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  • Knicks C Noah undergoes rotator cuff surgery
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, April 27, 2017

    New York Knicks center Joakim Noah underwent surgery on his right shoulder to repair his rotator cuff, the team announced Thursday morning.

    • The Knicks did not establish a timetable for his return, but coach Jeff Hornacek said the rehab process is five months.

      Dr. David Altchek performed the procedure at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan, the team said.

      Noah averaged just 5.0 points and 8.7 rebounds in 46 games this season in the first campaign of a four-year, $72 million contract.

      The 32-year-old's injury-plagued season ended with him sitting out the first eight contests of his 20-game suspension for violating the terms of the NBA's anti-drug policy.

  • NBA roundup: Celtics, Wizards take 3-2 series leads
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, April 27, 2017

    BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas scored 11 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, leading Boston on a late surge that put the Celtics in command of the game and back on top in their first-round playoff series with a 108-97 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night.

    • Avery Bradley also scored 24 for Boston. Al Horford finished with 21 points, nine rebounds and seven assists as the Celtics won their third straight and took a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference series.

      After losing the first two games, the top-seeded Celtics can advance with a win in Game 6 on Friday night in Chicago.

      Dwyane Wade had 26 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists for the Bulls, who sputtered down the stretch and were outscored 29-16 in the fourth quarter. Jimmy Butler and Robin Lopez added 14 points apiece for Chicago, which was without point guard Rajon Rondo (broken thumb).

      Wizards 103, Hawks 99

      WASHINGTON -- Bradley Beal scored 27 points, and John Wall had 20 points and 14 assists as Washington regained control of its first-round playoff series with a victory over Atlanta.

      Otto Porter scored 17 points and sank 9 of 10 free throws for the fourth-seeded Wizards, who lead the best-of-seven Eastern Conference series 3-2. Washington offset another poor shooting night from the 3-point arc (7 of 24) by making 22 of 27 free throws.

      Dennis Schroder had 29 points and 11 assists for the fifth-seeded Hawks. Paul Millsap finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds.

      The series shifts to Atlanta for Game 6 on Friday. The Hawks won Game 3 and 4 at home by an average of 14 points.

  • Grizzlies face must-win situation, host Spurs
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, April 26, 2017

    If the season is a guide, the San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies will have a Game 7.

    • The home team is undefeated in nine overall meetings this season as Memphis hosts San Antonio on Thursday for Game 6 of a Western Conference first-round playoff series at FedExForum.

      "We're treating every game like it's a Game 7," Memphis point guard Mike Conley said. "We're treating every game like it's the last game. We expect to come back (to San Antonio) -- that's our mindset."

      Conley is averaging 27.3 points and 7.5 assists over the past four games.

      The Spurs, who lead the series 3-2, used a late 12-0 run to put away the Grizzlies 116-103 on Tuesday.

      To force a seventh game, Memphis must find an answer to its most pressing problem: slowing down San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard.

      "If anyone has any suggestions, send them my way," Grizzlies coach David Fizdale said when asked about containing Leonard. "I'm listening. I'm open to ideas."

      While the Grizzlies have been slightly better at containing the Spurs star at FedExForum, Leonard has still averaged 30.5 points in the two games there.

      "We were sharper with our defensive execution at home," Fizdale said Wednesday. "It was night and day."

      Leonard is shooting 48.8 percent from the field in Memphis but nearly 60 percent at home. He has missed only one of his 48 free-throw attempts in the series.

      "(Leonard has) gone through the ceiling, improving every year, with all parts of his game." San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. "He understands that he's a facilitator as well as a scorer."

      Spurs guard Manu Ginobili came off the bench Tuesday to provide a spark.

      "He brought that grandpa juice is what I call it, and we all followed," San Antonio guard Patty Mills said after the game. "We shouldn't wait for him to do that before we get into gear, but it really is inspiring when you see him dive on the ball putting his body on the line. Hard drives, hard cuts, it gets us all going."

      Prior to Game 5, Ginobili, who had 10 points on Tuesday, hadn't made a shot, but Popovich hadn't lost faith in his 15-year veteran.

      "I'm going to use him like a bar of soap until there's nothing left," Popovich told the San Antonio Express-News.

      The 39-year-old Argentinian, possibly playing in his final season, was 0-for-15, including 0-for-10 from 3-point range, in the series' first four games.

      "You know it's not going to continue," San Antonio forward Danny Green told the San Antonio Express-News. "The numbers are with (Ginobili), so you tell him to keep shooting it. We have ultimate confidence in him."

      To advance, the Grizzlies must hold serve at home and then knock off the Spurs in San Antonio on Saturday for the first time since December 2014.

      "We're not going to back away from this," Fizdale said. "The good part is that I've got a locker room full of guys that want to get back and play Game 7. Well, Game 6 (first) is obviously our Game 7."

  • Visiting Raptors look to close out Bucks
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, April 26, 2017

    MILWAUKEE -- In their 22 seasons, postseason success hasn't exactly been a hallmark of the Toronto Raptors.

    • Now, with a chance to clinch a first-round series for the second straight season and just the third time in franchise history, the Raptors will try to ignore their past when they take on the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 6 of a first-round, Eastern Conference playoff series Thursday at the Bradley Center.

      The Raptors have never won three playoff games in a row, but are in a position to do just that as well as wrap up a physical series a little early, providing some extra time to rest before a potential second-round matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

      "Hopefully we've learned a lesson," forward DeMarre Carroll said. "We don't want to come back home and try to take care of this athletic, long Milwaukee team. We want to take care of them on the road."

      Milwaukee is certain to make adjustments after dropping two straight in a series they led 2-1 after a 27-point home rout in Game 3, but Raptors head coach Dwane Casey thinks his team is prepared for whatever the Bucks throw their way.

      "We think about that after every game -- win, lose or draw," Casey said. "We try to anticipate what they're going to do. That's part of the chess match."

