Kurt Helin

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, left, talks with forward Tim Duncan (21) during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015, in San Antonio. San Antonio won 95-70. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Associated Press

Spurs’ Tim Duncan will play Saturday vs Rockets

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Tim Duncan will play Saturday when San Antonio hosts the Houston Rockets after missing the previous three games.

The team made the announcement on Thursday. Duncan sat out San Antonio’s win Monday against Minnesota for rest, but missed the next two home games because of soreness in his right knee.

Houston snapped San Antonio’s seven-game winning streak with an 88-84 victory on Christmas Day. It’s the Spurs’ lone loss in their past 11 games.

Duncan missed three games earlier this season for rest. The 39-year-old forward is averaging a career-low 9.0 points, but has deferred much of his offense to emerging star Kawhi Leonard and newly acquired LaMarcus Aldridge.

Duncan is averaging 8.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks while anchoring a defense that’s limiting opponents to a league-low 88.6 points.

“I think we could use him,” said Spurs guard Danny Green, with a smile. “I think we can find a spot for him somewhere.”

San Antonio is off to the second-best start in franchise history on the strength of a franchise-record, 19-game winning streak at home to open the season.

The Spurs are 6-0 without Duncan, winning those games by an average of 24 points.

That success has more to do with San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich strategically sitting Duncan rather than the team no longer needing the future Hall of Famer, Spurs forward Boris Diaw said.

“It’s just fortunate that when he couldn’t play, it was games that we should win,” Diaw said. “It was not against the best teams every time he has been out.”

Teams that San Antonio played without Duncan are a combined 63-110, including a pair of games against Denver and a 51-point victory over Philadelphia on Dec. 7.

The Spurs are facing a much tougher test Saturday against intrastate rival Houston.

“We’ve got to play better,” Diaw said. “Basically, we missed shots last time we played them. We didn’t get in a good rhythm, they played pretty aggressive and we didn’t respond to that. We’ve got to turn that around by using their aggressiveness to our advantage.”

Duncan had 13 points and 11 rebounds in 32 minutes against the Rockets in Houston.

It’s official: Stephen Curry out Thursday against Rockets

Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry watches from the bench during the first half the team's NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, in Dallas. Curry missed the game due to an injury. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
Associated Press
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This was expected. When you have the best player in the game and your focus is a ring in June, you’re not going to risk much for a regular season game in December.

Golden State’s Stephen Curry will be out Thursday night when the Warriors face the Houston Rockets.

This is his second game in a row out, in the first one the Warriors’ offense stagnated and the Mavericks blew them out. They face an up-and-down Houston team that beat the Spurs on Christmas then dropped both games since.

The Warriors offense is 17.5 points per 100 possessions worse without Curry’s playmaking, shooting, and gravity to draw defenders away from Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and the rest. The question is can Houston exploit that, Dallas played a fantastic game against Golden State. Shaun Livingston likely gets the start in Curry’s place.

Curry’s MRI came back negative, he’s day-to-day and is not expected to be out for long.

PBT Podcast: Talking Bulls (and NBA news) with Sean Highkin

Chicago Bulls' Jimmy Butler, center, celebrates with Taj Gibson, left, and Pau Gasol after the Bulls defeated the Indiana Pacers 102-100 in overtime in an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
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The Chicago Bulls have won three-of-four starting on Christmas day, when they played their best game of the season against Oklahoma City, but still controversy surrounds the team as Jimmy Butler tries to establish himself as a leader on the team but does it a bit clumsily.

PBT’s Sean Highkin lives in Chicago and is at most Bulls home games, and in this latest PBT podcast he and Kurt Helin discuss what is going on in Chicago as we head into 2016.

We also hit on other news around the NBA such as Cleanathony Early, the meltdown in Phoenix, Philly winning two of three, and injuries changing the dynamics from Golden State to Charlotte.

You can listen to the podcast below, or you can listen and subscribe via iTunes.

Chandler Parsons, Dirk Nowitzki in fantastic Zoolander parody (VIDEO)

Chandler Parsons
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Well done Mavericks. Well done indeed.

