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The Predators

NEW ORLEANS — The playoffs essentially began a month ago for both the New Orleans Pelicans (47-34) and the San Antonio Spurs (47-34).

While both teams have clinched Western Conference playoff spots , Wednesday night’s regular-season finale at the Smoothie King Center is the finish line in a marathon race for playoff seeding.

Unless Memphis pulls off a monster upset and defeats the Oklahoma City Thunder on the road Wednesday, the Pelicans, currently the fifth seed, would finish anywhere from the fourth, fifth or sixth seed with a victory over the Spurs. The Pelicans would drop to the eighth seed with a loss, setting up a first-round matchup with the No. 1 Houston Rockets.

The Spurs also could fall anywhere from the fourth to the eighth seed, given a myriad of possibilities.

The only solace for Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is that the Spurs, playing most of the season without All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard, have made the playoffs for the 21st consecutive season. That streak is 11 years longer than Popovich’s nearest competitor, Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat.

“Oh, it’s wonderful,” Popovich said, using his characteristic deadpan delivery Monday night after the Spurs clinched their playoff spot with a 98-85 victory over Sacramento.

“They deserve a lot of credit Bryan Shaw Colorado Rockies Jersey , done a great job,” Popovich said of his players. “I’m real proud of them.”

The Pelicans have won four consecutive games to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2015. Coach Alvin Gentry said there are so many possible playoff matchups that he wants his team to focus on what it can control.

“We’re just going to do the best we can do (to beat the Spurs), and whoever we play, we play,” Gentry said. ‘We just want to continue to play good basketball.”

The Pelicans’ four-game winning streak could not have been timelier, and forward Anthony Davis has been the catalyst during the streak. Davis, who has made the playoffs only once in his five NBA seasons, said he was proud the Pelicans did not collapse after the season-ending Achilles injury to center DeMarcus Cousins on Jan. 26.

“A lot of people counted us out when he went down, but we just kept fighting, changed the way we play a little bit,” Davis said. “We believed in ourselves — all the guys in this locker room. We just wanted to make sure no matter what happens with anybody else — that we were in. This whole road trip we came out aggressive.”

The Pelicans have won two of three against San Antonio this season, winning 107-90 at home on Nov. 22 and 121-116 in San Antonio on Feb. 28 and losing 98-93 in San Antonio on March 15. Davis had averaged 25.3 points on .509 shooting and 13.3 rebounds in the three games, while the Spurs have been led by Dejounte Murray with 16.7 points , including .667 from 3-point range and 8.0 rebounds.

The Spurs said Leonard would not be available to play against the Pelicans as he returns from a season-long quad injury.

Pelicans point guard Rajon Rondo, who delivered an off-the-backboard assist to Davis for a thunderous, one-handed dunk against the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday night, said he likes what he sees in New Orleans’ recent play.

“I think if we come in with the right focus, the right mindset — obviously, you’ve got to make some shots — we can beat anyone,” Rondo said. “We know that as a team.”

Body camera video showing police using a stun gun on an NBA player over a parking violation is just the latest setback for efforts to improve relations between Milwaukee officers and the city’s black population.

The confrontation involving Sterling Brown of the Milwaukee Bucks also represents the first major challenge for new Police Chief Alfonso Morales, who took the job in February promising to restore public trust in a department besieged in recent years by excessive-force lawsuits.

”Milwaukee has all the ingredients to be a great city, but each time an incident like this occurs, we are reminded of how much work we still have to do,” the city’s Common Council said in a statement Thursday.

Morales, a lifelong Milwaukee resident born to Mexican immigrants, pledged to be more transparent with cases of police misconduct Mike Remmers Color Rush Jersey , and he’s already faced TV cameras twice this month to apologize for his officers’ actions. The other case involved four officers caught on video kicking and punching an African-American man while he was restrained on the ground.

The Jan. 26 video of Brown showed how a simple interaction quickly escalated after an officer approached him about parking in a handicap spot around 2 a.m. at a Walgreens drug store. When their conversation became tenser, the officer called more squad cars for help. As Brown is surrounded by four officers, he’s asked to take his hands out of his pockets and a scuffle ensues. Within seconds, one officer yelled ”Taser! Taser! Taser!”

The video became public after the department finished its internal investigation.

The officers were disciplined because they ”acted inappropriately,” Morales said. Brown was not charged with anything.

The chief did not name the officers or say how they were disciplined. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, citing unidentified sources, said three officers received suspensions ranging from two to 15 days.

”I am sorry this incident escalated to this level,” said Morales, who left a news conference Wednesday without taking questions.

The police department did not identify the races of the officers, but most of them in the video appeared to be white. Brown is black.

A 2017 analysis by the Journal Sentinel found that black officers made up about 18 percent of the department, in a city that is roughly 39 percent black.

Morales’ predecessor, Edward Flynn, had a combative relationship with some city officials during his decade on the job. The Common Council became so frustrated with him that members passed a resolution asking the state to empower the council to fire him. On Thursday Joseph Noteboom Color Rush Jersey , a council member repeated that request, saying change in the department can only happen if the chief is accountable to city leaders instead of a civilian commission appointed by the mayor.

”We can have all sorts of community meetings and groups and say all these wonderful things. But ”at the end of the day, the police chief can do whatever he wants without any consequences,” Alderman Tony Zielinski said.

Morales’ spokeswoman said he was not available for an interview.

Brown has indicated he will file a lawsuit against the police. If he does, the complaint will add to a long list of litigation the city has faced over officer misconduct.

Last year, Milwaukee paid $2.3 million to settle a lawsuit over the death of Dontre Hamilton, a mentally ill black man fatally shot by a police officer after the officer roused him from a park bench downtown.

In 2016, the city paid $5 million to settle a lawsuit by 74 black residents who said police illegally strip-searched them between 2008 and 2012. The American Civil Liberties Union in Wisconsin also has a pending lawsuit alleging the department has for years targeted black and Latino residents by stopping and questioning them without cause.

”It’s just another black eye for the city of Milwaukee on a national level,” Alderman Khalif Rainey said.

A day before the Brown video was released, Morales posted a short video on YouTube that showed him walking through neighborhoods, talking to residents and emphasizing his desire to restore trust in the department.

Rainey bashed the video, saying it’s not enough.

”First and foremost, it’s going to require something more than a video Johnny Townsend Color Rush Jersey , a nice fluffy PR effort,” he said. ”So it’s really going to require the police to get out here in the community and really get integrated in neighborhoods and build a rapport with actual people on a first-name basis.”

Jonathan Safran, a Milwaukee attorney who worked on the Dontre Hamilton case and lawsuit over illegal strip searches, said he’s optimistic that settlement discussions in the ACLU lawsuit could lead to changes in how officers behave during traffic and pedestrian stops.

”The issue in my mind going forward, and this is a good example,” he said, referring to Brown’s case, ”is should officers act as warriors or should they should they act as guardians?”


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