      History isn't on the Bucks' side, either.

      Milwaukee lost its last seven playoffs series, including six in a row in the first round. The last two both ended in Game 6, and both ended painfully.

      In 2010, the Bucks shocked the Atlanta Hawks by taking a 3-2 lead in the series but shot just 32.9 percent from the field while Brandon Jennings and John Salmons combined to hit just 6 of 28 shots, with Salmons going 2-for-13.

      Atlanta evened the series with an 83-69 victory in Milwaukee then clinched the series two nights later in Atlanta.

      Five years later, the Bucks forced a Game 6 after digging out of a 3-0 hole with two straight victories against the Chicago Bulls only to be embarrassed, 120-66, in a home arena full of visiting fans.

      Now, though, with head coach Jason Kidd steering Milwaukee's ship, the Bucks are hoping to take another step in their development while staving off elimination.

      "We're lacking the experience of what's coming," Kidd said. "We can talk about it, but we have to go through that process, we have to walk through that door. For a lot of these guys, they've never seen this. This team has been to the Eastern Conference finals, they've been there. Their coach has seen this before."

      The Bucks should have shooting guard Khris Middleton available Thursday night. He sat out practice Wednesday because of an illness, but Kidd said the absence was more precautionary.

      Middleton scored eight points on 3-for-8 shooting with a 3-pointer in Game 5. For the series, he's averaging 13.6 points on 38.5 percent shooting with 4.8 rebounds and 5.4 assists.

      Should Milwaukee win, Game 7 would be played Saturday in Toronto.

  • NBA fines Rockets owner for berating ref courtside
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, April 26, 2017

    The NBA fined Houston owner Leslie Alexander $100,000 following his confrontation with referee Bill Kennedy during the Rockets' 105-99 series-clinching win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night at Toyota Center.

    • Byron Spruell, president, NBA League Operations, announced the fine.

      With 13 seconds remaining in the first quarter, Alexander left his courtside seat and headed toward referee Bill Kennedy. As Kennedy stood along the sideline watching the play, Alexander walked up to him, yelled something and then walked back to his seat as Kennedy turned and glanced at him briefly. Kennedy did not appear to say anything.

      According to the Houston Chronicle, Alexander would not comment after the game Tuesday, saying only that at the time he was: "upset, very upset."

  • Bulls' Rondo not ready to return for Game 5
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, April 26, 2017

    Chicago Bulls point guard Rajon Rondo will not play in Game 5 against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night after hoping for an early return from his broken right thumb.

    • Rondo told reporters at Wednesday morning's shootaround that his broken thumb is not healed enough for him to play in Boston. He also said it is too early to determine his status for Game 6 in Chicago on Friday night.

      "I'm not playing," Rondo said. "The slightest fall on the floor might further damage it. ... My thumb is the same as it was last week. I think I'm Wolverine but it hasn't healed that quickly yet."

      The Eastern Conference first-round series is tied 2-2 after the Celtics won both games in Chicago.

      Rondo missed Games 3 and 4 with the injury. He was considering playing in Game 5 after trying to shoot a basketball at Tuesday's practice.

      Rondo has switched from a hard cast to a soft splint and participated in most of practice Tuesday while protecting the injured right hand. He also has been dealing with a lingering right wrist injury.

      The eight-seeded Bulls won the first two games of the series against the No. 1 seed Celtics behind Rondo's strong play. He fractured the thumb during Game 2, in which he nearly posted a triple-double with 11 points, 14 assists, nine rebounds and also had five steals. He averaged 11.5 points, 10 assists, 8.5 rebounds and 3.5 steals in Chicago's two road victories to open the series.

      Rondo, 31, averaged 7.8 points, 6.7 assists and 5.1 rebounds in 69 games this season.

      "I got an X-ray (Tuesday). The thumb is still the same. It's still broke," Rondo said Wednesday morning. "I knew last week it wasn't going to be fixed in a week. My finger is broken.

      "I don't know if people misunderstood what the cast was for. I had a torn ligament in my wrist so that was the purpose of the cast. My thumb and my cast were two different things."

      Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg on Tuesday called Rondo's return a "longshot."

      The Bulls plan to turn to backup point guard Isaiah Canaan for Game 5 in his first start of the season. He played 34 minutes in Sunday's 104-95 loss, scoring 13 points with three assists.

  • Hawks' momentum may trump Wizards' home-court edge
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, April 26, 2017

    WASHINGTON -- The basic and perhaps charitable view for the Washington Wizards goes something like this: They still have home-court advantage in their best-of-seven, Eastern Conference first-round playoff series.

    • However, after watching the previous two games in Atlanta, it is fair to think the momentum lies with the Hawks.

      The fifth-seeded Hawks beat the fourth-seeded Wizards by convincing margins in both Game 3 and Game 4. Game 5 is Wednesday in Washington.

      Atlanta dominated the second and fourth quarters in the 111-101 win in Game 4 on Monday.

      "This game was very important for us," Hawks big man Dwight Howard said. "I think we came out with the right mentality from the beginning of the game to the end. This is something we needed. The first two games, we felt like we were right there. A couple of mistakes cost us. These last two games, we stayed together, played as hard as we (could) and we got a good win."

      Washington led 35-28 after the first quarter and got Atlanta point guard Dennis Schroder to the bench with three fouls. Instead of fading further, the Hawks outscored the Wizards 31-15 on the second thanks to needed production from guards Jose Calderon and Kent Bazemore.

      "Our defense picked up in both the second quarter and the fourth quarter," Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. "After they came out, they threw a big blow. They started out really well and had a heck of a first quarter. To hold them to 15 in that second quarter and us going to halftime up nine was big."

      Schroder, one of seven Hawks in double-figure scorers, helped seal the win with a clutch 3-pointer in the fourth.

      Paul Millsap had 19 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and two steals. Schroder scored 18. Howard, quiet earlier in the series, finished with 16 points and 15 rebounds.

