Kurt Helin

Associated Press

Klay Thompson’s 34 help Warriors roll Thunder in chippy game

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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.

TIP-INS

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.

Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP.

James Harden hits layup with 2.4 seconds left to lift Rockets

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HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden drove the length of the floor for a layup with 2.4 seconds left to lift the Houston Rockets over the Denver Nuggets 125-124 on Monday night.

Harden had 39 points, 11 assists and was three rebounds shy of his 20th triple-double of the season. Houston outlasted Denver in a duel between the second- and third-highest scoring teams in the NBA.

Harden likely saved the game for Houston, too, when he batted down an inbounds pass to Mason Plumlee near the basket following his layup.

Will Barton gave Denver a one-point lead on a three-point play with less than a minute left. On the following possession, Harden missed a layup, but he got it back on the other end of the floor when he rebounded Jameer Nelson‘s air-ball.

Harden took the ball down the court and scored on a finger-roll layup.

In a physical matchup between two teams that lean heavily on their ability to get to the free-throw line, neither the Rockets nor Nuggets appeared happy with the officiating in the game.

Gary Harris scored a career-high 28 points for Denver by shooting 10 for 16 from the floor and making three 3s. Nikola Jokic also gave Houston problems with his size on both ends of the floor. Jokic had 22 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists.

Denver led 65-62 at the half as it outrebounded the Rockets 30-13 in the first half and Houston made just 7 of 20 3-pointers. Houston’s long-range shots finally began to fall late in the third quarter, and a 3-pointer from Patrick Beverley early in the fourth gave Houston a six-point lead that energized the Toyota Center crowd.

The Rockets finished the game 17 for 38 from 3 (44.7 percent).

Eric Gordon scored 18 points off the bench for Houston, and Beverley, Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson and Clint Capela all also scored in double figures for the Rockets.

The Nuggets are fighting for a playoff spot in the West and entered holding the eighth seed, but they’re also battling injuries. Danilo Gallinari (knee) and Wilson Chandler (groin) both participated in shootaround but did not play. Nuggets coach Mike Malone is hopeful they can be ready to play when the team faces the Cavaliers in Denver on Wednesday night.

Forward Darrell Arthur (left knee soreness) did not travel with the team to Houston, and Malone did not have a timetable for his return.

TIP-INS

Nuggets: Denver outrebounded Houston 48-35 in the game but managed only 14 second-chance points to Houston’s 10. … Barton had 24 points, eight assists and seven rebounds off the bench for Denver. … Denver made 24 of 26 free throws (92.3 percent). … Houston snapped Denver’s three-game road winning streak, a stretch that dated to Feb. 23

Rockets: Houston scored 27 points off Denver’s 21 turnovers while only turning the ball over 12 times and allowing 14 points on the other end. … Gordon tied a career high with his 35th block of the season, set during his rookie year in 2008-09.

 

Back from injury, Isaiah Thomas scores 25 as Celtics top Wizards

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BOSTON (AP) Isaiah Thomas scored 25 points after missing the previous two games with a bruised right knee, leading the Boston Celtics to a 110-102 victory over the Washington Wizards in another testy matchup Monday night between two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

Avery Bradley added 20 points and nine rebounds for Boston, which moved 2 1/2 games ahead of the Wizards for second place in the East. The Celtics trail first-place Cleveland by two games.

Jae Crowder and Al Horford each scored 16 with nine boards.

Bradley Beal led Washington with 19 points, and John Wall had 16 points with eight assists.

Behind Thomas’ 12 third-quarter points, Boston pushed an 11-point halftime lead to 92-75 after three.

The Wizards trailed by 15 with just more than four minutes left, but closed to 106-100 on Kelly Oubre Jr.’s steal and breakaway dunk with 2:05 to play.

Marcus Smart had a basket and two free throws to seal it.

The bad feelings built up between the teams this season resurfaced briefly midway into the second quarter. Washington’s Brandon Jennings bumped into Terry Rozier a few times under the basket before Rozier pushed him to the floor near midcourt. Both got a technical.

In the last meeting at TD Garden in early January, Crowder and Wall had words at the end of the game. Crowder pointed his finger in Wall’s face, and Wall slapped at him.

When they met in Washington on Jan. 25, the Wizards wore what they called “funeral black” to the game before picking up the win.

The Celtics used a 16-5 run midway into the second to help them build a 58-47 halftime edge.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Wizards: F Markieff Morris (illness) returned to the starting lineup after missing the past two games. . Wall came up limping after a driving, spinning basket in the third quarter, but stayed in the game. . Washington committed a season-high 28 fouls.

Celtics: Thomas hit a 3-pointer for a club-record 45th straight game. . Boston opened a stretch of six straight at home and play only three games away from home the rest of the regular season.

REACQUAINTED

With the Celtics healthy again, coach Brad Stevens said the final weeks of the regular season give his team a chance to get stronger playing together.

“We just haven’t had a ton of time with ourselves fully healthy,” he said. “We have to make sure that we utilize this time appropriately for our team to get better. Regardless of who we’re playing against, there aren’t any secrets.”

 

Adam Silver tells owners resting players “an extremely signifcant issue for our league”

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Two weeks ago, Steve Kerr decided to rest Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala in a nationally televised showcase game against the Spurs.

Saturday night, the Cleveland Cavaliers sat LeBron James for rest, and sat Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving for the first half of a back-to-back, a nationally televised game against the Clippers (then played them the next night against the Lakers). League officials were not happy and called up the Cavaliers to let them know.

For two weeks, resting NBA players has become a major sports media talking point following what should have been marquee NBA games.

Monday, NBA owners got a memo from Adam Silver saying this topic is going to be addressed, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

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.

Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry get in shoving match in first half (VIDEO)

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Kevin Durant was in street clothes, but the Warriors still came out Monday night and put a beat down on his former team in their own building (Golden State was up 20 at the half).

But that’s not what anybody is talking about.

With 5.3 seconds left in the first half, there was a jump ball in the Thunder’s offensive end. OKC’s Semaj Christon was standing a step behind the circle, so Stephen Curry tried to step in front of him. Christon and Curry started to get into it a little, then Russell Westbrook jumped in, and then there was a lot of shoving and action (without any punches being thrown, because this is an NBA fight).

Curry, Westbrook, Draymond Green and Christon all got technicals. There could be fines down the line. That makes 15 technical fouls for Westbrook on the season, one more and he gets an automatic suspension for a game.

Curry responded by knocking down a 26-foot three at the halftime buzzer, putting his team up 20. Curry had 17 points in the first half, hitting 5-of-8 from three. The Warriors also were back to playing good defense in the first half.