Pacers at Cavaliers Game 5

Every time it looks like the Cleveland Cavaliers are about to roll over and end their reign atop the Eastern Conference, they bounce right back with a win. The Cavaliers will try to take the lead for the first time in the best-of-seven, first-round series when they host the Indiana Pacers in Game 5 on Wednesday.

Make this game an InGame today. Swap players like LeBron, DeMar & Oladipo as the game is happening. It’s the new way to play Daily Fantasy Sports.

NBA IG Top 3 (Wizards vs Raptors / Pacers vs Cavs)

Cleveland had a chance to take the series lead in Game 3 and could not hold onto a 17-point advantage in a 92-90 loss, but LeBron James took over down the stretch in Game 4 and guided his team to a 104-100 triumph and tie the series at two games apiece. “We came on the road in a hostile environment and got a big win after a letdown last game,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue told reporters after the victory. “I thought we played good enough to win that last game. The guys thought that as well. When you lose a tough game like that it’s hard to bounce back, especially on the road. It’s just tribute to our guys’ character, who they are, and we bounced back and won a tough game.” The Pacers are showing plenty of fight in the series and are undaunted by Cleveland taking back homecourt advantage. “It’s 0-0 and it’s anybody’s series right now,” center Myles Turner told reporters. “And we’ve gotta be the hungry team. We’ve got a road win before, and we gotta go do it again.”

TV: 7 p.m. ET, TNT, FS Indiana, FS Ohio (Cleveland)

ABOUT THE PACERS: Indiana placed seven scorers in double figures in the Game 4 loss but All-Star Victor Oladipo struggled to 5-of-20 from the floor and Game 3 hero Bojan Bogdanovic went 4-of-13. “I thought we were frantic offensively throughout the game and I just didn’t think we played the game the right way,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan told reporters. “I thought there were some quick shots, some heroic shots that were taken throughout this game, and you’re not going to win if you play the game like that.” The positives came up front, where Turner and reserve center Domantas Sabonis combined for 36 points on 16-of-21 shooting.

ABOUT THE CAVALIERS: James finished with 32 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists in Game 4 but took the time out to praise the efforts of his teammates. Larry Nance Jr., Jordan Clarkson and Rodney Hood, who all joined the team at the trade deadline, combined for 24 points off the bench. “It means a lot to Rodney, Jordan and Larry,” James told reporters. “It’s their first opportunity in the postseason. It was a must-win for us in a hostile environment. For them to play the way they did meant a lot.”

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Cavaliers PG George Hill (back) is questionable for Game 5.

2. Pacers PF Thaddeus Young grabbed 16 rebounds on Sunday in his first double-double of the series.

3. Cleveland SG Kyle Korver scored 18 points in Game 4 after going scoreless over 20 minutes in Game 3.

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Posted in NBA

Wizards at Raptors Preview

The Toronto Raptors won the first two games of their first-round, Eastern Conference series over the Washington Wizards but could not find a way to win on the road. The Raptors leaned into some bad habits in a Game 4 loss and will try to correct some mistakes when they host Game 5 on Wednesday.

Make this game an InGame today. Swap players like LeBron, DeMar & Wall as the game is happening. It’s the new way to play Daily Fantasy Sports.

NBA IG Top 3 (Wizards vs Raptors / Pacers vs Cavs)

Toronto won a franchise-record 59 games during the regular season and earned the top seed in the East for the first time while playing a band of basketball that encouraged ball movement and 3-point shooting, but some of those traits were hard to find down the stretch in Game 4’s 106-98 setback. “At some point we’ve got to make sure we keep our composure and execute,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey told reporters. “We missed some shots we normally make. … We turned down some good looks I thought we’d normally step into.” The Wizards allowed an average of 122 points in the first two games of the series but cut that number down to 100.5 in the next two. “You have to have resolve to win in this league,” Washington coach Scott Brooks told reporters. “We’ve had some tough moments this year with (point guard) John (Wall) missing half the season, but we found it, and it put us in a position to make the playoffs through resolve. You win playoff games, and you win playoff series with having that. We have that, and we have to continue to have that because we have to win two more games, and one of them has to be on the road.”

