Five Things We Learned in NBA Tuesday: Warriors win Pacific Division, may win much more

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If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while finding Jesus in a landslide scar

1) Golden State has won the Pacific Division for the first time since 1976. They could win a whole lot more. As deep and as landmine filled as the Western Conference playoffs will be, the Golden State Warriors are the favorites. They have the most efficient offense in the NBA (109.6 points scored per 100 possessions) and the most efficient defense in the league (97.5 per 100 allowed) — the last team to have both in a season was the 72-win Jordan era Bulls. Tuesday night the Warriors pulled away in the second half to beat Portland and clinch Golden State’s first Pacific Division title since 1976. It happened because Stephen Curry had 33 points (on 22 shots) and a couple times went into his video game mode. It happened because Draymond Green — my pick for Defensive Player of the Year — had 14 points, 11 rebounds, and eight assists in 37 minutes. It happened because the Warriors shot 60.2 percent as a team. It happened because LaMarcus Aldridge is out with a sore hand. It happened because Golden State had 37 assists on 50 made shots. It happened because the Warriors are the best team in the NBA this season. Bar none.

2) Monta Ellis found his shot again, it makes Dallas a much tougher out. When Monta Ellis gets going Dallas is almost impossible to stop. You still have to pay attention to Dirk Nowitzki and Chandler Parsons, and something has to give. Ellis has been up and down in recent games, but he was on Tuesday night, and the Spurs paid the price. Ellis had 38 points — 23 in the second half — and was doing it by getting to the rim and knocking down his midrange shots. Consider Dallas beating San Antonio your daily reminder that the Western Conference playoffs will be amazing. Well, amazing for us fans, I don’t envy the coaches.

3) Khris Middleton is a thing, hits game winner to beat Miami. This summer Khris Middleton is going to be a good litmus test for how closely you follow the NBA. Middleton is a restricted free agent who is going to get PAID. Like max or close to it paid. He’s the darling of a lot of front offices and every team could use a guy like him. The Bucks likely match, but he will be making bank next year. Your friends who don’t follow the NBA will say “who?” and you’ll try to explain how he’s a fantastic “3 and D” player, he’s a guy who just a huge plus for your team on the court (the advanced stats love him), and he can evolve into much more. Or, you can just show them this shot to beat the Heat.

4) Toronto’s defense is a mess (and they would seriously miss Kyle Lowry). Toronto Raptors fans are awesome — they took over the Palace at Auburn Hills and turned Detroit’s court into a Raptors’ home game. Right now, that is the only thing that is awesome about Toronto. Their defense is a disaster — they allowed Detroit to score at a 119.3 points per 100 possessions pace Tuesday (in a Detroit win). For the month of March, the Raptors are allowing 110.5 points per 100, the worst in the NBA. Their offense has bailed them out a few times, but now they could be without All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry for a while. He played just 11 minutes due to back spasms and hinted he is going to miss a little time to let it heal before the playoffs.

5) Just your weekly reminder DeMarcus Cousins is a beast. Philadelphia is a pretty good defensive team this season (it’s the other end of the court that’s the real issue) but they had no answer for DeMarcus Cousins in beast mode Tuesday. Cousins had 33 points (on 8-of-27 shooting), plus four blocks and four steals. He is just so strong he can do whatever he wants down low, and if you bring the double he’ll beat you with the pass. (And this video below doesn’t even get into his strong defense on the night.)

Gordon Hayward says he’s feeling confident in his ankle for next season

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Gordon Hayward still wasn’t particularly good last season. He never really looked all that comfortable playing with the Boston Celtics, and Brad Stevens’ insistence on playing him led to some reported rifts in the Boston locker room.

But Hayward is expected to come back at full strength this year, and it could be just in time for him to shine in light of Kyrie Irving‘s departure to the Brooklyn Nets.

His severely dislocated left ankle is now long behind him, and it appears that Hayward has been putting in the work necessary this summer. Speaking to Mass Live, Hayward said that he is starting to get more confident in his game.

Via Mass Live:

“Reps is what gives you confidence, so being able to do things over and over and over and not worry about how my ankle’s feeling, or having to be cautious with it, has been really good, especially for my confidence,” Hayward said. “I think last year was a lot of hoping and not really knowing what was going to happen just because I didn’t have the reps… going into a summer training as hard as I want to, it’s a lot better for my confidence this year and expectations-wise as well.”

A healthy Hayward would really change the dynamic of the Celtics in the Eastern Conference this year. Losing Irving is huge, but Boston is going to have a real depth of talent on its hands if it can add Hayward to other wing talent Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Marcus Smart.

