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Paul George credits new perspective on troublesome toe for ‘breakthrough’ as LA Clippers stretch win streak



Paul George‘s throbbing toe was not only limiting his performance on the court recently, but the LA Clippers guard could feel it dragging him down mentally.

So the All-Star reset his mentality, and the result has been the best week-plus stretch of the season for him and the Clippers.

“The injury allowed me to kind of make an excuse for myself,” George said Tuesday. “But then I put it in perspective … if I’m gonna play, then don’t let it limit me.”

“I feel like I’ve had a breakthrough because of that mindset.”

In his latest return to Indiana, George delivered 36 points, eight assists and seven rebounds to lead the Clippers to a 126-115 win over the Pacers on Tuesday.

The Clippers (38-18) won their sixth straight game despite not having Kawhi Leonard (sore right foot) in their past two wins. George has shouldered the load. This was the fourth straight game George has scored 30 or more points, tied for the second-longest streak of his All-Star career.

“He’s definitely in a groove,” Clippers forward Marcus Morris Sr. said. “He’s playing with a chip on his shoulder.”

“He is making an emphasis of really taking over and being the best version of himself.”

George came into this season inspired to make this a comeback season after his shooting struggles last postseason ended with a 4-for-16 dud in Game 7 as the Clippers squandered a 3-1 series lead and lost to the Denver Nuggets in the second round. And he opened the season playing like a man on a mission before a toe injury sidelined him for seven games in early February.

He returned but the injury flared up again and he said he could have to play with the injury for the remainder of the season. Before his current four-game tear, George had scored 30 or more points just once in the previous 15 games.

But now George has regained the form that has him shooting a career-high 47.7% from the field and 43.8% from behind the arc entering Tuesday. The guard has not only learned how to manage and play with the toe issue but he’s thriving again having won Western Conference Player of the Week honors.

Last Tuesday, George scored 36 points against Portland and Damian Lillard, who he traded words with after a game in the bubble last year. Then on Thursday against the Phoenix Suns and Devin Booker — another player he exchanged words with during a game earlier this season — George dropped 33 points and seven rebounds. After sitting out a game against Houston for rest, George remained red hot with 32 points, nine assists and a monster one-handed poster dunk over Isaiah Stewart on Sunday.

And George typically saves his best for his former team, averaging 25.9 points per game in seven career games against the Pacers — his most against any opponent, according to research from ESPN Stats and Information. He delivered vintage highlight plays like a double-clutch two-handed baseline dunk, stopping on a dime and hitting step-back jumpers, drilling four 3’s and delivering two perfect alley-oop passes to Terance Mann that helped keep the Pacers at a distance in the fourth.

George said he had “pop” back in his toe and it is showing.

“It hasn’t been flaring up, so that’s been working,” George said of his treatment plan. “And hopefully at some point it just goes away and it’s an afterthought, nothing I’m worried about going forward.”

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Paul Pierce, Chris Bosh, Chris Webber, Ben Wallace headline 2021 class for Basketball Hall of Fame



A day after watching his longtime friend and teammate Kevin Garnett go into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, longtime Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce joined him in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Pierce, along with two-time champion and 11-time All-Star selection Chris Bosh, five-time All-NBA selection Chris Webber and four-time Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace, headlined the 2021 Hall of Fame class. The honor was announced the day after Garnett, Duncan and the late Kobe Bryant officially were inducted as part of the 2020 class, which saw its entry delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Webber had been a finalist in each of the past five years before finally breaking through and getting the selection. Bosh and Pierce were among those who made it in their first year of eligibility.

The other members of the 2021 class are:

  • Rick Adelman, longtime NBA coach

  • Jay Wright, two-time NCAA champion head coach

  • Bill Russell, who won two championships as a coach, for his time on the sideline;

  • Yolanda Griffith, WNBA legend

  • Lauren Jackson, WNBA legend

  • Bob Dandridge, by the veterans committee

  • Toni Kukoc, by the international committee

  • Pearl Moore, a college basketball legend, by the women’s veterans committee;

  • Clarence Jenkins, named to the Hall as an Early African-American Pioneer;

  • Val Ackerman, former WNBA president

  • Cotton Fitzsimmons, longtime NBA coach

  • Howard Garfinkel, who created the Five-Star summer camp

Pierce, alongside Garnett and Ray Allen, led the Celtics to the 2008 NBA title, along with winning Finals MVP that same year. He finished with 10 All-Star appearances, four All-NBA team selections and scored more than 26,000 points across his 19 seasons with the Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Washington Wizards and LA Clippers.

