NBA

Clippers claim big win in race to avoid play-in tournament, Timberwolves rout Spurs

By Sports Desk April 08, 2023

The Los Angeles Clippers moved a step closer to securing a playoffs berth with a 136-125 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday.

The Clippers claimed a major advantage in the complicated race to avoid the play-in tournament in the Western Conference with Kawhi Leonard top scoring with 27 points.

Leonard shot seven-of-17 from the field for his 27 points with three triples, with eight rebounds and four assists, while Russell Westbrook added 20 points, six rebounds and six assists.

Norman Powell continued his strong form off the bench with 23 points for the Clippers who rallied back from a 70-64 half-time deficit on a 14-2 run early in the third quarter.

Kevin Knox II scored a game-high 30 points for the Blazers, shooting five-of-eight from three-point range.

The Clippers, who have won four of their past six games, are fifth in the West ahead of their final regular season game against the Phoenix Suns, who they will face in the playoffs first round if they hold fifth.

LA (43-38) can finish as low as seventh should they lose to the Suns, with the Golden State Warriors (43-38) taking on Portland, while the New Orleans Pelicans (42-39) can go ahead of them if they also beat the Minnesota Timberwolves as they own the tiebreaker against the Clippers.

Timberwolves rout Spurs to keep race alive

The Minnesota Timberwolves blew out the San Antonio Spurs 151-131, meaning the order of placings in the West's play-in tournament remains undecided.

Anthony Edwards scored 33 points in 25 minutes with Karl-Anthony Towns adding 22, with Spurs conceding their most points allowed in regulation time under coach Gregg Popovich.

The 41-40 Timberwolves are ninth in the West, but hold tiebreakers against the Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans, who are both 42-39, ahead of Sunday's final slate of games. The Wolves face the Pels, while the Lakers take on the Utah Jazz.

One seed Nuggets fall to fifth loss in six

The Denver Nuggets may be the number one seed in the West but they suffered their fifth loss from their past six games with a 118-114 defeat to the eliminated Jazz.

Denver's scratchy form ahead of the playoffs continued with Nikola Jokic shooting two-of-five from the field for six points with 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

Ochai Agbaji scored a career-high and game-high 28 points with three-of-11 three-pointers as Utah snapped a four-game losing skid.

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    Tyler Herro fell an assist shy of a triple-double and scored 24 points as the Miami Heat rolled to a 112-91 win over the Chicago Bulls on Friday to secure the last spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

    Jaime Jaques Jr. added 21 points, Kevin Love had 16 and Bam Adebayo 13 for Miami, which advanced to face the league-leading Boston Celtics in a rematch of the last two East finals.

    They were the No. 8 seed last season also and survived the play-in before going all the way to the NBA Finals.

    The Heat were without star forward Jimmy Butler and won’t have him available for the Boston series, either.

    Even without Butler, Miami took control with a 19-0 run in the first quarter, and a 14-0 surge midway through the second half. Herro finished with 10 rebounds and nine assists as the Heat eliminated the Bulls in the last East play-in game for the second straight season.

    DeMar DeRozan scored 22 points and Nikola Vucevic had 16, 14 boards and five assists but the Bulls were unable to become the fifth team in the last 35 years to make the playoffs after not spending a single day all season over the .500 mark.

    The Heat were held to 13 points in the second quarter but still took a 47-37 lead into the break because the Bulls went 8 for 39 from the field after opening 4 for 5. Chicago missed 14 of 15 shots in one stretch.

    Chicago got as close as 70-60 in the third quarter before Miami essentially iced the game with the 14-0 run.

     

    Pelicans continue mastery of Kings

    Brandon Ingram scored 24 points and Jonas Valanciunas added 19 with 12 rebounds as the New Orleans Pelicans secured the eighth seed in the Western Conference with a 105-98 victory over the Sacramento Kings.

