Author: Kurt Helin

Washington Wizards v Golden State Warriors

Five Things We Learned in NBA Monday: Remember Golden State is great defensive team


If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while finding hundred-year-old baseball cards in your family Bible.…

1) Golden State shows off league-best defense in win. There are people who tend to gloss over that Golden State has the best defense in the NBA — the Warriors allow 97.4 points per 100 possessions on the season, two points better than the second-place Bucks. That defense was on full display Monday. Washington shot just 33.3 percent against the Warriors and were 1-of-18 shooting in the third quarter when Golden State took control of the game with a 22-2 run on their way to a 30-point win. The combination of Andrew Bogut up front and Draymond Green just blanketed the Wizards. Golden State breaks convention, they switch almost every pick-and-roll, which should create mismatches but Stephen Curry has stepped up on that end of the floor, and that showed Monday as well. To be fair, the Wizards also just missed shots — 44.4 percent of their shots were uncontested, they still shot just 33 percent on those. Still, this smothering defense is why the Warriors are legitimate title contenders. That and they can play a little offense, too.

2) James Harden drops another 44 and Rockets get another win. Add Monday night’s numbers to the James Harden for MVP file: He scored 44 points on 10-of-21 shooting, he got to the free throw line 22 times, and he dished out seven assists. Most importantly Houston picked up another win, 110-100 over Indiana, and the fact they remain on track to be home for at least the first round of the playoffs while being without Dwight Howard (who will be back sooner rather than later) may be Harden’s best MVP pitch.

3) Chicago gets Jimmy Butler back, but it was the Nicola Mirotic show. The Bulls needed the return of Jimmy Butler, who had been out since March 1 with an elbow injury.However, he brought back the expected amount of rust (6-of-20 shooting). This is where rookie Nicola Mirotic took over — he had 28 points, 14 in the fourth quarter, to lift the Bulls past the Hornets. Mirotic was scoring at the rim but was also 4-of-6 in the midrange. The Bulls also got 27 from Pau Gasol in a win that tied the Bulls with the Raptors for the coveted three seed out East.

4) Boston moves back into eight seed thanks to triple-double from Evan Turner. With the Hornets losing to Chicago, the Celtics had a chance to move back into the eight seed in a key game vs. Brooklyn (who also has eyes on a playoff spot). Of course, that  meant it was time for the Evan Turner show. No, seriously it was. He had 19 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds.  Turner can be up and down, but he picked a good time to be up.  Combine that with Brooklyn’s 1-of-17 shooting stretch and Boston gets a win.

5) Deron Williams still has a few moves left. The Nets lost, and their playoff chances dimmed, but Deron Williams broke out a pretty sweet double crossover that is worth passing along.

Nikola Mirotic throws down dunk on Jason Maxiell (VIDEO)

Nikola Mirotic, Marvin Williams

Bulls rookie Nikola Mirotic — the guy coming in second in the Rookie of the Year voting after the season — is known more as a floor spacing big who can knock down threes.

But he can dunk, too. Just as Jason Maxiell of the Hornets.

Mirotic had 14 points in the fourth quarter to help the Bulls hold off the Hornets and win 98-86 on the night Jimmy Butler returned to the Chicago lineup. The win tied Chicago with Toronto for the three seed in the East. Getting that three seed will mean an easier first round matchup, the Bulls are getting healthy at the right time to chase that seriously.

Bulls’ leading scorer Jimmy Butler could to return to lineup Monday

Los Angeles Lakers vs Chicago Bulls
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After missing three weeks with an elbow injury, Jimmy Butler could play for the Bulls Monday night vs. Charlotte.

Of course, the Bulls and coach Tom Thibodeau are putting all kinds of qualifiers on that in the run-up to the game, saying he is questionable. That said, he’s seemed close to playing all day. Here is Thibodeau at shootaround, via Vincent Goodwill of

“We’ll see when he warms up tonight,” Thibodeau said. “But it looks like it could be a go.”

Later he would warm up and play unless there was a setback.

Joakim Noah is out for the Bulls Monday with “general soreness.”

Butler is going to play. For the first time since March 1, when he injured his elbow trying to get around a screen against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Butler’s return comes just as the Bulls are trying to overtake Toronto for the third seed in the East (Chicago is half a game back). Butler is the Bulls leading scorer at 20.2 points a game, plus he is their best perimeter defender.

“He’s probably our best two-way player,” Thibodeau said. “Anytime you get a guy like that back, it helps in all areas. It adds to the depth. It’s good.”


The Bulls got Taj Gibson back from injury last week and now Butler this week.  Once Derrick Rose returns — there still is no official word on when that happens — the Bulls should have their regular rotation back for the playoffs.

How far that can take them remains to be seen, but it’s all got to start with health in Chicago, so this is key.

2 Chainz as Atlanta Hawks CEO? We got that for you.

Future Music Festival 2015
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The Atlanta Hawks are for sale; maybe there’s a little bit of a power vacuum at the top right now…

2 Chainz is going to fill that.

Okay, the Hawks are actually promoting 2 Chainz playing at the March 27 Hawks game against the Heat. Still, this has the potential to be awesome. We’ll be following this series.

Hat tip to Rey at That NBA Lottery Pick.

Kevin Love says he, LeBron James are not best friends. So what?

Phoenix Suns v Cleveland Cavaliers

The other day LeBron James posted a pic on Instagram with the quote “Clique Up!!” It featured LeBron, Kyrie Irving, J.R. Smith, Tristan Thompson, Kendrick Perkins, Timofey Mozgov and others.

Not Kevin Love.

And that added fuel to the “Love is going to bolt Cleveland” rumor firestorm, even though Love has denied that every step of the way. Monday on the Dan Patrick Show (broadcast on NBC Sports Network) Love said, “I plan on being a Cavalier either way.” Meaning he’s coming back next season whether or not the Cavs win the title.

Love was also on ESPN’s Mike and Mike radio show and said this about LeBron (via the Cleveland Plain Dealer):

“You know, we’re not best friends, we’re not hanging out every day, but we see each other every day, whether we’re at the practice facility, whether we’re on the road or going to a game,” Love said. “I think our relationship is also evolving. I could say the same with each and every coach, coach Blatt, and each and every player on the team. But, that’s part of the NBA.”

LeBron and Love are not taking selfies together? So what? (Actually, they were next to each other in another LeBron Instagram of a few weeks back. So does that mean all is right with the world?)

If they are professional, the rest doesn’t matter. Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal won three titles together, and it took all of Phil Jackson’s Zen ways to keep them from strangling each other. They didn’t hit the clubs together. They still won.

Some guys need to feel loved and reassured to focus and play their best (think Dwight Howard). But sports has a long history of teams that won despite everyone not getting along in the locker room. Going all the way back to Ty Cobb at least.

Expect Kevin Love to stick with the Cavaliers this summer, for a couple reasons. One, he doesn’t want to be seen as a quitter who bolts a winning team. Second, he wants to be a free agent in 2016 when the cap goes up anyway. If he wants to leave, that’s the time to do it because teams will have the room for him and another max player, and he can team up.

Love is going through what Chris Bosh went through. He found his space in the offense and he found peace with it. We’ll see if Love gets to that same place with LeBron, but it’s going to play out over another season at the very least. Likely more.