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  • Walton's lawyer rips accuser's press conference
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, April 24, 2019

    The attorney for Luke Walton fired back at former sports reporter Kelli Tennant on Wednesday, one day after she held a press conference to publicly discuss her sexual assault allegations against the new Sacramento Kings coach.

    • Tennant filed a lawsuit against Walton on Monday, claiming she was assaulted by Walton at a Santa Monica hotel. Her attorney said the assault occurred in 2014.

      Walton's attorney, Mark Baute, disputed what Tennant had to say during her press conference in Los Angeles.

      "These claims are false and Luke's innocence will be proven in court. Yesterday's press conference was a poorly staged attempt to portray the accuser as a viable spokesperson for an important movement," Baute said in a statement. "Her lawyers want to create a public circus to distract from their complete lack of evidence to support their outrageous claims. We will not try this case in the media or pay them a dime."

      On Tuesday, prior to Tennant's press conference, Baute called the allegations "baseless" and referred to Tennant as "an opportunist, not a victim."

      The incident allegedly occurred after Walton wrote the foreward for Tennant's book. He was an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors at the time and Tennant stopped by the hotel to drop off a copy of the book and Walton wanted to have the conversation in his hotel room.

      According to Tennant, things got out of hand quickly after she entered the hotel room.

      "Out of nowhere, he got on top of me and pinned me down to the bed and held my arms down with all of his weight while he kissed my neck and my face and my chest," Tennant said during a news conference.

      According to Tennant, she asked Walton to stop and he laughed at her. Tennant said she thought she was about to get raped but eventually broke free and left the room.

      Tennant, 31, said she was afraid to come forward earlier, partly because of Walton's status as coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. She said a large part of her motivation for going public now is her own well-being.

      "I am no longer comfortable staying silent about the things that have happened to me," Tennant said. "Although this may came as a shock to many of you in this community, this is a reality that I have been living in for years. I can no longer stand to not tell the story of what has profoundly affected my life in all of the events that we have alleged in our complaint."

      The Santa Monica Police Department told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday that the 39-year-old Walton is not under investigation.

      Walton's new employers -- the Kings -- are monitoring the situation. The Lakers, who dismissed Walton earlier this month, said the team had no knowledge of the allegation prior to Monday.

      Tennant is seeking an unspecified amount in damages.

      --Field Level Media

  • Restricted FA Russell would like to remain with Nets
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, April 24, 2019

    Rising star D'Angelo Russell said he would like to return to the Brooklyn Nets after putting together the best season of his four-year career.

    • The 23-year-old guard averaged 21.1 points and 7.0 assists in 81 games this season and made his first All-Star team.

      However, he will be a restricted free agent this summer, and Russell is aware that decisions outside his control make nothing a certainty.

      "I definitely want to be here but I also know it's a business, too," Russell told reporters on Wednesday. "So I'm not going to play that role like I don't know what could possibly happen.

      "Say somebody comes here that I have to be a part of (a transaction to acquire them), I know that could be a possibility. So I just want to stay in this moment and not speak too soon about anything."

      With Russell being a restricted free agent, the Nets have the right to match any offer he receives.

      Russell was one of more improved players in the NBA this season and has fit in well in his two seasons with the Nets. He struggled during his first two seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers after being the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.

      He was shipped to the Nets in the summer of 2017 in a deal that sent Kyle Kuzma and Brook Lopez to Los Angeles.

      He is a prime reason why Brooklyn went 42-40 this season and reached the playoffs for the first time 2015. The Nets lost to the Philadelphia 76ers in five games in an Eastern Conference first-round series.

      Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson has repeatedly praised Russell's leadership and improved approach to the game. Russell's development under Atkinson makes him partial to continue playing for the coach by sticking with the franchise.

      "Yeah, for sure, for sure. I don't know any other teams, I don't know any other GMs or coaches," Russell said. "I don't know any of those people. I know where I'm at. So it definitely gives you that advantage."

      Shooting guard Caris LeVert said he hopes that Russell returns.

      "We've obviously built a great chemistry together playing together the last couple of years, and I feel like it's only going to get better growing in the future," LeVert told reporters. "Whatever they decide to do, I'll obviously support it, but I'd love to play with D'Angelo."

      Another player who will be a free agent is veteran forward DeMarre Carroll. He dropped an interesting nugget on reporters by saying his wife will decide which team he signs with.

      "She said, 'I'm dictating this free agency. It's been 10 years and I've been sitting aside,' and she said 'it's my time,'" a smiling Carroll told reporters of his wife. "So it's her time, all I can do is sit back. I hope my wife picks a good destination, and hopefully its back here, but we'll see what happens."

      Carroll, who is an unrestricted free agent, averaged 11.1 points and 5.2 rebounds in 67 games this season.

      --Field Level Media

  • Spurs host Nuggets, hoping to force Game 7
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, April 24, 2019

    Denver strutted, shot and defended its way to a pivotal Game 5 win over San Antonio on Tuesday and is one win away from clinching a spot in the Western Conference semifinals.

    • But the Nuggets don't expect the seventh-seeded Spurs to go quietly when they meet Thursday night in the Alamo City in Game 6 of the first-round series.

      The second-seeded Nuggets, who lost the series opener at home and nearly lost the second, head back to Texas after Tuesday's dominating 108-90 win in Denver. They are on the cusp of their first postseason series victory since 2009, when they reached the Western Conference finals.

      Nuggets forward Nikola Jokic said he expects Game 6 to be the "toughest game of our lives."

      Denver snapped a 14-game, seven-year losing streak in San Antonio with a 117-103 victory in Game 4 on Saturday.

      The Nuggets carried that momentum into Tuesday and dominated Game 5, leading by 11 at the half and by as many as 30 points in the final quarter to seize their first lead of the series. Jamal Murray paced Denver with 23 points, one of seven Nuggets in double figures.

      Jokic added 16 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, and remained the hub of Denver's offense.

      "What's remarkable about Nikola is he has that consistency," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. "You expect greatness from him every night."

      Denver's defense had a lot to say about the Game 5 win. In a 5:21 span of the first quarter, the Spurs managed only one field goal and missed seven consecutive shots. In the second quarter, San Antonio was held to another stretch of more than five minutes with just one made basket.

      After Denver began the third quarter on a 17-4 run, the Spurs were all but forced to concede.

      "They just outplayed us in every facet," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "We missed a lot at the rim early, or it could have been a much more competitive first half. We've got to have more guys playing well for sure."

      Malone labeled the Nuggets' third-quarter performance, in which they scored 32 points and led by as many as 28, one of their best of the season.

      "We didn't even have to call any offensive sets," Malone said. "We were just playing the game, and obviously San Antonio's a team that started that many years ago, the beautiful game. But it's really fun to watch, as a coach, as a fan. And our guys thrive off that."

      LaMarcus Aldridge, a non-factor in the series despite leading San Antonio through the regular season, paced the Spurs in Game 5 with 17 points and 10 rebounds. DeMar DeRozan added 17 points, but made just 6 of 15 shots from the field.

      "There's always somebody that steps up in the playoffs," Popovich said. "You look for people to step up who aren't your major players. Every winning team, there's someone who seems to do that."

      It seems like a lifetime ago when San Antonio held a 2-1 lead and owned the home-court edge against the Nuggets. Now the Spurs have to fight for their playoff lives to force a deciding seventh game in Denver on Saturday.

