Kurt Helin

DeMarcus Cousins throws pass, Anthony Davis finishes 180 degree alley-op (VIDEO)

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Who says DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis can’t play together?

Okay, there’s still a lot of work to do — when they have been on the court together, the Pelicans have scored a paltry 92.1 points per 100 possessions and been outscored by 4.6 per 100. But there are flashes, like Tuesday night when Cousins threw the lob pass and Anthony Davis finished the 180-degree alley-oop. It will be interesting to see how those two play together next season (with maybe a better supporting cast with some shooters around them).

The Pelicans cruised past Portland 100-77 in a game where Portland shot just 30.3 percent as a team. The Blazers need wins to get past Denver and make the playoffs, they can’t have nights like this.

PBT Podcast: NCAA Tournament prospect watch with NBC’s Rob Dauster

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March Madness is here.

While you’re rooting for Rhode Island to upset it’s way to the Elite Eight and win you the office pool, there are NBA draft prospects you should be keeping an eye on. A strong NCAA Tournament can sometimes get a GM (or owner) to move a guy up and down the draft board more than they should — a strong tournament can boost draft stock. (Although, it should be noted, not with the best organizations.)

College Basketball Talk’s Rob Dauster joins NBC’s Kurt Helin to break down the NCAA Tournament with an NBA eye. We talk about Lonzo Ball, Josh Jackson and other elites, as well as some sleepers down the board. Plus, we give some picks — I have North Carolina winning it all — and discuss things like Can Gonzaga actually win this thing?

As always, you can check out the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunes (just click the button below), subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out our new PBT podcast homepage and archive at Audioboom.com.

Three Things We Learned Tuesday: Draymond Green’s defense saves Warriors from loss to Sixers

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Just so it’s out there for the record, my Final Four picks are Villanova, Louisville, West Virginia and North Carolina, with the Tar Heels winning it all. Also, know that I suck at picking the NCAA Tournament, so you have the same picks you may want to rethink them. Now, on to the NBA news of the night.

1) Draymond Green’s Defensive Player of the Year mixtape game gets Warriors two-point win over Sixers. The Golden State Warriors are still not right. They were down 12 points to the Philadelphia 76ers entering the fourth quarter Tuesday night and needed 12 points in the final frame and some stellar defense from Draymond Green to pull out the win.

Actually, it’s far more simple than that: Stephen Curry is still not right. With Kevin Durant out the Warriors need the old MVP-level Curry to lead them, yet in his last seven games, he has hit 23-of-78 from three, which is 29.5 percent. Overall he is shooting 40.8 percent. He’s averaged six assists but four turnovers in those games. For three quarters on Tuesday night he was missing open jumpers and simply was not effective as the guy running the offense. He was much better in the fourth (3-of-5 from three), but after this sustained run of struggles, it will take more than one quarter to say he has turned the corner.

Draymond Green saved the Warriors. Green has been vocal about his desire to win the DPOY, and this game is the tape he wants voters to watch. More than stats, his defense turned this game around. That said, he had stats: six blocks and four steals. His pick-and-roll defense was superb, and he was making heads-up plays all night. The final play was a perfect example: The Warriors were up three and the Sixers were inbounding the ball, but Matt Barnes stole it and had a breakaway to seal the game — and missed the dunk. The Sixers raced downcourt to tie the game with a three, but Green wisely fouled Dario Saric before he could shoot, sending him to the line for two free throws, and that saved the day. Green also had 20 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists on the night.

The Warriors get the also struggling Orlando Magic on Thursday — the schedule is doing them favors. But the Warriors need the old Curry back if they are going to hold off San Antonio for the top seed in the West.

2) Russell Westbrook gets triple-double number 33, Nets fans cheer him like the game was in OKC. Two minutes into the game in Brooklyn Tuesday night, Nets fans were raining down MVP chants on Westbrook.

