Posts Tagged ‘Rockets’

Morning Shootaround — April 27



VIDEO: Highlights from games played April 26

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Pelicans plan to sign Davis to the max | Austin Rivers saves Clippers season | Buss says Lakers will celebrate Kobe next season | Trail Blazers vow to show heart, avoid sweep

No. 1: Report: Pelicans plan to sign Davis to the max — The New Orleans Pelicans have a summer to-do-list that starts and ends with taking care of Anthony Davis. The Pelicans’ immediate future rests on making sure Davis is a part of the organization for years to come and that means signing him to a max deal. Marc Stein of ESPN.com has more:

League sources say that the Pels will be as aggressive as possible on July 1 in presenting Davis with a five-year maximum contract that makes him New Orleans’ designated player.

Given that the 22-year-old was voted to start in February’s All-Star Game and will likely earn All-NBA first-team status when voting results are announced in coming days, Davis would be in line to start his max deal at 30 percent of the league’s salary cap as opposed to a mere 25 percent as long as he earns just one of those same honors next season — or if he is named the 2015-16 MVP.

Based on the league’s most recent cap projections, Davis will thus be presented with a five-year pact that will eventually top $30 million annually and could exceed $140 million in total value in a deal that kicks in beginning in 2016-17 and run through his 28th birthday.

Can he really turn down those sort of riches and that level of security in the name of flexibility?

Would he turn that down when he’s clearly comfortable in New Orleans and, by all accounts, highly engaged as the young leader of his team?

Hard to see Davis resisting such lucrative insulation, though he certainly does have the option of signing a shorter extension to keep his free-agent future more open.

***

No. 2: Austin Rivers saves Clippers season — He was supposed to be a bit player in this series, a footnote at best. But make no mistake, with their season on the brink in Game 4 in San Antonio, Austin Rivers stepped up and helped save the Los Angeles Clippers. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports explains how Austin Rivers brought tears to his father’s eyes:

When Doc Rivers walked into the locker room, the scene stopped him. Chris Paul called on the Clippers to congratulate the young guard responsible for saving the season and present him the game ball. Everyone clapped. Everyone let out a long, loud cheer for Austin Rivers.

“For a moment, for a half second maybe, I became a dad in there,” Doc Rivers told Yahoo Sports later on Sunday at the AT&T Center. The tears welled in his eyes, but he quickly wiped them away and stiffened in the concrete corridor.

To trade for his son, Rivers had to make a case on the move’s merits to a dubious basketball community. He’s had to live with the criticism. They’ve had to live with it together. They had Sunday together, too.

Austin Rivers had his finest moment in the NBA on Sunday, scoring 16 points, delivering defense, deflections and a 114-105 victory over the San Antonio Spurs to bring this best-of-seven series 2-2 back to Staples Center. He made deft drives to the basket, fearless finishes to stun the Spurs.

For nine years, Doc Rivers coached and lived in Boston. For most of that time, his wife and children stayed in Orlando. Austin completed middle school and high school, spent a year at Duke and moved onto the NBA. Father and son were separated a long time, often coming and going in moments Doc had flown down and stolen an off-night for a high school game or an ACC game on Tobacco Road.

“Listen, we haven’t been together a lot,” Rivers told Yahoo Sports. “In a lot of ways, I am his coach.”

More coach than father, he’s trying to say. It’s an honest admission, and it comes tinged with a touch of sadness. Nevertheless, Austin Rivers has had to find his own way with these Clippers, earn his own respect. This was a beginning on Sunday, nothing more, nothing less.

***

No. 3: Buss says Lakers will celebrate Kobe next season — It’s all about Kobe Bryant next season for the Los Angeles Lakers. Even with a monster free agent summer on tap, the Lakers’ focus will be on Kobe. Lakers boss Jeanie Buss insists the 2015-16 season will be a celebration of one of the franchise’s and NBA’s all-time greats and his 20 years with the franchise. Sean Highkin of ProBasketballTalk.com has the details:

It’s been more or less known without anybody outright saying it for a while that next year will be Kobe Bryant‘s final year. His contract is up in 2016, which will put his career at 20 seasons, all with the Lakers, and the last three have ended with injuries.

