Kurt Helin

Memphis Grizzlies v Golden State Warriors

Five Things We Learned in NBA Monday: Video game Klay Thompson kill Grizzlies chance of two seed

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If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while thinking it’s ridiculous music performances from late-night shows may no longer be available online

1) Video game Klay Thompson showed up Monday and took away the two seed from Memphis. A few weeks ago, it would have seemed impossible that the Grizzlies wouldn’t finish with a top three seed. But things started happening. First the Memphis schedule down the stretch was brutal. Then came the injuries, with Mike Conley among others out. Then Monday night Klay Thompson happened — video game Klay showed up and dropped 26 points on the Grizzlies in the second quarter.

Thompson finished with 42, and the Warriors did what they do, winning handily. This was bad for Memphis. What the loss means is the Grizzlies cannot win the Southwest division, and with that will not be the two seed. San Antonio now controls that destiny (if they beat the Pelicans Wednesday the Spurs get the two seed). With this loss, combined with the Clippers and Rockets winning, Memphis fell all the way to the six seed. Which is likely where they land when the playoffs start, but it’s still wide open.

2) Thunder, Pelicans remain tied for eight seed in West, but you’d rather be OKC right now. The Oklahoma City Thunder got to have Russell Westbrook and they needed him — he scored 36 points, and the Thunder beat the banged-up Trail Blazers (who keep dropping like flies). The Thunder and Pelicans remain tied for the eight seed after New Orleans dropped struggling Minnesota (that’s 11 straight losses for the Timberwolves). The Pelicans own the tiebreaker, but you’d rather be in OKC’s shoes right now. Why? The Pelicans’ final game Wednesday is against the Spurs — and if San Antonio wins it gets the two seed. Gregg Popovich isn’t resting his big guns, and the Spurs have won 11 in a row. The Thunder’s final game is against those Timberwolves.

3) The Boston Celtics are in the playoffs. Chicago beat Brooklyn, which the Bulls needed to do to have a shot at the three seed in the East (but Toronto controls their own destiny, win Tuesday and Wednesday, and the Raptors get the three seed). What the Bulls’ win also means is Boston is in the playoffs. They will be either the seven or eight seed (likely seven to face Cleveland), but they are in. Credit Brad Stevens, who has got his young team to buy into a system where they move the ball on offense (and play better defense than they did earlier in the season). This was not the plan for the Celtics this season, but that they did it is impressive. And it will be a great experience for Marcus Smart, Kelly Olynyk, and the rest of the young Celtics to taste postseason play. For four games.

4) Pacers, not Nets, now control their own destiny for eight seed in East. This is the other thing the Bulls beating the Nets Monday means — Indiana controls its own destiny. Win out, and they get the eight seed in the East and a shot at Atlanta. Of course, that’s easier said than done with Washington and Memphis on a back-to-back, but it’s possible.

5) LeBron James drops another triple-double. Because he can. Just a reminder that LeBron James is very, very good at this basketball thing. Cleveland beat Detroit in a game without playoff implications, but LeBron was entertaining putting up a line of 21 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists. He’s playoff ready.

Kobe Bryant takes to Twitter to defend Russell Westbrook

Oklahoma City Thunder v Los Angeles Lakers
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While Russell Westbrook has been putting up ridiculous lines and racking up triple-doubles seemingly nightly, his efficiency and the volume of his shooting has come into question.

With some reason. Back on April 1 he was 10-of-32 shooting. April 3 it was 5-of-20. April 5 it was 12-of-29. You get the idea.

So when he put up 54 points Sunday in a Thunder loss, there was some talk of his 43 shot attempts. That’s a lot of attempts. He used 51.7 percent of the team’s possessions when he was on the court. He was an unrepentant gunner, but with Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka out what do you expect of Westbrook?

Kobe Bryant — the patron saint of putting up a lot of shots when your teammates are questionable — came to Westbrook’s defense.

