Today is Sunday, April 22, 2018.
|Sunday, April 22, 2018|
|National Basketball Assoc.|
|Cavaliers||vs.||Pacers||8:30 (EDT) Preview|
Cavs hope to even series with Pacers
Sunday, April 22 at 12:08 PM (EDT)
LeBron James has been in this playoff position before, just not in the first round.
With Cleveland down 2-1 to the Indiana Pacers in the first round, James was asked if Game 4 in Indianapolis Sunday was a must win.
"It's the postseason," said James, who is 10-0 in his career in first-round playoff series with Cleveland and Miami. "Every game is a must win. You want to come in and play well and win no matter what. No matter if you have home-court advantage or if you're starting on the road, that's the mindset you have to have. I felt like (Friday) was a must win. We didn't win, obviously, but it's the same mindset on Sunday."
James, who scored 28 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and delivered eight assists in a 92-90 road loss Friday night, rejected what he felt were reporters' attempts to ask if the other players needed to do more.
"You guys think I'm going to throw my teammates under the bus? I'm not about that," James said. "Guys just, we have to be better, including myself. Had six turnovers (Friday). I was horrible in the third quarter, couldn't make a shot. If I had made some better plays in the third quarter, the lead doesn't skip."
The Pacers cut a 17-point halftime deficit to six points in the third quarter and finally took their first lead in the fourth quarter.
"We know we all gotta play better as a collective group, no matter who it is," James said. "We got production to start the game and in the second half there wasn't much production. We still had a chance to win. We've got to regroup and figure how we can be better in Game 4."
Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said the Cavaliers were limited because George Hill's back "locked up" in the second half. Hill played only nine minutes in the second half, scoring two of his 13 points. Lue used James and Jordan Clarkson rather than backup point guard Jose Calderon in the fourth quarter. If Hill can't go Sunday, Lue said he will likely start Calderon.
Hill had an MRI on Saturday, but the results weren't back. He is listed as questionable for Game 4 with back spasms. Hill was hurt during Game 1 when Trevor Booker set a back screen and felt stiffness before Game 2, but played 20 minutes.
For the Pacers, Bojan Bogdanovic was the difference maker, scoring 15 of his team-high 30 points in the fourth quarter. Bogdanovic struggled shooting the first two games of the series.
Bogdanovic, who made 7 of 9 3-pointers, kept his focus after two quick fouls in the first quarter and had to leave briefly in the fourth when he picked up his fifth foul. The seven 3-pointers tied a franchise playoff record, also held by Reggie Miller twice, Chuck Person and Paul George.
"I thought it was going to be another poor performance from myself, but in the second half I started hitting shots and started feeling (much) better and I think a did a great job (Friday night)," the Croatian forward said.
Bogdanovic said he was most pleased with his defense against James.
"Everybody thought before this season that I cannot play defense," he said. "I don't say that I am playing great defense, but I am working hard at trying to make it tough for each offensive player that I am guarding."
Bogdanovic said he tries to push James so he catches the ball far from the basket.
"Against those type of players you just try to stay aggressive on them," Bogdanovic said.
Pacers coach Nate McMillan was impressed with his ability to produce both ways.
"You're taking a pounding if you're on the defensive end of the floor if you're guarding LeBron," McMillan said. "But offensively he found some energy. He got some good looks and he knocked them down."
The Pacers came back to win eight times during the regular season after being down 15 or more points.
"We've been resilient," guard Victor Oladipo said. "We made an adjustment in the second half and it helped us. But it's only one game; I'm looking forward to Sunday."
Bucks hope to stay on roll versus Celtics
Sunday, April 22 at 12:09 PM (EDT)
MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee Bucks showed signs of life Friday night in Game 3 of their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series with the Boston Celtics.
They'll try evening the best-of-seven showdown at two games apiece when they welcome the Celtics to Bradley Center on Sunday afternoon for Game 4.
Milwaukee avoided falling into a 3-0 hole thanks to a dominant effort from its bench, which was largely a non-factor through the first two games.