Lakers president Jeanie Buss seems to know the end of the Kobe era is coming, if you go by her comments on a Sunday morning Bleacher Report radio interview:

Bryant has said that he doesn’t want a Derek Jeter-style farewell tour when he hangs it up, but it seems pretty obvious that it’s coming. And for the impact he’s had on the NBA and the sport worldwide, he deserves to take a victory lap regardless of what the Lakers do next season.

***

No. 4: Trail Blazers vow to show heart, avoid sweep — The Portland Trail Blazers insist they will not go away quietly. They will not be swept out of these playoffs without a fight. Their season is on the line tonight against the Memphis Grizzlies and they vow to fight until the very end. Joe Freeman of The Oregonian explains:

A little more than nine weeks ago, the Trail Blazers‘ practice court was brimming with confidence and gusto.

They had just made a splash at the NBA trade deadline, acquiring Arron Afflalo to strengthen their bench and add depth for what figured to be a long and successful playoff run. Pundits universally lauded the move. San Antonio Spurs Gregg Popovich hailed it as a “great addition.” The Blazers boldly pronounced they were poised to contend for an NBA Championship.

Oh how things have changed.

On Sunday afternoon, that confidence and gusto had been replaced with disappointment and dejection. The Memphis Grizzlies have pummeled the Blazers in their best-of-seven Western Conference playoffs series, using muscle, moxie and better talent to build a 3-0 lead. No team in NBA history has overcome a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series.

And that history hovered over the Blazers like a thick fog Sunday at the practice facility in Tualatin, where they gathered for what could be their final practice of the season. No one said the season was done. Everyone promised to show heart and fight and claw until the final buzzer sounds at the end of Game 4, which is scheduled for 7:30 Monday night at the Moda Center.

But there was no escaping the daunting challenging in front of them. And there was no masking the inevitable gloom that comes with the reality the season is all but over.

“Right now, we’re at the point where we have to just have some heart and have some pride,” Damian Lillard said.

The Blazers spouted off the usual array of clichés, promising to take the series “one game at a time” and “only think about tomorrow’s game.” But history is impossible to ignore. And when the Cleveland Cavaliers swept the Boston Celtics on Sunday, they became the 112th team in 112 chances to win a series after building a 3-0 lead.

“You can’t think about it,” LaMarcus Aldridge said. “You just have to go game-by-game. If you try to think about, ‘Oh, we’re down 0-3 and let’s try to win the series,’ I think that’s when you think about the history. But if you just go game-by-game, just focus on getting Game 4, then anything’s possible.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Boston’s summer pursuit of Kevin Love will no doubt be complicated after the “bush league” play from Kelly Olynyk … Knocked down and out, gutsy Jae Crowder embodied toughness of Celtics this season … The Hawks are still a bit salty after their poor shooting effort in a Game 3 loss to the Brooklyn NetsSteals could help the Bucks steal another playoff win if the Chicago Bulls aren’t more careful with the ball … Kevin Love‘s absence in Cleveland with that shoulder dislocation will depend on his personal injury history

 

Mavs’ Parsons, Harris Out For Game 2

HOUSTON — Starting small forward Chandler Parsons and backup point guard Devin Harris will both sit out Game 2 tonight as the Mavs try to even their first round playoff series with the Rockets.

Parsons, who missed the final six games of the regular season with a right knee injury, played nearly 37 minutes in the opening game of the series on Saturday night, but had to limp off the court and go to the locker room at one point during the second quarter.

“This is a young man who is very important to our team now and in the future,” said Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle. “We’re very concerned. He will be re-evaluated (Wednesday) by Dr.(T.O.) Souryal and we’ll have more information for you following that evaluation.”

Asked if he was concerned that Parsons might be lost for the series, Carlisle said: “I’m concerned, period. That does loom as a possibility, but we’ll know more (Wednesday). I will say this: it’s become clear to those of us close to the team and him that he’s been in more pain than he’s let on. The fact the knee has not responded and the swelling has not dissipated the way we hoped means we have to pull the plug on tonight and he’s got to see doc tomorrow and see what’s what.”

Carlisle said that right now Harris is just sidelined for Game 2. He aggravated the big toe injury on his left foot in the opener and played just 10 minutes.”

“His toe is getting a little bit better, but he’s not ready to play,” Carlisle said. “We’ll update his status tomorrow. The hope is that he can do well enough where he can play, but he’s got a situation that’s sensitive because it involves the foot that had a very unique surgery and we got to be careful with it.”

