Kurt Helin

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Five Takeaways from NBA Monday: Tristan Thompson saves Cavaliers’ night


If you missed everything in the NBA Monday because you were bathing in beer at a spa, we understand. We’ve got you covered, here’s what you need to know from a Monday around the Association:

1) With the game on the line, the Cleveland Cavaliers turn to… Tristan Thompson? It worked Monday. This was not a game that left viewers with the sense the Cavaliers have found their groove again — their offense down the stretch was far too much isolation and leaned too heavily on LeBron James, their defense seemed scrambled at times, and it certainly wasn’t pretty. It’s the kind of grinding game good teams find a way to win, however, and the Cavs blue-collar worker Tristan Thompson came through when needed. He had 10 points in the fourth quarter and he put the Cavaliers up two with a little four-footer off a LeBron assist with 39 seconds to go. Then when George Hill tried to drive to tie up the game on the Pacers’ next possession, it was Thompson again to save the day.

Cleveland had a late 7-0 run to secure the 100-96 win. LeBron had 33, Kyrie Irving had 22, and the Cavaliers got a needed win.

2) John Wall puts up 37 to make sure Wizards get a win over Sixers, stay in the playoff chase. Chicago, Charlotte, Indiana, and Detroit are all in a virtual tie for the final three playoff spots in the East — one of those teams is going to be left out of that party. Right now, the Wizards are trying to crash that party and force a couple of teams to be left out — they are 1.5 games back of those four, but Washington has the easiest schedule in the NBA the rest of the way. They just have to make sure they win those “easy” games. Monday night that meant John Wall going off 16 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter, helping spark a 16-0 Wizards run in the final frame to help the Wizards come from behind and get the win over lowly Philadelphia. Right now for Washington, a win is a win and they shouldn’t apologize for any of them.

3) That’s the Bucks we hoped for this season: Antetokounmpo, Middleton, and Parker all go off in Milwaukee win over Houston. This is the kind of step forward we’d been hoping to see from Milwaukee all season. Jabari Parker: 36 points (a career high), 5 assists, 4 rebounds. Khris Middleton: 30 points, 5 steals, 4 assists. Giannis Antetokounmpo: 18 points, 17 rebounds, 11 assists, 4 steals (we’ll see if the NBA’s reviewed stats let the Greek Freak keep the triple-double, it took his last one away because of some generous hometown scorekeeping as to what qualifies for an assist, and that may have happened again). The Bucks handled a Houston Rockets team that needs wins badly 128-121 and it felt like this was just a sample of what the Bucks could do nightly in the future. Milwaukee answered every scoring barrage James Harden and Dwight Howard could throw at them. It was fun to see — I just hope this wasn’t a one-off and we get to see a lot more of these Bucks down the line.

4) DeMarcus Cousins keeps his cool (barely); Russell Westbrook and Thunder get the win. Stephen Adams was trying to instigate — it’s what he does. He tried to get under players’ skin, and DeMarcus Cousins almost got suckered in by it and did something foolish — he cocked back his arm to throw a punch — but thought better of it and walked away. Adams was called for a penalty, although the Kings got a “delay of game” out of this and I’m not exactly sure for what. Still, good on Cousins for walking away (he did have a technical on the night already, his 14th this season).

In the end, the Thunder’s stars were too much. Kevin Durant had 27, Russell Westbrook finished with 20 points, 15 assists, and 13 rebounds, and the Thunder picked up a win in Sacramento 131-116.

5) The Clippers’ halftime show: Unveil strange new mascot, have Steve Ballmer dunk. Top this, Red Panda. The Los Angeles Clippers, at halftime of their eventual win over Brooklyn, first unveiled their new mascot Chuck The Condor. Which I’m not sure really looks like a condor, or much of anything else.

Not long after this, Chuck dunked off a trampoline.

Then 59-year-old Clippers’ owner Steve Ballmer dunked off a trampoline.

Let’s see Jim Buss top that.

Russell Westbrook gets triple-double as Thunder beat Kings 131-116

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Russell Westbrook had 20 points, 15 rebounds and 13 assists, leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 131-116 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Monday night.

Kevin Durant finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds and six assists as Oklahoma City bounced back from a difficult stretch. The Thunder had dropped four of five, including a heartbreaking overtime loss to Golden State on Saturday night.

