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Five Takeaways from NBA Wednesday: Durant, Westbrook don’t let Thunder blow this lead

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Just a reminder for those of us dads, we may not be perfect, but we could be worse. For the dads who missed the NBA games Wednesday night, here’s what you need to know from around the Association.

1) Thunder hang on to lead this time, beat Clippers at home behind video game Russell Westbrook. This was cathartic for Oklahoma City and its fans — it was what they should have done a week ago. OKC took a double-digit lead against the Clippers into the fourth quarter and held on for a comfortable win, 120-108. Yes, the OKC stars put up serious numbers — Kevin Durant had 32 points, and he described Russell Westbrook’s night of 25 points, 11 rebounds and 20 assists as being like NBA2K on rookie mode. That’s 11 triple doubles this season from Westbrook, and he has become a beast in the post. But what sealed the win for the Thunder was their defense — they held the Clippers to 46 second half points, after allowing 62 in the first 24 minutes. And underrated performance came from Andre Roberson, who stuck with J.J. Redick as well as anyone has this season (Redick still had 22 points, but for stretches the Clippers couldn’t go to him).

This does not wash away the last couple weeks of the Thunder’s play, but it’s a step in the right direction (and it keeps them alone as the third seed). OKC had big games against San Antonio and Portland coming up where they can prove they are again back to being a real threat in the West.

2) Memphis’ Mario Chalmers went down with an injury that looked bad. Non-contact injuries are the worst, and this one looks bad. Grizzlies’ point guard Mario Chalmers tried to plant and take a step forward and just collapsed on the floor in pain in a game against Boston. He had to be helped back to the locker room and was done for the night, officially with a foot injury (he left the arena in a wheelchair). I hope I’m wrong, but this looked like an Achilles injury. He’ll have an MRI on Thursday. Memphis is already without Mike Conley for a couple of games with a foot injury (not to mention Marc Gasol is done for the season, Zach Randolph is out, and frankly we don’t have the space here to list all the Memphis injuries).



3) Warriors get a team win, but Stephen Curry did drain another half-court buzzer beater.
Stephen Curry was human for a night, with 12 points on 12 shots. Of late that has meant trouble for the Warriors, but for the first time in a little while they responded with their most balanced team game of the season, beating Utah 115-94. It was the kind of win the Warriors need more of. That said, after the game all everyone wanted to talk about was another Stephen Curry 55-footer — Curry is now 5-of-13 this season on “heaves” from beyond 39 feet. That’s 38.4 percent. For this one he had to shake Trey Burke then just drained it like it was nothing.

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4) Kemba Walker scores 30+ for fourth consecutive game. When we talk about the top point guards in the NBA, Kemba Walker’s name needs to come up. He scored 35 points on 18 shots — draining five threes and getting deep into the paint for his other looks — to lead the Hornets to a fifth-straight win, 122-113 over the New Orleans Pelicans. When New Orleans made a run and made it a game early in the fourth, Walker responded with six straight points to spark the Charlotte run that kept them in front. Anthony Davis dropped 40 for the Pelicans and did what he could, but it was not going to be enough against Walker and a Hornets team that knocked down 15 threes on the night.

5) Chris Paul may get a fine for smacking Kevin Durant in the, er, “groin.” Chris Paul is the master of making this look incidental, but it happens too often for that to be the case. In this instance, we’ll see if the NBA hits him with a fine. But when he cuts to open space and swings his arms, CP3 has found a way to slow his defender that is effective.

Warriors’ reportedly showing no urgency to trade D’Angelo Russell

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It’s been the same story since Golden State did a sign-and-trade with Brooklyn last summer that brought them back D'Angelo Russell on a new max contract.

Around the league, executives with other teams expect the Warriors to trade Russell, questioning how he fits long-term with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Golden State itself, however, has pushed back on the idea it just got Russell to trade him and they want to see if a three-guard rotation can work.

Come Dec. 15, Russell — and most players signed this summer — become eligible to be traded. The Warriors still appear to be in no rush, reports Sean Deveney of Heavy.com.

“If it is something that they’re going to do quickly, like before the end of this month, I wouldn’t say they’re pushing for it,” one general manager said. “Maybe they have a deal in mind, maybe they’re sitting on something and laying low. But I’d be surprised. That’s not how they’d approach it, I’d think. You want to create a market if you are going to trade a player like him, you want to pit teams against each other, drive up the price. You don’t want to lock into one deal. But the market thing, that’s not really happening yet. They’re not pushing the market for him.”

What is the motivation for Golden State to move Russell now, or at the February trade deadline, as opposed to next June around the draft? Or next July? There isn’t, unless some team approaches them with a Godfather offer. This season is a lost cause for the Warriors, and next season they are going to be looking for veterans to help them win now more than rookies to develop.

Russell has averaged 22.3 points a game and played well when healthy, but he has missed half of the Warriors games so far this season due to injury. That’s not exactly boosting Russell’s trade value, another reason to be patient.

Maybe the Russell trade drama ramps up after the season ends, but for now the Warriors continue to play it cool.

People with power within Knicks reportedly “obsessed” with Masai Ujiri

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In the latest sign of dysfunction in New York, Knicks president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry didn’t show their face and talk to the media Saturday about the firing of coach David Fizdale. Instead, they sent interim head coach Mike Miller to a podium, by himself, to talk about the situation. It was awkward. It’s also not how well-run organizations handle things.

