Draymond Green

Associated Press

Three Things We Learned Monday: Golden State has found some fight, its groove again

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Not happy with the NBA coverage tonight? Then #justaddzebras. As for us, here are the big takeaways from Monday.


1) Stephen Curry is knocking down threes, Warriors showing fight, look like old selves routing Thunder.
This was supposed to be the second “Kevin Durant returns to Oklahoma City” game, except KD is still in street clothes following his knee sprain/bone bruise (he is taking some jumpers now, but no timetable on his return worth trusting yet).

Don’t think for a second that relieved the tension.

That shoving match between Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Draymond Green, and Semaj Christon led to all four of them getting technical fouls (that’s 15 this season for Westbrook, one more this season and he gets suspended for a game). However, by the time it happened at the end of the first half this game was all but over, and after Curry responded to the incident with a buzzer-beating three to end the half that put the Warriors up 20, it was over.

Golden State found it’s groove again. Yes, that means that Curry and Klay Thompson combined to drain 14 threes, and the Warriors as a team shot 45.3 percent from beyond the arc. However, more than that, it means the Warriors are playing good defense again — the Thunder shot just 8-of-36 (22.2 percent) outside the key in this one. Westbrook was 4-of-16 for 15 points, one of his roughest outings of the season. A lot of fans don’t realize the Warriors have the second best defense in the NBA this season, it had gone missing for a few games but it was back on Monday, and with it so were the Warriors the rest of the league should fear.

2) James Harden looks like an MVP with 39 points, 11 assists, coast-to-coast game winner.
While Westbrook had an off night, the beard was looking every bit the MVP for the Rockets in a tough game with a desperate Denver team trying to make the playoffs. That includes going coast-to-coast for the game winner.

Harden was 13-of-29 from the field on his way to 39 points, plus he dished out 11 assists. The key is that his team won — his MVP claim is both based on great statistics and that he is lifting his team to higher heights than Westbrook with the Thunder. While Westbrook likely will average a triple double for the season, his team is on pace to win 47 games and be the six or seven seed in the West. Harden has the Rockets on pace for 57 wins and they look like a potential contender, a team that could well make the conference finals (that second round Rockets/Spurs matchup that seems to be lining up will be fantastic). Those wins appear to be swaying media voters toward Harden for MVP. So do nights like this one.

3) Celtics may have solidified two seed in East with win over Wizards. There were a few games with playoff implications on Monday — Denver’s loss helps Portland, Indiana’s win while Atlanta lost makes the 5/6 race in the East tighter, the Clippers win while Utah and OKC loss is a boost for L.A. — but the biggest one was Boston beating Washington 110-102.

The Wizards had dreams of catching the Celtics and getting the two seed in the East, but the return of Isaiah Thomas and his 25 points helped Boston to a crucial win.

The win was key because it puts the second-seeded Celtics 2.5 games up on Washington with just a few weeks left to play in the regular season. Combine that with the Celtics having an easier schedule than the Wizards down the stretch, and it’s tough to see how Washington closes that gap. Boston will get the two seed.

The win was also critical for the Celtics’ confidence. This is a potential second-round playoff matchup, and the Wizards had won two-of-three between the teams already this season. Boston not only evened the season series it showed that it is playing well at home, where they have won 11-of-12 — and if the Celtics and Wizards meet in the second round the Celtics will have the home court advantage.

That potential (likely?) series is more than a month away and Boston will be challenged to slow the Wizards backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal. However, they did a reasonable job Monday — Wall and Beal combined for 35 points on 10-of-25 shooting — and that should be a confidence boost.

Klay Thompson’s 34 help Warriors roll Thunder in chippy game

Associated Press
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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Klay Thompson scored 34 points to help the Golden State Warriors beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 111-95 on Monday night in a heated matchup filled with trash talking, physical play and technical fouls.

It was Golden State’s second visit to Oklahoma City since former Thunder star Kevin Durant signed a free agent contract with the rival Warriors last summer. Durant has been out since February with a left knee injury and sat on the bench with his team.

Even with Durant out, the negative energy from the first meeting was still there. Stephen Curry exchanged shoves with Oklahoma City’s Semaj Christon just before halftime, and both were issued technical fouls. Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook and Golden State’s Draymond Green also got technical for their roles in the skirmish.

The Warriors were overpowering in this one, leading by as many as 27 points while completing a sweep of the four-game season series.

Curry scored 23 points for the Warriors, who won their fourth straight and halted Oklahoma City’s win streak at five games.

Westbrook scored 47 points the last time the teams met in Oklahoma City. This time, he had 15 points on 4-of-16 shooting.

The Warriors took control in the second quarter, outscoring the Thunder 34-17 to go up 20 at the break.

Westbrook scored eight points in just over three minutes at the start of the third quarter to help the Thunder trim Golden State’s lead to 12, but the Warriors bounced back and pushed their lead to 78-55 with just under five minutes left in the period. Westbrook didn’t score again after his early third quarter surge.

TIP-INS

Warriors: Curry hit a 3-pointer at the end of the first half and ran down the tunnel to the locker room with the Warriors up 59-39. … Green’s technical was his 13th of the season. … Matt Barnes was called for a flagrant foul in the third quarter.

Thunder: Westbrook’s technical was his 15th of the season. He’ll be suspended for a game if he gets another. … It was the first loss for the Thunder with Taj Gibson as a starter.

Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP.

Adam Silver tells owners resting players “an extremely signifcant issue for our league”

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Two weeks ago, Steve Kerr decided to rest Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala in a nationally televised showcase game against the Spurs.

Saturday night, the Cleveland Cavaliers sat LeBron James for rest, and sat Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving for the first half of a back-to-back, a nationally televised game against the Clippers (then played them the next night against the Lakers). League officials were not happy and called up the Cavaliers to let them know.

