JD Shaw: The Knicks, Hawks and Heat can all clinch playoff berths tonight. Details: pic.twitter.com/UMn2ayAlBd
Josh Lewenberg: With Indiana's win over Cleveland tonight, it's official: the Toronto Raptors are eliminated and will miss the playoffs for the first time in 8 years.
Tim Reynolds: The Blazers-Lakers loser tonight not only will be in 7th in the West, a game behind the winner, but will have lost the head-to-head tiebreaker. So in essence, tonight's loser will be two games behind the other with five games left. Seems like a big game.
Cody Taylor: The Clippers can clinch a playoff spot today with a win or a Trail Blazers loss. The 76ers can clinch with a win. The Suns can clinch with a win or losses by the Trail Blazers and Spurs.
Aaron J. Fentress: FINAL: WEST PLAY-IN GAME Blazers - 126 Grizzlies - 122 Another fantastic finish. Lillard had 31. McCollum had 29, 14 in the fourth. Nurkic went 21-21. Morant had 35 for Memphis. Blazers and Lakers get it on Tuesday. #RipCity
Chris Haynes: The Portland Trail Blazers will face the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the playoffs in what could be the most entertaining opening series.
Taylor Rooks: “We put ourselves here. We were in a situation where we were behind too much.....it’s on us. We can’t blame anybody. We got to take care of our business before it’s too late. We can’t blame anybody if we don’t make it.” - Ricky Rubio when asked about the Suns playoff scenario
Duane Rankin: Memphis 119, Milwaukee 106 Final. Grizzlies are in. #Suns need Brooklyn to beat Portland to join them in the play-in.
Adam Wexler: With Pacers win, the East playoff matchups are set. (1) Bucks vs (8) Magic (2) Raptors vs (7) Nets (3) Celtics vs (6) 76ers (4/5) Heat vs (4/5) Pacers
Given all of this, it should come as no surprise that both the Pelicans themselves and the folks in their town have been discussing this possible playoff series in recent weeks. After all, they know better than anyone why it would be must-see hoops TV. “That’s something that’s been talked about amongst everybody that I’ve seen around town,” Ingram, the All-Star whose Pelicans enter play 3 ½ games behind Memphis for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, told The Athletic after a win over the Warriors on Sunday night. “The coach (the Pelicans’ Alvin Gentry) has mentioned it a little bit. Of course the team likes to stay in the moment. We don’t look that far ahead, but the coaches have mentioned it a little bit. It would be fun to try to battle against them and see (if) we can get the best of them.”
Adrian Wojnarowski: News filed to ESPN with @Zach Lowe: The NBA is seriously reconsidering idea of reseeding the four conference finalists as part of larger proposal to reshape league calendar. That element could be eliminated before Board of Governors vote in April. Story soon.
Paul Garcia: From the NBA - the Bucks can clinch a playoff spot if they defeat the Lakers tonight. It’s only March 1. #TheEast
Yet there’s also no denying that there are some real obstacles to ditching the practice of seeding playoff teams 1 through 8 by conference and instituting a 1-to-16 seeding protocol based purely on overall record. Obstacle No. 1: League officials, based on a study of historical data, estimate that the change would increase the cumulative travel for the 16 playoff teams by more than 40 percent every postseason.
Obstacle No. 2: Almost every schedule-related change implemented by the league office in recent years has been motivated by a push to prioritize player health and to chip away at the various factors — too much travel, too many back-to-back games, too many unholy stretches of four games in five nights — that make the current 82-game regular-season schedule the dreaded grind that it is. Adding an estimated 40,000 miles of cumulative playoff travel to the roughly 90,000 miles last season’s 16 playoff clubs logged would work against all those measures.
And perhaps the biggest obstacle: N.B.A. Commissioner Adam Silver cannot unilaterally change the league’s playoff format or seeding procedures, even if he wanted to. League rules dictate that a two-thirds vote of N.B.A. owners would be required to approve such an overhaul. That’s 20 owners out of 30. So even if 15 out of 15 owners in the West were prepared to vote in favor of conference-free playoff seeding, where would Silver find five in the East willing to co-sign?
Owners in the Least, er, East are willingly going to make things even tougher? Not likely. Silver, mind you, hasn’t signaled that he’s seriously in favor of changing the format anyway. Not without a much more balanced regular-season schedule.
