Kurt Helin

Associated Press

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.

Klay Thompson scores 41, Warriors roll to 12th straight win

Associated Press
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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Klay Thompson scored 41 points for his 10th career 40-point game, Stephen Curry had 19 points and nine assists, and the playoff-ready Golden State Warriors ran their winning streak to 12 straight by beating the Minnesota Timberwolves 121-107 on Tuesday night.

Matt Barnes contributed 12 points, six rebounds and four assists, and Golden State could wrap up the West’s No. 1 seed as soon as Wednesday night with a win at Phoenix and a Spurs’ loss at home to the Lakers.

Now, it seems, the Warriors just need one key reinforcement: Kevin Durant. And KD could be back by week’s end with his team on quite a roll to finish the regular season atop the NBA again.

Andrew Wiggins scored 24 for Minnesota, which couldn’t keep up with Golden State’s spiffy passing and contributions from so many players on both ends of the floor.

In his highest-scoring performance since getting 60 on Dec. 5, Thompson hit 7 of 14 3-pointers – giving him at least four 3s in a career-best six consecutive games. His 262 3s rank as eighth-most ever for a single season after he had 276 last season.

Andre Iguodala produced another impressive game off the bench with 11 points on 4-for-4 shooting, while David West dished out five of his season-best six assists in the second quarter to get the offense clicking.

Golden State has matched its longest winning streak of the season, also done from Nov. 7-28, and eagerly awaits Durant’s return perhaps as soon as Saturday.

The Warriors displayed more spot-on ball movement, with West providing the key minutes. He found Iguodala for a second-quarter 3, Ian Clark and Barnes on layups and hit Thompson on a jumper before feeding Draymond Green‘s dunk.

With their 204th victory the Warriors have the most wins in NBA history over three seasons, the team said according to Elias.

This win avenged a tough defeat last month. The Warriors lost 103-102 on March 10 at Minnesota during a grueling road stretch that featured two cross-country trips, a one-game visit back to Oakland before back-to-backs at the T-wolves and Spurs.

Without injured star Durant, too.

On Tuesday, with 1:04 left in the first, JaVale McGee made a hard foul on Gorgui Dieng and their arms tangled. McGee was walking away from the play and Dieng pushed him from behind, McGee turned around and immediately shoved Dieng in the chest as they jawed before being separated. The play went to review, with each player receiving a technical and McGee also a Flagrant 1 foul.

TIP-INS

Timberwolves: The Timberwolves shot only 4 for 19 from 3-point range. … Minnesota is 6-16 on the road vs. the Western Conference.

Warriors: Thompson also has three 30-point games this season against Minnesota. … In the first, Curry hit a shot from three-quarters quart but after the whistle blew for a timeout. … Golden State had a season-high 41 fast-break points. … Hall of Fame Stanford women’s coach Tara VanDerveer, fresh off the Final Four and 1,000 career wins, sat courtside with owner Joe Lacob.

DURANT UPDATE

Durant warmed up and was set to travel with the team to Phoenix for the back-to-back, and use Thursday’s off day to do some scrimmaging testing his injured left knee. He will then be re-evaluated with the hope he is ready to return Saturday against New Orleans at Oracle Arena after being sidelined since Feb. 28.

 

Pacers boost playoff hopes with comeback over Raptors

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Paul George scored 18 of his 35 points in the third quarter Tuesday night and the desperate Indiana Pacers rallied from a 19-point, first-half deficit and blew out Toronto 108-90.

The Pacers ended a four-game losing streak that saw them slide from a tie for the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference to the very real possibility of missing the postseason.

DeMar DeRozan scored 27 points and Jonas Valanciunas had 10 points and 10 rebounds for Toronto, which had won its previous two.

It was an astounding comeback for Indiana, which was so lethargic in the first half it needed an 8-2 spurt just to get within 51-40 at halftime.

The game was marred by a shoving match between Indiana’s Lance Stephenson and DeRozan with 3.3 seconds left. The melee spilled down the sideline and into the Pacers’ bench, where Toronto’s P.J. Tucker was still jawing with Pacers players.

Stephenson, Tucker and DeRozan all received technical fouls.