Missing two key members of the lineup will test the Mavs depth and move Richard Jefferson and Al-Farouq Aminu up in the rotation.

“It’s the next man up in this kind of situation,” Carlisle said. “We’ve got a deep team. We’ve had guys step up all year.

“Obviously, R.J. and Aminu become more important guys at the small forward position. (Charlie) Villanueva becomes a more important guy because you’re down manpower at the position that goes from 3 to 4. And (Raymond) Felton now is in the mix. We’ll go with the guys that we have available and we’ll come out with guns blazing.”

Part-time Howard is full-time committed


VIDEO: Dwight Howard is geared up for Game 2 of the series

HOUSTON — The Dallas Mavericks won’t mind at all if Dwight Howard continues to be a part-time player in Game 2 on Tuesday night. Playing just 17 minutes due to foul trouble in the opener, Howard finished with less than eye-popping numbers: 11 points and five rebounds.

But in the short time he was on the court, Howard still did cast a long shadow, slamming home a couple of early dunks and getting a hand on seemingly every shot that Dallas put up at the basket as the Rockets opened an early double-digit lead. The eight-time All-Star center had five blocks in his short stint.

“I think a couple years ago, maybe even last year, I would have allowed a couple fouls get to my head and I wouldn’t be able to be as effective on the defensive end,” Howard said. “I just kept telling myself, ‘If I foul out, I foul out going hard, trying to block everything and being aggressive.’ ”

In 67 previous playoff games, his averages were 20.3 points and 14.1 rebounds. In the Rockets’ six-game, first-round loss to the Trail Blazers in 2014, Howard averaged 26 points, 13.7 rebounds and 2.8 blocks.

This season he played just 41 games, missing virtually all of February and March while being treated for pain and swelling in his right knee.

“He’s always risen up and played very well at this time of year,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “I thought he played with a lot of energy (in Game 1). Foul trouble kind of kept him on the bench longer than we wanted, but I thought he had great energy and I thought he was really focused in.”

Howard says he has tried to turn the negative of missing games into a positive by watching his teammates closely and getting a better understanding of how he must carry himself.

“Just sitting out a lot of games and just watching and analyzing what I need to do for this team and where I need to be mentally for this team to win,” he said.

“When I’m on the floor, I don’t allow whatever is happening around me to affect me as a player. Our team tends to follow that lead. When I’m frustrated, I can’t point the finger at everybody else doing the same thing. I have to make sure I keep a level head and not allow the fouls or whatever it is on the floor that happens that is negative to affect me.

“Just being on the floor, I appreciate these moments that I have. I don’t want to take anything for granted. Anything can happen in a split second. When we’re out there playing, when I’m trying to do whatever I can to help this team, I just want to do it to 100 percent.”

Olajuwon gives Capela high marks


VIDEO: Clint Capela grabs the alley-oop for the dunk

HOUSTON — When the structured part of the Rockets practice is over, Hakeem Olajuwon and Dwight Howard drift naturally toward one another.

If Olajuwon isn’t dipping his shoulder, spinning on one foot and giving Howard a few pointers on technique in the low post, then the pair are just huddled, chatting, nodding heads and trading tales and secrets of the paint.

But while the Hall of Famer gets most of his attention these days for working with the eight-time All-Star, Prof. Olajuwon did take notice of the fresh-faced member of his big man class. With Howard in foul trouble early, 20-year-old Clint Capela was first off the bench in Game 1 and opened a few eyes with his eight points, six rebounds and two blocked shots in 16 minutes.

“He has tremendous potential,” Olajuwon said. “I’m just trying to encourage him to play to his strengths because he does so many things so well. To work with a guy like that is wonderful because his potential is great. His first experience in the playoffs, he played confident and played his game.”

The pregame advice from the legendary Rockets center to the newbie?

“Just to be himself and be comfortable,” said Olajuwon.  “He’s playing with a lot of veterans out there. Just play his game.”

 

Rockets ready for Mavericks’ zone

HOUSTON — Even though zone defenses are still more the exception than the norm in the NBA, don’t expect the Rockets to panic if, as expected, the Mavericks play a lot more of it in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series Tuesday night.

“We’ve seen it off and on throughout the year,” said Rockets coach Kevin McHale. “Usually we’ve been able to handle it pretty well. The key is to just get the ball in certain spots. We have a couple key spots we try to get the ball into. That guy’s just got to be a decision maker.

