Kurt Helin

PBT Extra: What we will remember most about Kobe is his indomitable spirit

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What will we remember most about Kobe Bryant five years from now? The five championships? His feud with Shaq? That he is third on the all-time scoring list and one of the great bucket getters the game has ever seen? The fadeaway jumper? The 18 All-Star Games?

I think we will remember his competitive fire, his spirit, his ability and willingness to do whatever it took to win.

That’s what I talk most about in this latest PBT Extra.

Sam Mitchel in trouble as Timberwolves coach, reportedly will be considered to keep job

Associated Press

As I had written in this week’s final NBC NBA Power Rankings, I have heard for a while that Timberwolves coach Sam Mitchell is on shaky ground as the young team’s coach. Management thinks it can get a better fit than the old-school Mitchell.

That was confirmed by both Marc Stein of ESPN and Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports. And since this may be the best positioned up-and-coming team in the NBA — led by Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins — big name coaches will take a long look at this job.

I had heard that GM Milt Newton was safe in his job, but could his role change, Wojnarowski writes.

Minnesota owner Glen Taylor has engaged with a prominent search firm to help gauge the potential for giving a coach full autonomy and letting him build out the front office, league sources said. The search firm has been identifying both coaching and management candidates, sources said. Taylor is intrigued with the Stan Van Gundy model in Detroit that has helped return the Pistons to the playoffs, sources said.

Milt Newton is the Wolves’ general manager, but it is unclear if a new coach will answer to him – or if he’ll answer to a new coach, sources said. Newton worked under the late Flip Saunders, who had full control of basketball operations and coached the Timberwolves. Saunders died in October.

I would see Tom Thibodeau or Scott Brooks as great fits here, that is if ownership and management feels they can deal with the gruff Thibodeau. Van Gundy would be a good fit anywhere, but I like him as a broadcaster, so I’m hoping he doesn’t land an NBA gig.

Minnesota may not be the warmest or most popular stop on the NBA tour, but it could be where one of the best teams in the NBA resides in a few seasons.

Nik Stauskas wants to dunk and Bismack Biyombo can’t stop him (VIDEO)

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Playing in front of family and friends in his native Canada, Nik Stauskas had a good night with 13 points and three assists.

And four dunks.

This was the best of the bunch, throwing it down on Bismack Biyombo. His friends liked that one.

The Raptors still won the game handily, 122-98, but it was a good night for one Canadian.

Five Things to Watch on Wednesday: Warriors, Kobe, playoff races on busy last day of season

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Five days a week through the course of the NBA season, we have brought you five takeaways from the night before — letting you know what you missed and needed to know. But we are not people who spend our lives looking in the rear view mirror; we are optimists looking forward. Or at least we tell ourselves that. So from now through the end of the playoffs, we will preview the day and tell you what to look for that night around the league. Enjoy, fellow optimists.

1) Golden State goes for history and 73rd win. Golden State is going to beat Memphis Wednesday night to set a new NBA record for wins in a season, besting Jordan’s 1996 Bulls. The Warriors are going to do it as a big middle finger to anyone who thought their title last year was a fluke, who said they didn’t have to face the Spurs or Clippers last playoffs, who said they were lucky because every team they played was injured, and to Doc Rivers (even if he tried to walk his comments back). And they are going to do it for legacy, because that is where this team’s mindset is — they want to establish themselves with the All-Time greats.

Make no mistake, the Warriors will win. I am fully aware Memphis gave them a scare just two games ago in Memphis, but that is not happening in Oracle against a focused Golden State team a step away from history. Memphis still tries to grit and grind with Zach Randolph in the middle, but at this point they are basically pulling a guy out of the third row to play guard (due to injuries), and that’s not going to get it done on this night. Not against these Warriors and their quest for basketball immortality.

2) Kobe Bryant’s farewell to the NBA. The NBA without Kobe Bryant is going to seem strange next season. But we’re not there, yet. Kobe’s season-long farewell tour will come to an end with ceremonial sendoff at Staples Center (a building he helped christen) Wednesday night. I’d suggest going if you live in Los Angeles and happen to be in the one percent. This send off is all Lakers fans have had to look forward to in a 16-win season (save for watching Byron Scott stunt the development of D'Angelo Russell) and they will be plenty loud in expressing their love for the Mamba. It should be an emotional evening. As for the game itself, by the time it tips off (or not very long after) the Utah Jazz will know if they are playing for anything (they need a win and a Houston loss to make the playoffs). If not, they may roll over for Kobe.

If you haven’t checked it out yet, we’ve written about what his opponents thought of Kobe and his legacy, and what Kobe himself has said about it this season.

