News and notes from around the NBA:
After missing the playoffs last season, the Charlotte Hornets have established themselves as one of the top six teams in the Eastern Conference, holding a sizable lead over the ninth-place Chicago Bulls with only nine games left on the schedule. Former Lakers guard Jeremy Lin has helped lead the surge for the Hornets, playing a key role off the bench behind Kemba Walker.
On Monday, Lin was all but unstoppable against one the best teams in the league, scoring 29 points against the San Antonio Spurs in a Hornets' win. The next night, Lin scored 21 points in a victory over the Brooklyn Nets. Contributing almost 12 points and three assists a game, Lin has found a comfortable role in Charlotte under Coach Steve Clifford, who previously served as assistant with the Lakers under Mike Brown. After the season, Lin can opt out of the second year of his contract, at $2.2 million, to become a free agent.
Parsons done for season
Dallas Mavericks forward Chandler Parsons underwent surgery Friday after tearing the meniscus in his right knee. Parsons had been averaging 18.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists over his last 30 games, after recovering from a procedure on the same knee last summer.
The Mavericks are in a battle with four teams vying for three playoff berths. The Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz are all neck-and-neck with less than three weeks to play. The loss of Parsons only compounds the issue for the slumping Mavericks. Like Lin, Parsons needs to decide whether he wants to test free agency in July, but his player option is far more substantial at $16 million for next season.
Antetokounmpo is silver lining
The season hasn't gone nearly as well as the Milwaukee Bucks had hoped, after landing forward/center Greg Monroe in free agency last summer. Instead of building on last year's 41-win effort, good enough for the sixth seed in the East, the Bucks will have an early summer.
The bright spot has been the play of third-year forward Giannis Antetokounmpo. One of the few players in the league who can truly play all five positions, the 21-year old from Greece has served as the team's de facto point guard after the Bucks suffered injuries to Michael Carter-Williams and Greivis Vasquez. On Feb. 22, Antetokounmpo recorded the first triple-double of his career. He now has four, averaging 19.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 7.8 assists through the first 13 games in March.
Tony Allen perfect in loss
The man Kobe Bryant has called the best defender he ever faced couldn't miss a shot on Tuesday against the Lakers. Veteran guard Tony Allen, who built his reputation as a stopper, scored a season-high 27 points on 12-for-12 shooting. The Grizzlies, struggling with a long list of injuries, fell to the Lakers 107-100. If Memphis limps to the finish where they stand in fifth place, they'll probably draw the Clippers in the first round of the postseason. Not only is center Marc Gasol (foot) is out for the year, veteran point guard Mike Conley (Achilles' tendon) is questionable for the playoffs.
The Golden State Warriors are still within range of the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls' all-time record of 72 wins, at 65-7 with just 10 to play. The Warriors will need to win eight for the best regular season in NBA history. The toughest games remaining include visits to Utah, Memphis and San Antonio. The rest are at Golden State, where the team has a 34-0 record. The Spurs are also unbeaten at home at 37-0.
Sad news for TNT personality Craig Sager, whose battle with leukemia took a difficult turn. The longtime sideline reporter, known for his flashy suits and affable personality, was originally stricken with the disease in 2014. Sager, 64, returned to work this season and is expected to make a few more appearances. In a statement, Sager said he was given a prognosis of three to six months to live, but he vowed to exceed expectations, "I remain fully confident I will win this battle."
Cleveland at Atlanta
When: Friday at 5 p.m. PDT. TV: ESPN.
The Hawks were swept by LeBron James and the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals last spring, ending Atlanta's deepest playoff run since 1970. The teams met once this season, with Cleveland cruising to a 109-97 win in November. Cleveland and Toronto are fighting for the East's top spot while Atlanta is in a cluster of teams angling for the 3-4-5-6 seeds, so it's uncertain when or whether Cleveland and Atlanta will meet in the postseason. Either way, Friday's game is meaningful for both teams with only 12 days left in the regular season.
— Barry Stavro