Rambis says defense reason Kevin Love got benched. But Beasley and Darko stayed in?

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Kevin Love played just under nine minutes in the second half of the Timberwolves season opener. He came out at the 8:38 mark of the fourth quarter never to return.

Love, the one guy on the Timberwolves part of USA Basketball this summer, the guy considered the face of the franchise and the future by many, sat through the key part of the game.

After the game a reporter asked T-Wolves coach Kurt Rambis a blunt question according to the Star Tribune: Why did you sit your best player?

“That’s your opinion,” he said. “I thought Anthony (Tolliver) was doing the things defensively that we need. It was nothing against Kevin. I thought A.T. was doing a good job. I thought that he was moving his feet well. He challenged shots. He blocked shots.

“Rather than turning it into a derogatory thing with Kevin, it’s a complimentary thing toward A.T.”

Love didn’t take it that way. He was gone before reporters were allowed in the locker room.

Tolliver was blocking shots, he had four of them, and he was providing better weakside defensive help (as pointed out at A Wolves Fan Among Wolves). Yes, when Love sat the Wolves went on a little run to tie the game. But that run faltered and you could feel the need for scoring and better rebounding. Love sat.

Nobody on Minnesota was playing good defense against a Kings team without Tyreke Evans (serving a suspension) — they scored 114.7 points per 100 possessions for the game, which over the course of last season would have been second best in the league. The Kings scored at will and it was a team-wide issue.

Going with the hot hand is a good practice for a coach. Rambis mentor Phil Jackson did it opening night — Derek Fisher sat at the end of the game so that a hot Steve Blake could stay in. And you get a game winner. But Blake and Fisher are role players, you don’t see Jackson sitting Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.

Kevin Love is the Timberwolves best player. Bar none. His defense isn’t great but neither is Darko’s or Beasley’s, and they were out there. Love is the best scorer and rebounder they have. You didn’t see Jerry Sloan benching Carlos Boozer or George Karl benching Carmelo Anthony because of their defense. Love needs to be on the court at the end of games. He should be a leader and go-to guy on this team, but it’s hard to become that when the coach cuts you off at the knees.

Marreese Speights opts out of Clippers contract

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The Clippers are unraveling.

Of course, whether they can re-sign Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are the big questions. But they also must deal with smaller matters in free agency – like Marreese Speights.

Speights will opt out, his agent tweeted:

The Clippers will hold Speights’ Non-Bird Rights (technically a form of Bird Rights), allowing them to give him a starting salary up to $2,540,346 without using cap space or the mid-level exception.

The 29-year-old Speights, a stretch five who takes charges, fits the modern NBA. He could probably get more if he seeks it.

The Clippers won’t have cap space unless they lose Paul and Griffin, and at that point, re-signing a veteran like Speights is of little use. So, it would likely require the taxpayer mid-level exception or Speights taking a discount to keep him.

Luc Mbah a Moute can and likely will also opt out, and he’ll fall in the same Non-Bird situation. The Clippers would likely prioritize their mid-level exception for him – if it’s enough for either player.

Keeping Paul and Griffin is of the utmost importance, but that’s not the Clippers’ only challenge. Even if they keep those two stars, assembling even a decent supporting cast will difficult. Possibly losing J.J. Redick is the main issue there, but handling Speights’ and Mbah a Moute’s roster spots will also be pivotal.

Warriors struggle to get Zaza Pachulia’s 2017 NBA Finals hat on his big head (video)

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Zaza Pachulia became the villain of the Western Conference finals when he injured Kawhi Leonard and torpedoed the Spurs chances of upsetting the Warriors.

But his teammates stood by him – then shared this fun moment with him after Golden State won the West.

Reporter asks Spanish-speaking Manu Ginobili whether he just announced retirement (video)

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Manu Ginobili received an emotional sendoff in the Spurs’ season-ending – and maybe Ginobili’s career-ending – loss to the Warriors last night.

The postgame press conference featured a lighthearted moment when, after the Argentinian guard answered a couple questions in Spanish, an American reporter – not wanting to miss big news – asked whether Ginobili had just announced his retirement.

No, Ginobili assured the reporter. He says he plans to take a few weeks to consider his options.

Warriors make most dominant playoff run ever to NBA Finals

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Moses Malone famously predicted the 76ers team would go “”Fo’, Fo’, Fo'” in the 1983 playoffs, sweeping all three rounds in four games. Philadelphia didn’t quite do it – sweeping the Knicks, beating the Bucks in five then sweeping the Lakers for the title.

Thirty-four years later, an NBA team went “”Fo’, Fo’, Fo'” for the first time.

Golden State swept the Trail Blazers, Jazz and Spurs in four-game series. But with an extra playoff round, the Warriors’ 12-0 run merely gets them to the Finals.

It’s the ninth undefeated run to the Finals, third since the league adopted four playoff rounds in 1984 and first since the first round became best-of-seven. The Lakers went 11-0 in the playoffs en route to the Finals in 2001 and 1989.

By winning an extra game and outscoring opponents by 16.3 points per game, Golden State now claims the most dominant postseason run to the NBA Finals ever.

Here are the top paths to the Finals, with Finals results, by playoff…

Record (point difference per game in parentheses):

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Point difference per game (record in parentheses):

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This doesn’t guarantee Golden State a championship. The Cavaliers (10-1, +11.9) are on track for an elite run to the Finals themselves, and they have LeBron James.

But the Warriors put ridiculous expectations on themselves by signing Kevin Durant to join a 73-win team featuring Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. I’m unsure a Golden State title this year will be properly appreciated, but so far, the Warriors are doing all they can to clear a bar set unreasonably high.