TV: 7 p.m. ET, NBATV, NBCS Washington, TSN 1/4/5 (Toronto)

ABOUT THE WIZARDS: All-Star shooting guard Bradley Beal fouled out of Game 4 with just under five minutes left, but Wall took over down the stretch and finished with 27 points and 14 assists in the win. “Just go in attack mode,” Wall told reporters. “Even when Brad’s in the game, he’s telling me, ‘Be aggressive.’ At the same time, I’m trying to find him. I’m trying to keep him going and play my game. That gets my teammates involved and makes the job easier for those guys. They are knocking down shots and cutting for me, and I’m going to get my opportunities to score the ball.” Wall is averaging 26.3 points, 13 assists and three steals in the series.

ABOUT THE RAPTORS: DeMar DeRozan scored a game-high 35 points in Game 4 but was just 10-of-29 from the floor. “I took some shots that I wish I could have had back,” DeRozan told reporters. “But it’s just my mindset going out there and being aggressive, wanting to win, wanting to feel like I was doing whatever it took offensively to push us to a win. But with that came some bad shots that I will definitely understand next time.” DeRozan and Kyle Lowry (7-of-15) combined for more than half of Toronto’s shot attempts in the loss.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Raptors PG Fred VanVleet (shoulder) was limited to a total of three minutes in the first four games but participated in practice on Tuesday.

2. Beal averaged 29.5 points in the two home games after averaging 14 at Toronto in the first two contests.

3. Washington PF Mike Scott scored four points on Sunday after averaging 15.3 points in the first three contests.

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Posted in NBA

Spurs at Warriors Game 5 Preview

The San Antonio Spurs had too much pride to get swept on their homecourt by the Golden State Warriors for the second straight season and earned a 103-90 win in Game 4 on Sunday behind a vintage performance from Manu Ginobili. The 40-year-old future Hall of Famer will try to get the Spurs back home with another win when they visit the Warriors for Game 5 of the best-of-seven series on Tuesday.

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San Antonio, which will be operating without head coach Gregg Popovich for the third straight game following the death of his wife, leaned on Ginobili down the stretch on Sunday and was rewarded with 16 points off the bench. “I cannot lie to you,” interim head coach Ettore Messina told reporters. “Even if it’s awful, because nobody would like to be in this situation for obvious reasons. At the same time, there is a little part of that that moves me to be there with Manu in these playoff games. Really, that’s something that pushes you to try to be the best possible helper for him and the team, and don’t mess up anything; just help him to have a great game.” Even Golden State coach Steve Kerr, who played with Ginobili in San Antonio in 2003, found a way to be happy for his former teammate. “I smiled when he made that corner 3 right in front of us at the end of the game,” Kerr told reporters. “It was just so typical Manu: (40) years old and 16 points and hits the clinching 3. He’s Manu. That’s what he does. I know he’s old because he was my teammate, and I’m old as dirt. So, if I played with him, he must be old.”

TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, TNT, FS Southwest (San Antonio), NBCS Bay Area (Golden State)

ABOUT THE SPURS: San Antonio went 15-of-28 from 3-point range in Game 4, with Ginobili (3-of-5), point guard Dejounte Murray (3-of-4) and power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (3-of-3) leading the way. “We’re not the best shooting team in the league, but we’re not that bad either to shoot 20 percent every game,” Ginobili told reporters. “(Sunday), we had a good night shooting. We’ll see if we can maintain that for next game. There’s not much you can do. You try to get the best shots possible, try to find the open teammate.” Aldridge finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds in the win for his third straight double-double in the series.

ABOUT THE WARRIORS: Golden State All-Star shooting guard Klay Thompson shot 63.3 percent from the floor and 65 percent from 3-point range while averaging 25.7 points in the first three games of the series but slumped to 12 points on 4-of-16 shooting in Game 4. The Warriors committed seven of their 18 turnovers in the first quarter, setting the tone for a sloppy performance. “You can’t turn the ball over seven times and spot them a 10- or 12-point lead and make them play at their pace,” Thompson told reporters. “Come Tuesday, we’re going to start better.”

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Ginobili and PG Tony Parker set an NBA record on Sunday with their 132nd playoff win as teammates.

2. Warriors SF Kevin Durant is averaging 29 points and 9.3 rebounds in the series.

3. Golden State PF Draymond Green is shooting 33.3 percent from the field in the series.

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Posted in NBA

Spurs at Warriors Game 2 Preview

The Golden State Warriors came into the postseason injured and slumping but quickly proved they can flip the switch to playoff mode with a dominating Game 1 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday. The Warriors will try to keep the pressure on and get off to another hot start to make it a 2-0 cushion when they host the Spurs in Game 2 on Monday.