Ira Winderman: Per NBA; Possible clinchings for Friday: TORONTO clinches division title and best record in the East with a win OR a Boston loss. MIAMI clinches division title with a win AND a Washington loss. CLEVELAND clinches division title with a win AND an Indiana loss.
Ira Winderman: Per NBA: Possible clinchings for Tuesday: MIAMI clinches a playoff spot with a win. SAN ANTONIO clinches a playoff spot with a win AND a Denver loss. PORTLAND clinches division title with a win AND a Utah loss.
Jay Allen: The @Portland Trail Blazers will clinch a Playoff spot with a win over Memphis tomorrow night. #RipCity @RipCityRadio620
Candace Buckner: #Wizards PG Tomas Satoransky asked about the standings. In the playoffs started today Washington would play Game 1 in Cleveland. ... Not great. Satoransky: "For me, still Cleveland it’s not the best option for me. Personally.”
Candace Buckner: And why is Cleveland "not the best option?" Satoransky mentioned the LeBron stat that he's 21-0 in the first round, the longest streak in NBA history Satoransky: "It’s a stat and stats are meant to be broken but I would probably be pleased with a different matchup for us.”
Ira Winderman: Per NBA: Possible clinchings for Thursday: HOUSTON clinches best record in the West with a Golden State loss. WASHINGTON clinches a playoff spot with a win. MIAMI clinches a playoff spot with a win AND a Detroit loss.
Jon Johnson: Asked Dario Saric if shares Brett Brown's comments about not being intimidated by any team in East: "I don't wanna play against Lebron James. Obviously, he's top 3 player in history." "But I think other teams, I'd more than welcome onto our court".
Scott Agness: #Pacers (42-31) are guaranteed a winning record and can clinch a playoff spot today vs Miami. That won’t be celebrated. They have larger goals in mind… vigilantsports.com/pacers-secure-…
Tim MacMahon: Plan is for Chris Paul to rest tonight vs. Pistons. Only way he plays is if insists. Listed as questionable with left hamstring soreness, but this is more precautionary. With 4-game lead and tiebreaker over wounded Warriors, the Rockets can selectively rest core vets down stretch
Josh Lewenberg: This one will sting a bit after the big first half but it's a loss many Raptors fans were clamouring for and, strategically, may end up being for the best. Cavs now a full game up on Indy for 3rd (Pacers in NOLA tonight).
Jessica Camerato: "We know we need all these wins. We're trying to get home court advantage." - Ben Simmons' mindset against the Grizzlies
The Cleveland Cavaliers superstar does not want to see the league adopt a play-in tourney with one-and-done consequences. "No, no, no," James said Wednesday. "That's whack. That's whack. Why? You got to earn your spot to be in the postseason. No consolation for finishing last. That's corny. That's corny. That's whack. To play for what? What are they playing for?"
However, Livingston has seen Gregg Popovich maximize his roster’s potential for far too long to want Golden State to play the Spurs in the first round. That Kawhi Leonard, who has been limited to nine games this season with a quad injury, is expected to return in time for the playoffs only makes San Antonio a more daunting potential matchup.
“Nobody wants to play the Spurs in the first round,” Livingston said after shoot-around Monday morning at AT&T Center. “Nobody wants to play the Spurs, period. That’s what it is. They’re still the same team. The San Antonio Spurs are still the Spurs. They still play the right way. They’re still capable of beating any team on any given night, regardless of who they throw out there.”
Making matters even more difficult is the fact that Leonard, long a Golden State nemesis, figures to be well-rested for the playoffs. Though the Warriors are trying to play deep into June for the fourth straight year, Leonard hasn’t entered a game since Jan. 13. “The Spurs have the experience,” Kerr said. “If they’re fully healthy, they’re obviously as good as anybody.”
Amid the ongoing struggles of the Detroit Pistons and Charlotte Hornets, the Heat have faced little pressure when it has come to maintaining a final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. But Spoelstra stressed it is the medial reports, and not the standings, that are influencing the approaches with Wade and Whiteside.