“I thought in the first game we tried making home run plays from there. Sometimes you just got to lay down a bunch of singles. Just move it on to the weak side, move it on to the open man. It may not be the perfect pass, but it’s the next pass and then the pass after that or the pass after that will be the scoring pass. We just gotta get it moving.”

Knee, Shooting Touch Both Pain Parsons

VIDEO: Mavs’ forward Chandler Parsons slams one home.

HOUSTON — Chandler Parsons finally got a chance to do what he wanted to do in front of the old home crowd. He got out in front on the transition game, rose up and hammered home a dunk right into the teeth of the jeering that was coming from the Toyota Center stands.

Trouble was, it came after Parsons had already missed three shots and his Mavericks fell quickly behind by double-digits in the first five minutes of a 118-108 loss to the Rockets Saturday night.

Parsons had missed the last six games of the regular season due to pain in his right knee and looked like someone who couldn’t find a rhythm. He shot 5-for-15 from the field, missed all four of his attempts from behind the 3-point line and finished with 10 points in an ineffective 37 minutes.

“We can’t do that, especially in the the playoffs,” he said. “We have to find a way to be consistent and play the same way for 48 minutes. We can’t give-up those leads and have these teams go on runs. Houston is a team of runs and they have guys that can make plays. We have to try to eliminate those.”

Parsons, who became the object of derision in Houston after signing a free agent contract with the Mavericks for $46 million over three years last summer, had to leave the game and go to the locker midway through the second quarter.

“I just landed and I felt some pain,” he said. “My leg just kind of gave out on me. I couldn’t really shake it. It didn’t feel great. I felt fine the first six to eight minutes and I think that was partly due to adrenaline.

“Something happened when I landed and it was real painful. We have a lot of work to do here and I hope it doesn’t swell up overnight. I’ll visit the doctors and the trainers (Sunday) and hope for the best.

“I want to play more. You have to be smart and I have to have a good judgment with my body. I was definitely a little rusty today and I missed a couple of chippies and some open shots. I didn’t have my usual lift and I was definitely feeling some pain and discomfort in the right knee.”

The pain only made the entire experience worse.

“This definitely isn’t the way you want to play or feel in the playoffs,” he said.

Parsons ready to block out the noise


VIDEO: Rockets-Mavericks series preview

The sounds at the Toyota Center will be exactly the same every time he touches the ball: “Boooooooo!”

But Chandler Parsons vows that the hoots and hollers, yells and catcalls won’t get inside his head during tonight’s playoff opener (9:30 ET on ESPN) the way they did back in November.

Parsons, of course, is villain No. 1 in Houston as the in-state postseason rivalry with Dallas rekindles after he switched teams last summer by signing a three-year, $46-million free agent offer from the Mavericks.

But the 26-year-old forward told Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News that he’s got the jitters out of his system:

“The first time was a little overwhelming,” he said, remembering with a sheepish grin the 3-for-9 shooting night that led to just eight points. “I didn’t know exactly how it was going to be. I had a feeling, but you can’t really feel that unless you go through it.

“The second time I went there, it was nothing special. This time shouldn’t be an issue. The series is much bigger than me going back there. It’s about us winning four games before them.”

Parsons was a particularly inept 0-for-5 on 3-pointers in the Mavs’ 95-92 loss on Nov. 22. But he bounced back to shoot 8-for-13 — including five 3-pointers — when the Mavs returned to Houston on Jan. 28, but Dallas still lost the game 99-94.

Though he sat out the last six games of the regular season with a sore right knee, Parsons says he’ll be back on the floor, even if he’s not 100 percent.

Morning Shootaround — April 18


VIDEO: Ahmad Rashad goes one-on-one with Steph Curry

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Pierce savoring these final playoff moments | Pelicans’ Davis eager to take next step | Clippers using Spurs blueprint to knock off champs | Kidd at center of Bucks’ turnaround

No. 1: Pierce savoring these final playoff moments — The truth is Paul Pierce knows this might be one of the last times he’s on this stage, this playoff stage. And the Washington Wizards’ veteran swingman is savoring each and every second these final playoff moments of his career. Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post provides the details:

The end is near for Paul Pierce. Next season will be his 18th and final tour as a professional basketball player, meaning scenes like the one that will unfold Saturday afternoon in Toronto, Game 1 of an NBA playoff series, are dwindling for the future Hall of Famer.

