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NBA campus intel – Schedule and live updates for Day 6 of seeding games



LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Ten years ago, the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat were engaged in a heated rivalry for Eastern Conference supremacy.

Today, as the Celtics and Heat square off inside the NBA’s bubble at the Walt Disney World Resort, things aren’t quite at the fever pitch they were when Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce were squaring off with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. But the Celtics and Heat are stationed in third and fourth place in the Eastern Conference, respectively, and are well-positioned to return to battling in the playoffs on a regular basis for years to come.

The Heat entered the offseason having missed the playoffs for a second straight season, and winning just one playoff series since James left as a free agent in 2014. They had little cap space, and it was hard to see how they would create any.

Then they made two franchise-altering moves in the span of a few weeks — shipping Hassan Whiteside to Portland, creating room for Bam Adebayo to step into the starting lineup, and sending Josh Richardson to Philadelphia in a sign-and-trade for Jimmy Butler. Adebayo became an All-Star and one of the NBA’s most versatile big men, while Butler has perfectly assimilated into Miami’s culture. Combine that with the development of young players such as Duncan Robinson, Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro, and the Heat have plenty to be excited about — including the likely cap space to chase after Giannis Antetokounmpo after next season.

Boston also was coming off a disappointing season, culminating in a five-game playoff loss to the Milwaukee Bucks and the departures of both Kyrie Irving and Al Horford a short time later. But the arrival of Kemba Walker in Irving’s place provided stability that the franchise desperately needed — and allowed the team’s young wings, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, to thrive. Gordon Hayward has also quietly returned to near the All-Star level he was at before suffering a gruesome leg injury in his first game as a Celtic in 2017.

Boston is fairly entrenched in the third seed, currently 2.5 games ahead of the Heat, and there’s less of a need to fight for positioning since home-court advantage is no longer a factor. While there’s still a chance Miami could overtake Boston for the No. 3 seed, this game is more a glimpse into the potential future of the East. And that vision provides a lot for both teams to like. — Tim Bontemps

Here’s the latest on the standings, the games to watch Tuesday and Wednesday, plus everything you need to know. Check back here for highlights and updates throughout the day.

PAST BUBBLE INTEL: July 30 | July 31 | Aug. 1 | Aug. 2 | Aug. 3

Latest buzz

Jamal Crawford available for Nets

After sitting out the Brooklyn Nets’ first two seeding games, 40-year-old guard Jamal Crawford will be available to play Tuesday against the Milwaukee Bucks. Crawford hasn’t played an NBA game since scoring 51 points for the Phoenix Suns on April 9, 2019. The Bucks, meanwhile, will get guards Eric Bledsoe and Pat Connaughton back today as well. Both will play limited minutes after having missed Milwaukee’s first two seeding games.

“We want to gradually build their conditioning,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said before the game.

Tuesday’s must-see games

Dallas Mavericks vs. Sacramento Kings | 2:30 p.m. ET

Two teams badly in need of a win in Florida. The Kings come into this game on the heels of two straight losses that probably cost them any chance at the postseason — so it will be interesting to see how motivated they are to play in a game against a Mavericks team that has let two winnable games slide right through their fingertips. For the Kings to get back on track, they need more from Buddy Hield. He comes into Tuesday’s game shooting just 7-for-26 over his first two games. The Mavs could use more from Tim Hardaway Jr., who was just 1-for-12 in Sunday’s loss to the Suns. — Nick Friedell

Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat | 6:30 p.m. ET

This sets up to be one of the most intense matchups on the campus. The Celtics got a much-needed win over a rejuvenated Trail Blazers team Sunday, and the Heat have looked hungry and deep in their first two games. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined for 64 points against the Blazers, but expect Heat All-Star Jimmy Butler to help slow down Boston’s perimeter movement early if he is available. — Friedell

Houston Rockets vs. Portland Trail Blazers | 9 p.m. ET

There will be plenty of points — lots of points — in what figures to be one of the highest-scoring affairs of the month. These two top-five offenses score at will, but a key factor will be how well Portland can use center Jusuf Nurkic and his height advantage against the Houston microball lineup. — Friedell

Additional games

Full scoreboard for Tuesday

Play-in watch

Of the six games on Tuesday, five of them involve at least one team fighting for a playoff spot. The Magic have a half-game game lead over the Nets to maintain the No. 7 seed but face a challenge in the Pacers and will be without Jonathan Isaac for the rest of the season. Brooklyn has a chance to catch Orlando on Tuesday, but it faces the No. 1 Bucks without Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen and Joe Harris.

