Semaj Christon

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.

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.

Watch Nick Young’s game-winning three push Lakers past Thunder, 111-109

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Nick Young hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 5 seconds to play, and the Los Angeles Lakers blew a 14-point lead in the final minutes before rallying for a 111-109 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night.

Young finished with 17 points and Jordan Clarkson had 18 for the Lakers, who survived a monster performance by Russell Westbrook in the final minutes.

After Westbrook scored 17 points in a five-minute span to trim the Lakers’ big lead to one point, Steven Adams scored on a go-ahead putback of Westbrook’s miss with 13.9 seconds to play.

The Lakers then passed the ball around the perimeter before Young coolly drained his fourth 3-pointer of the night.

Westbrook missed a long shot shortly before the buzzer.

The Los Angeles native finished with 34 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds, barely missing his sixth triple-double of his amazing season.

Timofey Mozgov scored 16 points for the Lakers, who ended a two-game skid with their seventh win in 11 games overall.

Adams had 20 points, including two baskets in the final minute, for the Thunder, who have lost six of eight.

Jose Calderon hit four 3-pointers and scored a season-high 12 points while filling in for D'Angelo Russell, who will miss at least two games to rest his sore knee.

The Lakers jumped to a 13-point lead in the first quarter, hitting five 3-pointers while the Thunder went 0 for 7. Westbrook led the Thunder’s comeback, but Young drained a 25-footer at the halftime buzzer to put the Lakers back ahead.

Los Angeles stretched its lead to a game-high 14 on Larry Nance Jr.’s fast-break dunk with 6:44 to play off a give-and-go with Brandon Ingram, who had 11 points and played in the final minutes.

Westbrook’s fourth 3-pointer of the night trimmed the Lakers’ lead to 108-105 with 1:38 left.

DLO SIDELINED

Russell sat out for the second time in three games to rest his knee, which prevents him from playing at full speed. He won’t play Wednesday, and the Lakers aren’t sure whether he’ll return Friday or Sunday or later. Calderon has played sparingly in his first season with Los Angeles, but the Spanish guard excelled in this spot start.

TIP-INS

Thunder: G Semaj Christon missed his second straight game with a concussion. … Westbrook committed a flagrant-1 foul in the second quarter, hitting Luol Deng around the head and neck. The veterans exchanged words and had to be separated.

Lakers: Julius Randle had three points in 21 minutes while playing with a hip bruise that nearly kept him out of the Lakers’ lineup. … Lou Williams converted a four-point play in the first quarter and finished with 13 points.

 

Thunder PG Cameron Payne fractures foot. Again

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Just as he was getting back into the flow after fracturing his foot this summer, Thunder point guard Cameron Payne hurt himself all over again.

Thunder release:

The Oklahoma City Thunder announced today that guard Cameron Payne suffered an acute fracture to his fifth metatarsal in Tuesday night’s Blue-White Scrimmage.

This is a troubling setback for the 22-year-old Payne, whom Oklahoma City drafted No. 14 last year. The Thunder didn’t play him enough last season to maximize his development, and now, they won’t the chance to make amends for a while.

Russell Westbrook will obviously still handle the large majority of point guard minutes, and this sets up Ronnie Price to open the season as the primary backup. The 33-year-old Price can play tough defense in limited playing time, but asking him to run the second unit offensively will likely turn out poorly.

Oklahoma City could stagger Westbrook’s and Victor Oladipo‘s minutes, using Oladipo as the lead guard when Westbrook sits. But Oladipo didn’t take to that role in Orlando.

This could also open the door slightly for Semaj Christon to make the regular-season roster as the third healthy point guard. But the Thunder already have 16 players, one more than the regular-season roster limit, with guaranteed salaries – and that doesn’t count Christon. Oklahoma City would have to drop Mitch McGary and one other player to keep Christon, which seems unlikely.

The Thunder will probably just have to grind it out with Price behind Westbrook.