      While Atlanta had balance offensively, Washington remained top-heavy. Bradley Beal scored 32 points, and John Wall, who played 40 minutes, had 22 points and 10 assists.

      "Teams go on runs. It's just a matter of how we retaliate and how we bounce back from it," Beal said. "It was just too up and down. Again, we were playing catch-up in the fourth and just trying to catch up and just trying to take the lead again. You spend all your time and energy playing catch-up, it kind of wears on you down the stretch."

      For Washington, finding consistent production beyond the starry backcourt has been an issue.

      One of the top 3-point shooting teams during the regular season, the Wizards are hitting a playoff-low 29.7 percent after four games. They were also outscored in fastbreak points Monday despite Wall's up-tempo presence.

      The consistent misfiring has leaked into the Wizards' defensive work.

      "We just have to play defense. We have to stick together," said Washington's Markieff Morris. The starting forward was saddled with foul trouble for a third straight game after scoring 21 points in the opener. "That was one of those games where we just have to come together when we're not making shots. We have to focus on getting stops and try to keep the game close."

      Atlanta hosts Game 6 on Friday, and the series would move back to Washington for Game 7 on Sunday if necessary.

  • NBA roundup: Rockets eliminate Thunder
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, April 26, 2017

    HOUSTON -- Lou Williams scored 10 points during an opening burst in the fourth quarter, and James Harden finished with a team-high 34 points as the Houston Rockets rallied for a 105-99 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night to claim their Western Conference first-round playoff series in five games.

    • Williams opened the fourth with two free throws and added three more from the line plus a deep 3-pointer that pushed the Houston lead to 86-81. The Rockets once again made progress with the Thunder's Russell Westbrook on the bench, holding onto their lead even after Westbrook re-entered the game with 9:09 left.

      Westbrook amassed 47 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists but shot 2 of 11 in the final period -- 0 for 5 from behind the 3-point arc -- after carrying the Thunder to the lead in the third. None of his teammates finished with more than 11 points.

      Harden shot 16 of 17 from the free-throw line. Williams totaled 22 points, while guard Patrick Beverley added 15 points and eight rebounds. Eric Gordon and Nene combined for 22 points off the bench as Rockets' reserves posted a 44-22 edge over the Thunder's bench.

      Spurs 116, Grizzlies 103

      SAN ANTONIO -- Kawhi Leonard scored 28 points, Patty Mills added 20 and Tony Parker 16 as San Antonio took a 3-2 lead on Memphis in their Western Conference first-round playoff series.

      Mills, the backup point guard, made five 3-pointers -- four in the fourth quarter -- while finishing with a career best for scoring in the playoffs. LaMarcus Aldridge added 12 points and a game-high nine rebounds for the Spurs.

      Mike Conley scored 17 of his 26 points in the third quarter for Memphis, which trailed by 18 late in the third quarter before going on a 17-3 run. Marc Gasol added 17 points for the Grizzlies.

      Jazz 96, Clippers 92

      LOS ANGELES -- Gordon Hayward scored 27 points and grabbed eight rebounds, and Utah held off Los Angeles to take a 3-2 lead in their Western Conference playoffs series.

      Rodney Hood scored 16 points, and Joe Johnson delivered nine of his 14 points in the fourth quarter for Utah. Rudy Gobert added 11 points and 11 rebounds for the Jazz, who can clinch the series with a win in Game 6 on Friday in Salt Lake City.

      Chris Paul scored 28 points and handed out nine assists for the Clippers, who played their second game without forward Blake Griffin, sidelined for the rest of the postseason with a plantar plate injury to his right big toe. J.J. Redick contributed 26 points, and DeAndre Jordan collected 14 points and 12 boards.

  • Rondo out again as Bulls visit Celtics for Game 5
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, April 26, 2017

    BOSTON -- When the Boston Celtics last saw their TD Garden home floor, they had just dropped the first two games of their series with the Chicago Bulls and were in danger of being a top seed upset by a No. 8 seed.

    • But Chicago guard Rajon Rondo, who dominated his old team in Game 2 after a decent performance in the opener, broke his right thumb in the second victory, instantly changing the series that resumes with Game 5 on Wednesday night.

      The Celtics won the two games in Chicago, evening the series, recapturing the home-court advantage and creating in effect a best-of-three.

      Rondo was originally ruled out, but USA Today reported Tuesday night that he might attempt to play in Game 5.

      However, Rondo told reporters at Wednesday morning's shootaround that his broken thumb is not healed enough for him to play.

      "I'm not playing," Rondo said. "My thumb is the same as it was last week. I think I'm Wolverine but it hasn't healed that quickly yet."

      While the Bulls are dealing with Rondo's injury, the Celtics have played under the emotional cloud surrounding their leader, Isaiah Thomas, whose sister was killed just before the start of the series.

      Thomas scored 33 points in a Game 4 win on Sunday in Chicago.

      "Mentally and emotionally, I'm not here, so I just feed off what the guys give me," Thomas said. "They give me a lot of confidence. I can't do it without those guys. They believe in me, and being here is what makes me feel sane and somewhat normal through these tough times."

      It was after that game that Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg accused Thomas of regularly palming the ball, saying: "When you're allowed to discontinue your dribble on every possession, he's impossible to guard. When you're able to put your hand underneath the ball and take two or three steps and put it back down, it's impossible to guard him in those situations."

      Thomas responded: "That's not the reason why I'm impossible to cover. I've been dribbling that way my whole life."

      After practice on Tuesday, Thomas said: "I was very surprised. Out of everything else that I do on the court, you want to bring that up? ... I don't know what he was trying to get at.

      "I only know one way how to dribble. I've been dribbling the same way my whole life. So maybe it was strategic or something, but I don't think they'll call anything."

      Mix this with the verbal battle between Chicago's Jimmy Butler and Boston's Marcus Smart, and you have some genuine bad blood between the teams heading into Game 5.

