Kurt Helin

Three Takeaways from NBA Monday: Spurs, Warriors keep rolling along

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We know you were watching the College Football Playoff (was there anyone rooting for Alabama outside that state?). We get it. It was just a three-game NBA schedule, here’s what you need to know.

1) Another day, another win for the Spurs and Warriors. Right now there are two clear best teams in the NBA: Golden State and San Antonio. (Cleveland may get there; Oklahoma City and the L.A. Clippers are close but just short.) Monday night the NBA’s best just kept right on rolling.

It almost seemed unfair that the day after Brooklyn owner Mikhail Prokhorov blew his organization up they would have to face the league’s steadiest, best-run franchise. The Spurs win seemed preordained. The Nets had that “we better play hard for the new coach” energy to start the game, but it faded. The Spurs began to pull away in the second, their ball movement shredded the Brooklyn defense, and by the fourth it was garbage time (which the Spurs dominated also). LaMarcus Aldridge had 25 points and 11 boards, Kawhi Leonard added 17. The Spurs are just a machine with great execution, and undisciplined teams such as the Nets usually just get steamrolled.

Golden State was at home, where they were already 17-0 on the season, which was bad news for Miami. The Heat hung around for a half, but at the break Luke Walton reached into Steve Kerr bag of playoff adjustments — he assigned big man Andrew Bogut to guard Heat rookie wing Justise Winslow. (Remember, this is what the Warriors did to Tony Allen of Memphis last playoffs and it changed the series.)  Winslow is reluctant to shoot from the midrange (24 shots in 35 games) and is shooting just 22.7 percent from three — the Warriors dared the kid to make them pay for keeping Bogut in to protect the paint. It worked. The Warriors started to pull away in the third, and their bench took over from there (although Miami was good enough to not let it become a total blowout). Stephen Curry was a -3 on the night (all the Warriors starters were in the negative), but he did still drop 31 points.

2) Joakim Noah returned to Chicago’s lineup, but the Bulls’ defense is still slumping. In their last five games, the Chicago Bulls are allowing 106.6 points per 100 possessions, making them a bottom 10 defensive team. Defensive stalwart Noah returned to the lineup on Monday and, well, that wasn’t the problem. The Wizards controlled the pace and scored at a 112.4 points per 100 pace on their way to a comfortable 114-100 win over the Bulls. Washington wants back in the playoffs (they are two games out of the eight seed) and played with that kind of desperation — plus injuries (no Marcin Gortat) forced them into more small ball, and Chicago had no answer. Fred Hoiberg tried to go bigger at times, but the Wizards targeted Doug McDermott when that happened and he could not defend the small lineups of Washington. John Wall had 17 to lead seven Wizards in double digits — and he even welcomed Noah back by blocking him at the rim.

3) Sage advice fom Dwyane Wade to the Warriors: “Enjoy it.” Both players and fans of good teams need to stop sometime and savor the moment when things are going right. It’s not just about getting rings, it’s about the journey and the little moments. Miami’s Dwyane Wade tried to pass that idea along, via Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports.

“I was talking to Andre Iguodala after the game and I told him, ‘Listen, enjoy it. Don’t take it for granted. Myself, Chris Bosh, UD (Udonis Haslem), and Chris (Andersen) have been there before and won. When it’s gone, it’s different. You got to enjoy it.’”

Spurs win 8th straight in Nets’ first game since shake-up

San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge celebrates a basket during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)
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NEW YORK (AP) — LaMarcus Aldridge had 25 points and 11 rebounds as the San Antonio Spurs extended their winning streak to eight with a 106-79 victory Monday night over Brooklyn in the Nets’ first game since an organizational shake-up.

A day after coach Lionel Hollins was fired and general manager Billy King reassigned, the Nets dropped their 10th straight at home and fifth in a row overall.

Kawhi Leonard added 17 points for the Spurs, who go to Detroit on Tuesday before putting their 31-game home winning streak on the line Thursday in a showdown with Cleveland.

The Spurs (33-6) were up seven at halftime before dominating the second half, just as they did in their 102-75 victory over the Nets on Oct. 30. Those are two of their 14 wins by 20 or more points this season.

