Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, Metta World Peace, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol

A guide for which teams to watch

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Our ideas of fun may be completely different. Personally, I like to pretend I’m playing Supermarket Sweep in the grocery store, but you may like going out on “dates” or “talking to actual people.”

With that said, I can’t in good faith tell you which teams will be fun this year. That’s a decision for you to make, based on your own tastes. What I can do, though, is provide this helpful guide that relates real life activities to watching NBA basketball in an effort to guide you towards some of the more intriguing teams and away from the Bobcats. Far, far away from the Bobcats. To the list:

If you like going out clubbing, you should watch the:

Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets

Entertainment! Egos! Alpha dogs galore! These four teams are the equivalent of going out clubbing – no matter what happens, you’re probably not going to end up bored. Just how crazy are the Lakers? A guy who changed his name to Metta World Peace is now a third-string ego behind Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard. Miami, meanwhile, is defending their title and rolling with a former enemy (Ray Allen) for added fireworks. The Knicks ran Jeremy Lin out of town for Raymond Felton, which couldn’t possibly create any resentment in the Garden, right? Deron Williams may have the quietest wingman in the game next to him (Joe Johnson), but he’s ready to make a lot of noise and try to take New York’s spotlight from Carmelo Anthony. First man to play defense probably wins.

If you like being a parent, you should watch the:

New Orleans Hornets, Houston Rockets, Portland Trailblazers, Detroit Pistons

You can’t truly comprehend the joys of being a parent until you are one (or so I’ve heard), but these teams offer up all the fun with less of the sleep deprivation. Watching a player slowly figure the league out is one of the more rewarding fan experiences, so having the chance to watch New Orleans Hornets rookie Anthony Davis grow into a superstar game by game should be a treat. The Rockets have plenty of exciting rookies as well, but the big draw should be the Jeremy Lin/James Harden backcourt learning to play together. Portland will hand the keys to rookie Damian Lillard in hopes of developing the league’s latest and greatest point guard, while Pistons big man Andre Drummond provides some much needed sizzle to Greg Monroe’s steak. There will be some screaming here from both the kids and the adults, but it’s supposed to all be worth it in the end.

If you like solving puzzles, you should watch the:

Utah Jazz, Atlanta Hawks, San Antonio Spurs

Do you like to solve puzzles and make every piece fit? So do these teams. The Spurs seem to be able to find a home for every piece, don’t they? Two of their biggest additions last year were an overweight guy on the Bobcats (Boris Diaw) and a player more renowned for his dancing on the sideline (Danny Green) than anything else, and it worked out pretty darn well. The Jazz and the Hawks did a good job of following suit, bringing in players this offseason that fit their exact needs. They may not have the frame the Spurs do, but watching a team built with a vision get rewarded with success is just like putting in that last piece of the puzzle.

If you like crashing parties, you should watch the:

Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers

So what if they’re not invited? While no one really expects the Nuggets and Pacers to truly contend for the title, it would be pretty aesthetically pleasing if they did. The Nuggets play one of the most entertaining styles of basketball on the planet, and with Andre Iguodala on board, they should wreak even more havoc in transition than usual. Indiana is easy to forget about — until Paul George or Gerald Green tear down the rim with something nasty. They may not be on the invitation list, but you’ll be glad they came.

If you like getting into bar fights, you should watch the:

Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Clippers

The Celtics and the Clippers are the bro in the $120 t-shirt with skulls plastered all over it. Whether it’s Kevin Garnett stirring up trouble with tiny European players or Blake Griffin uncomfortably staring down a referee for about three minutes too long, the Clippers and Celtics are two of the most hated teams in the league – and they love it. They see it as playing mind games; everyone else just sees it as being obnoxious.

If you like going to bed early and sleeping in late, you should watch the:

Chicago Bulls, Minnesota Timberwolves, Washington Wizards, Dallas Mavericks

In need of a good night’s sleep? How about two months worth? The Bulls can still have success without Derrick Rose for most of the early season, but even the staunchest supporter of defensive play couldn’t recommend watching them on a nightly basis. The Wolves won’t have Ricky Rubio or Kevin Love for the start of the season either, the Wizards will be hopeless without John Wall, and the Mavericks may struggle to break 80 points a game without Dirk Nowitzki. Turn on that soothing league pass music and set your alarm for 2013 if you’re going to watch these teams.

If you like listening to music that everyone else has “probably never heard of”, you should watch the:

Toronto Raptors, Golden State Warriors

Hey, if this band just had a better sound system and the instruments were in tune and the songwriting was better and the drummer wasn’t out all the time — they’d be really good!  The Warriors and the Raptors need everything to break their way to nab a playoff spot. That’s counting on Andrew Bogut, Steph Curry, and Andrea Bargnani all being healthy for a full slate. That probably won’t happen, but if it does, you’re not going to like them anymore, anyway. That’s how that works, right?