      "We want to win two straight," Spurs guard Bryn Forbes said. "That's our goal, to play the best two games we can put together and try to win these next two."

      --Field Level Media

  • NBA roundup: Lillard's 50 points, buzzer-beater bounce Thunder
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, April 24, 2019

    Damian Lillard capped a 50-point game by sinking a long 3-pointer as time expired to give the Portland Trail Blazers a 118-115 victory over the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night and a five-game series win.

    • Lillard set a franchise single-game playoff scoring record as the third-seeded Trail Blazers clinched the first-round Western Conference playoff series despite trailing by 15 points with 7:45 to play. They will next play the winner of the Denver-San Antonio series.

      Paul George scored 36 points for the Thunder, and Russell Westbrook collected 29 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds.

      An 8-0 Blazers run tied the game at 113-113 with 57.1 seconds to play, and the two teams traded baskets after that. Then, after a Westbrook miss with less than 20 seconds to play, the Blazers rebounded and got it to Lillard, who hit the series-clinching bomb at the buzzer.

      76ers 122, Nets 100

      Joel Embiid collected 23 points and 13 rebounds as Philadelphia cruised to a wire-to-wire victory over visiting Brooklyn to win their first-round series in five games.

      The 76ers advanced to the conference semifinals for the second straight season. They next will face the second-seeded Toronto Raptors in the first postseason meeting between the teams since the 2001 East semifinals, a series the 76ers won in seven en route to their most recent NBA Finals appearance.

      Philadelphia posted its third double-digit win of the series, but unlike the wins in Games 2 and 3, when the 76ers pulled away after halftime, the dominating tone was established early. Embiid scored 10 points as the 76ers scored the game's first 14 points. The Nets went 0-for-8 on the first 14 possessions before scoring, and the 76ers held a 25-3 lead late in the first and a 32-15 edge after the opening quarter.

      Raptors 115, Magic 96

      Kyle Lowry scored Toronto's first nine points as part of a game-opening, 12-1 flurry to propel the Raptors to a blowout win over visiting Orlando and a 4-1 win in an Eastern Conference first-round playoff series.

      With a chance to wrap up the best-of-seven set at home, the Raptors wasted no time taking charge. Lowry hit four field goals -- including a 3-pointer -- in his early burst, and Kawhi Leonard added a three-point play as Toronto went up by 11 before the game was three minutes old.

      Leonard finished with 27 points and Pascal Siakam scored 24 for the Raptors, who had never previously won four straight games in the same playoff series. D.J. Augustin scored a team-high 15 points for the Magic.

      Nuggets 108, Spurs 90

      Jamal Murray had 23 points and seven assists, and host Denver beat San Antonio in Game 5 of a Western Conference playoff series -- the only series of the four played Tuesday night not to end.

      The Nuggets lead the series 3-2 heading into Game 6 at San Antonio on Thursday night. Game 7, if necessary, would be played Saturday in Denver.

      Nikola Jokic amassed 16 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, Will Barton scored 17 points off the bench, and Gary Harris had 15 points for Denver. LaMarcus Aldridge had 17 points and 10 rebounds, and DeMar DeRozan also scored 17 for the Spurs, who lost a second game in a row.

      --Field Level Media

  • Warriors want to close out Clippers in Game 5
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, April 23, 2019

    The Golden State Warriors hope to avoid giving their future competition any scheduling advantage as they seek to close out the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 5 of their first-round series Wednesday night in Oakland.

    • The top-seeded Warriors rebounded from a shocking home loss in Game 2 to sweep a pair in Los Angeles, putting themselves one win away from the Western Conference semifinals.

      There the defending champions would face the winner of the Houston-Utah series, which got extended at least to a fifth game Monday when the Jazz stayed alive with a 107-91 win in Game 4.

      The earliest the Rockets can clinch a spot in the semifinals would be a couple of hours earlier Wednesday, forcing the Warriors to take care of business against the Clippers to keep pace.

      "We see our opponent," Warriors guard Klay Thompson boasted immediately after Sunday's win in Los Angeles. "We don't want to give them any more rest days. We don't want to extend the series any longer than we need to, because every game is so pivotal in the playoffs."

      The Warriors were denied a potential four-game sweep when the Clippers mounted a historic rally from a 31-point deficit to win Game 2 in Oakland. Lou Williams had 36 points in the win, but was held to a total of 28 in the two subsequent home games as Golden State brought help to contain him.

      One Clipper who took advantage of the situation was rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who exploded for 25 points in Game 4 after having totaled 29 in the first three games.

      Clippers coach Doc Rivers hopes more of his guys learn from Gilgeous-Alexander's example.

      "They're playing off of him, and instead of just standing there and being a spot-up shooter, he actually decided to make plays," the coach noted to reporters after Sunday's game. "That's what we like."

      If there's reason for optimism for the Clippers, it's that the Warriors have been susceptible to letdowns at home this season.

      They followed a critical win over Denver in March with a 115-111 home loss to the Phoenix Suns. Two weeks later, they were clobbered 126-91 at home by Dallas after an impressive win over Indiana.

      Meanwhile, the Warriors last week set an NBA record with at least one road win in each of their last 20 playoff series.

      En route to 15 wins in their last 16 playoff series, the Warriors have been nearly unbeatable when given a chance to end a series at home in Game 5.

      They eliminated their first two opponents last year -- San Antonio and New Orleans -- under those circumstances, and finished off Cleveland in Game 5 of the 2017 Finals.

      In the Steve Kerr era, the Warriors have lost Game 5 at home just once, that coming in the 2016 Finals against Cleveland in the game immediately following Draymond Green's controversial suspension.

      The Clippers, meanwhile, have lost Game 5 in each of their last five playoff series.

      The last time they won a Game 5, it was at home against Golden State in the first round in 2014. The series was tied 2-2 at the time, before Los Angeles went on to win in seven games.

      That was also the last time the Warriors lost a playoff series to a Western Conference opponent.

      --Field Level Media

  • Defense keeps Jazz alive against Rockets
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, April 23, 2019

    It took until they reached brink of elimination, but the Utah Jazz may have finally figured out how to effectively defend against the Houston Rockets.

    • Utah needs the late success it found in Game 4 to continue if it hopes to remain alive with a win in Game 5 on Wednesday night in Houston.

      The Jazz trailed entering the fourth quarter Monday in Salt Lake City, but the Rockets missed their final 13 3-point attempts as Utah avoided the first-round sweep with a 107-91 win.

      "Physicality," Jazz center Rudy Gobert said when asked what fueled the improved defensive effort. "The first two games in Houston we started the games pretty soft, and that's not who we are. The fact that we lost the first two games, we had a reaction of pride, and we came out ready. Game 3 we were ready, (Game 4) we were ready, and Game 5 we're going to be ready."

      Utah has shown steady improvement against James Harden and the high-octane Houston offense.

      The Rockets shot 50.5 percent from the field while cruising to a 122-90 win in the opener. In Game 2, Houston shot 47.5 percent in a 118-98 win.

      As the series relocated to Salt Lake City, the Jazz reclaimed their defensive identity, holding Houston to 38.4 percent shooting in Game 3 (a 104-101 Rockets win) and a 35.4 percent clip on Monday.

      The Rockets, perhaps justifiably, could point to the fact that 0-for-13 shooting from deep has as much to do with their own wayward marksmanship as anything the Jazz did defensively.

