Kurt Helin

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Report: Carmelo Anthony, Knicks coaches argued at halftime of loss to Brooklyn

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What was the low point of the Knicks’ season? It’s not easy to answer because there are so many options to choose from.

But a new report from Ian Begley at ESPN may have pinpointed the moment, at halftime of a Knicks loss to the Nets in Brooklyn in March when the Nets dropped 14 threes on the Knicks in the first half. That’s when Carmelo Anthony and coach Jeff Hornacek, plus others on the Knicks coaching staff, got into it.

Hornacek lit into the Knicks in the visitors’ locker room of the Barclays Center, and according to people familiar with the matter, Hornacek’s diatribe was expletive-filled and delivered at a high decibel level….

Carmelo Anthony, whose default demeanor is relaxed and easygoing, responded with anger and expletives of his own. For those accustomed to seeing Anthony live by his oft-used idiom, “Stay Melo,” it was jarring.

Anthony’s R-rated rant essentially questioned the direction of the entire organization, according to sources. Associate head coach Kurt Rambis fired back, calling out Anthony’s effort on defense.

First, if you’ve played a competitive sport past the age of 10, you’ve been in a locker room where the coach went off on the team after a sluggish first half. And sometimes players fire back. It’s not something wildly out of the ordinary.

But this seems to set the picture for the Knicks heading into the summer.

Anthony has had it with the Knicks, the triangle, and the overall direction (or directionlessness) of the organization. Phil Jackson is ready to move on from Anthony, who is not a good fit for the triangle on the court and is not the leader he wants off it.

Anthony is going to get traded this summer, the only question is where. Remember he has a no-trade clause, essentially giving him veto power over any deal. He’s not getting dumped to Orlando for prospects, he’s going to need to go to a contender — or a team with some other major draw — to get him to agree to the deal.

It’s going to be one interesting summer in New York.

PBT Podcast: Western Conference first round playoff breakdown with Dane Carbaugh

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Russell Westbrook vs. James Harden.

Is this the year the Clippers break through, or can the Jazz end their playoff run early and lead to a major shakeup in Los Angeles?

Can Memphis or Portland even win a game?

Kurt Helin and Dane Carbaugh of NBC Sports dive into all of that as they break down the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, talking about matchups and challenges for every team.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunes (just click the button under the podcast), 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.

PBT Extra: Harden vs. Westbrook, Clippers vs. Jazz highlight Western Conference playoffs

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Old friends are meeting in San Antonio. Damian Lillard is set to put on a futile but entertaining show against Stephen Curry and the Warriors.

However, it’s the other two series that should be interesting in the Western Conference playoffs in the NBA. First, it’s the Russell Westbrook vs. James Harden showdown when the Thunder face the Rockets — a series that will shape the narrative of the MVP race but has no actual impact on the voting.

Then there is Utah vs. the Los Angels Clippers in what should be a very competitive series. The Clippers are playing well but the Jazz have a fantastic defense led by Rudy Gobert, a star on the rise in Gordon Hayward, and if George Hill can give Chris Paul some trouble this series will go down to the wire.

I break it all down in this latest PBT Extra.

By the time MVP announced in June ceremony, playoffs will have changed the narrative

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It’s the most anticipated matchup of the first round of the NBA playoffs: Oklahoma City vs. Houston.

Or, more accurately, Russell Westbrook vs. James Harden.

MVP candidate vs. MVP candidate.

Those two have gone back and forth all season, trading monster stat lines and putting up historic numbers, both pushing their teams. It all led to as intense and evenly split MVP debate we have seen in more than a decade, and these two are the frontrunners (although watch Kawhi Leonard is going to get a lot more votes than some people expect).

What happens in this playoff series starting Sunday in Houston will shape the narrative of the MVP debate. If Harden puts up big numbers and the Rockets wipe the Thunder out in five games, The Beard will look like he should run away with the award. If Westbrook puts up four or more triple-doubles in a series that goes seven games, he will look like the MVP when it is done.

And none of it will matter.

That’s because the media voters for the award must have their ballots in by midnight Eastern this Friday. Before this series even tips off.

Also, for the first time the NBA is putting on an awards show, to be broadcast on TNT, where all the league’s end-of-season awards will be handed out in one night. It’s a made for television event similar to what the NFL and NHL have done.

The NBA ceremony is June 26. Two months after the votes were taken.

After the NBA Finals.

After the draft.

When everyone’s minds have turned to free agency, the NBA is going to turn back the clock to the regular season one more time.

As a byproduct of that schedule, by the time the league announces the award winners, the playoffs will have changed how all of us perceive the race.

Fans — and the media members who vote — can’t help but have their perceptions of the season altered by what we all will witness in the playoffs. And not just the Harden vs. Westbrook matchup, it could include Leonard — if he can lead the Spurs to the Western Conference Finals and push (or beat) the Warriors, he will look more and more like the  rightful MVP.

