Daily Zap: April 16

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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

ROCKETS AT PELICANS, 8 p.m. ET

TV: League Pass

  • New Orleans point guard Brian Roberts will be a game-time decision for the Pelicans’ season finale. He has missed the past two games with a left ankle injury. Roberts is stuck on 122 free throws and needs just three more to qualify for the league-lead for free-throw percentage. He currently sits at 94.6 percent made this season. He is averaging 9.5 points and 3.3 assists this season.
  • The Pelicans haven’t had a winning season since the 2010-11 season when they went 46-36 and earned the 7th-seed as the Hornets. It was also Monty Williams first year as a head coach. He thinks even though the Pelicans are 33-48, the franchise is much closer to the culture he wants than before. “Yeah, we are,” Williams said. “We had it our first year but we lost so many of those veteran guys that our second and third year, it took a dip because we were getting so many different guys in our program.”
  • The Rockets, already assured of the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference playoffs and a series against Portland, will rest guard James Harden, guard Jeremy Lin and forward Chandler Parson. Harden didn’t even make the trip to New Orleans. The three sitting out tonight’s game average a combined 54.5 points per game, half of Houston’s season average. Troy Daniels will likely see time in place of Harden while Francisco Garcia could get extended minutes in place of Lin. Coach Kevin McHale didn’t specify who would start in place of Parsons.
  • McHale said he was happy to have Houston’s playoff series against Portland begin on Sunday night. He’ll run the team through an extended practice Friday, he said, before pulling back Saturday. Still, his focus was on getting out of New Orleans with a win since he said he firmly believes that it matters how a team plays heading into the playoffs. Houston, which is 54-27, is 5-5 in the past 10 games.

Bradley Handwerger

WIZARDS AT CELTICS, 8 P.M. ET

TV: League Pass

  • The entire Wizards roster will be active tonight as they fight for a chance to jump up to the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. With a win over Boston, and a Brooklyn loss to Cleveland, the Wizards will clinch the fifth seed in the East. Washington secures the sixth seed with a win, but could drop to the seventh seed overall if the Celtics beat them this evening and the Charlotte Bobcats also defeat the Chicago Bulls.
  • The Wizards have won three straight games, including an impressive blowout home victory over the Miami Heat on Monday night, aided by the return of the Nene to the lineup last week. The power forward has averaged 15.5 points off the bench in his past three games since recovering from a sprained left MCL.
  • The Celtics will be without a number of starters in the lineup tonight including Rajon Rondo (hamstring), Kris Humphries (knee), Jared Sullinger (ankle), and Jerryd Bayless (knee). Boston will start Phil Pressey, Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, and Kelly Olynyk. 
  • Tonight’s game could have a major impact on draft lottery odds for the Celtics. Currently, Boston holds the fifth-worst record in the NBA, but a loss tonight combined with Jazz win over Minnesota would tie them for the fourth-worst record. Additionally, a Celtics win and a Lakers loss to the Spurs would bump Boston into a tie for the fifth-worst record in the NBA.

– Brian Robb

MAVERICKS AT GRIZZLIES, 8 P.M. ET

TV: ESPN

  • The winner of tonight’s game between Dallas and Memphis will not only secure the No. 7 spot in the Western Conference playoffs, but they will become the seventh team in the conference to reach 50 wins this season. Both coach’s agree that’s a testament to just how competitive the West has been this season. “It’s fun, as far as the competition,” Grizzlies’ coach Dave Joerger said. “It’s not fun if you’re on the wrong side of a game, or the wrong side of a record. … It’s been a very stressful three and a half months.” Dalllas coach Rick Carlisle said, “It’s been very competitive from beginning to end. But that’s the way it should be. Games have been meaningful and interesting from start to finish in the West. Everybody wants to win 50 if you can. I think both teams are going for it, and rightfully so. We’ll see what happens with it. It’s been a great, great year for basketball in the West.”
  • After being swept in the Western Conference finals last year against San Antonio, the Grizzlies’ need for outside scoring was glaring. One of their key off-season acquisitions was the signing of Mike Miller. But Miller has been more than the Grizzlies could have hoped  for. When he checks into the game tonight, he will do something he’s done just one other time in his 14-year career – play all 82 regular season games. Miller hasn’t done that since his rookie season in Orlando. Miller has been a deadly marksman down the stretch, He is shooting .463 from 3-point range, second-best in the NBA. Since the All-Star break, he is making 55.2 percent of his 3′s. He is coming off a season-high 21-point game at Phoenix that clinched a playoff spot for the Grizzlies. “These are the moments we were hoping to see him play at his best,” Joerger said. “The way he’s come back from the All-Star break and has been aggressive looking for his shot, absolutely, he’s picked us up the last three games.”
  • A win tonight would set a new Grizzlies’ record for consecutive wins at home. They are riding a 13-game winning streak at FedExForum, tying the franchise record they set last season.
  • The loser of tonight’s game gets to play top-seeded San Antonio in the first round of the playoffs, something neither team looks forward to. The Mavs has lost nine in a row to their in-state rivals, while the Grizzlies have lost 14 of their last 16 games against the Spurs.

Marlon W. Morgan

JAZZ AT TIMBERWOLVES, 8 P.M. ET

TV:  League Pass

  • There’s not much to play for tonight between two lottery-bound teams. The Timberwolves are looking for a victory to finish .500 for the first time since the 2004-2005 season, while the Jazz seeks to avoid tying the team’s worst record since moving to Utah in 1979. A Minnesota victory gives them a sweep of the season-series for the first time in club history.
  • Perhaps the most interesting drama revolves around the future of Rick Adelman. The certain Hall-of-Famer may prowl the sidelines with his perpetual scowl for the final time tonight. Despite missing playoff expectations, the Adelman era in Minnesota can be considered a success up to now – taking a team that won just 17 games at the beginning of his tenure and leading them to the cusp of a .500 squad with a reasonably bright future ahead. “I don’t think they are that far away (from the playoffs.) You look at this group and I think sometimes people forget that (besides) Kevin Martin is nine years in this league, but everybody else that we play are young and those people have to take that next step,” said Adelman before the game.
  • Of course that future could darken considerably should Kevin Love force his way out in the offseason. To put his impact in perspective, Love needs just nine points to become the first player in NBA history to record at least 2,000 points, 900 rebounds, and 100 made 3-pointers in a single season. His departure could set the franchise back several more years.
  • Utah has big questions of its own to face as well, with Tyrone Corbin’s contract expiring in July. Since taking over for Jerry Sloan three years ago, Corbin has compiled a 111-146 record, leading to legitimate questions about his future. “We’ll see. We’ll see if things can be worked out,” said Corbin before the game.
  • If the Jazz are to take any meaningful steps forward next season, they will likely need to strike gold with one or both of their first-round draft picks – widely regarded as the deepest draft in years. Utah does not have that “Signature” star on their roster, but does have some solid secondary pieces – including Gordon Hayward who is just one of five players to average over 16 points, five rebounds, and five assists in the NBA this season.

Peter Kapsner