Jabari Parker was the biggest surprise of that group. He'd played only 25 minutes and scored two points through the first two games, leading him to suggest he wasn't on his coach's "good side" and expressing frustration and disappointment with his lack of playing time.
Given a chance in Game 3, Parker hit 7 of 12 shots for 17 points and grabbed five rebounds while playing 30 minutes.
Thon Maker had 14 points and a career-best five blocks, and Matthew Dellavedova dished out four assists and provided the defensive pressure necessary to keep Boston point guard Terry Rozier in check.
Rozier scored 23 points in each of the first two games in the series but was held to nine Friday night. He hadn't committed a turnover in 78 minutes through the first two games but had with five in Game 3 as Milwaukee rolled to a 116-92 victory.
"They came out together as a team," Rozier said. "They punched us in the mouth early. We gotta do a better job of responding on Sunday, and we will."
Milwaukee's defensive pressure held Boston to 40 percent shooting and an 8-of-24 showing from beyond the arc. The Celtics maintained their dominance on the offensive glass, grabbing 17 boards, but after being burned in the first two games, Milwaukee limited Boston to 18 second-chance points and only gave up nine points off nine turnovers after committing 35 combined in Games 1 and 2.
"We realized how important this game was," Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo said. "I think everyone brought their 'A' game, they brought their energy. Game 2, we didn't do a good job rebounding the ball or taking care of the ball. I think we did a great job of doing that (tonight). It takes effort to rebound, so I think everybody brought effort and hopefully we can carry that on to Game 4."
Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton had almost all of Milwaukee's scoring through the first two games, and while the bench stepped up Friday with 50 points, the Bucks will also need another strong showing from Eric Bledsoe if they want to avoid going back to Boston in a 3-1 hole.
Bledsoe had been flustered by Rozier before snapping out of the funk with 17 points on 8-of-13 shooting. He missed all three of his 3-point attempts, but the Bucks still finished with a franchise postseason-record 16, and he was much more efficient with the ball, committing only one turnover.
Celtics forward Marcus Morris was fined $15,000 by the league for criticizing the officials after Friday's game. Morris scored seven points, was 2 of 8 from the field and had a team-worst minus-20.
|Warriors||vs.||Spurs||3:30 (EDT) Preview|
Spurs need reversal of fortune to beat Warriors
Saturday, April 21 at 7:14 PM (EDT)
Nothing much has gone right for the San Antonio Spurs in the first three games -- all definitive losses -- to the Golden State Warriors in their Western Conference first-round playoff series.
Now, with the prospect of a second consecutive four-game playoff sweep by Golden State, everything has to go right for the Spurs to even extend the series past Sunday afternoon's Game 4 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio.
San Antonio will be behind the eight ball even before the game tips off as the team announced Saturday that coach Gregg Popovich will again be missing from the sidelines as he remains with his family in the aftermath of his wife's death Wednesday.
Popovich did not coach the Spurs during their 110-97 loss to Golden State in Game 3 on Thursday, handing those duties over to first assistant Ettore Messina.
Messina will also be at the helm Sunday as San Antonio tries to stay alive and push the series to a fifth game Tuesday in Oakland. But even those chances are slim, and it's all but a given that the Warriors will win the series and move on to the conference semifinals.
The Spurs lost Thursday because they didn't shoot well, a theme throughout the first three games of the series. San Antonio shot 42.5 percent from the field and made only 7 of 33 from 3-point range. That poor performance from beyond the arc came after a 4-for-28 showing from long distance in Game 2 on Monday.
"Our guys focused in and we came in and we played," said Spurs All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who led the team in Game 3 with 18 points and 10 rebounds. "It's been the same thing. We just aren't making shots that are there.
"They're (Warriors) doubling and doing their things. We have open shots, but they just aren't going in. Our guys are competing, following the game plan, and trying to give ourselves a shot, but when don't make shots, it's always tough."
Tony Parker added 16 points off the bench for San Antonio in Game 3, bit most of those points came in garbage time, when things were already out of hand.