      Rondo got his cast off, and since shooting isn't his thing anyway, then the thought of his return sometime in this series is not out of the question. The way he played in the first two games in Boston, his cheerleading, and even trying to trip Jae Crowder while on the bench, earning a fine from the league, and you know what this series means to Rondo.

      "His wrist tendon has quieted down a little bit," Hoiberg said Tuesday, "so (they) just decided to remove the cast. He's still in a splint for his thumb."

      With Rondo still sidelined, Isaiah Canaan will make his first start of the season at the point in Game 5 for Chicago. He had 13 points in 34 minutes in Game 4.

      The Celtics made adjustments after Game 2, changes easier to make with Rondo out. Boston coach Brad Stevens brought Gerald Green back from oblivion and into the starting lineup, and the move worked. Green scored eight points in Game 3, then added 18 points and seven rebounds in Game 4.

      Before Game 3, Stevens owned a 2-10 playoff record, the worst in NBA history for any coach with at least 10 decisions. Now, the picture is brighter as his team returns home for Game 5.

  • NBA notebook: Bulls' Rondo could play in Game 5
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, April 25, 2017

    Early Tuesday, the Chicago Bulls ruled point guard Rajon Rondo out for Game 5 against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday, but that may have changed, according to a report by USA Today.

    • USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt reported Rondo, "will see if he can give it a go," according to "a person with direct knowledge of the situation."

      Rondo was reportedly trying to shoot a basketball on Tuesday, and he now seems likely to make his return before the Eastern Conference first-round series is over. The series is tied at two games apiece.

      Rondo is no longer wearing a hard cast to protect the right thumb and a previous wrist injury.

      The series is tied 2-2.

      --All-Star Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward is close to full strength and said he is ready to play when the Jazz visit the Los Angeles Clippers in Tuesday night's playoff game in Los Angeles.

      Hayward came down with food poisoning prior to Sunday's Game 4 of the series and was limited to nine minutes before he was sent home at halftime. Utah won the contest 105-98 to even the series at two games apiece.

      --The NBA released the list of early-entry applicants and 182 players have filed to be eligible for the 2017 NBA draft.

      The list includes 137 college players and 45 international players. The deadline to apply was Sunday.

      College basketball players with eligibility remaining -- and who didn't hire agents -- must withdraw by May 24 to maintain their eligibility and return to school. Other players have until June 12 to withdraw for the draft, which will be held on June 22.

      Last year, 162 players filed for early entry to the NBA, and 57 withdrew to return to college.

  • Jazz F Hayward will play in Game 5
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, April 25, 2017

    All-Star Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward is close to full strength and said he is ready to play when the Jazz visit the Los Angeles Clippers in Tuesday night's playoff game in Los Angeles.

    • Hayward came down with food poisoning prior to Sunday's Game 4 of the series and was limited to nine minutes before he was sent home at halftime. Utah won the contest 105-98 to even the series at two games apiece.

      Now Hayward is aiming to help the Jazz take the lead in the series.

      "I feel a lot better," Hayward told reporters on Tuesday. "I was definitely down for the count. I haven't been that sick in years."

      Hayward said that both he and his wife suddenly got sick after eating at a sandwich shop.

      Asked if he will return to the sandwich shop, Hayward shot back, "absolutely not."

      Utah coach Quin Snyder said there would no limits on Hayward's minutes.

      "It goes without saying, he's been our best player this year, our best offensive player," Snyder said. "It's good to have him after the other night."

  • Early-entry list for draft includes 182 players
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, April 25, 2017

    The NBA released the list of early-entry applicants on Tuesday and 182 players have filed to be eligible for the 2017 NBA draft.

    • The list includes 137 college players and 45 international players. The deadline to apply was Sunday.

      College basketball players with eligibility remaining -- and who didn't hire agents -- must withdraw by May 24 to maintain their eligibility and return to school.

      Other players have until June 12 to withdraw for the draft, which will be held on June 22.

      Last year, 162 players filed for early entry to the NBA, and 57 withdrew to return to college.

      Among the players who have declared are the probable top three picks, listed in alphabetical order: UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball, Washington shooting guard Markelle Fultz and Kansas forward Josh Jackson.

      Eleven players applied from Final Four teams North Carolina, Gonzaga, Oregon and South Carolina.

      National champion North Carolina applicants are junior guard Joel Berry II, junior forward Justin Jackson, junior guard Theo Pinson and freshman forward Tony Bradley.

      Three players from national runner-up Gonzaga declared -- freshman center Zach Collins, junior point guard Nigel Williams-Goss and junior forward Johnathan Williams.

      Oregon could potentially lose three players: junior forward Dillon Brooks, sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey and junior forward Jordan Bell.

      South Carolina sophomore guard PJ Dozier also applied for the draft.

  • Bulls' Rondo could 'give it a go' in Game 5
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, April 25, 2017

    Early Tuesday, the Chicago Bulls ruled point guard Rajon Rondo out for Game 5 against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday, but that may have changed, according to a report by USA Today.

    • USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt reported Rondo, "will see if he can give it a go," according to "a person with direct knowledge of the situation."

      Rondo was reportedly trying to shoot a basketball on Tuesday, and he now seems likely to make his return before the Eastern Conference first-round series is over. The series is tied at two games apiece.

      Rondo is no longer wearing a hard cast to protect the right thumb and a previous wrist injury.

      "His wrist tendon has quieted down a little bit," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said Tuesday. "So just decided to remove the cast. He's still in a splint for his thumb."

      Prior to the report by Zillgitt, Hoiberg said Isaiah Canaan would be the starting point guard in Game 5. It would be Canaan's first start of the entire season.

      The Bulls took a 2-0 series lead behind Rondo's strong play. He fractured the thumb during Game 2, in which he nearly posted a triple-double with 11 points, 14 assists, nine rebounds and also had five steals.

      Chicago attempted to replace him with Jerian Grant and Michael Carter-Williams in Games 3 and 4, but lost both games. When Grant and Carter-Williams were again ineffective early in Game 4, Canaan scored 13 points in 34 minutes.