      But Utah can definitely argue that it has made life increasingly difficult for Harden. And when they stood just 12 minutes away from their season concluding, the Jazz found an internal spark.

      "You can always control how hard you compete," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "We were able to continue to compete. I thought the third quarter, we didn't start well and the beginning of the fourth, obviously, we started very well, and then we had guys step up and make plays on both ends of the floor."

      Now the onus rests on the Rockets to fashion a counter to the adjustments Utah made at home.

      Gobert and Derrick Favors have skillfully protected the rim and thwarted Harden repeatedly. For all the derision the Jazz faced regarding how they defended Harden in Games 1 and 2, their determination and willingness to adapt to changing strategies have served them well.

      The Rockets realize that not only must they discover new means to unlock Harden, they also need to dig deep into their emotional reserves to match the fight Utah brought to the table.

      Coincidentally, mustering the defensive might that Utah relied upon at home could work equally well for the Rockets in Houston. For all of their offensive weaponry, when the Rockets thrive, they do so by playing unparalleled defense, even against opponents with glittering defensive reputations.

      "The way we won most of the other games was imposing our defense," Rockets guard Chris Paul said. "We were able to get stops on demand, and we didn't do that (in Game 4)."

      --Field Level Media

  • Report: Kings coach Walton not under investigation
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, April 23, 2019

    Police in Santa Monica, Calif., said a local sports reporter never filed a report accusing Luke Walton of sexual assault, and the Sacramento Kings reportedly weren't aware of the allegations when they hired him as their head coach last week.

    • Santa Monica police told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday that Walton, 39, is not under investigation.

      "There has been no report made to the Santa Monica Police Department," Lt. Candice Cobarrubias said in a statement. "No investigation is ongoing."

      TMZ reported, and the Times confirmed, that sports reporter Kelli Tennant filed a lawsuit Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, claiming Walton assaulted her at the Casa del Mar Hotel in Santa Monica while he was an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors. The date of the alleged attack is unknown, but it is believed to be before he became coach of the Los Angeles Lakers in 2016.

      The Athletic's Sam Amick reported that Kings general manager Vlade Divac said he had "no previous knowledge of the accusations until the report surfaced, and that it was too early in this fact-finding process to explore the possibility of terminating Walton's contract."

      Walton's lawyer, Mark Baute, issued a statement Tuesday calling the allegations "baseless."

      "The accuser is an opportunist, not a victim, and her claim is not credible. We intend to prove this in a courtroom," he said.

      NBA spokesman Mike Bass issued a statement Tuesday reading, "We are coordinating with the Kings organization and are in the process of gathering more information."

      The Kings issued a statement Monday night that read, "We are aware of the report and are gathering additional information. We have no further comment at this time."

      The Lakers also issued a statement that read, "This alleged incident took place before Luke Walton was the Head Coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. At no time before or during his employment here was this allegation reported to the Lakers. If it had been, we would have immediately commenced an investigation and notified the NBA. Since Luke Walton is now under contract to another team, we will have no further comment."

      Tennant alleges in her lawsuit that, while visiting Walton at the hotel to discuss a book project, he convinced her to go up to his hotel room, where he groped her and forced himself on her before eventually relenting.

      Following the hotel-room incident, Tennant claims that Walton continued to verbally and physically harass her. She is seeking an unspecified amount in damages.

      Walton parted ways with the Lakers on April 12 after a 37-45 season. He compiled a 98-148 record over three seasons, with no playoff appearances. He was quickly hired by the Kings.

      --Field Level Media

  • Report: Lakers, Lue meeting again Wednesday
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, April 23, 2019

    The Los Angeles Lakers will interview Tyronn Lue for a second time Wednesday about their coaching vacancy, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.

    • The report said Lue will sit down with team co-owner Jeanie Buss for the first time and with general manager Rob Pelinka for the second time. Lue and Pelinka met last Friday.

      Lue, who turns 42 on May 3, compiled a 128-83 record and won the 2016 NBA championship as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. He was fired this season after an 0-6 start.

      Lue is not the only candidate linked to the job formerly held by Luke Walton, who parted ways with Los Angeles earlier this month and became head coach of the Sacramento Kings.

      Sources told ESPN that former Brooklyn and Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd interviewed with Pelinka and team executive Kurt Rambis on Monday.

      The 46-year-old former NBA point guard compiled a 183-190 record in four-plus seasons coaching the Bucks (2014-18) and Nets (2013-14).

      The Lakers were also reportedly scheduled to meet with Miami Heat assistant coach Juwan Howard on Tuesday. They are also planning a second meeting with Philadelphia 76ers assistant Monty Williams, the former head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans, according to the Times. ESPN reported Monday the Phoenix Suns are targeting Williams for their opening.

      Lue already has a relationship with Lakers star LeBron James from their time together in Cleveland. Kidd and James were Olympic teammates in 2008, when Team USA won a gold medal in Beijing.

      Los Angeles finished a disappointing 37-45 in 2018-19, its first season with James on the roster, and has not made the playoffs since the 2012-13 season.

      --Field Level Media

  • Suns fire coach Kokoskov
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, April 23, 2019

    The Phoenix Suns will soon hire a seventh head coach in eight years, as they fired Igor Kokoskov on Monday night after one season on the job.

    • "After extensive evaluation, I determined it is best to move in a different direction with our head coaching position," Suns general manager James Jones said in a statement. "I want to thank Igor for his work this past season and wish him the best with his future endeavors."

      Coming off a season in which they finished with the worst record in the Western Conference, 19-63, the Suns are targeting Philadelphia 76ers assistant coach Monty Williams to take over for Kokoskov, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported.

      Kokoskov, a 47-year-old native of Serbia, made history last fall when he became the first person born and raised outside of North America to serve as an NBA head coach. He previously was an NBA assistant coach with the Los Angeles Clippers (2000-03), Detroit Pistons (2003-08), Suns (2008-13), Cleveland Cavaliers (2013-14), Orlando Magic (2015) and Utah Jazz (2015-18).

      He was the latest in a rapidly changing line of Suns coaches that included Alvin Gentry (2009-13), Lindsey Hunter (2013), Jeff Hornacek (2013-16), Earl Watson (2016-17) and Jay Triano (2017-18).

      Williams, 47, was the New Orleans Pelicans' head coach from 2010-15, compiling a 173-221 record. In five seasons, his teams reached the postseason twice, losing in the first round each time.

      Williams served as an assistant coach for the Portland Trail Blazers (2005-10) and Oklahoma City Thunder (2015-16) before taking a job with the 76ers under head coach Brett Brown last June.

      According to multiple media outlets, Williams and Tyronn Lue are both due for second interviews with the Los Angeles Lakers, who are looking to replace Luke Walton as head coach. Lue, 41, coached the Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA championship in 2015-16.

      --Field Level Media

  • Kings coach Walton sued for alleged sexual assault
    By Field Level Media / Monday, April 22, 2019

    New Sacramento Kings coach Luke Walton is being sued for an alleged sexual assault by Los Angeles-based sports reporter Kelli Tennant, according to multiple media reports on Monday.

    • TMZ Sports initially broke the story regarding the lawsuit, which was sparked by an alleged incident that occurred before Walton became the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers in April 2016. The exact date in question was unclear.

      ESPN, citing anonymous sources, reported that the NBA opened an investigation into the matter.

