PBT’s Wednesday Night NBA Winners/Losers: Klay Thompson is not to be trifled with

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Every night the NBA can be a cold hard reality — there are winners, there are losers. It’s the nature of the game. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to bring you the best and worst of the NBA each week night. Here’s what you missed while wondering if Lionel Messi would really leave Barcelona

source:  Klay Thompson. Making the All-Star cut at the guard spot in the West is going to be pretty much like getting into Harvard — some incredible people will be left out. (That includes actual Harvard grad Jeremy Lin.) Klay Thompson is likely going to be one of those on the outside looking in, but he made a nice case for inclusion Wednesday — 40 points on 25 shots as the Warriors talent just overwhelmed the Pacers in the second half. Thompson was a big part of that with 15 points in the third quarter when the Warriors started to take control and 12 more as they sealed it in the fourth. He was 6-of-11 from three. He is playing like an All-Star, the only problem is in the Western Conference that’s not enough.

source:  Kemba Walker. The Hornets’ best shot creator has scored 30 or more points in three straight games now, and Charlotte is on a three game winning streak. But most importantly, he did this.

source:  Darren Collison and Sacramento Kings. The Darren Collison pickup has been a lot better for Sacramento than I thought it would be and the point guard was key in the Kings putting together their best performance in a while and routing the Oklahoma City Thunder. He had 24 points and he also drew the defensive assignment on Russell Westbrook and helped lead him to an off night (although Westbrook contributed plenty on his end to that cause). Rudy Gay had 28 points, DeMarcus Cousins 23, but the real key was that the Kings played the best defense they have in a long time. Sacramento contested 48 percent of OKC’s shot attempts and the Thunder hit just 27.9 percent of those (via NBA.com). Of course, the Thunder hit just 37 percent of their uncontested looks, it was that kind of night for them, but the Kings should be happy after this one.

source:  Chicago Bulls/Oklahoma City Thunder. What. Was. That. Two of the league’s power teams just got destroyed on Wednesday night. Both looked flat and disinterested. That’s not the fault of Dion Waiters (who was 1-of-9 shooting). That’s not the fault of Derrick Rose. Or the polar vortex. Or Barack Obama. Or North Korean hackers. All credit to the Kings and Jazz who both played well, but this was just one of those nights for two good teams. The thing is, the Bulls can afford to have these off nights, they are in a solid spot in the East. However, the Thunder now have had a couple bad games in a row on the road in Cali and they can’t really afford it — they are four games back of the eight-seed Suns, with the Pelicans in between them. We keep waiting for the Thunder to go on a run and just blow by everyone into a playoff seed, but the fact is those teams above them are pretty good with playoff dreams of their own and are not just going to roll over. OKC needs some wins.

source:  Atlanta Hawks. Another day, another Hawks win against a powerhouse team. Today it was Memphis’ turn to learn the Hawks are for real. Memphis got the kind of ugly, scrappy game they thrive in and the Hawks beat them at their own game with a 96-86 win. This was an 84-84 game with three minutes left and the Hawks simply executed better down the stretch — Al Horford hit shots, Jeff Teague hit a key three and the Hawks pulled away. Let’s all say it together again — the Hawks are for real.

DeMarcus Cousins on returning for Warriors in 2019 NBA Finals: ‘I had no business on the floor’

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We spent considerable time discussing whether the Warriors mishandled Kevin Durant‘s injury.

What about DeMarcus Cousins‘?

Cousins tore his quad in the second game of the 2019 playoffs. Golden State coach Steve Kerr said Cousins would likely miss the rest of the postseason. Cousins – who’d spent most of the previous year rehabbing a torn Achilles suffered with the Pelicans – later revealed he was ready to quit.

But Cousins played and even started in the NBA Finals

Cousins on All The Smoke:

I was terrible in the Finals. One leg, was a one-legged bandit on the floor. But you know what I’m saying? I wanted to be a part of it. Not only that, this is – in the Finals, you play hurt. If you can go, you can go.