But it couldn’t taint one of the Pacers’ biggest turnarounds of the season – a game they hope will help them make a final push into the postseason.

Indiana took its first lead on Jeff Teague‘s 3-pointer with 5:48 left in the third, then watched George close out the quarter by scoring 14 of the Pacers’ last 19 points.

Toronto never challenged again after the Pacers opened the fourth quarter on an 11-2 run to make it 88-77.

With four games left and already down tiebreakers to Chicago, which started the night in the No. 7 spot, and Miami, which was tied with Indiana for the last playoff spot, Indiana knew what it needed to do: Win.

George took that responsibility upon himself after a conversation with coach Nate McMillan, and he delivered with a huge third quarter that turned around the game and perhaps Indiana’s season.

The Pacers were 9 of 13 on 3-pointers in the second half.

TIP-INS

Raptors: Now trail Boston by 3 1/2 games in the Atlantic Division with four games to go. … Despite Tuesday’s loss, Toronto has won nine of the last 11 regular-season games and three straight season series against Indiana. … The Raptors finished with 11 assists, ending a streak of five straight games with 20 or more. … DeMarre Carroll had 11 points, Cory Joseph scored 10 and Serge Ibaka had eight points and 10 rebounds.

Pacers: Teague had 20 points and six assists, and Stephenson received a standing ovation when he entered the game in the first quarter. Stephenson finished with 12 points. … Thaddeus Young scored 15 points, his fifth straight game in double figures. … McMillan said Al Jefferson (sprained left ankle) was off crutches and out of the boot and is doing light jogging. Glenn Robinson III (sore left calf) still has not returned to practice.

This story has been corrected to show that the shoving match started between Lance Stephenson and DeMar DeRozan, not DeMarre Carroll.

LeBron James splits Orlando “defense,” throws down huge dunk (VIDEO)

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When LeBron James gets up a head of steam, nobody in the NBA is stopping him from getting to the rim.

He picked up a head of steam against Orlando on this play by sliding inside the guy showing out, and from there the dunk was coming, and nobody was stopping it.

Defense has been lacking from both teams in the first half of this game from both teams, which is keeping the game close.

Stephen Curry says it’s “comical that people were saying I’m having a down year”

Associated Press
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Last season Stephen Curry averaged 30.1 points, 6.7 assists, and 5.4 rebounds a game, hit 45.4 percent from three,, with a PER of 31.5, and the Warriors were 22 points per 100 possessions better when he was on the court.

This season, Curry is averaging 25.2 points, 6.5 assists, and 4.5 rebounds a game, is hitting 40.4 percent from three, with a PER of 24.3, and the Warriors are 15 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court.

So is Stephen Curry having a down year?

Don’t tell him that. Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report asked him the question.

“I think it’s comical that people were saying I’m having a down year,” Curry said. “To go black and white and say I’m not having as good a season as I was having last year based on just five points a game or shooting percentage or whatnot…there are other things that you try to do other than just the eye test to try and help your team win. This year has taught me that, for sure. The accolades and the attention and all that stuff, the hype is cool. But it’s really how you feel about your own game.

 “And I can wake up every day and be like, ‘I know what I’m trying to accomplish; I know I’m going to get better.’ I know when I don’t play well and how mad I get at myself. I know when I do play well and how I want to keep that going. Same approach as I had last year.

“Just five fewer points a game. Who cares?”

Curry unquestionably had to adjust his game to fit with Kevin Durant and that led to some rough patches early in the season, they played next to each other more than with each other. They figured it out, and before Durant went down with a knee injury (he’s expected back this weekend) the Warriors were looking like the team every other team feared before the season. However, Curry is right (earlier in that story) that sometimes narratives get set before Christmas that are hard to break after even if they are not true.

Curry’s numbers this season are impressive — not the superhuman numbers of his previous two seasons, but still incredible. One could make a legitimate case that Curry deserves one of the five spots (the fifth, frankly) on an MVP ballot. As pointed out at ProBasketballTalk earlier today, this is a team that plays at the level of a 36 win team when he is off the court (there’s a lot of noise in that stat, but you get the idea).

So it’s hard to argue he’s having a down year.

And if the Warriors go on to win a title this year, you can call his season whatever you want and Curry will not care.