The Kings, three games behind the No. 8 seed, are looking to avoid an 0-3 start, but will face a Mavericks team looking to do the same. The Suns are 2-0 in Orlando but still at the bottom of the West standings. They are not likely to gain any ground on Tuesday as they take on the Clippers.

The Blazers moved into the No. 9 seed after the Spurs’ loss to the Sixers on Monday, but they’ll need to beat the Rockets on Tuesday to maintain that positioning. That’s a tall task, given that Houston is off to a 2-0 start with wins over the Mavericks and Bucks.

Eastern Conference

7. Orlando Magic | 32-35 (.478) |
8. Brooklyn Nets | 31-35 (.470) |
9. Washington Wizards | 24-43 (.358) | 7.5 GB

Western Conference

8. Memphis Grizzlies | 32-36 (.471) | —
9. Portland Trail Blazers | 30-38 (.441) | 2.0 GB
10. San Antonio Spurs | 29-37 (.439) | 2.0 GB
11. New Orleans Pelicans | 29-38 (.433) | 2.5 GB
12. Sacramento Kings | 28-38 (.424) | 3.0 GB
13. Phoenix Suns | 28-39 (.418) | 3.5 GB

Full standings | Playoff matchups

Wednesday’s must-see games

Memphis Grizzlies vs. Utah Jazz | 2:30 p.m. ET

After losing their first three games inside the bubble, it’s suddenly desperation time for the Grizzlies. Ja Morant may not have liked the idea of a play-in tournament when it looked like Memphis would be the No. 8 seed, but it seems likely his tune will change if the Grizzlies fall to No. 9. — Bontemps

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Los Angeles Lakers | 6:30 p.m. ET

The Thunder appeared to be on their way to a second straight victory, only to collapse and eventually lose to the Nuggets in overtime Monday. They’ll look to bounce back against the Lakers in what could potentially be a Western Conference semifinals preview. — Bontemps

Brooklyn Nets vs. Boston Celtics | 9 p.m. ET

The Nets are going to sit Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen and Joe Harris against Milwaukee on Tuesday, so they should likely play the second game of the back-to-back against the Celtics on Wednesday. Even with them, though, Brooklyn is severely undermanned. Boston will also be playing the second game of a back-to-back, however, so it might also rest a few guys. — Bontemps

Additional games

Full scoreboard for Wednesday

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Analysis and intel

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Start considering the Raptors real NBA title contenders

Toronto remains horribly under the radar in this year’s title race. That needs to change.

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Channeling Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard says Los Angeles Lakers’ job ‘not finished’



LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Los Angeles Lakers are one win away from going to the NBA Finals for the first time since Kobe Bryant led them past the Boston Celtics a decade ago.

So, it was apt when, in describing how the Lakers are tempering their emotions in the moment, Dwight Howard sounded an awful lot like Bryant on Friday.

“Simple,” Howard said when asked about his team’s mentality heading into Saturday’s Game 5 of the Western Conference finals against the Denver Nuggets. “The job is not finished.”

In the 2009 Finals, after the Lakers went up 2-0 over Howard’s Orlando Magic team, Bryant was asked by a reporter why he wasn’t smiling during the postgame news conference. “What’s there to be happy about?” Bryant retorted. “The job’s not finished. Is the job finished? I don’t think so.”

The Nuggets team the Lakers are facing have proved to be resilient when on the brink of elimination. Denver trailed the Utah Jazz in the first round 3-1 and won the series. It fell behind 3-1 to the LA Clippers in the conference semifinals and won that series, too. And so rather than allow Denver any daylight, Howard says the Lakers have to play like the team that can see its season end Saturday.

“They’re going to give us their best shot. They’re not going to let up,” Howard said. “They’re a really good team, very well-coached. We understand that. We’re one step closer to our dream, so we’re not going to take our foot off the gas. I think we’re going to bring more intensity than we brought before.

“We have a well-experienced group of guys on our team, even coaches. We understand how important this series is and this game is and that we should treat it like a Game 7 with our intensity and our effort, and just play as hard as we can.”