That’s where you lay your body on the line. So, I went out there and gave it what I had. I mean, the results were unfortunate.

I helped. I helped in spots.

I wasn’t supposed to be on the floor.

I rehabbed a torn quad in six weeks.

And came back and played.

I had no business on the floor. None whatsoever.

I just kept telling myself, “This is what I’ve played for my entire career, to be on this stage, to have this opportunity. Whatever I’ve got to do to be able to be a part of that, I’m going to do it.”

I don’t even know how I did it, honestly, through the rehab. I went in there – s—, the first week, I laid in an oxygen tank, the first week, for like four hours a day, just laid there, ears, brain feels like it’s about to explode, bro. But it was supposed to promote healing and all this. So, I did that the whole first week. After that, rehabbed every single day. Maybe twice a day.

So, just to be a part of that moment. And I got the chance. Do I regret it? Hell no. That’s what I hoop for. Win or loss, I was a part of that. I’m OK with the results. Guess what? I got a little taste of it. I want it again. So, it’s all good.

I appreciate Cousins acknowledging that he pushed himself harder because of the stakes. It’s always dangerous playing hurt. But the cost-benefit analysis changes in the NBA Finals. This is the time players preserve their health for – especially Cousins, who spent years toiling with the Kings. It’s the time to more aggressively risk aggravating an injury.

That said, there are still limits. Teams should be somewhat responsible for protecting players from themselves. After everything with Durant and Andre Iguodala saying he broke his leg but the Warriors called it just a bruise, this raises more questions about Golden State’s handling of injuries.

Cousins felt the consequences hard.

Durant still got a potentially max four-year contract. Cousins settled for just $3.5 million for one year. Then, he tore his ACL over the summer. I definitely can’t say that’s related to rushing back from the quad injury, but it’s at least reasonable to wonder whether these leg injuries are building on each other. The Lakers waived Cousins, and though they might re-sign him, that’d probably be for the minimum.

Cousins said he has no regrets, and we should salute his competitiveness. We can also feel sympathy for his predicament and question the Warriors for playing him. We don’t have to choose a single takeaway from a complex situation.

Draymond Green gets ejected, LeBron James tries to hide smirk (video)

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Steve Kerr vented after the Warriors’ loss to the Lakers last night.

Draymond Green did it during the game.

Green got a technical foul midway through the second quarter. Eleven seconds later, he got another tech and automatic ejection.

LeBron Jamessidelined due to a groin injury – sure enjoyed the spectacle from the Lakers’ bench.

Green might have also enjoyed the aftermath, getting an early exit from Golden State’s 30-point loss.

Three Things to Know: Joel Embiid out at least a week, Sixers shift focus to getting healthy

Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday during the NBA regular season we are here to help you break it all down. Here are three things you need to know from yesterday in the NBA.

1) Joel Embiid will be out at least a week, Philadelphia shifts focus to getting healthy. Clippers coach Doc Rivers was asked about this Monday night, in the wake of his team having a rash of injuries this season while also making sure guys got to rest during the 82. If forced to choose, Rivers wants his team fully healthy entering the playoffs and would give up good seeding to get it.

That’s where the Philadelphia 76ers find themselves now. Coach Brett Brown may not want to have to choose, but ultimately he and his Sixers need to get healthy before the playoffs start. That has to be the priority.

Joel Embiid will be out at least a week with a sprained shoulder, although the MRI reportedly showed no structural damage. As much as Embiid will push to get back on the court, he’s been playing through a few minor injuries and this is the time the Philly staff should make sure he is right before the physicality of the playoffs comes.

Embiid being out is on top of Philly’s other All-Star, Ben Simmons, being out weeks with a pinched nerve in his lower back. The timeline on Simmons’ return is harder to predict because backs and nerves are more unpredictable. He could miss more than a couple of weeks getting this right.

The Sixers responded well on Thursday with a 115-106 win over lowly Knicks, behind Tobias Harris’ 34 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists. The Sixers are now 28-2 at home.