Mills and Perry are on the hot seat — and they should be. This 4-19 Knicks season is more on them and how this roster was built than Fizdale (who was not blameless in all this).

There have been rumors owner James Dolan may go after Raptors president Masai Ujiri to take over Knicks, and that is growing into an “obsession” with influential people, reports Ian Begley of SNY.tv.

Will the Knicks have a shot at landing Ujiri? That’s unclear. But once the Knicks started struggling last month, multiple Madison Square Garden people in positions of influence have been ‘obsessed’ with – and ‘enamored’ by – the Raptors executive, per SNY sources.

In order to land Ujiri, it will probably take significant money and full autonomy.

There is no evidence that Ujiri, the man who built Toronto into a champion, would seriously consider leaving the Raptors for the Knicks.

The real key to luring Ujiri to Madison Square Garden is “full autonomy.” No Knicks president has had it. Phil Jackson was told he had it, but he wasn’t able to bring in his people who pushed out some of the entrenched staff. Sources told me that other people considered for team president have asked for the power to clean out the front office and bring in their own guys, only to learn Mills and others would remain in positions of power.

Owner James Dolan has stepped back from involving himself in basketball decisions in recent years, will he take the next step and let someone else fully run his basketball operations side without any pushback or interference internally?

One thing to watch with the Knicks going forward: Do they make any trade deadline deals? (That market really opens up soon, on Dec. 15 players signed this summer can be traded.) If New York does make a trade, is it a short-term boost kind of move designed to get wins now and maybe help save certain executive’s jobs, or are they trades focused on the long-term building of a winner? Since Jackson was in charge, the Knicks have done a good job not trading away their first-round picks, this would be a poor time to change that trend.

 

Myles Turner block, Julius Randle missed free throw with 0.1 left gives Pacers one-point win

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For the Knicks, under interim coach Mike Miller, this was a step forward. New York had been blown out by 37+ points their last two games, and that helped cost David Fizdale his job, but here they were with a chance to send the game to overtime late.

For the Pacers, this is just a win.

But that win came down to the final play — a blocked shot by Myles Turner then a missed Julius Randle free throw with 0.1 on the clock gave Indiana the 104-103 win.

“You get in those games, you’ve got to make another play and we just didn’t make another play,” Miller said, via the Associated Press. “Loved the effort. That was fun.”

A Jeremy Lamb and-1  had the Pacers up by six, 104-98, with 5:17 left. The Pacers would not score again.

What kept the Pacers alive was their defense — the Knicks shot 2-of-15 in the final 5:05 of the game, then with everything on the line Myles Turner came up with the game-saving block on Michell Robinson.

Julius Randle got the offensive rebound and was fouled when he went back up. That sent Randle — the Knicks biggest offseason signing — to the free throw line with 0.1 on the clock and the chance to force overtime. Randle hit the first, but…

There are no moral victories in the NBA, but this feels like one for New York.

For the Pacers, they will just take the win, thank you very much.

 

Russell Westbrook’s third-straight triple-double powers Rockets past Suns

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HOUSTON (AP) — On a night where James Harden‘s shots weren’t falling for three quarters, the Houston Rockets got big performances from those in supporting roles until the star stepped up late to close out the victory.

Harden scored 18 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter and Ben McLemore added 27 points to help the Rockets outlast the Phoenix Suns 115-109 on Saturday night.

Harden had a tough shooting night through three quarters and was 5 of 19 overall and 1 of 10 on 3s with 16 points before getting going in the fourth. The game was tied with about 7 minutes left, and he scored all of Houston’s points in a 13-6 run that made it 102-95.

“That’s how deep we are,” Harden said. “We have a really good team and guys that can make plays and knock down shots. More importantly we were focused on our defense.”

Russell Westbrook had 24 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists for his third straight triple-double and sixth this season. Harden finished 8 of 27, 3 of 17 on 3s and made 15 of 18 free throws.

Devin Booker led the Suns with 35 points after scoring a season-high 44 in an overtime victory at New Orleans on Thursday night.

Phoenix coach Monty Williams was proud of his team for staying in it until the very end.

“We have a mentality that we just don’t give in,” Williams said. “We’re playing young guys that are learning how to play against physical NBA men and that’s part of developing.”

The Suns cut the lead to five twice in the last 90 seconds, but both times Westbrook made a layup to extend the advantage. And the second time he was fouled on the shot and made the free throw to make it 114-106.

The Suns scored seven straight points, capped by a dunk from Kelly Oubre, to tie it at 85 with about 9 minutes left. After a timeout, Harden scored Houston’s first points in about three minutes on a layup to put Houston back on top.

It was tied again before Harden scored five points to give the Rockets a 94-89 lead. He stole the ball from Ty Jerome after that and was fouled by Booker on a drive, with Harden aggressively continuing forward and pushing Booker off the court. Harden later shoved Booker, and they both received technical fouls to the bewilderment of the Suns.

Harden made both free throws to make it seven points in a row and was fouled again after he stole the ball from Mikal Bridges. Harden made one of those free throws to make it 97-89.

“He finds a way to win the game,” Houston coach Mike D’Antoni said. “A lot of guys contributed. A lot of guys played well.”