Weirdness reigns as NBA playoffs loom
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By TIM REYNOLDS
AP Basketball Writer
MIAMI -- The NBA playoffs are coming. So much for predictability.
Commence with the weirdness.
Like Indiana pulling its starters halfway through the first quarter in an embarrassing home loss. Or J.R. Smith trying an NBA-record 22 3-pointers in a loss that probably doomed New York's playoff hopes. Or Carmelo Anthony being either unable or unwilling to shoot in the fourth quarter of that game. Or Houston scoring 47 points in the second quarter before needing last-second heroics from James Harden to force overtime and beat Denver.
And all that happened on Sunday.
Every team in the NBA gets Monday off to take a breath, rest, recover -- and, of course, watch Connecticut and Kentucky play for the NCAA title. After that, the sprint to the finish continues, with playoff spots still to be won in some cases and plenty of movement still possible in both the Eastern and Western Conference playoff races.
But first, more about Sunday's wildness.
- Smith's 3-point tries added up to more than one-tenth of a mile: 561 feet worth of long-distance dialing. To put that in perspective, the total distance of LeBron James' 22 field-goal attempts on the way to his 38-point effort in Miami's 102-91 win over New York: 265 feet.
- The Pacers were down 30 in the first half. At home. To Atlanta. "I don't think it's acceptable," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said, "for any of us."
- San Antonio earned its 60th victory. The Spurs will almost certainly finish with the No. 1 overall seed, but why does it seem like there still isn't enough talk about them?
On to the week ahead, and five things to watch:
WADE RETURN?: Heat G Dwyane Wade went through a long pregame workout Sunday before missing his sixth straight game with a hamstring issue. The Heat are 12-1 in their last 13 games without Wade, but James looks like he could use some serious help -- or a long nap -- before the playoffs start. Miami plays Brooklyn on Tuesday, and the Nets are undefeated against the Heat this season.
LAKER RECORD: Since moving to Los Angeles, the Lakers organization has never endured worse than a 52-loss season. These Lakers are 25-52 with five games left, and they're running out of players. History awaits.
THUNDER-CLIPPERS: It will be worth staying up for on Wednesday night. Two of the NBA's best teams right now going at it, quite possibly with big-time implications for the No. 2 seed out West involved.
PACERS-HEAT: Friday night in Miami. This could decide the East No. 1 seed. Or might be a wrestling match. Or might see both sides resting everybody.
50,000 3s?: Four seasons ago, there weren't even 45,000 3-pointers shot in an NBA season. Think teams rely on them a bit more now? The league is on pace to crack 50,000 tries from long range this season. (Insert J.R. Smith joke here.)
STAT OF THE WEEK: Nick Young's 40 points off the bench for the Lakers merited a look, but this week's call goes to Kyrie Irving, who reminded everyone that when healthy, he's elite: 16 for 31 shooting for 44 points, along with eight assists and seven rebounds on Saturday night against playoff-bound Charlotte was impressive.
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Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press
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