NBC/PBT NBA Power Rankings: Spurs take over top spot after knocking off Warriors

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We have a new No. 1 after the Spurs controlled the style of play and beat the Warriors over the weekend (although all that game really proves is those two teams will have an epic Western Conference Finals). Elsewhere the Hawks are climbing, the Clippers are slipping.

source: 1. Spurs (59-10, LW 2).The win over Golden State showed a few things the Spurs want/need to do against the Warriors in a seven-game series: Slow the tempo (12 below GSW average), use entire team to defend Stephen Curry beyond the arc, dominate the glass, hit their midrange shots, get a little lucky. Their defense sets the tone. Fun challenge at Oklahoma City this week.

source: 2. Warriors (62-7, last week No. 1). A few guys are out, but they miss the injured Andre Iguodala more than any of them, especially when Golden State goes small. They need to go 11-2 the rest of the way to break the Bulls’ 72-win record, which Draymond Green seems to think they can do in their sleep. It’s not going to be that easy, starting with having to face the Clippers this week.

source: 3. Cavaliers (49-20, LW 3). They lost two games last week that had fans and Tyronn Lue shaking their heads (Miami and Utah). The big issue is their defense has become pedestrian — 17th in the NBA in their last 10 games — and the offense doesn’t always bail them out. The recent losses has left Cleveland vulnerable to the next team on this list.

source: 4. Raptors (48-21, LW 4). They are just one game back of the Cavaliers for the top seed in the East (and remember the Raptors have the tie breaker). Toronto’s guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan rightfully draw a lot of praise, but other guys have stepped up of late, such as Bismack Biyombo.

source: 5. Thunder (48-22 LW 6). Russell Westbrook is second on my MVP ballot right now and he had three triple-doubles last week to secure that space. Add to that the Thunder defensive numbers have been better of late — not to mention they still have Kevin Durant (and he loves OKC) — and Saturday’s showdown with the Spurs will be interesting.

source: 6. Hawks (41-29, LW 10). Your current three seed in the East, they have the second best net rating in the NBA over the last 10 games (San Antonio is tops), and it’s because their defense continues to shut teams down (second best in the NBA on the season). They have won five in a row, their offense is starting to look like last year’s, and you have to wonder if the Hawks can make it back to the conference finals if things go their way (meaning they are not on the Cavs side of the bracket).

source: 7. Hornets (39-30, LW 7). After a couple stumbles they picked up an important win against the Heat and remain in the hunt for the three seed (1.5 back of Hawks) and for home court in the first round (1 game back of Miami). But the schedule gets tough, starting with the Spurs Monday then a heavy dose of road games to follow.

source: 8. Heat (40-29, LW 9). They fell to Charlotte but beat the Cavaliers last week. Unlike those Cavs, the Heat are actually playing faster since the All-Star break (nearly five possessions a game) and the result has been a dramatically improved offense (8.6 points per 100 possessions). If they can sustain that come the playoffs (or if Chris Bosh returns) remains the question.

source: 9. Clippers (43-26, LW 5). In their last two games they fell to Memphis with Zach Randolph and none of the rest of their core, then they lost to Anthony Davis-less New Orleans. They are 4-6 in their last 10, their defense has been a mess, and now it looks like Blake Griffin will not be back until next month.

source: 10. Celtics (39-30, LW 8). They are simply not the same team without Jae Crowder, which may be why Celtics fans would rather focus on how they have a longshot chance at Kevin Durant this summer (he loves the city). Kelly Olynyk is back but is showing a lot of rust.

source: 11. Pacers (36-33, LW 11).This is not a team securely in the playoffs in the East — thy are the seven seed but Chicago and Detroit are in a virtual tie for eight and nine just half-a-game behind Indiana. With a run of winnable games (Sixers, Pelicans, Nets) the Pacers need to create some space between them and the teams below them.

source: 12. Rockets (35-35, LW 15). I don’t see Dwight Howard’s stickum situation as that big a deal, but he finds ways to hurt his own cause with his comments on a consistent basis. Houston is tied with Dallas for the final two playoff spots in the West, 1 game up on nine seed Utah, which means the Rockets need to find wins in a tough schedule this week against Thunder, Jazz, Raptors, and Pacers.