Chandler Parsons understands that moisture is the essence of wetness, and wetness is the essence of beauty. That comes through in this Zoolander parody by the Mavs’ marketing team, where Dirk Nowitzki plays Hansel.

If you don’t like this, well, I’m sorry that good-looking people like us made you throw up and feel bad about yourself.

Five Takeaways from NBA Wednesday: Without Curry Warriors struggle, lose to Mavs

Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry watches from the bench during the first half the team's NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, in Dallas. Curry missed the game due to an injury. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
Associated Press
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It was a big day around the NBA — we could have expanded this to seven (or more) takeaways easy. We didn’t. So you can read about Al Jefferson being out for six weeks or Derrick Rose sitting the game Wednesday out in other posts. Here are the five things you need to know from an NBA Wednesday.

1) Stephen Curry sits, and the Warriors’ offense falls apart. The Mavericks blew them out. The good news for Warriors fans is that the MRI came back negative — there is nothing structurally wrong with Curry’s left leg. Still, the Warriors are going to keep their eyes on the big prize and be cautious about bringing him back.

Even if it costs them games, as it did Thursday night. The Warriors without Curry (and Festus Ezeli and Leandro Barbosa and Harrison Barnes) lacked any flow on the offensive end. Klay Thompson couldn’t get open (eight of his 15 shots were contested), the ball didn’t move as well, the spacing was off, Shaun Livingston started for Curry but couldn’t exploit his size differential over J.J. Barea, and, in the end, the Warriors struggled defensively to stop a good Dallas team. This game wasn’t close, Dallas led by as many as 30 and won 114-91. It happens. Dallas earned an easy win, but nobody is reading anything into this game.

2) Kobe says goodbye to Boston Garden by sticking dagger in Celtics one last time. Ask Kobe what title means the most to him of his five, and he will talk about 2010 — because the Lakers beat the Boston Celtics. There was respect and it flowed both ways — something the classy Celtics showed before the game giving Kobe a piece of the parquet.

The crowd cheered him before the game and mock booed him during it. That was fun. And as it has been all season for him, what the fans wanted and what he can deliver is just a few turn-back-the-clock moments a night. So after Jordan Clarkson softened them up with 24 points, Kobe scored nine in the second half of the fourth quarter, including the dagger that sealed the Lakers’ win.

3) Cleanthony Early could play again this season, which is amazing news. The scariest news of the day in the NBA came in the early morning — Knicks’ second-year player Early was robbed at gun point after leaving a strip club in Queens, then was shot in the leg. The good news was that the bullet did not cause any serious structural damage, and Early could return to the Knicks again this season following surgery. This could have ended so much worse. It’s going to be interesting to follow this investigation — this was a robbery clearly done by pros, and it appears Early was targeted.

4) Jimmy Butler has game-winning tip-in for Bulls. No Derrick Rose for Chicago (tight hamstring), and when they got in a close, back-and-forth battle with Paul George and the Pacers the question was who would be the closer for the Bulls. Turns out they can run plays rather than just isolation sets in the final minute, and at the end of regulation and overtime it was Butler stepping up and finishing, such as hitting a crucial three in the final minute of regulation to help force OT. None of his buckets, however, was bigger than the alley-oop finish off a Pau Gasol pass to win the game.

This is the kind of win quality teams get — beating a good team without a key starter. The Bulls have strung together some quality play since Christmas and maybe, just maybe, they are starting to show the potential we saw on paper.

5) Sixers outhustle, outplay, beat Kings for another win. Philadelphia is 2-1 since Ish Smith was brought in to run the point, or since Mike D’Antoni joined the bench if you prefer. They are playing hard as they have all season; now they just have a guy at the point who understands how to run the show. That was enough to get them a 110-105 win over Sacramento Wednesday.

The Kings, on the other hand, do not bring it every night — much to the frustration of coach George Karl. One game after ending a press conference saying “I’m done, I’m frustrated“, Karl called out his team’s defense and effort after this loss. He should also call out the turnovers (22 in this game), as CSN Kings’ insider James Ham said in the PBT Podcast, this team just doesn’t value possessions. The Kings have lost three straight, and it feels like they could be falling into a downward spiral.