Lillard practices fully, Giannis still out of live drills

ESPN News Services

Apr 19, 2024, 04:39 PM ETOpen Extended Reactions

MILWAUKEE — Damian Lillard practiced fully but Giannis Antetokounmpo remained out of live drills Friday as the Milwaukee Bucks continued getting ready for Sunday’s playoff opener against the Indiana Pacers.

Lillard is dealing with a sore adductor that limited him the last weekend of the regular season, while Antetokounmpo missed the Bucks’ final three regular-season games with a strained left calf. Although Bucks president Peter Feigin told Milwaukee radio station WKLH that Antetokounmpo “definitely will not be back for Sunday,” coach Doc Rivers said he isn’t ready to rule the two-time MVP out for the start of the series.

“I don’t know yet,” Rivers said Friday. “We’re still hoping. He hasn’t done anything. Would we throw him out there? Yeah, we would. For us, still we’re not sure.”

Rivers said Antetokounmpo was in the gym Friday and did “walk-through stuff, but didn’t do anything

Brunson using season-ending turnover as fuel

Tim Bontemps, ESPNApr 19, 2024, 03:47 PM ET

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GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Ahead of the Knicks‘ playoff opener Saturday night at Madison Square Garden against the Philadelphia 76ers, star Jalen Brunson admitted he spent all summer thinking about his turnover in the closing moments of New York’s Game 6 loss to the Miami Heat last spring.

“A lot more than you would think,” Brunson said, when asked how much he has thought about that turnover, which came with under 20 seconds to go in the game and New York trailing by two.

Rather than getting up a potential game-tying — or go-ahead — shot, Brunson got stuck in a double-team on the baseline and wound up trying to force a pass to a cutting Julius Randle coming down the lane, which was stolen by Miami. And, instead of New York possibly sending

LeBron extols 'great' Jokic with matchup looming

Dave McMenamin, ESPN Staff WriterApr 19, 2024, 09:29 PM ET

CloseLakers and NBA reporter for ESPN. Covered the Lakers and NBA for from 2009-14, the Cavaliers from 2014-18 for and the NBA for from 2005-09.Open Extended Reactions

DENVER — On the eve of the start of his third playoff series against Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic in the past five years, LeBron James heaped praise on the two-time MVP, who is considered to be a front-runner to win the award a third time this season.

“He’s one of the best players to ever play this game,” James said after the Los Angeles Lakers’ practice Friday afternoon at Ball Arena. “It’s that simple.”

James has tangled with his fair share of greats in past postseasons: four straight NBA Finals against Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors; three Finals against Tim Duncan

Coban Porter, brother of Nuggets star, sentenced

Myron Medcalf, ESPN Staff WriterApr 19, 2024, 04:08 PM ET

Close Covers college basketball Joined in 2011 Graduate of Minnesota State University, Mankato

Coban Porter, the younger brother of Denver Nuggets star Michael Porter Jr., was sentenced Friday to six years in prison for a drunken driving crash that killed a woman in Colorado last year.

The January 2023 crash in Denver killed Kathy Limon Rothman and seriously injured her passenger. Porter, who caused the crash after he ran a red light and slammed into the other vehicle, received an additional two-year sentence for the passenger’s injuries that he will serve concurrently.

According to The Denver Post, prosecutors on Friday said Porter was speeding and had a blood alcohol level of .19, more than twice the legal limit of .08.

Porter had pleaded guilty in February to vehicular homicide and vehicular assault as part of a plea agreement

'Inspiring' Bam, Heat shift focus from Bulls to C's

Israel Gutierrez, ESPN Staff WriterApr 19, 2024, 09:44 PM ET

CloseIsrael Gutierrez is an NBA writer for Extended Reactions

MIAMI — The atypical 8-seed is back.

The Miami Heat, who last year ran through the Eastern Conference playoffs as the lowest seed, earned the eighth spot again after beating the Chicago Bulls, the same team Miami defeated to earn last season’s final playoff berth.

The victory sets up a first-round clash with the 64-win Boston Celtics, the team Miami beat in seven games in last year’s Eastern finals and the one it has faced in three of the past four conference finals.