Next up is a stiffer test: Doc Rivers’ Clippers out in Los Angeles, the start of a four-game road trip through the West.

2) Anthony Davis steps up with LeBron James out, the Lakers rout the struggling Warriors. For Golden State, the cavalry — in the form of Stephen Currycould ride over the hill as soon as Sunday to help save the day.

Thursday night, however, the Warriors looked every bit the worst team in the NBA going against one of the best in the Lakers.

Things went frustratingly poorly for Steve Kerr’s squad: Draymond Green got ejected in the second quarter, the Warriors turned the ball over 27 times, the Lakers won the third quarter 40-17, and after that there was a lot of garbage time on the way to a 116-86 Los Angeles rout of Golden State.

For the Lakers, this was the kind of win they need to keep a cushion on the top of the West (they currently have a 5.5 game lead over the second-seeded Nuggets, six games in the loss column). It’s the kind of cushion that lets them rest key players down the stretch before the playoffs — LeBron and company will call it something other than load management, but they shouldn’t worry about the semantics and just make sure guys get fresh before the postseason. That’s going to be a tough grind for everyone.

3) The NBA fines Minnesota $25,000 for resting a healthy D’Angelo Russell. Minnesota shrugs. The NBA knew that when it came to flopping, warning players and then, after three violations, fining them $5,000, was not the kind of financial hit that would get players to stop doing it. The hope was that making it public every time would shame them into doing it less. In the aggregate, it worked.

It’s not going to be the same with fining teams $25,000 for resting healthy players. It’s just going to lead to a semantics dance.

Thursday the league slapped a $25K fine on Minnesota for “violating the league’s player resting policy.” The league is very sensitive to the “load managment” PR issues.

The Timberwolves’ response was essentially a shrug.

The new management team in Minnesota is very focused on modernizing the health and player development programs in the organization. Resting Russell was part of that, and if they felt the need to make sure Russell was good to go for future games they were not going to be dissuaded from sitting him.

Especially if the cost is just $25,000.

Every other NBA team is going to feel the same way. At this point in the season (and much earlier than this, in reality), every NBA player has bumps/bruises/strains/aches that could use a little rest to get healthy. It is not a stretch for teams to say, “Player X is out due to a sore ankle” (or whatever body part they choose) as opposed to listing him out for rest. It’s a loss for transparency, but teams aren’t going to do things differently. Nor should they. Player health — and, in some cases, making sure they are rested and right for the playoffs — should be the priority.

Frustrated Steve Kerr vents a little after Warriors loss to Lakers (VIDEO)

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Nothing that happened should have been a surprise: The Lakers are one of the NBA’s best teams this regular season and even without LeBron James should have had little trouble with the worst team in the league this season, the Warriors. They didn’t. Draymond Green got ejected in the second quarter, the Warriors turned the ball over 27 times, the Lakers won the third quarter 40-17 and from there cruised to a 116-86 rout of Golden State.

After the game, Kerr was frustrated with his team’s effort in its eighth straight loss. Via Logan Murdoch of NBC Sports Bay Area.

“We understand where we are record-wise,” Kerr said. “But we still have a standard that we need to play to and we didn’t do that…

“Tonight was a step backward in the second half,” Kerr admitted. “I was very disappointed with all of the turnovers. We just let things slip away from us…

“For the most part, this year has gone well in terms of our level of competition and energy,” Kerr said. “But that second half was not up to our standards…

“I think you can probably attribute the lack of continuity to that,” Kerr said. “We’re putting some lineups that haven’t been together all year. Having said that, a lot of careless one-handed passing, cross-court, right into the defender’s arms. A lot of plays that just had nothing to do with continuity and everything to do with fundamentals.”

The Warriors have some hope on the horizon in the form of the return of Stephen Curry, which could happen as early as Sunday against the Wizards. That is what Curry wants, Kerr is being a little more cautious, but it should happen soon.

That should bring a few more wins. Not enough to move the Warriors far up in the lottery, but enough to keep Kerr sane.