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Golden State dropped 10 of its last 17 games in the regular season and struggled on defense but tightened things up that end and held the Spurs to 17 first-quarter points to establish a lead it wouldn’t relinquish in Game 1. “Just wanted to put our best defensive lineup on the floor from the beginning,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who inserted small forward Andre Iguodala into the starting lineup, told reporters. “I think the whole point of these games here early in this series is to re-establish our defense. I think you guys know, over the last month or so, our defense has been subpar. Can’t win in this league in the playoffs unless you defend, and they defended tonight, and we went with our best defensive group.” San Antonio’s starting unit wasn’t up to the task and only LaMarcus Aldridge (14 points) scored in double figures among the starting five. “I thought we were very prepared physically and mentally,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told reporters. “But I was mistaken. As I said, we looked like deer in the headlights. The defense was really poor as far as following game plan of the first quarter, and it’s a bad combination to play defense like that and not shoot at the other end.”

TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, TNT, FS Southwest (San Antonio), NBCS Bay Area (Golden State)

ABOUT THE SPURS: San Antonio shot 40 percent from the floor in Game 1 and managed only three offensive rebounds in the 113-92 setback. “We’ve got to regroup, feel hurt, upset, kind of desperate,” guard Manu Ginobili told reporters. “We don’t want to go home (down) 0-2. But at the same time, we’ve got to be smarter. Offensively, we’re going to have to move the ball better, sharper, be more aggressive and see what happens. We are underdogs. We’ve talked about it. To get a win here, we’ve got to overachieve.” Popovich started Rudy Gay in the second half over Kyle Anderson to generate more offense and could insert Gay into the starting lineup for Game 2.

ABOUT THE WARRIORS: Starting Iguodala over Quinn Cook left Golden State without a true point guard, leading to All-Star forward Kevin Durant running the offense. “It’s not just one guy who has the ball all the time and making all the plays,” Durant, who finished with 24 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, told reporters. “I think that’s the beauty of our team, that all of us can go off and score 30 or get eight, nine assists or grab 11 rebounds. That’s just the beauty of our team, and all of us chip in when it comes to facilitating and orchestrating.” The Warriors recorded 32 assists on 44 made field goals in the win, led by forward Draymond Green’s 11.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Warriors SG Klay Thompson scored a game-high 27 points on 11-of-13 shooting in Game 1.

2. Spurs PG Tony Parker – a career 46.1 percent shooter in 222 postseason games – went 1-of-8 from the floor on Saturday.

3. Golden State won its last 10 postseason games at home.

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2018 NBA Playoffs

First-round previews

If the playoffs are anything like the wild finish to the regular season, hold on. It took an overtime play-in win just to determine the Western Conference playoff teams, and little was settled outside of the top two seeds in the East heading into Wednesday’s season finale. But now that we have the sixteen teams, it’s on. The NBA’s second season officially begins on Saturday afternoon.

Toronto Raptors vs. Washington Wizards

The Raptors have all sorts of pressure on them this postseason, but they couldn’t have done much better than facing the fledgling Wizards at the start. Washington, which has lost 14 of its last 21 games, welcomed five-time All-Star John Wall back on March 31 after he missed more than two months with a knee injury. Still, Toronto — which was third in offensive rating and fifth in defensive rating this season — should be able to survive.

Enter the TOR/WAS Series Tournament

Boston Celtics vs. Milwaukee Bucks

Boston, which is without five-time All-Star Kyrie Irving for the playoffs and guard Marcus Smart until at least late April, has its hands full against these Bucks. Milwaukee’s 106-102 win over Boston on April 3 serves as the best evidence of how they match up at the moment. The Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo will be looking to advance past the first round for the first time (he’s 0-for-2 thus far).

Philadelphia 76ers vs. Miami Heat

Philadelphia comes in as the league’s hottest team, having won 16 games in a row. Never mind that All-Star big man Joel Embiid went down with an orbital fracture in his left eye eight games into the stretch, the Sixers just kept rolling. When Embiid was asked if he might be able to play for Game 1, he told reporters it’s “unlikely but still a chance.”

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Indiana Pacers

LeBron James is no stranger to memorable playoff matchups against the Pacers, but this is a different version of the familiar story. With coach Nate McMillan and All-Star guard Victor Oladipo leading the way, the Pacers were a wonderful surprise this season.