source: 13. Grizzlies (40-30, LW 12). One of the most injury riddled teams in the league, they are stumbling but then turn around and still find ways to do things like beat the Clippers. They remain basically locked into the five seed, very likely setting up another playoff series against those Clippers.

source: 14. Wizards (34-35, LW 19). Washington started the week beating Detroit and Chicago — the two teams they are chasing to make the playoffs — and have now won four in a row. Still, fivethiryeight.com has them projected with just a 17 percent chance to make the playoffs. That would change if they can do damage in a home-and-home with Atlanta this week.

source: 15. Pistons (36-34, LW 13). They are 2-1 to start their nine-game homestand, and if the Pistons are going to make the playoffs this stretch is the time to do it. This week they have winnable but not easy games such as the Bucks, Hornets, and Hawks. It’s going to come down to the up-and-down Pistons defense.

source: 16. Jazz (33-36, LW 18). They have won five of six and now stand just one game back of Houston and Dallas for the final playoff slot in the West. Gordon Hayward is playing through some painful plantar fasciitis, but they need his offense on the court to make the playoffs (fivethiryeight.com projects them with a 78 percent chance of getting in).

source: 17. Bulls (35-33, LW 17). Jimmy Butler being back in the lineup — and making game-saving plays against Toronto — is keeping the Bulls afloat and in the playoffs chase in the East (fivethiryeight.com projects them with a 38 percent chance of getting in). That estimate may be low, the Bulls have winnable games this week (Kings, Knicks twice, Magic) but they need to be more consistent, they have blown these kinds of games recently.

source: 18. Mavericks (35-35, LW 16). . They are in a playoff fight and Dirk Nowitzki is carrying them on his 37-year-old shoulders — he has 20 or more points in eight straight games. He’s had to play some center and did it well. He’s going to have to keep it up as the Mavs have a rough week with four road games including at Portland and Golden State.

source: 19. Trail Blazers (36-35, LW 14). Portland has the worst defense in the NBA in their last 10 games, which is why they have won just three of them. They are not a playoff lock, just 1.5 games up on nine-seed Utah. Important game for them against Dallas this week.

source: 20. Bucks (30-40, LW 20). While the focus has been on Giannis Antetokounmpo as the point forward, and with reason, in their last 10 games the Bucks offense has been middle of the pack in the league. What has made them a potential spoiler is they have the fifth best defense in the NBA over their last 10 games. All that size on the court works defensively.

source: 21. Nuggets (29-41, LW 22). In their last 10 games the Nuggets are scoring 109.7 points per 100 possessions, sixth best offense in the NBA. That’s in large part due to the improved play of Emmanuel Mudiay and some help from D.J. Augustin. Do that for all of next season and we’ll be talking about them in the playoff mix.

source: 22. Magic (29-40, LW 21). They are playing good teams close. The Magic are still losing those games, but they are playing team’s close, so that’s a little moral victory. This had been a good stretch if you have Victor Oladipo on your fantasy team.

source: 23. Kings (27-42, LW 26). Their defense has not been impressive, but DeMarcus Cousins has been and that’s enough to get them wins over the likes of the Lakers and Knicks. This is going to be one of the more interesting teams to watch this summer, but if you’re expecting Cousins to be traded you’ll be disappointed.

source: 24. Knicks (28-43, LW 23). Another team that will be fascinating to watch this summer — the pressure is on Phil Jackson to put the right pieces around Kristaps Porzingis. If he can find a trade that Carmelo Anthony would agree to Jackson will have earned those massive paychecks.

source: 25. Pelicans (26-43, LW 25). Anthony Davis gets shut down for the season and the Pelicans promptly go out and beat the Clippers. Did not see that coming (neither did Doc Rivers). Jrue Holiday is playing well of late — they need to get one more point guard to platoon/back him up to keep his minutes (and injuries) in check next season.

source: 26. Timberwolves (22-47,LW 24). Some teams tweak rotations this time of the season, but the Timberwolves will not — the develop the young stars train will continue through April. The question is what coach will be developing these young players next season.