Bosh, who was drafted fourth overall by the Toronto Raptors in 2003, spent seven years with Toronto before joining the Miami Heat as a free agent in 2010, teaming up with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to win championships in 2012 and ’13 and make four straight NBA Finals. He also won a gold medal with Team USA in 2008, though his career was cut short by blood-clotting issues that caused him to have to retire in 2017 while still in the prime of his career.

“It was short-lived, in my opinion,” Bosh said about his career. “I wanted to play a lot longer; unfortunately it came to an abrupt end. But just looking back on everything I was able to accomplish, all the friends I was able to make, the connections I made, all the memories we were able to make together, that’s what’s most important.”

After being part of one of college basketball’s iconic teams as the top recruit of the “Fab Five” to attend the University of Michigan, Webber, the No. 1 pick in the 1993 NBA Draft, was the a five-time All-Star, five-time All-NBA selection and was the NBA’s Rookie of the Year in 1994. His best years came playing for Adelman with the Sacramento Kings from 1998-2005, when he helped lead the Kings to the seven of the 10 playoff appearances they’ve made in the 36 years they have been in Sacramento — and all four times they have won a playoff series.

Wallace, who went undrafted out of Virginia Union in 1996, developed into one of the best defensive players of all-time, and was the anchor of the great Detroit Pistons teams of the 2000s that won the title in 2004 and made it to six consecutive Eastern Conference finals. He is tied with Dikembe Mutombo for the most Defensive Player of the Year honors (four) in a career, while he made four All-Star teams, five All-NBA teams and five All-Defensive teams during a career that also saw him play for the Wizards, Orlando Magic, Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers.

Adelman made it to two NBA Finals and won more than 1,000 games as a coach with the Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets and Minnesota Timberwolves, while Wright has lifted Villanova back to the top of the college basketball world, winning two titles and three Final Fours during his time in Philadelphia.

“It’s pretty amazing,” Wright said. “You showed the picture of all those guys — Bill Russell, KG, Chris Webber — and just to be hanging with these guys right now and listening to their stories and being part of the Hall wth them, and this class, it’s nothing you’d ever even dream of. It’s pretty cool.”

Russell, obviously one of the greatest players of all-time, won a pair of titles as a coach with the Boston Celtics in the late 1960s. He had previously been enshrined as a player in 1975. He becomes the fifth Hall of Famer who’ll be inducted as both a player and a coach, joining John Wooden, Lenny Wilkens, Bill Sharman and Tommy Heinsohn.

Jackson was a three-time MVP and winning two championships with the Seattle Storm, while Yolanda Griffith was the 1999 WNBA MVP and led the Sacramento Monarchs to the title in 2005.

“I’m very, very proud just to be given an opportunity,” Griffith said of her time in the WNBA. “I got drafted in ’99, number two pick to the Sacramento Monarchs, and it was a joy because that gave me an opportunity to be back home from playing over in Europe and gave my family a chance to see me play, finally, on the professional level, and just enjoy playing at that level on the highest level, basically. I enjoyed the ride with the Sacramento Monarchs.”

The class will be enshrined on Sept. 11.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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2021 NBA playoffs – Everything at stake on the last day of the regular season



As the regular season comes to a close, each team has something to play for: seeding or draft picks. 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 after Saturday’s games:


  • Game 1: No. 8 Charlotte Hornets at No. 7 Boston Celtics — winner is No. 7 seed in playoffs; loser moves on in play-in

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

  • Game 3: Wizards/Pacers winner at Celtics/Hornets loser — winner is No. 8 seed in playoffs


Play-in games to be held Tuesday through Friday.