Enter the CLE/IND Series Tournament

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Houston Rockets vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

The Rockets dominated the season series against the Timberwolves, but only one of those games (a 126-108 win on Feb. 13) included Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler from beginning to end. The four-time All-Star tore his meniscus in their second matchup on Feb. 23, then missed the final two meetings before returning on Friday. The Rockets, meanwhile, lost key defender Luc Mbah a Moute to a dislocated shoulder on Tuesday, and he’s expected to miss the first round — if not longer.

Enter the HOU/MIN Series Tournament

Golden State Warriors vs. San Antonio Spurs

This is a rematch of last year’s Western Conference finals in name alone, as Golden State is without two-time MVP Stephen Curry this time around and the Spurs’ franchise centerpiece, Kawhi Leonard, remains out after playing just nine games this season. But if anyone is capable of creating a gameplan to upset the ailing defending champions, it’s San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich. His Spurs had the fourth-best defensive rating this season. The Warriors, meanwhile, have lost 10 of their last 17 games.

Enter the GSW/SAS Series Tournament

Portland Trail Blazers vs. New Orleans Pelicans

The Trail Blazers lost seven of their last 12 games, but the regular season finale win over Utah was enough to earn them the No. 3 seed. Portland, which had the league’s ninth-best defensive rating this season, will have all it can handle with the way Pelicans star Anthony Davis has been playing (a league-leading 30.2 points, 11.9 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game since DeMarcus Cousins’ season-ending Achilles injury Jan. 26).

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Utah Jazz

The Jazz boasted the NBA’s best defense for the final few months of the regular season, and now they’ll try to stop a star-studded Thunder squad that finished 10th in offensive rating. But the Jazz have to score too, and therein lies the most pressing question of their postseason: Can rookie guard Donovan Mitchell be the same star-caliber player on this stage? Utah certainly needs him to be.

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Nuggets at Timberwolves Preview

The final day of the regular season will decide seeding in each conference and give several teams a chance to get healthy or build momentum heading into the playoffs, but only one game is win or go home. The Minnesota Timberwolves host the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday, and the winner will advance to the postseason while the loser heads to the offseason earlier than anticipated.

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The Timberwolves were in third place in the Western Conference at several points this season and could still finish as high as fifth with a win on Wednesday and some help, or they could miss the playoffs and continue a tough stretch in which the franchise has not qualified for the postseason since 2004. “Don’t nobody like losing,” Minnesota All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler told reporters. “Nobody in this locker room does at least. I think this city deserves to be in the playoffs. We’re the only ones who control that. … If we win this game Wednesday, I think that puts us in the playoffs, right? So that’s what we’ve got to do.” The Nuggets are coming in hot with wins in the last six games and are well acquainted with win or go home basketball after needing a win to stay alive on Monday. Denver managed to overcome an 11-point, second-half deficit and earn an 88-82 victory while holding Portland to 13 points in the fourth quarter.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, Altitude (Denver), FS North (Minnesota)

ABOUT THE NUGGETS (46-35): Denver center Nikola Jokic is driving the team forward and collected 15 points, 20 rebounds and 11 assists in Monday’s win for his second straight triple-double and 10th of the season. The 23-year-old is averaging 23.7 points, 16 rebounds and 8.2 assists during the six-game winning streak but suffered through his worst shooting night of the stretch in a 100-96 home win over Minnesota on Thursday, when he went 6-of-20 from the floor. Shooting guard Gary Harris missed that meeting with a knee injury but returned from an 11-game absence on Monday and eased back into the rotation with 12 points in 18 minutes off the bench.

ABOUT THE TIMBERWOLVES (46-35): Minnesota picked up wins in the last two games, coinciding with Butler’s return from knee surgery. The veteran swingman played 23 minutes against the Lakers and the Grizzlies and averaged 16.5 points while going a combined 10-of-18 from the floor, and he was not afraid to call out his team after it fell behind the lowly Grizzlies by 10 points in the first half on Monday. “We were just playing soft,” Butler told reporter. “We tend to do that from time to time. Whenever we play hard, good things happen.”

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Timberwolves PF Taj Gibson (neck) was limited to eight minutes on Monday and is questionable for Wednesday.

2. Nuggets SF Will Barton is averaging 20.3 points during the winning streak, raising his season mark to 15.6.

3. Denver snapped a four-game losing streak in the series with Thursday’s win and is looking for its first victory at Minnesota since Nov. 3, 2016.