      Canaan wasn't even active for Game 3.

      "It really tests your mental part of basketball," Canaan said. "Our job is to play, whenever it may be. It may be the first 10 games of the season. It may be the last 10 games.

      "Everybody on this team wants to play, and you can only have five out there. So, whenever your name is called, you've got to be ready to go, no matter when it is."

      The Bulls averaged 108.5 points with Rondo while winning two games in Boston. They averaged just 91 points without him while losing two home games in Chicago.

  • NBA roundup: Warriors complete sweep of Trail Blazers
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, April 25, 2017

    PORTLAND, Ore. -- Stephen Curry scored 37 points, dished out eight assists and grabbed seven rebounds despite sitting out the entire fourth quarter as the Golden State Warriors buried the Portland Trail Blazers 128-103 Monday night at Moda Center to complete a four-game series sweep.

    • Draymond Green scored 21 points for the Warriors, whose second-round Western Conference playoff opponent will be the Utah Jazz or the Los Angeles Clippers.

      Kevin Durant returned to the Warriors' lineup after missing two games with a left calf injury, and he scored 10 points and hit both his 3-point attempts in just 20 minutes of action.

      Damian Lillard scored 34 points and Al-Farouq Aminu added 25 for the Trail Blazers.

      Golden State jumped to a 14-0 lead in the game's first three minutes. Curry's 3-point shot made it 28-5 six minutes in. Portland started 1 of 11 from the field; the Warriors hit 12 of their first 14 attempts.

      Hawks 111, Wizards 101

      ATLANTA -- Dennis Schroder, saddled with three early fouls and held scoreless in the first half, finished with 18 points to help the Atlanta even the first-round Eastern Conference playoff series at two wins apiece.

      Schroder scored on two 3-pointers, a jump shot and a driving layup in the final four minutes as the Hawks rebuffed Washington's comeback effort.

      Paul Millsap won the showdown with Markieff Morris, who called the Atlanta forward a "crybaby" after Game 3. Morris had nine points and four rebounds. Millsap totaled 19 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.

      Washington was led by Bradley Beal with 32 points. John Wall scored a series-low 22 points and added 10 assists and five rebounds.

      Raptors 118, Bucks 93

      TORONTO -- Norman Powell, starting for only the second time in the series, scored 25 points as Toronto defeated Milwaukee to take a 3-2 lead in an Eastern Conference first-round playoff matchup.

      Game 6 will be Thursday in Milwaukee.

      Powell was put into the lineup for Game 5 in Milwaukee after Toronto's poor effort in Game 4. Kyle Lowry added 16 points and 10 assists for the Raptors. Serge Ibaka chipped in with 19 points and DeMar DeRozan had 18.

      Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 30 points and nine rebounds.

  • Illness, injuries bug Jazz, Clippers heading to Game 5
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, April 24, 2017

    LOS ANGELES -- In three of the four postseason games between the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers, the winning team prevailed despite losing a star player during the action.

    • Whether or not the trend continues in Game 5 of the Western Conference first-round playoff series on Tuesday night at Staples Center, at least one of the clubs will start without a top performer.

      Utah captured Game 4 on Sunday to even the series 2-2 despite playing the second half without All-Star forward Gordon Hayward, who couldn't overcome a case of food poisoning.

      Joe Johnson, the Game 1 hero, rescued the Jazz again in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 of his game-high 28 points, including 11 straight at one point. He helped the Jazz to claim a 105-98 victory at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City.

      As of Monday night, the Jazz hadn't announced whether Hayward would play Tuesday. The club said his status was to be determined, meaning his availability probably wouldn't be known until after the Tuesday morning shootaround or before tipoff.

      If Hayward isn't able to play, Jazz coach Quin Snyder would be forced to mix and match his lineups, much as he did in Games 1 and 4.

      "It's beyond next man up for us," Snyder told the Salt Lake Tribune. "It's really a process of the day. We've really become numb to it. It's almost like the weather."

      In Game 4, the Clippers were forced to weather the storm without Blake Griffin, who is sidelined for the rest of the postseason with a plantar plate injury to his right big toe he sustained in the team's Game 3 win.

      Point guard Chris Paul collected 27 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds Sunday, but he couldn't prevent the Clippers' fourth-quarter fade.

      The Clippers also received a solid outing from guard Jamal Crawford, who struggled in the previous three postseason games before coming off the bench to score 25 points with a career-high five 3-pointers in Game 4. However, foul trouble limited Crawford in the fourth quarter.

      "Give (the Jazz) credit. They made shots and we missed every shot down the stretch," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "I thought the turning point for us was Jamal's fifth (foul) and they were small, and we had to take him out. And we didn't have another guard. I thought they hurt us in that stretch because Jamal had it going."

      It was the second time in the series that Utah prevailed while playing short-handed. Rudy Gobert, who sustained a hyperextended left knee less than 20 seconds into the opener, returned for Game 4 to deliver 15 points and 13 rebounds.

      Johnson lifted the Jazz in Game 1 by scoring 21 points and hitting the winning bucket at the buzzer to stun the Clippers at Staples Center.

      Austin Rivers (strained left hamstring), who has missed the past 10 games, is expected to return for Game 5. However, Doc Rivers said his son would play limited minutes.

      "I don't know what to expect," Doc Rivers said. "I would say if he gave us a couple of good minutes, I would be good with that."

  • Rondo out, Canaan to start at point for Bulls
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, April 24, 2017

    The Chicago Bulls will try Isaiah Canaan as their starting point guard in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference series against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night.

    • The Bulls have struggled since Rajon Rondo sustained a thumb injury in Game 2 in the best-of-seven series and sat out the past two games, both Chicago losses. The series is tied 2-2.

