Trans. Apr 15 1:15 ET (Apr 15 1:15 ET ) Tanking remains a concern for many NBA fans and analysts, but there's no question why teams consider it a useful plan. Strategic losing gives teams a chance to rebuild and reload their rosters through the draft. It's the most apparent way of landing a star-quality player and becoming a true contender.
This manner of rebuilding has become such an acceptable plan that it's easy to identify several franchises that enter the season with little hope of making the postseason. This fall, those intentional losers appeared to include the Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns (a surprise playoff contender until finally being eliminated on Monday night ), and Utah Jazz, among others. Yet the worst team of the 2013-14 season may not have intended to be anywhere near this terrible.
On Monday, the Milwaukee Bucks lost to the Atlantic Division champion Toronto Raptors 110-100 . The defeat pushed the Bucks' record on the season to 15-66, or three games worse than the 18-63 Sixers, who defeated the Boston Celtics . With only one game remaining for both teams, the Bucks have now clinched the worst record in the NBA and the highest odds of winning the draft lottery at 25 percent.
It does not appear that the Bucks planned to be picking this high in the draft. This summer, the Bucks made it very clear that their leadership (including owner and former U.S. senator Herb Kohl) does not condone losing on purpose and thinks such a practice would harm their public image and put them in a precarious financial position. Although the Bucks lost backcourt members Monta Ellis, J.J. Redick, and Brandon Jennings in the offseason, they believed that pickups like O.J. Mayo, Brandon Knight, and Gary Neal would meld with young and improving frontcourt players Larry Sanders, Ersan Ilyasova, and John Henson to form a group capable of challenging for a playoff spot in the weak Eastern Conference.
Instead, Milwaukee has experienced something like a worst case scenario. None of the offseason pickups has played up to expectations, with Neal getting dealt at the deadline ; Sanders has undergone a season-long nightmare that includes on-court griping and regression, off-court issues , injury , and suspension ; and no one else has made enough of a leap to make up for it (although rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo looks like one of the league's most promising young talents). It's been a giant mess, and Bucks fans will likely to be glad to see the season end (if they haven't checked out already).
The Bucks can now do no worse than the fourth selection in the draft. However, as the math suggests, they're not guaranteed to have their pick or the litter in June. The worst team in the NBA has won the lottery only three of 24 times since the league adopted a weighted system in 1990. The Bucks still have 25 percent odds, since the math doesn't change regardless of past results, but that history does show that getting the first pick is no sure thing.
The question for the anti-tanking crowd is if they deserve it. Based on their common claims, the system worked in the 2013-14 season. If the Bucks did indeed enter the season with the intention of winning, then they lost while giving it a fair shot, standing as one of the NBA's worst seasons for pretty much the full 82-game schedule. On the other hand, this show of effort made the Bucks significantly less watchable than those teams that appeared to enter the season with tanking in mind. The Bucks' pursuit of veteran free agents didn't just make them irrelevant, as some of us predicted they would be — it also made them a horror show on the court. As ever, putting forth an effort to win is not necessarily a form of progress.
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After clawing their way back from a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit, the Charlotte Bobcats held a lead over the Atlanta Hawks entering the final half-minute of the fourth quarter on Monday night. Mike Budenholzer's playoff-bound Hawks found one last bit of inspiration, though, tightening defensively to influence Bobcats guard Gary Neal into a wild desperation jumper that went awry, giving Atlanta the opportunity to tie the game ... which they did, thanks to a simple but sharp bit of pick-and-roll basketball that saw rookie center Mike Muscala create enough room for jitterbug scoring guard Lou Williams to get into a wide-open space at the left elbow and pop a jumper that knotted things up at 93 with 2.6 seconds remaining.
With one chance to beat the buzzer and secure a big late-season road win, you might've expected Charlotte head coach Steve Clifford to draw up a final shot for his big fella, center Al Jefferson. Well, if that's the case, you were probably surprised by what wound up happening, too:
As forward Josh McRoberts prepared to trigger the inbounds pass, Bobcats guard Luke Ridnour cut from the left corner up toward the 3-point arc around a left-elbow screen by Jefferson, running around the arc to the right corner, while Gary Neal set a quick off-ball screen along the right block for Chris Douglas-Roberts before cutting up and curling around Jefferson en route to the left corner. As Neal streaked to the left corner, Atlanta forward Mike Scott, who had been guarding the inbounds pass, moved away from the ball to track Neal while defender Shelvin Mack recovered to Neal; that gave McRoberts a clean line of sight to pick out Douglas-Roberts, cutting from the baseline up to the top of the key around a right-elbow screen from Jefferson, as a landing spot to put the ball in play.