The teams could not have had a more contrasting series over the first three games, as for everything the Spurs have done wrong, Golden State has done right. It's been a totally dominating performance so far for the defending NBA champions, even without guard Stephen Curry -- who is out rehabbing a knee injury.
Kevin Durant led the Warriors in Game 3 with 26 points on 9-for-17 shooting, nine rebounds and six assists. Klay Thompson added 19 points, and Shawn Livingston hit for 16. In all, six players scored in double figures for Golden State.
Thompson said the Warriors' success in the first three games has been predicated on their willingness to go the extra mile on defense.
"We rely on our defense when we're not making shots," Thompson said. "Our defense can be a constant for us and dictate how far you play. If we get open looks, they're eventually going to fall."
Durant and Livingston rolled their ankles in the fourth quarter of Game 3, adding some suspense, at least on the injury front, for Sunday's game.
"They're going to be OK," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of Durant and Livingston. "Shaun's was probably a little worse than Kevin's. Both sprained ankles, but I think they'll be all right."
|Raptors||vs.||Wizards||6:00 (EDT) Preview|
Wizards would like repeat of Game 3 against Raptors
Sunday, April 22 at 12:10 PM (EDT)
WASHINGTON -- The Wizards' All-Star duo turned in star performances Friday night and now Washington has a chance to even its first-round series with the top-seeded Toronto Raptors on Sunday at Capital One Arena.
John Wall and Bradley Beal scored 28 points apiece, Wall added 14 assists and Wizards turned in a cocky, aggressive effort to get back in the series with a 122-103 Game 3 victory.
The Wizards will go for their eighth straight home playoff win Sunday.
"We came out tonight with an edge about ourselves," Beal told thesportscapital.com. "We've got to protect our home floor. Toronto did what they were supposed to do. They won on their home floor. We had to do the same."
Beal rebounded from a 3-of-11 effort (nine points) in Game 2, scoring 21 first-half points as Washington built an eight-point lead at intermission it never relinquished.
"For the most part, I just wanted to be aggressive and get shots I want versus what they're going to force me to take," Beal told The Washington Post.
Beal and Wall combined for 22-of-42 shooting and 10 rebounds.
"When they play at that level, they are really good," Raptors guard Kyle Lowry told the Toronto Sun regarding the Wall-Beal tandem. "They are the heads of the snake, and we've got to cut them off."
The Wizards outshot the Raptors 55.3 percent to 45.1 percent in an intense, chippy game that featured several altercations.
But the bigger problem for Toronto was holding on to the ball.
"You can't turn the ball over 19 times for 28 points," Toronto coach Dwane Casey told the Globe and Mail. "Your hat has to go off to Washington; they came out and punched us and we allowed them to. Nineteen turnovers, they shoot 55 percent, that's the ballgame."
The Raptors continue to miss reserve guard Fred VanVleet. For the second game in a row, the Washington bench outscored the Raptors' vaunted second unit, this time 35-32.
Toronto's C.J. Miles converted 8 of 13 3-point attempts in the first two games, but a tighter Washington defense held him to 1 of 5 on Friday night.
"I think we have to be more aggressive," Raptors reserve Pascal Siakam told the Sun regarding the Wizards' bench. "They were ready tonight and they took us out of what we wanted to do. We have to be ready when we come out and make sure we throw the first punch."
Washington reserves Mike Scott and Kelly Oubre Jr. scored 12 points apiece.
There had been talk of the Wizards shaking up their lineup after Game 2, but coach Scott Brooks stuck with his regulars, saying before the game that he was "confident in the group."
Center Marcin Gortat -- minus his mohawk -- rewarded him with 16 points on 8-of-10 shooting and five rebounds in front of the home crowd.
"Playing on the road the first two games kind of caught us off guard," Washington's Markieff Morris told thesportscapital.com. "We came back home and settled down. Got the first win. Try to get the one on Sunday and then move on from there."
