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Associated Press

What’s left of Spurs beats what’s left of Warriors; real question is how does league avoid games like this in future?

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This is what the Spurs do — men go down with injuries, next man steps up. Kawhi Leonard (concussion), LaMarcus Aldridge (heart condition), Tony Parker (back) were all out, so Patty Mills stepped up with 21 points and an impressive performance (he should get some Sixth Man of the Year votes, but that’s another topic).

That was better than the second team of the Warriors, who rested Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala, all that on top of Kevin Durant still being out injured. The team that was out there was a defensive disaster, especially rotating out and contesting at the arc.

The Spurs won 107-85 in a game that wasn’t interesting to start and became a blowout. TNT’s David Aldridge summed up how we all feel.

This is not a good look for the NBA — a marquee Saturday night, showcase game between two of the best teams in the NBA and the stars are all sitting. This instance was not on Gregg Popovich — his guys were injured — but in the past he has had no qualms about resting superstars on nationally televised games.

Blame for this — if you think blame needs to dished out — has to start with the NBA and its scheduling. In the quest to get the ratings-driver Warriors on more national games, the Warriors finished a gauntlet of eight games in eight cities in 13 days Saturday night. That included two cross-country flights. If the NBA wants playoff-quality games scheduled in prime time on Saturday night, then they need to think through the run-up to said games. Treat it like a playoff game, where the teams have at least a day and maybe three off in advance of it.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr said that the Warriors medical teams — which tracks players with wearables in practice monitoring their condition — told them guys needed rest. He was following their instructions, and it’s clear rest has been an issue. The Warriors are slumping, struggling without Durant, Curry and Thompson have been cold from three, but part of that is their legs look heavy. This team looked tired. Kerr did what he thought was best for his team.

The NBA loves analytics, and the numbers show rested players both play at a higher level and are less likely to be injured. Coaches that can afford to do so are going to rest guys to keep them fresh. This isn’t on the player (usually), these are directives that comes from the coach or higher up the food chain.

But at what point does this start to turn the fanbase off? At what point dues it hurt ticket sales in arena or ratings on television because fans never know who might be rested on a given day. In a star-driven league like the NBA, sitting a healthy Curry — or LeBron James or James Harden or whomever — disappoint a fan base. And it almost always is done on the road, not at home to the home fans (and sponsors).

The answers here are not simple. The NBA, the players union, representatives from the teams all need to sit in a room and discuss this.

Is the answer to fine coaches who do this for nationally televised games? David Stern did this before? Television money is driving the league economy right now, and you can be sure ABC didn’t love getting to run the Davis Bertans vs. Ian Clark show Saturday night in primetime. The problem here is Kerr would have just rested his players the night before in Detroit, hurting those fans but not the television audience. Also, this system is unfair to the Warriors, Cavaliers, and other teams on the biggest national stages with their games — those teams are nationally televised all the times, where the Bucks or Grizzlies or a host of other teams would barely be touched by this.

But it’s not good for the league that we are talking about who didn’t play, and not the game. And this has been the topic for days, all around the league and on sports talk radio. It’s something the league needs to address this summer.

And while I’d love to see a more holistic answer, maybe fines are the best call.

Chris Paul powers Clippers to 112-100 victory over 76ers

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Once Chris Paul stepped up his play for the Los Angeles Clippers, it was all over for the pesky Philadelphia 76ers.

Paul scored 20 of his 30 points in the second half, leading Los Angeles to a 112-100 victory Saturday.

“We were just trying to figure things out, because all game long we couldn’t get much separation from them. They’re a gritty team,” Paul said. “It’s going to be like that some nights, and luckily we started to get some stops and made some big shots down the stretch to get separation.”

DeAndre Jordan had 19 points and 20 rebounds, helping the Clippers (40-26) to their fourth win in five games. Paul also had seven assists, and Blake Griffin added 15 points and 10 rebounds.

“If you show up and expect to beat them like you did three years ago, you are going to get beat,” Griffin said.

The Clippers trailed 79-75 after three quarters but opened the final period with a 10-0 run. Los Angeles has beaten Philadelphia in 10 of their last 11 meetings.