Here’s a breakdown of Sunday’s matchups and what the results will mean:

Who will make the top six in the West?

Lakers at Pelicans, 9 p.m. ET

The Lakers can play their way out of the play-in tournament with a little help from the Denver Nuggets on Sunday. If L.A. beats the New Orleans Pelicans and the Nuggets top the Portland Trail Blazers, L.A. will end up as the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. If the Lakers lose, they’ll host a play-in game on Wednesday against either Golden State or Memphis.

New Orleans will be without its young superstar Zion Williamson, who has missed the past five games with a fractured left index finger. The Pelicans have already been eliminated from postseason contention. — Dave McMenamin

Clippers at Thunder, 9 p.m. ET

After the LA Clippers sat virtually every member of their rotation and lost at the Houston Rockets on Friday night, the Clippers can stay in the fourth seed in the West with a loss at Oklahoma City on Sunday. The fourth seed would all but guarantee the Clippers and Lakers would not meet until the conference finals — if both teams advance that far.

On the other hand, the Thunder are going to be desperate to lose once more to ensure they finish no worse than tied for third with the Magic in the lottery standings. Oklahoma City has gotten quite good at losing over the past several weeks, going 1-23 since April 1. — Tim Bontemps

Nuggets at Blazers, 9 p.m. ET

For the Portland Trail Blazers, it’s not complicated: Beat the Denver Nuggets, get a top-six seed. The Blazers can even move up to fifth if the Dallas Mavericks lose at Minnesota by virtue of a tiebreaker in hand. Whom Portland would play in the first round is complex, and it involves Denver.

If the Blazers win on Sunday, the Nuggets would fall to fourth, but only if the Thunder also beat the Clippers. If the Clippers win, the Clips are the 3-seed and the Nuggets are fourth, no matter what. And with the Lakers potentially looming as the 6-seed, moving to the 3-seed might not seem that appealing. — Royce Young

The fight for the 8-seed in the West

Grizzlies at Warriors, 3:30 p.m. ET

The winner becomes the eighth seed in the Western Conference — a major difference because the Golden State Warriors or Memphis Grizzlies would end up with two chances at a playoff berth.

Sunday’s winner can try to claim the seventh seed in the play-in tournament. The loser of Sunday’s game must win two straight games to qualify for the postseason. — Nick Friedell

Settling the play-in seeds in the East

Pacers at Raptors, 1 p.m. ET

While the Indiana Pacers can no longer finish in eighth place in the Eastern Conference after losing to the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday afternoon, a win against the tanking Toronto Raptors on Sunday will ensure that Indiana hosts the 9-10 game in the NBA’s inaugural play-in tournament on Tuesday night. However, a loss will mean that Indiana will either be traveling to Charlotte or Washington as the 10th seed in the East. — Bontemps



Miles Bridges picks off a Knicks pass and takes it to the other end, then throws down a highlight-reel dunk.

Hornets at Wizards, 1 p.m. ET

After Washington beat Cleveland on Friday night and the Charlotte Hornets lost in overtime to the New York Knicks on Saturday, the game between the Wizards and Hornets on Sunday afternoon has become the unofficial start of the Eastern Conference play-in tournament. The winner will become the eighth seed, and the loser will likely become locked into the 10th seed, assuming a Pacers victory over the Raptors. — Bontemps

Who will make the top six in the East?

Celtics at Knicks, 1 p.m. ET

The Knicks only have to win at Madison Square Garden on Sunday to clinch the fourth seed in the East. With a tiebreaker over Atlanta, a Knicks victory means they’ll be ensured of finishing in no worse than a tie with the Hawks, so the first round of the playoffs will begin for them next weekend. Boston is locked into the seventh seed and is waiting to see who its play-in opponent will be at TD Garden on Tuesday night. — Bontemps

Rockets at Hawks, 7 p.m. ET

A victory for the Hawks could mean home-court advantage in the first round — but only if they get a little help. If Atlanta finishes in a tie with New York, the Knicks would own the tiebreaker and send the Hawks to the fifth spot. With New York playing earlier on Sunday, Atlanta will have a good idea of whether the 4-seed is attainable. The Rockets don’t have anything to play for other than pride, as they already have the worst record in the league secured. — Andrew Lopez

