Associated Press

Klay Thompson scores 41, Warriors roll to 12th straight win

3 Comments

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Klay Thompson scored 41 points for his 10th career 40-point game, Stephen Curry had 19 points and nine assists, and the playoff-ready Golden State Warriors ran their winning streak to 12 straight by beating the Minnesota Timberwolves 121-107 on Tuesday night.

Matt Barnes contributed 12 points, six rebounds and four assists, and Golden State could wrap up the West’s No. 1 seed as soon as Wednesday night with a win at Phoenix and a Spurs’ loss at home to the Lakers.

Now, it seems, the Warriors just need one key reinforcement: Kevin Durant. And KD could be back by week’s end with his team on quite a roll to finish the regular season atop the NBA again.

Andrew Wiggins scored 24 for Minnesota, which couldn’t keep up with Golden State’s spiffy passing and contributions from so many players on both ends of the floor.

In his highest-scoring performance since getting 60 on Dec. 5, Thompson hit 7 of 14 3-pointers – giving him at least four 3s in a career-best six consecutive games. His 262 3s rank as eighth-most ever for a single season after he had 276 last season.

Andre Iguodala produced another impressive game off the bench with 11 points on 4-for-4 shooting, while David West dished out five of his season-best six assists in the second quarter to get the offense clicking.

Golden State has matched its longest winning streak of the season, also done from Nov. 7-28, and eagerly awaits Durant’s return perhaps as soon as Saturday.

The Warriors displayed more spot-on ball movement, with West providing the key minutes. He found Iguodala for a second-quarter 3, Ian Clark and Barnes on layups and hit Thompson on a jumper before feeding Draymond Green‘s dunk.

With their 204th victory the Warriors have the most wins in NBA history over three seasons, the team said according to Elias.

This win avenged a tough defeat last month. The Warriors lost 103-102 on March 10 at Minnesota during a grueling road stretch that featured two cross-country trips, a one-game visit back to Oakland before back-to-backs at the T-wolves and Spurs.

Without injured star Durant, too.

On Tuesday, with 1:04 left in the first, JaVale McGee made a hard foul on Gorgui Dieng and their arms tangled. McGee was walking away from the play and Dieng pushed him from behind, McGee turned around and immediately shoved Dieng in the chest as they jawed before being separated. The play went to review, with each player receiving a technical and McGee also a Flagrant 1 foul.

TIP-INS

Timberwolves: The Timberwolves shot only 4 for 19 from 3-point range. … Minnesota is 6-16 on the road vs. the Western Conference.

Warriors: Thompson also has three 30-point games this season against Minnesota. … In the first, Curry hit a shot from three-quarters quart but after the whistle blew for a timeout. … Golden State had a season-high 41 fast-break points. … Hall of Fame Stanford women’s coach Tara VanDerveer, fresh off the Final Four and 1,000 career wins, sat courtside with owner Joe Lacob.

DURANT UPDATE

Durant warmed up and was set to travel with the team to Phoenix for the back-to-back, and use Thursday’s off day to do some scrimmaging testing his injured left knee. He will then be re-evaluated with the hope he is ready to return Saturday against New Orleans at Oracle Arena after being sidelined since Feb. 28.

 

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue on LeBron James’ heavy workload: ‘Next, he might play 48 minutes’

Jason Miller/Getty Images
Leave a comment

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) Except for his backpedaling hairline, LeBron James shows no visible signs of age.

At 32, still in his prime, and still at the top of his game, he’s defying time.

“Benjamin Button,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue called him, referring to the fictional character who ages backward.

LeBenjamin?

Following a regular season in which he averaged more minutes per game (37.8) than any player, James logged 43.7 per game during Cleveland’s tougher-than-it-looked sweep over the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the playoffs. And as James and the defending champions await either Toronto or Milwaukee in the second round, James is taking advantage of the down time.

Not that he might need it.

Lue spent much of the season defending his use of James, who in all honesty is really the one in control of when he sits or doesn’t. At this point, Lue has given up worrying about resting the superstar.

“I don’t understand why people make a big deal out of his minutes,” Lue said Wednesday. “He had a week off before the series started. We won four straight games and then he had a week off again. So next he might play 48 minutes. … Bron today just said he feels worse when he doesn’t play.”

James wasn’t available for interviews as the team gathered for the first time in two days at Cleveland Clinic Courts, and it’s likely that he won’t speak to the media until the Cavs have a second-round opponent.

But as has been the case for months, James’ playing time was one of the prime topics presented to Lue, who believes that the four-time MVP’s heavy workload during the regular season is what enables him to play at such high levels in the postseason.

Consider that James averaged 32.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and 9.0 assists, shot 54 percent from the field, went 9 of 20 on 3-pointers and led the Cavaliers to the biggest second-half comeback in league history during the series against Indiana, and it’s easy to see why Lue wants to move past the minutes chatter.

“With him playing the minutes he played during the course of the regular season, it has helped him in the playoffs,” Lue said. “Now he is able to play those 42, 43 minutes. Because he’s used to it. His body can take it, so, I’m not worried about what outside people say.”

Unlike the regular season, when brutal travel schedules, back-to-backs and stretches of three games in four nights can wear players down, the postseason allows for recovery. Lue also thinks too many teams are allowing outside pressures to influence how they use players.

“Teams are suffering,” he said, “because they listen to what the media is saying about guys playing minutes” and “some teams should play some guys more minutes, and it would’ve been different (playoff) series.”