Washington is looking for a partial repeat of history. Last year, it dropped the first two games of the Eastern Conference semifinals in Boston before winning Games 3 and 4 in Washington.
The Capitals ultimately won Game 6 at home before dropping Game 7 in Boston.
|Saturday, April 21, 2018|
|National Basketball Assoc.|
Rubio's triple-double leads Jazz past Thunder 115-102
By MATTHEW COLES - Associated Press
Sunday, April 22 at 2:10 AM (EDT)
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Ricky Rubio waited seven years for a night like this.
Rubio, who never reached the playoffs in his first six seasons with Minnesota, had 26 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for Utah's first playoff triple-double in 17 years to help lead the Jazz to a 115-102 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday night.
''We were down by 10 ... and I just changed my mentality, trying to be more aggressive and make some shots,'' Rubio said. ''We made a run and it helps a lot when you're making shots and it felt great.''
At one point, Rubio walked toward half-court with his arms outstretched, drinking in the deafening roar and subsequent ''RU-BI-O! RU-BI-O!'' chants from the fans.
Donovan Mitchell added 22 points for Utah, which took a 2-1 lead in its first-round series with Oklahoma City.
Rubio has never been known as a knockdown shooter, but his recent accuracy has opened new opportunities for his playmaking.
''Ricky attacked,'' Utah coach Quin Snyder. ''He attacked, but with poise and he was making some shots. I thought he took good shots and it really stabilized our group.''
The Spaniard has previously recorded five triple-doubles in his career and has played in big EuroLeague and Olympic games, but different than the energy and pressure of the NBA playoffs.
''He was on, in so many ways,'' Mitchell said.
Joe Ingles, who had 21 points, made two 3-pointers around two free throws to spark a 13-0 surge that ended on Mitchell's 3 to put Utah up by 20 points in the fourth quarter. The big run was just par for the course in a series characterized by large runs by one team, then countered by the other.
Rubio's triple-double was the first by a Jazz player in the postseason since John Stockton in the 2001 playoffs against Dallas.
''Having my name next to his name is an honor,'' Rubio said of joining the Hall of Famer in making franchise history. ''I have huge respect for him.''
Paul George scored 23 points and Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook and Raymond Felton each had 14 for the Thunder. Westbrook also had 11 rebounds and nine assists, just missing his ninth playoff triple-double but also had eight turnovers and shot 5 for 17.
Rudy Gobert's dunk and pair of free throws capped a 9-0 run in the third quarter to give Utah an 84-70 lead. Minutes later, Rubio hit a running 28-foot 3-pointer to make it 89-75 entering the final period.
The Jazz changed coverages on Westbrook throughout the game and surprised the perennial All-Star with different players in his expected passing lanes.
Utah also outrebounded the Thunder 48-33 and seemed much quicker to the loose balls in the midst of a charged atmosphere. The Jazz's hustle plays energized the packed arena festooned in the colors of Southern Utah - red, orange and yellow.
With Utah trailing 47-43, Rubio scored 10 consecutive Jazz points and his 3-pointer and subsequent three free throws gave Utah a 53-49 lead.
Rubio, playing just his third playoff game in his seven-year NBA career, had 19 at the half and the Jazz led 58-53.
The Thunder, shot 16 for 24 on field goals and 7 for 11 on 3s, to lead 45-33 on Westbrook's layup with 7:26 left in the second quarter.
Asked if the Rubio might have an encore in Game 4, Westbrook defiantly declared that he would shut down any chance of that happening.
''Guarantee that!'' Westbrook said.
Thunder: Oklahoma City was outscored 30-14 after Adams sat down with his third foul early in the second quarter. ... Both Adams and Mitchell picked up their fourth fouls in the first half of the third quarter. ... Adams finished with two rebounds. ... The Thunder shot 14 for 28 from 3-point range.
Jazz: Utah started the game by converting nine of its first 10 shots, then missed eight of the next nine. ... Royce O'Neale and George each got technicals for some pushing and words early in the fourth quarter. ... Carlos Boozer had the last triple-double for the Jazz in 2008, but it came in the regular season. ... Utah had 19 second-chance points to the Thunder's eight.
