The Nets will also be without LaMarcus Aldridge, who is listed as out for a non-coronavirus-related illness. James Harden was diagnosed with a right hamstring strain last week and will not make the trip to Minnesota. Kevin Durant, who recently returned from a hamstring strain that kept him out for two months, will likely remain on a minutes restriction on Monday.
Irving has already missed several games for the Nets this season, playing in 38 of Brooklyn’s 53 games. Irving has missed four games for injury maintenance this season. He also missed two weeks in January for personal reasons. During that time away from the team, he broke the league’s coronavirus health and safety protocols, which further delayed his return to game action. Irving was fined for not following the league’s COVID-19 rules. When he did come back to the team, he told reporters that he “just needed a break.”
Irving missed three games in late March while attending to a family matter.
Irving was ejected from Saturday’s 126-101 loss to Los Angeles, following a back-and-forth with Lakers guard Dennis Schroder. It was the first career ejection for both Schroder and Irving, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information.
Irving is averaging 27.6 points, 4.8 rebounds and six assists per game.
Russell Westbrook logs his 181st triple-double, tying Oscar Robertson’s record
Russell Westbrook tied Oscar Robertson for most career triple-doubles with 181 and can own the record as soon as the Washington Wizards’ next game at Atlanta on Monday.
Westbrook matched the Hall-of-Fame point guard with 1:39 remaining in the third quarter against the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night. Westbrook has been on an absolute tear in his first season as a Wizard, registering his 35th triple-double this season. He had 14 in the month of April alone, the most in NBA history.
Westbrook, 32, already owns the distinction of having the most triple-doubles in a season with 42 back in 2016-17.
He earned his fourth consecutive triple-double when he dished his 10th assist to Bradley Beal near the end of the third quarter.
The point guard has a triple-double in 21 of his last 25 games and has already clinched averaging a triple-double in the season for the fourth time in his career. Robertson has owned the all-time triple-double record since 1961-62, the same season that Robertson became the only other player to average a triple-double.
The last time an NBA all-time record was broken was when Ray Allen passed Reggie Miller on the all-time 3-pointers made list in 2011.
Los Angeles Lakers fall to 7th in West, find hope in Anthony Davis’ big night
In what’s too early to call a complete collapse but too stunning to label a mere stumble, the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers are now slated to compete in the NBA’s play-in tournament with a little more than a week remaining in the regular season.
Friday’s 106-101 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers dropped L.A. to No. 7 in the Western Conference standings, a full game behind the Blazers with five games remaining on the schedule for both teams.
It was the Lakers’ eighth loss in their past 10 games, coming against a red-hot Blazers team that has won six out of seven to surge ahead of an L.A. team missing its leader, LeBron James, and its point guard, Dennis Schroder.
While the Lakers continue to wait on James, out the past three games to rehab his high right ankle sprain that kept him out of the lineup for six weeks already, and Schroder, expected to be sidelined another 5-10 days because of health and safety protocols, they did receive a vintage performance from Anthony Davis in Portland.
Davis, playing in his ninth game back after a nine-week absence of his own because of a calf strain and Achilles tendinosis in his right leg, looked dominant with 36 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and a block on Jusuf Nurkic with 49.7 seconds left that kept it a one possession game and gave L.A. a chance to tie their next time down the floor.
“This is his best game since his return for sure,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said of Davis. “He’s getting a little bit stronger each game. It’s a very encouraging sign.”
What wasn’t as encouraging was the Lakers’ late-game execution, losing a contest that was in their grasp.
After battling all the way back from a 14-point first-quarter deficit, L.A. climbed back to make it a one-possession game late in the fourth. The Davis block on Nurkic sparked a fast break when Kyle Kuzma, who finished the game going 2-for-11 overall and 0-for-6 on 3-pointers, pulled up for a 25-foot wing 3 that could have tied the score but missed with 42.9 seconds remaining.
“Maybe Kuz could have gotten a 2 [and we would be] down one,” Davis said afterward of Kuzma’s decision. “Especially because he was struggling. … A guy who shoots the s— out of the ball, he didn’t shoot it well tonight. A wide-open look, it’s a good shot. A layup is probably the right play, but we’re living with him shooting the ball.”
Kuzma credited L.A.’s fight versus Portland while perhaps alluding to Davis’ absence in Thursday’s loss to the LA Clippers, when the star big man played just nine minutes because of back spasms and the Lakers lost by 24 points.
“I think we did a good job of competing tonight,” Kuzma said. “I think that was the No. 1 thing that we did that wasn’t available in the Clippers game.”
Vogel’s critique of Ben McLemore‘s foul on CJ McCollum with 27.6 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and L.A. down 102-99 was far less veiled. The expectation from the coach was for his players to play straight-up defense on that possession and try to secure the rebound on a miss. There was about a 10-second differential between the shot clock and game clock, so had the Lakers forced the Blazers into a miss and secured the rebound, they would have had the ball on the final possession with a chance to tie.
“We don’t want to take a foul there, we want to play it out, try to get a stop and give ourselves a chance to win it with the ball on the last possession,” Vogel said.
Alex Caruso, who played through a foot contusion and started out of position at point guard, blamed himself for the McLemore foul, taking little solace in his season-high 18 points.
“Being a point guard, one of the more vocal guys, one of the high I.Q. guys on the team right now with a couple of our leaders missing, our point guards missing,” he said. “I was pretty disappointed in myself, just messing up that part of the game because we had battled so hard.”
