NBA playoff picture after Tuesday: Warriors win, own West

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Every night between now and the end of the 2018-19 NBA regular season, we will take an updated look at the NBA Playoff picture — what the standings look like, the potential matchups, who clinched, who moved up and down, all to set the stage for the NBA’s second season.

TUESDAY’S SCORES
Thunder 119, Lakers 103
Spurs 117, Hawks 111
Rockets 130, Kings 105
Warriors 116, Nuggets 102

• With this win, the Warriors move two full games ahead of the Nuggets for the No. 1 seed in the West, plus Golden State also has the tiebreaker so really they are three games up with five to play. The Warriors all but guaranteed they will be the top seed in the West.

Russell Westbrook had 20 points, 20 rebounds, and 21 assists — making him the only person besides Wilt Chamberlain to have a 20+ triple-double — but he wasn’t efficient, shooting 8-of-23 to get there. Still, he pushed the Thunder to a win they needed to stay tied with San Antonio for the race to be the seven seed (and avoid the Warriors in the first round).

EASTERN CONFERENCE


X – Clinched Playoff Spot, Y – Clinched Division, Z – Clinched Conference

Tuesday’s playoff movers and clinchers:

• No Eastern Conference playoff teams were in action Tuesday.

WESTERN CONFERENCE


X – Clinched Playoff Spot, Y – Clinched Division, Z – Clinched Conference

Monday’s playoff movers and clinchers

• Golden State essentially secured the No. 1 seed in the West with this win, they have a two-game lead over Denver with five to play, plus the Warriors now own the tiebreaker. DeMarcus Cousins played his best game as a Warrior, with 28 points and 12 rebounds.

• With its win, Houston moves into the three seed by half a game (Portland was idle) and within 1.5 games of Denver for the No. 2 seed (and home court in the second round).

• San Antonio and Oklahoma City both won, they remain tied for the 7/8 seed in the West. Whoever finishes 8th gets the Warriors in the first round.

IF THE PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY:
Miami at Milwaukee
Brooklyn at Toronto
Detroit at Philadelphia
Indiana at Boston

Oklahoma City at Golden State
San Antonio at Denver
L.A. Clippers at Houston
Utah at Portland

WEDNESDAY’S BIGGEST GAMES:

• Indiana at Detroit (7 pm ET). Two teams fighting for playoff seeding and needing wins go head-to-head in this East showdown.

• Toronto at Brooklyn (7:30 pm ET). The Raptors are basically locked into the two seed, which might mean more “load management” time for their stars. The Nets, like the Pistons above, are in a fight to make sure they stay in the playoffs and Brooklyn needs the win.

• Boston at Miami (7:30 pm ET, NBA TV). The Celtics are tied with Indiana for the 4/5 in the East and they are battling for home court. The Heat are the current eight seed in the East and need wins just to stay in the dance. This should be a hard-fought game.

• San Antonio at Denver (9 PM ET). This is a potential first-round playoff matchup, and the Spurs want the win and for this matchup to avoid the Warriors in the first round. Both teams are on a back-to-back.

• Houston at Los Angeles Clippers 10:30 PM ET, NBA TV). Another potential first-round playoff matchup, plus James Harden would love to add to his MVP resume with big numbers against another playoff team.

Steven Adams inks two-year, $25.2 million extension with Grizzlies

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Steven Adams signed a two-year, $25.2 million contract extension with Memphis, which will keep him tied to the team through the 2024-25 season. ESPN’s Adrian Wojanrowski broke the news on Saturday.

Adams has been crucial to the Grizzlies’ recent success. He’s coming off his first season with the team, where he averaged career-highs in rebounds (10.0) and assists (3.4). He also helped them lock up the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference and make it to the Conference Semifinals, where they lost to the eventual-champion Warriors 4-2. Despite the improved numbers, a lot of his value is from intangibles that don’t show up in the box score.

