Kevin Durant, after dropping 32 points on Wednesday night, was likely going to win the NBA scoring title. For Kobe Bryant to catch him, the Lakers star was going to have to score 38 in a meaningless game against the Kings Thursday.
Which he is not going to do because Lakers coach Mike Brown said Kobe is resting this game to prepare for the playoffs, reports Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated.
Durant finishes the season averaging 28 points per game to Kobe’s 27.9. This is Durant’s third consecutive scoring title, the last player to win three in a row was Michael Jordan.
In recent days both Kobe and Durant had downplayed the scoring title race, saying they were more concerned with being right for the playoffs. With this season’s short turnaround between the playoffs and regular season — the Lakers open at home on Sunday against likely Denver but maybe Dallas — many coaches are resting players the final game of the regular season. Kobe could have forced Mike Brown to play him and could have scored 38 points on what passes for defense in Sacramento (even if Kobe had to take 41 shots to get there) but he chose to focus on the big picture.
With the Thunder and Lakers favored to meet in the second round, both of these guys would trade a scoring title for a win in that series.
DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, and the New Orleans Pelicans will take some time to mesh together. In his first game with New Orleans, Cousins saw a difficult opponent and massive deficits against the Houston Rockets. But there was some glimmers of hope.
Cousins, for example, had a productive statistical evening. The former Sacramento King put up 27 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 steals, and 4 blocks — just one swat shy of the rare 5 x 5.
Plus, he had this sweet block on Rockets star James Harden:
The Pelicans lost to the Rockets, 129-99, but it’s going to be fun to watch New Orleans battle it out for the 8th seed in the West.
New York Knicks star big man Kristaps Porzingis left Thursday night’s contest against the Cleveland Cavaliers with a sprained right ankle. He could be seen limping back to the locker room late in the second quarter, and reports after the game saw Porzingis in a walking boot.
That’s a major bummer for Knicks fans.
Porzingis, 21, dealt with a left Achilles issue earlier in the season and no doubt would like to remain on the court for the Knicks full-time to close the season.
Then again, it’s important to keep in mind that walking boots can be precautionary, especially as a team plays away from home. New York heads back home tonight and will play Philadelphia on Saturday, so there should be plenty of time for the Knicks to get their full medical staff working on assessing and treating Porzingis.
It’s not as though the Knicks were primed for a late-season run at just 23-35, but there will be less for New York fans to watch for with their best player off the floor.
Terrence Jones is no longer a member of the New Orleans Pelicans. The University of Kentucky product was removed from the team roster on Thursday after head coach Alvin Gentry said there just wasn’t enough minutes to go around after the team traded for DeMarcus Cousins.
The Pelicans roster now houses a frontcourt with most of the minutes going to Cousins, Anthony Davis, Donatas Motiejunas, Dante Cunningham, and Solomon Hill.
Gentry, via Nola.com:
“We released him because, obviously, if you look at the bigs situation we have now and there was not going to be a whole lot of minutes,” said Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry. “He wants to play. Obviously, he’s going to be a guy in a contract year and things like that, so we thought it was best to let him go.”
Jones, 25, was playing nearly 25 minutes per-game for New Orleans. While he was having a productive year, he wasn’t close to the kind of efficient numbers he put up early in his career with the Houston Rockets.
That said, Jones could be a potential candidate to bolster the frontline of a playoff team, so look for some action around him sooner rather than later.
Charles Barkley has a tendency to say some pretty wild stuff, but he’s typically guarded as a TV professional when it comes to swearing. Apparently the heat of the moment got the better of him on Thursday night as he was talking during the matchup between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the New York Knicks.
Speaking about New York, Barkley accidentally let fly with a not-for-primetime word on live television as he discussed Spike Lee and the overall mood around the team.
Via Twitter (NSFW obviously):
In case you can’t hear that, Barkley said (in part):
“I was talking to Spike Lee at All-Star Weekend, he’s dying to get kicked out of the Garden. He don’t wanna watch this s–t.”
The TNT crew then razzed on him for committing the cardinal sin of live TV.