      The Kings issued a statement that read, "We are aware of the report and are gathering additional information. We have no further comment at this time."

      The Lakers also issued a statement that read, "This alleged incident took place before Luke Walton was the Head Coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. At no time before or during his employment here was this allegation reported to the Lakers. If it had been, we would have immediately commenced an investigation and notified the NBA. Since Luke Walton is now under contract to another team, we will have no further comment."

      The report includes a summary of legal documents acquired by TMZ Sports that say Tennant, who says she knew Walter for "several years," met Walton at his Santa Monica hotel in May 2017 to discuss him writing a forward for a book she had been working on.

      She alleges that he convinced her to come up to his hotel room, where he groped her and forced himself on her before eventually relenting.

      Following the hotel-room incident, Tennant claims that Walton continued to verbally and physically harass her, according to a report from theblast.com. She is seeking an unspecified amount in damages.

      Walton parted ways with the Lakers on April 12 after a 37-45 season. He compiled a 98-148 record over three seasons, with no playoff appearances. He was quickly hired by the Kings.

      --Field Level Media

  • Raptors rolling, looking to close out Magic
    By Field Level Media / Monday, April 22, 2019

    The Toronto Raptors will attempt to win four straight games in the same playoff series for the first time in franchise history when they seek to close out the visiting Orlando Magic in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference first-round series Tuesday night.

    • The Raptors have rebounded from a 104-101 home loss in Game 1 to take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. They are one victory away from a second-round matchup with either Philadelphia or Brooklyn.

      Toronto's defense has dominated the series ever since D.J. Augustin's late 3-pointer stunned the East's second seed in the series opener.

      Orlando made 14 of its 29 3-point attempts (48.3 percent) in Game 1. The Magic have since gone 29-for-111 (26.1 percent) while totaling just 82, 93 and 85 points after putting up 104 in the opener.

      After a 2-for-5 effort in Game 1, Evan Fournier's shooting woes have mirrored the Magic's long-range issues. He's shot 5-for-23 from deep in the last three games.

      He felt apologetic after his -- and his team's -- performance in 98-93 and 107-85 home losses in Games 3 and 4.

      "It's tough, man, because these fans have been waiting for these games for so long and it's really disappointing to not give them a win," he told reporters after Sunday's loss. "That's a big reason why we want to come back here for a Game 6."

      Getting the series back to Orlando will be no easy task. Toronto has rebounded from its Game 1 disappointment to win three games by a total of 56 points.

      Kawhi Leonard leads the series in scoring at 28.0 points per game, but he's gotten plenty of help.

      Pascal Siakam (22.3 points) also has outscored Orlando's leading scorer (Aaron Gordon, 16.3); Kyle Lowry has twice the number of total assists (34) as the Magic leader (Gordon, 17); and Toronto has five other guys -- Serge Ibaka (9.3), Danny Green (8.5), Marc Gasol (8.3), Norman Powell (8.3) and Fred VanVleet (7.3) -- averaging at least seven points per game.

      "I feel like my teammates had a big part (in Sunday's win)," Leonard said. "With Norm playing great; Pascal shot the ball well; Kyle did great, made big shots; Danny made a big shot at the end of the third; Marc played great; Fred came in and knocked down shots ... I feel like we all played well tonight; we all had our hands on the game. It's not just me out there."

      While Toronto has never previously won four straight in a playoff series, the Magic have a history of losing four in succession. In fact, it happened the last time Orlando made the playoffs, when it beat Indiana in the 2012 first-round opener before getting eliminated in five games.

      Orlando, which also won on the road as part of a 2-2 split in the regular season, will tip off the must-win contest with vivid memories of having had success on the Toronto court.

      "We've shown that we can win there before," Gordon noted to reporters Sunday. "That's the idea -- go out there and fight, definitely fight -- and potentially get back (to Orlando for a Game 6). We get a win out there, then the series is up for grabs."

      --Field Level Media

  • Heat C Whiteside allegedly embezzled by Avenatti
    By Field Level Media / Monday, April 22, 2019

    Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside was allegedly embezzled out of $2.75 million by attorney Michael Avenatti 27 months ago, the Los Angeles Times reported.

    • Alexis Gardner, a former girlfriend of Whiteside, retained Avenatti to negotiate a potential lawsuit against Whiteside and Avenatti struck a $3 million deal.

      Whiteside made an initial $2.75 million payment to Avenatti in January 2017 but none of the money was passed on to Gardner, according to the report.

      Avenatti was entitled to just over $1 million in legal fees but hid the payment from Gardner, according to prosecutors, and took $2.5 million to buy a share of a private jet.

      Avenatti was indicted on April 10 by a grand jury in Santa Ana, Calif. Gardner is one of five people who had money stolen from them by Avenatti, prosecutors said.

      According to prosecutors, Avenatti repeatedly told Gardner that Whiteside wasn't making his payments. Eventually, Avenatti made 11 payments to Gardner over a 15-month period -- always misrepresenting them as a payment from Whiteside -- totaling $194,000 before stopping in June 2018.

      On Sunday, Avenatti commented on this Twitter account, saying in part:

      "I look forward to all the details coming out regarding Hassan Whiteside's settlement, the money received by the client, the money deducted for fees and costs, etc. and the reason why he paid the money."

      The reason for a $3 million settlement isn't publicly known and Whiteside offered no explanation in a joint statement provided to the Los Angeles Times.

      "We entered into a mutually agreed upon settlement more than two years ago following the end of our relationship; a settlement that reflected Alexis' investment of time and support over a number of years as Hassan pursued a career in the NBA," Whiteside and Gardner said in a statement released by Whiteside's agent.

      "It is unfortunate that something that was meant to be kept private between us is now being publicly reported. We have both moved on amicably and wish nothing but the best for each other."

      Last month, Avenatti was charged with attempting to extort up to $25 million from Nike by threatening to expose misconduct by Nike employees involving payments to college basketball players. He mentioned former Arizona center Deandre Ayton and Oregon big man Bol Bol as players who received money from Nike as recruits.

      About 10 days later, Avenatti said the mother of Duke star Zion Williamson was paid by Nike for "bogus consulting services" as part of the deal to get Williamson to choose the Blue Devils.

      Avenatti jumped into the public eye when he was the attorney for adult film star Stormy Daniels during her legal battles with President Donald Trump. He and Daniels parted ways earlier this year.

      Whiteside, 29, just completed the third season of a four-year, $98 million contract. He averaged 12.3 points and 11.3 rebounds in 72 games (53 starts) this past season.

      --Field Level Media

  • Nuggets have momentum after rare win in San Antonio
    By Field Level Media / Monday, April 22, 2019

    After posting a rare win in San Antonio to even the first-round series at 2-2, the Denver Nuggets will try to carry that momentum into Game 5 on Tuesday night against the visiting Spurs.

    • Denver made adjustments -- tactically and emotionally -- and outscored the Spurs 69-45 in the second and third quarters on Saturday to secure its first win in San Antonio since 2012.

      The Nuggets have regained homecourt advantage as they try to make it past the first round for just the second time in 25 seasons.

      Denver's 117-103 win in Game 4 came after coach Michael Malone put Torrey Craig in the starting lineup and brought struggling Will Barton off the bench. Craig, a superior defender, helped shut down DeMar DeRozan and allowed the Nuggets' other top-flight perimeter defender, Gary Harris, to hound point guard Derrick White.