3) East playoff seeds 3-6 hinge on Heat at Celtics. We know two Eastern Conference playoff matchups: Cavaliers vs. Pistons and Raptors vs. Pacers. But the middle of the conference is still unsettled with one game to play, and it will be interesting to see if teams jockey hard to get the 3 or 6 seed (and be on the opposite side of the bracket from Cleveland). The key game will be Miami at Boston — if the Heat win they are the three seed, or they get that spot if the Hawks lose to the Wizards (if the Heat win the Hawks are the four seed). If the Heat lose and the Hawks win, then Atlanta is the three seed, Boston is the four seed, and the Heat will fall to the fifth or sixth seed depending on if the Hornets can beat Orlando at home.

4) Bottom four seeds in the West playoffs remain wide open. We know this much about the Western Conference playoffs: the top four seeds in order are Golden State, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and the Los Angeles Clippers. After that, it’s still chaos. Let’s get the easy one out of the way, the eight seed: If Houston beats a Sacramento team resting virtually everyone, the Rockets get the final playoff spot (and the Warriors), but if the Rockets are upset, and Utah beats the Lakers they are in.

From there it gets complex. If Portland wins they get to be the five seed. If Portland loses and Dallas can beat the Spurs, then the Mavericks get the five seed. If Dallas loses to San Antonio, then Portland is the five seed and Memphis and Dallas will be the six and seven seeds depending on if Memphis can beat Golden State.

The practical reality is this: Memphis isn’t beating Golden State (see item No. 1 here) so they will be the seven seed. Portland and Dallas will be the five and six depending on if Portland can win, and if not if Dallas can win. See, simple.

5) Can Stephen Curry hit eight threes to get to 400 in a season? Curry is sitting on 392 threes this season — far and away a new NBA record — but can he get to the nice round number of 400? The idea he could hit eight threes in a game is entirely reasonable, especially against depleted Memphis. But the Warriors will go into this game prioritizing win number 73, and then getting Curry and the other core players some rest if they can get a big enough lead. Curry getting to 400 is an afterthought, but it certainly could happen.

Leonard scores 26, helps Spurs beat Thunder to go 40-1 at home this season

Associated Press
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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Kawhi Leonard had 26 points and the San Antonio Spurs had to rally to beat the short-handed Oklahoma City Thunder 102-98 in overtime Tuesday night to finish 40-1 at home this season, matching an NBA record.

The Boston Celtics had the same record in 1985-86.

San Antonio was lethargic coming off its first home loss of the season to the Golden State Warriors on Sunday. The Spurs never led in the final quarter in that loss and trailed throughout much of their home finale.

Thunder coach Billy Donovan rested stars Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka in their regular-season finale while San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich started his regular lineup.

The Thunder were still able to force the first overtime in San Antonio this season.

Dion Waiters completed a three-point play to tie the game at 93 with 16.2 seconds remaining. Waiters was fouled by David West driving into the lane for a layup after Payne ran down a long rebound following his own miss. Leonard missed a jumper at the close of regulation.

Leonard had six points in overtime and Parker added three as the Spurs avoided their fourth straight loss overall and second straight at home.

Data curated by PointAfter

LaMarcus Aldridge exited 3 minutes into the third quarter with soreness in the right pinkie finger he dislocated April 7 at Golden State. The move was precautionary given Aldridge had already played 20 minutes and San Antonio clinched the No. 2 seed.

The Thunder got 17 points each from Waiter, Enes Kanter, Steven Adams and Cameron Payne.

Oklahoma City had a 23-4 run bridging the first and second quarters in taking an 18-point lead. Kanter opened the run with his 10th 3-pointer of the season.

San Antonio aided the run by committing five turnovers and missing 11 shots, including four layup attempts.

Led by Patty Mills and Boban Marjanovic, the bench gave San Antonio its first lead since it was 19-18 with 4 minutes remaining in the first quarter. The Spurs took a 74-72 lead when Marjanovic tapped in Mills’ short lob pass to the rim and made the free throw to complete a three-point play.


Thunder: Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka were not in attendance, remaining in Oklahoma City following Monday’s home victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. … The Thunder split their four-game season series with the Spurs, opened and closed their season against San Antonio. Oklahoma City rallied to win its season opener 112-106 on Oct. 28 at home.

Spurs: Veteran Boris Diaw missed his fifth straight game with a sore right abductor muscle. The Spurs were 1-3 without their versatile forward. … G Manu Ginobili sat out the game for rest. The 38-year-old veteran missed 22 games this season, including 12 straight following testicle surgery in early February. … San Antonio is 26-7 in back-to-back games, including an 8-1 record in a home-road split. … West missed an open dunk after receiving a no-look, bounce pass from Marjanovic in the lane with about 3 minutes left in the third quarter.