source: 27. Nets (19-50, LW 28). Looking for bright spots in Brooklyn? Bojan Bogdanovic has played fairly well of late. New GM Sean Marks is very smart (and Bogdanovic could be a trade piece). After that… good food in the arena.

source: 28. Suns (19-50, LW 29). While they’re not suddenly playing well they are beating some of the other bottom feeders recently. Which will make Celtics fans happy if the Suns can finish with a better record than the Nets (they are tied) as Boston has Brooklyn’s pick this June.

source: 29. Lakers (14-52, LW 27). Finally Byron Scott has said he’s going to let the young players close out games, even if they are playing poorly. I know there were ego/discipline concerns with D’Angelo Russell (he wasn’t being professional in his work off the court) but this still should have been happening from the start. This is how you develop players.

source: 30. 76ers (9-60, LW 30). A lot of people are asking why Joel Embiid is all the way in Qatar again getting treatment on his foot? That’s a world-class facility for elite athletes built as part of Qatar’s bribes/efforts to get the 2022 World Cup, and it’s common for elite European soccer players to get treatment there. This is a top flight spot, we’ll see if it helps Embiid.

Watch Curry score 39, spark Warriors rally from 20 down to beat Pelicans


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Draymond Green yelled at the other bench, his own team and even his coach, and this time those intense emotions absolutely made the difference.

Steve Kerr loved it.

“We need his fire,” Golden State’s coach said.

“It was perfect, right, perfectly executed,” Green said with a grin.

Stephen Curry had 39 points with eight 3-pointers, eight rebounds and eight assists, Jordan Poole added 21 points with consecutive layups that gave Golden State the lead early in the fourth quarter, and the Warriors rallied past the New Orleans Pelicans 120-109 on Tuesday night in a testy, playoff-like matchup in late March.

Klay Thompson scored 17 and hit five 3s to set a new single-season career high of 278, which leads the NBA.

The Warriors moved up a spot into sixth place in the crowded Western Conference standings, a half-game up on Minnesota and 1 1/2 games ahead of New Orleans. Golden State lost 99-96 at home to the Timberwolves on Sunday, so coming back from 20 down to win this one was key as the defending champions try to avoid the play-in round. The top six teams are guaranteed playoff berths.

“We lost a heartbreaker the other night. We knew we had to bounce back,” Kerr said.

Brandon Ingram had 26 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, Trey Murphy III scored 21 points and CJ McCollum added 15 for the Pelicans, who came in riding a five-game winning streak.

Green chirped and pushed the emotions and physicality all game, then threw an alley-oop to Jonathan Kuminga for a dunk with 7:09 left for one of his 13 assists and a 101-98 advantage.

“Draymond willed us to victory tonight,” Kerr said. “His frustration early with the way we were playing. Mad at the world. Yelling at everybody, their bench, our bench, me, and frankly we all deserved it.”

Green was whistled for a double technical for tussling with Ingram late in the second quarter – and Green’s foul was upgraded to a Flagrant 1. He already served a one-game suspension March 17 at Atlanta for his 16th technical.

Green committed an offensive foul moments later and players for both sides tangled, Green’s feet getting caught up with Herbert Jones’ head. A replay showed no additional infractions but Kerr briefly took Green out with tensions running high because of his “extreme energy” in that moment.

“We looked dead those first 18 minutes of the game,” Kerr said. “We had to find some energy somewhere. I knew it wasn’t just going to come.”

Three straight 3-pointers by Curry late in the third got Golden State within 89-83. Poole then stole the ball from Ingram and dunked on the other end as the Warriors trailed 89-85 going into the final 12 minutes.

Golden State started the third on an 8-0 burst fueled by Donte DiVincezo. He made a putback dunk over Ingram early in the second half then a three-point play before Thompson’s 3 at 10:44 made it 63-54.

McCollum’s 3 with 1:40 left before halftime put the Pelicans up 60-43, then Ingram made it a 20-point game with a 3 New Orleans’ next time down.

The Pelicans, coached by former Warriors assistant Willie Green and longtime Golden State assistant Jarron Collins on his staff, had won five straight after a 124-90 romp at Portland on Monday night.

The Warriors’ victory prevented the Sacramento Kings, coached by former top assistant Mike Brown, their first playoff berth since 2006 that would end the worst drought in NBA history at 16 years.