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Posted in NBA

Celtics at Wizards Preview

The Washington Wizards are lacking momentum entering the postseason and will look to end a four-game losing streak when they host the Boston Celtics on Tuesday. Washington’s troubles go back nearly six weeks as it has lost eight of its last 10 games and 13 of the past 19.

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The Wizards’ issues were on full display in Friday’s 103-97 home loss to the lowly Atlanta Hawks, when they shot 40.2 percent from the field and coach Scott Brooks all but called his team selfish. “Nobody wanted to share the basketball,” Brooks told reporters. “It’s a simple game: you pass it to your teammate, you pass it because the game tells you. If you don’t pass to your teammates, you’re not going to end up getting good shots.” Boston also lost to Atlanta in its most recent outing, blowing a 13-point, fourth-quarter lead on Sunday while suffering a 112-106 setback that represented its third loss in the past four games. “We just have to finish the game,” backup center Greg Monroe told reporters. “I think from our side it was a sloppy game. We have to be better on the pick-and-roll, guarding the ball. They got too many easy layups at the rim so we got to be better.”

TV:
 8 p.m. ET, TNT, NBCS Boston

ABOUT THE CELTICS (54-26): Monroe is averaging 17.7 points over the past three games and even recorded the second triple-double of his eight-year career in Friday’s victory over the Chicago Bulls. Boston sees the 6-foot-11 Monroe as a valuable contributor in the upcoming postseason as the inside game will be more important with star outside shooter Kyrie Irving (knee) done for the season. “We need him to play well,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters of a player who averaged more than 15 points per game in five different seasons. “I think the biggest thing – obviously we’re going into the playoffs with less people on our roster, and down some guys. The bench play is going to be huge for us.”

ABOUT THE WIZARDS (42-38): Shooting guard Bradley Beal scored 32 points and was the only Washington starter to score more than 10 against the Hawks. Point guard John Wall sat out to rest his surgically repaired knee – he has played three games since returning – while too many of his teammates were looking tried and worn out. “It’s playoff time, we can’t be fatigued,” small forward Otto Porter Jr. told reporters. “We’ve been playing all year, and it’s playoffs. You have to step it up this next week. We have one more week to get ready.”

BUZZER BEATERS

1. The Wizards are 2-1 against the Celtics this season but it was Boston that won in the earlier meeting at Washington – 110-104 in overtime on Feb. 8.

2. Boston PG Terry Rozier is 8-of-26 shooting over the past three games.

3. Washington backup C Ian Mahinmi (concussion) will likely miss his second straight game.

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Thunder at Heat Preview

The Oklahoma City Thunder earned a huge win in their bid for a spot in the Western Conference playoffs by knocking off the top-seeded Houston Rockets on Saturday, but there is still work to be done. The Thunder will try to get a step closer to the postseason and post back-to-back wins when they visit the Miami Heat on Monday.

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Oklahoma City is in a three-way tie for the No. 5 spot in the West entering play on Sunday but is just one game ahead of the ninth-place Denver Nuggets with two games left in the regular season. “Just better not lose,” All-Star forward Paul George told reporters. “That’s what it comes down to. We better not lose. We control our destiny at this point, but we’ve got to have the mindset that we need these wins. We’ve got to come out and play our game, and that’s always been good enough for us.” The Thunder get lowly Memphis at home in the season finale on Wednesday but could get a challenge from the Heat, who are among three teams that seem to be fighting over the No. 7 spot in the East and the right to face the injury-depleted Boston Celtics in the first round. “You want to go into the playoffs on a high note, you don’t want to be losing three in a row,” Miami guard Dwyane Wade told reporters after a 122-98 loss to the lowly New York Knicks on Friday. “You want to definitely go in winning and feeling good about yourself. The seeds, whatever happens at the end of the day from seeds standpoint, is what it is. We’re at the bottom we’re going to play a Goliath team anyway. It really doesn’t matter. We want to continue to play good basketball.”

TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, FS Oklahoma, FS Sun (Miami)

ABOUT THE THUNDER (46-34): Oklahoma City outscored Houston 28-19 in the fourth quarter on Saturday as Russell Westbrook led a strong defensive effort by locking down MVP candidate James Harden. “Our communication was at an all-time high tonight, throughout the whole game and especially throughout that fourth quarter when it was time to get stops and make plays,” forward Carmelo Anthony told reporters. “We competed, we talked it out and we made plays when we had to.” Anthony contributed 22 points on 7-of-14 shooting in the win after going 4-of-16 in a loss to the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday.

