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LeBron James, Isaiah Thomas try to play down importance of Cavaliers vs. Celtics

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Heading into Wednesday night’s showdown, Boston and Cleveland are tied with identical 50-27 records.

The winner of Wednesday night’s game will have the pole position to get the No. 1 seed in the East. It also can be a statement game for both teams. Boston wins and it gains confidence it could beat Cleveland in a playoff showdown, the Celtics can say they are a legit threat to come out of the East. For Cleveland, win and they show their slump is behind them and they are ready to claim their rightful spot as the clear best team in the conference.

Just don’t tell LeBron James or Isaiah Thomas that.

Here’s Thomas, via A. Sherrod Blakely at CSNNE.com.

“No. Not for me,” said Thomas when asked if the game felt any different being the No. 1 seed. “It’s just another game; I think we have to treat it like that. Being number one in the standings, I don’t feel different, treat it like another game.”

Here’s what LeBron said, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“I don’t know, I’ve played in a lot of big games,” James said… “I don’t … I’m the last person to ask about a big game in the regular season. I’m sorry.”

No, the outcome of this game will not tell us what happens in a seven-game series. For one, Cleveland is on the second night of a back-to-back. However, more than that teams don’t have the time to drill down on film, modify game plans and sets, and generally prepare for a team the way they do in the playoffs. The postseason is a different animal.

The outcome of this game may not even tell us who gets the top seed — Cleveland has a tougher schedule the rest of the way, and coach Tyronn Lue has talked about resting guys heading into the playoffs. Things are still in flux.

But it still matters — this game will give the winner some confidence going into the playoffs. And that matters.

Dennis Rodman on what makes the Warriors work: “Klay Thompson makes that team”

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The general consensus goes something like this; Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant are the best Warriors’ players, 1 and 1A in whatever order you want, however, Draymond Green is the most important because his defensive versatility lets them play small and still defend at an elite level.

Hall of Dennis Rodman sees things differently.

Rodman sees everything differently, sometimes seemingly through a haze. But he was on CBSSports.com’s “Reiter Than You” with Bill Reiter and was saying some odd stuff (hat tip James Herbert of Eye on Basketball):

“You know what, Steph Curry has took a step back,” Rodman said. “And it’s cool. It’s actually cool because if you see his game now, I always said with that Golden State team, I always say one thing: that one player is the player right there that makes that team. Who is that player?…

“That is right there: Thompson,” Rodman said. “That kid right there is good. If he went to another team, he’d suck. What I’m saying is that Klay Thompson makes that team. Everybody’s always worried about Curry. I know Curry’s dad and all that bulls—. But Klay Thompson makes that team. It ain’t Green, that guy, no. It’s Klay Thompson.”

There’s a lot or rambling and nonsense to unpack there. Starting with, Stephen Curry himself will have none of Rodman’s “step back” ideas. Curry called the idea “comical,” which seems fitting here. Curry is having a fantastic season, one that could get him a few bottom of the ballot MVP votes, it’s just not the superhuman year he had last year.

Also, “if he went to another team, he’d suck?” He means Thompson? Um, no. Is he saying the ability to shoot the ball will not translate to another team? Yes, Thompson gets better looks with Golden State because of the gravity of Curry/Durant drawing defenders, but I can guarantee you 29 other teams would be willing to test the “Thompson sucks outside Golden State” theory.

I tend to buy the “Green is most important to the team” theory because while we all talk about the Warriors offense they have the second best defense in the NBA this season (and it’s been at the top for a few years), and that all starts with Green. He’s a Defensive Player of the Year candidate for a reason.

That’s not to sell Thompson short, Golden State isn’t quite the same without any of the big four. No shooter on that team can get as hot for a short stretch (a quarter, a game) as Thompson. But the rest of it is just Rodman being Rodman.

Shaq let loose in Lip Sync Battle with Jimmy Fallon on Tonight Show (VIDEO)

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Admit it — Shaq dances better than you.

Also, he knows Pitbull and you don’t.

Which made Shaquille O’Neal doing a lip sync battle against (and with) the host of the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon this week a lot of fun. Shaq clearly enjoyed it — it’s not like getting your own statue cool, but it’s cool.

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

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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.