Brook Lopez scored 18 points and Joe Johnson had 16 in the Nets’ first game under interim coach Tony Brown. Brown moved guards Wayne Ellington and Donald Sloan into the starting lineup, but they combined for just 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting.

The Nets fell to 10-28, hours after owner Mikhail Prokhorov said the team needed a “reset” and that deciding to start it in the middle of the season was an easy decision. But no change could change things against the Spurs, the latest visiting team to win the crowd and the game in Brooklyn.

Fans cheered loudest for 7-foot-3 Serbian Boban Marjanovic, who finished 13 points and was on the floor in the final seconds when a “Go Spurs Go!” chant broke out.


Spurs: Aldridge made his first five shots and finished 12 for 17 from the field. … The Spurs outscored the Nets 60-28 in the second half of the first meeting and 61-41 in this one.

Nets: Sloan made his first start since Jan. 4, 2015, for Indiana against the Lakers. … Brown had won all three games when he previously stepped in to coach, filling in for Doc Rivers once in Boston, Larry Krystkowiak in Milwaukee and Mike Dunleavy with the Clippers.


Banged-up Wizards cruise past Bulls for 114-100 win

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CHICAGO (AP) — John Wall had 17 points and 10 assists to help the banged-up Washington Wizards pull away from the Chicago Bulls for a 114-100 victory on Monday night.

Washington had seven players score in double figures in its second straight win after a stretch of five losses in six games. Ramon Sessions had 16 points, and Garrett Temple, Otto Porter Jr. and Nene scored 14 apiece.

The Wizards led by as many as 18 points while playing without key performers Marcin Gortat, Kris Humphries and Bradley Beal. Gortat was scratched with a sore left knee, Humphries missed his fourth straight game with a sore right knee and Beal remains out due to a stress reaction in his lower right leg.

Derrick Rose scored 23 points in the first of four games in five nights for the Bulls. Jimmy Butler had 19 points and seven assists, and Pau Gasol added 15 points and 10 rebounds.

Bulls center Joakim Noah had no points and nine rebounds in a little under 19 minutes in his return from a left shoulder sprain. It was Noah’s first game since he got hurt in the third quarter of a 105-102 loss to Brooklyn on Dec. 21.

Noah was blocked from behind by Wall with 2:19 left in the third quarter, and then grabbed his shoulder after he hit the ground. But he stayed in the game.

Doug McDermott‘s four-point play got Chicago within four with 9:34 left, but Washington responded with a 13-2 run to put it away. Sessions capped the surge with a layup that made it 102-87 with 5:56 to go.

Gary Neal added 11 points for Washington, and Drew Gooden finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds.

Jared Dudley made a 3-pointer and passed to a cutting Nene for a dunk early in the third, helping the Wizards open a 67-50 lead. But the Bulls ripped off 13 of the next 15 points.

Rose converted a three-point play and Butler had a steal and a dunk before Dudley got Washington back on track with a 3-pointer for a 72-63 lead with 6:48 left in the quarter.



Wizards: Washington also had a solid shooting performance in its previous game, matching a season high by connecting on 55.3 percent of its attempts in a 105-99 victory at Orlando on Saturday.

Bulls: Rose scored 13 in the first half to pass Ben Gordon (7,372 points) for 10th on the franchise’s career scoring list. Reggie Theus is ninth with 8,279 points.

Tim Duncan to Kawhi Leonard alley-oop? We got that.

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 28: Kawhi Leonard #2 and Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs celebrates during a game against the Los Angeles Clippers in Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2015 NBA Playoffs on April 28, 2015 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
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When the best run organization in the NBA — the San Antonio Spurs — takes on the new title holders of worst organization in the NBA — your Brooklyn Nets — the outcome seems predestined.

That doesn’t mean we can’t get some highlights as the Spurs smack the Nets around. How about a Tim Duncan to Kawhi Leonard alley-oop?


Bulls big man Noah returns from left shoulder injury

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CHICAGO (AP) — Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg says center Joakim Noah will play Monday night against the Washington Wizards.

Noah had been sidelined by a left shoulder sprain. He missed nine games after he got hurt in the third quarter of a 105-102 loss to Brooklyn on Dec. 21.

Noah, the 2014 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, is averaging 4.5 points and 8.8 rebounds in 25 games this season.