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  • Thursday, April 17, 2014
    Blazers' reserves outlast Clippers' reserves
    By The Sports Xchange

    PORTLAND, Ore. -- Before Wednesday's regular-season finale against the Los Angeles Clippers, Portland Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts was asked if the meaningless game would be like a preseason matchup.

    • "It will be better than that," he said.

      The contest was more entertaining than maybe it had a right to be, considering all the regulars who took the night off.

      Guard Will Barton came off the bench to compile a career-high 23 points and 10 rebounds, and the Trail Blazers beat the Clippers 110-104 at the Moda Center.

      Center Robin Lopez collected 15 points and nine rebounds in just 14 minutes, and forward Victor Claver chipped in 12 points -- including eight straight in the final two minutes -- and six rebounds for the Blazers, who enter the playoffs as the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference.

      Portland, which won nine of its last 10 regular-season games, visits Houston on Sunday night for the series opener against the Rockets.

      The Blazers finished 54-28, a 21-victory improvement from last season.

      "I was on the other end of that last year," Portland guard Wesley Matthews said. "We said before the season there was something special about this team. To get 54 (wins) after having 33 last season, and having been written off from the jump -- we played with an edge all year. I'm proud of this group."

      Guard Jamal Crawford contributed 34 points, eight assists and five rebounds in 42 minutes for the Clippers, the No. 3 seed in the West. Los Angeles (57-25) plays host to the Golden State Warriors on Saturday in a postseason series opener.

      Forward Matt Barnes had 19 points and eight rebounds, and guard Darren Collison scored 19 points and dished out seven assists for the Clippers.

      The Clippers were without starting guards Chris Paul and J.J. Redick as well as suspended forward Blake Griffin. Center DeAndre Jordan started, played 1:23, then departed for the night. The Blazers didn't suit up forward LaMarcus Aldridge and reserve guard Mo Williams.

      Portland led by 22 points in the second quarter and was still in front by 16 when the Clippers stormed back, capping a 17-0 run with Crawford's four-point play midway through the third quarter. Moments later, Collison's three-point play gave the visitors a 78-76 lead. The difference increased to 85-79 late in the quarter, with the Clippers -- who outscored Portland 29-8 the last nine minutes of the quarter -- carrying an 85-82 lead into the final period.

      "That was a great third quarter," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "I wasn't real happy with the way we played the first half, but the second half, guys came out focused."

      Los Angeles was in front 87-84 when Portland rebounded, using a 7-0 spurt to go on top 91-87.

      Claver's personal eight-point run -- a three-point play, a 3-point shot and a put-back -- gave the Blazers a 108-100 edge with 1:20 remaining, in effect wrapping things up.

      "It's good to end on a positive note," Stotts said. "I was pleased with the way everybody played. The starters set the tone in the first quarter, and I was proud of the young guys who struggled through the third quarter when the offense didn't click but hung in there.

      "We've had a regular season we should all be proud of. Now the fun starts."

      NOTES: The Blazers became the fifth team in NBA history to have four players -- C Robin Lopez, F Nicolas Batum, G Damian Lillard and G Wesley Matthews -- start all 82 regular-season contests. ... Lopez set a franchise record with 326 offensive rebounds. ... Portland C/F Joel Freeland played for the first time since injuring a knee on Feb. 12, contributing six points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench. ... Clippers G Jamal Crawford, who missed 13 of the previous 21 games with a calf injury, shot 10-for-25 from the field and 11-for-11 from the foul line. "I had rustiness, and I had to get it off," the 14-year veteran said. "I feel a lot better after playing those minutes." ... Portland's 54 wins tied for sixth most in franchise history and the most since 2008-09 (also 54). ... The Blazers finished the season shooting an NBA-best .815 from the foul line, a franchise record. They also established a franchise record for 3-pointers made in a season (770).

  • Thursday, April 17, 2014
    Reserves lead Warriors past Nuggets in finale
    By The Sports Xchange

    DENVER -- With the guys who carried the Golden State Warriors to the playoffs serving as spectators, two role players stepped up Wednesday.

    • Guard Jordan Crawford scored a career-high 41 points and Golden State beat the Denver Nuggets 116-112 to enter the playoffs on a winning note.

      Forward Harrison Barnes also had a career high with 30 points for the Warriors, whose postseason fate was determined when Oklahoma City edged Detroit for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.

      Golden State, the No. 6 seed, will open the first round in Los Angeles on Saturday against the Los Angeles Clippers.

      "It's going to be a big-time task, but we're looking forward to it," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. "They're the favorites, and they should be. There've been a lot of underdogs that have been champs, so we don't pay attention to that. We respect the type of team that they are and now let the chips fall where they may."

      The Warriors (51-31) finished 2-2 against L.A., but they will be without center Andrew Bogut, making it tougher to go against Clippers big men Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.

      Golden State can draw on last year's playoff experience when, also as the sixth seed, it upset the No. 3 Nuggets in six games.

      "I don't pay attention to it," guard Steph Curry said. "The experts picked Denver last year. They're never 100 percent right."

      With nothing on the line Wednesday, the Warriors sat many of their starters. Curry, Andre Iguodala and forwards Jermaine O'Neal and David Lee did not play. Guard Klay Thompson played just nine minutes and forward Draymond Green was pressed into playing after centers Hilton Armstrong and Marreese Speights fouled out.

      Still, the Warriors were able to win the third-most games in franchise history and also tie the record for most road wins (24).

      "We're talking about 51 wins, 20 games over .500, 24 road victories," Jackson said. "It's an incredible group. It's been an awesome year."

      Guard Randy Foye scored 32 points and added 11 assists and forward Kenneth Faried had 15 points and 13 rebounds for the Nuggets, whose rally fell short.

      "I told the guys this is the last time we want to end our season on the last game of the regular season," Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said.

      Foye was chasing the franchise record for 3-pointers in a season set by Dale Ellis in 1996-97. Foye finished with 189, three shy of Ellis' mark.

      "I think the last two games it kind of got to me," Foye said. "(Tuesday) night I was kind of tight shooting the ball. Usually I'm loose, laughing and joking. I'm just happy I finished this year playing all 82 games without injury."

      Like last year, Denver's season ended against Golden State. A year after winning a franchise-best 57 games, the Nuggets (36-46) missed the playoffs for the first time since 2002-03.

      Barnes and Crawford made up for the absence of the top players. Barnes scored 22 and Crawford 19.

      Golden State led 66-52 at halftime.

      Denver scored 15 straight spanning the end of the third and start of the fourth to take a 90-88 lead, its first since early in the game.

      The game was back and forth when Crawford, who had 12 points in the fourth, hit a floater in the lane to make it 110-108.

      After a couple of misses, Barnes hit a free throw and Green tipped in the missed second free throw to make it 113-108 with 29.6 seconds left.

      The Warriors missed two of four free throws in the final minute, giving Denver a chance, but Foye's 3-point try with 7.3 seconds left was ruled wide after a video review determined Green didn't interfere with the shot.

      "They knew who the ball was coming to, but I missed the shot," Foye said. "The ref said his hand hit the ball and made it hit the rim. I had a good look."

      Barnes hit a free throw to seal it.

      NOTES: Warriors coach Mark Jackson said C Andrew Bogut is out indefinitely and there is no timetable for his return, no matter how deep Golden State goes in the playoffs. Bogut suffered a rib fracture against Portland on Sunday. ... Denver F Anthony Randolph returned after missing Tuesday's game for personal reasons. ... Jackson became just the third coach in franchise history to win 50 games in a season. He joins Don Nelson and Al Attles in the exclusive club. ... The Nuggets honored longtime trainer Jim Gillen, who is retiring at the end of the season. Gillen, who joined Denver in 1991-92, is known for his signature sweater vests, and coach Brian Shaw, his assistants and several Nuggets employees wore them in honor of the veteran trainer.

  • Thursday, April 17, 2014
    Suns match second-best mark for non-playoff team
    By The Sports Xchange

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The Phoenix Suns are headed home after winning 48 games in rookie coach Jeff Hornacek's first season.

    • Even so, they would like to think that the NBA's second-most successful non-playoff season shows there are bright days ahead.

      Rookie guard Archie Goodwin's sendoff also has the Suns dreaming big thoughts. Goodwin scored a career-high 29 points, and his five straight late in the fourth quarter broke the game's final tie and gave the Suns a 104-99 victory over the Sacramento Kings at Sleep Train Arena on Wednesday.

      The Suns finished 48-34, 23 more victories than they recorded a year ago. They tied the 1970-71 Suns and the 2007-08 Golden State Warriors for the second-most victories in a non-playoff campaign. The 1971-72 Suns won 49 contests and finished out of the dance.

      Phoenix was eliminated when it lost to the Memphis Grizzlies 97-91 at home on Monday. The Suns played Wednesday without leading scorer Goran Dragic, who missed the contest with a sprained ankle. The guard averaged 20.3 points in 76 games.

      "They laid it all out there," Hornacek said of his team, which many experts picked to finish near the bottom of the Western Conference standings. "For what we went through, not making the playoffs in the end, I think the guys will come back hungrier than ever. I think they had a great season."

      Goodwin made a short jumper with 3:48 to go to break a 94-94 tie forged when Kings forward Quincy Acy dunked a rebound while being fouled, then made the free throw. After Sacramento forward Travis Outlaw missed a jumper, Goodwin made his only 3-pointer of the night, capping an 11-for-13 shooting performance.

      His most spectacular points came on a first-half dunk between Kings defenders Acy and guard Ben McLemore.

      "I fed off my teammates," Goodwin said. "They put me in great position to score, and I got a couple of rebounds and made a few free throws. I knew I was going to play a lot, so I was just trying to leave a good (impression) going into the summer."

      Forward Marcus Morris scored 22 points, and twin Markieff Morris added 15 for Phoenix.

      McLemore scored a career-best 31 points for Sacramento, which finished 28-54 for the second consecutive season and missed the playoffs for the eighth straight campaign. Forward Travis Outlaw added 15 points, and rookie guard Ray McCallum had 13 for the Kings.

      "For the most part, the front office and the coaching staff have done what they need to do (to change the losing culture)," Kings guard Isaiah Thomas said. "It's time for the players to start putting up some wins."

      Thomas, who finished the season ninth on Sacramento's all-time list for 3-pointers made, scored only four points in what could be his final game with the team. The third-year guard will be a restricted free agent. He is 18 3-pointers shy of catching Jason Williams for eighth on the Kings' list.

      "I'm going into it with an open mind," he said. "I'd love to stay. I don't like change, so I would love to stay here."

      Sacramento played the contest without center DeMarcus Cousins, who sat out after the NBA upheld his one-game suspension for picking up too many technical fouls. Cousins was called for his 16th technical foul in Sacramento's 106-103 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday.

      Cousins was by far the Kings' most dominant player in 2013-14, posting career highs in scoring (22.7 points per game), rebounding (11.7), assists (2.9), blocks (1.3) and field-goal percentage (49.6 percent). His rebounding total ranked fifth in the NBA, his scoring total 10th.

      However, he once again was among the leaders in drawing the officials' wrath. He finished tied with Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin and Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant for the most technical fouls in the league, and he has never finished lower than fifth. He led the NBA a season ago with 17, and he has totaled 59 in his four seasons.

      NOTES: The Kings honored Hall of Fame guard Mitch Richmond with a halftime salute that included a video montage. Richmond became the first former Sacramento King elected to the Hall of Fame when he was voted in earlier this month. Richmond averaged 23.3 points per game in seven seasons with Sacramento and 21.0 per game in 14 NBA seasons. ... Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson, whose best seasons came when the franchise was the Cincinnati Royals, also was in attendance, as was Sacramento mayor and former NBA guard Kevin Johnson. ... Phoenix G Gerald Green started in place of G Goran Dragic (sprained ankle). Green scored 12 points and finished the season averaging 15.8 per game. ... Kings F Jason Thompson finished with 11 rebounds for the Kings. He trails only Chris Webber, Vlade Divac and Brad Miller on the team's all-time rebounding list. ... The Kings finished 22nd in home attendance, averaging 16,291 a game. They played their finale in front of the 14th sellout of the season at Sleep Train Arena. They had only three sellouts last season.

  • Thursday, April 17, 2014
    Trail Blazers 110, Clippers 104
    By The Sports Xchange

    PORTLAND, Ore. -- Guard Will Barton came off the bench to score a career-high 23 points and grab 10 rebounds, and the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Los Angeles Clippers 110-104 Wednesday night at Moda Center in the regular-season finale for both teams.

    • Center Robin Lopez collected 15 points and nine rebounds in 14 minutes, and forward Victor Claver chipped in 12 points -- including eight straight in the final two minutes -- and six rebounds for the Trail Blazers, who enter the playoffs as the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference.

      Portland (54-28) visits Houston on Sunday night for the opener of its series with the Rockets. The Trail Blazers won nine of their last 10 regular-season games.

      Guard Jamal Crawford went for 34 points, eight assists and five rebounds in 42 minutes for the Clippers, the No. 3 seed in the West. Los Angeles (57-25) plays host to the Golden State Warriors on Saturday in a playoff opener.

      Forward Matt Barnes had 19 points and eight rebounds, and guard Darren Collison scored 19 points and dished out seven assists for the Clippers.

      Portland led by 22 points in the second quarter and was still in front by 16 when the Clippers stormed back, capping a 17-0 run with Crawford's four-point play midway through the third quarter. Moments later, Collison's three-point play gave the visitors the lead at 78-76. The difference increased to 85-79 late in the quarter, with the Clippers -- who outscored Portland 29-8 the last nine minutes of the quarter -- carrying an 85-82 lead into the final period.

      Los Angeles was in front 87-84 when Portland rebounded, using a 7-0 spurt to go on top 91-87.

      Claver's personal eight-point run -- a three-point play, a 3-point shot and a put-back -- gave the Blazers a 108-100 edge with 1:20 remaining.

      Portland jumped out to a 26-12 lead and took a 37-29 advantage into the second quarter. Lopez had 11 points and seven rebounds in the first period.

      The Blazers kept rolling in the second quarter, increasing their edge to 68-46 late in the quarter. The Clippers scored the final six points of the period to go into the half down by 16.

      NOTES: With the playoffs looming, both coaches chose to rest regulars. The Clippers were without G Chris Paul and G J.J. Redick, plus F Blake Griffin was suspended due to his accumulation of technical fouls. C DeAndre Jordan played just one minute. The Blazers didn't suit F LaMarcus Aldridge and reserve G Mo Williams. The other starters -- C Robin Lopez, F Nicolas Batum, G Damian Lillard and G Wesley Matthews -- all played 12 to 14 minutes. ... G Jamal Crawford played on a sore calf that caused him to miss 13 of the Clippers' last 21 games. ... Portland C/F Joel Freeland, who missed two months with a knee injury finished with six points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes. ... The teams split their first two meetings this season, the Clippers winning 122-117 at home on Feb. 12, the Blazers prevailing 116-112 at home on Feb. 26.

  • Thursday, April 17, 2014
    NBA playoff matchups set
    By The Sports Xchange

    When the Memphis Grizzlies edged the Dallas Mavericks in overtime Wednesday night, sealing the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference playoffs, the first-round matchups for the NBA's postseason were set.

    • The Grizzlies avoided a first-round matchup with the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs, instead earning a date with the second-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder. The Mavericks will square off with the Spurs.

      In the other Western Conference opening-round series, the third-seeded Los Angeles Clippers will play the sixth-seeded Golden State Warriors in an all-California affair, and the fourth-seeded Houston Rockets and fifth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers will meet.

      In the East, the Nets lost their regular-season finale to the Cleveland Cavaliers, dropping Brooklyn from the fifth seed to the sixth seed. The Nets will play the third-seeded Toronto Raptors, while the Washington Wizards moved up to No. 5, setting up a battle with the fourth-seeded Chicago Bulls.

      The East's top seed, the Indiana Pacers, meet the Atlanta Hawks, the only playoff team with a losing record. The defending champion Miami Heat, seeded second, will play the seventh-seeded Charlotte Bobcats.

      The NBA's opening-round playoff matchups:

      EASTERN CONFERENCE

      No. 1 Indiana (56-26) vs. No. 8 Atlanta (38-44) -- Game 1 is Saturday

      No. 2 Miami (54-28) vs. No. 7 Charlotte (43-39) -- Game 1 is Sunday

      No. 3 Toronto (48-34) vs. No. 6 Brooklyn (44-38) -- Game 1 is Saturday

      No. 4 Chicago (48-34) vs. No. 5 Washington (44-38) -- Game 1 is Sunday

      WESTERN CONFERENCE

      No. 1 San Antonio (62-20) vs. No. 8 Dallas (49-33) -- Game 1 is Sunday

      No. 2 Oklahoma City (59-23) vs. No. 7 Memphis (50-32) -- Game 1 is Saturday

      No. 3 Los Angeles Clippers (57-25) vs. No. 6 Golden State (51-31) -- Game 1 is Saturday

      No. 4 Houston (54-28) vs. No. 5 Portland (54-28) -- Game 1 is Sunday

  • Thursday, April 17, 2014
    Warriors 116, Nuggets 112
    By The Sports Xchange

    DENVER -- Guard Jordan Crawford scored a career-high 41 points and the Golden State Warriors beat the Denver Nuggets 116-112 to enter the playoffs on a winning note.

    • Forward Harrison Barnes also had a career high with 30 for the Warriors, whose postseason fate was determined when Oklahoma City edged Detroit for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.

      Golden State, the No. 6 seed, will open the first round in Los Angeles on Saturday against the Los Angeles Clippers.

      The Warriors (51-31) finished 2-2 against L.A., but the Warriors will be without center Andrew Bogut, making it tougher to go against Clippers' big men Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.

      Golden State can draw on last year's playoff experience when, also as the sixth seed, it upset the No. 3 Nuggets in six games.

      With nothing on the line Wednesday, the Warriors sat many of their starters. Guards Steph Curry and Andre Iguodala and forwards Jermaine O'Neal and David Lee did not play. Guard Klay Thompson played just nine minutes and forward Draymond Green was pressed into playing after centers Hilton Armstrong and Marreese Speights fouled out.

      Guard Randy Foye scored 32 points and added 11 assists and forward Kenneth Faried had 15 points and 13 rebounds for the Nuggets.

      Like last year, Denver's season ended against Golden State. The Nuggets (36-46) missed the playoffs for the first time since 2002-03 a year after winning a franchise-best 57 games.

      Barnes and Crawford made up for the absence of the top players

      Barnes had 22 and Crawford 19 as Golden State led 66-52 at halftime.

      The Warriors were up 67-52 but Denver scored 15 straight spanning the end of the third and start of the fourth to take a 90-88 lead, its first since early in the game.

      The game was back and forth when Crawford, who had 12 points in the fourth, hit a floater in the lane to make it 110-108.

      After a couple of misses, Barnes hit a free throw and Green tipped in the missed second free throw to make it 113-108 with 29.6 seconds left.

      The Warriors missed two of four free throws in the final minute, giving Denver a chance but Foye's 3-point try with 7.3 seconds left was ruled wide after a video review determined Green didn't interfere with the shot.

      Barnes hit a free throw to seal it.

      NOTES: Warriors coach Mark Jackson said C Andrew Bogut is out indefinitely and there is no timetable for his return, no matter how deep Golden State goes in the playoffs. Bogut suffered a rib fracture against Portland on Sunday. ... Denver F Anthony Randolph returned after missing Tuesday's game for personal reasons. ... Jackson became just the third coach in franchise history to win 50 games in a season. He joins Don Nelson and Al Attles in the exclusive club. ... The Nuggets honored longtime trainer Jim Gillen, who is retiring at the end of the season. Gillen, who joined Denver in 1991-92, is known for his signature sweater vests, and coach Brian Shaw, his assistants and several Nuggets employees wore them in honor of the veteran trainer.

  • Thursday, April 17, 2014
    Suns 104, Kings 99
    By The Sports Xchange

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Rookie guard Archie Goodwin scored a career-high 29 points, including five straight late in the fourth quarter to break the final tie of the night, and the Phoenix Suns completed one of the most successful non-playoff seasons in NBA history with a 104-99 victory over the Sacramento Kings at Sleep Train Arena on Wednesday.

    • Goodwin made a short jumper with 3:48 to go to break a 94-94 tie forged when Kings forward Quincy Acy dunked a rebound while being fouled and made the free throw. After Sacramento forward Travis Outlaw missed a jumper, Goodwin made his only 3-pointer of the night, capping an 11-for-13 shooting performance.

      Phoenix (48-34) finished with 23 more victories than it did a year ago and became the fifth team in league history to win at least 47 and still miss the playoffs. The Suns were eliminated when they lost to the Memphis Grizzlies 97-91 at home on Monday.

      Forward Marcus Morris added 22 points for the Suns on Wednesday, and twin Markieff Morris added 15.

      Rookie guard Ben McLemore scored a career-best 31 points for Sacramento, which finished 28-54 for the second straight season and missed the playoffs for the eighth straight season.

      Outlaw added 15 points, and rookie guard Ray McCallum had 13 for the Kings.

      Sacramento played the contest without center DeMarcus Cousins, who sat out after the NBA upheld his one-game suspension for picking up too many technical fouls. Cousins was called for his 16th technical foul in Sacramento's 106-103 win over Minnesota on Sunday.

      Cousins was by far the Kings' most dominant player in 2013-14, posting career highs in scoring (22.7 points per game), rebounding (11.7), assists (2.9), blocks (1.3) and field-goal percentage (49.6 percent). His rebounding total was fifth in the NBA, his scoring total 10th.

      But he once again was among the leaders in drawing the officials' wrath. He finished tied with Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin and Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant for the most technical fouls in the league; he has never finished lower than fifth. He led the NBA a season ago with 17 and has totaled 59 in his four seasons.

      Guard Isaiah Thomas missed all three of his 3-point attempts Wednesday and finished the season ninth on Sacramento's all-time list with 325, 18 shy of guard Jason Williams for eighth. Thomas will be a restricted free agent this summer.

      Forward Jason Thompson finished with 11 rebounds for the Kings; he trails only Chris Webber, Vlade Divac and Brad Miller on the team's all-time rebounding list.

      NOTES: The Kings honored Hall of Fame guard Mitch Richmond with a halftime salute that included a video montage. Richmond became the first former Sacramento King elected to the Hall of Fame when he was voted in earlier this month. Richmond averaged 23.3 points per game in seven seasons with Sacramento and 21.0 per game in 14 NBA seasons. ... Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson, whose best seasons came when the franchise was the Cincinnati Royals, also was in attendance, as was Sacramento Mayor and former NBA guard Kevin Johnson. ... Phoenix G Gerald Green started in place of G Goran Dragic (sprained ankle). Green was averaging a career-best 16.5 points per game entering the finale. ... The Kings' 17 home wins were their fewest entering the home finale of an 82-game season since 2009-10. The Kings have not finished above .500 at home since going 26-15 in 2007-08. ... The Suns finished above .500 for the first time since 2009-10 and were a winning team on the road for the first time since that same season. ... Sacramento finished 21st in the league in attendance.

  • Thursday, April 17, 2014
    Jazz topple Wolves in Adelman's possible finale
    By The Sports Xchange

    MINNEAPOLIS -- The game meant little other than the transition it represented.

    • Utah Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin might not be back next season. Minnesota Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman may never coach in the NBA again.

      Even so, Wednesday's season finale offered excitement. In a game that was defensively challenged from the beginning, the Jazz beat the Wolves 136-130 in double overtime at the Target Center.

      Guard Trey Burke led the Jazz with 32 points. Of those, 24 came after halftime, 13 in the two overtimes and nine in the final five minutes of regulation, including a 3-pointer with 1:03 left in the second OT that gave the Jazz a five-point lead. He also hit four free throws in the final 20 seconds to secure the win.

      Forward Gordon Hayward had 23 points and 10 rebounds, and forward Derrick Favors added 21 points and 12 rebounds.

      "This was good," said Burke, whose team won for just the second time in its final 12 games. "It's way better than going out with a loss. Obviously, it doesn't mean much, but this is our job. Every time you step on the court, you represent yourself."

      The Wolves were stepping on the court, perhaps, for the final time under Adelman. Both Adelman and the Wolves have an option for next year, the last of the four-year deal he signed. Even so, it is widely expected that Adelman, among the winningest coaches in NBA history, may retire. Indeed Adelman, who gave no official indication of what his decision might be, did take time before the game to reminisce about his career. He wasn't quite as happy after the game ended.

      "We just didn't have the energy we needed to have," said Adelman, whose team was down by 14 after the first quarter and down by 19 early in the second. "We didn't defend them that well all game."

      Guard Kevin Martin scored a season-high 36 points for the Wolves, with 27 coming after halftime. Martin scored 10 points in Minnesota's 17-7 run to end regulation, including two free throws with under a minute left. Forward Kevin Love struggled with his shot but still finished with 19 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. He finished 4-for-15 from the floor.

      The Wolves (40-42) were unable to post the team's first non-losing record in nine seasons.

      The Jazz (25-57) shot 49.1 percent, grabbed 22 offensive rebounds, had 30 assists and scored 64 points in the paint. In the final overtime, Utah hit five of six shots and made all six free-throw attempts.

      Down five points after Burke's 3-pointer, the Wolves got to within two twice in the final 30 seconds but could get no closer.

      "It was a great learning experience for a young guy," Corbin said of Burke, who finished his rookie season with a flourish. "I thought all the young guys did a good job. They made some mistakes, but they hung together and pulled the game out."

      Neither team scored in the final 57 seconds of regulation, despite chances. In the first overtime, Martin's 8-footer with one minute left put the Wolves up two, but Favors tied the game with a put-back dunk with 48 seconds left.

      The Jazz got the first basket of the second OT and never trailed again.

      "We obviously wanted to finish .500 or better," Love said.

      And as for Adelman?

      "He's got a great family; he's a tremendous human being," Love said. "I just feel bad that we haven't been able to take him as far as some of the other teams have gone that he's coached."

      Said Martin: "If this was Coach's last hurrah, it's very disappointing."

      NOTES: Wolves coach Rick Adelman admitted that this season's team was one of the most difficult for him to understand. "Overall, it is hard to figure out how we can be playing so well, and in six minutes suddenly we don't have an answer. That's been the hardest thing." ... All the losing has been hard to deal with for Utah coach Ty Corbin. "The guys have gotten better, the young guys have developed," Corbin said. "They have learned their role, but losing is not fun to go through in this league." ... Wolves C Nikola Pekovic missed the final eight games due to ankle bursitis, an injury that kept him out of action for 17 of the team's last 37 games. Pekovic ended up missing 28 games in all due to injury, preventing him from reaching playing time-related bonuses. ... Utah F Marvin Williams missed the final five games of the season with a bone bruise in his knee. ... When Wolves F Kevin Love scored his ninth point late in the first half, he became the first NBA player to record at least 2,000 points with 900 rebounds and 100 3-pointers in a season. ... Minnesota backup PG J.J. Barea missed the game due to back spasms.

  • Thursday, April 17, 2014
    Smith scores 30 as Knicks edge Raptors
    By The Sports Xchange

    NEW YORK -- Guard J.R. Smith ended the New York Knicks' disappointing season by scoring 30 points in a 95-92 win over the playoff-bound Toronto Raptors on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.

    • The Knicks (37-45), last season's Atlantic Division champions, finished the season on a modest four-game winning streak but were left out of the playoffs for the first time since the 2009-10 season.

      Toronto (48-34), this season's Atlantic Division champs, sealed the third spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs by going 6-2 in April. The Raptors will enjoy home-court advantage to start the playoffs for the third time in their history when they face the Brooklyn Nets.

      "The mindset was to make sure our guys didn't get hurt and get rest, and we did that," Toronto coach Dwane Casey said. "The guys coming off the bench have to come in and execute."

      Guard Kyle Lowry led the Raptors with 22 points. He played just 11 minutes in the second half. Toronto's bench, led by guard Greivis Vasquez's 13 points, scored 47 points -- its second-highest output of the season.

      Smith finished the season strong after getting suspended for the first five games for violating the league's anti-drug police. He scored at least 30 points in three of New York's last six games.

      Rookie guard Tim Hardaway Jr. was a bright spot in the Knicks' dismal season, finishing in the top five among rookie scorers. He tossed in 18 points Wednesday.

      Smith took over the game down the stretch. His fall-away jumper with 21.8 seconds to play gave the Knicks a 94-90 lead. Smith's driving dunk tied the game at 90-90 with 2:14 left, and a dunk on a follow from center Cole Aldrich provided New York with a 92-90 cushion with 1:23 to go.

      Center Tyler Hansbrough scored with 13 seconds left to draw Toronto to within 94-92. Toronto got the ball back with four seconds to play, but Smith stole the inbounds pass, was fouled and sank one of two from the line to seal the win.

      The Knicks were without three of their starters.

      Forward Carmelo Anthony sat out the last two games with a right labrum tear. He finished the season averaging 27.4 points and 8.1 rebounds in 38.7 minutes a game. This season marked the first time in his 10-year career he failed to make the playoffs.

      Aldrich made just his second start of the season at center for the Knicks. He replaced Tyson Chandler, who along with point guard Raymond Felton didn't dress for the game.

      Aldrich scored 13 points and grabbed 16 rebounds for his third double-double this season.

      "It says a lot about our team," Smith said. "No matter who is playing, we go out and play hard. When we play hard and when we play smart we succeed, and that describes tonight."

      The Knicks took their first lead, 71-70, since midway through the first quarter on Aldrich's basket with 1:23 left in the third quarter. Hardaway, who scored eight points in the quarter, hit one of two free throws with 10 seconds left for a 74-73 lead before Hansbrough drained a free throw to tie it at 74-74 with one second to go.

      Lowry was on the bench when the Raptors started the second quarter on an 18-6 run, extending their lead to 46-27 with 7:07 left until halftime. Vasquez, Lowry's replacement, started the run by scoring the first seven points.

      Lowry scored 17 points in the first quarter, including all of Toronto's final 12 points over 2:29 seconds, helping it to a 28-21 lead. He also contributed three rebounds and two assists.

      Toronto shot a sizzling 64.7 percent in the first quarter, compared to 26.1 percent for the Knicks.

      Newly minted Knicks president Phil Jackson will have a busy offseason. His agenda will include a decision on bringing back coach Mike Woodson and convincing Anthony, a free agent this summer, that the Knicks are capable of winning an NBA title with him in the near future.

      "We held ourselves to huge expectations and had big shoes to fill," Smith said. "Unfortunately we didn't fill them the way we wanted to.

      "Hopefully we take that as motivation for next year."

      NOTES: The Knicks signed 34-year-old F Lamar Odom before the game. In 961 games during 14 seasons with four teams, Odom has averaged 13.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists. He played two games for Baskonia (Spain) this season and last played in the NBA for the Clippers in 2012-13. Odom played for Knicks president Phil Jackson for six seasons when he coached the Lakers. ... The Raptors lead the Eastern Conference in free throws made and free throw percentage going into the season finale. ... Toronto advanced to the playoffs for the sixth time in its history and the first time since 2008.

  • Thursday, April 17, 2014
    Thunder play to win regular-season finale
    By The Sports Xchange

    OKLAHOMA CITY -- Heading into the final game of the regular season, Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks did not want to hear anything about a night off.

    • With his team riding a two-game losing streak and fighting for playoff positioning, he treated it like a playoff game.

      That proved to be the right decision as the Thunder rallied to beat the Detroit Pistons 112-111 on Wednesday night at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

      The win secured the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference for the Thunder (59-23), who will open the playoffs at 9:30 p.m. ET Saturday at home against the Memphis Grizzlies.

      "If teams are angling that want to play us, that's great," Brooks said. "We are open to playing any team come Saturday. We are excited about the opportunity. We wanted to get healthy and we're healthy. Going into the postseason, that's what you want. Our guys are ready."

      With Oklahoma City trailing by eight and looking anything but playoff ready, forward Kevin Durant began to take over offensively. He scored 15 of the Thunder's first 19 points in the fourth quarter and finished with a game-high 42. That included a drive down the lane in which he dunked on Detroit forward Kyle Singler.

      "He just started attacking," Detroit forward Greg Monroe said of Durant. "I think he didn't settle in the fourth. I think everything was at the rim. He hit a couple of pullups, but I think he just started attacking. Once a guy that good gets into attack mode, it's going to be hard for anyone to stop him."

      However, the Thunder were not making up any ground. The Pistons (29-53) matched them shot for shot. Detroit guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, center Andre Drummond and Monroe always seemed to have an answer.

