Kurt Helin

Utah Jazz guard Shelvin Mack (8) defends as Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) shoots while Jazz center Rudy Gobert, right, watches during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 30, 2016, in Salt Lake City. The Warriors won 103-96 in overtime. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Associated Press

Five Takeaways fro NBA Wednesday: Golden State survives and advances

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The takeaways have been on a vacation for a few days. Well, I’ve been on a mini-vacation for a few days (if staying with your in-laws is a vacation, that’s up for debate). But we’re back, just in time for another Warriors’ win and more Lakers drama.

1) Warriors clear last likely major hurdle between them and 73 wins by beating Utah. Most fans may have looked at the last weeks of the Warriors schedule and see those two games against the Spurs as what might keep the Golden State from their 73-win goal. I don’t think so. Gregg Popovich is going to rest guys in those games, especially the one on the road. He’s already accepted the two seed and is scaling back, plus he doesn’t want to tip his hand — the Spurs are going to play NFL preseason vanilla sets and defenses in those games.

No, the toughest test was a hot Utah team with its elite defense, when the Warriors were on the second night of a back-to-back. That test was Wednesday night. Utah lived up the billing, getting strong play from Gordon Hayward on pick-and-rolls (21 points), fantastic shooting from Rodney Hood (20 points), and great play clogging the lane on defense from Rudy Gobert (who finally got some quality minutes in the clutch). When Gordon hit a three in the final minute, it seemed like this may be Utah’s night.

But the Warriors did their version of the NCAA Tournament’s survive and advance. They got 31 points from Stephen Curry on some ridiculous shots (see below). They got another tough defensive and balanced game from Draymond Green. And they got the key game-tying shot to force overtime from Klay Thompson (thanks to the hustle of Shaun Livingston getting an offensive board off a miss and kicking it out). The Warriors overcame a cold shooting night from Harrison Barnes (1-of-8 from three), too many sloppy turnovers, and the fact the Marreese Speights/Anderson Varejao platoon at center is not primetime ready. The Warriors survived and are now 68-7. They are going to get to 73 wins, you could see the determination in this game to get it done when they could have just rolled over. But they also looked like a team where the stars could use a little rest, and that is going to be hard for Steve Kerr to balance with the drive for 73.

2) Forget all the drama off-the-court for a minute, Julius Randle hits game winner to lift Lakers over Heat in OT. Lamar Odom was sitting courtside. D'Angelo Russell was a distraction apologizing to teammates and publicly before the game. Kobe Bryant only played one half before sitting out due to general soreness. But somehow the Lakers thrived in all that drama and beat the Miami Heat in overtime thanks to a Julius Randle shot over a couple defenders. For the Heat, this is a blow — they are in the middle of a tight battle for playoff seeding in the East and this is the kind of game they needed to win. Yet Miami couldn’t force turnovers to get easy buckets, and they let the Lakers get points at the line. Then, with the game in the balance, Luol Deng let Randle get back to his left hand (the cardinal mistake in defending Randle right now) and paid the price after Randle hit the shot to win it.

3) Toronto Raptors get to 50 wins for first time in franchise history. This is officially the best Toronto Raptors team ever — no Raptors team has ever gotten to 50 wins. Until Wednesday. The Raptors got 26 points from DeMar DeRozan, and defensively kept the Hawks starters in check, which was enough for a 105-97 win. The Raptors now have a magic number of three to clinch a top two seed.

Still, this team feels like the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals last season — “great regular season guys, congratulations, but until you show me you can do this in the playoffs it’s all just window dressing.” Hopefully for the Raptors this turns out better than it did for the Bengals.

4) Lamar Odom sat courtside for the Heat/Lakers game. Kobe Bryant left him a couple of tickets, and Lamar Odom accepted — he was at the Miami/Los Angeles contest at Staples Center Wednesday. It was good to see him back in an NBA setting where there is still a lot of love for the man who almost lost his life due to an overdose five months ago. He talked with Kobe and Dwyane Wade among others, plus got a huge ovation from the crowd when he was shown on the big screen. Hopefully Odom is handling his demons.