Heat at Pistons, 8 p.m. ET

Miami’s loss to the Bucks on Saturday night means the Heat are now are on track for the sixth seed and a rematch with the same Milwaukee team they beat in last season’s Eastern Conference semifinals. The Heat sit one game behind the Knicks and Hawks, who are in a tie for fourth place. The Heat own the tiebreaker over the Knicks but not over the Hawks. If the Knicks beat the Celtics and the Hawks take care of business against the Rockets on Sunday, the result of the Heat’s finale against the Pistons won’t matter as far as seedings are concerned. — Friedell

Who will win the No. 1 seed in the West?

Suns at Spurs, 2 p.m. ET



Devin Booker sinks a step-back 3-pointer, and on the next possession, Chris Paul drains a 3-pointer of his own.

In a rematch of Saturday’s contest, the Suns will once again look to topple San Antonio as they continue their quest for the No. 1 seed. The Suns also will have to hope Utah slips up against the Sacramento Kings in a later game in order to overtake the Jazz for the top spot. Phoenix cannot fall any lower than second.

Meanwhile, the Spurs are set in the 10th spot, so they could once again opt to rest players, as they did with DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Dejounte Murray and Jakob Poeltl on Saturday. — Lopez

Jazz at Kings, 9 p.m. ET

It’s simple for the Utah Jazz: A win over the Sacramento Kings claims the West’s top seed, regardless of the Suns’ result against the Spurs. It also would give the Jazz the outright best record in the league for the first time in franchise history. (Utah tied for the NBA’s best record in 1997-98 and 1998-99.) The Jazz will finish at least tied for the NBA’s best record no matter what, but the Suns own the tiebreaker over them, so a loss to the Kings could cause Utah to slip to the second seed.

The Kings, tied with the Pelicans for the ninth-worst record, will fall from eighth to 10th in the lottery odds. — Tim MacMahon

Other intriguing matchups to watch

Cavaliers at Nets, 7 p.m. ET

The easiest path to the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference is for Brooklyn to win both of its games this weekend. Brooklyn took care of the first half of that equation with its win over the Bulls on Saturday afternoon.

Now, the Nets will watch and see what happens between the Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night. The outcome of that game not only impacts the Nets’ playoff seeding — if the Bucks lose on Saturday, it secures the No. 2 seed for Brooklyn — but it has an effect on whom Steve Nash might elect to hold out of Sunday’s contest with the Cavaliers. Nash said he prefers not to play James Harden, Blake Griffin and Kevin Durant — all whom have a history of injury — on Sunday. If the Nets’ can lock up their seeding on Sunday night, the decision to rest those players becomes easier. — Malika Andrews

Mavericks at Timberwolves, 9 p.m. ET

The Dallas Mavericks know they’ll face either the Denver Nuggets or LA Clippers in the first round, but the Mavs won’t have any clarity before tipoff on how the result of their regular-season finale will determine their playoff matchup. A win over the Timberwolves will clinch the fifth seed for the Mavs, but the Clippers will be the fourth seed if they manage to lose to the Thunder or if the Nuggets beat the Trail Blazers. Dallas also could lose on Sunday and see the Clippers in the 3-6 matchup. A Mavs victory combined with a Clippers win and a Nuggets loss would result in a Denver vs. Dallas 4-5 matchup.

The Minnesota Timberwolves, whose pick goes to the Golden State Warriors if it doesn’t land in the top three, are tied with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the fifth-worst record, one loss fewer than the Orlando Magic and Oklahoma City Thunder. — MacMahon

Bucks at Bulls, 9 p.m. ET



Giannis Antetokounmpo puts on a mean face and flexes after he gets the inside pass and rises up through contact to force down a dunk for the Bucks.