      The strategy worked well. White, who scored 36 in Game 3, was held to eight points and had four turnovers. DeRozan scored 19, but lost his cool after he was called for an offensive foul when Harris was guarding. He tossed the ball in the direction of the referee and was ejected with 5:01 left.

      The league also hit DeRozan with a $25,000 fine for his actions.

      "Frustration," DeRozan said after the game of why he tossed the ball. "I mean, I thought it was a bad call."

      Craig is likely to remain in the starting lineup Tuesday night.

      "Our two best perimeter defenders on their two best perimeter players," Malone said after the game.

      Craig added a bonus on offense, scoring 18 points and hitting 5 of 7 of his 3-pointers.

      San Antonio will have to make the next move. The Spurs have played well in the two games in Denver, winning the first and then holding a 19-point lead in Game 2 before Jamal Murray got hot in the fourth quarter and led the Nuggets to the win.

      The theme of this series has been the young roster of the Nuggets against the veteran Spurs, who have been to the postseason 22 straight seasons. In the first three games that experience showed, and if not for a big fourth quarter in Game 2 San Antonio could have been up 3-0 before Saturday.

      Denver has seemed to settle down in the series. Nikola Jokic has played like an MVP candidate and Harris has been solid on both ends of the floor. Winning a road game in the playoffs might give the Nuggets the spark they need to get over the top.

      But the Spurs will likely tweak things. Forward LaMarcus Aldridge had 24 points in 29 minutes in Game 4 and could see more action in the post, which will force Jokic to play more defense and possibly get into foul trouble.

      A bounce-back game from White, who grew up in the Denver area rooting for the Nuggets, would be a boost.

      No matter what happens the rest of the way this has been the most competitive first-round series in the NBA. The higher seeds in the other seven series either swept their opponents or were up 3-1. Only the Nuggets-Spurs were guaranteed a Game 6 after the first four matchups.

      --Field Level Media

  • Trail Blazers aim to close out Thunder
    By Field Level Media / Monday, April 22, 2019

    The Portland Trail Blazers are known as an offensive team, but their defense has been equally important as they have built a 3-1 lead in their first-round playoff series with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

    • The Thunder have been held under 100 points in each of their three losses. They shot only 37.5 percent in Sunday's 111-98 home loss.

      "We need one more game like that," Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts said as he looked ahead to Tuesday night's Game 5 in Portland.

      The Thunder are looking at the possibility of a third straight first-round playoff ouster.

      "We're down 3-1," Coach Billy Donovan said. "All we can do now is watch the (video), try to make some corrections and adjustments and get ready for Game 5. I mean, that's really all we can do."

      There were plenty of extracurricular activities during Oklahoma City's Game 3 win, but the Blazers were determined not to get caught up in it in Game 4.

      "We weren't emotional about it -- we were just competing," said Damian Lillard, who scored 24 points in Game 4 and is averaging 28.8 points in the series. "We were passionate about the game as well (as the Thunder), but we didn't engage in it. Our focus was our team.

      "We're not going to go crazy on the referees, get into shouting matches (with the Thunder). We're going to focus on the things we need to do to win the game. I was proud our team stuck with that."

      Stotts said he expects that to be the case Tuesday night as well.

      "It's good to be going home and having a chance to close them out," he said, "but our demeanor, our approach isn't going to change in Game 5."

      Oklahoma City forward Paul George is averaging 26.8 points and 8.5 rebounds in the series but is shooting only 37 percent from the field and 30.8 from 3-point range. Guard Russell Westbrook is averaging 21.3 points, 9.8 assists and 8.3 rebounds but is shooting 36.3 percent from the field and 30.4 from the 3-point line.

      The Thunder are shooting 41.3 from the field and 30.8 on 3-point attempts in the series. The Trail Blazers' numbers are 44.1 from the field and an excellent 41.5 from beyond the arc.

      What's the solution for the Thunder in Game 5?

      "Score more points," George said. "Honestly, that's what we have to do. Defensively, we're going to be locked in. We'll get in the flow. We'll get in the rhythm. The ball will find its way to the hole. We just have to get better.

      "Regardless of what the series is, it's always one game at a time. We have to play one game. Give everything in one game, and go to the next. We're down 3-1, but we have to take it one game at a time."

      Stotts expects a strong performance by the Thunder on Tuesday night.

      "They're pros," he said. "I expect a great effort from them. You lose a game on your homecourt, you're going to be dejected. But I would expect them to bounce back in Game 5."

      --Field Level Media

  • Embiid, Sixers look to close out series against Nets
    By Field Level Media / Monday, April 22, 2019

    Joel Embiid's left knee will be a question for the Philadelphia 76ers for the duration of their playoff run, but when he is on the floor, things go extremely well.

    • Embiid's presence is among the reasons why the 76ers are on the verge of advancing to the Eastern Conference semifinals. And they have a shot to do just that Tuesday night when they host the Brooklyn Nets in Game 5 of their first-round series.

      Philadelphia is attempting to reach the semifinals in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1999-2001 during the peak years of coach Larry Brown and Allen Iverson, a stretch that culminated in getting to the NBA Finals in 2001.

      If Philadelphia is unable to close it out, the series will return to Brooklyn for Game 6 on Thursday.

      The Sixers have won the last three games after getting booed by home fans in a 111-102 loss in Game 1 on April 13. Embiid totaled 22 points and 15 rebounds in the series opener but in the subsequent two games he has played, the center has been a force.

      Embiid is averaging 25.3 points, 13.7 rebounds, 3.7 blocks and four assists while playing about 26 minutes per game. He also is shooting 51 percent from the floor, and the Sixers have outscored Brooklyn by 27 points when he is on the court.

      "He was dominant," Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said after Embiid made the pass to Mike Scott for the go-ahead corner 3-pointer with 18 seconds remaining in Game 4. "There were times you can see that it's still raw and there are some decisions that he probably would like to have over again but given the volume of playing time lately, that he hasn't had, it's just a dominant performance. What more can you say?"

      "It was really important because we wanted to get this one and go home and try to finish it," Embiid said. "It feels great to be up 3-1."

      Embiid is hardly the only Sixer giving the Nets fits.

      Ben Simmons followed up 31 points in Game 3 with 15 points Saturday and has shot 18-of-25 in those games. Tobias Harris has scored 29 and 24 in the last two games while Butler scored 36 points in Game 1.

      The Nets are facing the potential end of a season that surprised many. They were 8-18 through Dec. 5 but went 34-22 from that point to finish 42-40 and grab the sixth seed.

      They won Game 1 by showcasing physicality but haven't had many answers for Embiid or anyone else. The Nets have allowed 170 points in the paint in the last three games and Philadelphia has shot 51.4 percent.

      While Games 2 and 3 got away from the Nets in the third quarter, a fourth-quarter collapse doomed the Nets in Game 4. Brooklyn held a 101-94 lead with 5:20 left and then allowed an 18-7 run, shot 3-of-8 and committed five turnovers.

      One of those turnovers was by Jarrett Allen when Simmons stole the ball from him with five seconds left as Embiid and Harris also surrounded the second-year center.

      "For a lot of us, this is our first time playing big minutes in the playoffs," Brooklyn guard Spencer Dinwiddie said. "But we were right there [in Game 4]. We feel like we should've won. We weren't saying this was a learning experience when we won Game 1. So we can't fall back on that now. We need to try to pull off something incredible."