    Trey Murphy III had 16 points, eight rebounds and six assists as six players scored in double figures for the Pelicans, who won all six meetings this season against the Kings and now move on to face top-seeded Oklahoma City in the first round of the playoffs.

    The Pelicans are the first team to 6-0 in a season (without a playoff series) against an opponent since Denver against Minnesota in 1994-95.

    New Orleans played without leading scorer Zion Williamson (left hamstring), who will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

    De’Aaron Fox poured in 35 points and Domantas Sabonis had 23 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists but the Kings shot just 40.9 percent (36 of 88) from the field and misfired on 30 of 41 (26.8 percent) from 3-point range.

    Sacramento got just 12 points from its bench compared to 34 for New Orleans.

  • 'Lot of value' in Warriors keeping Curry, Green and Thompson together, says Kerr 'Lot of value' in Warriors keeping Curry, Green and Thompson together, says Kerr

    Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr believes there is a "lot of value" in the team keeping their core of Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson together, as the latter of the trio prepares to hit free agency.

    The Warriors' season came to an abrupt end on Tuesday as they were dumped out of the Play-In Tournament by the Sacramento Kings, falling to a 118-94 defeat to their upstate rivals. 

    It is the third time in the last five seasons that Golden State – who have won four NBA championships under Kerr – have missed out on a playoff berth. 

    That has led to questions being asked about the team's future, and they have a decision to make over Thompson as the 34-year-old prepares to become an unrestricted free agent.

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    Speaking at his exit interview on Thursday, Kerr spoke of the difficulties of breaking up great teams and said he was keen to continue working with the Warriors' 'big three'. 

    "It's rarely a storybook," Kerr said. "Even the '96 or '98 Bulls, the team was broken up and we won the championship in our last year but there was a documentary about what a disaster the whole thing was. It's impossible for this stuff to end perfectly.

    "I do think there is a lot of value to having our three guys being Warriors for life. I think there's a lot of value in ending with dignity.

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    Much of the Warriors' season was overshadowed by discussions regarding Green's ill-discipline, with the forward being ejected four times in 2023-24.

    Green also missed 16 games after receiving an indefinite suspension for striking Phoenix Suns center Jusuf Nurkic in the face in December, an incident that Kerr described as "unforgivable".

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    Kawhi Leonard is questionable for Game 1 of the Los Angeles Clippers' playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks as he continues to be troubled by inflammation in his right knee.

    Leonard has undergone surgeries to repair damage to the anterior cruciate ligament and the meniscus in his right knee in the last few years, having torn his ACL during a second-round playoff series against the Utah Jazz in 2021.

    The six-time All-Star has not featured for the Clippers – who clinched the Western Conference's fifth seed – since the end of March, missing their last eight games of the regular season. 

    Speaking ahead of Thursday's practice session, the Clippers' president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank said Leonard had work to do to make Sunday's matchup at Crypto.com Arena.

    "He's doing everything, our medical staff is doing everything to get the inflammation down so he can play," Frank said. 

    "Progress has been made, but the inflammation needs to continue to reduce so he can do functional basketball movements.

    "There is no gamesmanship here and we're very sensitive of the fact that questions are going to be asked and want to be as transparent as possible. It's okay to say what the truth is. It's unpredictable. 

    "We're hoping it's trending in the right direction. It's a very accurate statement. When it gets to a point where he's able to play, then that's when he'll be back on the court."

    The two-time NBA champion averaged 23.7 points and 6.1 rebounds through 68 regular-season appearances in 2023-24, the former figure falling just short of his 23.8 points per game last term.

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    "In terms of where we're heading, is it possible he could play? Sure, it's possible. It's Thursday. With each day we'll know more and more," Frank said. 

    "Obviously if he's not healthy to play at a certain moment then he won't be out there. When Kawhi is healthy, he plays. 

    "Some things you can't control, regardless of how meticulous he is with his body and everything that goes into playing. You can only control what you can control and you've got to surrender to the things you can't."

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