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Warriors clinch No. 1 overall seed with win over Suns

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PHOENIX (AP) — Stephen Curry scored 42 points and the Golden State Warriors held off the Phoenix Suns 120-111 for their season-high 13th straight win, clinching the best record in the NBA for the third straight season.

Curry scored 23 in the first quarter when the Warriors blew open a 41-18 lead, but the Suns rallied with a 34-17 second quarter and made a game of it from there.

With Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala resting and Kevin Durant one game away from returning from injury, the Warriors still won.

Meanwhile, Devin Booker scored 21, Tyler Ulis 20 and Jared Dudley matched his season high with 19 for the Suns, who tied a franchise record with their 13th straight loss.

Alan Williams scored 16 and grabbed a career-best 17 rebounds for Phoenix.

Golden State became the first team have the NBA’s best record for three consecutive seasons since the Boston Celtics did it in 1983-84, ’84-’85 and ’85-’86. The Warriors, Boston – multiple times – and Philadelphia are the only franchises in NBA history to achieve that feat.

The Warriors also are the first team to win at least 65 games in three straight seasons.

Klay Thompson scored 22 for the Warriors, including a critical late 3-pointer.

With the Spurs’ loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Warriors are 65-14, 4 1/2 games ahead of San Antonio. Golden State has three games to play, San Antonio four.

The Warriors raced to that 23-point lead after one quarter, but Phoenix outscored Golden State 34-17 in the second quarter to cut it to 58-52 at the break.

The Suns got it to four twice early in the third quarter and were down just 82-76 after Ronnie Price made two free throws with 1:51 left in the period. But Golden State finished the quarter with a 9-2 run, including five points by Curry, to lead 91-78 entering the fourth.

But the Suns, with the worst record in the West and second-worst in the NBA, didn’t fold.

A 10-0 Phoenix run sliced Golden State’s advantage to 104-101 on Ulis’ 20-footer with 5:01 to play. Curry responded with his eighth and final 3-pointer, but the Suns twice cut it to four again – the last at 109-105 after Ulis made a pair of free throws 2:29 from the finish.

Thompson’s 3, only his second in nine tries, made it 112-107 with 1:46 to play and JaVale McGee‘s rebound dunk put the Warriors ahead 114-107 with 1:34 left. Phoenix twice cut the lead to five before Curry sealed it with a driving layup and two free throws in the final 32.3 seconds.

ALMOST BACK

Kevin Durant is targeting a Saturday night at home against the New Orleans Pelicans for his return from a sprained MCL and bruised thigh.

Durant has missed 19 games since being injured against Washington on Feb. 28.

He will return with three games left in the regular season.

TIP-INS

Warriors: Golden State has beaten Phoenix 10 straight times. … Golden State shot 62 percent (16 of 26) in the first quarter, and 24 percent (5-for-21) in the second.

Suns: Phoenix has not won since deciding to shut down a healthy Eric Bledsoe for the season on March 15. … Rookie Marquese Chriss drew his 10th technical foul. … The 17-point Warriors second quarter tied for the lowest by a Phoenix opponent this season. … With the Lakers’ win, the Suns are 1 1/2 games worse than Los Angeles for the worst record in the West and second-worst in the NBA.

UP NEXT

Warriors: Golden State returns home to face New Orleans on Saturday night, with Durant expected to make his return.

Suns: Phoenix is home Friday night against Oklahoma City, with Russell Westbrook seeking to break the NBA record he shares with Oscar Robertson with a 42nd triple-double this season.

Mark Cuban’s plan for a restart, “I don’t think we can go the old tried and true way”

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Wild, fanciful ideas for restarting the NBA that would never fly in a typical year — 1-16 seeding, or maybe a soccer World Cup-style group stage — are getting an airing this season because everything is on the table. As the NBA moves closer to a restart plan, countless ideas are being floated.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has his own plan.

Shocking, I know. But it’s interesting.

“What I proposed is that we extend the playoff format to 10 teams from each conference, and play at least five games prior to going into playoffs,” Cuban said laying out is plan to NBC’s Mike Tirico on “Lunch Talk Live.” And if we do that, every team in the Eastern Conference would have a chance to make the playoffs, and all but two in the Western Conference would do it [Ed. note: Golden State and Minnesota].

“Then, what I would do, once we got 10 and 10, I would reseed them, and 17 would play 20, and 18 would play 19, in a one-game series. The winner then would take on the eighth-place seed in a five-game series, while the No. 1 seed in each conference would get a bye. Then you go ahead normally from there.

“That gives us a chance to have more meaningful games, it gives almost every team a chance when we come back for whatever is left of our regular season. I think we’ve got to change it up some, I don’t think we can go the old tried and true way.”

Cuban later added, speaking to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, that he wants to see all 30 teams come to Orlando for regular season games, building excitement for the NBA’s return in every market. This dream, however, seems a long shot, and Damian Lillard spoke for a lot of players when he said he’s not playing if there is not a path to the playoffs for Portland.

Cuban’s point that this is the year to try something different, not to play it safe, has real validity. This season is already upside down due to the corona

Cuban’s plan is a long shot, but is it any longer a shot than any of the other ones out there?

