Kurt Helin

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Three things we learned on Tuesday: I, for one, welcome our new Russell Westbrook overlord

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You were too busy watching people dance in ’90s movies (and maybe trying out a few moves yourself) to watch the four NBA games on Tuesday, but we have you covered. Here’s what you need to know.

1) Russell Westbrook continues to dominate, be NBA’s best player this season, and he reminded us by shredding Miami. On paper, this was the kind of game the Thunder should win — they are a better team than the Heat, particularly defensively, and without Goran Dragic (back issues) Miami’s offense is lifeless. Plus, Steven Adams gives Hassan Whiteside trouble. And all of that did happen. The Thunder started to pull away with a 13-1 run late in the first quarter, led by 22 in the second, and cruised to a 106-94 win.

But the real difference in this game was Russell Westbrook. He was the best player on the court — just like he’s been the most dominant player in the NBA all season long. He controlled the entire game — not just with his scoring (29 points) but the way he carved up the Miami defense and left it in shreds on the floor. He penetrated, passed, and his relentless energy and attacks left the heat in tatters. Westbrook accounted for more than half of the Thunder’s points, via scoring or assist. He got his triple-double (17 rebounds, 11 assists, that makes 15 triple-doubles this season) and did so in just more than 23 minutes of court time (which is insane), but the numbers barely tell the story of how well he is playing.

Westbrook also got some help from a Thunder bench that has been improved of late. Plus, Adams was getting to the rim when he wanted, then hurting them.

The Thunder’s improved bench play, plus the fact Victor Oladipo is expected to return soon from his wrist injury, makes this team that much more dangerous. But it all starts with Westbrook, who continues to amaze. And dominate. I, for one, welcome our new Westbrook overlord.

2) Eight technicals, one ejection, and guys looking for fights postgame — Rockets/Mavericks had some bad blood. This is how tense things got: Trevor Ariza left the Rockets’ locker room and stood outside the Dallas locker room after the game, waiting for to have words — or more — with Dallas center Salah Mejri. Patrick Beverley and James Harden.joined him, and Dallas police were there as well to keep the peace. Ariza believed Mejri said something way out-of-bounds about him and his family (Ariza picked up two technicals and was thrown out when it happened), something Mejri denied according to ESPN. Security kept Mejri in the locker room, Wesley Matthews and Deron Williams talked down the angry Rockets, and eventually, Houston’s players boarded the bus and left without incident.

But that’s what spilled off the court from a physical, nasty game on the court that saw eight technical fouls and a couple of flagrant fouls. The big one happened midway through the second quarter, when Andrew Bogut set a down screen to free up Harrison Barnes, James Harden ran into that screen and went hard to the ground. It looked like Bogut wasn’t set, but slid and leaned into Harden on the play, and the officials called him on it.

The Rockets thought the Mavericks were playing dirty all game.

As Beverley noted, in the end, the Rockets made 17 threes and cruised to a 123-107 win behind 34 points and 11 assists from James Harden. Bogut and Dirk Nowitzki were on minute limits and did not play in the second half.

3) Joe Ingles drained a game-winning three for the Jazz, and the Lakers’ D’Angelo Russell couldn’t answer. Joe Ingles is shooting 47.8 percent from three this season — the Lakers’ scouting report was no doubt clear that he was not to be left alone at the arc, under any circumstances. Especially with the game on the line. That’s when Utah’s Quin Snyder borrowed from Steve Kerr (as noted by Nate Duncan on Twitter), running a standard Warriors play where the pick-and-roll out top is almost the distraction while a dangerous three-point shooter sets a down screen, then flares to the corner off another screen (Joe Johnson set it) and usually finds space. Ingles found that space and knocked down the game-winner.

The Lakers tried to answer — Julius Randle got to the line attacking right at Rudy Gobert (Randle did that impressively a couple of times late in the game), but in the end when they needed it D'Angelo Russell threw up an airball. This was one of those learning experience games for the Lakers, and the kind of game good teams like the Jazz find a way to win.

It’s worth watching the final three minutes of this game, it was the most dramatic of the night.

James Harden calls out Mavericks after Rockets’ 123-107 win in game with eight technicals

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DALLAS (AP) — James Harden was called for one of the eight technicals in a game that turned tense when Dallas center Andrew Bogut received a flagrant foul on a hard screen that staggered Houston’s star guard.

Despite 34 points and an easy 123-107 victory that completed a four-game season sweep of the last-place Mavericks on Tuesday night, Harden wasn’t happy.

“That other team was trippin’ tonight, just disrespectful, unprofessional, players and coaches,” Harden said. “I don’t know what was their problem, but I think that got us going. They wanted to throw a little cheap shot and just woke us up a little bit and it was over from there.”

Bogut was equally frustrated in his return after missing 11 games with a right knee injury. The call came in the second quarter, near the end of a 16-0 Houston run that broke a 37-all tie. Harden doubled over after running head-first into the 7-foot, 260-pound Bogut’s shoulder.

“If you watch the replay, yeah, he made no effort to run around my screen,” said Bogut, who had a couple of sharp verbal exchanges with Harden. “Yeah, it was a hard screen and I set hard screens. But to get a flagrant for it is kind of head-scratching.

“You admire the effort the league’s putting in in Secaucus (New Jersey) with that beautiful facility where they watch replays and watch TV and have leather chairs and all that kind of stuff. But you scratch your head at a lot of these things and it becomes very, very frustrating.”

Trevor Ariza was ejected after his second technical during the break after the third quarter, when five technicals were called. After the game, he was waiting outside the Dallas locker room for Mavericks center Salah Mejri.

Security had to make sure the pair didn’t interact after an exchange during the game that led to Ariza’s first technical. Houston was called for five and Dallas three.

“It wasn’t even basketball,” Dallas guard Wesley Matthews said. “Tempers, two in-state teams, we play each other four times, we’ve had battles in the past, so it is what it is. But we’ve got to be better than that. That was an opportunity for us to channel it into basketball and we didn’t do that.”

Harden had 24 points at halftime and finished with 11 assists without playing in the fourth quarter. The Rockets improved to 13-2 in December.

With two games left in the month, Houston can tie the franchise record of 15 wins from November 1996.

Harrison Barnes scored 21 for the last-place Mavericks, who lost their second straight following their first two-game winning streak of the season.

There were also two flagrant fouls, both against Dallas.

Most of the technicals came during dead-ball situations, with players and Dallas coach Rick Carlisle complaining to officials. Carlisle mockingly clapped at the refs, saying “good call,” after he was whistled for one.

“They tried to defend by being real physical and thinking that’s the way to do it,” Houston coach Mike D’Antoni said. “I don’t really want to get into it just because it doesn’t serve any purpose. We needed the win. We came out and we took care of business.”


Rockets: G Patrick Beverley sat out with a left quadriceps contusion. It’s not expected to be a long-term injury. … Sam Dekker had a game-high 11 rebounds. … The Rockets are 7-0 on the second night of back-to-backs this season.

Mavericks: G Pierre Jackson was signed off the Mavericks’ NBA Development League team, and G Jonathan Gibson was waived. Jackson, a former Baylor guard who was drafted in 2013, made his NBA debut in the fourth quarter and scored seven points. … Matthews had 19 points.


There were a couple of face-to-face confrontations, the first ending in double technicals in the second quarter for Dallas’ Justin Anderson and Nene. Later in the quarter, Houston’s Ryan Anderson went nose-to-nose with Dallas star Dirk Nowitzki without a technical being called.


The Mavericks had their projected starting five for just the fourth time, and first since a 128-90 loss at Cleveland on Nov. 25. The lineup is winless. Bogut and Nowitzki, in his third game back from his latest absence for a sore right Achilles tendon, stayed in the locker room at halftime. Bogut went scoreless with six rebounds in 10 minutes, and Nowitzki scored seven points.