Ingles, who was a primary cog in Utah's offense as the Jazz got better and better throughout the season, was nearly invisible in the first two games against the defense of George. After only 16 total points and three assists in Oklahoma City, Ingles provided the offensive firepower down the stretch. ''I thought Joe just had a more aggressive mindset tonight,'' Snyder said. ''Joe just threw himself into the defensive end as well. When you do that, your offense kind of comes more naturally.''
WESTBROOK OUT OF SORTS?
Westbrook didn't take a shot in the fourth quarter, but said he doesn't have any specific physical injury. Some of his eight turnovers happened when he was headed to the rim with Gobert looming. ''I'm getting in trouble jumping in the air and getting caught,'' he said. Perhaps Gobert's defensive presence is making one of the game's most instinctive players think twice. ''I just try to make them think. Everyone in the league knows that I protect the rim. I know that they know,'' Gobert said.
Rubio arrived at the arena Saturday wearing a sweatshirt with the `Friends' sitcom logo. A team that emphasizes ''connectivity'', the Jazz moved in concert on offense and passes - even long skip passes - arrived in shooters' sweet spots ready for launch. In the postgame press conference, Rubio joked that he knew he was close to a triple-double, but Ingles missed a layup on purpose to thwart his effort. ''Luckily, I have Rudy Gobert on my team, too, and he made his shot,'' Rubio said.
Game 4 is Monday night in Salt Lake City.
76ers take control, top Heat 106-102 for 3-1 series lead
By TIM REYNOLDS - AP Basketball Writer
Saturday, April 21 at 6:26 PM (EDT)
MIAMI (AP) Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid certainly aren't acting like playoff first-timers, and JJ Redick provided the veteran leadership that Philadelphia so desperately needed.
The 76ers might very well be the NBA's team of the future.
And that future might be starting sooner than many envisioned.
Simmons was the first rookie to since Magic Johnson in 1980 to have a playoff triple-double, Redick led Philadelphia with 24 points and the 76ers moved one win from the second round by topping the Miami Heat 106-102 on Saturday to take a 3-1 lead in their Eastern Conference first-round series.
''I'm shocked that we won this game,'' 76ers coach Brett Brown said. ''We really didn't have a right to win the game.''
Here's why he said that: His team turned the ball over 27 times, shot 7 for 31 from 3-point range and trailed by 12 late in the third quarter in an extremely hostile environment against a desperate opponent.
Despite it all, the 76ers were unfazed.
Philadelphia turned a 10-point deficit into a seven-point lead with a 19-2 run that ended midway through the fourth quarter, then absorbed the best shot Dwyane Wade could throw at the 76ers in the final minutes before heading home with a chance to close the Heat out in Game 5 on Tuesday.
Wade led all scorers with 25 points off the Heat bench, 12 of them coming in the fourth. But it wasn't enough.
''They don't let you off the hook,'' Wade said, tipping his cap to the 76ers. ''You make one mistake, or you take your foot off the gas for one second, they make you pay.''
Wade doesn't have a contract for next season. He's said if he plays, he'll be back with Miami - though there's no guarantees.
And that means Saturday might have been his last home game in a Heat uniform. If he knows what the future holds, he didn't offer any hints.
''I'm focused on the next game, trying to win that one,'' Wade said.
Simmons became the first rookie since Magic Johnson in 1980 to post a playoff triple-double - 17 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists. Joel Embiid finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds for Philadelphia.
''We took care of business,'' Embiid said.
Wade carried the comeback effort, with the Heat down six and less than 2 minutes left. His three-point play cut the margin in half and his next two field goals got Miami within one each time.
The Heat got no closer.
Goran Dragic scored 20, James Johnson had 15 and Hassan Whiteside finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds for Miami, which now needs to pull off some history. The Heat have erased a 3-1 deficit only once, in 1997 against New York.