5) Wizards playoff dreams on life support after loss to Kings.
Washington is not playing like a team trying to make a desperate push into the playoffs — they were apathetic as a team Wednesday night in Sacramento. This was a game the Wizards needed, and they came out flat. Washington turned the ball over 20 times. They had no answer for DeMarcus Cousins (29 points, 10 boards). The Wizards are now 3.5 games back of the eight seed Indiana Pacers for the last playoff spot in the East with just seven games to play. Hard to see them making that ground up (which is going to lead to changes come this summer in Washington).

By the way, the Kings got to 30 wins on the season for the first time since the 2007-08 season. Which isn’t exactly something to brag much about, but it’s still a step in the right direction.

Lamar Odom attended Heat/Lakers game Wednesday night

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Kobe Bryant left him a pair of tickets, and he picked them up and used them.

When he was shown on the big screen at Staples Center Wednesday night, there was a huge ovation.

There is still a lot of love for Lamar Odom. That was evident from the fans and the players — Odom played for both the Lakers and the Heat during his career — as Kobe, Dwyane Wade and numerous other players went and spoke with him during breaks in the game, and when it was over.

This was the first time Odom attended an NBA game since the overdose in a Las Vegas brothel last October.

There are reports Odom is still battling his demons, but whatever else is going on with him he still has a lot of friends and a lot of love from the NBA family. They want to see him do well.

Spurs beat Pelicans, set NBA record with 38-0 start at home

San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan shoots over New Orleans Pelicans defenders Alexis Ajinca, of France, and Kendrick Perkins in the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 30, 2016 in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Bahram Mark Sobhani)
Associated Press
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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Manu Ginobili scored 20 points and the San Antonio Spurs beat the injury-depleted New Orleans Pelicans 100-92 on Wednesday night for their NBA-record 38th straight home victory to open a season.

San Antonio topped the 37-0 start by the Chicago Bulls during their record 72-victory season in 1995-96. Golden State (67-7) has an existing 36-game home winning streak to open the season, giving the Warriors a chance to end up with the record.

San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard had 16 points in his return from a three-game absence, showing no discomfort after bruising his right quadriceps on March 23. The 6-foot-7 forward hit three long jumpers to open the game, including his only 3-pointer in five attempts.

Alexis Ajinca had 18 points for New Orleans, which was without nine players due to injury. Jordan Hamilton added 14 points in his first start in his third game with the team.

Leonard also had a pair of assists to Danny Green in the first 6 minutes of the first quarter. The first came on a fast-break layup after Leonard corralled a turnover and the second came after he spun into the lane and tossed out a pass to Green for a 3-pointer.

Green finished with 16 points, going 4 for 6 on 3-pointers on a hot-shooting night behind the arc for San Antonio. The Spurs were 12 for 24 on 3s.

Data curated by PointAfter

New Orleans remained within seven points throughout the first half, but San Antonio wore down the short-handed Pelicans in the second half. The Spurs had 13 players log at least six minutes against the Pelicans’ nine-player bench.

San Antonio outscored New Orleans 27-16 in the third quarter, picking up assists on eight of its 12 field goals.

LaMarcus Aldridge dunked off a bounce pass in the lane from Boris Diaw to give the Spurs a 66-49 lead with 3:31 remaining in the third quarter. The large lead did not keep San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich from hastily calling a timeout a minute later when Hamilton’s fast-break layup cut the lead to 66-55.

Aldridge finished with 11 points.

TIP-INS

Pelicans: The Pelicans signed James Ennis to a 10-day contract on Wednesday after receiving a hardship exemption from the NBA. The 6-foot-7 forward was averaging 18.8 points and 6.0 rebounds for Iowa in the Development League. . New Orleans was without six of the 10 players who participated in its last game against San Antonio on March 3. Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon and Norris Cole, who accounted for 51 points in the Pelicans’ 94-86 loss, were among those missing Wednesday’s game. . New Orleans has used 36 different starting lineups this season.

