NBA Playoffs: Blazers advance on Lillard buzzer-beater


NBA Playoffs: Blazers advance on Lillard buzzer-beater

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Damian Lillard hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer and the Portland Trail Blazers stunned the Houston Rockets 99-98 to take their playoff series in six games and advance to the Western Conference semifinals for the first time in 14 years.

In the raucous postgame celebration, Lillard took the public address microphone and shouted "Rip City!"

Portland, making its first playoff appearance since 2011, had been eliminated in the first round in its last six trips, and hadn't advanced to the second round since 2000.

Dwight Howard's layup and foul shot put the Rockets up 96-94 before Nicolas Batum's fadeaway jumper tied it again with 39.9 seconds left. Chandler Parsons scored on a reverse layup with 0.9 seconds left to give Houston the lead before Lillard won it.

Portland will face the winner of the series between San Antonio and Dallas (see full recap).

Mavs rally past Spurs to force Game 7
DALLAS -- Monta Ellis scored 12 of his 29 points to lead a fourth-quarter comeback, Dirk Nowitzki added 22 and the Dallas Mavericks forced a Game 7 in their first-round series with top-seeded San Antonio, beating the Spurs 113-111 on Friday night.

The eighth-seeded Mavericks bounced back from consecutive losses by handing the Spurs their first road defeat when leading after three quarters this season.

Tony Parker scored 22 to lead the heavily favored Spurs, who are stuck in a tossup series after they won all four games against Dallas during the regular season. San Antonio took a nine-game winning streak against the Texas rival into the sixth postseason meeting between the teams.

The second Game 7 between these teams is Sunday in San Antonio. The Mavericks won the other one there in 2006 (see full recap).

Nets roll over Raptors to reach Game 7
NEW YORK -- Deron Williams scored 23 points, shaking off a second-half injury, and the Brooklyn Nets forced a seventh game in their first-round series by beating the Toronto Raptors 97-83 on Friday night.

Despite appearing to hurt his left foot or ankle early in the third quarter, Williams dominated his matchup with Kyle Lowry and helped the Nets put it away with a 3-pointer with 1:13 left that made it 92-79.

Game 7 is Sunday in Toronto, with the winner advancing to face the defending champion Miami Heat.

It became the fourth first-round series ticketed for a do-or-die game in these playoffs.

DeMar DeRozan scored 28 for the Raptors, who will have to go the distance if they are to win a seven-game series for the first time in franchise history. They haven't won any postseason series since 2001 (see full recap).

Ersan Ilyasova trade: 3 main takeaways

Ersan Ilyasova trade: 3 main takeaways

Ersan Ilyasova is headed to his sixth team in the last 20 months after being traded by the Sixers to the Hawks Wednesday night for Tiago Splitter and two second-round picks.

"To be traded, it sucks," Ilyasova told CSN Philly two weeks ago. "Middle of the season, you have to kinda readjust your whole game."

Since June 2015, Ilyasova has been traded from the Bucks to the Pistons to the Magic to the Thunder to the Sixers to the Hawks.

Here are three takeaways on the trade:

Big picture
Going back to the Jerami Grant trade that netted the Sixers Ilyasova, Bryan Colangelo turned Grant into a first-round pick and two second-round picks. Not bad.

Grant is an energetic player who can block shots and play defense, but he's a poor outside shooter and was a redundancy on this Sixers team.

With Ilyasova, the Sixers identified the type of stretch-four who best fits alongside Joel Embiid. 

The first-round pick the Sixers acquired in the Grant-Ilyasova deal is the Thunder's top-20 protected pick in 2020. If it doesn't convey then, it turns into second-round picks in 2022 and 2023.

So the end result could be the Sixers gave up Grant for a few months of Ilyasova and four second-round picks — four chances to draft a player better than Grant.

Dario's time
Obviously, the Ilyasova trade means more playing time for Dario Saric. 

As Ilyasova has slumped in February, Saric has excelled. Over his last six games, Saric has averaged 19.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists, shooting 51 percent from the field, 34 percent from three and making 12 of 13 free throws.

Saric averaged 27.8 minutes in those games, and two of his highest-minute games have come in the last three weeks. 

Expect to see him on the court for around 34 minutes per game the rest of the season.

See you soon?
Ilyasova was well-liked in the Sixers' locker room, as evidenced by comments from Sixers players after the trade went down.

As mentioned previously, Ilyasova showed the Sixers what kind of stretch-four fits next to Embiid — someone with size who can rebound and knock down threes. Ilyasova did slump in February, but he had some very impressive games with the Sixers, scoring more than 20 points 12 times. He had 15 or more points in 23 of 53 games with the Sixers.

If the Sixers liked Ilyasova enough, if the price is right in free agency and if Ilyasova is willing to accept a backup role, perhaps he and the Sixers reunite this offseason.

"I'm really looking forward kinda to just being in one place, maybe a while," Ilyasova said on Feb. 8. "... Just one place for me and my family, not having to move from one place to another.

"I think this opportunity (with the Sixers) is really great for me, as far as being in a consistent role in what I'm doing here, and hopefully you know, we'll see what it's going to be for next year."

Report: Sixers trading Nerlens Noel to Mavericks for 2 players, 1st-round pick

Report: Sixers trading Nerlens Noel to Mavericks for 2 players, 1st-round pick

With all eyes on Jahlil Okafor, the Sixers made a different deadline day splash, trading Nerlens Noel to the Dallas Mavericks for Andrew Bogut, Justin Anderson and a first-round pick, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical.

The draft pick is top-18 protected, according to ESPN's Marc Stein. The Mavericks would pick seventh if the season ended today, so it is highly unlikely the pick will convey. It's not yet clear what happens to the pick if it does not convey in 2017.

Noel is a restricted free agent after the season. Woj reports the Mavericks will try to sign Noel to a long-term deal, which you'd think is a priority given what they traded for him.

What does it mean for Okafor? Per Woj, it likely means Okafor is staying with the Sixers.

Bogut will be an unrestricted free agent.

According to David Aldridge, the Sixers will likely trade Bogut elsewhere, possibly to Boston.

Stein reports that if the Sixers don't find a trade partner for Bogut, they could buy him out.

Anderson has three years remaining on his contract after this season. He's due $1.6 million in 2017-18, $2.5M in 2019-20 and $3.7M in 2019-20.

Anderson, 23, was the 21st overall pick in 2015 out of Virginia. In 106 games (11 starts) with Dallas, he averaged 5.1 points on 40 percent shooting with 2.7 rebounds. He's shot 30 percent from three this season.

Anderson's best stretch this season came from Jan. 22 to 26, when he averaged 15.7 points in a three-game span.

Noel was the longest-tenured Sixer, the lone remaining player from the beginning of "the process."

A high-energy player who makes his impact on the defensive end, Noel ends his Sixers career with averages of 10.2 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.6 blocks in 171 games.