It seems cliche to point out at this point, but people have slept on how good Hayward was on both sides of the ball during his time with the Utah Jazz. He’s a complete player at the small forward position when healthy, and bringing back his superstar firepower could ease the pain of losing Irving to Brooklyn.

Royce White questions why Lakers have Jared Dudley not ‘Melo; Dudley, others defend move

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There are a lot of people surprised that this deep into the summer, with NBA rosters largely filled out, Carmelo Anthony isn’t playing somewhere. Whether on Team USA or training with new teammates for an upcoming NBA season.

Among those confused, former NBA draft pick Royce White, who was outspoken on the issue — and called out both LeBron James and Jared Dudley — in speaking with Fanatics View.

Dudley responded to this, not directly to White but to a retweet of this rant, and did so in Dudley’s calm, rational way. His Tweet has since been taken down, but it said:

“This isn’t Melo vs myself, That man is a 1st ballot HOFer… We all want to see him back in the league… Royce seems uninformed when he speaks and this situation in calling my name out. This league is not about who’s better then who it’s what’s players make for the best Team.”

Kendrick Perkins and Jameer Nelson had Dudley’s back.

Dudley/Perkins/Nelson are spot on here. The reason Dudley is on an NBA roster and Anthony is not is all about willingness to fit in and play a role. Dudley knows exactly how to do that, accepting limited minutes off the bench, staying ready, and when he comes in playing hard, being a pest, and knocking down threes. Anthony is unquestionably still a better scorer, but he was unwilling to accept a role in both Oklahoma City and Houston (and his game now is that of a role player/sixth man). Anthony says that’s different now, but GMs are risk averse in most situations. Teams that might have interest in ‘Melo are concerned about the possible distraction and disruption, and they wonder if that risk is worth what Anthony brings to the court right now. It was the same with Team USA.

Some team should — and one likely eventually will — give Anthony another shot. He deserves it. However, teams thinking about a deep playoff run tend to like their chemistry and are wary of disruptions, so nothing has come out yet. Even if Royce White and a lot of other people think it should have.

P.J. Tucker ‘optimistic’ about contract extension with Rockets

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As trade rumors swirled around the Rockets, P.J. Tucker instead focused on a contract extension.

Well, the dust has settled in Houston. The Rockets dealt Chris Paul to build around a James HardenRussell Westbrook backcourt.

Tucker still wants to stay.

Tucker, via Kelly Iko of The Athletic:

“It’s now,” he said of getting a new deal done. “It’s time for my extension right now, so we’ll see. We’ll see what happens. I’m optimistic, we’ll see.”

The most Tucker can earn in an extension is $30,985,560 over three years (or $19,891,964 over two years or $9,563,444 over one year). That’s a bargain based on how he has played lately.

Tucker’s versatile hard-nosed defense has been so important in Houston. He often holds the Rockets together on that side of the ball. Offensively, he fits well with his corner 3-point shooting.

But Tucker is also 34. Houston can’t depend on him remaining productive when on an extension that would begin at age 36.

There’s no urgency for the Rockets to extend him. He’s locked up two more seasons.

Practically, extending Tucker now would also mean guaranteeing his 2020-21 salary a year before necessary. Just $2,569,188 of his $7,969,537 salary that season is guaranteed. There’s a chance Houston might want to waive him in 2020.

Tucker is so good and so underpaid, even his largest-possible extension (which is based on his prior salary) could turn into a steal for Houston. That’s the only reason this conversation is happening. Because with most players so old and so far from free agency, an extension is a non-starter.

Andre Iguodala on possible boycott after Donald Sterling audio: ‘I was all-in. Like shut down the whole season’

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In 2014, the Clippers were playing the Warriors in a first-round series when then-Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s racist rant became public.

Among the most pressing questions: Would players boycott?

The Clippers were having one of their best seasons ever, and they were in the playoffs. Nobody knew how a boycott would affect the team.

Would the Clippers have to forfeit? Would the game just be rescheduled? Would players get punished? Would a boycott even be effective?

This was uncharted territory.

But apparently the Clippers weren’t in it alone.

Andre Iguodala, via Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

“I was all-in. Like shut down the whole season,” then-Warriors forward Andre Iguodala said. “Maybe that was too far, but as far as that game that day, you can reschedule it, you gotta sort this thing out, because there’s some deep-rooted stuff with him that had to be addressed.”

It’s far easier to talk about boycotting than actually doing it.

I get the outrage over Sterling’s comments. But we’ll never know what would’ve happened if NBA commissioner Adam Silver hadn’t take the drastic step of banning Sterling.

Clippers players protested with their warmup uniforms. That apparently helped send enough of a message for Silver to act.