The 2023-24 regular season is complete and the postseason has arrived. We’ve got everything you need to get ready for another epic title chase.

What to know about every team
Why Nuggets are a bad matchup for Lakers
Windhorst: 20 players

Jonas Valanciunas is the top scorer in Play-In Tournament history

By | April 20, 2024

What’s the buzz on Twitter? Jim Eichenhofer @Jim_Eichenhofer
Larry Nance Jr. on Jonas Valanciunas, who has played in all 84 New Orleans games this season: “JV is one of my favorite teammates I’ve ever had. He puts his hard hat on every night.” – 12:36 AM Oleh Kosel @OlehKosel
Jonas Valanciunas is making his presence felt all over the floor in a fourth quarter.
Feels like it’s been too long, but he’s picked a great night. – 11:38 PM Oleh Kosel @OlehKosel
Brandon Ingram and Willie Green watched the replay of

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NBA playoff predictions: Ranking the Top 16 players for the 2024 postseason

By | April 20, 2024

It’s here, the moment basketball fans all over the world have been waiting for: the 2024 NBA playoffs.

Today, we’re going to take a shot at predicting who the best players in the 2024 postseason will be. To do so, we weighed in how well we expect them to play, how far we expect their teams to go and how healthy we expect these players to be.

(A few superstars got docked quite a few spots for entering postseason play with a poor bill of health.)

With all those things considered, this was no easy exercise. Check out the results below.

Nikola Jokic (Denver)

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The best basketball player in the world today, two-time league MVP Nikola

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Brandon Ingram, Jonas Valanciunas lift Pelicans past Kings, into the playoffs

Brandon Ingram scored 24 points, Jonas Valanciunas added 19 points and 12 rebounds, and the New Orleans Pelicans booked a spot in the NBA playoffs with a 105-98 victory over the Sacramento Kings in a play-in tournament elimination game on Friday night.

The Pelicans won without leading-scorer Zion Williamson, who strained his left hamstring right as he reached the 40-point mark in a play-in loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night.

Undaunted, New Orleans used a balanced approach to improve to 8-5 this season without Williamson in the lineup. Six players scored 10 or more points, including reserves Larry Nance Jr. (13), Naji Marshall (11) and Jose Alvarado (10).

Trey Murphy III, starting because of Williamson’s absence, added 16 points for New Orleans.

Domantas Sabonis had 23 points and 14 rebounds.

The game was a test of the Pelicans’ ability to handle the pressure of a do-or-die game after squandering two previous chances to lock up a playoff berth at home.

New Orleans lost to the Lakers in their regular-season finale on Sunday, missing a chance to lock up the sixth seed, before losing again to the Lakers on Tuesday. The Pelicans entered their matchup with the Kings facing the possibility of becoming the first 49-win team in more than 50 years (Phoenix in 1972) to miss the NBA playoffs.

Instead, New Orleans improved to 6-0 against Sacramento this season, becoming the first team to go 6-0 in a season (without a playoff series) against an opponent since Denver against Minnesota in 1994-95.

The Pelicans also prolonged a streak of No. 7 seeds never missing the playoffs since the play-in tournament was adopted by the NBA in 2020. Because of their loss to the Lakers on Tuesday, the Pelicans will open the playoffs as an eighth seed on Sunday at top-seeded Oklahoma City.

The Pelicans were sloppy early, committing six first-quarter turnovers that led to 11 Kings points. Sacramento led 24-17 after a turnover by Herb Jones led to a layup by Fox, who scored 18 points in the first half.

McCollum’s reverse layup and Murphy’s 3 helped the Pelicans quickly close the gap, and New Orleans built a 13-point lead in the second quarter.

Marshall gave the Pelicans a jolt with a 3 and a steal from Keegan Murray that he converted into a breakaway dunk. Murray appeared to hurt himself when he fell while losing the ball, and went to the locker room shortly after.

That development further thinned the depth of a Kings squad already missing Malik Monk (right knee) and Kevin Huerter (left shoulder).

Valanciunas’ short hook shot and Ingram’s layup put the Pelicans up 53-40 late in the half before Fox’s 3 helped the Kings trim it to 54-45 at halftime.

Reporting by The Associated Press.

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