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Pau Gasol debuts again for Barcelona in first game in 2 years

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BARCELONA, Spain — Pau Gasol played his first game in two years on Friday after returning to Barcelona, the team where he started his career two decades ago.

The former two-time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers had not played since 2019, when he made his last appearance for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Hobbled since then with a nagging foot injury, the 40-year-old center decided to come back home in hopes of reviving his career in a second stint with Barcelona.

Gasol started the Euroleague home game against Bayern Munich. He scored nine points on four-for-nine shooting and grabbed four rebounds in 13 minutes.

Bayern won 82-72.

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NBA playoff watch – Phoenix Suns slows Portland Trail Blazers’ roll; San Antonio Spurs clinch play-in

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With the addition of play-in games to the 2021 NBA playoffs, the scramble for seeding is wilder — and more important — than ever, with almost every game down the stretch having significant postseason implications.

Play-in matchups following Thursday’s games

Play-in games to be held May 18-21

How the play-in tournament will work

Current NBA standings

EAST

Game 1: No. 8 Charlotte at No. 7 Boston — winner is No. 7 seed in playoffs

Game 2: No. 10 Washington at No. 9 Indiana — winner moves on in play-in; loser is eliminated

Game 3: Washington/Indiana winner at Boston/Charlotte loser — winner is No. 8 seed in playoffs

WEST

Game 1: No. 8 Golden State at No. 7 Los Angeles Lakers — winner is No. 7 seed in playoffs

Game 2: No. 10 San Antonio at No. 9 Memphis — winner moves on in play-in; loser is eliminated

Game 3: Memphis/San Antonio winner at Lakers/Golden State loser — winner is No. 8 seed in playoffs


Teams that clinched Thursday

Already in

EAST

Playoff spots: Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks

Play-in spots (seeds 7-10): Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets, Indiana Pacers

WEST

Playoff spots: Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns, LA Clippers, Denver Nuggets

Play-in spots: Golden State Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs


Here’s a breakdown of the key games from Thursday and what the results mean for the seedings:

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Devin Booker is fouled on the shot with 2.4 seconds remaining in regulation and hits both free throws for the Suns’ win.

The Portland Trail Blazers were four seconds away from officially locking in a spot in the top six, but two free throws by Devin Booker gave the Phoenix Suns a one-point win, and kept Portland from celebrating a playoff spot for at least another day.

The Blazers close their season on Sunday against the Nuggets, but if the Los Angeles Lakers lose on Saturday to the Indiana Pacers, it would guarantee Portland no worse than sixth. But if the Blazers lose their finale, and the Lakers win both of their last two games, it would drop Portland into the play-in spot and boost the Lakers to sixth.

The Blazers had been on a roll to get to this spot, winning their last five and nine of their last 10.

The loss does complicate the Blazers’ push for the 5-seed, though. They fall a game behind the Dallas Mavericks, and while they have the tiebreaker with Dallas in hand, they need a Mavs loss to either the Raptors or Timberwolves in one of their last two games. — Royce Young


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Trae Young shakes his defender, crosses over and pulls up for the high-percentage bucket.

In the race to finish fourth in the East, wins across the board upheld the status quo among the Atlanta Hawks, Miami Heat and New York Knicks Thursday night.

The Hawks took a big step toward securing that fourth seed with an emphatic 116-93 win over the hapless Orlando Magic. The win leaves Atlanta with one final game on Sunday against the league-worst Houston Rockets. If Atlanta wins that game, and the Knicks and Heat win out, the Hawks will win the Southeast Division and clinch the fourth seed.

The Miami Heat, meanwhile, blew out the Philadelphia 76ers, keeping the Heat in line to finish fifth. Miami owns the tiebreaker over the Knicks, so if all three teams remain tied until the end of the regular season, Miami would get the fifth seed. The Heat have two games left — at Milwaukee on Saturday and at Detroit on Sunday.

New York picked up a victory, as well, though it was a far more difficult one to get, as the Knicks eventually came away with a 102-98 victory over the San Antonio Spurs at Madison Square Garden.

The Knicks play the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday, and the Boston Celtics on Sunday.

If two of the trio of Atlanta, New York and Miami are tied at the end of the season, here is how the tiebreaker scenarios break out:

  • Atlanta wins the tiebreaker with Miami

  • Miami wins the tiebreaker with New York

  • New York wins the tiebreaker with Atlanta

Losses by Charlotte and Indiana Thursday night also officially lock the Celtics into the seventh seed in the East, and they will host the 7-8 game in the NBA’s inaugural play-in tournament next Tuesday. Charlotte and Indiana are tied with 33 wins, while the Washington Wizards have 32. — Tim Bontemps


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Coby White gets out in transition and throws down a monster jam on Stanley Johnson.

With the Chicago Bulls beating the Toronto Raptors Thursday night, Chicago still has very slim hopes of making the play-in tournament. It would still require a lot — the Wizards losing their final two games, and the Bulls winning their final two — but that’s better than having no chance at all. — Bontemps


Unlike the Bulls, the Sacramento Kings don’t have a chance at all after losing to the Memphis Grizzlies Thursday night. The Kings needed to win out and have the Spurs lose out, but Thursday’s loss will officially extend Sacramento’s league-leading playoff drought to 15 years. The Spurs, meanwhile, backed into the No. 10 slot in the West.

Memphis kept itself in the running for the chance to finish with the eighth seed in the Western Conference with the win. Sunday’s game against the Golden State Warriors will be, essentially, a one-game playoff for the eighth playoff spot in the West, which means the difference between having to win one of two games to make the playoffs, or having to win two in a row. — Bontemps


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0:19

The Clippers run the pick-and-roll, with Rajon Rondo finding Kawhi Leonard with a slick pass for a lay-in plus the foul.

Nic Batum enjoyed his return to Charlotte.

Deemed expendable last season when the Charlotte Hornets went with their youth movement, Batum scored 11 points and hit two 3s to help the Los Angeles Clippers take a 113-90 win.

With help from Batum, the Clippers played better than they have of late and continue to hold on to the third seed ahead of Denver with two games remaining at Houston and Oklahoma City.

For the Hornets, this was a game they needed. They remain tied with the Indiana Pacers. Charlotte, which owns the tiebreaker for the No. 8 seed over Indiana, has lost three straight and can use Miles Bridges back for the final two games of the season against the Knicks and Wizards. — Ohm Youngmisuk

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East seeds 4, 5 and 6 hold serve

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With the addition of play-in games to the 2021 NBA playoffs, the scramble for seeding is wilder — and more important — than ever, with almost every game down the stretch having significant postseason implications.

Play-in matchups following Wednesday’s games

Play-in games to be held May 18-21

How the play-in tournament will work

Current NBA standings

EAST

Game 1: No. 8 Charlotte at No. 7 Boston — winner is No. 7 seed in playoffs

Game 2: No. 10 Washington at No. 9 Indiana — winner moves on in play-in; loser is eliminated

Game 3: Washington/Indiana winner at Boston/Charlotte loser — winner is No. 8 seed in playoffs

WEST

Game 1: No. 8 Golden State at No. 7 Los Angeles Lakers — winner is No. 7 seed in playoffs

Game 2: No. 10 San Antonio at No. 9 Memphis — winner moves on in play-in; loser is eliminated

Game 3: Memphis/San Antonio winner at Lakers/Golden State loser — winner is No. 8 seed in playoffs


Teams that clinched Thursday

Already in

EAST

Playoff spots: Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks

Play-in spots (seeds 7-10): Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets, Indiana Pacers

WEST

Playoff spots: Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns, LA Clippers, Denver Nuggets

Play-in spots: Golden State Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs


Here’s a breakdown of the key games from Thursday and what the results mean for the seedings:

play

0:16

Trae Young shakes his defender, crosses over and pulls up for the high-percentage bucket.

In the race to finish fourth in the East, wins across the board left things status quo among the Atlanta Hawks, Miami Heat and New York Knicks Thursday night.

The Hawks took a big step toward securing that fourth seed with an emphatic 116-93 win over the hapless Orlando Magic. The win leaves Atlanta with one final game on Sunday against the league-worst Houston Rockets. If Atlanta wins that game, and the Knicks and Heat win out, the Hawks will win the Southeast Division and clinch the fourth seed.

The Miami Heat, meanwhile, blew out the Philadelphia 76ers, keeping them in line to finish fifth. Miami owns the tiebreaker over the New York Knicks, so if all three teams remain tied until the end of the regular season, Miami would get the fifth seed. The Heat have two games left — at Milwaukee on Saturday and at Detroit on Sunday.

New York picked up a victory, as well, though it was a far more difficult one to get, as the Knicks eventually came away with a 102-98 victory over the San Antonio Spurs at Madison Square Garden.

The Knicks play the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday, and the Boston Celtics on Sunday.

If two of the trio of Atlanta, New York and Miami are tied at the end of the season, here are how the tiebreaker scenarios break out:

  • Atlanta wins the tiebreaker with Miami

  • Miami wins the tiebreaker with New York

  • New York wins the tiebreaker with Atlanta

Charlotte and Indiana losing Thursday night also officially locks the Celtics into the seventh seed in the East, and they will host the 7-8 game in the NBA’s inaugural play-in tournament next Tuesday. Charlotte and Indiana are tied with 33 wins, while the Washington Wizards have 32. — Tim Bontemps

play

0:36

Coby White gets out in transition and throws down a monster jam on Stanley Johnson.

With the Chicago Bulls beating the Toronto Raptors Thursday night, Chicago still has very slim hopes of making the play-in tournament. It would still require a lot — the Wizards losing their final two games, and the Bulls winning their final two — but that’s better than having no chance at all.

The Sacramento Kings, on the other hand, don’t have a chance at all after losing to the Memphis Grizzlies Thursday night. The Kings needed to win out and the Spurs needed to lose out, but Thursday’s loss will officially extend Sacramento’s league-leading playoff drought to 15 years. The Spurs, meanwhile, backed into the No. 10 slot in the West.

Memphis kept itself in the running for the chance to finish with the eighth seed in the Western Conference with the win. If the Grizzlies beat the Kings again Friday, it will ensure that Sunday’s game against the Golden State Warriors will be, essentially, a one-game playoff for the eighth playoff spot in the West, which means the difference between having to win one of two games to make the playoffs, or having to win two in a row. — Bontemps


play

0:19

The Clippers run the pick-and-roll, with Rajon Rondo finding Kawhi Leonard with a slick pass for a lay-in plus the foul.

Nic Batum enjoyed his return to Charlotte.

Deemed expendable last season when the Charlotte Hornets went with their youth movement, Batum scored 11 points and hit two 3’s to help the Los Angeles Clippers take a 113-90 win.

With help from Batum, the Clippers played better than they have of late and continue to hold on to the third seed ahead of Denver with two games remaining at Houston and Oklahoma City.

For the Hornets, this was a game they needed. They remain tied with the Indiana Pacers. Charlotte, which owns the tiebreaker for the No. 8 seed over Indiana, has lost three straight and can use Miles Bridges back for the final two games of the season against the Knicks and Wizards. — Ohm Youngmisuk

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Heat’s Udonis Haslem ejected after dustup with 76ers’ Dwight Howard

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It took almost five months for Udonis Haslem to play in a game for the Miami Heat this season — and he didn’t last very long.

Haslem, who appeared in a game for an 18th straight season, played three minutes before getting ejected early in the second quarter of Thursday night’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers.

He checked in with 59.3 seconds to go in the first quarter of what is Miami’s final home game of this season, getting a standing ovation from the several thousand fans in attendance.

And, briefly, he had some success. The first time he touched the ball was to nearly save it on the baseline late in the first quarter, and he followed that up with a nice catch and finish on the break to end the quarter. Haslem then took a charge on the first possession of the second quarter, and followed that up with a baseline jumper from the deep corner in front of Miami’s bench a couple of possessions later.

But after Sixers center Dwight Howard threw Haslem to the ground on one possession, Haslem sat on the ground for a moment, appearing to gather his thoughts, before eventually getting up. At the next whistle, however, he got into Howard’s face before shoving him, resulting in him being ejected from the game.

The irony of Haslem’s dustup with Howard was that earlier in the first quarter, he had served as a mediator when teammate Trevor Ariza got into it with Sixers superstar Joel Embiid after Ariza took exception with Embiid rolling into Ariza’s leg, causing him to hurt his ankle.

Haslem, who will turn 41 next month and is the NBA’s oldest active player, has been a bit player for the past several seasons for Miami, as Thursday’s game was just the 45th he’s played over the past five seasons and the 82nd he’s played over the past six.

A Miami native, Haslem has only played for the Heat, whom he signed with in 2003 as an undrafted free agent after spending his first year after college at the University of Florida playing in France.

He told reporters in Miami recently he was unsure whether he would return next season for a 19th year in the NBA, though it’s clear the Heat will continue to employ him for as long as he wants to be around.

“I haven’t thought about it,” Haslem said. “But I’m sure [Heat coach Erik Spoelstra] and our guys keep those things close to hand and understand the importance of that. But for me, if we don’t win the Detroit [regular-season finale] and I got in, it really wouldn’t matter.

“My thing is, let’s win out this season, let’s get this best playoff spot we can possibly get and let’s go in here and try to get it done.”

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