ABOUT THE HEAT (43-37): Miami coach Erik Spoelstra would like to see his team playing well as they head into the playoffs and was not pleased with the effort against the Knicks. “I don’t want to take away from what they did. They played a great game,” Spoelstra told reporters of New York. “But the best way to say it is all across the board we were a no-show. I hardly recognized our team tonight compared to who we’ve been and how we’ve been playing.” The Heat, who allowed the Knicks to knock down 18 3-pointers on Friday, finish up the regular season by hosting the East-best Toronto Raptors on Wednesday.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Thunder PF Jerami Grant is 15-of-21 from the floor over the last four contests.

2. Heat PG Goran Dragic is shooting 53.3 percent from the field over his last five games.

3. Oklahoma City took the last four in the series, including a 105-99 home win on March 23.

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Warriors at Pacers preview

The Indiana Pacers slipped just a bit in their quest for homecourt advantage in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, and now the schedule is working against them. The Pacers will make a brief stop at home on Thursday to host the defending champion Golden State Warriors before heading back out to visit East-leading Toronto on Friday.

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Indiana is two games behind red-hot Philadelphia and Cleveland in the battle for third and fourth places in the East after dropping a 107-104 decision at Denver on Tuesday to finish a West Coast trip 3-1. “I mean, we’ve been in those types of games many times and we’ve won, just tonight we kind of came up short,” Pacers All-Star guard Victor Oladipo told reporters after the loss. “Confidence is still high, swagger is still high, we just have to continue to keep getting better.” The Warriors are rebuilding their own swagger despite continuing to deal with injuries and picked up their third consecutive win with a 111-107 triumph at Oklahoma City on Tuesday. Golden State is locked into the No. 2 seed in the West but will have an impact on seeding in both conferences with games remaining against Indiana, New Orleans and Utah.

7 p.m. ET, NBCS Bay Area (Golden State), FS Indiana

ABOUT THE WARRIORS (57-21): Golden State did not have Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green or Stephen Curry available during a 92-81 home loss to Indiana on March 27 but has since gotten all but Curry back on the floor. Durant is leading the way and posted a double-double in each of the last three contests, including 34 points in Tuesday’s triumph at Oklahoma City that came with Curry (knee), Andre Iguodala (knee), Omri Casspi (ankle), Shaun Livingston (personal) and Patrick McCaw (spine) sitting out. “It was a great win, short-handed and on the road against a good team fighting for playoff position,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters. “It’s a hell of a win, especially without all our guards. I loved how these guys played and competed.”

ABOUT THE PACERS (46-32): Indiana is fighting for homecourt in the first round but won’t be intimidated if it falls short after winning seven of its last 10 on the road. “I think it is going to make us road-tough and battle-tested,” forward Thaddeus Young told the team’s website. “It’s definitely prepping us for the task at hand, which is going to the playoffs and trying to get some games. I think we have been doing a good job of handling it. Just going out there and just playing as a team.” Young is picking up his level of play while averaging 16 points over the last six games, raising his season average to 12, while posting three double-doubles in that span.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Thompson is averaging 22.7 points in three games since returning from a thumb injury.

2. Pacers PG Darren Collison is 10-of-15 from the floor over the last two games, including 6-of-7 from beyond the arc.

3. Golden State won in its last two trips to Indiana, including a 120-83 drubbing in last season’s visit.

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Celtics at Raptors preview

The race for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference intensifies Wednesday when the first-place Toronto Raptors host the Boston Celtics. Both teams lost games Tuesday night, leaving them separated by two games with five to play, including this final encounter of the season series that will also determine the tiebreaker between the two teams.

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The Raptors have lost two in a row for the first time since mid-January and five of eight overall as they navigate a run of difficult opponents. “It’s good for us,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said Tuesday. “Last year we were playing against some teams that were so-called rebuilding and we were winning by 15-20 points. It did not get us ready for the playoffs. These games, playing against a good team like Cleveland, a good team like Boston will help us get ready, harden us, showing some things we need to be better in.” The Celtics saw their six-game winning streak snapped with a 106-102 loss at Milwaukee while operating with a limited roster as physical issues continue to pile up. Already without guards Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart, Boston chose to sit Terry Rozier (ankle) and Shane Larkin (illness) against the Bucks, giving G League player Kadeem Allen an unexpected start.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN, NBCS Boston, TSN 4/5 (Toronto)

ABOUT THE CELTICS (53-24): Irving is recovering from knee surgery and coach Brad Stevens said postgame that Tuesday’s team – plus Rozier and Larkin – would constitute the team’s active roster when the playoffs begin, eliminating any chance that Irving returns to begin the postseason. Jaylen Brown scored 24 points on Tuesday and the second-year pro has produced at least 19 in three of five games since returning from a concussion. Rookie Jayson Tatum, who had 24 points in the 110-99 win over Toronto at home on Saturday, added 20 versus the Bucks and is averaging 20.8 over his last four contests.