Oklahoma City shot 57 percent (47 for 82) from the field, including a 14-for-34 performance from 3-point range. Enes Kanter scored 23 points on 11-for-11 shooting.

Sacramento has lost three in a row heading into a four-game road trip. DeMarcus Cousins had 35 points and 12 rebounds, and Rajon Rondo finished with 11 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds.

Rudy Gay, the Kings’ second-leading scorer, missed the game after he strained his right shoulder during Friday’s loss to the Clippers.

Gay and Rondo each had an MRI earlier in the day, and Rondo was listed as doubtful. But Rondo warmed up prior to the game and decided to play despite a sore right thumb that has been bothering him for around two weeks.

The game got physical early in the first quarter, with Cousins called for a backcourt foul after elbowing Steven Adams. A short time later, Sacramento’s Quincy Acy was called for a technical foul, resulting in Cousins and Durant getting into a brief shoving match.

There was no suspense in Westbrook’s ninth triple-double this season. It was completed by the midway point in the third quarter, running his total to 28 for his career.

Ahead by seven points, the Thunder put away the win with 10 straight points for a 107-90 lead early in the fourth period.

The Kings have dropped 10 of 14 since their season-high five-game win streak following a Jan. 23 victory over Indiana.


Thunder: Westbrook had seven assists and six rebounds in the first quarter and nearly had a triple-double by halftime. … Serge Ibaka had 12 points and seven rebounds.

Kings: Rondo was reluctant to inbound the ball twice with less than a second to play in the first half, resulting in two bizarre delay of game technicals. Durant converted a free throw each time, giving the Thunder a 61-53 lead at the break. … Cousins was called for his 14th technical of the season late in the third quarter. … Omri Casspi scored 16 points and Darren Collison had 12.


Report: Dwight Howard wanted to come to Bucks at trade deadline, but wouldn’t opt-in

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The rumors had already been confirmed by his former agent: Dwight Howard was shopped hard at the trade deadline but nothing came of it because he could become a free agent this summer and would not opt-in to the final year of his contract. While he denies it (as did the Rockets), the rumor is James Harden pushed for the team to find a Howard trade.

Now Howard himself has confirmed he was almost traded — to the Milwaukee Bucks. Part-time Bucks announcer Gus Johnson, who was announcing the game Monday against Houston, had the story during the broadcast.

That deal likely would have centered around Greg Monroe heading to Houston, a swap of centers that haven’t worked out as well as hoped.

However, Monroe is in the first year of his new contract so you can understand why the Bucks didn’t want to give him up for a half-season rental of Howard — Milwaukee would have wanted the assurance of Howard for at least one more season (and at his current price).

More than be traded, Howard wants to get paid this summer — he wants a max salary, which will start at around $30 million a year (depending on the exact salary cap number). A lot of teams, likely including Milwaukee, will be hesitant to pay that much (or do so for four years). Howard has switched agents, but that’s not going to change an interesting market dynamic for Howard this summer.

Clippers’ owner Steve Ballmer dunks off a trampoline

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If you’re asking why the 59-year-old Clipper owner and former Microsoft CEO is dunking, well, you’re not thinking like one of the 25 richest men in the world.

Because he can. That’s why.

After a ceremony introducing Chuck the Condor as the new Clippers’ mascot — no, I have no good explanation for the poor man’s Toucan Sam if he were a pigeon mascot choice — Ballmer followed the mascot for a dunk off a trampoline. And he succeeded. I wouldn’t say he exactly threw it down with DeAndre Jordan hatred of the rim, but it’s a dunk.

Here are some other angles.

Tristan Thompson with game-saving block to preserve Cleveland win (VIDEO)


The Cleveland Cavaliers were up two because Tristan Thompson had scored on a little four-footer off a LeBron James assist 20 seconds before.

The Cavaliers were pressuring the Pacers on defense and Indiana could not get the shot it wanted, so the play became a driving George Hill going to the rim for a layup.

And Thompson blocked it. Saving the game for Cleveland (which eventually won 100-96).

Thompson’s key plays got the Cavs a win that can be picked apart as not pretty, as featuring too much isolation and leaning too heavily on LeBron James. But it’s a win in a hard-fought game against a playoff team, and the Cavaliers could use that after a rough stretch of losses. Thompson’s blue-collar game — with 14 points and 11 rebounds off the bench — was what the Cavs needed for a night, and he delivered.