"No, there's not that kind of caution," he said of having his players healthy for the playoffs, which open April 14. "There's only health caution. We're not going to bring them back until they're ready to come back. We can't look at it as other teams are looking at it, 'That we’re going to make sure we’re ready for the postseason.' That is not how it's going to be for us -- it's go time. And both of those guys know that. They've been very committed and diligent behind the scenes to working. But we have to do it smart, intelligently."
Just days removed from being out of the playoff picture, the Spurs (40-30) are seventh in the West with 12 games remaining after winning their last three in a row. Back on track with three games left in a timely six-game homestand, the Spurs understand now is not the time to overlook a seemingly overmatched opponent. "We can't let down," said LaMarcus Aldridge, who powered the Spurs past the Timberwolves with a relentless 39-point, 10-rebound double-double. "We have to be focused. We have to take care of business. We have to keep the same attitude, the same hunger going into this game. They are still a good quality team. We have to keep playing like we are in that tenth spot."
One surefire solution: Get the ball to Aldridge. The six-time All-Star scored 24 and 25 points in wins over Orlando and New Orleans before coming within two points of matching his season high Saturday. "He's been our backbone," Gay said. Aldridge said he loves performing in the playoff-like atmospheres the Spurs find themselves in on a nightly basis these days. "If you are any type of competitor, than you are built for these games," he said. "It's live or die for us right now."
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t watch scores from across the Western Conference as they come in nightly. Nor does he want his players to ignore what’s happening around them in an uber-competitive chase for the final five playoff spots in the West. “It’s important not to get lost, but also understand what’s in front of you,” Thibodeau said. “This is your business, so you want to be aware. Everyone is watching games. You want to know what’s going on in the league. It’s part of studying and knowing your opponent well.”
They rallied from 10 points behind with fewer than 10 minutes to go to beat the Wizards on a night when rivals Oklahoma City, New Orleans, San Antonio, Utah and the Los Angeles Clippers all won as well. The only team in pursuit of playoff spots three through eight that lost: Denver. “We watch every night,” Wolves veteran forward Taj Gibson said. “You try to go hard to win your game and then watch the scores around. You’re either like, ‘Yes!’ or ‘Oh, man, c’mon.’ But you can’t depend on any other team to help you win. You go out there and do the best you can with the schedule you’ve got.”
That’s easier said than done when the latest result is just an internet click away. Thibodeau constantly reminds that all 82 games are worth the same, but at this time of year a victory such as Sunday’s over the Warriors feels like it weighs a bit more. “It’s nerve-racking,” Gibson said. “But when it goes your way, it’s like Christmas every day. It’s really good because you circle some of those games [such as the Golden State game] because you know they’re going to be really, really tough games, like playoff-style games where it’s going to come down to the last two shots and it’s about which teams can execute better. Those are playoff-style games and that’s what it’s all about.”
Adrian Wojnarowski: Trail Blazers president Neil Olshey on playoff realignment: “If you sat in a GM meeting and anybody brought this up as an initiative, 15 hands would go up from the Western Conference.” The Woj Pod: apple.co/2vm1oF0 pic.twitter.com/VB2OZIhr7G
Recent comments from NBA commissioner Adam Silver about tweaking the league's playoff format drew intense media coverage, but sources say there is also some behind-the-scenes momentum for the idea of a play-in tournament determining the last two seeds in each conference -- to the point that two specific proposals are circulating at the highest levels within teams and the league office.
The play-in proposal that has generated the most discussion, according to several sources: two four-team tournaments featuring the seventh, eighth, ninth, and 10th seeds in each conference. The seventh seed would host the eighth seed, with the winner of that single game nabbing the seventh spot, sources say. Meanwhile, the ninth seed would host the 10th seed, with the winner of that game facing the loser of the 7-versus-8 matchup for the final playoff spot.
The implementation of a play-in tournament is not imminent. It falls behind the one-and-done rule and perhaps reseeding the playoffs 1-16 regardless of conference in the current reform pecking order. (It could go hand-in-hand with that change, only with one play-in tournament instead of separate brackets for each conference.) It is not coming next season, and it would be a shock if the NBA adopted it in time for 2020 or even 2021. It may never happen. Any such change would need approval from the competition committee, and then from a supermajority of 23 NBA teams. That process has not even started.