      But with 4:02 left in the game, Drummond fouled out, leaving the paint open for the Thunder to attack.

      With 1:32 left, Oklahoma City cut the lead to three on a Durant layup. Detroit guard Brandon Jennings threw up a 30-footer that was off the mark and Thunder guard Russell Westbrook was fouled going for a loose ball. He made two free throws to close gap to 111-110.

      After Thunder guard Derek Fisher blocked Caldwell-Pope's shot at the rim, Durant missed an easy putback on the other end that would have given the Thunder the lead.

      "I don't how he did it," Brooks said of Fisher's block. "You guys were probably just as in awe as I was."

      Oklahoma City got the ball back on a turnover with 18 seconds left. After a timeout, Durant got the ball on the wing and drove to the basket for a go-ahead dunk.

      Detroit was unable to get a clean shot off in the final seconds and Oklahoma City held on.

      Caldwell-Pope led Detroit with 30 points on 11-for-19 shooting from the field. Drummond added 22 points and 13 rebounds. Monroe had 22 points and nine assists. Singler finished with 20 points.

      "(Monroe) did a very good job in the post," Detroit coach John Loyer said. "I thought he was very unselfish when they came to double him. Greg was fabulous."

      Durant scored 21 points in the fourth quarter. Westbrook finished with 22 points, eight assists, six steals and six rebounds. Guard Reggie Jackson came off the bench to score 15 points. Forward Serge Ibaka added 10 points, 15 boards and eight blocked shots.

      "Everyone pitched in and gave us a chance to win 59 games and have the second seed," Brooks said. "With that being said, I'm not overly thrilled at the way we played tonight. But we made winning basketball plays down the stretch."

      NOTES: Oklahoma City F Kevin Durant led NBA in minutes and points for third time in his career. The only others to do so that often were Wilt Chamberlain (six times) and Michael Jordan (three times). ... The Detroit Pistons ended the season with four players sitting out with injuries. F Josh Smith, G Will Bynum, G Chauncey Billups and C Josh Harrellson did not suit up in Oklahoma City. ... Thunder coach Scott Brooks was not happy with the way former Detroit coach Maurice Cheeks was fired after only 50 games this season. "As a friend, as someone who's been around him, I don't think that was deserved," Brooks said. "Nobody in this league can go into a new situation and change the culture of that organization in 50 games." ... In an interview with ESPN Houston, Rockets G James Harden was asked if he would still be with the Thunder if money were not a factor. "Definitely, no question," Harden said. ... Brooks said G Russell Westbrook's minute restrictions would be lifted when the playoffs start.

  • Thursday, April 17, 2014
    Cavs knock Nets down to No. 6 seed
    By The Sports Xchange

    CLEVELAND -- The Brooklyn Nets were more concerned with resting their starters than with who they were going to play in the first round of the playoffs.

    • With their 114-85 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday in the season finale, the Nets dropped to the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference.

      Brooklyn (44-38) will face the Atlantic Division champion Toronto Raptors on Saturday in Game 1 of a best-of-seven series.

      Had the Nets won Wednesday, they would have earned the No. 5 seed and played Chicago in the first round.

      Forwards Marcus Thornton and Andray Blatche each scored 20 points for the Nets.

      Brooklyn coach Jason Kidd rested starting forwards Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce and guards Joe Johnson and Deron Williams.

      "I like right where we are," Kidd said. "We are in a good place and playing some good basketball of late. We've rested and guys have gotten their work in at the same time. Now, it's time to figure out how to get a win on the road."

      The Cavaliers have other things to figure out.

      There are several major decisions facing the franchise this summer. None is bigger than the five-year, $80 million maximum extension the Cavs are expected to offer two-time All-Star Kyrie Irving.

      "Obviously, I'm aware I can be extended this summer," he said. "It's a big deal for me if they do offer me that. It will be exciting. I'll make the best decision for me and my family. That's what it will boil down to."

      Irving doesn't sound like someone who wants out.

      "I've been part of this, and I want to continue to be part of this," he said. "We've made some strides in the right direction, especially as an organization. I want to be part of something special. I don't have a definitive answer to that right now."

      The offer is expected to come on July 1.

      But there is other heavy lifting to be done by the Cavs. Coach Mike Brown and acting general manager David Griffin are waiting to hear their fate moving forward.

      "I'm thankful to (owner Dan Gilbert) for the opportunity he's given me," Brown said. "It's his team. Whatever decision he makes, I'm going to support."

      Don't expect any big decisions this weekend, however.

      Gilbert is attending the Board of Governors meeting in New York on Thursday and Friday.

      The Cavs (33-49) avoided their third 50-loss season in the last four years with their victory over the makeshift Nets.

      Center Tyler Zeller paced the Cavs with 22 points and 11 rebounds for his third double-double of the season. The 7-footer reached double figures in scoring in each of the last four games. He was 9-for-11 from the field against the Nets.

      Guard Dion Waiters added 19 points for the Cavs. In his last 15 games -- since moving back into the starting lineup at shooting guard – he has averaged 21.2 points and 4.2 assists. That's sixth best in the East over that span. He also has scored 20 or more points in nine of his last 15 games.

      Irving added 15 points and five assists for the Cavs, while power forward Tristan Thompson recorded his 36th double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

      Guard Jorge Gutierrez, signed off the D-League Canton Charge roster, added 13 points for the Nets before fouling out.

      "It's like a new season starts right now," Nets forward Andrei Kirilenko said. "Right now, every game counts. Every possession and every set you play on the floor is important. Right now it's going to be very important to stay concentrated and to keep our heads in the game."

      NOTES: There will likely be no big decisions made in Cleveland this week. Cavaliers majority owner Dan Gilbert is attending the NBA Board of Governors meeting in New York on Thursday and Friday. ... Cavaliers F Anthony Bennett admits his rookie year was "interesting." That might be a major understatement. The No. 1 overall pick missed the previous 17 games with a strained left patellar tendon before returning to score seven points Wednesday. "I've learned a lot," said Bennett, who averaged 4.1 points and 2.9 rebounds going into the finale. ... Cavaliers G/F C.J. Miles (sprained left ankle) and F Luol Deng (sore back) sat out the season finale. ... Cavs G/F Carrick Felix, a second-round pick from Arizona State, played for the first time since Jan. 7 vs. Philadelphia. The guard has missed the previous 37 games with a stress fracture to his left patellar. He had 10 points -- more than he had scored all season.

  • Thursday, April 17, 2014
    NBA first-round playoff schedule
    By The Sports Xchange

    NBA first-round playoff schedule. All times ET.

    • WESTERN CONFERENCE

      No. 1 San Antonio Spurs vs. No. 8 Dallas Mavericks

      Game 1 -- Sunday, April 20, Dallas at San Antonio, 1 p.m., TNT

      Game 2 -- Wednesday, April 23, Dallas at San Antonio, 8 p.m., NBA TV

      Game 3 -- Saturday, April 26, San Antonio at Dallas, 4:30 p.m., TNT

      Game 4 -- Monday, April 28, San Antonio at Dallas, 9:30 p.m., TNT

      Game 5* -- Wednesday, April 30, Dallas at San Antonio, TBD

      Game 6* -- Friday, May 2, San Antonio at Dallas, TBD

      Game 7* -- Sunday, May 4, Dallas at San Antonio, TBD

      No. 2 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. No. 7 Memphis Grizzlies

      Game 1 -- Saturday, April 19, Memphis at Oklahoma City, 9:30 p.m., ESPN

      Game 2 -- Monday, April 21 Memphis at Oklahoma City, 8 p.m., TNT

      Game 3 -- Thursday, April 24 Oklahoma City at Memphis, 8 p.m., TNT

      Game 4 -- Saturday, April 26 Oklahoma City at Memphis. 9:30 p.m., ESPN

      Game 5* -- Tuesday, April 29 Memphis at Oklahoma City, TBD

      Game 6* -- Thursday, May 1 Oklahoma City at Memphis, TBD

      Game 7* -- Saturday, May 3 Memphis at Oklahoma City, TBD

      No. 3 Los Angeles Clippers vs. No. 6 Golden State Warriors

      Game 1 -- Saturday, April 19, Golden State at L.A. Clippers, 3:30 p.m., ABC

      Game 2 -- Monday, April 21, Golden State at L.A. Clippers, 10:30 p.m., TNT

      Game 3 -- Thursday, April 24, L.A. Clippers at Golden State, 10:30 p.m., TNT

      Game 4 -- Sunday, April 27, L.A. Clippers at Golden State, 3:30 p.m., ABC

      Game 5* -- Tuesday, April 29, Golden State at L.A. Clippers, TBD

      Game 6* -- Thursday, May 1, L.A. Clippers at Golden State, TBD

      Game 7* -- Saturday, May 3. Golden State at L.A. Clippers, TBD

      No. 4 Houston Rockets vs. No. 5 Portland Trail Blazers

      Game 1 -- Sunday, April 20, Portland at Houston, 9:30 p.m., TNT

      Game 2 -- Wednesday, April 23, Portland at Houston, 9:30 p.m., TNT

      Game 3 -- Friday, April 25, Houston at Portland, 10:30 p.m., ESPN

      Game 4 -- Sunday, April 27, Houston at Portland, 9:30 p.m., TNT

      Game 5* -- Wednesday, April 30, Portland at Houston, TBD

      Game 6* -- Friday, May 2, Houston at Portland, TBD

      Game 7* -- Sunday, May 4, Portland at Houston, TBD

      EASTERN CONFERENCE

      No. 1 Indiana Pacers vs. No. 8 Atlanta Hawks

      Game 1 -- Saturday, April 19, Atlanta at Indiana, 7 p.m., ESPN

      Game 2 -- Tuesday, April 22, Atlanta at Indiana, 7 p.m., TNT

      Game 3 -- Thursday, April 24, Indiana at Atlanta, 7 p.m., NBA TV

      Game 4 -- Saturday, April 26, Indiana at Atlanta, 2 p.m., TNT

      Game 5* -- Monday, April 28, Atlanta at Indiana, 8 p.m., NBA TV

      Game 6* -- Thursday, May 1, Indiana at Atlanta, TBD

      Game 7* -- Saturday, May 3, Atlanta at Indiana, TBD

      No. 2 Miami Heat vs. No. 7 Charlotte Bobcats

      Game 1 -- Sunday, April 20, Charlotte at Miami, 3:30 p.m., ABC

      Game 2 -- Wednesday, April 23, Charlotte at Miami, 7 p.m., TNT

      Game 3 -- Saturday, April 26, Miami at Charlotte, 7 p.m., ESPN

      Game 4 -- Monday, April 28, Miami at Charlotte, 7 p.m., TNT

      Game 5* -- Wednesday, April 30, Charlotte at Miami, TBD

      Game 6* -- Friday, May 2, Miami at Charlotte, TBD

      Game 7* -- Sunday, May 4, Charlotte at Miami, TBD

      No. 3 Toronto Raptors vs. No. 6 Brooklyn Nets

      Game 1 -- Saturday, April 19, Brooklyn at Toronto, 12:30 p.m., ESPN

      Game 2 -- Tuesday, April 22, Brooklyn at Toronto, 8 p.m., NBA TV

      Game 3 -- Friday, April 25, Toronto at Brooklyn, 7 p.m., ESPN2

      Game 4 -- Sunday, April 27, Toronto at Brooklyn, 7 p.m., TNT

      Game 5* -- Wednesday, April 30, Brooklyn at Toronto, TBD

      Game 6* -- Friday, May 2, Toronto at Brooklyn, TBD

      Game 7* -- Sunday, May 4, Brooklyn at Toronto, TBD

      No. 4 Chicago Bulls vs. No. 5 Washington Wizards

      Game 1 -- Sunday, April 20, Washington at Chicago, 7 p.m., TNT

      Game 2 -- Tuesday, April 22, Washington at Chicago, 9:30 p.m., TNT

      Game 3 -- Friday, April 25, Chicago at Washington, 8 p.m., ESPN

      Game 4 -- Sunday, April 27, Chicago at Washington, 1 p.m., ABC

      Game 5* -- Tuesday, April 29, Washington at Chicago, TBD

      Game 6* -- Thursday, May 1, Chicago at Washington, TBD

      Game 7* -- Saturday, May 3, Washington at Chicago, TBD

      *If necessary. TBD -- To be determined

  • Thursday, April 17, 2014
    Wizards beat Boston, take winning streak into playoffs
    By The Sports Xchange