If you like going to the gym, you should watch the:

Oklahoma City Thunder, Memphis Grizzlies

Grit and grind. If your fun comes from tireless self-improvement, like it does for Kevin Durant, you’re a lucky individual. One thing you know about the Grizzlies and Thunder – they’ll work hard every single game. You probably won’t find two teams that give more consistent effort, which is nice if you’re opposed to wasting nights watching bad basketball.

If you like playing video games all night, you should watch the:

Cleveland Cavaliers, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers

You probably won’t have a horrible time or a fantastic time playing video games, and you probably won’t remember many details of what happened the next day. Watching the Cavs, Bucks and 76ers is sort of unremarkable in the same way.  You just sort of do it until you’re done. You don’t get the peaks, but you won’t suffer through the valleys, either. As a bonus, Kyrie Irving, Monta Ellis and Jrue Holiday are really fun to play with in NBA2k13, so there’s that.

If you like rubber necking in traffic during your drive home, you should watch the:

Orlando Magic, Charlotte Bobcats, Sacramento Kings, Phoenix Suns

You don’t really want to look at what happened in the accident on the side of the road, but you can’t help it. You slow down. There are cars, just like you expected. One of them is dented. You drive by and say, “That sucks”. That’s pretty much what the Magic, Bobcats, Kings and Suns have in store for you this season. You’ll stop in and look, expecting something exciting, and then you’ll leave and say, “That sucks.” Proceed with caution.

James Harden’s 37 helps Rockets over Celtics 107-106

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HOUSTON (AP) — Houston’s coaching staff emphasized to the players that Boston led the league in fourth-quarter scoring.

So when they Rockets found themselves down by six entering the final frame they knew they’d have step things up to escape with a win.

Harden made sure they did that, scoring 13 of his 37 points in the fourth before Al Horford missed a shot just before the buzzer to allow the Rockets to hold on for a 107-106 victory Monday night.

“The fourth quarter we just picked up … we just wanted to lock in and get stops and offensively be aggressive,” Harden said.

The game was tied before Harden scored five straight points to make it 107-102 with less than a minute remaining. Avery Bradley made a jump shot and Harden received a flagrant 1 foul for elbowing Marcus Smart in the face. Smart made both free throws before Isaiah Thomas missed a layup.

But Houston knocked the ball out of bounds with 5.2 seconds left, giving Boston one last chance. Horford drove into the lane, but his shot rolled off the rim and Harden grabbed it to secure the victory.

“I felt good when I shot it, but it just didn’t go down,” Horford said.

Horford had 21 points and Thomas added 20 for the Celtics, who had won two straight.

It was the ninth 30-point game this season for Harden, who also had eight assists and seven rebounds.

An 8-2 run by Houston, powered by a pair of 3-pointers by Eric Gordon, cut Boston’s lead to one with about 8 1/2 minutes left. Smart made a 3-pointer for the first of seven straight points for the Celtics that made it 96-88. Smart also had a big defensive play in that stretch when he blocked a one-handed dunk attempt by Montrezl Harrell.

Houston scored eight straight points, topped off with a dunk from Harrell, to take a 102-100 lead with about 3 1/2 minutes left.

Harden raved about Harrell’s work.

“You see how he’s flying around everywhere,” Harden said. “He does a lot of different things, some things that don’t show up on the stat sheet that helped contribute to this win.”

The Celtics trailed by 12 early in the third quarter before using a 15-2 spurt to take a 68-67 lead with about 7 minutes left in the quarter. Boston made three 3-pointers in that span, capped by one from Horford. Houston missed five shots, including four 3s, and had two turnovers to help the Celtics close the gap.

“We guarded at a different level and our first unit played pretty well in the third,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “In one stretch in the fourth we turned the ball over and that was hurtful.”

The Rockets were up by three points with 2 minutes left in the first half before Smart fouled Harden on a 3-point attempt and he made all three free throws. Houston had extended the lead to seven when Smart again fouled Harden on a 3-point try and his three free throws made it 58-48 at halftime.

TIP-INS

Celtics: James Young missed the game with an illness. … Thomas received a technical for arguing a call at the end of the first half. … Bradley finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds. … Smart had 13 points.

Rockets: Made 12 3-pointers to extend their NBA record of consecutive games with at least 10 3-pointers to 20. … Trevor Ariza started despite dealing with back spasms and had 15 points and eight rebounds. … Gordon finished with 19 points and made four 3-pointers to give him six straight games with at least four 3s.

PERFECT

Harden tied a franchise record for most free throws without a miss by making all 18 of his attempts on Monday night. Kevin Martin also went 18 for 18 on March 20, 2011 against Utah. He lamented committing the offensive foul on Smart late instead of drawing the foul and getting a chance to go to the line and set the record.