      The Nets have never overcome a three games-to-one deficit in their NBA history.

      Besides trying to stop Embiid, the Nets will hope to get a big night from D'Angelo Russell, who is averaging 22.3 points in the series but shooting 39 percent.

      They also will hope to get continued production from Caris LeVert, who has 51 points in the past two games, and improved three-point shooting from Joe Harris, who is 3-of-16 from behind the arc after being the league's top 3-point shooter in the regular season.

      Brooklyn might be without veteran forward Ed Davis, who is questionable with an ankle injury. Davis sat out Game 4 and has played 16 minutes since Game 1

      --Field Level Media

  • NBA roundup: Celtics move on after sweep of Pacers
    By Field Level Media / Monday, April 22, 2019

    The Boston Celtics completed a four-game sweep of the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs Sunday afternoon, using key baskets from Marcus Morris and Gordon Hayward to hold on for a 110-106 victory in Indianapolis.

    • The fourth-seeded Celtics advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals, where they will face the winner of the Milwaukee-Detroit series.

      Meanwhile, the loss ended Indiana's season in the first round of the playoffs for the third consecutive year. The Pacers, who also were swept by Cleveland in 2017, took the Cavaliers to a Game 7 in the opening round last year.

      The fourth quarter featured four ties, the last of which occurred at 82-all when Jayson Tatum made the first of two free throws with 6:45 remaining after a flagrant foul on Cory Joseph.

      Warriors 113, Clippers 105

      Kevin Durant scored 33 points and visiting Golden State held on to beat Los Angeles in Game 4 of a Western Conference first-round series. After winning both games in Los Angeles, the Warriors own a 3-1 series lead heading to Game 5 on Wednesday night in Oakland, Calif.

      Klay Thompson scored 27 of his 32 points in the first half for the Warriors. Stephen Curry went 3-for-14, including 1-for-9 from 3-point range, finishing with 12 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.

      Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored a season-high 25 points for the Clippers.

      Raptors 107, Magic 85

      Kawhi Leonard scored 34 points -- 12 in the third quarter -- as visiting Toronto defeated Orlando to take a 3-1 lead in the first-round playoff series. The Raptors can clinch the best-of-seven series Tuesday by winning Game 5 in Toronto.

      Pascal Siakam added 16 points for Toronto, while Norman Powell had 16 points and Serge Ibaka had 13 points and gathered eight rebounds. Kyle Lowry contributed nine points and nine assists.

      Aaron Gordon scored 25 points and had seven rebounds for the Magic. Evan Fournier added 19 points, while Nikola Vucevic scored 11 points.

      Trail Blazers 111, Thunder 98

      C.J. McCollum scored 27 points and Damian Lillard added 24 as visiting Portland beat Oklahoma City.

      The win gave the Blazers a 3-1 lead in their Western Conference playoff series. Portland has a chance to finish off the series at home Tuesday.

      The win snapped an eight-game road playoff losing streak for the Blazers and gave the road teams an 8-0 record over the weekend in the NBA playoffs.

      --Field Level Media

  • NBA notebook: Nets' GM suspended; NBA notes missed foul call
    By Field Level Media / Sunday, April 21, 2019

    Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks was suspended one game without pay and fined $25,000 on Sunday for entering the officials' locker room after Saturday's Game 4 of the first-round series with the Philadelphia 76ers.

    • The announcement by Byron Spruell, president of NBA league operations, didn't divulge what occurred after Marks entered the room following Brooklyn's 112-108 loss. But the contest was emotionally charged and included a ruckus in which Jared Dudley of the Nets and Jimmy Butler of the 76ers were ejected.

      Nets coach Kenny Atkinson was upset following the contest that there wasn't a call on Philadelphia's Tobias Harris for grabbing Brooklyn's Jarrett Allen with 4.8 seconds left in regulation as his club looked for a tying or winning shot while trailing by two.

      On Sunday, the NBA agreed with Atkinson's contention, acknowledging that Harris should have been called for fouling Allen. Marks will serve the suspension on Tuesday when the Nets visit the 76ers in Game 5.

      --The NBA fined Dudley and Butler in the wake of the altercation involving several players in the third quarter of Saturday's first-round NBA playoff game in Brooklyn.

      Dudley, who shoved Philadelphia's Joel Embiid after Embiid made a hard foul on Allen, was fined $25,000, according to Kiki VanDeWeghe, the league's vice president of basketball operations.

      Butler, who then shoved Dudley, was fined $15,000 for escalating the situation. The scuffle then spilled over into the stands, with Philadelphia's Ben Simmons and Dudley as lead combatants.

      --San Antonio Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan was fined $25,000 for his ball-tossing effort during Saturday's 117-103 loss to the Denver Nuggets.

      VanDeWeghe said in announcing the fine that DeRozan was disciplined "for recklessly throwing the basketball toward a game official and into the spectator stands."

      DeRozan was given a technical foul and was ejected after the incident with 5:01 remaining in the contest. DeRozan was called for an offensive foul after charging into Denver guard Gary Harris. He then leaped in the air and spun and sent the ball flying to the left of Foster.

      --The Cleveland Cavaliers were quick to halt any talk that they have interest in Rick Pitino as a candidate for their vacant head coaching position, cleveland.com reported.

      The report, citing an unnamed source, said the Cavaliers have had no conversations with Pitino and "are respectfully not interested in him at all."

      Veteran NBA reporter Peter Vecsey reported Saturday that Cavaliers chairman Dan Gilbert had talked to the longtime coach about the vacancy. Pitino, who also was the head coach of the New York Knicks (1987-89) and the Boston Celtics (1997-2001), has been coaching in Greece since last year.

      --Dirk Nowitzki's NBA career might have ended earlier this month, but he still managed to score more points this weekend with a thank-you letter he penned to Dallas Mavericks fans.

      The 2011 NBA Finals MVP and 14-time All-Star posted the letter in an ad he took out in the Dallas Morning News, wrapping up his 21-year career into 21 heart-felt lines that read like a poem.

      Among the more touching lines: "From the moment I arrived in Dallas riding on this amazing roller coaster, you lifted me, supported me, pushed me to work harder," and, "This is THANK YOU Mavs fans, from the bottom of my heart, for taking in a kid from Wurzburg and making me one of your own."

      --Field Level Media

  • Dudley, Butler fined for roles in altercation
    By Field Level Media / Sunday, April 21, 2019

    The NBA fined Brooklyn's Jared Dudley and Philadelphia's Jimmy Butler on Sunday in the wake of the altercation involving several players in the third quarter of Saturday's first-round NBA playoff game in Brooklyn.

    • Dudley, who shoved Philadelphia's Joel Embiid after Embiid made a hard foul on Brooklyn's Jarrett Allen, was fined $25,000, according to Kiki VanDeWeghe, the league's vice president of basketball operations.

      Butler, who then shoved Dudley, was fined $15,000 for escalating the situation. The scuffle then spilled over into the stands, with Philadelphia's Ben Simmons and Dudley as lead combatants.

      Dudley and Butler each were issued double-technicals, which meant automatic ejections, with 7:42 left in the third quarter.

      The Nets led 67-61 at the time, but the 76ers won the game 112-108 to take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

      Game 5 is scheduled for Tuesday night in Philadelphia.