''We all feel that we're this close,'' said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, holding his thumb and index finger maybe a millimeter apart. ''That's what makes this game tough. They made bigger plays than us in the fourth quarter.''
Miami held slim leads at the half - 2-0 in players who went to the locker room injured, 4-0 in stitches received, 61-56 on the scoreboard.
A wild scene was the story of the second quarter. Philadelphia's Dario Saric was driving from the right wing and had his dribble knocked away by Justise Winslow, and four players wound up on the floor as they went for the loose ball. Josh Richardson took the worst of it, getting slammed into by Embiid. Richardson stayed down for more than a minute, eventually getting helped to his feet and to the Miami locker room.
Hardly anyone noticed.
All eyes were on the other end, where Dragic was shoved to the floor by Robert Covington. James Johnson - a black belt and MMA fighter - took exception and went toward Covington, so Simmons came in for a few words.
''He was protecting his guy,'' Covington said of Johnson.
''Physical, competitive basketball,'' Spoelstra called it all.
The 76ers kept hitting Miami in the second half too, albeit on the scoreboard. And now Tuesday awaits, with Philadelphia - coming off a Super Bowl title and Villanova's NCAA crown - on the brink of another celebration.
''We've got to finish it,'' Simmons said.
76ers: Embiid went out for a play in the fourth quarter without his mask, drawing a foul, then getting the mask back on. ... Philadelphia finished with 27 turnovers, 17 of those in the first half - after not having more than 14 in any of the first three games of the series.
Heat: Winslow needed four stitches and Richardson bruised his left shoulder in the second-quarter physicality. ... Richardson had a Heat playoff record seven steals. ... Miami started 1 for 6 from the foul line, and finished 13 for 25.
Philadelphia dominated the backboards, 57-43 and extending possessions time and time again with 17 offensive rebounds.
Philadelphia has outscored Miami after halftime in all four games: 74-43 in Game 1, 61-57 in Game 2, 65-44 in Game 3 and 50-41 on Saturday.
Game 5 is Tuesday night in Philadelphia.
Davis' 47 points leads Pelicans to sweep of Trail Blazers
By BRETT MARTEL - AP Sports Writer
Saturday, April 21 at 10:50 PM (EDT)
NEW ORLEANS (AP) Anthony Davis sat on the court, a scowl on his face and his biceps flexed on each side of his head.
The Pelicans All-Star had just converted a layup as he fell to the court after a hard foul. His strength-projecting celebration afterward was that of a franchise player determined to lay the foundation of his playoff legacy with a dominant performance in the clutch.
''In a close-out game and then the magnitude of the situation, this is probably the best game he's played since I've been here,'' Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. ''He just was not going to let us lose.''
Davis scored 33 of his franchise playoff-record 47 points in the second half - including 12 points in the final five minutes - and New Orleans completed a first-round playoff sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers with a 131-123 victory on Saturday night.
''It was fun,'' Davis said. ''It was an amazing feeling for me to go out and sweep these guys and play the way that I played.''
And when Davis wasn't devastating the Blazers, Jrue Holiday was giving Portland fits with explosive drives or pull-up jumpers. Holiday capped his 41-point night with an 18-footer that gave the Pelicans a six-point lead with 40 seconds left.
Rajon Rondo had 16 assists, and Davis also had 11 rebounds and three blocks for New Orleans, which is moving on to the second round of the playoffs for only the second time since the NBA returned to the city 16 seasons ago.
Rondo has said he came to New Orleans to play with what he viewed as the best ''Big Three'' in the NBA - Davis, Holiday and DeMarcus Cousins. Misfortune struck Cousins in late January, when he was lost for the season to a left Achilles tear. Davis and Holiday had to raise their games, and have come through beyond expectations.
Portland never gave up, trimming a 15-point second-half deficit to a single point on Al-Farouq Aminu's layup with 5:08 to go, but Davis responded with 12 points over the final 4:56, staring with a layup as he was fouled and a 3-pointer. Holiday scored six points during the final 2:52, starting with his 3-pointer. The pair combined for all but one of New Orleans' points during that pivotal stretch.