For two weeks, resting NBA players has become a major sports media talking point following what should have been marquee NBA games.

Monday, NBA owners got a memo from Adam Silver saying this topic is going to be addressed, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver has called the practice of teams resting marquee players “an extremely signifcant issue for our league” in a memo to league owners Monday obtained ‎by ESPN.

In the memo, Silver informed teams that the issue will be a prime topic of discussion at the next NBA Board of Governors meeting April 6 in New York and warned of ‎”signifcant penalties” for teams that don’t abide by the league’s standing rules for providing ‎”notice to the league office, their opponent, and the media immediately upon a determination that a player will not participate in a game due to rest.”

He states that it is unacceptable for owners to be uninvolved or defer decision-making on this topic to others in their organizations, who may not have the same awareness of the impact these decisions can have on “fans and business partners,” the reputation of the league and “perception of our game.”

It’s not going to be a simple issue to solve. Expect Silver to sit down with teams, the players’ union, and other stakeholders this summer to try and hammer out a compromise that can work for everyone

Some of the responsibility comes back to the league and it’s schedule makers — you can’t slot a team into a Saturday night showcase game for a broadcast partner and have it be the eighth game in 13 days with a couple cross-country flights involved (as was the case with the Warriors and their decision to rest guys). If the NBA wants to put together marquee television matchups and tout them like playoff games, they need to schedule them like playoff games with plenty of rest.

“It sucks, there are some times guys have to rest and some guys need rest,” LeBron said after the Cavaliers win Sunday. “It’s a long, strenuous season, and the NBA does the best it can putting the schedule together but you’re going to have back-to-backs and you’re going to have certain games where certain things fall on certain nights. But coach’s job is to figure out a way to get a team to compete for a championship, and not compete for a game. And it sucks at certain times because you only play in certain cities once, or you only play certain teams once on their home floor. Me personally, I want to play in every game, I wanted to play last night but my coach said he felt it was best I didn’t play last night so I didn’t and I’m going to go with my coach.”

It’s not an easy issue to solve, in part because the league is trying to focus on player health and safety, and studies show that players are 3.5 times more likely to be injured in the second game of a back-to-back when muscles are fatigued. Coaches like Kerr or the Cavaliers’ Tyronn Lue have to be thinking about being healthy and rested in May and June, and that means getting guys rest in March.

However, the league’s broadcast partners — TNT and ESPN/ABC — are understandably frustrated with the practice. Like fans buying tickets, they are shelling out a lot of money for these games only to find out they are not getting the product they thought they were purchasing.

Of course, LeBron noted those broadcast partners make a lot of their money back in the postseason when viewership is up and guys do not rest.

“I’ve been part of six straight Finals, and every season the Finals is bigger and bigger and better and better, and more people are tuning in. So I don’t see a problem with people watching,” LeBron said.

Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry get in shoving match in first half (VIDEO)

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Kevin Durant was in street clothes, but the Warriors still came out Monday night and put a beat down on his former team in their own building (Golden State was up 20 at the half).

But that’s not what anybody is talking about.

With 5.3 seconds left in the first half, there was a jump ball in the Thunder’s offensive end. OKC’s Semaj Christon was standing a step behind the circle, so Stephen Curry tried to step in front of him. Christon and Curry started to get into it a little, then Russell Westbrook jumped in, and then there was a lot of shoving and action (without any punches being thrown, because this is an NBA fight).

Curry, Westbrook, Draymond Green and Christon all got technicals. There could be fines down the line. That makes 15 technical fouls for Westbrook on the season, one more and he gets an automatic suspension for a game.

Curry responded by knocking down a 26-foot three at the halftime buzzer, putting his team up 20. Curry had 17 points in the first half, hitting 5-of-8 from three. The Warriors also were back to playing good defense in the first half.

Report: Warriors “furious and bewildered” how Thunder treated Kevin Durant’s return to city

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Really? How is this a thing?

When Golden State played in Oklahoma City back on Feb. 11, any sane person knew there was going to be a cathartic unleashing of venom on Kevin Durant by fans — and a city — who felt betrayed by him. “Cupcake” chants were going to rain down on him. Fair or not, betrayal was the sentiment in OKC and it doesn’t take much empathy to understand why.

The Thunder organization didn’t acknowledge Durant in game with a tribute. Somehow, that angered the Warriors organization, reports Chris Haynes of ESPN.

The Golden State Warriors organization was furious and bewildered about the inactivity from Oklahoma City Thunder leadership leading up to that first Durant return contest on Feb. 11, league sources told ESPN.

Sources say the Warriors were of the mindset that someone from ownership or management should have addressed the media on Durant’s behalf to help ease the tension upon his return….

The Warriors’ belief, according to sources, is that the Thunder’s silence contributed to the raw emotions, outrage and indignation that created an unsettling, hostile atmosphere for a player many consider to be the franchise’s all-time best. The Warriors felt, according to sources, that for a player who meant so much to a city — a small-market city at that — a courtesy greeting was in order from top brass, who should have issued their fans a reminder and proper perspective on Durant’s role in elevating the Thunder into a perennial championship-contending team.

Really?

First off, the Thunder did have someone from management say that.

Second, so long as proper security measures were in place to prevent fan violence, they Thunder should not get in the way of their fans expressing their anger. Getting out of the way seemed the smart move.

Finally, the Warriors organization just comes off as petty and overly sensitive in this article (which was probably not the writer’s intention). This is the kind of thing both Durant the Warriors had to know was coming and just should rise above. Instead, they sound like Draymond Green searching out straw man slights to motivate themselves.

Monday night Durant and the Warriors are back in Oklahoma City, although Durant will not play due to injury. He is with the team but is not expected to leave the Warriors’ locker room.

Then can we all just move on from this?