A play-in would require collective bargaining with the players' union. There is also debate within the league about whether a play-in would inspire as much fan interest and hype as supporters hope. After all, we are talking mostly about .500-ish teams battling for the right to get destroyed by top seeds. In theory, revenue from a play-in tournament -- or a midseason tournament -- could ease the league toward slashing a few games from the 82-game schedule, but it is unclear any such tournament would rake in sufficient cash. But the fact the discussion around the league has crystallized around one or two proposals indicates that a play-in tournament is no longer some pie-in-the-sky idea. It fits within the NBA's broader goals of reducing the incentive for teams to tank, and maintaining peak fan interest across the full NBA calendar.
The conversation about playoff reseeding has been going on for quite some time. But it gained a bit more momentum during NBA All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles, as NBA Commissioner Adam Silver discussed the topic at length, even raising the possibility about a future tweak. Count LeBron James as one player who wouldn't be on board. "I would disagree with that," James said Wednesday afternoon following the Cleveland Cavaliers' first practice since the break. "I think our league has been built the right way as far as when it comes to the postseason."
"There's been dominant conferences throughout time," LeBron James said. "In the '80s you had the Lakers who dominated the league at one point, then you had Boston that dominated the league. In the '90s you had Chicago that dominated the league. San Antonio also had its run. We had our run in the East with Miami, Golden State is having their run. "It just changes the landscape of the history of the game. If you start messing with seedings and playoffs and then you start talking about, 'Well, if this team would have played this Western Conference team, what....' It's cool to mess around with the All-Star Game, we proved you can do that, but let's not get too crazy about the playoffs. You have Eastern Conference and you have Western Conference. You have Eastern Conference champions, you have guys from the Eastern Conference that win the big dance and sometimes you have it from the West as well."
Nick Friedell: Adam Silver says the league will continue "examining" the schedule, including the possibility of re-seeding teams 1-16 in the postseason, regardless of conference.
Mark Medina: Silver sounded open about changing playoffs w/out conference affiliation. But he said that requires more changes to reg. season schedule
There are plenty of cracks in the NBA’s economic model, and they will likely get deeper in the years to come. As Mark Cuban pointed out when talking about why the conference system should be changed, there’s less incentive for teams in the East to get better because the bar for making the playoffs and winning a series or two is much lower. Stern always said the balance of power between the conferences was cyclical, but the last two generations of players have not been able to change the underlying dynamic, and there’s no guarantee the next one does either. As long as the owners in the East keep making money off their teams, they have no reason to change the way they are run.
Silver, though, did leave the door open for the possibility of one day rebalancing the two conferences or having a 16-seed tournament. "Ultimately [two years ago] we concluded that given all the focus on sports science, health of our players and impact of travel, it didn't make sense, at least at this time, to move to a rebalanced schedule because we played an imbalanced schedule," Silver said at the board of governors news conference Wednesday.
There are some who believe the NBA should eliminate conference affiliation in the postseason and seed playoff teams based on record. Silver believes there are challenges to that concept. “I know that from a fan standpoint, there is real appeal to this notion of seed your teams 1 through 16 going into the playoffs and possibly two Western Conference teams could meet in the Finals or two Eastern Conference teams, and where we ended up was that — again, it relates directly to the resting issue and injury data, is that we would be dramatically increasing travel because if we’re going to seed 1 through 16 we would need to have more of a balanced schedule throughout the year,” Silver said. “That would result in more travel. You could have a Boston-Golden State first-round matchup in the playoffs. It’s something we continue to look at.
The NBA made it official: division winners will no longer be guaranteed a top-four seed in the playoffs. In fact, they won't be guaranteed playoff spots at all, opening the very real possibility of the Atlantic Division winner missing the postseason. (They should hang a banner anyway). The next obvious move is to eliminate divisions entirely, which could happen as soon as next year.
The next step is to remove conference and/or seed the playoffs 1-16. That's a tougher nut to crack because it requires a three-fourths majority and those East teams aren't about to vote away their cakewalk paths to postseason play, but we can now have a real conversation about it. When brainstorming ideas, the league would be smart to consider Tom's five regions approach.
Bobby Marks: Good first step by NBA, next line of business is to do away with divisions, would not be surprised if that happens for 16-17. Can't get rid of divisions yet because of how the schedule works, ex: East 16 games vs Div., 24 for Central/Southeast, unbalance schedule. Don't ever seeing conferences going away until the earliest 2022, Huge consequences on teams that traded away future picks.