Milwaukee should have a good idea of whether it can still claim the second seed by game time. Brooklyn’s matchup against Cleveland tips off two hours earlier, and if the Nets lose, a win over the Bulls will give the Bucks the 2-spot in the East. Meanwhile, the Bulls hold the eighth spot in the lottery by themselves. Beating Milwaukee would potentially push Chicago into a three-way tie with New Orleans and Sacramento. — Bontemps

Sixers at Magic, 7 p.m. ET

After Philadelphia beat Orlando on Friday night, the Sixers enter Sunday’s game with nothing to play for, having already secured the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The Magic, on the other hand, have everything to lose for. Losing Sunday’s contest will ensure Orlando finishes no worse than a tie for third with Oklahoma City in next month’s NBA draft lottery. The Magic are one of several teams at the bottom of the standings that might be trying their best to lose one final time before heading home for the summer. — Bontemps

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Kyrie Irving focused on issues other than hoops, says ‘basketball is just not the most important thing to me right now’



The Brooklyn Nets are about to begin their postseason pursuit of an NBA championship, but Kyrie Irving says he’s currently focused on issues other than basketball.

Irving declined to answer game-related questions Saturday after Brooklyn’s victory over the Chicago Bulls and made multiple references to the ongoing violence between Israel and Palestine.

“I’m not going to lie to you guys, a lot of stuff is going on in this world and basketball is just not the most important thing to me right now,” Irving said. “There’s a lot of things going on overseas. All our people are still in bondage across the world, and there’s a lot of dehumanization going on.

“So I apologize if I’m not going to be focused on y’all’s questions. It’s just too much going on in the world for me to just be talking about basketball. I focus on this most of the time, 24/7, but it’s just too much going on in this world not to address. It’s just sad to see this s— going on. It’s not just in Palestine, not just in Israel. It’s all over the world, and I feel it. I’m very compassionate to it — to all races, all cultures and to see it, to see a lot of people being discriminated against, based on their religion, color of their skin, what they believe in. It’s just sad.”

Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City flattened three buildings and killed at least 33 people Sunday, medics said, making it the deadliest single attack since heavy fighting broke out between Israel and the territory’s militant Hamas rulers nearly a week ago.

The latest outbreak of violence began in east Jerusalem last month, when Palestinian protests and clashes with police broke out in response to Israeli police tactics during Ramadan and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers. Hamas fired rockets toward Jerusalem late Monday, triggering the Israeli assault on Gaza.

The turmoil has also spilled over elsewhere, fueling protests in the occupied West Bank and stoking violence within Israel between its Jewish and Arab citizens, with clashes and vigilante attacks on people and property. At least 181 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including 52 children and 31 women, with 1,225 wounded. Eight people in Israel have been killed, including a 5-year-old boy and a soldier.

“I don’t care which way you stand on — either side,” Irving said. “If you’re a human being, then you support the anti-war effort. There’s a lot of people losing their lives — children, a lot of babies, and that’s just what I’m focused on.

“So if you guys want to ask me questions about the game, I really don’t care about it except for everyone leaving out the game healthy and being able to go home to their families.”

Irving scored 22 points in Saturday’s 105-91 victory and was reunited on the floor with fellow Nets stars Kevin Durant and James Harden. It marked just the eighth time this season that Brooklyn’s Big Three played together — and the first time since Feb. 13.

The Nets (47-24) are second in the Eastern Conference and can clinch the No. 2 seed in the playoffs with a victory in their regular-season finale Sunday over the Cavaliers. Brooklyn also would secure the No. 2 seed if the third-place Bucks (46-25) lose Sunday to the Bulls.

Irving, who was fined earlier this month for violating the NBA’s media access rules, was asked Saturday about maintaining a personal balance between basketball and social issues that are important to him.

“It’s a job,” he said. “I was raised as a survivor. My family comes from practically the bottom in the South Bronx. They came out of some extreme conditions. I’m the product of a lot of sacrifice. … It’s a unique balance because you’re on a platform or industry that — a lot of people that are around it or surviving it don’t really get a chance to say what they believe in, or they have to play it safe, or they have to worry about money, or they have to worry about what people are saying.

“I just think you can’t be afraid to say what you believe in. It’s not about consuming information or trying to be right or politically correct. It’s about doing what God intends us all to do — that’s to stand on the good word of treating everyone with respect, compassion, and love.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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