Nowitzki, Wade, Gasol, Popovich reportedly headline Hall of Fame class


It will not become official until Saturday, but this is shaping up to be a legendary Hall of Fame class.

Dwyane Wade. Dirk Nowitzki. Gregg Popovich. Pau Gasol. Tony Parker. Becky Hammon. They are all in, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This is a deep class, and there was no question about any of those players’ Hall of Fame credentials.

Wade is one of the (arguably THE) greatest shooting guard in the history of the game, winning three rings as a member of the Miami Heat, plus making eight All-NBA teams and 13 trips to the All-Star game. Nowitzki is the greatest Maverick ever and the greatest European player in NBA history, an NBA champion and Finals MVP, plus he won the regular season MVP in 2007.

Popovich, the legendary coach of the five-time champion San Antonio Spurs — a team that won 50+ games 18-straight seasons with him at the helm, plus he coached Team USA to the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics. Parker was the point guard for much of that Spurs run, is a four-time NBA champion and was Finals MVP in 2007. Gasol is a two-time NBA champion, four-time All-NBA,and led Spain to the FIBA World Championship in 2006 and won three Olympic medals.

The Hall of Fame class will officially be announced on Saturday.


Draymond Green is good with facing Kings in first round — because of the travel


If the NBA playoffs started today, the Golden State Warriors would be in the play-in and host the Pelicans in the 7/8 game. Win that and they would hop on a more than three-hour flight to Memphis to take on the Grizzlies.

Draymond Green said on his podcast he is hoping the Warriors finish as the No.6 seed and dodge the play-in, then face the Kings to open the playoffs (which is how the standings stood 24 hours ago). Why? It’s a 90-mile drive to Sacramento.

“The reason why I said Sac is simply just because of the travel. That’s a lot on your body. If we can bus ride an hour and 10 minutes up the way, I just think that’s much better for us. At the end of the day, I don’t really care who we play in the playoffs, I think we can win.”

Green is not wrong about the travel.

While some teams may have looked at the top four in the West (Nuggets, Grizzlies, Kings, and Suns) and seen Sacramento as the obvious target, that plan could backfire. The Kings’ offense is diverse and elite, and they have the Clutch Player of the Year in De'Aaron Fox, and their building will be rocking like no other after the franchise has not been in the playoffs since 2006. In a West filled with flawed teams, the Kings winning a couple of rounds is well within the realm of possibility.

This could be the first year since the Kings moved to Sacramento that all four California teams make the playoffs (it is likely that all four at least make the play-in). The Kings are all but locked in to be the No.3 seed, while the Warriors, Lakers and Clippers are in the crowded field at the bottom of the playoff bracket where three games separate the No.5 and 11 seeds.

Bradley Beal reportedly under investigation after confrontation with fan who lost gambling

Washington Wizards v Orlando Magic
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On March 21, Bradley Beal had an off game — 16 points on 4-of-15 shooting — as the Wizards fell to the Magic in Orlando.

Walking off the court, Beal got into a confrontation with a couple of fans, one of whom blamed him for a gambling loss. The next day that incident became a complaint filed with the Orlando Police Department by the fan. David Purdum of ESPN summarized the police report this way:

Beal and the Wizards were exiting the court and in the visitors’ tunnel, headed to the locker room, when, according to the police report, an unidentified man remarked to Beal, “You made me lose $1,300, you f***.”

Beal, according to the report, turned around and walked toward a friend of the man who made the comment and swatted his right hand toward him, knocking the man’s hat off and contacting the left side of his head.

Police reviewed video footage of the altercation and heard Beal say this is his job and he takes it seriously, and the man is heard apologizing, implying he did not intend to offend him, according to the report.

At this point, no charges have been filed against Beal. According to TMZ, Beal told the heckler, “Keep it a buck. I don’t give a f*** about none of your bets or your parlays, bro. That ain’t why I play the game.” The entire incident lasted less than a minute.

NBA spokesman Mike Bass said, “We are aware of the report and are in the process of gathering more information.”

Sports betting is not currently legal in the state of Florida.

While there is nothing official from the team, speculation abounds that the Wizards have shut down Beal and Kyle Kuzma for the season.