''You put the ball in these two guys' hands and they delivered for us,'' Rondo said. ''I couldn't ask for a better duo right now, especially at the time of the game where we needed to get the ball in the hole.''
C.J. McCollum scored 38 for the Trail Blazers, who responded to a blowout loss in Game 3 by keeping Game 4 close until the final minute. Aminu scored 27, Damian Lillard added 19 points and Jusuf Nurkic had 18 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out.
The sweep represented a quick, unceremonious and somewhat surprising end to a season that saw the Blazers climb to third in the Western Conference on the strength of a recent 13-game winning streak. But Portland seemed to cool off shortly before the regular season ended, and never regained peak form.
''It's not how we envisioned it happening for us, especially getting home court,'' Lillard said. ''We just weren't playing our best basketball like we had been during that stretch of 13 games. And then we come in here against a team that probably played their best stretch of basketball when they had to.''
Trail Blazers: Played without 6-foot-9 forward Maurice Harkless. Coach Terry Stotts said Harkless, who'd started Game 3 when Turner was out, had a recurrence of knee soreness that had hampered him late this season. Stotts said that while Harkless was in too much pain to play, his knee did not appear to have structural damage. ... Became the first No. 3 seed to lose in the first round since Denver lost to Golden State in the 2013 playoffs. ... The Blazers fell to 6-7 in first round playoff series in which they had home-court advantage. ... McCollum was Portland's leading scorer during the series, averaging 25.3.
Pelicans: Nikola Mirotic had 10 points and 11 rebounds. ... Moore finished with 14 points. ... Captured the first playoff sweep in the franchise's 16-year history ... Committed 14 turnovers, with Holiday committing seven.
Leading up to Game 4, Lillard spoke of the need for the Blazers to ramp up their intensity and physicality. From the tip, it looked as though they'd done so.
In stark contrast to Game 3, when New Orleans led by 18 in the first quarter, this game was tight and testy.
Anthony and Ed Davis received double technical fouls after bumping one another following one of Anthony Davis' dunks - and that was just the beginning.
McCollum was called for a flagrant foul when he stormed into the lane behind E'Twaun Moore and grabbed the Pelicans guard by the shoulders to thwart a driving layup attempt. Moore then shoved McCollum and was assessed a technical foul.
And in the final seconds of the half, double technical were assessed to Rondo and Portland center Zach Collins after Rondo lowered his forehead into Collins' chest and Collins shoved back.
''I live for those moments,'' a grinning Rondo said. ''I was trying to stay smart as far as not getting thrown out. ... We knew what kind of game it was, especially when Dame came out with the comments he made.''
Lillard, who never scored more than 20 in the series and was held below that three times, said he would have loved to shoot more, but the Pelicans' commitment to defend him early in possessions with multiple players made it difficult.
''They came in with a great defensive game plan, threw something at us that we hadn't seen and it worked out for them,'' Lillard said.
Trail Blazers: Begin the offseason.
Pelicans: Prepare for a second-round series for the first time since 2008.
More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball
Wolves top Rockets 121-105 in Game 3, cut series lead to 2-1
By DAVE CAMPBELL - AP Sports Writer
Sunday, April 22 at 12:19 AM (EDT)
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Minnesota's slow-to-develop, up-and-down defense has finally started to shine, against this high-octane Houston team no less.
There's been no wait quite like the one for a win by the Timberwolves in the playoffs, though.
Jimmy Butler hit four 3-pointers among his 28 points and Karl-Anthony Towns snapped back from a bad start to the series with 18 points and 16 rebounds, leading the Timberwolves past the Rockets 121-105 in Game 3 on Saturday night for their first postseason victory in 14 years.
''This city deserves being in the playoffs a little bit longer,'' Butler said. ''We'll see what we have. But as long as we guard, as long as we defend, we'll put ourselves in a good enough position to win.''