      Rondo was without his cast Monday during a day off, but coach Fred Hoiberg ruled Rondo out for Game 5. However, there is a chance that Rondo, who also is dealing with a wrist injury, could return for Game 6 after he initially said he would be out several weeks.

      "His wrist tendon has quieted down a little bit," Hoiberg said Monday. "So just decided to remove the cast. He's still in a splint for his thumb."

      Canaan will be making his first start after shooting 36.4 percent from the field and 26.6 percent from 3-point range during the regular season. He also is not considered a great defender.

      Jerian Grant and Michael Carter-Williams were unable to get the job done at the point in place of Rondo in Games 3 and 4. Canaan was the Bulls' only effective point guard in Game 4, finishing with 13 points in 34 minutes.

      Grant and Carter-Williams have combined to make just 6 of 28 shots from the field and they committed nine turnovers in the past two games.

      In the first two games, Rondo had a combined 23 points, 20 assists, 17 rebounds, seven steals and four turnovers.

      The rest of the Bulls' lineup knows it needs to help offset the loss of Rondo and not put it all on Canaan.

      "Obviously with Rondo going down, the ball's going to be a lot more in my hands," said Chicago's Dwyane Wade, who had 11 points in Game 4. "But I talked to Coach about it, there were a couple opportunities where I could have been more aggressive. Some of it is on me.

      "I have to figure out a way to, certain times, be more aggressive than I was last game. And I'll figure it out. I've been playing a long time, so I'll leave it up to myself to figure it out."

  • Rockets can close out Thunder in Game 5
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, April 24, 2017

    HOUSTON -- Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook on Sunday drew a line in the sand rebuffing the disparagement of teammates, offering a statement of support and solidarity in the aftermath of another come-from-ahead defeat in Game 4.

    • While the numbers are glaring -- Oklahoma City is plus-3 with Westbrook on the court in its Western Conference first-round postseason series with the Houston Rockets, minus-40 with him on the bench -- there is another point to consider.

      The Rockets' three-man bench has been exceptional throughout the series, which resumes with Game 5 on Tuesday night at Toyota Center and the Thunder on the brink of elimination.

      On Sunday in Oklahoma City, it was reserve center Nene who carried the load, posting 28 points and 10 rebounds in a 113-109 win. But all season long, the Rockets have come to rely on Nene and guard Eric Gordon, with guard Lou Williams joining the fray at the midseason trade deadline.

      "They've been having that confidence all year long. I've been having that confidence in them," Houston All-Star guard James Harden said. "That's how we've been playing all along."

      Williams (72 points), Gordon (60) and Nene (54) are second, third and fourth in scoring for the Rockets this series. Their production has been integral in keeping the Rockets rolling through lulls and has set the stage for fourth-quarter rallies. Houston has outscored the Thunder 128-89 in the final period this series.

      Westbrook is averaging a triple-double this series (35 points, 12 rebounds, 11.3 assists) but is shooting just 31.6 percent from the floor in the fourth quarter. The Rockets' ability to throw multiple looks in his direction has paid off in crunch time.

      "The game changes. You've got to be able to withstand runs, especially against a team like that because they shoot a lot of threes and create situations where they make runs," Westbrook said. "You've got to be able to withstand them for 48 minutes."

      If the Thunder are looking to correct late-game collapses, the Rockets are seeking solutions to their sluggish starts. Houston erased deficits of 15 and 14 points to win Games 2 and 4, and is aiming to avoid those early holes altogether.

      The Rockets anticipate a jolt of energy from their crowd in what will be the first close-out game of the series. They also recognize it will take far more than that.

      "Obviously, we've played well here the first two games," Houston forward Ryan Anderson said. "We just want to continue to play hard, keep our same game plan but getting a good start for us is really important."

      One potential hope for a breakthrough for Houston: The Rockets have yet to catch fire from behind the arc. After averaging 15 3-pointers on 37.5 percent shooting against the Thunder during the regular season, the Rockets are shooting just 31.8 percent (42 for 132) on 3s despite scoring 114.8 points per game.

      Oklahoma City continues to hang its hat on defense. That could be false hope.

      "Every game we've played we've done things that we need to do better and better. I still think there are areas we can get better at and improve," Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. "Overall for the most part, the things that we wanted to do against Houston defensively, we've tried to do pretty well."

  • Warriors' Durant to return for Game 4 vs. Blazers
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, April 24, 2017

    Golden State forward Kevin Durant is available to return from a two-game absence to play Monday night in Game 4 of the Western Conference first-round series against the Trail Blazers in Portland, the Warriors announced.

    • Durant, who participated in Monday's shoot-around with no limitations, sat out the past two games with a calf injury sustained in the second half of the series opener.

      The Warriors hold a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

      Durant practiced Friday and participated in Saturday's shoot-around but sat out that night's game, a 119-113 win for Golden State.

      Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who could miss the rest of playoffs due to complications following two back surgeries two years ago, said last week that Durant would have played in Game 3 if it "was Game 7 of the Finals."

      Golden State guard Shaun Livingston, who has a right index finger sprain and hand contusion, and swingman Matt Barnes, who has a sprained right ankle, were ruled out for Monday's contest. Livingston hasn't played since Game 1. Barnes has been out since April 8, missing the final two regular-season games and the first three playoff games.

  • Spurs, Grizzlies down to best-of-3
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, April 24, 2017

    The first-round Western Conference playoff series between the Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs has, after four games split between the two teams, come down to which squad can win two of the next three.

    • The rugged battle to advance (or is it survive?) is tied at 2-2 after the Grizzlies answered San Antonio's two wins at home with two on their home floor, and will be renewed on Tuesday night at the AT&T Center in San Antonio.

      Memphis squared the series with a 110-108 overtime victory on Saturday in which the Grizzlies found a way to win despite committing 23 turnovers that led to 31 Spurs points and a career-high 43 points from Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio's erstwhile MVP candidate.

      The difference on Saturday was Marc Gasol's floating jumper over LaMarcus Aldridge of San Antonio with 0.7 seconds left in overtime.

