Associated Press

DeMarcus Cousins scores 35, Kings top Hornets 109-106

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP)  — While DeMarcus Cousins had another huge night, the All-Star was more excited about getting some big-time help from his teammates.

Cousins had 35 points and 18 rebounds, and four others Kings had at least 13 points as the Sacramento Kings beat the Charlotte Hornets 109-106 on Saturday night for their third win in the last four games.

Darren Collison had 17 points, Anthony Tolliver added 14 and Aaron Afflalo and Willie Cauley-Stein chipped in with 13 apiece for the Kings (19-28).

“It makes my job a whole lot easier,” said Cousins, who has 27 double-doubles this season. “Guys have been great lately. They are believing. Their confidence is high, which we need, and we’re just on the right path and we feel it.”

Cousins scored the go-ahead basket with 14.3 seconds left on a driving layup from the right side of the lane, saying the only thing he saw was “the basket.”

“We are realizing what is going to win us games and it’s not iso(lation) basketball,” Cousins said. “When we are making the defense work and getting the best shot for the team and just finding the open man, we are realizing that is working for us.”

But Cousins proved again why he is a dominant force inside with seven offensive rebounds.

“Even when they did miss he got the rebound and put it in,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said.

The Hornets had a chance to take the lead in the closing seconds as Kemba Walker dished out to an open Frank Kaminsky at the top of the key, but the 7-footer shot an airball with 1 second remaining. Cousins grabbed the rebound and was fouled, making one free throw for the final margin.

“DeMarcus understands that the defense is giving him all sorts of looks,” Collison said. “The good thing about DeMarcus that I’ve seen if he’s not scoring ball, he’s telling guys to continue to hit their shots. He understands the game.”

TIP-INS

Kings: Outscored the Hornets 48-38 in the paint. … Tolliver provided a big lift off the bench in the first half with 11 points on three 3-pointers.

Hornets: Walker has 34 20-point games this season. … Clifford picked up his eighth technical foul of the season in the second quarter after arguing for a charge on Cousins against Walker. … Walker moved into third place in franchise history in field goals made (2,586), passing Gerald Wallace. He is behind only Dell Curry and Larry Johnson.

STOPPING KEMBA

Walker had 20 points in the third quarter and appeared to be heating up for a big fourth. But the Kings held him to one shot attempt and no points in the final quarter.

When asked what his team did to stop Walker, Kings coach Dave Joerger joked, “Put some stuff in his water down at their bench down there.”

“He carries a big load for this team,” Joerger said. “He’s well-deserving of the honor of being an All-Star. I’ve seen it only twice a year, but it always seems like especially in the last three minutes, you don’t want the ball in his hands in a close game. Maybe we got into his legs. We tried to be up in pick-and-rolls and give him looks where you know, smaller guys don’t like playing in small spaces. We just tried to take it out of his hands.”

TURNOVER ISSUES

The Hornets paid Nic Batum $120 million to make plays, and he’s certainly doing that with 19 points, seven assists and seven rebounds.

But Batum’s turnovers are beginning to become a concern. He has 31 in the last eight games, including four games with at least five.

 

Stephen Curry reportedly will return to Warriors lineup Sunday vs. Wizards

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After four months off, the Warriors were looking for a soft landing spot to ease Stephen Curry back into the rotation.

How about Sunday, vs. Washington and the worst defense in the NBA this season?

That’s the plan, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Curry has said for some time he was targeting March 1 for a return, this would be that exact date (to be fair to the Wizards, they have played better defense of late). After that, Golden State plays at Denver on the third, has a Finals rematch against Toronto at the Chase Center on March 5, then the 76ers visit the Warriors on the seventh.

Curry suffered a fractured hand just four games into the season when Suns’ center Aron Baynes fell on him. Recovery required two surgeries, one to put pins in to stabilize the bone through the healing process, then a second one to remove those pins once the recovery was far enough along.

While some fans had called for Curry to sit out the season and tank, Warriors coach Steve Kerr emphatically shot that idea down. As he should.

For one thing, Kerr wants to build some familiarity and chemistry between Curry and newly acquired Andrew Wiggins this season. Having Curry back may mean the Warriors don’t finish with the worst record in the league this season (which they have right now) but with the flattened out draft lottery odds that’s not as big an issue. Besides, this is not a deep draft. This is not a situation where the Warriors will get instant help — in our podcast recently, NBC Sports’ Rob Dauster described it as the top three picks in this draft would be 6-10 most seasons. The Warriors may ultimately try to trade their pick for a player who can help more next season.

Ben Simmons has nerve impingement in lower back, to be re-evaluated in two weeks

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The biggest concern with Ben Simmons back issue is not that it will have him out weeks, it’s that nobody is saying what exactly is causing it.