    BOSTON -- Washington Wizards coach Randy Wittman likes the way his team reacted down the stretch and is playing heading into the franchise's first visit to the playoffs since 2008.

    • The Wizards, 118-102 winners over the Boston Celtics in Wednesday night's regular season finale, take a four-game winning streak into Sunday night's playoff opener at Chicago -- and were 8-3 in their last 11 games to earn the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference.

      "I think we went 7-3 the last 10, four in a row, that's the way you want to finish," Wittman said after his team passed the Brooklyn Nets on the final night to set up the running with the Bulls.

      Asked about Chicago, still more than competitive even without star guard Derrick Rose, Wittman said, "We've played this team the last two years extremely well. We are 2-1 against them this year. They came in and smacked us pretty good last game so that should be a good fresh wound on our guys the message that they sent us the last time we played them."

      "They're a great defensive team," said forward Trevor Ariza. "... They play hard all the time. If we can match their intensity and their energy in the game we'll give ourselves a chance."

      The Wizards, just 29-53 last year, finished 44-38. They clinched the sixth spot with the win and the the fifth seed with the Nets' loss in Cleveland.

      Guard Bradley Beal led six Wizards in double figures with 27 points. He also grabbed seven rebounds.

      Washington forward Trevor Booker scored all 20 of his points in the first half, guard John Wall had 15 points and nine assists, center Marcin Gortat added 15 points and 10 rebounds and forwards Ariza and Nene contributed 13 points and 12 points, respectively.

      "I think we have a lot of confidence," said Beal. "We're happy with where we're at and how we're playing. It's all about our defense. We're playing tremendous defense right now and as long as we continue to do that we're going to finish pretty well."

      The Celtics finished Brad Stevens' first year as an NBA coach with 57 losses, the third-worst total in franchise history. Boston went 13-43 after a high-water mark of 12-14 and lost 11 of its last 13. The Celtics now await the draft with two first-round draft picks, one in the lottery.

      "I feel like we got better on both sides of the floor," said Boston guard Avery Bradley. "Even though it was a tough year you can always stay positive from this year.

      "I think everybody in this locker room can say that they improved their game throughout the season."

      Rookie forward Kelly Olynyk led the short-handed Celtics with 24 points and seven rebounds. Forward Jeff Green scored 20 points Bradley finished with 18 points and forward Brandon Bass had 16 points and seven rebounds. Rookie point guard Phil Pressey had 10 assists and nine points.

      With four players hurt, the Celtics dressed 10 players, but guard Rajon Rondo and forward Jared Sullinger could not play. That left Boston with eight, and its entire three-man bench and starting point guard Pressey were all undrafted players.

      The Wizards came out on fire, going 17-for-22 from the field in the first 9:44 of the game and led by as many as 15 points in the first quarter. They finished the half shooting 61.7 percent from the floor and were up by 12 at the break.

      Washington forward Al Harrington left the game and headed for the locker room in the second quarter. He received stitches above the left eye but returned in the fourth quarter.

      NOTES: Washington G John Wall, who missed 60 games with injuries during his first three NBA seasons, including 33 last year, played in all 82 games this season. ... Celtics F Jared Sullinger was among those who did not play, but he addressed the crowd pregame on Fan Appreciation Night, saying, "Hopefully, we'll come back better next year." ... With Wednesday marking the one-year anniversary of the game the Celtics postponed because of the Boston Marathon bombings the previous day, Rondo was sporting sneakers that contained the initials of those killed in the attack, along with "41513," the date. Survivors, first responders and medical personnel were honored at Wednesday's game. ... Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge called his team's season "a tough, tough year and I saw a lot of positive things from individuals." ... F Brandon Bass won the ninth annual Red Auerbach Award that goes to the Celtic showing the most spirit on and off the court.

  • Thursday, April 17, 2014
    Hawks put Bucks out of their misery
    By The Sports Xchange

    MILWAUKEE -- There was almost nothing at stake on Wednesday night when the Atlanta Hawks beat the Milwaukee Bucks 111-103 in the regular-season finale at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

    • Atlanta was headed to the playoffs, already locked into eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot and a first-round date with top-seeded Indiana.

      Milwaukee, meanwhile, was closing the book on a largely forgettable season that came to an end with a franchise-worst 15-67 record.

      "I just wanted the guys to come out and play," Bucks coach Larry Drew said. "We were able to do it for three quarters and then it just fell apart at the end."

      The Bucks came out with a burst of energy in large part because of news that developed off-the-court earlier in the day.

      Former U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, the team's owner since 1985, announced Wednesday afternoon that he was selling the franchise to two New York-based hedge fund managers who also put forth money toward building a new facility for the Bucks and, thus, solidifying the franchise's future in Milwaukee.

      "I'd be lying if I said the concentration was there tonight," Drew said. "This was a big day. Sen. Kohl came in and addressed the team before the game and for some of these guys, this is new for them, so I think there were a lot of things that were a factor -- the sale of the team, the last game -- and I think all of those things weighed on us today."

      Milwaukee came out firing and shot 75 percent from the field in the first quarter. The Bucks hit 3 of 4 3-point attempts and led by 10 points after one quarter and 63-58 at halftime.

      But the Hawks, despite playing without leading scorer Paul Millsap, were just as hot. They shot 60 percent from the field and caught Milwaukee midway through the third, taking a 71-70 lead when center Pero Antic made two free throws with 5:47 left in the quarter.

      Down one point to start the fourth, the Hawks went on a 13-2 run to open a 10-point lead on forward Mike Scott's jumper with 6:54 to play.

      "They came out with a fast start," Scott said. "But we just kept with our defense and they started missing shots. We came out with a win."

      Scott led the Hawks (38-44) with 17 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field and was one of six Atlanta players to score in double figures along with forward DeMarre Carroll, who finished with 13, and point guard Jeff Teague, who had 11 points and made two shots from beyond the arc.

      Off the bench, center Mike Muscala had 14 points, forward Cartier Martin scored 14 and Shelvin Mack added 11 for the Hawks, who shot 54 percent from the field.

      "It was great to see (Muscala) click," Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. "Mike is getting more and more comfortable understanding the system, spacing, where he can find his opportunities and his teammates found him.

      "If he starts doing that on both ends, he's going to be able to help us."

      Milwaukee was led by point guard Brandon Knight, who hit 12 of 18 shots from the field and made 3 of 6 from beyond the arc to finish with a game-high 31 points.

      Forward John Henson scored 19 points and forward Khris Middleton added 16 for the Bucks, who shot 51.9 percent from the field but committed 22 turnovers that Atlanta turned into 24 points. Rookie forward Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 10 points.

      "It was a long year for us," Bucks center Zaza Pachulia said. "It's good to be over now because you have the whole summer to work on your game, get stronger, get better then come in and have a fresh start."

      The Bucks lost nine of their last 10 games and clinched the worst record in the league. They will have 25 percent of the winning combinations at the NBA Draft Lottery, slated for May 20.

      NOTES: Former Sen. Herb Kohl paid $18 million when he bought the Bucks in 1985. He sold the franchise Friday for $550 million to New York hedge fund managers Wes Edens and Marc Lasry. The deal still needs approval of the NBA’s Board of Governors. ... F Paul Millsap, the Hawks' leading scorer at 17.9 points per game, sat out a second straight game in order to rest for the playoffs. ... Milwaukee was the only team that failed to win consecutive games this season. ... The Hawks swept the series with the Bucks for the second consecutive season.

  • Thursday, April 17, 2014
    Pelicans top Rockets in regular season finale
    By The Sports Xchange

    NEW ORLEANS -- For the Houston Rockets, the only season that counts begins at home Sunday night with their playoff opener against the Portland Trail Blazers.

    • That is why after their 105-100 loss Wednesday night to the New Orleans Pelicans in a regular-season finale, which had no bearing on playoff seeding, the Rockets focused exclusively on the road ahead.

      As the fourth seed in the Western Conference, the Rockets (54-28) took full advantage of the quasi-scrimmage, giving center Dwight Howard a chance to shake off the rust from a strained left ankle that had sidelined him for three weeks.

      Houston coach Kevin McHale also was able to rest key players -- leading scorer James Harden, forward Chandler Parsons and guard Jeremy Lin -- before the Rockets enter the postseason grind.

      "I'm looking forward to the playoffs," Howard said after playing 26 minutes, scoring just seven points and grabbing four rebounds. "This is what we've been waiting for all year -- an opportunity to really prove ourselves as a team. So, we're going to go out there and play the best that we can, and that starts with James (Harden) and myself. We have to lead these guys."

      McHale said his two biggest goals for the game were to avoid injuries and give Howard a chance to practice dumping the ball out of expected double teams, which he figures to see frequently in the playoffs.

      "Tonight was a game where, win or lose, we weren't going to change in the standings, so we played a bunch of guys that we hadn't played before, and we just tried to get some guys comfortable," McHale said. "(Howard) had three weeks off with the injury, so he should be well rested."

      The Pelicans (34-48) finished off an injury-ravaged season by winning their final two games against solid playoff teams. They were led once again by guard Tyreke Evans, who scored 25 points, including the go-ahead layup on a drive into the lane with 2:35 left and another power drive with 51.2 seconds left.

      New Orleans trailed 100-99 with 2:48 left, but Evans, who scored 41 points in a 101-89 victory over Oklahoma City on Monday, took control. He drove into the lane for the go-ahead layup and then reserve center Jeff Withey for a jump hook in the lane that gave New Orleans a 103-100 lead with 1:49 left.

