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Damian Lillard. ESPNPORTLAND, Ore. -- Even as they huddled after the victory that sent them through to the next round, the Portland Trail Blazers were drawing inspiration from the doubters.

The confetti fell on them from the ceiling and Damian Lillard told his gathered teammates he was proud of them for shutting out the "outside noise," like those who never thought the Blazers would make it to the playoffs -- let alone the second round.

Now they'll have to shut out those who think they have no chance against the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors.

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Kemba Walker's 37 points weren't enough for the Hornets to finish off the Heat. Sam Sharpe/USA TODAY Sports

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Almost half an hour after the final buzzer sounded, wiping away what would have been the shining moment of his pro career, Kemba Walker sat slouched in his chair, still fully dressed in his white No. 15 Charlotte Hornets uniform, and stared blankly into his locker.

With the muffled sounds of Al Jefferson talking up his teammate's big performance emanating through a thicket of reporters, Walker stripped down to his black base layer and directed his solemn gaze down to the floor. Jeremy Lamb, who had been by the swaggering point guard’s side as he willed their UConn Huskies to 11 straight tournament wins, handed him a towel, and Walker eventually retreated slowly to the shower.

Four days earlier, Walker’s 34 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter, in the same building evened their first-round series with the Miami Heat. Maybe, it seemed, he could dominate on a postseason stage in the NBA too.

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Kemba Walker scores 37 points, but Dwyane Wade puts up 23 and the Heat defeat the Hornets 97-90 to force Game 7.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Dwyane Wade hadn't made a 3-point shot since December, enduring a streak of 22 consecutive misses.

That all changed on Friday night with Miami's season on the line.

The 34-year-old star hit both 3-pointers he attempted, including a big one with 46 seconds left, finishing with 23 points as the Heat beat the Charlotte Hornets 97-90 to force a decisive game in the first-round series.

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Solomon Hill and the Pacers got past the Patrick Patterson and the Raptors in Game 7. Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS -- So much for playing Game 6 with a Game 7 mentality.

With a chance to finally move on to the second round for the first time in 15 years, the Toronto Raptors had their worst second half in franchise playoff history, getting outscored by 22 points as they were routed by the Indiana Pacers 101-83 on Friday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Game 7 of their Eastern Conference first-round series will be played Sunday at Air Canada Centre.

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The Pacers go on a 32-5 run in the second half, get 21 points from Paul George and roll past the Raptors 101-83 to extend the series to Game 7.INDIANAPOLIS -- This time, the Indiana Pacers buckled down and fought back.

Reeling from a fourth-quarter collapse followed by a sluggish start, the Pacers turned things around just in time with an 18-0 run to save their season.

Paul George and George Hill combined for 24 second-half points Friday to help Indiana pull away for a 101-83 victory over the Raptors to force a decisive Game 7 on Sunday in Toronto.

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Dec 12, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Golden State Warriors head coach Luke Walton calls a play in the fourth quarter during the game against the Golden State Warriors at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Luke Walton, the new head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, will leave the league's hottest team to take charge of an acclaimed NBA franchise that has fallen on hard times and currently occupies the other end of the spectrum.

Despite being tasked with an unenviable rebuilding job, it is an opportunity he felt he could hardly turn down.

Currently in his second season as assistant coach at the reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors, Walton was confirmed as Byron Scott's replacement on Friday.

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Isaiah Thomas: 'I promise you I'll be back better' (April 30, 2016)
Chris Forsberg [ Source: ESPN ]

Isaiah Thomas renewed his call for the Celtics to add impact talent that can vault the team to true contender status. David Sherman/NBAE via Getty ImagesWALTHAM, Mass. -- The day after the Boston Celtics' 2015-16 season ended with a Game 6 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the opening round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, Isaiah Thomas remained emotional about the team's early postseason exit.

"Man, it still hurts," said Thomas, who had visibly red eyes after becoming emotional in the locker room following the season-ending loss. "It’s tough for me. [Thursday] night was very tough just because I gave it my all. I never worked that hard in my life. Make plays and score and do everything I could for my team to win and it wasn’t enough, so it was tough."

Thomas reaffirmed his appreciation for this year's team -- suggesting again that it's the best team he's ever been a part of -- but also renewed his call for the Celtics to add the sort of impact talent that can vault the team to true contender status.

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HOUSTON -- The Houston Rockets' season was disappointing on so many levels. Late Friday afternoon, standing on the team’s practice court, general manager Daryl Morey put the season on him but vowed things will improve.

But when it came to the dysfunction of the season that hampered this group, something several players confirmed following their knockout by the Golden State Warriors in five games with Stephen Curry playing just 38 minutes, Morey pointed at others.

He blamed other NBA teams for putting out negative stories about the Rockets.

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Cavs coach Tyronn Lue is signed under his old deal through the 2016-17 season. He has delayed an official agreement with the Cavs out of respect for former coach David Blatt, sources said. Allen Einstein/NBAE via Getty Images

CLEVELAND -- As the Cavaliers prepare to face the Atlanta Hawks in the second round of the playoffs, head coach Tyronn Lue continues to guide the team without having signed a new contract since he took over for David Blatt, multiple sources said this week.

Lue, 38, was promoted from associate head coach to Blatt's successor on Jan. 22, with Cleveland general manager David Griffin parting ways with Blatt despite the team's conference-best 30-11 record at the time. Even without a new contract, Lue never had an interim title attached to his position.

Lue has led Cleveland to a 27-14 mark in the second half of the season and a 4-0 sweep of the Detroit Pistons in the first round of the playoffs.

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Warriors star Stephen Curry trying to return before May 9 target date (April 30, 2016)
Ethan Sherwood Strauss [ Source: ESPN ]


OAKLAND, Calif. -- Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry said Friday that he is "feeling better" since spraining his MCL and is trying to get back on the court for the defending NBA champions before his target return date of May 9.

Curry suffered the injury Sunday in Game 4 of the Warriors' first-round playoff series against the Houston Rockets. He was given a two-week timetable to return after an MRI revealed a Grade 1 sprain.

"Feeling better but just got a ways to go," Curry said Friday. "I always have an optimistic view, no matter what it is. I hope to get back sooner. I haven't talked to the doctors, athletic training staff, all the experts. That two-week timeline was, as Bob (Myers, GM) says, an educated guess."

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