Douglas-Roberts made the catch and headed straight for the rim, splitting between a backtracking Scott and a trailing Williams, and staring at Muscala as he took a step inside the left elbow. With the clock ticking down, one Hawk in front of him and two closing in on him, Douglas-Roberts let loose a flailing floater that arced up and in with no time remaining on the clock. Just as he did against the Brooklyn Nets a couple of weeks back, CDR hit the dagger that propelled the Bobcats to an at-one-time improbable win, sealing a 95-93 victory and ensuring that Charlotte (42-39) will finish above .500 for just the second time in franchise history.
Douglas-Roberts finished with five points on 2 for 3 shooting, two rebounds, one steal and one assist in 23 minutes of play. Noted paint purveyor Jefferson led the way with a game-high 27 points on 11 for 17 shooting to go with 15 rebounds, but it was Neal and Ridnour, a pair of midseason additions from the Milwaukee Bucks, who saved the Bobcats' bacon with big performances off the bench.
Neal chipped in 17 points on 5 for 11 shooting off the pine, while Ridnour added 10 points and four assists in 23 minutes. Twenty of those 27 points came in the fourth quarter, with all 10 of Ridnour's coming in the first six minutes of the frame, as an all-reserve Bobcats unit ripped off a 19-4 run to erase the 80-65 lead the Hawks held after three. Those contributions were particularly huge for Charlotte on a night where the starting backcourt of Kemba Walker (just back from his groin injury ) and Gerald Henderson put up a combined nine points on 2 for 18 shooting. (Walker did add seven assists with just one turnover, and Henderson did chip in five rebounds and three assists, for what it's worth.)
The win keeps alive the Bobcats' hopes of overcoming the Washington Wizards for the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference, if only barely. The sixth-place Wiz knocked off the resting Miami Heat on Monday, which both sewed up the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference for the Indiana Pacers and kept 43-38 Washington one game ahead of the seventh-seeded Bobcats. If the Wizards win their season finale against the all-over-but-the-shoutin' Boston Celtics on Wednesday , they'll lock up the No. 6 spot and avoid the Heat; if the Wizards lose to the Celtics and the Bobcats can beat the Chicago Bulls in their season-ender , Charlotte will take over No. 6 by virtue of winning their season series with Washington three games to one.
Scott led six Hawks in double figures with 20 points and six rebounds, but he shot just 8 for 23 from the floor, which was about par for the course on a night where Atlanta struggled from the field (43 percent as team) and especially from 3-point land (8 for 30 total) without resting starters Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver and DeMarre Carroll. Jeff Teague celebrated his Eastern Conference Player of the Week win by scoring 11 points on 4 for 6 shooting with five assists and four rebounds for the Hawks, who are locked into a first-round matchup with the top-seeded Pacers.
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One team was motivated by the goal of dodging the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs. Chris Douglas-Roberts dribbled into the lane and sank a short jumper as time expired, and the Charlotte Bobcats overcame a 15-point deficit in the final period to beat the Atlanta Hawks 95-93 on Monday night. Al Jefferson had 27 points and 15 rebounds for Charlotte, which remained one game behind Washington in the race for the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Gary Neal had 17.
Avery Bradley scored 22 points, Phil Pressey had a career-high 13 assists and the Boston Celtics held off a late surge by the Charlotte Bobcats for a 106-103 win that snapped a nine-game losing streak on Friday night. Boston led 104-103 before Jared Sullinger made two free throws with 2.5 seconds left. Charlotte called timeout then got the ball to Jannero Pargo, who missed a straightaway 3-point shot as time expired. The Bobcats were led by Al Jefferson with 32 points and 10 rebounds and Gary Neal with 13 points.
WASHINGTON -- Center Al Jefferson had 20 points and 18 rebounds and guard Kemba Walker scored five of his 17 points in overtime as the streaking Charlotte Bobcats defeated the Washington Wizards 94-88 on Wednesday night for their fifth straight win. Guard Gary Neal scored 16 points for the Bobcats (40-38), who pulled even with the Wizards (40-38) for sixth place in the Eastern Conference despite guard John Wall's triple-double. Charlotte clinched the season series 3-1, giving the Bobcats the playoff head-to-head tiebreaker. Center Marcin Gortat had 27 points and 14 rebounds for the Wizards.