GRIZZLIES AT THUNDER, 9:30 P.M. ET

TV:  ESPN

  • Grizzlies backup point guard Nick Calathes has been suspended for 20 games by the NBA for testing positive for a banned substance. “We’ve had a lot of adversity all season long and now we’ve got to step up our games,” said Memphis coach Dave Joerger. “It’s an NBA deal and that’s where we have to leave it.” Calathes averaged 4.9 points during the regular season. He played in all four regular season games against the Thunder and averaged 4.0 ppg. He will be replaced  by recently acquired point guard Beno Udrih. “He’s really gotten himself in great shape,” Joerger said of Udrih, “he does some things better (than Calathes) and some things not as well.”
  • The Thunder were 6-4 in the last 10 games of the regular season, the Grizzlies were 7-3, including five straight wins to close out the regular season. OKC won the season series between the teams 3-1. Two games were low scoring and two were high scoring. The Grizzlies lone win was one of the low scoring games (90-87 in Memphis). That was Grizz center Marc Gasol’s first game back from a knee injury. Memphis is 33-13 with Gasol back in the lineup after the injury (40-19 overall this season with Gasol).
  • Oklahoma City is 20-4 with it’s regular starting five on the floor. “I’m excited now that we have everybody healthy,” Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said before the game. “There are no minutes restrictions with anybody.”
  • In last season’s Thunder-Grizzlies playoff series, Memphis routinely threw double and triple teams at Kevin Durant. That tactic was especially effective because the Thunder didn’t have Russell Westbrook, who had suffered his season-ending knee injury in the previous series. Any time Westbrook missed a game this season Durant also saw a heavy dose of double teams. “He’s seen it all and he’s done a really great job of finding open teammates and that helps our offense,” said Brooks. “We want teams to double him, that helps guys get open shots.”
  • Westbrook played in just two of the four regular season games against Memphis and averaged 24 points and 7.5 assists per game. Durant averaged 31.0 points against the Grizzlies on 51.8 percent shooting, but when Tayshaun Prince was guarding him Durant saw his shooting numbers drop to 40 percent.
  • The Thunder came back to win 14 of the 31 games they trailed by 10 points or more. That winning percentage of .452 led the NBA and was more than twice the league average (.214).
  • Only 17.1 percent of the Grizzlies shots in the regular season were 3-pointers, the lowest rate in the NBA.

– Randy Renner

HAWKS AT PACERS, 7 P.M. ET

TV: ESPN

  • On paper, two-time All-Star Roy Hibbert vs. 31-year-old Macedonian rookie Pero Antic should be a mismatch at center and it has been – but not in the Pacers’ favor. In the two games Antic played against Indiana, both Atlanta victories, he averaged 17 points and shot 72 percent while Hibbert produced two points and four rebounds on 1-for-13 shooting. Antic’s ability to spread the floor with 3-point shooting has proved vexing for Hibbert, whose comfort zone does not extend more than a few feet from the basket at either end of the floor. Pacers coach Frank Vogel said Hibbert would be assigned to defend Antic but will need plenty of help from switches when Antic is on the perimeter.
  • The Pacers’ other chief concern is point guard Jeff Teague, whose ability to turn the corner on pick-and-rolls and break down defenders off the dribble has collapsed the Indiana defense, leading to open 3-point shooters for the Hawks. Vogel said containing Teague is the “No. 1 priority” for the Pacers. “The whole defensive game plan for keeping him out of the paint is the toughest challenge we’re going to have,” Vogel said.
  • Hibbert enters the series mired in the worst shooting slump of his career: 3-for-28 (.107) in his last four games and 31-for-106 (.292) in his last 12.
  • Indiana lost 13 of its final 23 games, including a 107-88 loss to the Hawks on April 6 in Bankers Life Fieldhouse. But Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer said it would be a mistake for his team to think the Pacers are anything less than a formidable opponent. “If you watched them play Oklahoma City a couple days ago (a 102-97 Indiana win) and you watched them all throughout this season and what they established, there’s a reason they’re the No. 1 seed,” he said. “They’re an excellent defensive team and I think there’s so many things they do well that if you think anything differently, it’s a big mistake.”
  • Andrew Bynum will not be available this series, Vogel said. Bynum hasn’t played since March 15 and has trouble with swelling and fluid buildup in his knee.
  • Indiana will start its usual lineup of George Hill, Lance Stephenson, Paul George, David West and Roy Hibbert. Bynum and Solomon Hill are inactive.
  • Atlanta counters with Teague, Kyle Korver, DeMarre Carroll, Paul Millsap and Antic. Gustavo Ayon, Al Horford and John Jenkins are inactive.