James has ramped up his minutes nearly every postseason. Now in his 12th playoffs, he averaged 39.1 minutes last year and has only twice averaged less than 40 per game.

Lue trusts that the three-time champion knows how far to push himself without reaching his breaking point.

“He knows his body better than anyone,” Lue said. “He said he feels great and he feels worse when he doesn’t play, so we’ll see how that works out.”

As for the rest of the Cavaliers, Wednesday included some competition in the team’s weight room on an aerobic conditioning machine while the team’s in-house DJ from Quicken Loans Arena spun music. After the vigorous workouts, yoga mats were dragged onto the court and the facility’s lights were dimmed for some stretching and decompression.

Namaste, NBA-style.

The Cavs had a similar, one-week break between the first and second rounds last season. Kyrie Irving said it’s imperative to make the most of it.

“The mental preparation and physical preparation starts now and hasn’t stopped,” he said. “Took a brief day off or two and now just get back to work and get ready for whichever team we’re getting ready for. The work never stops.”

For more AP NBA coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

NBA fines Rockets owner Leslie Alexander $100,000 for confronting referee

1 Comment

Rockets owner Leslie Alexander got up from his courtside seat, walked down the sideline and talked to referee Bill Kennedy during Houston’s Game 5 win over the Thunder.

It took less than a day for an investigation to yield the predictable result.

NBA release:

Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander has been fined $100,000 for confronting a referee during live game action, it was announced today by Byron Spruell, President, NBA League Operations.

The interaction occurred with 0:13 remaining in the first quarter of the Rockets’ 105-99 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on April 25 at Toyota Center.

Per Patricia Bender’s database, this is the NBA’s largest fine in nearly two years. The NBA fined the Clippers $250,000 in 2015 for setting up DeAndre Jordan with an endorsement deal while trying to lure him back in free agency.

The NBA rightfully keeps owners on a tight leash. Unlike players, coaches and referees, who have their own unions, the league office represents the owners. So when one crosses the line – Alexander trampled over it – the hammer comes down hard. It’s an example to keep everyone else in line, and owners know they come out way ahead in this arrangement. Alexander might not like the punishment, but he benefits from owning a share of a league that so strongly dissuades such behavior.

David Stern: ‘Shame on the Brooklyn Nets’

AP Photo/David Banks
11 Comments

Brooklyn rested Brook Lopez, Jeremy Lin and Trevor Booker for its final game this season, which had huge playoff implications. Not for the Nets, of course. They were long eliminated from postseason contention.

But the Bulls beat Brooklyn to reach the playoffs over the Heat, who also won that night.

Miami fans were obviously ticked, and they have company in former NBA commissioner David Stern.

Stern, via Sam Amick of USA Today:

“I have no idea what was in the mind of the executives of the Brooklyn Nets — none — when they rested their starting players,” Stern, who still holds the title of Commissioner Emeritus, told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday on the NBA A to Z podcast. “If you’re playing in a game of consequence, that has an impact, which is as good as it gets (you should play your players). Here we are, the Brooklyn Nets are out of the running. They have the lowest record in the sport. But they have an opportunity to weigh in on the final game with respect to Chicago. And they sit their starters? Really? It’s inexcusable in my view. I don’t think the Commissioner maybe can, or even should, do anything about it. But shame on the Brooklyn Nets. They broke the (pact with fans).”

The resting dilemma takes slightly different forms when it involves a team like Brooklyn rather than a certain playoff team, but the underlying conflict remains the same:

The team is better off resting its players.

The NBA is worse off, at least in the short term.

The league was robbed of an important competitive game that could’ve drawn higher ratings. The Nets had just beaten Chicago a days prior, but that was with major contributions from Lopez and Lin. Without them, Brooklyn had little chance and lost by 39.

The Nets weren’t playing for anything, not even a higher draft pick. They owe their first-rounder to the Celtics and already clinched the worst record anyway. Brooklyn was better off resting those veterans at the end of a long regular season.

There’s no easy answer. If the NBA bans resting, teams will sit players and assign to minor or made-up injuries. If the league shortens the season, it will lose revenue.

The best solution is to improve at the margins – provide more rest days (which the league will do next season) and schedule nationally televised games outside of grueling stretches of the schedule. That’s obviously no silver bullet, though. Bulls-Nets wasn’t nationally televised, and Brooklyn had the day off before and the entire offseason off after.

Another potential solution: Shaming teams into playing their top players. Stern is giving that one a go.

NBA looking into Rockets’ owner interacting with referee during game

Associated Press
1 Comment

Like every Rockets fan — and, let’s be honest, every fan of every team — Leslie Alexander is convinced the referees were screwing over his Rockets.

Except that Alexander is the owner of the Rockets.

And he approached a referee during game play.

The NBA is understandably investigating this, as reported by the Houston Chronicle.

The NBA said an investigation “is underway” into Rockets’ owner Leslie Alexander’s getting up from his courtside seat to have a few words with official Bill Kennedy in the first half.

Alexander appeared to say something to Kennedy during a Thunder possession before returning to his seat. Alexander declined to give any detail beyond he was “upset … really upset.” Rockets guard James Harden said he didn’t see his owner get up. “He did that?” a surprised Harden said after the game. “He’s the coolest guy. I would have helped him.”

The NBA doesn’t let players or coaches cross a line when talking to officials, but they are at least allowed to interact and discuss calls with a ref during a game. It’s something else entirely for an owner to get in the ear of an official during game play.

I’d expect Alexander will see a fine for this.

Whatever he thought of the officiating, the Rockets won to advance on to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs.