Kurt Helin

Nik Stauskas wants to dunk and Bismack Biyombo can’t stop him (VIDEO)

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Playing in front of family and friends in his native Canada, Nik Stauskas had a good night with 13 points and three assists.

And four dunks.

This was the best of the bunch, throwing it down on Bismack Biyombo. His friends liked that one.

The Raptors still won the game handily, 122-98, but it was a good night for one Canadian.

Five Things to Watch on Wednesday: Warriors, Kobe, playoff races on busy last day of season

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Five days a week through the course of the NBA season, we have brought you five takeaways from the night before — letting you know what you missed and needed to know. But we are not people who spend our lives looking in the rear view mirror; we are optimists looking forward. Or at least we tell ourselves that. So from now through the end of the playoffs, we will preview the day and tell you what to look for that night around the league. Enjoy, fellow optimists.

1) Golden State goes for history and 73rd win. Golden State is going to beat Memphis Wednesday night to set a new NBA record for wins in a season, besting Jordan’s 1996 Bulls. The Warriors are going to do it as a big middle finger to anyone who thought their title last year was a fluke, who said they didn’t have to face the Spurs or Clippers last playoffs, who said they were lucky because every team they played was injured, and to Doc Rivers (even if he tried to walk his comments back). And they are going to do it for legacy, because that is where this team’s mindset is — they want to establish themselves with the All-Time greats.

Make no mistake, the Warriors will win. I am fully aware Memphis gave them a scare just two games ago in Memphis, but that is not happening in Oracle against a focused Golden State team a step away from history. Memphis still tries to grit and grind with Zach Randolph in the middle, but at this point they are basically pulling a guy out of the third row to play guard (due to injuries), and that’s not going to get it done on this night. Not against these Warriors and their quest for basketball immortality.

2) Kobe Bryant’s farewell to the NBA. The NBA without Kobe Bryant is going to seem strange next season. But we’re not there, yet. Kobe’s season-long farewell tour will come to an end with ceremonial sendoff at Staples Center (a building he helped christen) Wednesday night. I’d suggest going if you live in Los Angeles and happen to be in the one percent. This send off is all Lakers fans have had to look forward to in a 16-win season (save for watching Byron Scott stunt the development of D'Angelo Russell) and they will be plenty loud in expressing their love for the Mamba. It should be an emotional evening. As for the game itself, by the time it tips off (or not very long after) the Utah Jazz will know if they are playing for anything (they need a win and a Houston loss to make the playoffs). If not, they may roll over for Kobe.

If you haven’t checked it out yet, we’ve written about what his opponents thought of Kobe and his legacy, and what Kobe himself has said about it this season.

3) East playoff seeds 3-6 hinge on Heat at Celtics. We know two Eastern Conference playoff matchups: Cavaliers vs. Pistons and Raptors vs. Pacers. But the middle of the conference is still unsettled with one game to play, and it will be interesting to see if teams jockey hard to get the 3 or 6 seed (and be on the opposite side of the bracket from Cleveland). The key game will be Miami at Boston — if the Heat win they are the three seed, or they get that spot if the Hawks lose to the Wizards (if the Heat win the Hawks are the four seed). If the Heat lose and the Hawks win, then Atlanta is the three seed, Boston is the four seed, and the Heat will fall to the fifth or sixth seed depending on if the Hornets can beat Orlando at home.

4) Bottom four seeds in the West playoffs remain wide open. We know this much about the Western Conference playoffs: the top four seeds in order are Golden State, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and the Los Angeles Clippers. After that, it’s still chaos. Let’s get the easy one out of the way, the eight seed: If Houston beats a Sacramento team resting virtually everyone, the Rockets get the final playoff spot (and the Warriors), but if the Rockets are upset, and Utah beats the Lakers they are in.

From there it gets complex. If Portland wins they get to be the five seed. If Portland loses and Dallas can beat the Spurs, then the Mavericks get the five seed. If Dallas loses to San Antonio, then Portland is the five seed and Memphis and Dallas will be the six and seven seeds depending on if Memphis can beat Golden State.

The practical reality is this: Memphis isn’t beating Golden State (see item No. 1 here) so they will be the seven seed. Portland and Dallas will be the five and six depending on if Portland can win, and if not if Dallas can win. See, simple.

5) Can Stephen Curry hit eight threes to get to 400 in a season? Curry is sitting on 392 threes this season — far and away a new NBA record — but can he get to the nice round number of 400? The idea he could hit eight threes in a game is entirely reasonable, especially against depleted Memphis. But the Warriors will go into this game prioritizing win number 73, and then getting Curry and the other core players some rest if they can get a big enough lead. Curry getting to 400 is an afterthought, but it certainly could happen.

Leonard scores 26, helps Spurs beat Thunder to go 40-1 at home this season

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Kawhi Leonard had 26 points and the San Antonio Spurs had to rally to beat the short-handed Oklahoma City Thunder 102-98 in overtime Tuesday night to finish 40-1 at home this season, matching an NBA record.

The Boston Celtics had the same record in 1985-86.

San Antonio was lethargic coming off its first home loss of the season to the Golden State Warriors on Sunday. The Spurs never led in the final quarter in that loss and trailed throughout much of their home finale.

Thunder coach Billy Donovan rested stars Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka in their regular-season finale while San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich started his regular lineup.

The Thunder were still able to force the first overtime in San Antonio this season.

