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Three Things We Learned Tuesday: With 41st triple-double, Westbrook ties record thought untouchable

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Maybe you didn’t watch any NBA games Tuesday because you were trying to come up with something creative to serve your family for brunch on Easter and thought “I know, I’ll put Peeps on a pizza” then had to defend that stupid idea. We can’t help you with food suggestions if you thought that sounded like a good idea, but we can catch you up on NBA news.

1) Russell Westbrook secures 41st triple-double, tying Oscar Robertson’s formerly untouchable record.
Some day, a player is going to get a hit in 56 straight games and break Joe DiMagio’s record. Someday, a running back is going to have more than 14 consecutive 100-yard rushing games, breaking Barry Sanders’ record. All sports records will some day be challenged.

Did we ever think we’d see someone get 41 triple-doubles and average one for an entire season? We’ve used every word in the Thesaurus to praise Russell Westbrook’s accomplishment this season, but on Tuesday night against the Bucks he did it again — 12 points, 13 rebounds, and 13 assists — giving him 41 on the season to tie Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson for most in a season.

Westbrook needs just 16 assists in the Thunder’s remaining five games to average a triple-double for the season.

If you define the word “valuable” in MVP to mean “value to his team” then Westbrook has to be the frontrunner — the Thunder are 32-9 when he gets a triple-double, 12-24 when he doesn’t. As our own Dan Feldman pointed out Tuesday, when Westbrook is off the court the Thunder play at the level of an 18-win team. He carries them. He can chase stats at times, but if he doesn’t play like this the Thunder have no chance. Tuesday night against the Bucks was one of the more complete games the Thunder have played all season, and seems to have solidified them as the six seed in the West (which would mean a first-round matchup with fellow MVP candidate James Harden and his Rockets).

2) Pacers’ win, Trail Blazers’ loss tightens race for eighth seed in both conferences.
In the final week of the regular season, the last team (or teams, in the East) to make the NBA playoffs are completely up in the air, and Tuesday night’s results just made things crazier.

In the West it’s a two-team race for the eighth seed — the Nuggets and the Trail Blazers — and Portland seemed to be in control. Then came Tuesday: Denver beat New Orleans in a shootout 134-132, while Portland was outclassed by Utah and lost 106-87. That leaves the Nuggets just half-a-game back of the Blazers for the eighth seed, and the teams are tied in the loss column. Denver can move into a tie if they can beat Houston on the second night of a back-to-back Wednesday. Portland is still in control here: All four of their remaining games are at home and only two are against playoff teams. Of Denver’s remaining five games, three are on the road and three are against playoff teams. Plus Portland has the tie breaker, so the Nuggets need to finish a game ahead. Not impossible, but there’s a reason fivethirtyeight.com says Portland has an 89 percent chance of getting that playoff spot.

In the East, the Pacers upset the Raptors 108-90 (more on the end of that game below) while the Bulls played horribly against the Knicks and lost 100-91. Here’s where things stand:

6. Atlanta 39-38 (11 back of Boston/Cleveland)
7/8. Chicago 38-40 (12.5)
7/8. Indiana 38-40 (12.5)
9. Miami 37-40 (13)
10. Charlotte 36-42 (14.5)

With their loss to the Wizards Tuesday, Charlotte is all but out if it. For that matter, Atlanta should be in unless they lose every game the rest of the way. As for the three-for-two race between Chicago, Indiana, and Miami, the Bulls have by far the easiest schedule and should get in… if they stop losing to teams like the Knicks. Fivethirtyeight.com has the Pacers at 89 percent to make the postseason because of their schedule, while Miami has the toughest road (three of five games on the road, four against playoff teams, with one back-to-back). That said, anyone counting Miami out hasn’t paid attention to the team this season.

3) Lance Stephenson‘s layup starts shoving match at end of Pacers/Raptors game.
Lance Stephenson is back and getting under opponent’s skin already. This game was over when Stephenson decided to get a couple of points with a late layup rather than dribble out the clock — breaking an unwritten rule and angering P.J. Tucker and some other Raptors.

Stephenson said he got “caught up in the moment.”

For me, this is up there with pitchers/catchers getting annoyed when a player walks too long admiring his home run rather than running the bases — it’s meaningless, and if you’ve got an issue with him then stop him from doing it in the first place. Stephenson is what he is, the Raptors had plenty of bigger issues to be frustrated about in that game. Move along.

That said, expect fines from the league on this one.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.

How to start your Saturday night: Watching 15 minutes of best plays from NBA season

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There are no NBA playoff games Saturday night, the first night since the start of the postseason there hasn’t been one game. Don’t worry, there are two games on Sunday, including Game 7 between the Jazz and Clippers.

But if you need a Saturday night fix, this will have to do: 15 minutes of the best plays from last season, as compiled by NBA.com.

Go ahead, watch it. You’ve got nothing better to do.

 

Paul Millsap says the expected, he will “most likely” opt out of contract

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This is ranked right next to “overeating can lead to weight gain” on the list of surprising things, but we will dutifully report it anyway:

Paul Millsap is going to opt out and officially become a free agent this summer.

Atlanta’s owner as well as Mike Budenholzer, the coach and head of basketball operations, have both said they plan to do whatever it takes to re-sign Millsap with the Hawks. Millsap didn’t sound like someone eager to leave after the Hawks were eliminated from the playoffs Friday.

“It’s been great. I’m looking to expand this and see where the franchise can go. These last four years has been great. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Even with both sides singing Kumbaya, keeping Millsap in Atlanta likely means a five-year contract at or near the max, which for a 32-year-old player means the Hawks would regret the last year or two of that deal.

Not that the Hawks have much of a choice here, they have to come in big and keep him. For one, they can’t afford to lose Al Horford and then Millsap for nothing in back-to-back years. If they were going down the rebuilding road, they needed to trade Millsap at the deadline (or last summer) to make sure they got something in return. Atlanta explored trade options at the deadline, but then pulled back (rumored to be because of an edict from ownership, which didn’t want to see the team blown up after the Kyle Korver trade).

By not making that trade the Hawks signaled their intention to remain a good team — a 43-win team this season that got them the five seed — with Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard, one that draws well at an arena that historically has not been that full, and see if they can add on. They strike me as a team that will win between 42-50 games a year and be middle of the pack in the East for the next few years, unless they can find a way to add an elite player (which is incredibly difficult).

But if the Hawks can’t re-sign Millsap, then the plan gets blown up. So expect them to come in with a big offer come July 1.