- Conrad Brunner

 

WARRIORS AT CLIPPERS, 3:30 P.M. ET

TV: ABC

  • The Clippers will be at full strength for the first time in five months when they host the Warriors today in the opener of their Western Conference first-round playoff series at Staples Center. Danny Granger was the final piece to the puzzle and he’ll come off the bench after missing nine games with a strained hamstring. “He looked good,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said of Granger’s practices leading up to the game. “For a guy who hasn’t played, he looked good.” Granger was one of three players the Clippers added before the trade deadline in late February and still remain with the team, joining Glen Davis and Hedo Turkoglu.
  • The Warriors are officially missing a key starter in 7-foot center Andrew Bogut, who’s out indefinitely with a fractured rib, an injury that occurred in the fourth quarter of an overtime loss last Sunday against the Trail Blazers. “He’s in serious pain,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said before the game. Jermaine O’Neal will start in Bogut’s place. Bogut, who is not with the team in L.A., had enjoyed a relatively healthy season compared to years past, averaging 7.3 points and 10 rebounds in 67 games while shooting 62.7 percent from the floor. With Bogut manning the middle, Golden State gave up an average of 98.8 points per 100 possessions. Without him, the Warriors surrendered 100.5 per 100. Golden State also went 30-13 this season with Bogut starting alongside Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and David Lee, the third-best mark for a starting five in franchise history.
  • Clippers center DeAndre Jordan signed an offer sheet to play for the Warriors in December 2011, but that was quickly matched by the Clippers, one of the moves that has helped elevate the franchise into a championship contender. Jordan led the NBA in rebounding (13.6) and shooting percentage (67.6) during the recently completed regular season, joining Wilt Chamberlain and Dwight Howard as the only players to accomplish that feat. With the Warriors down their starting center, expect big things out of Jordan if he can remain out of foul trouble.
  • The series could come down to 3-point shooting, as the Clippers led the NBA in 3-point defense during the regular season at 33.2 percent, while the Warriors tied for the fourth-best clip at 38 percent shooting from long distance. Curry and Thompson have formed the top long-range shooting tandem in NBA history, posting the highest total of 3s made in 2012-13 (483) and then bettering that by one this season.

Dan Arritt

NETS AT RAPTORS, 12:30 P.M. ET

TV: ESPN

  • The Brooklyn Nets and the Toronto Raptors played to a 2-2 draw in the season series.
  • The Toronto Raptors are set to play in their first playoff series since 2008, just their sixth ever playoff appearance.
  • One of the biggest concerns for the Raptors is their lack of playoff experience, boasting a combined 156 postseason games played by their roster. This is something head coach Dwane Casey knows he will have to try and mange. “I have got to read how they react to the atmosphere, to the game,” Casey said before the game. “Like I told them, it’s basketball. We’re the same team we’ve been for 82 games and the exhibition season… we’re not going to come out and be someone we’re not. We will make adjustments as the game goes on and definitely from game to game, but basically we’ve got to be our team, be who we are and play basketball. That’s my biggest concern; don’t get caught up in the hype.”
  • The Nets on the other hand have a wealth of playoff experience. Their roster has a combined 537 playoff games played and are lead by two players with a wealth of Finals experience in Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. “I think over the year, you can see during the season they never panic,” Nets coach Jason Kidd said about the duo. “They always work the game, they will grind it out they’ve always stayed professional. They always come to work, trying to get better. And for someone whose played 15 plus years in the league and to see that every day is impressive.”
  • Center Brook Lopez (foot) and point guard Marquis Teague are inactive for the Nets.
  • Point guards Dwight Buycks and Julyan Stone are inactive for the Raptors.