“It’s very different for me because I don’t have too many chances left in my career of playoff basketball and opportunities to try to win a championship,” Pierce said. “So I enjoy each and every moment, each and every practice, each and every game.”

Pierce, 37, will step onto the Air Canada Centre hardwood Saturday before a frenzied crowd in a Washington Wizards uniform, his third playoff appearance in three years with a third different team. He will be Raptors fans’ Public Enemy No. 1, the result of his clutch play as a Brooklyn Net against Toronto last postseason and his recent comments on the Raptors’ lack of the “It” factor, whatever “It” is.

The setting is why the Wizards hired him, to supply his famed shot-making ability, valuable experience and notorious swagger to help ascend the Wizards to another level when the stakes are highest.

“He can help on the floor. Off the floor. Around the floor,” guard Bradley Beal said. “Whatever it is related to basketball and life in general. You can basically call him the Oracle. He knows pretty much everything.”

This will be Pierce’s 12th career playoff appearance. He has crashed the tournament seven straight springs. He has been on underdogs, on favorites. He has suited up for underachievers and overachievers. He has experienced nearly every possible scenario, including both ends of regular season sweeps that were reversed in the playoffs. So he insists that the Wizards losing all three meetings with the Raptors during the regular season doesn’t concern him.

“Each team’s [0-0], so right now we’re a confident group,” Pierce said. “We feel like we can beat pretty much any team in the East.”

*** (more…)

Westbrook gets scoring title, not playoffs


VIDEO: Thunder guard Russell Westbrook nets 34 points in first half at Minnesota.

All things considered, Russell Westbrook would have rather the situation had been reversed.

While the Thunder wonder poured in 37 points Wednesday night to keep the NBA scoring title in the family, it wasn’t enough to lift injury-plagued Oklahoma City into the playoffs.

Meanwhile the man he beat out for the crown — ex-teammate James Harden — got the bigger payoff as his Rockets used a win over Utah to claim their first division title in 21 years and jumped up to the No. 2 seed in the final Western Conference standings.

Westbrook’s 28.1 points per game average finally closed out the race with Harden, who finished at 27.4 ppg after playing the role of facilitator in the regular season finale, hanging up his fourth triple-double of the year with 16 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.

Coming after the title by Thunder teammate Kevin Durant, Westbrook’s feat marks the fifth time in the last six seasons that the scoring crown will reside in OKC.

But it also was the end of five straight playoff seasons for the Thunder.

In season when the Thunder were constantly hamstrung by injuries to Durant, Serge Ibaka and himself, Westbrook waged what at times seemed like a one-man battle through the last month of the season in an attempt to get OKC into the post-season. But the Thunder lost out for the final spot in the West by tie-breaker to the Pelicans.

Since Durant was the scoring champion last season, Westbrook’s taking the crown this season was a rarity. It was the first time since 1952 and 1953 when Paul Arizin and Neil Johnston of the Philadelphia Warriors that teammates claimed the title back-to-back.

Westbrook became the first point guard to lead the NBA in scoring average since Philly’s Allen Iverson’s  three times, the last in 2005. Hall of Famer Tiny Archibald did it in 1973 and the great Oscar Robertson  in 1968. Dave Bing  was the official scoring champ in 1968, based on total points scored.  The method for determining the official scoring champion was changed from total to scoring average in the 1968-69 season.

In addition, Westbrooks career-high 8.6 assists per game is the highest per-game figure since Archibald led the league in both categories in 1973, averaging 34 points and 11 assists.

Playoff scenarios aplenty in play on final day of 2014-15 season


VIDEO: Celtics coach Brad Stevens and his crew don’t have to sweat out the final night of the season

NEW ORLEANS — It must be nice to be Brad Stevens and the Boston Celtics this morning. Your hard-earned playoff berth, the No. 7 seed, is locked up. You already know you have a date with LeBron James and the No. 2 seed Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs.

The mission, so to speak, is complete, courtesy of a 95-93 win over the Toronto Raptors Tuesday night.

But not everyone slept as soundly the night before the final day of this NBA season.

For plenty of teams on both sides of the conference divide this is the biggest night of the regular season. For teams still fighting to get into the playoffs and jockeying for postseason positioning, it all comes down to these final 48 (or more) minutes.

The constantly changing playoff picture is still a bit fuzzy for much of the field.

For some the math is simple — win and you are in. That’s the scenario the Pelicans are facing here tonight at Smoothie King Center (vs. San Antonio, 8 ET, League Pass). The Pelicans and Oklahoma City Thunder enter tonight 44-37, but New Orleans holds the tie-breaker over OKC. As such, the Pelicans need to at least finish tied with the Thunder record-wise, but a win tonight can secure them the 8th and final spot in the Western Conference.

The Spurs are locked in a fight to the finish for the No. 2 seed in the West behind the No. 1 seed Golden State Warriors, who locked up that top spot weeks ago and have not looked back. Knock off the Pelicans and the Spurs clinch the Southwest Division and secure that No. 2 spot. Lose and they could tumble to the No. 5 or 6 seed.

So much for that maintenance program Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is famous for employing with his veteran stars. There is too much at stake for all of the teams in that 2-through-7 mix.

In the Western Conference, the Warriors (No. 1 seed), Portland Trail Blazers (No. 4, but no home court) and Dallas Mavericks (No. 7) already have their seeds locked in.

In the Eastern Conference, the Atlanta Hawks (1), Cavaliers (2), Washington Wizards (5), Milwaukee Bucks (6) and Celtics (7) are set.

A quick look at what is at stake for teams still caught up in the crosshairs on the final night of the season

Houston (vs. Utah, 8 ET, League Pass): James Harden and the Rockets need a win over an improved Utah Jazz team, plus a loss by the Spurs, to secure the No. 2 seed and the Southwest Division title. The Rockets could finish with 56 wins, third most in franchise history behind the 1993-94 NBA championship team that won 58 games and the 1996-97 team that won 57.

L.A. Clippers (season complete): They’ve handled their business, winning seven straight games to finish the season and 14 of their final 15, only to have to sit and watch tonight to see who they’ll face in the first round. The Clippers can finish as high as No. 2 (if the Rockets and Spurs lose tonight) and no lower than No. 3 and will host their first-round series. Their opponent? It could be Memphis, the Rockets, Spurs or Dallas Mavericks.

Memphis and Indiana (vs. each other, 9:30 ET, ESPN): The Grizzlies face an energized and motivated Pacers team, fresh off of a must-have double overtime win over Washington Tuesday night. While the Grizzlies have a host of complicated scenarios that can move them up to No. 5, the Pacers are playing for their playoff lives. A loss by Brooklyn or a win by Indiana pushes the Pacers in, where they will face the Hawks in a rematch of last season’s first-round matchup (when the Pacers were the No. 1 seed and the Hawks No. 8). A loss by the Pacers plus a Brooklyn win would put an end to Indiana’s season.

Oklahoma City (at Minnesota, 8 ET, League Pass): The Thunder need to knock off Minnesota in their finale and the Spurs to handle their business against the Pelicans to make sure we get at least four more games of Russell Westbrook. (If the Thunder and Pelicans finish the season with 45-37 marks, the Pelicans get in because they won the season series with OKC 3-1.) The Thunder don’t control their own destiny, but that’s not a concern for a team that has been dealt one severe injury blow after another throughout 2014-15. A loss to the Timberwolves (or a Pelicans win) ends their season, literally and figuratively.

Chicago (vs. Atlanta, 8 ET, League Pass): The Bulls are locked in for home-court advantage in the first round and face the Hawks in a game that has ramifications beyond the first round (they are trying to avoid Cleveland in the second round, provided both teams make it through). They need a win over the Hawks to secure the No. 3 seed. A loss sends them to No. 4.

Toronto (vs. Charlotte, 7 ET, ESPN): The Raptors have a clear path. Beat the Hornets and couple that with a Bulls loss to the Hawks and they secure the No. 3 seed. They have home court either way and will try to exploit that much better than they did last season.

Brooklyn (vs. Orlando, 8 ET, League Pass): The Nets need the playoffs in the worst way, but could see their hopes go up in smoke tonight if the Pacers knock off the Grizzlies later in the night. They need to beat Orlando and hope that the Pacers used up all their mojo in that double-OT home win vs. the Wizards Tuesday.

The possibilities are endless tonight, when we close the curtain on a spectacular regular season and prepare for a postseason that should include much more of the same.