      "Tyreke got a couple downhill on us, and we missed a few shots," McHale said. "We didn't execute well down the stretch.

      "I just fed off the energy," Evans said. "Everybody fed off the energy. We just finished strong. We knew what we had to do."

      New Orleans coach Monty Williams talked about his team's resolve despite closing the season with six of its top seven scorers sidelined with injuries.

      "All that we've been through this year, for our guys to go out there and compete like that to the last minute of the season, it just says a lot about who we are as a program," Williams said. "That's how we played all year. We just scrap, fight and different guys make plays. It feels real good to get a win going into the summer."

      The Rockets failed to score in the final 2:48 on their last five possessions. Guard Troy Daniels led Houston with 22 points, hitting 6 of 11 3-pointers.

      Looking at the big picture, Parsons said he was happy with the extra day's rest before opening up the playoffs against Portland.

      "It's huge because the season is so long and it's such an exhausting season," Parsons said. "The fall I took in Minnesota (last Friday) really left me banged up with my wrist aching me and my hip hurting, so it was really cool just to get off the floor and rest and mentally just take a break for a minute and get ready for the real fun to start."

      NOTES: With C Dwight Howard still nursing a strained left ankle, Houston coach Kevin McHale said he was glad the Rockets' home playoff opener against Portland won't be until Sunday night. Since the game Wednesday night had no effect on playoff seeding, McHale rested both G James Harden and F Chandler Parsons. ... All eight Western Conference playoff teams had at least 49 wins going into the season finale. "It's just a bunch of teams that have played well, and everybody's right around 50," McHale said. "It should be some great first-round matchups."... McHale praised New Orleans F Anthony Davis for his All-Star second season. "He had more than I thought he had," McHale said. ... New Orleans coach Monty Williams said despite a rash of injuries, the Pelicans were still playing hard. "At yesterday's practice, I got a little emotional -- our gym was off the charts," Williams said. "I felt fortunate to be able to coach a group like that."

  • Thursday, April 17, 2014
    Lakers end season with win over Spurs
    By The Sports Xchange

    SAN ANTONIO -- For the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs, the regular-season finale was not at all indicative of how the first 81 games went.

    • Eliminated from playoff contention more than a month ago, the Lakers ended their season by beating San Antonio 113-100 on Wednesday night at the AT&T Center.

      Los Angeles (27-55) won consecutive games for the first time in three weeks. The Lakers finished the season with the fewest wins in franchise history since 1959-60 -- the season before the team moved from Minnesota to Los Angeles.

      "Our guys played hard and made some shots," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said. "They did the best they could for a season that was upside down. The guys, individually, wanted to listen. They never hung their heads. They did a lot of positive things."

      The Spurs, who clinched home-court advantage throughout the playoffs last week, had a chance to tie a franchise record with its 63rd regular-season victory. However, they placed a higher priority on keeping players' legs fresh and staying healthy going into the playoffs for the 17th straight year -- by far the longest current streak in the NBA.

      "If I don't like (the regular season) after winning 62 (games), I would be a maniac," said Spurs guard Manu Ginboli, who scored 10 points in 23 minutes off the bench. "I like it. We are No. 1 overall. You can't be much better than that. It doesn't matter if we win 53 or 63, the playoffs start from sratch. But we had a great season."

      The Spurs (62-20) erased what was once a 13-point Lakers lead in the second quarter and briefly led after a layup from Ginboli that capped a 15-3 run. The Lakers quickly regained control, though, scoring the first six points of the third quarter after going into halftime tied at 51. Los Angeles never trailed in the second half.

      San Antonio will begin the playoffs against the Dallas Mavericks, who could have avoided falling into the No. 8 seed by winning Wednesday night, but they lost 106-105 in overtime to the Memphis Grizzlies. The Spurs swept their regular-season series with the Mavericks 4-0, winning those four games by an average of 11.5 points per game.

      "We had a good regular season and now the postseason starts," said a tight-lipped Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who did not answer questions after the loss.

      The win kept the Lakers from being swept by the Spurs in the regular season for the first time since 2004-05, when the Spurs won the third of four championships under Popovich.

      A season-high eight players scored in double figures for the Lakers, with forward Jordan Hill leading the way. He scored 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting fom the field. The Lakers started the game on a 12-4 run as the Spurs missed nine of their first 11 shots from the floor.

      "Everybody was being aggressive. We were finding each other. Everybody was hitting shots," said Lakers forward Wesley Johnson, who had 11 points and 11 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the year. "Once the ball gets to moving, everybody found their shot and found their rhythm."

      The Lakers have been plagued by injuries, going most of the season without Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, and Pau Gasol missed 22 games as well. With nearly as many players injured as available Wednesday night, the Lakers were able to end their dreadful season with a win.

      "That's just been us all year, not to give up or go through the motions," said Lakers forward Nick Young, who chipped in 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the field. "We try to go out there and play our hearts out and get a victory. Instead of losing tonight, we felt we wanted to win and it does feel better."

      NOTES: Spurs F Boris Diaw turned 32 on Wednesday. ... Spurs F/C Tim Duncan (rest) and G Marco Belinelli (rest) both sat out Wednesday. ... San Antonio will open the playoffs Sunday. ... San Antonio used its 30th different starting lineup on Wednesday, the second most in the NBA, behind only the Lakers (35). ... The Lakers scored 33 points in the first quarter, three shy of their season high (36 at Cleveland on Feb. 5). ... The Lakers are 15-14 this season when they lead or are tied after one quarter. The Spurs are 19-11 when trailing after the first quarter. ... The Spurs lost for the first time this season when C Tiago Splitter scored at least 10 points. San Antonio is now 24-1 when he scores in double figures and 33-1 when he scores at least seven points.

  • Thursday, April 17, 2014
    Knicks 95, Raptors 92
    By The Sports Xchange

    NEW YORK -- The New York Knicks ended their disappointing season on a modest four-game winning streak after knocking off the playoff-bound Toronto Raptors 95-92 Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.

    • The Knicks (37-45), last season's Atlantic Division champions, finished out of the playoffs for the first time since the 2009-10 season.

      Toronto (48-34), this season's Atlantic Division champs, sealed the third spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs by going 6-2 in April. The Raptors will enjoy home-court advantage to start the playoffs for the third time in their history.

      Guard Kyle Lowry led the Raptors with 22 points.

      Shooting guard J.R. Smith topped the Knicks with 30 points, and rookie guard Tim Hardaway Jr. added 18.

      Smith's fall-away jumper with 21.8 seconds to play gave the Knicks a 94-90 lead. His driving dunk tied the game at 90-90 with 2:14 left, and a dunk on a follow from center Cole Aldrich provided New York with a 92-90 cushion with 1:23 to go.

      Center Tyler Hansbrough scored with 13 seconds left to draw Toronto to within 94-92. Toronto got the ball back with four seconds to play, but Smith stole the inbounds pass, was fouled and sank one of two from the line to seal the win.

      The Knicks were without three of their starters.

      Forward Carmelo Anthony sat out the last two games with a right labrum tear. He finished the season averaging 27.4 points and 8.1 rebounds in 38.7 minutes a game. This season marked the first time in his 10-year career he failed to make the playoffs.

      Cole Aldrich made just his second start of the season at center for the Knicks. He replaced Tyson Chandler, who along with point guard Raymond Felton didn't dress for the game. Aldrich scored 13 points and grabbed 16 rebounds for his third double-double this season.

      The Knicks took their first lead, 71-70, since midway through the first quarter on Aldrich's basket with 1:23 left in the third quarter. Hardaway Jr., who scored eight points in the quarter, hit one of two free throws with 10 seconds left for a 74-73 lead before Hansbrough drained a free throw to tie it at 74-74 with one second to go.

      Lowry was on the bench when the Raptors started the second quarter on an 18-6 run, extending their lead to 46-27 with 7:07 left until halftime. Lowry's replacement, Greivis Vasquez, started the run by scoring the first seven points.

      Lowry scored 17 points in the first quarter, including all of Toronto's final 12 points over 2:29 seconds, helping it to a 28-21 lead. He also contributed three rebounds and two assists.

      Toronto shot a sizzling 64.7 percent in the first quarter, compared to 26.1 percent for the Knicks.

      NOTES: The Knicks signed 34-year-old F Lamar Odom before the game. In 961 games during 14 seasons with four teams, Odom has averaged 13.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists. He played two games for Baskonia (Spain) this season and last played in the NBA for the Clippers in 2012-13. Odom played for Knicks president Phil Jackson for six seasons when he coached the Lakers. ... The Raptors lead the Eastern Conference in free throws made and free throw percentage going into the season finale. ... Toronto advanced to the playoffs for the sixth time in its history and the first time since 2008.

  • Thursday, April 17, 2014
    Grizzlies 106, Mavericks 95 (OT)
    By The Sports Xchange

    MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Eighty-two games wasn't enough to decide the seventh seed in the Western Conference. It took overtime Wednesday at FedExForum before the matter could be settled.

    • Guard Mike Conley hit two free throws with 1.1 seconds left in overtime, and the Memphis Grizzlies defeated the Dallas Mavericks 106-105.

      Memphis (50-32) captured the No. 7 position in the West, and it will open the postseason against the second-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder.

      Dallas (49-33) get the eighth seed, and it opens against the San Antonio Spurs.

      The Grizzlies got 27 points and 14 rebounds from power forward Zach Randolph. Conley scored 22 points, and center Marc Gasol just missed a triple-double with 19 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. Guard Tony Allen finished with 13 points.

      Forward Dirk Nowitzki led Dallas with 30 points. Guard Monta Ellis, who scored the Mavericks' last seven points in regulation and seven of the first nine in overtime, finished with 18 points. Reserve guard Devin Harris had 10 points and 10 assists.

      The Grizzlies extended their home winning streak to a franchise-best 14 games.

      Memphis carried a 75-73 lead into the fourth quarter, but Nowitzki scored nine straight Dallas points as the Mavericks took an 84-78 lead.

      Memphis regained the lead at 89-88 with 3:20 to play when forward Mike Miller knocked down a corner 3-pointer. The Grizzlies were up three when Ellis hit a 3-pointer with 13 seconds left to tie the score at 93. Randolph missed a contested jumper with 1.8 seconds left, and the game went into overtime.

      NOTES: The Mavericks and Grizzlies had strong motivation to win Wednesday night's showdown for the seventh seed in the West and avoid a first-round matchup with top-seeded San Antonio. Dallas lost its past nine games against the Spurs. The Grizzlies lost 14 of their past 16 against San Antonio, including being swept in last year's conference finals. ... Memphis F/G Mike Miller played in his 82nd game of the season Wednesday, more than his combined total from the past two seasons with the Miami Heat. He scored a season-high 21 points off the bench Monday night at Phoenix as the Grizzlies clinched a playoff berth. He entered play Wednesday shooting 46.3 percent from behind the 3-point arc, second in the NBA. It is the ninth time in his career he shot better than 40 percent from 3-point range. ... Including Wednesday, G Devin Harris had six-plus assists in six of his past seven games. The Mavericks went 11-3 this season when he recorded at least six assists.

