Kurt Helin

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 21:  Jeremy Lin #7 of the Charlotte Hornets reacts after making a basket against the San Antonio Spurs during their game at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 21, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Five Takeaways from NBA Monday: Linsanity returns for night in Hornets upset of Spurs

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What you missed on Monday around the NBA because you were busy getting in a fight with the Easter Bunny at the mall….

1) Linsanity returns for a night, Hornets come from 23 down to upset Spurs. When the Spurs are playing lock down defense — the Hornets scored just seven points in the first quarter — and get up by 23 in the second quarter, most teams just roll over. But credit Steve Clifford and his feisty Hornets, they didn’t. They picked away and picked away at the lead, until fairly early in the fourth quarter it was tied again.

Which is when Jeremy Lin took over. Lin had 15 of his 29 in the fourth to spark the 91-88 Hornets win. Lin had a good first half (Kemba Walker struggled with six points for the game as the Spurs focused on him) and turned it up late hitting all his threes for the game (4-of-4) but also attacking and shooting 5-of-7 inside eight feet. Lin was draining the big shots in the fourth and carried the Hornets to a win they need as the battle for playoff positioning (they are currently the six seed).

2) Draymond Green lifts Warriors past Timberwolves while Stephen Curry looks like he could use a night off. When Stephen Curry has an off night against the Spurs, you tip your hat to he best defense in the league and figure it was just one of those games. When Curry has an off night against the Minnesota Timberwolves (6-of-17 shooting, and five turnovers in the third quarter), well, with all due respect to Ricky Rubio (one of the better defensive point guards in the game), you think the man might need a little rest.

Fortunately for Warriors fans, they had Draymond Green. The Warriors looked like a team on the last night of a road trip (they were) but Green was the spark they needed. The All-Star forward for the Warriors has seemed frustrated with what the Spurs (and other teams) have done defensively lately, switching the Curry/Green pick-and-roll and daring Green to beat them against a smaller guard. Monday night he did. He took on more of the scoring, he punished smaller defenders then passed out when the defense collapsed on him. Green finished the night with 24 points, and the Warriors avoid back-to-back losses to remain on track to beat the Chicago Bulls record of 72 wins (they need to go 10-2 the rest of the way to make that happen).

3) Andre Drummond tip-in gives Pistons needed win. Detroit is in a playoff chase, currently tied with Chicago for the last slot in the East (and with a hot Wizards team right behind them). The Pistons need all the wins and all the big plays they can get. Enter Andre Drummond, who muscled the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo out of the way to tip in a Kentavious Caldwell-Pope miss and give the Pistons the victory Tuesday.

4) LeBron James throws up triple-double, Cavs win division, but somehow his Twitter feed is the big story. Somehow the big story around the Cavaliers Tuesday was that LeBron James stopped following the Cavaliers on Twitter. Sources told the Cleveland Plain Dealer this was just part of LeBron’s process of tuning out social media as he heads into the playoffs (he unfollowed some Cavs reporters as well). However, some fans seem to want to read into this about LeBron leaving Cleveland again this summer as a free agent. Unless LeBron wants to take his brand and throw it in the incinerator — and LeBron is very, very concerned about his brand and image — he’s not leaving Cleveland this summer. Or likely ever. Unless you think he wants to destroy his Nike sales. LeBron knows he can’t sell the world on going home again then rip the hearts out of Cavs fans again, especially when the organization has done nearly everything he asked and geared up to win now (whether smart or not).

Let’s get back on the court, where LeBron dropped a triple double — 33 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists — and the Cavaliers cruised past Denver 124-91. A division win is not the goal in Cleveland, but it’s a start.

5) Lakers’ Jordan Clarkson, Nick Young under investigation for sexual harassment. There are two parts to developing young players, the on-the-court stuff (improving their skills, getting them experience, teaching them the nuances of the game) and how to handle yourself off the court. How to be professional. As Jahlil Okafor showed the Sixers heading into this season, the second part of that can be harder than the first.

The Lakers’ prized young player Jordan Clarkson, and veteran Nick Young have been accused of sexual harassment for an incident in Hollywood Sunday. A woman and activist on woman’s issues accused the two men (and two others in their Jeep) of saying vulgar and lewd things to her 68-year-old mother, and the woman posted pictures of the men on Instagram from the alleged incident. The Lakers have reached out to her (she said they apologized) and have said they are taking he matter very seriously and are investigating.

Young denied the charge in a tweet which was quickly taken down. I would expect some punishments to follow.

Nelly photobombs Jeremy Lin’s postgame interview

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 21:  Jeremy Lin #7 of the Charlotte Hornets reacts after making a basket against the San Antonio Spurs during their game at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 21, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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I guess Nelly can die a happy man after seeing that comeback.

Charlotte came from 23 back against the Spurs to get the upset win, in large part due to the hot shooting of Jeremy Lin, who had 15 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter sparking the comeback.