Jeff Teague scored 23 points and Andrew Wiggins pitched in 20 points with another four 3-pointers, helping the Timberwolves match the NBA's best 3-point shooting team with 15 makes apiece from long range. Minnesota took 27; Houston launched 41.
''I tell everybody all the time, as long as you're in rhythm, no matter if somebody's in front of you or not, it's a good shot for you because we think that you can make that,'' Butler said after the Wolves shot 50 percent overall from the floor.
Not to be left out was Derrick Rose and his 17 points off the bench, including 10 points in nine minutes before halftime. The Wolves closed the third quarter with a 26-14 run and produced spurts of 15-3 and 11-2 in the final period, perfecting their plan to play at a faster pace.
''We've got to do a better job of imposing our will at the beginning of the game,'' said James Harden, who led the Rockets with 29 points.
The Rockets made four 3-pointers on their last seven possessions of the first half to turn an 11-point deficit to just one in less than 3 1/2 minutes up until the break. Butler twisted his left ankle during that stretch, causing him to clutch his foot in pain and create some brief anxiety in the arena, but he didn't require, or at least accept, any medical attention. There was no hint that he was hurt in the second half.
''He's the heart and soul,'' said Teague, who made three 3-pointers himself. ''When he's out there competing, it rubs off on everybody.''
Taj Gibson hounded Harden and forced an airballed 3-pointer, prompting the apex of the noise throughout the night with the Wolves ahead 77-70. Towns powered his way past Ryan Anderson for a layup and a three-point play with 1:57 left in the third quarter, pushing the lead to 10 points, and he flexed his biceps to the crowd after the whistle as he walked like King Kong to the corner of the court in celebration. There was no letdown in the fourth quarter, either.
''Give them a lot of credit. A lot of their 3s were butt naked, too. We were giving them uncontested 3s, and you know we've got to be better,'' said Chris Paul, who fouled out with 17 points.
For the first time since May 29, 2004, the fifth game of the Western Conference finals against the Los Angeles Lakers, the NBA playoffs descended on downtown Minneapolis. The shine of this long-awaited return to relevance by the 29-year-old franchise was dulled a bit by the team's fade down the stretch to finish eighth in the conference and draw the most daunting matchup available against a Rockets team that won all four regular season games by an average of 16 points and took the first two games of this series in Houston.
The occasion was still plenty special, though, with the memory of late coach and executive Flip Saunders not far from the minds of the Target Center regulars, and the sellout crowd matched the moment to make the arena louder than it had been all season.
''It was crazy. All the fans were in the game the whole time,'' Wiggins said. ''They helped us gain momentum going forward.''
HARD FOR HARDEN
Harden, who had 44 points in Game 1 but lost his rainbow jumper in Game 2 and finished only 2 for 18 from the floor for 12 points, wasn't a whole lot sharper in Game 3. He went 9 for 21, including 3 for 8 from 3-point range.
''We stooped to their level, playing slow,'' said Rockets sixth man Eric Gordon, who went 5 for 16 from the floor. ''We didn't create.''
GOING TO TOWNS
After totaling only 13 points over the first two games, Towns was constantly double-teamed by the Rockets and didn't attempt a shot in the first quarter. The 7-footer's energy got going soon after that, though, with an emphatic dunk on Clint Capela after peeling away from the post-up to snag a high pass from Teague.
''You let the game tell you what to happen,'' Towns said. ''Just trying to find different ways to score.''
Rockets: Anderson was in action for the first time in seven games due to a sprained left ankle and had with 12 points. Houston was 18-1 during the regular season when he made at least three 3-point shots. ... The Rockets lost for only the fourth time in 48 games this season with Harden, Paul and Capela all on the floor.
Timberwolves: Minnesota had 29 assists on 45 made field goals, with only seven turnovers. ... Rose has 42 points in the series on 19-for-39 shooting in 62 minutes. ... The Wolves beat the Rockets for just the third time in their last 23 meetings. ... This was the second-most made 3-pointers of the season for Minnesota.
Game 4 is on Monday night at 8 p.m. EDT.
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