Adams spent the first seven years of his career with the Thunder before being traded to New Orleans in the four-team deal that sent Jrue Holiday to Milwaukee. Adams was moved again to Memphis in a package for Jonas Valanciunas.

Adams has found a new home with a young Grizzlies team that is looking to win a championship. The team is built around Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane, but Jackson Jr. is expected to miss time after being diagnosed with a stress fracture in his left foot. Memphis will rely on Adams more than ever to begin the season.

Watch Curry, Klay in 3-point shooting contest in Japan. Yeah, they’re good at this.

NBA Japan Games Saturday Night
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The NBA went to Japan to promote the brand, play a few games in a huge market — Japan specifically but Asia as a whole — and put on a show.

Is there a better show than Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson draining 3s? Here they are in a 3-point contest during a basketball exhibition (there were some pro dunkers) in Tokyo on Saturday.

Stephen Curry, was there any other possible outcome?

It’s preseason and they are the defending champs — they should be having fun, playing with some joy.

Thompson took part in the shooting contest but is not playing in either of the exhibition games in Japan as the Warriors ease him back into play this season. It’s a marathon of a season and the Warriors need the best version of Klay starting in April, not October.

Report: Pelicans, Nance agree to two-year, $21.6 million extension

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Larry Nance has been a stabilizing influence in New Orleans since coming over mid-season as part of the trade for CJ McCollum. Nance is a versatile player who can play the four or the five, knocks down his threes, is very strong on the glass, can be a disruptive defender in passing lanes, and fits in — and he has the veteran attitude of work this team needs.

So the Pelicans have reached an extension to keep the 29-year-old around for two years past this coming season, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This is a signing that should make Pelicans fans happy. Importantly, it makes CJ McCollum happy — they are tight and this is something McCollum wanted to see. The money on this deal seems fair, about the league average for a solid rotation player.

Nance is the kind of veteran this team needs considering its young core of Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram (just turned 25), Herb Jones, and guys like Trey Murphy III, Jose Alvarado, and others. Nance compared it to the young Lakers teams he was on, but noted that team lacked the same level of veteran leadership this Pelicans team has.

We may see more Nance at the five lineups — small ball with Zion at the four — to close games this season in New Orleans, that could be their best lineup because Nance can defend but also spaces the floor for Zion on offense. Coach Willie Green has a lot of different players and matchups to experiment with.

And now he has the stability of Nance for a few more years.

Durant tired of talking Nets dramatic offseason: ‘I didn’t miss any games’

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No team had an offseason quite like the Brooklyn Nets. First, they would not give a long-term extension to Kyrie Irving, which sent the star guard looking for a new team (but there were no offers that worked for everyone, so he opted in with Brooklyn). Then Kevin Durant asked for a trade, and to gain a little leverage reportedly threw down an ultimatum of him or the coach and GM. No trade could be found — how much the Nets wanted one is up for debate — so he is back in Brooklyn. And all that is not even getting into the return of Ben Simmons, a trade for Royce O’Neal, or anything else.

The Nets drama and how they move past it has been the talk of training camp. The only talk at training camp, it feels like.

When asked Friday if there were any inaccuracies in the reporting of the Nets summer he would like to clear up, Durant sounded weary of rehashing the summer.

The only thing that will start to move the conversation in a new direction is the Nets playing and winning games (they open the preseason Monday against the 76ers). And even those wins will have the shadow of the offseason cast over them. Durant and Irving made this bed.

Part of the fascination is the Nets remain the team hardest to predict in the league. They arguably have the most talented roster in the league and, if everything comes together just right, they can contend for a title. It’s also possible the wheels fall off early and by Christmas the Nets are looking to trade Durant again. Both things feel possible (even if reality most likely lands somewhere in the middle).

That uncertainty about the Nets’ future is the drama that will keep eyeballs on them — which also means more questions about this past offseason. Durant can choose not to answer them, but the questions aren’t going away.