  • Thursday, April 17, 2014
    Jazz 136, Timberwolves 130 (2 OT)
    By The Sports Xchange

    MINNEAPOLIS -- Apparently not wanting their seasons to end, the Utah Jazz and Minnesota Timberwolves went to two overtimes Wednesday at Target Center.

    • Ultimately, the Jazz emerged with the 136-130 victory, just the team's second win in the final 12 games.

      Guard Trey Burke, who scored 32 points for Utah, hit a 3-pointer at the shot-clock buzzer with 1:03 left in the game that gave Utah a 130-125 lead. Burke added four free throws in the final minute to ice the victory.

      Forward Gordon Hayward contributed 23 points and forward Derrick Favors added 21 for Utah, which had all five starters score in double figures.

      Shooting guard Kevin Martin had a season-high 36 points for the Wolves, with 22 coming after the third quarter. Forward Kevin Love had 19 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.

      Utah (25-57) never trailed in the final overtime, pushing to five-point leads twice. Love hit one of two free throws with 57.7 seconds left to pull Minnesota within four. Then, after a turnover, Martin hit two free throws with 24.6 seconds left to make it 130-128, but the Wolves could get no closer.

      The Wolves (40-42) were down by 10 with less than five minutes left in regulation, but they finished the fourth quarter on a 17-7 run. Martin -- who scored 14 points in the period -- had 10 during the run, including two free throws that tied the game at 107 with 57.4 seconds left.

      Down five early in the first overtime, the Wolves rallied to take a 119-117 lead on Martin's three-point play with one minute left, only to have Favors' dunk force a second OT.

      The game was widely expected to be Rick Adelman's last as coach of the Wolves and perhaps his last in a long NBA career. At stake was a chance for the Wolves to avoid their ninth straight losing season.

      The Jazz, meanwhile, managed to avoid matching their worst record since moving to Utah for the 1979-80 season.

      The Jazz shot 49.1 percent, outrebounded the Wolves 59-45 and scored 64 points in the paint. Minnesota shot 41.2 percent.

      NOTES: Wolves coach Rick Adelman admitted that this season's team was one of the most difficult for him to understand. "Overall, it is hard to figure out how we can be playing so well, and in six minutes suddenly we don't have an answer. That's been the hardest thing." ... All the losing has been hard to deal with for Utah coach Ty Corbin. "The guys have gotten better, the young guys have developed," Corbin said. "They have learned their role, but losing is not fun to go through in this league." ... Wolves C Nikola Pekovic missed the final eight games due to ankle bursitis, an injury that kept him out of action for 17 of the team's last 37 games. Pekovic ended up missing 28 games in all due to injury, preventing him from reaching playing time-related bonuses. ... Utah F Marvin Williams missed the final five games of the season with a bone bruise in his knee. ... When Wolves F Kevin Love scored his ninth point late in the first half, he became the first NBA player to record at least 2,000 points with 900 rebounds and 100 3-pointers in a season. ... Minnesota backup PG J.J. Barea missed the game due to back spasms.

  • Thursday, April 17, 2014
    Bobcats top Bulls in OT, prepare for playoffs
    By The Sports Xchange

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Charlotte Bobcats are headed to the NBA playoffs for just the second time in franchise history, and they go in on a roll.

    • The Bobcats outlasted the Chicago Bulls 91-86 in overtime on Wednesday night for their third straight win and the eighth in their last nine games.

      They will face the defending NBA champion Miami Heat in the first round as the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference, and they will be decided underdogs. But the Bobcats were full of confidence after pulling out a game that definitely had playoff intensity.

      "I think this was the type of game we needed going into the playoffs," center Al Jefferson said. "That's a playoff team, and that was a playoff-type game we played tonight. It was a great win. I don't think any other team besides us has been playing as well as Chicago the last couple months, and to get a win like this, especially since they beat us three times already, to get a win over a team like that is great momentum going into the playoffs."

      Coach Steve Clifford had been critical of the Bobcats (43-39) even after recent wins but was pleased with Wednesday night's effort.

      "Tonight we played the way we need to play," Clifford said. "I think after we clinched a playoff spot, we kind of exhaled a little bit. We were not ourselves the last few games. But tonight we had it for the entire game. I think everyone could see that we had our intensity and it was a good, hard-fought win."

      Guard Kemba Walker led the Bobcats with 22 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. He had eight points in overtime as the Bobcats outscored Chicago 11-6 with a 10-1 run to open the extra period.

      Jefferson banged a knee early in the game and was hobbling, but he still played 41 minutes and finished with 10 points and 18 rebounds. The Bobcats also got 13 points from forward Chris Douglas-Roberts and 11 from guard Gerald Henderson.

      The Bobcats trailed by as many as 10 points in the first half and had to rally in the final minute of regulation. Walker's two free throws with 35.9 seconds left in regulation tied it at 80-80, and then after Chicago forward Taj Gibson missed a jumper from the side, Walker missed a 20-footer at the regulation buzzer.

      Charlotte then dominated the overtime, scoring the first four points and holding Chicago without a field goal until the final 31 seconds.

      The Bulls (48-34) failed in an attempt to overtake No. 3 Toronto, and will go into the playoffs as the Eastern Conference's No. 4 seed. They will face No. 5 Washington.

      "I just want to say that I appreciate my teammates on a hard season," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "They worked their butts off, even though it ended on a sad note losing tonight in overtime. Overall, we gave it everything we had and there's no regrets in that. Now, we will have fun in the playoffs."

      Guard DJ Augustin came off the bench to lead the Bulls with 17 points. Noah had 14 points and 13 rebounds, and forward Carlos Boozer finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Forward Mike Dunleavy and guard Jimmy Butler scored 12 each.

      "There are some things we did well and there are some things that we have to do better," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "In the playoffs, you've got to be as sharp as possible because most often these games come down to one or two possessions. That's what happened tonight, and we were in great position to win the game. That's why tonight's game was good preparation for that."

      NOTES: The win snapped the Bobcats' five-game losing streak to the Bulls. Chicago had won 10 of the previous 11 games between the teams. ... Four of the game's 10 starters came from Duke -- F Carlos Boozer and F Mike Dunleavy for the Bulls and F Josh McRoberts and G Gerald Henderson for the Bobcats. ... This was a meeting of two of the NBA’s most defensive-minded teams. The Bulls led the NBA in scoring defense at 91.8 entering the game and the Bobcats ranked fourth at 97.2. ... The Bobcats barely fell short of a franchise record for wins. The record is 44, set by the 2009-10 team. ... The Bobcats' 95-93 victory at Atlanta on Monday gave them a franchise-record 18 road wins, shattering the previous franchise best of 13. ... Bulls G DJ Augustin was back after missing the Monday's win over Orlando because of the birth of his son, Trey. ... The Bobcats were without C Brendan Haywood (stress fracture left foot) and F Jeffery Taylor (ruptured right Achilles), as they have been for months. ... The Bulls have been without G Derrick Rose (right knee) since 10 games into the season.

  • Wednesday, April 16, 2014
    Thunder 112, Pistons 111
    By The Sports Xchange

    OKLAHOMA CITY -- Forward Kevin Durant scored 21 of his game-high 42 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 112-111 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

    • The win secured the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference for the Thunder (59-23), who will open the playoffs on Saturday at home.

      With his team trailing by eight and looking anything but playoff ready, Durant began to take over offensively. He scored 15 of the Thunder's first 19 points in the fourth quarter. That included a drive down the lane in which he dunked on Detroit forward Kyle Singler

      However, the Thunder were not making up any ground. The Pistons (29-53) matched them shot for shot. Detroit guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, center Andre Drummond and forward Greg Monroe always seemed to have an answer.

      But with 4:02 left in the game, Drummond fouled out, leaving the paint open for the Thunder to attack.

      With 1:32 left, Oklahoma City cut the lead to three on a Durant layup. Detroit guard Brandon Jennings threw up a 30-footer that was off the mark and Thunder guard Russell Westbrook was fouled going for a loose ball. He made two free throws to close gap to 111-110.

      After Thunder guard Derek Fisher blocked Caldwell-Pope's shot at the rim, Durant missed an easy putback on the other end that would have given the Thunder the lead.

      Oklahoma City got the ball back on a turnover with 18 seconds left. After a timeout, Durant got the ball on the wing and drove to the basket for a go-ahead dunk.

      Detroit was unable to get a clean shot off in the final seconds and Oklahoma City held on.

      Caldwell-Pope led Detroit with 30 points on 11-for-19 shooting from the field. Drummond added 22 points and 13 rebounds. Monroe had 22 points and nine assists. Singler finished with 20 points.

      Westbrook had 22 points, eight assists, six steals and six rebounds. Guard Reggie Jackson came off the bench to score 15 points. Forward Serge Ibaka added 10 points, 15 boards and eight blocked shots.

      NOTES: Oklahoma City F Kevin Durant led NBA in minutes and points for third time in his career. The only others to do so that often were Wilt Chamberlain (six times) and Michael Jordan (three times). ... The Detroit Pistons ended the season with four players sitting out with injuries. F Josh Smith, G Will Bynum, G Chauncey Billups and C Josh Harrellson did not suit up in Oklahoma City. ... Thunder coach Scott Brooks was not happy with the way former Detroit coach Maurice Cheeks was fired after only 50 games this season. "As a friend, as someone who's been around him, I don't think that was deserved," Brooks said. "Nobody in this league can go into a new situation and change the culture of that organization in 50 games." ... In an interview with ESPN Houston, Rockets G James Harden was asked if he would still be with the Thunder if money were not a factor. "Definitely, no question," Harden said. ... Brooks said G Russell Westbrook's minute restrictions would be lifted when the playoffs start.

  • Wednesday, April 16, 2014
    Reserves guide Pacers past Magic
    By The Sports Xchange

    ORLANDO, Fla. -- Despite their late-season struggles, the Indiana Pacers are right where they always wanted to be.

    • The Pacers, who beat the Orlando Magic 101-86 Wednesday night, will open the playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks as the No. 1 seed in the East, guaranteeing them home-court advantage all the way through the conference finals.

      It is not a bad place to be for the team with the best home record (35-6) in the NBA this season. The Pacers closed the regular season by winning only 10 of their last 23 games, but they didn't seem to care Wednesday night.

      "We are ready for the playoffs, without question. We are ready to go," center Roy Hibbert said. "This is a smart team that knows what needs to be done. We've been there before. It will be a process, a grind, but we're right where we need to be."

      While hardly trying and with three starters sitting out, the Pacers (56-26) closed the regular season by cruising past the hapless Magic, never facing a serious challenge in the second half.

      Lightly regarded Indiana forward Rasual Butler, who averaged just seven minutes and 2.7 points during the regular season, scored a season-high 19 points and added five assists in his best game of the season.

      "It was great to get back on the floor and make a difference tonight," said Butler, who hit eight of 13 shots. "People talked about our struggles late, but I'll take those struggles any day to be where we are now, the No. 1 seed with home-court advantage."