As impressive as the Nuggets have been, accounting for two of the 13 total 3-1 comebacks in league history — including becoming the first team to do it twice in the same postseason — the Lakers have some closeout history on their side as well.

LeBron James is 14-0 in his postseason career in series when his teams go up 3-1, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Eleven of those series he closed out in Game 5, including the Lakers’ 2-0 mark in these playoffs, eliminating the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 5 in the first round and the Houston Rockets in Game 5 in the Western semis.

“Our group’s demeanor in all of these playoff games has been to treat every one like a must-win,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said Friday. “I would say that same mindset has applied to the close-out games we had against Houston and Portland, and we know those are always the most difficult wins to get in a series, and we expect this to be no different.”

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Klay Thompson takes part in full practice 470 days after tearing ACL in Finals



Golden State Warriors swingman Klay Thompson participated Friday in his first full practice since tearing his left ACL in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals. It had been 470 days since Thompson’s injury and his return was a welcome sight for coaches and teammates who missed having him around.

“It was great to have him out on the floor, in the locker room,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said during a video call with reporters. “Just his presence alone gave us a jolt of energy and excitement. Practice went well. This is the first practice coming off an ACL injury and a year and a half absence so I didn’t expect him to be in top shape, in top form, and he was not, but he moved well and it’s a good first step.”

Thompson originally tore his ACL on June 13, 2019 after landing awkwardly after going up for a dunk attempt and getting fouled by then Toronto Raptors swingman Danny Green. Thompson has been around the Warriors off and on since having surgery last summer, but Friday marked his first official team practice since the injury.

“We didn’t scrimmage,” Kerr said. “We haven’t had a 5-on-5 scrimmage yet. We’re trying to ease into it because of the long layoff. But Klay got a lot of good work in and I think he was able to gauge kind of where he is right now and what needs to do going forward.”

Thompson did not join the Warriors for the beginning of their minicamp earlier this week as he was still finishing a league-mandated quarantine. Kerr is hopeful that Thompson will be able to scrimmage with the rest of his teammates when that time comes, but wants to see how the All-Star feels after getting in a full practice again.

“We’ll see,” Kerr said. “It kind of depends how he reacts to today and what Rick [Celebrini] says and what Klay says. Just kind of have to take it step by step. So we’ll kind of see where he is tomorrow and make a decision accordingly.”

Warriors All-Stars Stephen Curry and Draymond Green have already been excused from the Warriors minicamp because of family reasons, so Thompson’s presence was felt even more as the Warriors try to build a new group around the organization’s proud core players.

“When he was running fullcourt, he looked healthy,” Warriors center Marquese Chriss said. “He looked good. He looked like Klay Thompson, to say the least. I don’t really know how to explain it. He looked like himself. He looked athletic. He looked like he was shooting the ball well. He looked comfortable.”

Kerr had to chuckle when asked if Thompson was vocal as he returned to practice.

“He was kind of quiet,” Kerr said. “He did yawn really loudly when I was talking to the team so nothing’s changed that much. Klay is Klay. So it was just great to have him out there.”

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Former Pelicans GM Dell Demps agrees to join Jazz as an assistant coach



Former New Orleans Pelicans general manager Dell Demps has agreed to join the Utah Jazz as an assistant coach, reuniting with head coach Quin Snyder, sources tell ESPN.

Demps — New Orleans’ GM for nine years, ending in 2019 — is making a dramatic career change after two decades as a front-office executive, a run that included a successful GM/coach partnership with Snyder with the San Antonio Spurs‘ G League affiliate in Austin, Texas.

The Jazz recently lost assistant coach Johnnie Bryant to an associate head-coaching role with the New York Knicks.

After leaving New Orleans, Demps decided that he wanted to transition to coaching, and he spent some time in Utah attending practices and meetings with Snyder and his Jazz staff. They were together in Austin from 2007 to 2010 and built a strong working and personal relationship.

Demps had an eight-year playing career that included NBA stops with Golden State, Orlando and San Antonio, and several seasons overseas and in the old Continental Basketball Association.

The Jazz are also hiring former NBA guard Keyon Dooling in a player development role, sources tell ESPN. Dooling played parts of 13 years in the NBA, and collegiately for Snyder at the University of Missouri.

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