ABOUT THE RAPTORS (55-22): Kyle Lowry was limited to five points on 2-of-11 shooting in Tuesday’s loss and the All-Star is 6-for-24 over the last two games. “I played terrible,” Lowry – who traveled to San Antonio on Monday to watch his alma mater Villanova claim the NCAA championship – told reporters. “Just a bad game overall for me. I’ll take the ‘L’ on me.” DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors with 19 points after scoring 32 to go along with seven assists and seven rebounds in the loss at Boston.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. DeRozan averages 5.2 assists but has at least seven in four straight games.

2. Toronto PG Fred VanVleet is 20-of-36 from 3-point range over a six-game stretch.

3. The Celtics have a 2-1 season series lead but the Raptors rolled to a 20-point win in the one meeting in Toronto.

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Posted in NBA

Cavaliers at Thunder

The new-look Cleveland Cavaliers are off to a great start, and the fresh influx of players seems to be rejuvenating the team. The Cavaliers will try to earn their second win with Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., George Hill and Rodney Hood on board when they visit the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday.

Cleveland overhauled the roster at Thursday’s trade deadline and finally got the new players on the court together Sunday at Boston, just in time to demolish the Celtics in a 121-99 victory. “It started with George and his on-the-ball pressure and him just running the team,” LeBron James told reporters. “And then the three guys came off the bench. Jordan was — he’s ready to score at any time, but his composure was great. Rodney plays with so much poise, and Larry was just controlling the perimeter, setting great pick-and-rolls. Got him a lob, got him a dunk, so it was a good start for the new guys, a good start for all of us with our revamped team so far.” The Thunder revamped their team over the summer with the additions of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. Reigning MVP Russell Westbrook and Anthony both sat out Sunday with ankle injuries, but George was able to lead the way in a 110-92 win over Memphis.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT, FS Oklahoma

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ABOUT THE CAVALIERS (33-22): Hill, Clarkson and Hood combined to go 8-of-14 from 3-point range and Cleveland shot 53.6 percent from the floor against a Boston team that leads the NBA in field-goal percentage defense. “I thought our spirit was different,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue told reporters. “I didn’t know what the outcome would be. But I knew we would compete and play hard. Move the basketball and move bodies. Those guys are flying around, and it was good to see.” James was happy to play distributor for his new teammates and finished with 10 assists.

ABOUT THE THUNDER (32-25): George recorded 33 points and eight assists with Westbrook, Anthony and Andre Roberson (knee) out on Sunday. “It was fun to go out to battle with those guys, I think more so just doing it together with three of our soldiers down,” George told reporters. “It was fun to take on this challenge, to stay with that winning spirit here regardless of who’s in or who’s out.” Westbrook and Anthony were late scratches in each of the last two games and remain day-to-day while they continue treatment.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Cavaliers SG JR Smith is 14-of-24 from 3-point range over the last four games.

2. The Thunder tied a franchise record with 16 made 3-pointers on Sunday.

3. Oklahoma City cruised to a 148-124 win at Cleveland behind 36 points from George on Jan. 20.

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Posted in NBA

Celtics at Wizards

The Boston Celtics will try to bounce back from a rare blowout loss when they finish off a quick two-game road trip at the Washington Wizards on Thursday. Following four consecutive victories, the Celtics fell 111-91 at Toronto on Tuesday to see their lead in the Eastern Conference shrink to one game over the Raptors.

