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James Harden calls out Mavericks after Rockets’ 123-107 win in game with eight technicals

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DALLAS (AP) — James Harden was called for one of the eight technicals in a game that turned tense when Dallas center Andrew Bogut received a flagrant foul on a hard screen that staggered Houston’s star guard.

Despite 34 points and an easy 123-107 victory that completed a four-game season sweep of the last-place Mavericks on Tuesday night, Harden wasn’t happy.

“That other team was trippin’ tonight, just disrespectful, unprofessional, players and coaches,” Harden said. “I don’t know what was their problem, but I think that got us going. They wanted to throw a little cheap shot and just woke us up a little bit and it was over from there.”

Bogut was equally frustrated in his return after missing 11 games with a right knee injury. The call came in the second quarter, near the end of a 16-0 Houston run that broke a 37-all tie. Harden doubled over after running head-first into the 7-foot, 260-pound Bogut’s shoulder.

“If you watch the replay, yeah, he made no effort to run around my screen,” said Bogut, who had a couple of sharp verbal exchanges with Harden. “Yeah, it was a hard screen and I set hard screens. But to get a flagrant for it is kind of head-scratching.

“You admire the effort the league’s putting in in Secaucus (New Jersey) with that beautiful facility where they watch replays and watch TV and have leather chairs and all that kind of stuff. But you scratch your head at a lot of these things and it becomes very, very frustrating.”

Trevor Ariza was ejected after his second technical during the break after the third quarter, when five technicals were called. After the game, he was waiting outside the Dallas locker room for Mavericks center Salah Mejri.

Security had to make sure the pair didn’t interact after an exchange during the game that led to Ariza’s first technical. Houston was called for five and Dallas three.

“It wasn’t even basketball,” Dallas guard Wesley Matthews said. “Tempers, two in-state teams, we play each other four times, we’ve had battles in the past, so it is what it is. But we’ve got to be better than that. That was an opportunity for us to channel it into basketball and we didn’t do that.”

Harden had 24 points at halftime and finished with 11 assists without playing in the fourth quarter. The Rockets improved to 13-2 in December.

With two games left in the month, Houston can tie the franchise record of 15 wins from November 1996.

Harrison Barnes scored 21 for the last-place Mavericks, who lost their second straight following their first two-game winning streak of the season.

There were also two flagrant fouls, both against Dallas.

Most of the technicals came during dead-ball situations, with players and Dallas coach Rick Carlisle complaining to officials. Carlisle mockingly clapped at the refs, saying “good call,” after he was whistled for one.

“They tried to defend by being real physical and thinking that’s the way to do it,” Houston coach Mike D’Antoni said. “I don’t really want to get into it just because it doesn’t serve any purpose. We needed the win. We came out and we took care of business.”

TIP-INS

Rockets: G Patrick Beverley sat out with a left quadriceps contusion. It’s not expected to be a long-term injury. … Sam Dekker had a game-high 11 rebounds. … The Rockets are 7-0 on the second night of back-to-backs this season.

Mavericks: G Pierre Jackson was signed off the Mavericks’ NBA Development League team, and G Jonathan Gibson was waived. Jackson, a former Baylor guard who was drafted in 2013, made his NBA debut in the fourth quarter and scored seven points. … Matthews had 19 points.

BESIDES THE TECHS

There were a couple of face-to-face confrontations, the first ending in double technicals in the second quarter for Dallas’ Justin Anderson and Nene. Later in the quarter, Houston’s Ryan Anderson went nose-to-nose with Dallas star Dirk Nowitzki without a technical being called.

RARE GATHERING

The Mavericks had their projected starting five for just the fourth time, and first since a 128-90 loss at Cleveland on Nov. 25. The lineup is winless. Bogut and Nowitzki, in his third game back from his latest absence for a sore right Achilles tendon, stayed in the locker room at halftime. Bogut went scoreless with six rebounds in 10 minutes, and Nowitzki scored seven points.

Marcus Smart wants to be back for Game 6 vs. Bucks

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Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart has been out for some time after injuring his thumb earlier in the year. The absence of one of Boston’s most important guards has been felt even more so after Kyrie Irving went down following knee surgery.

In short, the Celtics would like to have Smart back on the floor.

We’re now close enough that Smart has begun to give solid timeframes to reporters. Speaking to media on Sunday, Smart said that his plan is to be back for Game 6 against the Milwaukee Bucks. Boston took on Milwaukee on Sunday in Game 4.

