing like thugs” during a film session. Those NBA players were not giving a college coach the benefit of the doubt, he had to prove himself to them. He didn’t. At age 67, Beilein wasn’t able to adapt to the NBA game.

He was in the first year of a five-year contract worth more than $4 million a season (the last year of that was a team option). Beilein is unhappy enough to leave that money on the table to walk away. He could return to college coaching as soon as next season if he wanted, there would be a long line of universities interested.

Hiring Beilein is a big miss for GM Koby Altman (the first GM owner Dan Gilbert gave a second contract to; Gilbert pushed good GMs like David Griffen out the door). The revolving door of coaches is not the sign of a strong and stable organization. The Cavaliers need to develop a culture and they need a new coach who can deliver that.

 

Pistons reach buyout with Reggie Jackson, he’s headed to Clippers

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Reggie Jackson came to Detroit to be the outside to Andre Drummond‘s inside. That never panned out, in part due to a rash of injuries to Jackson that kept a lot over a couple of those seasons.

Drummond has been traded to Cleveland, and with that it was time for the Pistons to move on from Jackson as well. That has happened, the Pistons and Jackson have agreed to a buyout.

Once Jackson clears waivers, he is headed to the Clippers reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Jackson has only played in 14 games this season due to injury but has averaged 14.9 points and 5.1 assists a game when he has played, plus is shooting 37.8 percent from three. Jackson is making $18 million this season, the final year of a five-year, $80 million contract he inked back in 2015. He is a free agent this summer.

Why the Clippers? They are contenders, and Jackson is friends with Paul George.

The Clippers get two things out of this. First, they get a third point guard who can spell Patrick Beverley 10-12 minutes a night down the stretch (and fill in if Beverley suffers an injury). Second, the Clippers keep a playmaking guard away from the Lakers.

Detroit saves a little money and takes another step to clear the roster for a rebuild. They have Derrick Rose and Brandon Knight at the point guard spot, don’t be surprised if they call up a few guys from the G-League to see if they can find a longer-term option.

Adam Silver acknowledges ratings drop as NBA tries to connect young viewers to broadcasts

NBA commissioner Adam Silver
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One of the NBA’s great strengths is its core audience is younger than the other major American sports.

One of the NBA’s great challenges is its core audience is younger than the other major American sports.

That means a lot of NBA fans are cord cutters — or, never had a cord to begin with — and don’t consume their entertainment the way their parents and grandparents did. Much the way we do a poor job measuring the economy by doing it the same way we did a century ago, using traditional Neilson rating measures is a poor way to judge the number of eyeballs on a game. Viewership is evolving.

But make no mistake, traditional ratings are down for the NBA, both nationally and at the regional level. Nationwide ratings are down by 12 percent, including 13 percent on TNT and 16 percent on ABC. On the regional level, the Sports Business Journal reports ratings are down by 13 percent. That is due to some big drops in certain markets (the Bay Area, for example), while the NBA says that ratings are up in 13 of the 28 markets that have reliable Neilson numbers (28 cities because Toronto and Denver are not included, the latter of which has a coverage/cable dispute that has much of the greater Denver region unable to view games at home).

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver owned the drop during All-Star weekend. He added that while the league could blame injuries to players that would be draws  — Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson with the Warriors, Zion Williamson with the Pelicans, Kevin Durant in Brooklyn, etc. — the bigger issue is connecting those younger viewers to NBA broadcasts.

“It’s well-known that on one hand we’re celebrated by some because we have such a young fan base, but that young fan base is disconnecting from pay television in record numbers, and by disconnecting, not just simply not subscribing to cable or so-called cutting the cord, they’re not watching traditional paid television the way they used to,” Silver said during his All-Star weekend press conference. “They’re watching over-the-top streaming services. They’re watching screens, but it’s not essentially pay TV.

“So the good news for the league is that, when we look at all other data points, particularly what we see in social media, what we see in terms of distribution of highlights and general chatter around our games, we’ve never been more popular. But we haven’t found a way to connect those young fans to our broadcast through whatever platform they’re going to be delivered.

“Again, I think it’s a very solvable problem. Our two primary media partners, Disney and AT&T, are both very engaged in these issues…

“So it’s not an issue unique to the NBA. We may be affected by it a little bit more compared to some properties because we have such a young fan base, but I’m super confident over time we’ll work through it because there remains enormous interest in our players and our game.”

Silver also showed at the NBA’s tech summit where he thinks the broadcast of NBA games is headed, trying to bring the courtside experience into the home (with an assist from Bill Murray).

Silver isn’t alone in thinking this way. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, for one, said basically the same thing recently.

A well-respected media consultant recently told Forbes magazine he doesn’t think this ratings downturn is going to hurt the league in 2025 when it’s time to negotiate a new broadcast deal.

“This season’s NBA ratings story is silly. It is a small sample size. This is a year-round league with year-round stories,” says sports media consultant Lee Berke of LHB Sports. “The next NBA media agreements will be a substantially evolved set of deals because of streaming. There will be an increasing range of media companies that want the NBA for the U.S. and worldwide.”

The current $2.7 billion per year NBA deal with ESPN and TNT runs through the 2024-25 season, and Berke expects the next deal to roughly double in value.

That’s the vision Adam Silver sees. It’s just a matter of figuring out how to connect those young viewers to the content. Then to stop measuring viewership the way our grandparents did.