Starting 5: Playoffs are set, Clips lose ground & Joe Johnson’s answered prayer


Every morning, we’ll give you five things from the night before in the NBA to start your day.

1:  Jazz in, Suns out

The Utah Jazz sent Phoenix home last night, beating them 100-88 and securing the final spot in the playoffs.  They are now likely to face the San Antonio Spurs, whom they’ve lost three of four to this season.  

But it doesn’t matter much to Utah, who got a combined 44 points and 31 rebounds from Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson in the win.  For Jefferson, it’s the first time in the playoffs since his rookie season in Boston in 2005.  That team lost a 7-game first round series to the Indiana Pacers.  The next two years in Boston started a long losing trend for Jefferson as the Celtics hit rock-bottom and he was then sent to Minnesota as part of the Garnett trade.  

Leading the Jazz to a first round upset of the Spurs would be a story for Jefferson.  Utah does have the size to make life hard for San Antonio.  We’ll have to see if that’s enough, though.

2: How did we get basketball at all this season?

The messy divorce between Derek Fisher and the NBA Players Union continues to drag out in front of the media.  The latest

In addition to saying Fisher has failed to participate in executive committee conference calls, failed to make appearances on the union’s behalf, and chosen not to cooperate with executive director Billy Hunter since January, the memo presents a timeline of recent events to support its decision last week to ask for Fisher’s resignation.

Here is the union memo, obtained by ESPN.  

This mess just makes me wonder how on earth the Player’s Association ever even managed to get its act together enough to end the lockout. 

At this point, Hunter AND Fisher should just go, and the union’s management strategies need to be examined and re-tooled.  This entire thing needs a fresh start so it can move forward.  If not, owners will opt out of this deal in a few years to try to demolish a shaky union and get a deal that’s 100% in their favor.  This can’t drag out if players want a fighting chance.


Joe Johnson’s ridiculous buzzer beater from the hash mark


Derrick Favors rejects Marcin Gortat’s dunk attempt

Frantic Finish in Golden State

4:  Line of the night:  Blake Griffin & Chris Paul (combined): 70 points, 13 rebounds, 11 assists

Griffin had 36/8/3 while Paul had 34/5/8… but here’s the thing:  They lost.  Not a single Clipper could muster up a double digit night, meaning not  only did that clinch the Pacific division crown for the Lakers (they own the tie breaker), the Clips are now tied with Memphis with one game to go and home court in the first round on the line.  If the Clippers win, they get the fourth seed thanks to their 2-1 record vs. Memphis.  

The Hawks, by the way, maintained a slight edge over the Boston Celtics for home court in the first round of the playoffs with the win.  Another win from them or loss by Boston and they get home court in first round.  A loss and a Boston win give the Celtics home court.

5:  You can quote me on that

”The craziest I ever hit in a game.  I had no clue how much time was left or what even happened. ‘I just heaved it up there. I wanted to at least hit the rim. I accidentally made it.”
     –Joe Johnson, on his ridiculous buzzer beater 

“He was going to play, but he had to be honest with me for a change, and he said the hip flexor thing is still bothering him. I wanted to play him tonight. My choice was more tonight, and then give him the day off Thursday (when the Milwaukee Bucks will be at the Garden for the regular-season finale). But Kevin never comes in to say, I need two more days. That speaks volumes.”
     – Celtics coach Doc Rivers, on Kevin Garnett resting vs. Miami last night