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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.

Victor Oladipo’s practice dunk better than anything he – or maybe anyone – did in dunk contest (video)

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Victor Oladipo has grown into far more than just a dunker.

In fact, in Saturday’s dunk contest, he didn’t look like a dunker at all.

The Pacers star missed all three attempts of his first dunk, and a Black Panther mask was by far the biggest draw of his second. Oladipo was eliminated after the first round.

Maybe Dennis Smith Jr. wasn’t the only eliminated dunker who left something in his bag. This Oladipo dunk – 180 degrees, throwing ball off the backboard with his left hand while in mid-air, dunking with his right hand – while preparing in Los Angeles was awesome.

Larry Nance Jr. had the contest’s best dunk. This would have rivaled it.

Pelicans owner Tom Benson hospitalized with flu symptoms

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METAIRIE, La. (AP) — New Orleans Saints and Pelicans Owner Tom Benson has been hospitalized with flu symptoms.

A statement released Wednesday by the NFL and NBA clubs says their 90-year-old owner is resting comfortably at Ochsner Medical Center, a hospital which also serves as a major sponsor and which owns naming rights to the teams’ training headquarters.

Benson has owned the New Orleans Saints since 1985 and bought the New Orleans Pelicans in 2012.

In recent years, Benson has overhauled his estate plan so that his third wife, Gayle, would be first in line to inherit control of the two major professional franchises.

 

Report: Seattle hosting Kings-Warriors preseason game

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Kevin Durant spent his rookie season in Seattle, before the SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder. He has said Seattle fans deserved to see him grow up in the NBA after supporting his promising start.

They’ll get their chance.

Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee:

The Kings and Golden State Warriors have scheduled a preseason game next season in Seattle, according to multiple league sources.

The Oct. 6 meeting between Northern California teams will be the first NBA game in the Key Arena since the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City after the 2007-08 season and became the Thunder.

This game will be loaded with storylines. Not only Durant, but the Kings considered moving to Seattle a few years ago. And of course, the return of NBA basketball to Seattle.

At some point, Seattle will get its own team again. For now, this preseason game creates intrigue there.

Report: Kawhi Leonard cleared medically, seeking second opinion

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he’d be surprised if Kawhi Leonard played again this season, a stark reversal from just a month ago. Back then, even while announcing Leonard was out indefinitely with a quad injury, the San Antonio coach said Leonard wouldn’t miss the rest of the season.

What’s going on?

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

After spending 10 days before the All-Star break in New York consulting with a specialist to gather a second opinion on his right quad injury, All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard bears the burden of determining when he’s prepared to play again, sources told ESPN.

Leonard has been medically cleared to return from the right quad tendinopathy injury, but since shutting down a nine-game return to the Spurs that ended Jan. 13, he has elected against returning to the active roster, sources said.

The uncertainty surrounding this season — and Leonard’s future which could include free agency in the summer of 2019 — has inspired a palpable stress around the organization, league sources said.

At first glance, this sounds like Derrick Rose five years ago. Even after he was cleared to play following a torn ACL, the then-Bulls star remained mysterious about when he’d suit up. His confidence in his physical abilities seemed to be a major issue, and he was never the same player since (suffering more leg injuries).

But the Spurs famously favor resting players to preserve long-term health. They seem unlikely to rush back Leonard. They might even sit players who want to play more often. And Leonard isn’t Rose.

Still, it’s clear something is amiss in San Antonio. Maybe not amiss enough to end Leonard’s tenure there, but the longer this lingers, the more time for tension to percolate.