Portland might be a game ahead and owns the tiebreaker from winning the season series, but L.A.’s final five games are more favorable. The combined winning percentage of the Lakers’ last five opponents is .485, while the Blazers’ final opponents are winning at a .566 clip.
Vogel said before Friday’s game that he was “unafraid of the play-in tournament with this team,” but if the Lakers needed a reminder of what can go wrong in a winner-take-all scenario that should motivate them to avoid the play-in at all costs, Friday had a few of them.
An injury suddenly affecting the rotation? Look no further than Talen Horton-Tucker‘s calf strain.
Foul trouble rearing its ugly head? Andre Drummond was whistled for his sixth and fouled out with 6 minutes, 7 seconds remaining.
An inexplicable occurrence? Davis flushed a dunk through the hoop with 6:18 remaining that somehow got caught in the net and flung right out, negating the bucket.
A 50-50 call going against you? Kuzma’s tip dunk with 4:03 remaining was ruled offensive basket interference and Damian Lillard scored a 3 on the next possession, turning what would have been a two-point game into a seven-point Portland cushion just like that.
“For sure those plays can cost us a game,” Davis said.
The Lakers have five games remaining, beginning Sunday against Phoenix, to try to make sure their repeat title bid won’t come down to the results of one game before the playoffs even officially begin.
NBA playoff watch – Philadelphia 76ers close in on East’s top seed, New Orleans Pelicans in trouble
With the addition of the 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.
Here’s a breakdown of all the key games from Friday night and what the results mean for the seedings, plus a look at what the play-in matchups would be if the season ended today:
What it means for the Sixers: Ugly wins count just the same as pretty ones in the NBA — which is a good thing for the East-leading Philadelphia 76ers, who beat the New Orleans Pelicans in about the ugliest possible fashion Friday night.
But that won’t bother the Sixers, or their fans, too much, as the win moved Philadelphia one win closer to securing the top overall seed in the East playoffs.
Philadelphia now has a magic number of 3 to clinch the number one seed, pending the result of Friday night’s game between the Milwaukee Bucks and Houston Rockets. Any combination of two Philly wins and Brooklyn losses will allow the Sixers to clinch finishing ahead of the Nets, while any combination of three Philly wins and Milwaukee losses will allow the Sixers to finish ahead of the Bucks.
Losing to the Pelicans would’ve been a potentially disastrous own goal for Philly, given New Orleans was without Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram. Ultimately, though, another dominant performance from Joel Embiid (37 points and 13 rebounds) was just enough to secure a 46th win of this season for the Sixers, and move them one closer to sending the path to winning the Eastern Conference through Wells Fargo Center. — Tim Bontemps
What it means for the Pelicans: The biggest takeaway for the Pelicans’ playoff hopes happened hours before tip-off on Friday night. Shortly before the game started, New Orleans announced Williamson was going to be out indefinitely because a fractured ring finger on his left hand — his shooting hand.
But once the game started, it was obvious the Pelicans were missing their two leaders, as Brandon Ingram was out with a sprained left ankle.
The loss places the Pelicans in the West’s 10th seed and makes the play-in tournament much harder to make. They fell two back of the Spurs (who play Sacramento later Friday) with five games to go. New Orleans has four more games on this road trip before finishing with the Los Angeles Lakers.
If Friday’s game is any indication, they could be in trouble in close games without their closers. Also, it would help if they could get guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker back from an ankle sprain. He was questionable heading into Friday’s game before being scratched before the game tipped. — Andrew Lopez
What it means for both teams: After a disastrous performance in Chicago Friday night, the Boston Celtics are staring at potentially being in the play-in tournament in 10 days.
Boston’s 121-99 loss to the Bulls dropped the Celtics into seventh place in the East, and only adds to the drama of what are a critical pair of games in Boston against the Miami Heat — now one game ahead of the Celtics — on Sunday and Tuesday. The Celtics won the first meeting of the season between the two teams, meaning that wins in one of those two games would give them the tiebreaker over Miami.
The Celtics will have to be much better than they were Friday, however, if they want to have any chance in those games. While it was good to see Evan Fournier get going (17 points on 7-for-11 shooting), the Celtics besides Fournier and Kemba Walker (33 points) looked lifeless. Playing without Jaylen Brown and Robert Williams hurts — Brown, out with a sprained ankle, should be back for Sunday’s game; Williams, out with turf toe, is less certain — but this team should’ve had enough to beat a Bulls team on tired legs without them.
Chicago’s win, meanwhile, pulled the Bulls within three games of the Washington Wizards with five to play. While Chicago holds the tiebreaker, giving it some semblance of a chance, anything less than running the table will all but certainly mark the end of the Bulls’ playoff chances. — Bontemps
Play-in matchups following Thursday’s games
Play-in games to be held May 18-21
Game 1: No. 8 Charlotte at No. 7 Miami — 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: Indiana/Washington winner at Miami/Charlotte loser — winner is No. 8 seed in playoffs
Game 1: No. 8 Golden State at No. 7 Portland — 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 Portland/Golden State loser — winner is No. 8 seed in playoffs
Saturday’s key games to watch
Nets at Nuggets, 10 ET
Wizards at Pacers, 7 ET
Pistons at Sixers, 7 ET
Thunder at Warriors, 10 ET
Spurs at Blazers, 10 ET
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