Intellectually voters will be able to say “my vote is a valid one based on the regular season” and they would be right — a vote for Westbrook, Harden, Leonard, or LeBron James is completely justifiable. There is no wrong answer among those four. Today.

But it will feel different by the time we learn who won two months from now.

The league used to roll out its awards over the course of the first round of the playoffs and guys would get the chance to celebrate the awards with their fans. To use the examples of likely winners this season, Giannis Antetokounmpo could receive the Most Improved Player award in front of the Milwaukee fans. Houston fans could celebrate Mike D’Antoni winning Coach of the Year with him.

Not this time — it’s all being packaged for TV.

Which works for the NFL because their awards ceremony falls between the Conference Finals and the Super Bowl — the season just ended one month ago and the interest in the game is near it’s zenith.

But for the NBA, it will all come after the Finals, maybe a couple of weeks after someone hoists the Larry O’Brien trophy (depending on how long it goes). Fans will have turned their focus to if their team can land Blake Griffin or Gordon Hayward or whomever else in free agency for next season, not the long-past regular season anymore.

So remember who you picked for MVP today, because how you may feel in a few weeks may be different — and it will not matter.

James Harden drops triple-double, leads Rockets to win over Wolves (VIDEO)

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HOUSTON (AP) — Instead of resting players with their playoff spot already set, the Houston Rockets approached their regular-season finale as a final tuneup for the postseason.

The result was the 22nd triple-double for James Harden and a 123-118 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night.

Harden had 27 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists to help Houston to its 55th victory.

All five of Houston’s regular starters started after coach Mike D’Antoni had given everyone but Harden time off in the last few games in preparation for the team’s first-round playoff series against Oklahoma City.

“I think we played well,” Harden said. “Our effort was there and we finally got everybody on the court tonight so that’s the good thing. And we’ll start Sunday.”

The MVP contender became the first player in NBA history to finish the regular season with at least 2,000 points (2,356), 900 assists (907) and 600 rebounds (659).

The Rockets had a 12-point lead after a 3-point play by Patrick Beverley with about nine minutes left. Minnesota cut into the lead with a 6-2 spurt before Houston got consecutive 3-pointers from Harden and Eric Gordon to extend the lead to 113-99 midway through the quarter.

Harden, who also had four steals and a block, found Clint Capela on an alley-oop dunk after that, before hitting another 3-pointer to make it 118-99 and spur Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau to call a timeout.

Karl-Anthony Towns finished with 28 points and 21 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who end the season with a six-game losing streak.

Thibodeau said ending the season the way they did is a good benchmark for what they need to do in the offseason.

“It tells us exactly where we are,” he said. “We don’t get fooled into thinking that it’s something that it’s not. It tells us exactly how hard we’re going to have to work to get where we want to go.”

Towns also made NBA history by becoming the only player to have at least 2,000 points (2,061), 1,000 rebounds (1,007) and 100 3-pointers (101) in a season.

Ryan Anderson made six 3-pointers for the Rockets and finished with 20 points and Capela had 22 points and 10 rebounds.

D’Antoni is happy with where Anderson is at in his fourth game back after missing six games with an ankle injury.

“I thought he looked really fresh and lively, and he really came out of the gate quick,” D’Antoni said. “He’s playing really well.”

Four straight points by the Timberwolves cut Houston’s lead to six points with about two minutes left in the third quarter. But Houston scored the lead eight points of the quarter, led by 3-pointers from Lou Williams and Harden, to extend the lead to 95-81 entering the fourth.

A 3-pointer by Towns got the Timberwolves within a point early in the third quarter before Houston used a 10-2 run to push the lead to 76-67 with about nine minutes left in the period. Ryan Anderson made consecutive 3-pointers to start that run and Capela capped it with back-to-back baskets.

The Rockets led by 13 early, but the Timberwolves had tied it at 60 by halftime.

TIP-INS

Timberwolves: Andrew Wiggins finished with 21 points. … Shabazz Muhammad had 22 points. … Kris Dunn had 10 points with 16 assists.

Rockets: Houston had at least 60 points at halftime for the 39th time this season. … Anderson scored 20 points or more for the 14th time. … Trevor Ariza added 15 points.

THEY SAID IT

Thibodeau on Harden: “Obviously the individual part of it is unbelievable, but it is also what he has done for the team. To lift a team the way he has is an amazing feat. He not only brought out the best out of himself but he brought the best out of the team.”

RECORD-SETTING 3s

Houston finished the season with 1,081 3s to break the NBA record for 3-pointers in a season set by Golden State last season. The Rockets made 19 3-pointers on Wednesday to improve to 36-5 this season when making at least 15.