      "(Gasol) made the play that mattered," said Mike Conley, who led the Grizzlies with a postseason franchise-record 35 points and added nine rebounds and eight assists. "It's scary as hell watching (Leonard). He was unbelievable.

      "We have to play with the same intensity on Tuesday. Of course, we're in desperation mode. But according to the media, we were supposed to be swept anyway."

      San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said both teams played their hearts out in Game 4.

      "It was just a fantastic basketball game," Popovich said. "The fans got their money's worth. Marc made a great shot. L.A. (Aldridge) contested it very well; it (went) down.

      "We got down a couple of times but stuck with the program and kept on playing, which is always a good thing to see."

      Leonard carried the Spurs into the overtime by scoring their last 16 points. In the final four minutes, he was 5 of 7 from the floor (including 3 for 3 from 3-point range), 3 of 3 from the line, took a rebound (after one of his own misses, leading to free throws) and stole the ball twice, with both steals ending up in baskets he made.

      "Honestly, I'm taking suggestions on how to guard Kawhi Leonard," Memphis coach David Fizdale said. "I've tried everything and the guy is just tough. Man, is he a superstar."

      Tony Parker added 22 points for the Spurs two nights after he didn't score and wasn't credited with an assist in San Antonio's Game 3 loss.

      "You know it's going to be a physical series," Parker said. "Memphis is going to make it hard. You know they are going to do a lot of fouling and stuff like that. They made more shots.

      "Obviously, playing at home, they play with a lot more confidence and I have to give them credit. I thought we played well enough to win the game."

      The teams have split eight games this season, with the home team winning each time.

      "Guys are more comfortable at home," Fizdale explained. "You know, sleeping in their own beds and playing in their own arena. For our young guys, those first few games they had the jitters and maybe coming home, getting their feet wet here, playing well and now going back out on the road, they will feel a little bit more comfortable."

  • Bucks try to take back advantage against Raptors
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, April 23, 2017

    TORONTO -- The Toronto Raptors regained their energy to bounce back in Game 4. Now it is up to the Milwaukee Bucks to do the same Monday night in Game 5 of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round playoff series.

    • After being humiliated in Game 3, the Raptors made some adjustments both in strategy and attitude Saturday to even the series 2-2 with an 87-76 victory at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

      "I've always said we play better with our backs against the wall," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "It's a tough way to live, but I love our team's resilient personality.

      "I wish we wouldn't have a stinker before we play that way, but if we can consistently get everybody at their potential level, I think we'll be in good shape."

      The Bucks committed 21 turnovers Saturday. Seven of those were by Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was held to 14 points on 6-of-19 shooting from the field.

      "We need to do a better job moving the ball, find the open guy," Antetokounmpo said. "The Raptors are collapsing in the paint and we need to do a better job of finding the open man and take care of the ball. If we do that, we're going to be in a great position."

      It will be up to the Bucks to show their resilience in Game 5 at the Air Canada Centre if they want to regain the advantage they had after winning 97-83 in Game 1 at Toronto and 104-77 in Game 3 at Milwaukee.

      "Our tempo was extremely slow," Bucks coach Jason Kidd said Saturday. "Give them credit; they slowed us down. It wasn't a high-scoring game. No one could make a shot.

      "But our tempo in that second half came to a halt. Our energy level was low, for whatever reason. We've got to fix that going into Game 5."

      Among the adjustments made by the Raptors on Saturday was to use center Jonas Valanciunas off the bench and start guard Norman Powell at small forward.

      Powell provided a spark at both ends of the court just as he did in last year's playoff series against the Indiana Pacers.

      He scored 12 points – including five straight to give Toronto a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter -- and also helped provide strong defense against Bucks guard Khris Middleton.

      Powell's role was to go to the hoop to help open things up for Kyle Lowry, who had 18 points, and DeMar DeRozan, who had 33 points after scoring only eight with no field goals in Game 3.

      "Just to have a presence there, to put the defense in rotation," Powell said. "We needed more drives, more kick-outs to have their defense scrambling because they're so long.

      "Their length is really disruptive, they're blitzing Kyle and DeMar in pick-and-rolls so you need someone to attack, loosen up the defense and re-attack on the kick-outs or hit the shooters for open shots."

      Valanciunas, who has started 357 games and come off the bench six times in his career, came into the game when Bucks center Greg Monroe entered.

      Valanciunas scored 12 points and Monroe had 14.

      "I thought (Valanciunas) handled it really well," Casey said. "It's tough for a guy that's started every game that he's been physically ready for and able to play.

      "And to understand this is the playoffs, it wasn't anything he did wrong but just the matchup that he had with Monroe. I thought he came in and did an excellent job. He had the proper attitude, proper disposition and he was a pro."

      Said Monroe said: "We just couldn't really score, honestly. They only had 87 points. It was just a sloppy game for us. We definitely got off to a slow start; we didn't come out energetic. We have to come out ready. It's the playoffs. From the tip to the last horn, you've got to play at a high level."

      DeRozan was feeling a sigh of relief after picking up his play.

      "I was just going quick, being aggressive, not waiting on the doubles," DeRozan said. "It was getting to my sweet spot and making a quick move, a quick play.

      "We played two Game 7s last year; we played six games in the conference finals with the champs (the Cleveland Cavaliers). You go back to every moment you were in and understand what needs to be done, if you're coming off a bad game."

  • Jazz C Gobert (knee) upgraded to questionable for Game 4
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, April 23, 2017

    Utah Jazz standout center Rudy Gobert was upgraded to questionable for Sunday night's Game 4 against the Los Angeles Clippers, coach Quin Snyder told reporters at the team's mid-day shootaround.

    • Gobert hyperextended his left knee and suffered a bone bruise during the first possession of Game 1. He missed the following two games and was initially listed as doubtful for Game 4 before he displayed improvement.

      "He's making a lot of progress," Snyder said. "He's a lot farther along than I thought he'd be at the time of his injury."