June 23, 2021 | 9:04 am EDT Update
While McMillan is the team’s “interim’’ head coach, sources made it abundantly clear Hawks management would love to remove the interim title. However, sources also said the 56-year-old McMillan has some reservations whether he wants to be the permanent head coach and may prefer some other role in the organization. Money won’t factor into McMillan’s decision as he is financially set, sources said.
The 24-year-old is just fearless, and it’s that kind of bravado that has everything to do with the Suns taking these two games without Chris Paul while he continues to go through COVID protocol. Beverley bothered him defensively, but Booker never backed down. I asked him afterward if their back-and-forth was good, old-fashioned playoff basketball, or if perhaps Beverley and the Clippers were going too far with the physicality. “That’s for you guys to decide,” he said. “They’re an aggressive team. That’s how they guard. All those guys, they’re athletic. Watching the previous series against Dallas and Utah, (they’re) switching everything and trying to turn teams over. But we’re figuring it out and we try to stay aggressive, stay with what we do and whether it’s basketball plays or not, we’ve got to move on to the next one.”
“CP has taken Cam Payne under his wing,” he said. “When you see Cam Payne coming into practice with Chris Paul, you’re wondering, you know — Chris Paul is usually the one here early and you see Cam Payne right behind him and you tend to ask questions, them two been together watching film, lifting weights together stuff like that. You could tell that Cam really took a different approach to a whole other level and he did it right in front of our eyes. Like I said, he was bound to have one of these games and he’s a guy who keeps it consistent. He plays hard both ends of the ball, and I just love his passion.”
“We want everybody to cherish this moment because we are built for this,” Antetokounmpo said. “That’s why we are here. No matter the pressure, no matter what’s going on, we are built for this. We believe in who we are. No matter what happens, win or lose, we’ll stay together and we’re just going to go out there and compete.” Antetokounmpo delivered for the Bucks in the series finale against the Nets with 40 points, 13 rebounds and five assists. For the series, he averaged 28.8 points, 13.6 rebounds and 5.1 assists.
Against Brooklyn, Antetokounmpo averaged 40.1 minutes per game, the most he has averaged in any series and by far the most he has averaged since Budenholzer became coach in 2018. Antetokounmpo played 50 of 53 minutes in Game 7. “I’ve prepared my body all year for moments like that, being able to play 40 minutes, 42, 45, 48, whatever it may be, 53,” he said. “(Budenholzer) knows the way I am. If I get tired I’m going to let him know. If I get tired and I need a 30-second break or a minute-break, usually we have a great way to communicate about that – that he can pull me out and put me right back.”
Two people who have played important roles behind the scenes for the Hawks are Larry Riley and Mike McNeive. Riley, once an assistant coach and scout for the Bucks, is a senior advisor to Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk. Before joining the Hawks, Riley played a major role in the enormous success of the Golden State Warriors as be drafted Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson while being the team’s general manager. McNeive, who worked as an advance scout and assistant coach for the Bucks during the George Karl regime, is the Hawks director of basketball operations.
June 23, 2021 | 5:32 am EDT Update
Sullivan is the author of “Can’t Knock the Hustle: Inside the Season of Protest, Pandemic, and Progress with the Brooklyn Nets’ Superstars of Tomorrow,” which released on Tuesday. In a conversation with our friends from Celtics Wire on their podcast, Celtics Lab, Sullivan said that Nets ownership was unhappy with Irving over his midseason “pause,” and that Irving could be available for the right offer.
Matt Sullivan: “Let me give you guys a little news, I’m not sure that’s been out there. I’ve heard that Nets ownership was quite upset with Kyrie’s ‘pause,’ especially that maskless party that turned his psuedo-paternity leave into more like a COVID suspension. And in the last week I’ve heard rumblings – whispers, really, because cracking the Nets is kind of like breaking into the Kremlin, that Brooklyn GM Sean Marks would maybe, possibly, apparently be willing to at least listen to a trade offer for Kyrie this offseason. Now, I’m not sure what the market for Kyrie is at this point. It’s not like Ben Simmons giving you the headache on the court. It’s that complex personality that comes from off the court. I think it’s been annoying some people in the franchise. I can’t speak to his teammates, who obviously want to play with one of the world’s best and get him back there.”