That means Lin got to do the postgame interview, but after teammates had dumped water on Lin’s head Nelly jumped in to do this.

Nelly is a minority owner of the Hornets.

You know you’re big time when Nelly photobombs you.

John Wall leads Wizards to 5th straight win, 117-102 over Hawks

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ATLANTA — Jawing incessantly and playing with plenty of bravado, the Washington Wizards hardly look like a .500 team.

John Wall is certainly doing his part to lift them to the playoffs.

Wall scored 27 points and dished out 14 assists, while Bradley Beal chipped in with 25 points to lead another dazzling offensive display for the surging Wizards, who cooled off the Atlanta Hawks with a 117-102 victory Monday night.

Washington won its season-high fifth in a row, getting back to .500 and staying in the hunt for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, while snapping Atlanta’s five-game winning streak.

“This probably is the best stretch we’ve ever played, to be honest,” Wall said.

He’ll get no argument from the Hawks. Wall posted his 43rd double-double of the season, darting through an Atlanta defense that had little chance of stopping him inside or out.

He finished 3-of-5 from 3-point range and set up plenty of open jumpers for his teammates, including Beal, who missed only once in six attempts beyond the arc.

Overall, the Wizards shot nearly 51 percent from the field, knocked down 13-of-25 from 3-point range and got double-figure scoring from every starter. Otto Porter had 16 points and 10 rebounds.

“I kind of got into a rhythm and we got some defensive stops,” said Wall, who is averaging 22.2 points and 12.4 assists over the past five games. “We didn’t turn the ball over a lot.”

Indeed, the Wizards had just nine turnovers – a far cry from the season-high 25 they committed in their first meeting against the Hawks back in November, a 114-99 loss.

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The Hawks had won eight of their past nine games, pushing to 12 games above .500 for the first time and finally showing the form that carried them to the best record in the Eastern Conference a year ago.

But this was a step back for a team that has struggled to find the consistency it showed last season.

“It wasn’t one of our better nights,” coach Mike Budenholzer said. “I’m sure they had a lot to do with that.”

Jeff Teague led the Hawks with 23 points. Atlanta kept up with the Wizards over the first three quarters, only to struggle offensively in the final period. Atlanta made just 7 of 16 shots, missed all five of its attempts beyond the arc, and turned it over five times.

“They were very aggressive,” Hawks center Al Horford said. “They were all over us, a lot of pressure.”

Washington remained 1 1/2 games out of the final playoff spot in the East after Chicago and Milwaukee both won. Still, the Wizards are feeling a lot better about their chances.

“We know our backs are against the wall with what we’re trying to accomplish,” Wall said. “We’ve just got to keep grinding and competing.”

DOWN GOES SCHRODER

Atlanta guard Dennis Schroder had a scare in the final period when he went down hard attempting to drive to the basket, tweaking his left ankle.

As Schroder rubbed his ankle and two teammates reached down to help him up, the Wizards quickly inbounded the ball and forced Atlanta to foul at the other end to get a stoppage.

The Atlanta bench leaped up in unison to complain, while Schroder finally was able to hobble to the bench. He was not believed to be seriously hurt.

“By the letter of the law, the letter of the rule, the referee doesn’t have to stop play when a player is injured,” Budenholzer said. “But it just doesn’t seem like it’s in the spirit of the sport, to make people keep playing when a guy is down.”

TIP INS

Wizards: Averaging 110.6 points a game during its winning streak. … Washington had three other four-game winning streaks this season. … Marcin Gortat added 15 points and Markieff Morris 14. … Outrebounded the Hawks 44-33.

Hawks: Failed to match its second-longest winning streak of the season. … After two straight games with more than 20 points, Tim Hardaway Jr. had another good night – 16 points and 4-of-5 shooting beyond the arc. … Kyle Korver, on the other hand, took only two shots and finished with three points. “We’ve got a find a way to get Kyle cleaner, more free,” Budenholzer said. … The setback snapped a streak of six straight wins at Philips Arena. … Paul Millsap‘s run of three straight double-doubles ended with 13 points and only two rebounds.

 

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/paul-newberry .

LeBron James’ triple-double leads Cavaliers to division title

From left to right, Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James passes around Denver Nuggets' JaKarr Sampson and Jusuf Nurkic, from Bosnia, in the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, March 21, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
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CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James scored 33 points and recorded his 41st career triple-double as the Cleveland Cavaliers clinched their second straight Central Division title with a 124-91 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Monday night.

James added 11 rebounds and 11 assists before checking out with 6:02 left to a thunderous ovation. He scored 17 in the first quarter, helping the Cavs build a 19-point lead and erase the memory of an embarrassing loss on Saturday in Miami.

The Nuggets fought back and briefly led before the Cavs regrouped, scored 68 after halftime and easily notched their 50th win.

J.R. Smith added 15 points and Channing Frye 14 for Cleveland, which played without starter Kevin Love (illness).