      The Jazz won Game 1 despite losing Gobert but lost the following two contests.

      Gobert averaged 14.0 points, 12.8 rebounds and an NBA-leading 2.6 blocked shots per game during the regular season. He is viewed as one of three candidates for Defensive Player of the Year honors -- the others being San Antonio forward Kawhi Leonard and Golden State forward Draymond Green.

      "His effect is obvious," Snyder said. "He's a dynamic player and he makes us better."

      The Clippers are experiencing their own injury issues and lost power forward Blake Griffin for the series due to a toe injury he suffered in Game 3.

  • Bulls' Rondo fined $25K for trying to trip Crowder
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, April 23, 2017

    Injured Chicago Bulls point guard Rajon Rondo was fined $25,000 for attempting to trip Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder, the NBA announced Sunday.

    • Rondo was on the bench in street clothes for Friday night's Game 3 when Crowder was in the vicinity and about to head up the court. Rondo stuck out his leg at Crowder with 31.1 seconds left in the first quarter as the forward ran by.

      Rondo, who fractured his right thumb in Game 2, claimed afterward that he didn't attempt to trip Crowder.

      "When you tear an ACL, your legs get stiff on you every once in a while," Rondo told reporters in an apparent reference to his serious knee injury in 2013. "I stretched my leg out. I also do that throughout the game. I guess he was so deep into our bench, it looked maybe whatever may have happened."

      Boston won the contest 104-87 but the Bulls hold a 2-1 series lead.

      Game 4 is Sunday night in Chicago.

  • Rockets' Beverley fined $25K for fan altercation
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, April 23, 2017

    Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley was fined $25,000 for a confrontation with a fan after Friday night's loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the NBA announced on Sunday.

    • Beverley reportedly got into the postgame incident with Stuart Scaramucci, the son of Thunder minority owner Jay Scaramucci.

      In the first half, Beverley landed at the feet of Scaramucci and immediately pointed to referee Scott Foster and complained about Scaramucci. It wasn't clear from video what Scaramucci may have done or said.

      Beverley confronted Scaramucci after the contest and they had a heated exchanged. Rockets teammate Sam Dekker and security guards led Beverley away.

      Beverley declined comment about the situation on Saturday and said he would "talk more after the investigation is done."

      The feisty Beverley scored just one point in Game 3 after averaging 18 points and eight rebounds in the first two games.

      Game 4 was Sunday afternoon at Oklahoma City.

  • Kerr's illness still unknown, return to Warriors not set
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, April 23, 2017

    The health of Steve Kerr is now the Golden State Warriors' biggest concern and the ailing head coach may miss the remainder of the Western Conference first-round playoff series.

    • The Warriors announced Saturday afternoon that Kerr, who missed the team's morning shootaround, would not be able to coach Game 3 against the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday night because of an illness.

      Assistant coach Mike Brown filled in for Kerr in the 119-113 victory over the Blazers as the Warriors rallied to take a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

      "He hadn't been feeling well for a couple days, so I knew it would be a possibility," Brown told reporters before the game.

      Specific details about Kerr's condition have been scarce and the cause of the illness is not yet known.

      According to San Jose Mercury News sources, at the worst of this current illness, Kerr was in excruciating pain and he could barely walk.

      Kerr, who could miss Game 4 on Monday night, is no stranger to health issues as the reigning NBA Coach of the Year missed the first 43 games of the 2015-16 season while dealing with headaches, nausea and an ailing neck due to complications from back surgery.

      Kerr hasn't felt well all series, according to people around him, and recently the pain became unbearable, the Mercury News reported, adding it is unknown if these issues are even related to his past health problems.

      Stephen Curry scored 14 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter -- including the Warriors' final nine points of the game -- as they rallied from a 16-point, third-quarter deficit to beat the Trail Blazers in Game 3.

      The Warriors did it under the direction of Brown, formerly the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers.

      "He's obviously going through a lot physically, and that's first and foremost for him to take care of himself, make sure he's on the road to recovery and feeling like himself," Curry said of Kerr at the postgame podium.

      "We've got his back. We've had certain situations all year (and) previous years where players are down and you've got the 'next man up' philosophy. Same with Coach Kerr. He's done a great job of implementing a philosophy and a strategy and an identity of how we play Warrior basketball. And even in his absence, we want to kind of live up to that.

      "Coach Brown did a great job of stepping in -- (and) the whole coaching staff -- and that'll have to continue until he's back. But us as players, we have an opportunity to keep fighting, keep playing and keep pushing to our goal."

      Curry told ESPN immediately after the game that he grabbed the game ball following the final buzzer to present to Kerr.

      "Our coach is going through a lot right now, physically," Curry said on ESPN. "He told us this morning this is a situation where we need to rally and go out and win a game for him. But we felt that the way the game had gone, we had to fight and do it for him ... and the way that he said it was that we had to win one for the Gipper. So, shout out to Coach Kerr."

  • Nurkic returns for Trail Blazers
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, April 22, 2017

    Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic, who has been out for three weeks with a nondisplaced fracture in his right leg, is scheduled to start Game 3 against the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night in Portland, Ore.

    • Meanwhile, the Warriors will be without forward Kevin Durant for the second straight game because of a calf injury. He was listed as questionable for Saturday's contest up until nearly game time. Durant suffered the injury in the second half of Game 1.

      Nurkic missed the final seven games of the regular season and the first two playoff games at Golden State.

      His status for Saturday's game was not known until about an hour before tipoff, but the 7-foot center, known as the Bosnian Beast, has been shooting around in warmups.

      In 20 games since joining Portland, Nurkic is averaging 15.2 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.9 blocks and 1.25 assists in 29.2 minutes.

      The Warriors hold a 2-0 advantage in the series. Besides Durant, Golden State is without coach Steve Kerr because of illness as well as guards Shaun Livingston (right index finger sprain and hand contusion) and Matt Barnes (sprained ankle).