Dion Waiters completed a three-point play to tie the game at 93 with 16.2 seconds remaining. Waiters was fouled by David West driving into the lane for a layup after Payne ran down a long rebound following his own miss. Leonard missed a jumper at the close of regulation.

Leonard had six points in overtime and Parker added three as the Spurs avoided their fourth straight loss overall and second straight at home.

Data curated by PointAfter

LaMarcus Aldridge exited 3 minutes into the third quarter with soreness in the right pinkie finger he dislocated April 7 at Golden State. The move was precautionary given Aldridge had already played 20 minutes and San Antonio clinched the No. 2 seed.

The Thunder got 17 points each from Waiter, Enes Kanter, Steven Adams and Cameron Payne.

Oklahoma City had a 23-4 run bridging the first and second quarters in taking an 18-point lead. Kanter opened the run with his 10th 3-pointer of the season.

San Antonio aided the run by committing five turnovers and missing 11 shots, including four layup attempts.

Led by Patty Mills and Boban Marjanovic, the bench gave San Antonio its first lead since it was 19-18 with 4 minutes remaining in the first quarter. The Spurs took a 74-72 lead when Marjanovic tapped in Mills’ short lob pass to the rim and made the free throw to complete a three-point play.

TIP-INS

Thunder: Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka were not in attendance, remaining in Oklahoma City following Monday’s home victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. … The Thunder split their four-game season series with the Spurs, opened and closed their season against San Antonio. Oklahoma City rallied to win its season opener 112-106 on Oct. 28 at home.

Spurs: Veteran Boris Diaw missed his fifth straight game with a sore right abductor muscle. The Spurs were 1-3 without their versatile forward. … G Manu Ginobili sat out the game for rest. The 38-year-old veteran missed 22 games this season, including 12 straight following testicle surgery in early February. … San Antonio is 26-7 in back-to-back games, including an 8-1 record in a home-road split. … West missed an open dunk after receiving a no-look, bounce pass from Marjanovic in the lane with about 3 minutes left in the third quarter.

 

Report: Knicks free agency plan to get free agents who fit triangle offense

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Get the best talent and design the system around them? Or, pick a system and get the best players you can to fit that system? It’s a long-standing debate not just in the NBA but throughout sports. Th

The Knicks are going with option No. 2. They are sticking with the triangle and getting players who can fit it.

That’s what Kurt Rambis — who will be with the Knicks in one capacity or another next season — said, as reported by Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.

“It shouldn’t be a balance (between finding players to fit a system and building a system around the players). It’s whatever decision you want to make,” Kurt Rambis said. “The decision with management is to get players who fit into the system. Neither way is wrong. It’s about your mindset and what you want to do. And I think the whole process has been to get players who we feel will fit into the system. No team stays pat except the exceptional teams. Everybody is trying to improve and find ways to get better. Naturally, we’ll be one of those teams.”

The Knicks seem committed to the triangle (which certainly impacts the coaching search, but that’s another discussion).

Triangle-friendly players are high IQ players who are good passers and can drain shots from the outside. Or, put another way, the kinds of players every smart team is looking for. Demand for those players will be high, and the market will be flush with cash this summer thanks to the new television deal kicking in (and the salary cap jumping by $23 million or so), which will make finding value a challenge.

There are rumors the Knicks have Memphis’ Mike Conley high on their target list as they need a point guard (although elite point guards have not loved the triangle). He’s a good get, but likely a max or near max guy. Certainly the Knicks will make a run at other top players (Kevin Durant fits in any system) but whether they can get those players to really listen is another issue.

It’s up for debate how well the triangle will work under modern NBA defensive rules that allow a zone, but put that argument aside right now — what the Knicks need is talent. More, younger talent. Athletes. The best guys they can get. Notice how teams such as the Spurs have adapted their system multiple times over the years to accommodate the best players they can get and highlight them? Just a thought I’m throwing out there.

It’s going to be an interesting summer in New York.

 

 

If you want to see history — Kobe’s finale or Warriors history — it’s going to cost you. A lot.

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This is America, where money can buy you anything you want.

However, if what you want is a seat in the building for NBA history — either Kobe Bryant‘s final game at Staples Center or the chance to watch the Golden State Warriors win their 73rd game — it’s going to cost you.

A lot.

I looked around on secondary ticket markets StubHub and SeatGeek for both games, and… damn you better have a lot of disposable income if you want in the building.

The least expensive ticket for Kobe Bryant’s final game Wednesday was high up in the corner of Staples Center, and it is selling for $740 per ticket. Good middle of the court seats in the upper bowl — which at Staples often feels like an afterthought — start at $991 a seat.

The lower bowl for Kobe’s farewell starts at $1,050 and goes up quickly, with most of the seats north of $2,000 each. And if you have way, way too much disposable income there are courtside seats available for a mere $17,000 a seat.

If you, like ESPN, prefer to see the Warriors at Oracle Arena go for historic win number 73 (and likely get it, that is one banged up Memphis team they face) it’s a less expensive than seeing Kobe’s farewell, but it’s not cheap.

The least expensive seats in Oracle — upper bowl, behind the baskets — start at $340 a seat. If you want good, center seats in that upper part of the arena you can get them for $425 or so a chair.

Seats in the lower bowl at Oracle (or, within Stephen Curry‘s shooting range) start at $560 and go up to $1,200 to $2,000 a pop for the good seats. Courtside seats are a mere $3,900 each.

If you’re someone who has enough disposable income and are going to attend one of these games, congratulations. And the next round is on you because you can certainly afford it.