Via ESPN:

Right now, [a Game 6 return is] the plan and we’re still on the same track,” Smart said before Game 4 on Sunday. “I’ve been doing everything but contact, so I will be able to go and start that.”

Smart said he believes the thumb is ready for contact.

“The surgery did its job,” said Smart, who injured himself March 11 while diving for a loose ball in a game against the Indiana Pacers. “Thumb is holding up well. I feel ready, I feel strong enough to get back out there. I’m just waiting on the OK.”

The series between the Celtics and Bucks has been tumultuous, a back-and-forth affair as an injury-riddled Boston squad takes on a healthy but offensively-sluggish Milwaukee team. Smart could add a shot of life for Boston in a much-needed way.

The Bucks won Game 4 and the series is now tied, 2-2. Game 6 would be on Thursday, April 26 if need be.

Manu Ginobili leads Spurs over Warriors

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Although the San Antonio Spurs were outmatched against the Golden State Warriors, Manu Ginobili was an integral part of the Spurs staving off elimination against the reigning champs on Sunday. San Antonio beat the Warriors, 103-90, to put the series at 3-1.

The 40-year-old wingman scored 10 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter in San Antonio as Ettore Messina logged a playoff win at the helm of the team. Gregg Popovich, who sadly lost his wife this past week, did not coach.

Ginobili was 5-of-10 off the bench, adding five assists and three rebounds in the win. LaMarcus Aldridge led all Spurs scorers with 22, notching a double-double with 10 rebounds.

Meanwhile, the only Warriors player to score more than 12 points was Kevin Durant, who rose above all scorers with 34 points to go with 13 rebounds. Klay Thompson shot an embarrassing 25 percent from the field, scoring just 12 points.

Ginobili put the dagger on the Warriors with 90 seconds to go, hitting a spinning flip shot over Draymond Green to give San Antonio a 10-point lead.

The series heads back to Oakland for Game 5 with the Spurs trailing, 3-1.

Kevin Durant on Giannis Antetokounmpo: ‘I would tell him to play for himself’

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Kevin Durant was once the big star in a little city. The former Oklahoma City Thunder star now plays for the Golden State Warriors, and has a championship ring to his name after making a switch in 2016.

So Durant has at least some experience similar to that of Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak is currently leading the charge for the Bucks against the Boston Celtics in the first round, and he’s seen as the future in Milwaukee. Antetokounmpo signed a 4-year, $100 million contract in the summer of 2016, so presumably he’ll be in Wisconsin for some time.

Meanwhile, Durant had some advice for Antetokounmpo, should he ask for it. In a feature on ESPN, Durant was quoted as saying he felt Antetokounmpo should be sure to have fun, and to play for himself.

Via ESPN:

What I would say to him, I would tell him to play for himself,” Durant said. “Because he’s the one out there putting in the work, he’s the one out there getting up in the morning staying committed to the game. Obviously [the comments about staying put] sounds good to the fans in Milwaukee and to the ownership, because he cares so much about wanting to please them and play well for them, and I get it. But his career is about him; it’s about whatever he wants to do and however he feels is right for him. And what type of basketball does he want to play? He’s not going to stay in Milwaukee if he’s not having fun playing the game.

That’s some pretty good advice, although factors surrounding Antetokounmpo will likely weigh the same as they did on Durant in OKC. The Bucks presumably need a new coach once their season ends. They’re currently helmed by interim coach Joe Prunty, who took over when Jason Kidd was fired earlier this year.

The Bucks also need to fill out their roster and find a way to stay healthy. The Thunder famously had roster issues (read: the James Harden trade) and eventually the lack of playoff success drove Durant to switch teams.

Milwaukee doesn’t seem close to that kind of juncture, although eventually things will flip for the young Bucks and fans and management will expect some kind of production in the postseason.

Giannis Antetokounmpo beats Celtics with late-game tip-in; series tied 2-2

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It was an exciting finish in Milwaukee on Sunday, where the Bucks took home a win on their home court to level the series against the Boston Celtics, 2-2.

The game came down to the wire, with 2016-17 NBA Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon giving the Bucks the lead after a corner 3-pointer with just 33.5 seconds left. The Celtics responded with a sideline out of bounds play that resulted in Al Horford tying the game with free throws.

On their final possession, the Bucks again went to Brogdon, who missed on a layup driving to the left side of the floor. Luckily, Giannis Antetokounmpo was there to follow with the tip-in with just five seconds left.

Via ESPN:

Boston was unable to convert on a final play, and Milwaukee grabbed the win, 104-102.

Game 5 will be in Boston on Tuesday.