Nets fans are starved for good basketball, and Westbrook is the best show in the league right now. He didn’t disappoint, Westbrook had 25 points, 19 assists, and 12 rebounds — he’s had far more gaudy stat lines recently, but he was the best player on the floor by a healthy margin and his dominance controlled the game. The Thunder got a comfortable 122-104 win on the road.



3) LeBron James would like to remind you he is also very good at this basketball thing, gets his own triple-double.
LeBron James remains the best basketball player walking the face of the earth. There is a what is essentially a four-person race for MVP this season: Westbrook, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, and LeBron. Somehow, LeBron will likely finish fourth (if Durant had not gotten injured, it might well have been fifth). We have come to take LeBron’s greatness for granted.

Of late the Cavaliers have gone as LeBron has gone, and Tuesday night he had 16 points, 12 assists, and 11 rebounds in leading the Cavs to a comfortable 128-96 thrashing of the Pistons.

Warriors barely hold off Sixers 106-104 to snap three-game skid

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Even after a series of misses from deep where he makes his money, Stephen Curry kept letting it fly from long range.

Then, at last, the ball started falling.

Curry scored 29 points on his 29th birthday, Klay Thompson added 28 and the Golden State Warriors used a frenetic fourth-quarter rally to snap a three-game skid and beat the Philadelphia 76ers 106-104 on Tuesday night.

“That’s what I love about Steph is that he’s never going to stop shooting and he never loses confidence,” coach Steve Kerr said. “That’s the mark of a star, when it’s not your night and you still hit big shots to help your team win.”

Dario Saric intentionally missed his second free throw with 2.6 seconds remaining to try to give the Sixers one last shot, but Curry secured the ball.

Curry struggled to knock down open 3-pointers again but came through from deep with 5:38 left and again with a key baseline 3 at 3:42. Matt Barnes hit one a minute later from the opposite corner for a 104-99 lead.

“He found it at the right time and he came through for us when we needed it the most,” Draymond Green said of Curry.

Curry’s jumper with 9:55 to play pulled the Warriors within 90-86 after Golden State trailed 90-78 to begin the final quarter. Green’s 3 at 8:04 made it a one-point game, and Shaun Livingston gave Golden State the lead the next time down.

Green had 20 points with 11 free throws, eight assists, eight rebounds and six blocks for the Warriors, who trailed by as many as 16 in the third.

He reminded his teammates during one timeout it would take everything to pull out of this recent rut.

“The only way to change that is to grind your way out of it. It’s not going to be pretty,” Green said.

Saric had 25 points in the Sixers’ eighth straight loss to Golden State. The Warriors’ winning streak in the series matches their longest ever, along with a stretch from Dec. 16, 1971, to March 11, `73.

Curry shot just 8 for 23 and 5 of 13 from 3-point range, making him 26 for 89 from deep in his past eight games.

The Warriors aren’t worried. Thompson and others remind him of all his incredible feats.

“He’ll have a huge breakout game coming soon,” Thompson said. “He’s better missing now than come May or June.”

Earlier in the day, Curry refused to call his shooting of late a slump, and Kerr insists nobody can expect the two-time reigning MVP to match his NBA-record 402 3s last season.

“I never really use that word, because a slump to me almost (seems) like you’re losing confidence,” Curry said.

The Warriors returned to the Bay Area following a brutal road stretch – which included losing Kevin Durant to a sprained left knee – and barely bounced back to avoid their first four-game losing streak since Feb. 26, 2013, to March 2, `13.

Golden State moved a half-game ahead of the idle Spurs for the top spot in the Western Conference.

KD’S HEALTH

Durant took set shots and moved around the court earlier in the day without his knee brace and soon could add jumpers. He is scheduled to be re-evaluated late this month to determine whether he might return before the regular season concludes.

TIP-INS

76ers: The Sixers shot 56 percent in the first to stay within 35-34. … F Robert Covington started after he missed Sunday’s win at the Lakers with soreness in his right knee. … Philadelphia has lost five straight at Oracle Arena since its last win in Oakland, 104-97, on Dec. 31, 2011.

