Archive for April 11th, 2013

More than the playoffs are on the line in Utah’s regular-season home finale Friday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The game could be the last in Salt Lake City for as many as nine Jazz players with expiring contracts, including starters Paul Millsap, Mo Williams, Al Jefferson and Randy Foye.

The Jazz have three games remaining as do the Los Angeles Lakers, with whom they are mired in a battle for the final Western Conference playoff spot.

– Reported by Lynn DeBruin of the Associated Press

Dwyane Wade plans to return to the Miami Heat lineup on Friday, when the reigning NBA champions play host to the Boston Celtics.

Wade has missed Miami’s last six games while dealing with knee and ankle issues. Wade tells The Associated Press that doctors eventually discovered three separate bone bruises around his right kneecap, but that rest and treatment has largely taken care of the problem.

Wade says he isn’t sure how much he will play against Boston.

– Reported by Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press

Kobe unleashes epic 47-point game on Blazers

It didn’t matter that it was the Rose Garden. The ”M-V-P!” chant for Kobe Bryant was loud and clear.

Bryant scored a season-high 47 points [plus eight rebounds, five assists, three steals and four blocks] and carried the Los Angeles Lakers closer to a playoff berth with a 113-106 victory over the short-handed but tenacious Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night.

The Lakers moved a full game up on the Utah Jazz for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

”We’ve got no breathing room at all,” Bryant said. ”I’m still on edge. We’ve got to win three more games and we’re in.”

Portland, missing the playoffs for the second straight season, has lost nine straight, the most since an 11-game skid in the 2005-06 season. Rookie Damian Lillard led the Blazers with a career-high 38 points.

Pau Gasol had 23 points, seven rebounds and nine assists, while Dwight Howard added 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Lakers. Bryant was 18 of 18 from the free throw line and played the entire game, determined to pull out a win after trailing early.

”What he (Bryant) is doing is phenomenal. He’s determined to get us in the playoffs,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. ”That’s what happens when you open your mouth and guarantee that we’ll get in the playoffs.”

Bryant vowed in late February that his team would make it to the postseason. The Lakers wrap up the regular season at home with games against playoff-bound Golden State, San Antonio and Houston.

– Reported by Anne M. Peterson of the Associated Press

steve nash

Steve Nash was back at the Rose Garden on Wednesday, the site of the collision that broke his left leg in the Los Angeles Lakers’ second game of the season, sidelining him for nearly two months.

Only this time around, he was dealing with a right hip and hamstring injury that kept him out of the game against the Portland Trail Blazers and caused him to miss all or part of the Lakers’ past six games before it.

Seeing Nash make his way to the training room for treatment before the game rather than head to the court for a crucial matchup as the Lakers fight for a playoff spot begged the question: Has this been the most frustrating season of his career?

“Right up there, if not the most frustrating,” said Nash, a 17-year veteran. “I’ve played a long time, so I can’t remember all those years, but it’s frustrating. Maybe it’s because of the freshness, but it feels the most frustrating for sure.”

Nash, who hurt his hip March 25 at Golden State and has suffered discomfort in his hamstring stemming from the injury ever since, said he is improving but added, “There’s still a question for Friday.”

– Reported by Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles

LeBron James continues to dominate the NBA. Through games played on Wednesday, April 10, the Miami Heat superstar forward is averaging 26.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 7.2 assists and 1.73 steals per game for the best team in the league.

Here are some great 2013 LeBron James video highlights:

Doug Collins

According to multiple league sources, the 76ers organization privately hopes that coach Doug Collins decides not to return for the 2013-14 season and, regardless of his decision, it does not intend to extend his contract - which has one year remaining.

It will be an interesting game of cat-and-mouse when this season ends. Collins is unlikely to quit and leave $4.5 million on the table, but he is just as unlikely to agree to coach the lame-duck year of his contract.

“I’m entirely focused on trying to win the games we have left,” Collins said Wednesday night before the Sixers played Atlanta at the Wells Fargo Center. “I’m not thinking at all about next season. I haven’t gone there.”

Previously, Collins has said he simply doesn’t know yet what he will do. This has been an excruciatingly difficult season for the entire organization, and particularly for Collins, who pours so much passion and energy into coaching that he is always exhausted at the end of a season. This time around, dealing with the crushing disappointment of not having the Andrew Bynum deal work out, and then dealing with a team that is incapable of winning without him, the toll has been even greater.

“I think he’s gone at the end of the year. He’ll be moving on,” said one NBA source with intimate knowledge of the situation. “He’ll decide to leave, and they won’t be upset about it. They would like to see it work out that he decides to move on.”

– Reported by Bob Ford of the Philadelphia Inquirer

Kobe Bryant was amazing for the Lakers Wednesday night in Portland against the Trail Blazers, shooting 14-of-27 and hitting 18-of-18 free throws to finish with 47 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and 4 blocks.

Here are video highlights of Kobe scoring 47 points. Amazing performance:

lebron james

All the Miami Heat did was set a franchise single-season record for wins with four games left to play, clinch the top overall spot in the NBA and secure home-court advantage for the entirety of the playoffs.

No big deal.

No wild celebration was merited. No celebration at all, really. Just business as usual for the Heat, whose lone goal isn’t being the best team in April - but rather, being the best team in June. Miami wrapped up the No. 1 overall seed with a 103-98 win in Washington on Wednesday, a game where the Heat played without LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem, all sidelined by minor injuries or illness.

”We’ve had an amazing year,” Heat forward Shane Battier told reporters in Washington. ”We’ve set a lot of records and we’ve had a lot of story lines the whole year. Hopefully our best story line is still ahead of us. That’s what we’re saving the high-fives for.”

It was Miami’s 62nd win, one more than the Heat club of 1996-97 managed.

And now what has seemed inevitable for the last couple weeks - Miami finishing the regular season atop the league - has become reality.

– Reported by Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press

Chauncey Billups still working to regain health

No one needs to tell Chauncey Billups how important the next eight days are to the Clippers.

With five games to play in that span - including Wednesday’s home game against Minnesota - and the Clippers still in a fight with Memphis and Denver in the Western Conference playoff race they’ve reached a crucial stage of the regular season.

Billups knows that, and he understands the difference he can make when he’s on the floor with the Clippers.

On the other hand, the aggravated right groin strain he suffered March 27 against New Orleans still isn’t quite right, and with the Clippers eyeing a long playoff run he knows he needs to be as healthy as possible when the postseason opens in 10 days.

Which is why he reluctantly didn’t suit up against the Timberwolves on Wednesday and why he still won’t pinpoint a definite return, other than to say he’ll be ready when the Clippers open their first-round playoff series.

“Oh yeah,” Billups said. “I’ll be back before then.”

– Reported by Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News

Greg Monroe

With the media speculating on Pistons coach Lawrence Frank’s future with the organization, one player offered some support this morning.

Greg Monroe, nearing the end of his third season, said after this morning’s shoot-around that Frank has “done a good job” and deserves to return.

“Yeah, I think he’s done a good job here,” Monroe said before tonight’s game against the Cavs. “There are a lot guys that have been in and out and new players here. I think once he gets a group of guys, a core that you know will be here, I think it’ll be easier for him.”

Monroe has spent the past two seasons with Frank. Monroe’s rookie year was a tumultuous one for former Pistons coach John Kuester.

– Reported by Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press

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