“Of course I wanted two free throws at the end of the game instead of a flagrant, but we won,” he said. “That’s all that matters.”

LATE PUSH

The Rockets have developed a knack for scoring late. After managing just 13 points in the fourth quarter of a 105-103 loss to Oklahoma City on Nov. 16 the Rockets have picked things up, averaging 27.9 fourth-quarter points in the last 10 games.

THEY SAID IT

Stevens on Harden: “Harden is a really good player. I don’t know what else to say. We could go through and dissect every play, but overall he is just a really good player.”

 

Insane: Klay Thompson drops 60 on Indiana in three quarters (VIDEO)

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Oh yea, don’t forget the Golden State Warriors have Klay Thompson, too.

It’s not that the Indiana Pacers forgot, they just couldn’t do anything about it. Thompson hit 21-of-33 shots, 8-of-14 from three, on his way to 60 points in three quarters as the Warriors ran the Pacers out of Oracle Arena 142-106. Thompson was hitting from anywhere and everywhere.

Klay shotchart

The rest of the Warriors loved it.

Russell Westbrook’s sixth straight triple-double leads Thunder past Hawks 102-99

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ATLANTA (AP) — Russell Westbrook extended his streak of triple-doubles to six games, leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 102-99 victory over the skidding Atlanta Hawks on Monday night.

Westbrook scored 32 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and doled out 12 assists, giving him the NBA’s longest streak of triple-doubles since Michael Jordan had seven in a row in 1989.

Westbrook’s run has sparked a six-game winning streak by the Thunder. He’s now reached double figures in all three categories in half of the Thunder’s 22 games.

By contrast, Jordan had 15 triple-doubles for the entire 1988-89 season.

Westbrook kept his streak alive with plenty of time to spare. Despite a poor start shooting, he already had 15 points and 11 rebounds when he picked up his 10th assist with 6:20 left in the third quarter.

Scooping up a loose ball after a turnover by the Hawks, Westbrook led a 2-on-1 that ended with a pass to Victor Oladipo for a layup that gave the Thunder a 69-59 lead.

Westbrook, who missed eight of his first nine shots, suddenly found his touch in the third quarter. He made five of his next seven shots, three of them beyond the arc, and finished with 16 points in the period as the Thunder stretched a one-point halftime lead to 83-69 heading to the fourth.

Atlanta rallied down the stretch, but Westbrook closed it out for the Thunder. He finished with 27 second-half points to send the Hawks to their seventh straight loss and 10th defeat in the last 11 games.

It’s the longest losing streak for the Hawks since they dropped eight in a row in February 2014.

Coach Mike Budenholzer decided to shake things up, sending Kyle Korver to the bench and putting Thabo Sefolosha in the starting lineup. The Hawks also were bolstered by the return of Paul Millsap, who had missed three straight games with a sore hip. He led five players in double figures with 24 points.

It didn’t matter. Westbrook made sure of that.

Atlanta had a shot to send the game to overtime after Korver forced a jump ball.

The Thunder clamped down defensively off the inbounds play, and Tim Hardaway Jr.‘s desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer failed to hit the rim.

MONSTER JAM

Oladipo wasn’t afraid to take on Dwight Howard in the lane.

During the second quarter, the 6-foot-4 Thunder guard drove the baseline and slammed one over Atlanta’s 6-11 center, rocking the rim and drawing gasps from the crowd.

Oladipo savored the moment, pumping his fists, stomping his feet and posing briefly in the lane even as the Hawks took off the other way.

RECRUITING DWIGHT

Billy Donovan made a recruiting pitch to Howard while coaching at Florida.

During his pregame chat with the media, the Oklahoma City coach recounted a visit to Howard and his father at Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy.

Donovan quickly gave up any hope of getting Howard to attend college.

“All I had to do was watch one AAU game and then I stopped recruiting him immediately,” he quipped.

Howard, of course, went straight from high school to the NBA in the days before the rules required at least one year of college. He was the first overall pick of the Orlando Magic in 2004.

 

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/paul-newberry .

Al-Farouq Aminu active for Trail Blazers

PORTLAND, OR - APRIL 25: Al-Farouq Aminu #8 of the Portland Trail Blazers celebrates with a teammate after hitting a three point shot in the first quarter of Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Los Angeles Clippers during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at the Moda Center on April 25, 2016 in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
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CHICAGO (AP) — Portland Trail Blazers forward Al-Farouq Aminu is active for their game against the Chicago Bulls after being sidelined by a left calf injury.

Coach Terry Stotts says Aminu will be restricted to around 20 minutes Monday night “depending on how it goes.”

Aminu started the first eight games of the season before he got hurt Nov. 8 against Phoenix. He is averaging 6.4 points and 6.6 rebounds.