Simmons has a nerve impingement in his lower back that will have him getting treatment daily, and he will be re-evaluated in two weeks, something first reported  by Shams Charania of The Athletic and confirmed by NBC Sports Philadelphia. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski provided some context, but nothing that is very encouraging.

A nerve impingement — what is commonly referred to as a pinched nerve — is exactly what it sounds like: Something is pressing on the nerve, “pinching” it and causing pain.

The big question: What is impinging on the nerve? That’s what Jeff Stotts of In Street Clothes asked.

This does not sound like something that is going to be resolved in two weeks and Simmons will be back to normal.

Simmons injured his back last Wednesday in practice while grabbing a rebound, according to coach Brett Brown. Simmons sat out last Thursday’s Sixers game against the Nets, tried to play on Saturday vs. the Bucks but had to come out after one quarter, and has not set foot on the court since.

Simmons averages 16.9 points, 8.3 assists, 7.9 rebounds a game, not to mention a league-best 2.2 steals a night. The All-Star is a core part of the Sixers rotation and will miss significant time they try to climb up into the top four in the East and get home court for the first round of the playoffs. Shake Milton started Monday in Simmons place.

Tilman Ferttita: Rockets don’t fear Lakers, Clippers like they did Warriors

Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta
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Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta likes to talk.

Volume 48.

Fertitta, via Kirk Bohls of Statesman:

“I think Milwaukee is head over heels above everybody else,” said Fertitta

“We just need to get home court for the first and second rounds and see what happens.”

“None of us fear L.A. or the Clippers or Denver like we feared Golden State,” he said. “It’s not like how we were scared of them. We could easily win the West this year or get knocked out in the first round. Both L.A. teams, Denver, Houston, we’re all excellent teams. Just comes down to somebody gets hot and makes a shot. Our chances are as good as they’ve ever been.”

The Rockets stood up to the Warriors far more than any other team. But that was most true before Fertitta put his imprint on the franchise. He’s somewhat culpable for Houston cowering to Golden State.

As far as this season, Fertitta is right all around: The Bucks are great, combining last year’s success with important playoff lessons. Houston could easily win the West or lose in the first round. The Lakers, Clippers and Nuggets shouldn’t be feared. (Nobody fears the Nuggets, though they are a real championship contender.)

But the Lakers and Clippers also look like darned good playoff teams. Even if not predicting victory, Fertitta’s comments could become bulletin-board material in Los Angeles.

Rumor: Warriors acquired first-rounder, Andrew Wiggins for Giannis Antetokounmpo trade

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Andrew Wiggins, who's now with Warriors
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The Warriors have the NBA shook.

Even in last place.

It was more understandablenot necessarily right, but understandable – when Golden State was dominating. The Warriors won a title, won 73 games, signed Kevin Durant then won two more titles. In the midst of the run, they were treated as invincible. A team that great had never signed an outside free agent that great. Golden State really did seem “light years ahead.”

So, when the Warriors traded D'Angelo Russell for Andrew Wiggins and picks, some people cowered about what Golden State had up its sleeve next. Speculation even turned to Giannis Antetokounmpo, who faces a super-max decision this offseason and looked quite chummy with Stephen Curry (similar to how Kevin Durant once did while still with the Thunder).

Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report:

Some around the league believe the Golden State Warriors acquired a first-round pick from the Minnesota Timberwolves, along with Andrew Wiggins, with the notion of a potential future trade with the Bucks.

This is so silly.

Minnesota’s first-rounder (top-three-protected in 2021, unprotected in 2022) is a nice asset. The Warriors’ 2020 first-rounder will also land high in the draft. But Wiggins didn’t suddenly turn into a valuable player in Golden State. Owed $94,738,170 over the next three years, Wiggins still carries negative value. The Warriors aren’t now deftly positioned to land Antetokounmpo.

Golden State showed incredible vision by building an excellent team that appealed to Durant and clearing cap space to acquire him. But the Warriors got multiple fortunate breaks – Stephen Curry taking a smaller contract extension while injured in 2012, Golden State blowing a 3-1 lead in the 2016 NBA Finals, the salary cap spiking in 2016.

The Warriors can’t duplicate everything, swoop in and land Antetokounmpo.

Sure, it’s possible Wiggins improves in Golden State. Maybe Antetokounmpo will decline to sign a super-max extension, which should force Milwaukee to at least strongly consider trading him. It’s also conceivable Antetokounmpo threatens not to re-sign with anyone besides the Warriors, scaring off other teams and leaving Golden State’s offer the best that the Bucks’ get.

But it’s such a remote possibility of all that happening, it’s not worth worrying about.

This is paranoia about the Warriors at its worst.