      Three of Indiana's regular starters, forwards David West and Paul George and guard Lance Stephenson, watched from the sideline while the reserves carried the load against Orlando.

      Pacers forward Evan Turner, who struggled to find his niche since coming from the Philadelphia 76ers in February, had 14 points, eight rebounds and six assists in one of his best overall games. He hit five of six shots. Both he and Butler made just their second start with the Pacers.

      Indiana, which clinched the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed Monday night, used the regular-season finale to tune up for Atlanta.

      "There always is value in winning games," Indiana coach Frank Vogel said. "Anytime you have bench guys getting extended minutes, that's really good for their rhythm and confidence."

      Indiana forward Chris Copeland scored 19 points. Forward Luis Scola contributed 10 points and eight rebounds, and guard Donald Sloan added 13 points. Forward Lavoy Allen, who came with Turner in the trade with Philadelphia, had 12 points and a team-high 11 rebounds.

      "We are fine right now," said point guard George Hill, who scored five points in just 14 minutes. "It's a long regular season. We didn't play our best at the end, but it doesn't matter now. It's the first to win 16 games in the playoffs now."

      The Magic (23-59) lost their fourth consecutive game and finished with the third-worst record in the league, giving them a 15.6 percent chance of winning the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft lottery.

      Orlando was led by forward Maurice Harkless, who had 14 points and five rebounds. Reserve guard E'Twaun Moore scored 13 points, and center Dewayne Dedmon had a game-high 13 rebounds.

      "I really believe in the process of working your way toward being really good and an elite team in this league," Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. "What we've been doing is growing our young guys. We have a resilient bunch who will continue working hard."

      The Pacers led by as many as 18 points in the third quarter and took a 75-62 lead into the fourth. Allen had 10 points in the third quarter.

      Indiana led 46-40 at intermission, hitting six of 13 shots from 3-point range. Turner, starting in place of Stephenson, had 11 points at halftime. The Pacers closed the half with a 3-pointer by Hill and a dunk at the buzzer by Butler.

      Hibbert, who struggled during the last month of the season, made only one of seven shots from the field in the first half. He finished with four points and seven rebounds in 17 minutes.

      NOTES: The Magic were without C Nikola Vucevic (sore left Achilles) and G Jameer Nelson (strained left groin). ... Nelson has played in 651 games over 10 seasons for the Magic, trailing only Nick Anderson (692) for most games played. This might be the final season in Orlando for Nelson because the team has an option on the third and final year of his contract. ... Pacers coach Frank Vogel said before the game that getting the No. 1 seed was the goal from the start of the season. "We never said it was do-or-die. Nothing you do in the regular season is do-or-die. It was just something to give us every possible advantage come playoff time," he said. "Now it's time to perform when it really matters." ... When Magic F Jason Maxiell entered the game late in the first quarter, it was the first time he played in 15 games. He scored two points in five minutes.

  • Wednesday, April 16, 2014
    Cavaliers 114, Nets 85
    By The Sports Xchange

    CLEVELAND -- The Brooklyn Nets were more concerned with resting their starters than playoff positioning.

    • With their 114-85 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday in the season finale, the Nets dropped to the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference.

      Brooklyn (44-38) will face the Atlantic Division champion Toronto Raptors on Saturday in Game 1 of a best-of-seven, first-round playoff series.

      Had the Nets won Wednesday, they would have earned the No. 5 seed and played the Chicago Bulls in the first round.

      Forwards Marcus Thornton and Andray Blatche each scored 20 points for the Nets.

      Brooklyn coach Jason Kidd rested starting forwards Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce and starting guards Joe Johnson and Deron Williams.

      Center Tyler Zeller paced the Cavaliers (33-49) with 22 points. He also pulled down 11 rebounds for his third double-double of the season. The 7-footer reached double figures in scoring in each of the last four games. He shot 9-for-11 from the field against the Nets.

      Cleveland's Dion Waiters added 19 points. Over his last 15 games -- since he moved back into the starting lineup at shooting guard -- he averaged 21.2 points and 4.2 assists. He scored 20 or more points in nine of the final 15 games.

      With the lopsided victory, the Cavaliers avoided what would have been their third 50-loss season in four years.

      Guard Kyrie Irving added 15 points and five assists for the Cavaliers, while power forward Tristan Thompson recorded his 36th double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

      Brooklyn guard Jorge Gutierrez, signed off the roster of the NBA Development League's Canton Charge, added 13 points before fouling out.

      The Cavaliers throttled the makeshift Nets in the third quarter, 30-15. Cleveland took an 81-64 lead heading into the fourth quarter and never looked back.

      Nets center Jason Collins set a season high with eight points in the first half, though he didn't score after halftime.

      NOTES: There will likely be no big decisions made in Cleveland this week. Cavaliers majority owner Dan Gilbert is attending the NBA Board of Governors meeting in New York on Thursday and Friday. ... Cavaliers F Anthony Bennett admits his rookie year was "interesting." That might be a major understatement. The No. 1 overall pick missed the previous 17 games with a strained left patellar tendon before returning to score seven points Wednesday. "I've learned a lot," said Bennett, who averaged 4.1 points and 2.9 rebounds going into the finale. ... Cavaliers G/F C.J. Miles (sprained left ankle) and F Luol Deng (sore back) sat out the season finale.

  • Wednesday, April 16, 2014
    76ers 100, Heat 87
    By The Sports Xchange

    MIAMI -- With the Miami Heat locked into the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference and the Philadelphia 76ers' lottery position already sealed, their meeting on the final night of the regular season did not carry as much significance as other games around the NBA.

    • Nonetheless, they played the game, and with two-thirds of the Heat's Big 3 sitting out, the 76ers beat the Heat 100-87 on Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.

      Miami finished the regular season with a three-game losing streak, but the Heat's greater concern is the postseason, where they will face the No. 7 Charlotte Bobcats in a first-round series that begins at 3:30 p.m. Sunday in Miami.

      The Heat would then play the winner of the Nos. 3-6 matchup between the Toronto Raptors and the Brooklyn Nets. Miami went 0-4 during the regular season against Brooklyn.

      Philadelphia pulled away in the third quarter. With the score tied earlier in the quarter, the Sixers ended up leading by 18 after the quarter thanks to a 19-4 run.

      Forward Thaddeus Young led the 76ers with 20 points and nine rebounds.

      Six Sixers scored in double figures, including guard Michael Carter-Williams with 12 points.

      Wednesday's loss marked second time this season the two-time defending champion Heat fell to the lowly Sixers. They also lost in Philadelphia on Oct. 30 in the second game of the regular season.

      Miami finished the regular season with a 29-14 record against opponents below .500 but with just 13 losses against winning teams.

      Philadelphia led Miami 55-51 at halftime with both Young and guard James Anderson already in double figures with 10 points apiece.

      Guard Dwyane Wade played 16 of his 23 minutes in the first half, scoring 14 of his 16 points to lead Miami. He did not play in the fourth quarter.

      Miami guards Toney Douglas and Ray Allen added 13 and 11 points, respectively. Forwards LeBron James and Chris Bosh sat out.

      The 76ers finished the first quarter on a 10-0 run to turn an eight-point deficit into a two-point lead. Philadelphia led by as many as nine points in the first half.

      NOTES: C Greg Oden returned to the Heat after not being with the team on Monday night against the Washington Wizards because of a stomach virus and back spasms. He was active on Wednesday and played for the first time since a March 26 meeting with the Indiana Pacers. ... With the playoffs on the horizon, F LeBron James, F/C Chris Bosh, C Chris Andersen and G Mario Chalmers were all inactive (rest). ... G Michael Carter-Williams finishes the season as the leader among rookies in points, rebounds and assists per game. He is only the third rookie in NBA history to do so. ... The 76ers finish with the second-worst record in the NBA. They will have a 19.9 percent chance of landing the No. 1 overall pick and will have a first-round selection no lower than fifth.

  • Wednesday, April 16, 2014
    Wizards 118, Celtics 102
    By The Sports Xchange

    BOSTON -- The Washington Wizards, set to make their first NBA playoff appearance since 2008, captured the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference by finishing their regular season with a 118-102 victory over the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night.

    • The Wizards (44-38) clinched the sixth spot with the win and then the fifth seed with the Brooklyn Nets' loss in Cleveland. The Wizards will face No. 4 Chicago in the first round of the playoffs.

      The Celtics finished with 57 losses, the third-worst total in franchise history. Boston went 13-43 after a high-water mark of 12-14 and lost 11 of its last 13.

      While the Celtics now await the lottery with two first-round picks, the Wizards, 19-11 since the All-Star break, have more basketball to play.

      Guard Bradley Beal led six Wizards (all five starters) in double figures with 27 points. He also grabbed seven rebounds.

      Washington forward Trevor Booker scored all 20 of his points in the first half, guard John Wall had 15 points and nine assists, center Marcin Gortat added 15 points and 10 rebounds and forwards Trevor Ariza and Nene contributed 13 points and 12 points, respectively.

      Rookie forward Kelly Olynyk led the short-handed Celtics with 24 points and seven rebounds. Forward Jeff Green scored 20 points, guard Avery Bradley finished with 18 points and forward Brandon Bass had 16 points and seven rebounds. Rookie point guard Phil Pressey had 10 assists and nine points.

      With four players hurt, the Celtics dressed 10 players, but guard Rajon Rondo and forward Jared Sullinger could not play. That left Boston with eight, and its entire three-man bench and starting point guard Phil Pressey were all undrafted players.

      The Wizards came out on fire, going 17-for-22 from the field in the first 9:44 of the game and led by as many as 15 points in the first quarter. They finished the half shooting 61.7 percent from the floor and were up by 12 at the break.

      Boston opened the second half with eight straight points, six by Olynyk, and trailed by just four. The teams traded 6-0 spurts, but the Wizards finished the quarter on a 13-2 run -- including six straight points by Gortat -- to lead by 16.

      Washington forward Al Harrington left the game and headed for the locker room in the second quarter. He received stitches above the left eye but returned in the fourth quarter.

      With their team ending a long, tough season and down by 21 points late, the home crowd chanted, "Let's Go Celtics."

      NOTES: Washington G John Wall, who missed 60 games with injuries during his first three NBA seasons, including 33 last year, played in all 82 games this season. ... Celtics F Jared Sullinger was among those who did not play, but he addressed the crowd pregame on Fan Appreciation Night, saying, "Hopefully, we'll come back better next year." ... With Wednesday marking the one-year anniversary of the game the Celtics postponed because of the Boston Marathon bombings the previous day, Rondo was sporting sneakers that contained the initials of those killed in the attack, along with "41513," the date. Survivors, first responders and medical personnel were honored at Wednesday's game. ... Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge called his team's season "a tough, tough year and I saw a lot of positive things from individuals." ... F Brandon Bass won the ninth annual Red Auerbach Award that goes to the Celtic showing the most spirit on and off the court.