      --Field Level Media

  • DeRozan fined for ball-throwing incident
    By Field Level Media / Sunday, April 21, 2019

    San Antonio Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan was fined $25,000 for his ball-tossing effort during Saturday's 117-103 loss to the Denver Nuggets.

    • NBA executive vice president of basketball operations KiKi VanDeWeghe said in the announcement of the fine that DeRozan was disciplined "for recklessly throwing the basketball toward a game official and into the spectator stands."

      DeRozan was given a technical foul and was ejected after the incident with 5:01 remaining in the contest.

      DeRozan was called for an offensive foul after charging into Denver guard Gary Harris. He then leaped in the air and spun and sent the ball flying to the left of Foster.

      DeRozan headed to the exits with the Spurs trailing 110-92. He scored 19 points in 34 minutes.

      Asked for an explanation after the contest, DeRozan said: "Frustration. I thought it was a bad call. Combination of both."

      The series is tied 2-2. Game 5 is Tuesday in Denver.

      --Field Level Media

  • Mitchell, Utah not ready to roll over vs. Rockets
    By Field Level Media / Sunday, April 21, 2019

    The Houston Rockets are in position to close out the first-round series with the Utah Jazz because they prevailed on a night in which star guard James Harden made just 15 percent of his field-goal attempts.

    • A return to form certainly wouldn't help the Jazz stay alive when the two Western Conference teams meet Monday night in Salt Lake City.

      Fourth-seeded Houston has a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series despite Utah bottling up Harden for three-plus quarters in Game 3. Harden scored 14 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter as the Rockets posted a 104-101 victory.

      Harden was 0-of-15 shooting through three quarters and finally made his first basket on a dunk with 7:34 remaining. He finished 3 of 20 from the field but also contributed 10 assists as Houston set itself up for a chance at a four-game sweep.

      "We found a way to win," Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said in the postgame press conference. "We just didn't play well. We made silly turnovers. Obviously, James was 3 for 20 and we won with that.

      "Normally, we would say, ‘You can't win that way.' But because of defense, rebounding, big shots -- James was 3 of 20, but two were real big ones."

      Houston won two home games by an average of 26 points before pulling out the close win at Utah despite shooting just 38.4 percent from the field.

      The Jazz were deeply deflated after the game. Factor in that no team in NBA history has recovered from a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series and Utah is facing staggering odds.

      But struggling star guard Donovan Mitchell promises he and his teammates will put forth an extreme effort in Game 4.

      "I don't think anybody is going to just lay over Monday," Mitchell said during a press conference. "I don't think that is going to be the case. I don't think that is what our organization is based on. ... It is an uphill battle, but we are not going to lay over and give them a game."

      Mitchell scored 34 points in Game 3, but it was an uneven performance.

      He missed 16 of 20 shots over the final three quarters to finish 9 of 27 overall. Worse, he had a wide-open 3-point attempt that could have tied the game with 8.7 seconds left that bounced off the rim, and the Rockets closed it out.

      "It was not about that shot. We had so many chances to win that game," veteran swingman Kyle Korver said afterward. "(Mitchell) heard that he hadn't played as well as he wanted to the last couple of games. He put the whole thing on his back. For a young guy, (22) years old, it's really special.

      "He's on a great path in the NBA and at the end of the day, this is going to be part of his story and part of his journey."

      Mitchell is shooting just 32.8 percent from the field in the series while averaging 21.3 points. He scored just 30 total points in the first two games.

      Harden isn't faring much better at 34.3 percent. But he is averaging 27.6 points and 8.3 rebounds and received plenty of help from his teammates in the Game 3 victory.

      "I think everybody is comfortable in what they need to do in order for us to win," Harden said in a postgame press conference. "We have to go out there every night and play to the best of our abilities in our roles. If we do that, we have a chance to win every single night we play -- whether we make shots or miss shots."

      --Field Level Media

  • Nowitzki hints at 'next chapter' in letter to Mavericks fans
    By Field Level Media / Sunday, April 21, 2019

    Dirk Nowitzki's NBA career might have ended earlier this month, but he still managed to score more points this weekend with a thank-you letter he penned to Dallas Mavericks fans.

    • The 2011 NBA Finals MVP and 14-time All-Star posted the letter in an ad he took out in the Dallas Morning News, wrapping up his 21-year career into 21 heart-felt lines that read like a poem.

      Among the more touching lines: "From the moment I arrived in Dallas riding on this amazing roller coaster, you lifted me, supported me, pushed me to work harder," and, "This is THANK YOU Mavs fans, from the bottom of my heart, for taking in a kid from Wurzburg and making me one of your own."

      Nowitzki scored 31,560 points in his career, sixth most all-time just ahead of Wilt Chamberlain. He also collected 11,489 rebounds over 1,522 career games. This past season he averaged 7.3 points per game, the first time he was under double digits since scoring 8.2 in his rookie season of 1998-99.

      Nowitzki hinted that while his playing days are done, he will be sticking around in some capacity.

      "I will miss playing, but I can't wait to start the next chapter with you," he wrote, while concluding his letter. "Forever and grateful, forever yours, and forever a Dallas Maverick."

      --Field Level Media

  • Nets GM suspended for entering refs' room; NBA admits missed call
    By Field Level Media / Sunday, April 21, 2019

    Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks has been suspended one game without pay and fined $25,000 for entering the officials' locker room after Saturday's Game 4 of the first-round series with the Philadelphia 76ers.

    • Marks will serve the suspension on Tuesday when the Nets visit the 76ers in Game 5.

      The announcement by Byron Spruell, president of NBA league operations, didn't divulge what occurred after Marks entered the room following Brooklyn's 112-108 loss. But the contest was emotionally charged and included a ruckus in which Jared Dudley of the Nets and Jimmy Butler of the 76ers were ejected.

      Nets coach Kenny Atkinson was upset following the contest that there wasn't a call on Philadelphia's Tobias Harris for grabbing Brooklyn's Jarrett Allen with 4.8 seconds left in regulation as his club looked for a tying or winning shot while trailing by two.

      "There was a clear wrap by Tobias Harris on the roll," Atkinson said in the postgame press conference, pointing out the league cited an emphasis on such fouls were to be called. "How that all of a sudden does not become a foul on a wrap, I just don't understand. I looked at the clip 10 times, it's a clear wrap."

      On Sunday, the NBA agreed with Atkinson's contention, acknowledging that Harris should have been called for fouling Allen.

      The league's Last Two Minute Report also said Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie should have been called for a carry. Brooklyn finished that possession with a 3-pointer by D'Angelo Russell, after Dinwiddie missed a layup and Allen grabbed an offensive rebound.

      The league also announced fines of $25,000 for Dudley and $15,000 for Butler for their roles in escalating the third-quarter fracas, which spilled into the stands.

      Philadelphia leads the best-of-seven series, 3-1.

      --Field Level Media

  • Cavaliers deny interest in Pitino as head coach
    By Field Level Media / Sunday, April 21, 2019

    The Cleveland Cavaliers were quick to halt any talk on Sunday that they have interest in Rick Pitino as a candidate for their vacant head coaching position, cleveland.com reported.

    • The report, citing an unnamed source, said the Cavaliers have had no conversations with Pitino and "are respectfully not interested in him at all."