Will Barton scored 27 for the Nuggets, who concluded a 1-4 road trip. Denver’s Kenneth Faried missed his third straight game with a sore lower back.

The Cavs were playing for the first time since being battered by the Heat, who led by 33 in the fourth and won by 21. It was a humiliating night for James, who sat out the final 12 minutes against his former team, and the loss raised more questions about Cleveland’s chemistry and chances of returning to the NBA Finals.

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James got the Cavs back on track and to 50 wins, a milestone coach Tyronn Lue said shouldn’t be taken for granted.

“It’s something we embrace,” he said. “It’s not every year that you can do that, unless you’re the San Antonio Spurs and teams like that. It just shows the hard work the guys have put in to get to this point. All is not bad.”

Cleveland has more work to do but this is a start.

James was aggressive from the outset and finished the first quarter with 17 points, five rebounds and three assists. The Cavs had their highest-scoring opening quarter of the season and it appeared they would be able to rest some starters in the second half.

But with Barton leading the way, the Nuggets went on a 17-0 run and took a 43-41 lead in the second quarter while James was on the bench.

James returned and with Lue using a lineup that featured the four-time league MVP, Frye, Smith, Timofey Mozgov and Matthew Dellavedova, the Cavs reeled off nine consecutive points and led 56-48 at halftime.

Cleveland’s starters blitzed Denver to start the third and the Cavs pushed their lead to 30 before James left.

After James picked up his 11th assist for his second triple-double this season, Lue sent in a substitute and Cleveland’s bench and crowd applauded as he left the floor.

TIP-INS

Nuggets: F JaKarr Sampson strained his left shoulder in the first half and didn’t return. He attended James’ high school, Akron’s St. Vincent-St. Mary, for three years. … Coach Mike Malone spent five seasons as an assistant with the Cavaliers. He said Cleveland’s run to the 2007 finals, which included James’ epic performance in Game 5 of the conference semifinals at Detroit – he scored 28 of the Cavs’ final 30 points – is his fondest memory. “One of the best performances by a player in postseason history,” Malone said.

Cavaliers: Cleveland has won at least 50 games nine times. … James has scored 20 points or more in 16 straight games against Denver. … G Mo Williams has been cleared to practice after missing nearly a month with an injured left knee. Williams, who has not played since Feb. 24, has been bothered by soreness in his knee for most of the season. He took part in Monday’s shootaround and could play in games later this week. … The Cavs also won division titles in 1975-76, 2008-09, 2009-10, 2014-15.

 

Jeremy Lin, Hornets erase 23-point deficit, beat Spurs 91-88

Charlotte Hornets' Jeremy Lin celebrates after an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, March 21, 2016. The Hornets won 91-88. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Jeremy Lin scored 15 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter, and the Charlotte Hornets overcame a 23-point deficit to snap the San Antonio Spurs’ six-game winning streak with a 91-88 victory Monday night.

Lin was 11 of 18 from the field and hit all four 3-point attempts, including three in the fourth quarter.

Courtney Lee had 17 points, Nicolas Batum added 15, and Cody Zeller grabbed 14 rebounds for the Hornets, who bounced back from a disappointing loss to the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night.

Tony Parker had 19 points for the Spurs, while LaMarcus Aldridge added 18 points and 12 rebounds. Tim Duncan had 16 points and 10 rebounds.

The Spurs had two chances to tie it at the end of regulation, but Patty Mills and Danny Green both missed 3-point attempts. Lee sealed the game with a steal off an inbounds pass as time expired.

The Hornets snapped an 11-game losing streak to the Spurs and denied Duncan and company their 60th win of the season.

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It looked early on like the Spurs would rout the Hornets.

San Antonio led by 28-7 after the first quarter, holding the Hornets to 3-of-21 shooting from the field – including a pair of airballs – while forcing five turnovers. Parker outscored the Hornets all by himself in the opening quarter with 12 points.

But Charlotte would battle back, steadily chipping away until finally taking the lead with 9:09 left in the game behind a pair of 3-pointers from Lin.

It was back and forth from there.

Lin then provided the shot of the night, hitting a fallaway jumper from 16 feet on the right wing with 48 seconds left to give the Hornets the lead for good at 89-88. Lin grabbed a rebound on the other end of the floor and was fouled. He converted a pair of free throws with 18 seconds left for the final margin.

Lin was 5 of 7 from the field in the third quarter, including 3 of 3 from beyond the arc.

Lee, acquired in a midseason trade with Memphis, provided the big spark for the Hornets with 13 points in the third quarter. His 17 points were his most since joining Charlotte.

TIP-INS

Spurs: Held Hornets to a season-low seven points in first quarter. … Duncan passed Gary Payton in career minutes played (47,117).

Hornets: Charlotte held a 21-4 edge on fast-break points. … For the second straight game, the Hornets failed to reach 40 points in the first half, entering the locker room down 51-36.