“We were able to get stops when we needed to and then we executed offensively,” Jordan said. “It was energy and effort down the stretch and throughout the game that got us back in it and spread the lead out for us.”

Richaun Holmes led Philadelphia with 24 points and nine rebounds. Dario Saric added 16 points, and Jahlil Okafor had 14.

The Sixers (23-42) have lost four in a row and seven of eight overall. They haven’t beaten the Clippers in Los Angeles since March 2011.

“CP showed his veteran leadership and pretty much took over the game,” said T.J. McConnell, who had nine points and 10 assists for Philadelphia. “We’re playing hard but we couldn’t get stops.”

Both teams had 41 rebounds, and Los Angeles improved to 31-8 this season when it equals or outrebounds its opponent.

The Sixers, who shot 47.6 percent from the field, fell to 8-23 on the road this season.

“We competed, I thought at a high standard,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “We were ahead at halftime. We were ahead going into the fourth period. We stuck with a nine-man rotation and I thought our guys fought to the end. We came up short these last two games but we’re competing and that’s what we have to do the rest of the season.”

With the win and Utah’s loss to Oklahoma City on Saturday, Los Angeles trails the Jazz by one game for the fourth playoff spot. The teams play Monday night at Utah.

TIP-INS

Sixers: In 13 games dating to Feb. 8, Saric is averaging 19.6 points, 8.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists and shooting 48.6 percent. Only Giannis Antetokounmpo, DeMarcus Cousins, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook have registered similar numbers during that span. … Robert Covington had 13 points.

Clippers: After starting the season 14-2, the Clippers are 26-24. They are just 5-5 since the All-Star break.

ROOKIE SENSATION

Saric has nine 20-point games to his credit this season, second among NBA rookies, trailing only his teammate Joel Embiid. Entering Saturday’s game, Saric led all rookies with 403 rebounds.

“He’s had an excellent year,” Brown said.

CAMEROON CONNECTION

Embiid and Clippers forward Luc Mbah a Moute are two of three active NBA players from Cameroon. Countryman Pascal Siakam plays for Toronto.

EMBIID UPDATE

Embiid met with doctors in Los Angeles on Friday to discuss options on repairing his torn meniscus in his left knee.

 

Russell Westbrook has 32nd triple-double this season, Thunder beat Jazz

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Russell Westbrook had 33 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds for his 32nd triple-double of the season, leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 112-104 victory over the Utah Jazz on Saturday.

Westbrook broke a tie with Wilt Chamberlain (1967-68) for the second-most triple-doubles in a season. Oscar Robertson set the record of 41 in 1961-62.

Victor Oladipo added 22 points to help the Thunder win for the third time in four regular-season meetings with the Jazz.

Utah was without center Rudy Gobert and forward Derrick Favors because of leg soreness, and Gordon Hayward played only 21 minutes, finishing with nine points – 13 below his average.

The Thunder opened the second half with a 14-5 run to take a 23-point lead. Westbrook had four assists during the spurt.

New Laker GM says he has talked to Kobe about role in organization

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By all accounts, Kobe Bryant is doing well chasing new goals outside of basketball since his retirement last year. He was as well prepared a player as you will see to move on to the next phase of his life, despite how competitive he was on the court.

However, the Lakers still want him in the fold — especially with his former agent Rob Pelinka just installed as general manager of the team. Pelinka had a love letter to Kobe as part of his introductory press conference Friday.

The obvious question here is, did Pelinka reach out to Kobe about some role in the organization?

Kobe was at the presser, as one would expect.

Kobe’s role is not likely to be a minor one, maybe even mostly symbolic, but with his former agent as the GM he will have some part of the “Make the Lakers great again” effort in the front office.

With the Lakers’ long and storied history, as with a lot of teams, keeping that connection to the past matters. A lot. The new management seems to get that.

Victor Oladipo weaves through Utah defense, throws down powerful dunk (VIDEO)

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The Utah Jazz have the third best defense in the NBA this season, led by the likely Defensive Player of the Year in Rudy Gobert.

Oklahoma City’s Victor Oladipo carved up that defense and threw it down in the first half of their Saturday matinee game.

The Thunder did a good job putting up points on the Jazz in this game.