      Veteran NBA reporter Peter Vecsey reported Saturday that Cavaliers chairman Dan Gilbert had talked to the longtime coach about the vacancy. Pitino, who also was the head coach of the New York Knicks (1987-89) and the Boston Celtics (1997-2001), has been coaching in Greece since last year.

      Pitino, 66, was fired after a long run at Louisville following an FBI probe into college basketball recruiting. He coached the Cardinals from 2001 until the end of the 2016-17 season, taking the program through three conference changes (Conference USA, Big East and ACC) while posting a 416-143 record.

      Pitino, who also coached at Hawaii, Boston University, Providence and Kentucky, has 770 career college victories over 1,041 games, winning an NCAA title in 1996 with Kentucky and 2013 with Louisville.

      Back in October of last year, Pitino expressed an interest in returning to the NBA in some capacity.

      "I just want to be a part of an organization," Pitino told ESPN. "I want to develop young players. I want to be part of a team. I miss it terribly. I'm using this time to really study the NBA. If something opens up with a young basketball team, I'd have deep interest in it.

      "I think the league is going to get younger and player development will become even more important to every organization. That's my forte. I believe I can help an organization find a pathway to success."

      The Cavaliers are looking to replace former head coach Larry Drew, who went 19-57 at Cleveland this past season following the departure of LeBron James to the Los Angeles Lakers. Drew took over for Tyronn Lue, who was fired six games into the season.

      --Field Level Media

  • Bucks on brink of first playoff series win in 18 years
    By Field Level Media / Sunday, April 21, 2019

    The Milwaukee Bucks can wipe away 18 years of frustration on Monday night.

    • They haven't won a playoff series since the 2000-01 season, when they reached the Eastern Conference finals. That drought can end in Detroit if they complete a sweep of the Pistons.

      The top-seeded Milwaukee cruised through the first three games, winning by an average of 24 points. If they lose in Game 4, the Bucks would have three more chances in the best-of-seven series to end their streak of eight straight first-round exits. The earlier the Bucks eliminate eighth-seeded Detroit, the more time they'll have to prepare for the conference semifinals.

      "It's going to be nice if we can finish it here and get six days of rest," superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo said.

      In Game 3 on Saturday, Antetokounmpo had a quiet night and the Bucks still led by double digits most of the way. Antetokounmpo finished with 14 points, three assists and four turnovers and only played 27 minutes due to foul trouble. The Pistons couldn't take advantage of his off night, though, as Milwaukee had six other players in double figures in its 119-103 victory.

      "It's good to see my team doing really well out there without me," he said. "It means a lot to me. There's going to be nights like this. My teammates did a great job of picking me up."

      The Bucks were up 13 points when Antetokounmpo sat early in the third quarter after getting whistled for his fourth foul. When he re-entered late in the quarter, they were leading by 22 points.

      "It's something we've been trying to build all year," coach Mike Budenholzer said. "We're a team that plays together, tries to take what the defense gives us. Guys have a lot of confidence to make plays. It's not just all about Giannis, as amazing and great as he is. If and when we need more from other people, it's a credit to Giannis to let his teammates carry him some nights, carry him some stretches."

      The Bucks will try match their regular-season feat against the Pistons. Their four-game sweep was the first by either team in the all-time series. They have met in the postseason four other times, with Detroit winning each time.

      "We might be the number one seed and best team in the NBA (record-wise) but at the end of the day, we haven't won a playoff series in a while," Antetokounmpo said. "We're hungry, everybody's hungry."

      The Pistons' best player, power forward Blake Griffin, made his debut in the series after sitting out the first two games with a sore left knee. Griffin toughed it out for 31 minutes and posted 27 points, seven rebounds and six assists. His teammates let him down, as Detroit shot below 40 percent for the third straight game.

      "That young man is giving us everything he has," coach Dwane Casey said. "He said he was feeling good. I was concerned about his conditioning with as much time as he's missed. You can't really simulate 5-on-5 basketball when you're rehabbing. But he came in and gave us what he could. He just has a presence that we can't replicate."

      The Pistons haven't shown enough of a defensive presence against a team that averaged a league-high 118.1 points.

      "We had some situations where we make a mistake or miss a shot, now we go down to the defensive end and don't carry out our assignments," Casey said. "That's part of growth. That's a team that makes you pay for mistakes that you make."

      --Field Level Media

  • NBA roundup: 76ers rally past Nets in feisty contest
    By Field Level Media / Sunday, April 21, 2019

    Mike Scott hit a 3-pointer with 18.6 seconds remaining to lift the visiting Philadelphia 76ers past the Brooklyn Nets 112-108 to take a 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference opening-round playoff series on Saturday.

    • Joel Embiid led the Sixers with 31 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists and six blocked shots. Embiid, who had been listed as doubtful, started for the Sixers after missing Game 3 with left knee soreness. Tobias Harris added 24 points while Ben Simmons had 15 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.

      Caris LeVert led the Nets with 25 points while Allen and D'Angelo Russell had 21 apiece. The Nets were without forward Ed Davis, who had a sprained right ankle.

      The game became quite chippy with 7:42 left in the third after Embiid committed a hard foul on Allen. There was a lot of pushing and shoving between multiple players on both teams. Dudley and Philadelphia's Jimmy Butler were each ejected in the aftermath of a scuffle and Embiid was given a flagrant 1 foul.

      Rockets 104, Jazz 101

      James Harden had 22 points, 10 assists and six steals to rally Houston to victory over Utah in Salt Lake City for a 3-0 series lead.

      Harden went 0-of-14 from the field through the first three quarters. He missed 15 straight shots overall before scoring on a dunk with 7:34 left in the fourth quarter. Harden finished 3-of-20 from the field but made hay at the free-throw line by sinking 14 of 16 attempts.

      Donovan Mitchell scored 34 points to lead the Jazz. Derrick Favors added 13 points, while Rudy Gobert chipped in 10 points, eight rebounds, and seven blocked shots, but Utah couldn't overcome 14 turnovers and 13 missed free throws.

      Nuggets 117, Spurs 103

      Nikola Jokic racked up 29 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and added eight assists as visiting Denver rolled over San Antonio in Game 4 to even the Western Conference first-round playoff series at two games apiece.

      Game 5 in the best-of-seven set will be Tuesday in Denver, with the second-seeded Nuggets' win Saturday allowing them to reclaim the home-court advantage. The victory snapped a 14-game losing streak for the Nuggets in the Alamo City, dating back to March 2012.

      Jamal Murray added 24 points for Denver. Small forward Torrey Craig, inserted into the starting lineup for the first time since Jan. 28, hit for 18 points. LaMarcus Aldridge led the Spurs with 24 points and nine rebounds, with DeMar DeRozan adding 19 points before being ejected late in the game.

      Bucks 119, Pistons 103

      Khris Middleton recorded 20 points and nine rebounds to help Milwaukee defeat host Detroit to take a 3-0 lead in the Eastern Conference first-round series.

      Brook Lopez recorded 19 points, seven rebounds and five blocks and Eric Bledsoe also scored 19 points for the top-seeded Bucks. Giannis Antetokounmpo registered 14 points and 10 rebounds for his third straight double-double in the series.

      Detroit's Blake Griffin had 27 points, seven rebounds and six assists in his first appearance in the series due to a left knee injury. Griffin played with his knee and leg heavily wrapped. Detroit has lost 13 straight playoff games dating back to 2008 to match the dubious NBA mark set by the New York Knicks (2001-12).

      --Field Level Media