– Scott Campsall 

Daily Zap: April 16

VIDEO: Daily Zap

WARRIORS AT NUGGETS, 10:30 P.M. ET

TV: League Pass

  • With their playoff seed set, the Warriors are resting many of their top players. Steph Curry, Andre Iguodala,David Lee and center Jermaine O’Neal won’t play and forward Draymond Green will likely not play. Even with those players sitting, coach Mark Jackson’s goal is to win the season finale. “Our identity remains the same, our principles are the same,” Jackson said. “It’s important for us to add a victory. Fifty-one sounds better than 50.”
  • The Nuggets won’t be resting players because of postseason plans, but they are still going to have a short bench. Guard Ty Lawson is out and forward Darrell Arthur is questionable. Denver gets back Anthony Randolph, who missed Tuesday’s loss to the L.A. Clippers for personal reasons.
  • Jackson said he doesn’t know when C Andrew Bogut will be back, if at all, during the postseason. Bogut suffered a fractured rib and missed his second straight game Wednesday. “Out indefinitely, and that’s what we look at with him,” Jackson said. “We’ve got to keep on going and continue to extend this thing. That’s where we are with him. We’re going with the mindset he will not be back.”
  • Denver is out of the playoffs for the first time since 2002-03 but coach Brian Shaw is taking a positive look at the season. “People can say that we didn’t make the playoffs and had a bad year but I don’t think that,” he said. “It was an unfortunate year because we had a lot of injuries. At the same time there were a lot of positives. We had a chance to develop players such as Timofey Mozgov and Evan Fournier. Guys that wouldn’t have got to play had the chance due to the fact of injuries, and they made the most of it.”

– Michael Kelly

SUNS AT KINGS, 10:30 P.M. ET

TV: League Pass

  • The Sacramento Kings (28-53) and Phoenix Suns (47-34) wrap up the 2013-14 season tonight at Sleep Train Arena.  Sacramento owns a 2-1 advantage in the season series, but both of those wins came early in the season.  Phoenix barely missed the playoffs and currently have a 22 win increase over last seasons win total of 25.
  • DeMarcus Cousins will miss the finale due to suspension after picking up his 16th technical on Sunday against the Timberwolves.  Despite nursing injuries, both Rudy Gay and Isaiah Thomas will play for the Kings tonight.
  • The Suns will be without Goran Dragic tonight.  The 27-year-old guard is nursing a sprained left ankle.
  • Former Kings great and newly inducted Naismith Hall of Fame guard Mitch Richmond will be in attendance tonight, as will NBA legend Oscar Robertson“I’m so happy,” Richmond said about being inducted.  ” I’m so excited they saw the body of work and not look at the wins and losses.”
  • Sacramento will miss the playoffs for the eighth straight season, but it hasn’t deterred coach Michael Malone from having a positive outlook going forward.  “The one thing that coach (Gregg) Popovich told me that I think is great advice,” Malone said.  “I’m always going to coach these guys hard.  I’m going to hold them accountable.  I believe in discipline, but I’m also going to love them and let them know that I care about them as people just as much as I do players.  And I believe they know that and that’s why they are willing to accept the way that I do coach them.”

– James Ham

 

