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INDIANAPOLIS — With the Indiana Pacers unable to move up from the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference Donte Jackson Panthers Jersey , the team will likely have a new look for the regular-season finale on Tuesday night against Charlotte.
For the Pacers to have reached the No. 4 spot, the Cleveland Cavaliers had to lose back-to-back games to the New York Knicks. But after Cavs beat the Knicks on Monday night, Pacers coach Nate McMillan is expected to rest his starters and key reserves quite a bit against the Hornets.
Rest might be welcome thing.
“Yeah, I thought that they fought through some fatigue,” McMillan said of his players in Sunday’s 123-117 win at Charlotte. “Even though we won, I thought that we were flat for most of this game. We found a way to get some energy. I thought the bench came in and gave us a lot of energy and played well to help us get this win.”
Pacers center/forward Domantas Sabonis scored a career-high 30 points.
“My teammates were trusting me like always and I do my best to finish,” Sabonis told Fox Sports Indiana. “I love it here. It’s been a very fun year. I love my teammates, coaching staff and I’m just happy to represent Indiana.”
Sabonis averages 11.7 points and 7.7 rebounds.
“He’s always crashing the boards, plays well in the pick-and-roll, a very, very smart IQ guy,” Pacers point guard Cory Joseph said.
After scoring below double figures for the first time all season Friday night with five points in a loss at Toronto Walter Payton Bears Jersey , Pacers leading scorer Victor Oladipo bounced back with 27 points.
The Hornets were plagued by 22 turnovers, and Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said in four of the last five games turnovers have been the difference.
“I think we’re first or second in the NBA in taking care of the basketball, but four of the last five games we’ve had 17 or 18 turnovers, which is more product of playing more guys and something that you can live with,” he said. “So we did some good things. Those guys in the fourth quarter did a good job, so we’ll go there on Tuesday and see if we can put together longer periods of good play.”
Clifford said he will start thinking about the offseason later. After the Hornets won four in a row, they have lost five of the last six games.
“It’s been important to me that we play these games well so in nine of the last 10 we’ve been pretty good, competitive and organized,” he said. “So we’ve been putting just as much into these games as we have all year and frankly you worry about the next season in the next season.
“I want to win Tuesday and I want (the players) to, too. So I haven’t even thought about stuff like that.”
Hornets rookie guard Malik Monk, who averages 6.5 points, has scored 20 or more points in the last three games.
Clifford said Monk has gotten better with his pick-and-roll game and has been more efficient offensively.
“The thing he is doing better is he’s making plays for other people Cheap Leonard Williams Jersey ,” Clifford said.
Clifford has noticed Monk’s assists-to-turnovers numbers have been solid recently as well.
“That to me is as much of an indicator as anything of the growth that he’s made in terms of learning how to play in a manner that both he can score and the rest of the guys can play well when he’s on the floor,” he said. “In this league at his size (6 feet 3), pick and roll is going to be a big part of it.”
The Chicago Bulls like to think they are one of the NBA’s up-and-coming teams, one that could challenge for a playoff berth next season.
They also admit there are many more boxes to check off first.
Led by forward Lauri Markkanen, the Bulls return a slew of young talent but the team lacks depth and key playmakers. Much will depend on Markkanen’s development along with that of swingman Zach LaVine, guards Kris Dunn, Cameron Payne and Denzel Valentine, and big men Cristiano Felicio and Bobby Portis. Like center Wendell Carter Jr. and forward Chandler Hutchison, the team’s first-round draft picks, all are 25 or younger.
Although the Bulls are nearly $40 million below the salary cap, executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson said a significant move was ”unlikely” this offseason. Free agency begins this weekend.
”We have loads of (salary) cap space,” Paxson said Monday Jaire Alexander Packers Jersey , when Carter and Hutchison were introduced at a news conference. ”What we don’t have are many open roster spots. We could add one player, but we’re not going to risk making a mistake on a longterm deal. At this point, we don’t feel any urgency to do something big.”
At the top of the to-do list is the somewhat murky future of LaVine, a restricted free agent whose athletic talents are sure to generate interest. Sixteen months removed from left ACL surgery, he averaged 16.7 points and shot just 38 percent in 24 games last season.
”Obviously, we want Zach back,” Paxson said. ”But there’s a free-agent process that we’ll follow. The fact that so many teams have limited cap space is in our favor. Until then, we’ll consider Zach to be a big part of our plans.”
For the Bulls to become relevant next season – they’ve reached the conference finals just once since the Michael Jordan years – LaVine and Markkanen will have to fulfill their star potential. The plan calls for them to be more active in the offense, which ranked 30th and last in field-goal percentage (.435) and 26th in points (102.9) last season.
As a rookie, Markkanen averaged 15.2 points and 7.5 rebounds.
”We’ll allow Markkanen to make plays a lot more next season,” coach Fred Hoiberg said. ”If he rebounds the ball, we want the other guys running and let him bring the ball downcourt.”
Unable to trade up in the draft order last week Leonard Williams Jersey Youth , the Bulls made a safe pick in the 6-foot-10 Carter at No. 7 overall. The Duke product does his best work as a rebounder and rim protector but will require time to develop other parts of his game.
”I’m a very hard worker. I’m a winner also,” Carter said. ”I come in and do whatever I have to to help the team win. That will be an immediate impact.”
The 6-foot-7 Hutchison (22nd overall) possesses an intriguing mix of physical tools. At Boise State, he scored and drew fouls consistently. Both are areas of considerable need in Chicago.
While a lot has to go right for a team that finished 27-55 to make a quantum jump, the Bulls showed flashes when they won 10 of 12 games in December.
”That stretch last season is where the optimism comes from,” Holberg said. ”Since then, we’ve added two young, versatile players who fit for our roster very well. And Zach will have fewer restrictions. So there are a lot of reasons to be excited.”
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