 

Wizards’ Bradley Beal: Thunder considered trading James Harden for me on draft day 2012

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The first three picks of the 2012 NBA Draft, which was held in June:

1. New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans): Anthony Davis

2. Charlotte Bobcats (now Hornets): Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

3. Washington Wizards: Bradley Beal

That August, the Thunder reportedly offered to trade James Harden to Washington for Beal. Washington reportedly rejected the offer due to Harden’s desire for a max contract extension (which Wizards owner Ted Leonsis denied). The Rockets were more than willing to pay Harden, and Oklahoma City dealt him to Houston that October.

Apparently, Washington had a chance to land Harden earlier that offseason.

Beal on “All The Smoke:”

We’re sitting in the draft room. Sure enough, my agent is tapping me. He’s like, “It’s possible you might go to OKC.” I said, “Damn, how am I going to go there? I ain’t even worked out for OKC.” I only worked out for three teams – Washington, Cleveland and Charlotte.

So, the deal was to trade James to Washington, right? OKC gets the third pick. It was either the second or third pick. They were going to trade up to 2 or 3, get me, trade James to Washington.

I would have been in OKC with KD and Russ.

That was a last-minute decision. It was almost done.

I can’t tell whether Beal is also revealing a Harden-to-Charlotte offer or just got mixed up on which teams held the Nos. 2 and 3 picks. Obviously, if Beal was the main prize to the Thunder, they would’ve cared only minimally whether they got him with the No. 2 or No. 3 pick. So, there might have been trade talks with Charlotte, too.

But I’m not convinced Oklahoma City valued Beal that way.

The Thunder were a championship contender. They had just lost in the 2012 NBA Finals to the Heat. Oklahoma City couldn’t have depended on a rookie Beal to contribute on that level.

That’s why – in addition to picks/young player acquired from the Rockets for Harden – the Thunder also got Kevin Martin. The veteran Martin was much better than Beal in 2012-13. (Ironically, the open title window was also a strong argument for just keeping Harden, whatever his contract status).

But the 2012-13 season didn’t go as planned for Oklahoma City. Russell Westbrook got hurt early in the playoffs, and the Thunder lost to the Grizzlies in the second round. Martin left for a lucrative contract with the Timberwolves the following summer.

Even with the long runway Kevin Durant and Westbrook provided, Oklahoma City never got back to the Finals. Beal could have grown into a third star whose shooting complemented the duo. The Thunder might have won a championship with this trade (or, again, just keeping Harden).

The Wizards almost certainly would have won more. Harden has perennially gotten the Rockets to the playoff. (They’ve gone further in years he has had more help.) Beal hasn’t singlehandedly carried Washington like that.

So, this is an interesting “what if?” – if you take it at face value.

Beal’s agent warning him of a trade possibility means something. But we don’t know which other pieces were involved.

The Thunder didn’t trade Harden until just before the rookie-scale-extension deadline, suggesting they wanted to give themselves time to extend him themselves before taking the drastic step of trading him. Would Beal have been enough of a return to give up in June (or even August) on keeping Harden? Maybe. Harden didn’t fully blossom until reaching Houston. But I’m skeptical. At minimum, Harden had already established himself as young and good. Beal was young, promising and under greater team control. There’s significant value in the certainty of a player being at least a near-star, and Harden – not Beal – had that.

Even in hindsight, we’re still revisiting the situation with only limited information.

Report: NBA games could resume in August, not July

Bucks center Brook Lopez and Raptors center Marc Gasol
Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images
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A week ago, the NBA was looking to resume games in July at Disney World.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

In fact, there’s a possibility the first games played in Orlando could be in August, not July, sources said.

It’s good the NBA is being flexible on a start date. The coronavirus presents so much uncertainty.

The league is approaching its most lucrative time – the playoffs. The NBA should make every effort to play the postseason, whenever that can be done safely.

Everyone can figure out next season later, especially because there’s a willingness to delay the start.

Report: Pistons searching for new general manager

Pistons executive Ed Stefanski
Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images
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The Pistons hired Ed Stefanski as a senior advisor to owner Tom Gores in 2018. Among Stefanski’s duties: Assist in the ongoing search for a new head of basketball operations. But it quickly became clear Stefanski would just run the front office himself.

Now, two years later, Detroit is finally getting around to that general-manager search.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The Detroit Pistons are opening a search to hire a general manager to work with senior advisor Ed Stefanski, sources tell ESPN.

Stefanski will be working with Pistons and Palace Sports Vice Chairman Arn Tellem on the process to hire a GM, sources said.

Rod Beard of The Detroit News:

If Stefanski is still running the front office, a new general manager would be the No. 2 – equivalent to assistant general manager on many teams.

After taking over an inflexible roster left by Stan Van Gundy, Stefanski couldn’t do much. Stefanski’s big move was trading Andre Drummond to the Cavaliers just before the trade deadline. That positioned Detroit to have major cap space next offseason, but it’s unclear how much will actually materialize. The salary cap could drop due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Pistons must determine whether they’re still building around Blake Griffin, the 31-year-old due $36,810,996 and $38,957,028 the next two years. Last season, he returned to stardom and carried Detroit into the playoffs. This season, he missed most of the year due to injury.

If they’re trying to win now with Griffin, the Pistons are short on quality complementary players. If Detroit is ready to rebuild, its pool of young talent – Luke Kennard, Sekou Doumbouya, Bruce Brown, impending free agent Christian Wood, its own first-round pick – is hardly assured of success.

After years of being stuck on a path charted under the Van Gundy regime, the Pistons can soon pick a new course. This is the time get the front office up to full staffing.