Back on Feb. 28, the Warriors’ leading scorer Kevin Durant suffered a grade 2 MCL sprain and a tibial bone bruise, an injury that happened when Zaza Pachulia fell into his knee. They planned to evaluate him at the end of the month, but this injury is often a 6-8 week issue, which would have him back around the start of the playoffs or in the first round.
The Golden State Warriors aren’t scheduled to formally update the status of Kevin Durant’s left knee until next week, but there is cautious optimism within the organization that Durant — should he maintain his current recovery arc — will indeed be able to return to the court before the end of the regular season, according to league sources.
While noting that Durant is roughly at the halfway stage of his recovery journey, sources told ESPN.com that the Warriors are encouraged by the progress Durant has made in the 22 days since he suffered a sprained MCL and tibial bone bruise in his left knee on Feb. 28.
Durant was getting in some on-court work before the Warriors took on the Mavericks Tuesday.
The Warriors lost Durant at the start of their toughest schedule stretch of the season, and they stumbled some through that. However, after getting home (and playing some lesser teams in that stretch) the Warriors have gotten right, Stephen Curry is shooting well again, Matt Barnes and Patrick McCaw are playing well enough, and the Warriors have won five in a row. They are in the driver’s seat to be the No. 1 seed in the West (the biggest challenge to that is a road back-to-back in Houston and San Antonio next week, get a split there and the Warriors become tough to catch).
Between the end of the season and an easy first round — neither Denver nor Portland play enough good defense to slow the Warriors — the Warriors will have time to blend Durant back into the fold. If the Warriors can find their stride again with him, they are the favorites to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy in June.
Three Things We Learned Tuesday: Robin Lopez, Serge Ibaka exchange punches, but Raptors have more fight than Bulls
If you missed Tuesday’s NBA action because you were getting a neck massage from a python, well, we question your judgment. But, we’ve also got you covered, here are the biggest takeaways from a night around the Association.
1) Robin Lopez, Serge Ibaka exchange punches in a brawl, then Raptors punch Bulls in the mouth with comeback win. Most NBA “fights” consist of a push and some posturing, others step in to make sure the two guys — who don’t really want to fight — don’t have to back up their words. Technicals are handed out, and everyone gets back to the game.
However, what started as a rather innocent play of Toronto’s Serge Ibaka and Chicago’s Robin Lopez battling for rebounding positioning, followed by a little bump in the back, escalated quickly into an actual punches thrown brawl in the third quarter of the Bulls’ visit to the Raptors Tuesday night.
The two were fighting for position, even after the ball went through the hoop, and Ibaka seems to hit Lopez in the back with a little bit of an elbow (and Lopez has back issues), which appears to set everything off. Lopez’s punch missed, while Ibaka’s caught Lopez in the hair, not the body.
This is the exact moment Serge Ibaka punched straight through Robin Lopez's hair and I cannot stop laughing. pic.twitter.com/4t9Rwy2tmA
Both men got technicals, were ejected, and can expect a suspension from the league for this one. Also, the Bulls’ Nikola Mirotic and Raptors assistant coach Jamaal Magloire got technicals for a separate shoving match after the main fight.
Notice the score in the video above when the fight took place late in the third, the Bulls were firmly in control of the game. The Bulls carried a similar lead into midway through the fourth when DeMar DeRozan sparked a 15-0 Raptors’ run that made it a game. Eventually, that went to overtime, where an 8-0 Toronto run that gave them the win. DeRozan finished with 42 points, Jimmy Butler had 37 for the Bulls.
It’s a big win for the Raptors, who are now half a game back of the Wizards for the three seed in the East (the three seed means avoiding Cleveland in the first round). For Chicago, the loss combined with a Miami win has the Bulls two games out of the playoffs in the East.
2) Bulls’ GM Jerry Krause passes away at the age of 77, deserves better than his public reputation. Jerry Krause will forever be haunted by a comment that he argued was taken way out of context.
“Players and coaches don’t win championships. Organizations win championships.”
He got the blame in a lot of quarters for breaking up the six-time champion Chicago Bulls of Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson, when the fact is Krauss deserves plenty of credit for those six titles. On one side there was Jordan, who intimidated everyone on and off the court to get his way, while Jackson manipulated everyone around him to get what he wanted. Krauss stood up to both of them — Krauss traded Jordan’s pal Charles Oakley to get Bill Cartwright because he knew Chicago needed that style of big man. Krauss was not always right, but the guy Jordan nicknamed “crumbs” — because whatever he ate still seemed to be on his shirt — had the fortitude to stand up to Jordan when few did.
Krauss inherited Jordan, but MJ didn’t win those titles alone, and it was Krauss who put Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, John Paxson, B. J. Armstrong, Cartwright, Ron Harper, Dennis Rodman, Toni Kukoc, Luc Longley and Steve Kerr around Jordan. Krauss helped build those teams, and he deserves credit for that. Krauss is up for the Hall of Fame as a contributor, I don’t know if he gets in, but he certainly contributed to all those titles in Chicago.
3) The Warriors route the Mavericks on way to fifth straight win. Are we done worrying about the Warriors now? Kevin Durant got hurt right as the team hit its toughest part of the schedule, Stephen Curry‘s legs were heavy, and his shot was off, and the team with the best record in the NBA stumbled for a bit. Then they got to go home for a week, play three games against teams at .500 or below, and suddenly they look like their old selves again.
Golden State picked up its fifth straight win Tuesday night with a 112-87 route of the Mavericks in Dallas. Maybe Seth Curry summed it up best when asked if it was fun to start at point opposite his brother Stephen, and he said yes, until the game tipped off. Stephen outscored Seth 17-10, if you’re counting.
The win keeps the Warriors 2.5 games up on San Antonio for the best record in the NBA. Considering the Warriors have a slightly easier schedule the rest of the way, it’s hard to see them blowing that lead.
Three Things We Learned Monday: Golden State has found some fight, its groove again
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
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.
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.
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.