CLIPPERS AT TRAIL BLAZERS, 10:30 P.M. ET

TV: ESPN

  • The Clippers enter tonight’s game in an odd situation. They’ll know at some point, probably just before tip-off, whether they still have a chance to move past Oklahoma City and into the No. 2 playoff seed in the Western Conference.  Coach Doc Rivers wants to win but has chosen to rest many of his regulars. L.A. will go tonight without starting guards Chris Paul and J.J. Redick as well as suspended power forward Blake Griffin. And center DeAndre Jordan and sixth man Jamal Crawford won’t get normal minutes.  “I just value rest and health right now,” Rivers said. “Chris has been banged up all year. We’re playing Saturday (in the first round of the playoffs). This is (the second game of a) back-to-back here tonight. Not a lot of turnaround.”  Jordan will play “not a lot of minutes,” and Rivers said he’ll be watching how Crawford’s sore calf feels. The veteran guard has missed 13 of the Clippers’ last 21 games.  “We want him to play, but you worry every minute he’s on the floor because of the calf injury,” Rivers said. “We also know we have to get his rhythm back.”
  • With Portland locked into the West’s No. 5 seed, coach Terry Stotts will rest power forward LaMarcus Aldridge and sixth man Mo Williams. The other starters — center Robin Lopez, Nicolas Batum, Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews — will all start the game to preserve their perfect record of starting every game this season, but their minutes will be shortened.  “You’re going to see a lot of guys play,” Stotts said.  One of those guys is center/forward Joel Freeland, who will make his first appearance since Feb. 12 due to a knee injury.
    “I’d like to give him about 20 minutes,” Stotts said. “We’ll play him in stretches of five or six minutes and see how he feels. He’s had a couple of good practices. He’s anxious to get back out there.”
  • With reserves dominating action on both sides, will tonight’s game be like an exhibition?  “It won’t be as sloppy as preseason games can be,” Stotts said. “Both teams know what they’re doing in terms of style of play. This will be a better quality game than a preseason game, for sure.”
  • Rivers knows how he feels about it: “We’re going to play to win. We pay the whole team; we don’t just pay the starters. I’m sure Portland is going to do the same thing. Every time you play, the game’s a competition. It doesn’t matter who’s on the floor, you want to try to win that game.”

Kerry Eggers

Sixers at Heat, 8 p.m. ET

TV: League Pass

  • Heat guard Mario Chalmers and center Chris Andersen will not play because of rest purposes.
  • Guard Toney Douglas will start in place of Chalmers.
  • The Heat will also be without forward LeBron James and Chris Bosh will also not play.
  • Heat center Greg Oden is expected to play limited minutes. He had been bothered by back spasms.

– Zachary Paul 

HAWKS AT BUCKS, 8 P.M. ET

TV: League Pass

  • Hawks point guard Jeff Teague signed an offer sheet last summer with the Bucks, only to have the Hawks match the offer and retain him. Instead of suffering through the worst season in Bucks’ history, Teague and the Hawks are headed to the playoffs. “My friends talk about it all the time,” Teague said. “That was a possibility.” Teague does believe he could have made a positive difference for the Bucks. “They would have been totally different, but I’m happy to be here,” said Teague, who added this season is the first time he’s even been below .500 in five NBA seasons with the Hawks.
  • The Hawks will rest forward Paul Millsap for the second straight game. Millsap is Atlanta’s leading scorer at 17.9 points per game. Center Al Horford averaged 18.6 points but has been out since December and will miss the playoffs with a torn right pectoral muscle.
  • The Bucks will end the season with the worst record in team history and the worst in the NBA, giving them the best chance to land the No. 1 overall pick in the lottery next month. A victory would make them 16-66, the reverse of the best record in club history — 66-16 in 1971 when they won the franchise’s only NBA title.
  • The big news about the Bucks Wednesday was the sale of the team by Herb Kohl to investment fund managers Marc Lasry and Wes Edens. “I’ve been hearing whispers about it potentially happening and I’ve been in this situation before as far as selling a team,” said Bucks coach Larry Drew. “As a coach there’s not a whole lot you can do except for staying focused on what the job is.” Forward Ersan Ilysaova, the longest-tenured player on the roster, said it will be weird suiting up next year without Kohl being the Bucks’ owner. “It is a strange feeling, but it’s part of the business,” said Ilyasova, whose season was hampered throughout by a lingering ankle injury.
  • On Tuesday the Bucks signed forward Chris Wright to a contract for the last game plus next season. Wright had just finished his second 10-day contract with the Bucks. With his new contract he doesn’t have to spend his summer trying to find a team. “It’s a blessing. Excellent news,” Wright said. “It’s huge for a guy trying to make strides and continue to improve his game. The summer will be totally different. To be able to come here and work out and be here is really what I needed. Instead of trying to find a team you know where you’ll be Sept. 30.”

Rick Braun