Warriors: Green became the 11th player in franchise history with 400 blocked shots. He moved past Andrew Bogut for 10th place on the franchise list. … The Warriors are 11-1 at home vs. the Eastern Conference with three in a row against the East at Oracle this week. … Curry, playing on his birthday for the fourth straight year, has scored at least 25 points on his past four birthdays. … Rookie Patrick McCaw made his first shot after going 0 for 12 and missing all six of his 3-point tries in Saturday’s loss at San Antonio.

 

Stephen Curry on Warriors: “There’s been no panic in our locker room or around our team”

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From the moment Zaza Pachulia fell back into Kevin Durant‘s knee, sidelining the Warriors’ leading scorer until around the start of the playoffs, the Warriors have gone 2-5. In those games, the Warriors have had the third-worst offense in the NBA, and arguably the greatest shooter the game has ever seen in Stephen Curry has shot 27.7 percent from three and 41.8 percent overall.

All of that has allowed the Spurs catch up and tie the Warriors for the best record in the NBA. It has Warriors fans nervous — but not the Warriors.

“There’s been no panic in our locker room or around our team,” Stephen Curry told NBCSports.com Monday when asked about the recent losing streak. “We know who we are, we know what we’re capable of. The ultimate goal is winning a championship and you’re not going to do that in game 65 or 67 or what not, so it’s not to get wrapped up in what we think is a normal NBA experience.”

 

The Warriors have not been a normal team in the NBA’s regular season the past two seasons. They won 65 games and an NBA title two years ago, 73 games and returned to the Finals last year. They had gone 146 games without losing consecutive games. Curry said the Warriors see this recent slide as simply reality catching up with the team — a key injury and a brutal stretch of the schedule had them looking vulnerable.

He added getting the No. 1 seed remains a goal, and that the Warriors can do it while still getting healthy and rested for the postseason.

“We want to get that done, obviously, we want to lock up home court advantage throughout the playoffs. That’s a big deal,” Curry said. “I think we can do both (lock up the home court and get healthy). We have 15 or 16 games left in the season (16), that’s a lot of time to control your own destiny with taking care of the rest of our home games, and finish out the season strong. There’s plenty of time to get that done and get rested to make sure we’re energized for the playoffs.”

Curry is known for that energy on the court, and in his workouts off it. Curry, who endorses Degree deodorant, partnered with that company to produce 360-degree videos showing what it’s like to be with him on the court during one of his workouts.

“Degree, they provide me the protection I need to perform my best on the floor. Part of that is developing a new 360-degree video that puts you on the court with me, in kind a never before seen perspective and look at my game, and some of the moves I try when I’m out there on the court,” Curry said.

For the Warriors, the schedule does soften up. They have 11 of their final 16 games at home, starting with the Sixers on Tuesday night. Only five of their final 16 games are against teams with records over .500 (one of those is against the Spurs in San Antonio).

Contrast with the recent stretch, when the Warriors played eight games in 13 days, which included two cross-country flights, all in the name of getting them on national broadcasts more. It left the team with clearly tired legs, all while trying to adapt to playing without Durant. Curry didn’t want to make excuses, but there was a reason Steve Kerr decided to rest his four best players against the Spurs Saturday night.

“As players you try not to let that defeat you, you don’t think about it in the moment, you just try to go out and win no matter what the schedule says or now many miles you fly, or how many time zones you cross over. And honestly every team has tough stretches throughout the season schedule-wise,” Curry said. “Obviously, with KD’s injury on top of that it was a lot going on, but we got through it, we’re home for three games this week, and we have the opportunity to kind of get back on track. We have to take advantage of that obviously.”

Expect them to. And expect the race for the No. 1 seed in the West and the NBA to be tight and interesting all the way down to the final days of the season.