Spurs: Popovich sat David West for rest, marking the first time all season the 35-year-old veteran has taken a scheduled night off. The 6-foot-9 forward was in uniform but did not play Jan. 12 at Detroit and March 28 at Memphis due to a coach’s decision. . Entering Wednesday’s game, Aldridge was averaging 23.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game through 13 games in March. . Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Ginobili played their 775th career game together. . San Antonio’s previous best after 75 games was 59-16 in 2013-14.

 

Lakers’ Julius Randle hits game-winner to beat Heat (VIDEO)

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Amid all the turmoil around the Lakers and one of their young stars — D'Angelo Russell and his self-created storm — the Lakers could use some good news.

Like another of their young stars, this time Julius Randle, hitting the game-winner in overtime to beat the Miami Heat.

Randle was isolated on the once-good defender Luol Deng and the Heat defender ignored rule No. 1 with Randle — force him to his right hand. Randle got in position then was able to spin back to the middle and to his left, where he could shoot over Deng and the help for a game-winner. Randle finished with 13 points on the night (Jordan Clarkson led the Lakers with 26).

That was a bad loss for the Heat, who are now tied with the Celtics and Hornets for the 4/5/6 seeds in the East.

 

Klay Thompson’s three forces overtime, where Warriors beat Jazz to move to 68-7

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Maybe casual fans looked past this game, but NBA fans know that facing a hot and defensive-minded Jazz team on the second night of a back-to-back may have been the toughest game the Warriors have the rest of the season.

It was.

It took a second-chance three from Klay Thompson — set up by a hustling rebound from Shaun Livingston — to force overtime. Once there the Warriors did what the Warriors do and outscored the Jazz comfortably for a 103-96 win.

Make that a come-from-behind win — one that showed how much this Warriors team wants that record 73-wins and to unseat the Jordan Bulls from the best record ever. Starting with if they weren’t chasing the record Steve Kerr would have rested Stephen Curry in this one. The Warriors had a lot of chances to just shrug this game off, but they didn’t — you can see the desire for the record.

This was a motivated Jazz team playing to their strengths — finally, Rudy Gobert in clutch minutes — and getting strong nights from Gordon Hayward and Rodney Hood (but they really missed Derrick Favors down the stretch (right knee soreness kept him out of the second half). The Jazz looked every bit the up-and-coming team they are, and they took advantage of what Golden State gave them, turning the Warriors sloppy turnovers into easy buckets before the defense got set (when the Warriors set their defense it was strong most of the night).

But the Warriors just win these kinds of games.

There was fantastic defense from Draymond Green down the stretch (including blocking Shelvin Mack‘s attempt at a game winner in regulation), some ridiculous Stephen Curry threes on his way to 31 points, and Thompson’s game-tying shot. More than just the talent, what the Warriors do down the stretch is execute — even on a night Curry looked tired, Harrison Barnes couldn’t buy a three (1-of-8) and the Marreese Speights/Anderson Varejao platoon at center reminded everyone that the Warriors can’t lean on that duo much when the playoffs start. Those two missed shots on offense, but more importantly were torched in pick-and-roll coverage all night (Utah had a lot of success with a basic “horns” pick-and-roll set). The Warriors miss Andre Iguodala and Festus Ezeli a lot, it’s games like this where it really shows.

Still, the Warriors get the win as the Jazz learn lessons of execution. The hardest lesson may go to Joe Ingles — he ran out to challenge the first of Thompson’s game-tying three attempts, but then he ran right past him as if he would get a baseball outlet pass for an easy bucket. But if you’re up three the only thing that can beat you there is an offensive rebound three, and Thompson got a clean look while Ingles was nowhere near him.

The victory has the Warriors at 68-7, they need to go 5-2 the rest of the way to beat the Bulls record. That’s going to happen. The Warriors do play the Spurs a couple more times but expect Gregg Popovich to rest virtually everyone on that team you can name in one if not both of those games — and he’s not going to show his hand on any matchups or strategies he loves. Nor will Steve Kerr.

But before the Warriors get to a conference finals showdown with the Spurs they will need to get through two rounds of the playoffs. That could mean facing Utah, who as of now are tied with Houston for the 7/8 seeds in the West. After going against the size and defense that Utah brings, the Warriors would be happy not to see them in the first round.