Kyrie Irving returned from a quad injury to score 17 points in 22 minutes for Boston, but the All-Star guard saw his team’s chances disappear during a 37-point first half. “We got hit tonight,” Irving told reporters. “When you get hit early and they consistently hit you, they buried us, which a good team should do.” The Wizards surprisingly won five straight after losing All-Star John Wall to a knee injury before falling flat in Philadelphia on Tuesday. Bradley Beal scored 30 points in the 115-102 loss to the 76ers and he is averaging 23.4 points on 50 percent shooting and 6.2 assists over his last five games.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT

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ABOUT THE CELTICS (39-16): Irving and Jaylen Brown combined to shoot 10-of-17 from the floor while the team’s three other starters – Al Horford, Jayson Tatum and Aron Baynes – had a collective 12 points on 6-of-22 shooting. “We looked slow, we looked like we weren’t ready to react to their speed or their physicality,” coach Brad Stevens told reporters. “I think that was probably the case the whole night.” Terry Rozier scored 18 points off the bench and is averaging 19.3 over a four-game span.

ABOUT THE WIZARDS (31-23): Wall, who is expected to miss six to eight weeks, managed to stay in the headlines with a response to some whispers that the team was better on offense without him. “It was funny to me at first, just to see some of the things that people were saying and certain type of comments,” he said in an interview on ESPN’s The Jump. “But I’ve seen these guys put in a lot of work every day, and we always say the motto is next man up no matter what. I think we moved the ball well early in the season, we just couldn’t make shots. And we couldn’t defend at all. I think now guys are stepping up and the first unit and second unit are playing very well. But it was kind of shocking to hear a couple people say the ball is moving a lot better, when that’s what I pride myself off of, being more happy when my teammates are scoring than I am.” Washington averaged 32.2 assists during the five-game winning streak before recording 23 against Philadelphia.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Beal’s 25 points led the Wizards in a 111-103 win at Boston on Christmas.

2. Horford was 1-for-5 from the floor at Toronto and shoots 46.2 percent on the road, compared to 55.1 at home.

3. Washington SF Kelly Oubre Jr. is 1-for-14 from beyond the arc over his last three contests.

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Posted in NBA

Thunder at Nuggets

The Oklahoma City Thunder had an eight-game losing streak come to an end with a 102-96 loss at the Washington Wizards on Tuesday, falling to 1-1 since losing defensive ace Andre Roberson for the remainder of the season. The Thunder will try to get back in the win column when the road trip skips west with a visit to the Denver Nuggets.

Oklahoma City was solid on the defensive end despite being without Roberson on Tuesday but were sloppy on the other end while committing a season-high 21 turnovers. “You know it was going to be a tough battle on the road. The difference in the game for us was I just didn’t think we executed great coming down the stretch. We had some opportunities,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan told reporters. “With the execution piece of it the last three or four minutes, I wish we would have gotten better shots, taken care of the ball a little bit better, did a better job of moving the ball and not turning it over.” The Nuggets are coming off back-to-back losses to two of the best teams in the NBA — the Boston Celtics and the San Antonio Spurs — by a total of three points. “Back-to-back tough losses,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone told reporters after falling 106-104 in San Antonio on Tuesday. “Those are always tough to swallow. But more importantly, big picture, I loved the fight that we had tonight. … If we continue to play like this, and compete and find ways to stay in games, we’re going to be a really good basketball team.”

TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, TNT, FS Oklahoma

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ABOUT THE THUNDER (30-21): Reigning MVP Russell Westbrook managed just 13 points and seven turnovers on Tuesday and watched fellow All-Star Paul George go scoreless in the fourth quarter. “That’s my bad. I take ownership in that, and take ownership in our loss tonight,” Westbrook told reporters. “I gotta do a better job of making sure I’m making the game easy for Paul and finding him and getting him a basket.” George finished with a team-high 28 points despite the slow final period and is averaging 27.8 points over the last six contests.

ABOUT THE NUGGETS (26-25): Shooting guard Will Barton got the call to take the final shot at the end of each of the last two games and missed 3-pointers in both, but he is using the disappointment as a learning experience. “It’s just building me up,” Barton told the Denver Post. “Moments like this, you’ve got to go through them to grow up. I’m happy I can even be in the NBA going through these types of things — things I dreamed of. I love it. I’ll be back.” Barton logged at least 39 minutes in each of the last four games and is sharing the heavy load with backcourt mates Jamal Murray and Gary Harris as Denver fights to stay above .500 during a four-game stretch that will see them face Boston, San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Golden State in consecutive games.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Thunder C Steven Adams recorded a double-double in seven of the last nine games.

2. Nuggets C Mason Plumlee (calf) sat out Tuesday and is not expected to play on Thursday.

3. The teams split the first two meetings this season, with Denver earning a 102-94 home win on Nov. 9.

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Posted in NBA