Westbrook has certainly not always been efficient in putting up big numbers, but that has gotten too much blame for the losses the Thunder racked up. The bigger issue is the Thunder defense can’t stop anyone.

Offensively, things can get a bit stagnant when Westbrook takes over for OKC. But if the alternative is more Dion Waiters or D.J. Augustin, I’m okay with that.

Shaq says trash talk “has slipped 60%” from when he played

2nd Annual Cartoon Network Hall Of Game Awards - Arrivals
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There are some real trash talkers in the new generation of NBA players. Draymond Green is the poster child, but there are guys like Lance Stephenson, Nate Robinson, DeMarcus Cousins, Rajon Rondo and others have their mouth going all game long.

But there seem to be fewer talkers now than there were in previous generations. Where are the Michael Jordans and Larry Birds of today?

Shaquille O’Neal agrees.

Speaking to USA Today’s For the Win, Shaq said trash talking now just isn’t the same.

Trash talking has slipped 60%. I know a lot of the players are worried about getting fined, but for me, growing up, you had to trash talk. I didn’t play against kids, I played against guys on the army base. Gary Payton — one of the world’s greatest trash talkers — grew up in Oakland, the mean streets of Oakland. But they say lot of the legends were great trash talkers. I was talking to Isiah [Thomas] once and he said Larry Bird was an unbelievable trash talker. Like Larry Bird used to say stuff like, “I’m gonna take one dribble, pump-fake you and even if you don’t go for it, I’m going to shoot it the second time and it’s going to be all net.” And he’d do it.

Where does he get 60%? Is there an advanced stat chart for this over at NBASavant.com?

Shaq said Payton and Kevin Garnett were the best trash talkers he ever heard.

Shaq also hit on a key reason — the attention paid to the game in the media, fans courtside with smart phones and Twitter accounts, all of it makes it more likely a guy gets in trouble if he talks. Not always, but in an NBA where guys are watching thinking about their brand image, they are scaling it back.

That doesn’t mean we have to  like it.

Georgia police will not file charges against Dwight Howard for child abuse

San Antonio Spurs v Houston Rockets
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Back near the start of the season, reports came out that Dwight Howard was being investigated for abusing one of his children, a charge leveled by the child’s mother. It was something Howard’s attorney said was baseless at the time.

After a six-month investigation, no charges will be filed against Howard. Mark Berman of Fox News in Houston has the story.

The Atlanta, Ga. Police Department declined to press charges of child abuse against Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard…

“I can confirm we are not moving forward with charges in this case,” said Sgt. Gregory Lyon, in an email to FOX 26 Sports….

“We are gratified that the Atlanta Police Department, after fully examining the frivolous allegations against Dwight Howard, has closed the case and decided not to proceed with charges,” said (Howard’s attorney David Oscar) Markus in a statement to FOX 26 Sports. “Dwight Howard will continue to act in the best interest of his children and do whatever is necessary to protect their welfare.”

Howard did not discuss the charges.

Howard and the Rockets are gearing up for the playoffs. After a season racked with injuries, Howard has put up double-doubles in Houston’s last three games and played in the mid-20s in minutes. His play will be key if the Rockets advance out of the first round in a stacked Western Conference.

PBT Extra: Looking at key games down stretch, Bulls vs. Nets, Spurs vs. Pelicans

San Antonio Spurs v New Orleans Pelicans
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With three days left in the NBA season, not one playoff matchup was set going into Monday night. There are a number of key games this week, with most teams having two left.

In this PBT Extra Jenna Corrado and I look at two of them.

The first is Monday night’s Bulls vs. Nets in Brooklyn, a game both teams could use but Brooklyn may need as they are tied with Indiana for that last playoff spot.

The other is Wednesday night, San Antonio vs. New Orleans. What that game means to the Pelicans we will not know until after Monday’s contests, but it likely will be a game the Spurs do need to win. And that could be trouble for the Pelicans if they need it, too.