Kurt Helin

Brad Stevens
Associated Press

Is Boston the team to knock off Golden State?


As the Golden State Warriors continue to pile up wins, they’re beginning to lose healthy bodies.

It’s uncertain whether Klay Thompson will play as the unbeaten Warriors attempt to reach another milestone Friday night against the Boston Celtics.

Golden State (23-0) matched the 2012-13 Miami Heat for the second-longest streak in NBA history with a 27th consecutive regular-season victory on Tuesday. Its 131-123 win at Indiana may have come with a cost, however, after Thompson rolled his right ankle in the latter stages.

The injury isn’t believed to be serious, but the Warriors could still hold Thompson out with the team playing consecutive nights. Golden State concludes a seven-game trip Saturday in Milwaukee.

Golden State has already withstood Harrison Barnes‘ six-game absence due to an ankle injury that will sideline him at least another week.

“One of the great things about this team is our guys are confident all the way down the line,” interim coach Luke Walton said. “We’ve seen that consistently with Brandon (Rush) and Ian (Clark) filling in for Harrison.”

Thompson would be tougher to replace, however, especially with the 2015 All-Star coming off a season-high 39 points on Tuesday. He’s shot 51.9 percent on 3-pointers, highlighted by a 10-for-16 effort against the Pacers, while averaging 25.4 points over his last five games.

“It was one of those nights where I got a lot of great looks,” Thompson said. “Going in I felt great. ‘I felt like I was due for a game like that.”

Backup guard Leandro Barbosa also is questionable with an illness that kept him out against Indiana, potentially leaving the Warriors further short-handed against a Celtics team that’s won four of five and may be able to match the defending NBA champs’ offensive prowess.

Boston (13-9) has averaged 108.0 points during the five-game surge and had eight players finish in double figures in Wednesday’s 105-100 win over Chicago. Among them was former Warrior David Lee, who tallied 12 points and six rebounds in 18 minutes after missing the previous two games with a bruised right heel.

Lee, traded by Golden State to the Celtics in July to clear salary cap space, averaged 16.7 points and 9.3 rebounds in five seasons with the Warriors.

Isaiah Thomas scored all 20 of his points in the second half in Boston’s fourth straight home win. The explosive point guard is one of four Celtics, along with Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder and Kelly Olynyk, averaging at least 14.8 points and shooting over 43 percent from 3-point range over the past four.

“Just knowing any given night you don’t know who’s going to be that guy, that’s the strength of this team,” Thomas said. “You can’t just focus in on one guy because we’ve got so many other guys who can put the ball in the basket and make plays.”

That depth has the Celtics believing they can match up with Golden State, which can extend the best road start in NBA history with a 14th consecutive win.

“They’re in the same league as us,” said center Jared Sullinger, who’s grabbed 36 rebounds during Boston’s two-game win streak. “They get paid on the first and 15th just like us.”

Golden State has won four straight in the series, with Thompson finishing with 31 points in a 114-111 home victory Jan. 25 and Stephen Curry scoring 37 in a 106-101 win at Boston on March 1.

Sixers agree to two-year extension with coach Brett Brown

Brett Brown

Even the harshest critics of Philadelphia’s extended dance mix version of “being bad to get good” will admit this: The team played hard for Brett Brown. The  1-22 record is the result of a lot of factors, but the coaching is not one of them. In addition to having them play hard and decent defense last season, he’s had to be the guy on the front lines answering media criticism of the plan (talking to the media is not Sam Hinkie’s thing).

Whatever path is next under Jerry Colangelo’s guidance, Brown will be the coach. As had been expected, Brown and the Sixers have reached terms on a contract extension, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo Sports and confirmed by CSNPhilly.com’s John Finger then ultimately the Sixers themselves.

From Woj:

Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown has agreed to a two-year contract extension that runs through the end of the 2018-19 season, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

The extension is expected to be announced at a news conference Friday before the Sixers-Detroit Pistons game in Philadelphia.

“Brett has been everything we anticipated – and more – both as a basketball coach and a partner in building this program,” Sixers GM Sam Hinkie said in a released statement. “His tireless work ethic, his daily desire to consistently improve, and his resiliency line up with our core values as an organization. It was not difficult to come to the decision to formally say we want to work with Brett Brown even longer.

Brett Brown is going to have more talent to work with in the next few years. First, the Sixers likely will have three, maybe four (depending on where the Lakers’ pick lands) first round picks next season. Whether they draft rookies with those picks or package them for more established young players, there will be talent coming. There is also Dario Saric who will come over from Europe in the next couple years (he keeps saying next summer, we’ll see) and maybe Joel Embiid can get on the court. With Colangelo, you can expect a couple more reliable veteran players to be added, plus the Sixers may start spending their cap space to poach young restricted free agents with potential from other teams (so what if you overpay a little, you need to spend the money anyway).

All of that is to say, just getting the guys to play hard will not be enough soon. But so far, that’s all you could ask of Brown.

DeMarcus Cousins dunk crushes Robin Lopez, Knicks


If you give DeMarcus Cousins space, he will destroy you.

The Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis didn’t want to come out to the arc to guard Cousins, so when the pass swung to him he had a runway to get up some steam. Porzingis made a half-hearted reach for the ball, but it was Robin Lopez who took the brunt of the Cousins attack. It was a huge dunk.

The Kings led comfortably most of the way then held on at the end to beat the Knicks 99-97.

Five Takeaways from NBA Thursday: Durant, Westbrook look fearsome

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - OCTOBER 18:  Kevin Durant #35 and Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder talk during the first quarter of a NBA preseason game against at the Chesapeake Energy Arena on October 18, 2015 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 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 J Pat Carter/Getty Images)
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There are so many good options on television these days. Personally, I’m just finishing up season three of House of Cards, am just a couple of episodes behind on The Knick (my current new favorite), Fargo is brilliant, and I’m a Top Chef addict. I fall behind on all of that because League Pass dominates my television this time of year, I even watched some of Nets/Sixers, so you don’t have to (and I’m not going to subject you to a recap). If you chose other shows, here’s what you missed on an NBA Thursday.

1) Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook should be striking fear into the heart of the league. There are still a lot of things Billy Donovan and the Oklahoma City Thunder are trying to work out — from the spacing Andre Roberson is on the court to the inconsistent bench play of Dion Waiters, Enes Kanter, Anthony Morrow and others — but they have the ultimate trump cards: Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. When those two are on the court together the Thunder outscore their opponents by 17.6 points per 100 possessions.

The Thunder played that trump card beautifully in beating the Hawks Thursday. Durant came out facilitating — he had five assists and took just one shot in the first quarter. The ball was moving for the Thunder — the team had 24 assists and Westbrook and Durant had 20 of them (10 each). Durant had his first triple-double of the season (25 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists), and Westbrook had 23 points and 10 assists. What was impressive was they got those numbers in the flow of the offense, being efficient and getting everyone involved. If that keeps happening those other questions become almost moot.

2) Chicago keeps winning in spite of their offense. The Chicago Bulls beat the Los Angeles Clippers 83-80 — it was all because of their defense. The Bulls had an offensive rating of 90.2, which pulled their season average down to 97.1 — only the Philadelphia 76ers are worse this season. Pau Gasol was his usual efficient self (24 points on 19 shots) but Jimmy Butler was 4-of-14, Joakim Noah 1-of-5, Nikola Mirotic‘s slump continued he was 2-of-8, Doug McDermott was 0-of-5. It wasn’t all the Clipper defense: Chicago shot 33 percent on uncontested looks, according to NBA.com. The Bulls are 12-8, but their point differential is that of a team barely over .500. The Bulls need Derrick Rose to pick his spots, they need to find offensive rotations that work, and they need to start knocking down their looks, or they will slide fast in an improved Eastern Conference. 

3) Rajon Rondo is back. The Rondo playing for the Sacramento Kings — the one that helped lead them to a 99-97 win over the Knicks — is the best Rondo we have seen since his days in Boston. He’s healthy, he still knows how to dish the rock, averaging 11 assists per game. But I wasn’t sure he still had this in him.

4) All-Star voting open. In case you missed it, voting is open for the 2016 All-Star Game in Toronto come February, so of you want to cast your ballot for Nick Young or Elfrid Payton you can do it. 

There are roughly 8 million ways to vote: at NBA.com; through the NBA app on your phone; Twitter (use the hashtag #NBAVOTE); Facebook; Instagram; or you can text the player’s last name to 6-9-6-2-2 (“MYNBA”) on any wireless device. You also aren’t limited to one vote a day.

5) DeMarcus Cousins throws it down. Rajon Rondo wasn’t the only King player dunking on the Knicks Thursday.

Gasol scores 24, Bulls beat Clippers 83-80 to stop skid

Pau Gasol, DeAndre Jordan
Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) — This time, the Chicago Bulls dug in.

They let a big lead slip away in the second half, but made just enough plays down the stretch to win a game they needed in a big way.

Pau Gasol scored 24 points and the Bulls beat the Los Angeles Clippers 83-80 on Thursday night to snap a three-game losing streak.

“We have an opportunity here to do something special,” Gasol said. “I would hate if we would throw it away ourselves.”

The Bulls caught a big break midway through the third quarter when Clippers All-Star Blake Griffin was ejected for a hard foul against Taj Gibson, and they came away with the win after blowing a 16-point lead.

Derrick Rose banked in a floater with 45 seconds left to make it 83-77 before Los Angeles’ Wesley Johnson buried a 3-pointer. The Clippers then rebounded a miss by Chicago’s Jimmy Butler with 6 seconds left, but Chris Paul‘s tying 3-point attempt hit the rim just before the buzzer.

Gasol hit a career-high three 3-pointers.

Rose came on strong down the stretch, scoring nine of his 11 points in the fourth quarter. He also played the second half without the protective mask he has been wearing after fracturing his left orbital on the first day of practice.

Butler, coming off a career-high 36 points against Boston the previous night, scored 14 and had a season-high eight assists. Gibson finished with 12 points and eight rebounds.

Griffin had 18 points and 11 rebounds for Los Angeles. Paul scored 12, while DeAndre Jordan added 10 points and 14 rebounds. The Clippers hit eight 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and were 10 of 22 for the game, but they came up short after winning three straight and six of seven.

The Bulls were leading by 14 when Griffin knocked Gibson to the floor with a blow to the face as he head-faked and went up for a shot inside with 5:59 left in the third.

Griffin helped Gibson to his feet. But after a review, the officials called a flagrant foul 2, meaning an automatic ejection for Griffin.

“I wasn’t trying to hit him in the face,” Griffin said. “There was no intent to hurt, or intent to even really hit him. I was going to try to hit the ball and he pump faked me.”

Gibson, who called Griffin a “great guy” and said it’s “no big thing,” made both foul shots to make it a 16-point game. But the Clippers came roaring back. The lead was down to 10 going into the fourth, and the Clippers tied it at 66-all on Josh Smith‘s 3-pointer with 7:19 remaining.

But the Bulls, outscored a combined 102-70 in the final quarter the previous three games, made the big plays Thursday.

Butler hit a jumper and took a charge from Lance Stephenson. Gibson threw down a thunderous put-back dunk off a missed 3 by Aaron Brooks and Rose nailed a 3 from the top to make it 73-66 with 5:15 left.

“I want to play like this every night,” Rose said. “We have to play with this consistency. We have to play with this urge and energy every night.”