Spurs waive Argentinian guard Nico Laprovittola

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After a strong performance at the Olympics in Rio, the Spurs decided to give Argentine Nico Laprovittola a shot to make the roster. And he did, the Spurs saw the 26-year-old point guard as someone who could give them depth at the position and fit in with their international team.

That didn’t pan out. On Tuesday, the Spurs waived Laprovittola, who had gotten in 18 games for the team, averaging less than 10 minutes a game, but was struggling to adapt to the NBA game.

Why make the move now? Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports explains.

The Spurs are 25-6 and the second-seeded team in the West, but there are questions about how far this roster can go in the playoffs against more athletic opponents (such as Golden State or the Clippers if healthy). Expect them to look at some moves as the trade deadline approaches, but where they stand is also still very good.

Rockets GM Daryl Morey helping create new musical called “Small Ball”

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Daryl Morey is not the next Lin-Manuel Miranda, but he’s not throwing away his shot.

Morey is a musical theater aficionado, something that transports him away from the realm of analytics and matchups, but he’s doing more than just buying season seats at Sarofim Hall, he’s getting involved in helping create a new musical. About basketball. And undersized stars.

The Houston Chronicle’s Hunter Atkins has the details:

He has collaborated with playwright Mickle Maher on a treatment for a musical he titled “Small Ball.”

The premise: The people of Lilliput, a fictional island nation that appears in the 1726 novel “Gulliver’s Travels,” want to join an international basketball league. But to be competitive enough for that, they import “Michael Jordan,” a man who turns out not to be the NBA Hall-of-Famer but happens to have the same name. This merger of his life passions is not a pipe dream. Morey said the show will debut in Houston within 18 months.

“It’s definitely happening,” he said.

Before you mock the concept of the musical, let’s run through the premises of today’s biggest musicals: A hip-hop retelling of the life of Alexander Hamilton; Mormon missionaries in Africa, as seen through the eyes of the creators of South Park; an Elizabethan playwright trying to write the world’s first musical; a drag queen cabaret performer who comes up with a line of high-heeled boots that saves a small shoe business; I could go on, but you get the idea. Lilliputians playing hoops isn’t so crazy.

Now, if one of those Lilliputians has a fantastic beard and is their best player, I can think of someone who may want a cut of the royalties.

Kevin Durant calls two-minute report “b*******”; Steve Kerr says officials didn’t decide game


The NBA admitted that the officials missed it: Richard Jefferson tripped Kevin Durant on the final play of the Cavaliers come-from-behind Christmas Day win over the Warriors.

Durant said he would have made the game winning shot if he hadn’t been tripped — then he became the latest in a long line of players, coaches, and GMs to slam the “two-minute reports” on officiating in tight games. Via Monte Poole of CSNBayArea.com.

“The refs didn’t lose us that game,” he began after practice Tuesday. “We lost that game; we could’ve been better.

“I think it’s b******* that the NBA throws the refs under the bus like that. This happened to be in our favor – it’s not even in our favor; we don’t get the win – but to say that I got fouled and the tech . . . just move on. You don’t throw the refs under the bus like that, because the next game that group of refs, or whoever it is, they’re going to come out and they’re going to ref the game and they’re going to be tense when they’re reffing the game and they’re going to try to get every play right. They’re going to try to be perfect, without just going out there and relaxing and making the right call. You can’t fine us for criticizing (and then) throw them under the bus for a two-minute report? What about the first quarter? The second quarter? The third quarter? I think it’s b*******.”

Steve Kerr echoed Durant’s first point — the Warriors lost that game for themselves, not the officials.”

The essential part of Kerr’s quote: “The officials didn’t decide that game, we had a 14 point lead in the fourth quarter, it was our mistakes that I’m more concerned about.”

Mistakes such as how his team shot 1-of-11 outside the paint in the fourth quarter, how the Cavaliers frustrate Stephen Curry and seem to be in his head, and how the Warriors play fast and loose with the ball but the Cavaliers make them pay with turnovers. That is what cost them a game on Christmas.

Kerr’s job is to not let those things cost them games in June.