Warriors look to close Oakland era with No. 1 seed


The Golden State Warriors hope to mix in some current-day significance amid the nostalgia Sunday night when they invite the Los Angeles Clippers for a party that otherwise will go down as their final regular-season game ever at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif.

The Warriors, who moved from Philadelphia to San Francisco in 1962 and then to Oakland in 1971, are scheduled to return to San Francisco in the still-under-construction downtown Chase Center next season.

They hope to do so having won four championships in their final five seasons in Oakland, a trek that begins next weekend with the first round of the NBA playoffs.

The Warriors (55-24) have clinched their spot in the postseason. On Sunday, they have an opportunity to assure themselves of the home-court advantage through the Western Conference portion of the playoffs with a win that would clinch the No. 1 seeding.

The Warriors need just one more win, or one Denver Nuggets loss, to claim the top spot in the West entering the playoffs for the fourth time in the past five years.

The last time Golden State lost a playoff series to a Western Conference club, it was against the Clippers in the first round in 2014. Game 7 of that series, played in Los Angeles as the Clippers held the home-court advantage, was the last game Mark Jackson coached for the Warriors.

The Warriors, who have won four in a row overall and four straight at home, enter Sunday’s game seemingly divided among those who consider the going-away party to be the day’s most important event, while others hope the day’s biggest celebration will come after locking down the No. 1 seed.

“We’ve got one more before we can seal up the No. 1 seed and take care of that goal,” Stephen Curry insisted after contributing 40 points to Friday’s 120-114 home win over Cleveland. “These next three games (including road games at New Orleans and Memphis) is just about finishing the right way.”

Kevin Durant, who spent his first nine seasons in Seattle and Oklahoma City before joining the Warriors in 2016, is taking more of a big-picture approach to the farewell to a site Golden State will continue to call home in the playoffs.

“Playing against these guys for so long when they had the old Warrior jerseys, then transitioning into the new regime of the Warriors, then me coming here, I feel like I have a lot of memories in my career that are different than my teammates,” he said after Friday’s game.

A Warriors win would go a long way toward determining their first-round playoff opponent as well.

When the Clippers (47-33) lost 122-117 to the rival Lakers on Friday night, they slipped closer to Oklahoma City and San Antonio in the three-team race for the final three spots in the West.

If the Warriors finish as the top seed, they would take on No. 8 in the first round.

Golden State has gone 2-1 against the Clippers this season, but the only previous home game resulted in just a two-point win in December.

The Clippers clinched their playoff berth last week. They’ve since lost two in a row, which is no coincidence, veteran guard Lou Williams insisted to reporters after Friday’s loss.

“Ever since we clinched, we kind of took our foot off the gas a little bit,” he observed. “It’s happened, that’s the reality, and we just got to get out of it.”

–Field Level Media

Donovan says Lonzo Ball’s recovery has ‘been really slow’

Milwaukee Bucks v Chicago Bulls
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Watching the finger-pointing and heated moments between Bulls’ defenders on Wednesday night as Devin Booker carved them up to the tune of 51 points, one thought was how much they miss Lonzo Ball‘s defense at the point of attack.

Ball had a second surgery on his knee back in September and the team said he would be out at “least a few months.” It’s coming up on a few months, so Donovan gave an update on Ball and his recovery, and the news was not good for Bulls’ fans. Via Rob Schaefer at NBC Sports Chicago:

“It’s been really slow,” Donovan said when asked about Ball’s rehab. “I’m just being honest.”

Donovan added Ball has not necessarily suffered a setback. The Bulls knew this would be an arduous process. But he also noted that Ball is “not even close” to being cleared for contact or on-court work.

Ball had his first knee surgery in January and the expectation was he would be back and 100% by the playoffs. However, Ball’s knee didn’t respond well, and he was eventually ruled out for the season. Things didn’t improve over the summer, which led to the second surgery. How much do they miss him? The Bulls were 22-13 with him last season, and he averaged 13.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 5.1 assists, a game. However, it was his defense that was most crucial.

There is no timeline for his return. Which is not good news for Chicago.

PBT Podcast: Timberwolves without KAT, get Luka some help


Minnesota has stumbled out of the gate this season, and now they will be without Karl-Anthony Towns for around a month with a calf strain. Just how much trouble are the Timberwolves in?

Corey Robinson from NBC Sports and myself discuss that and then get into Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s Team USA vs. Team World matchup — does Evan Fournier get the world team in trouble? Who guards whom?

From there, it’s time for Corey’s Jukebox and some New Orleans jazz for Zion Williamson. Some Mavericks’ talk follows that — Dallas has put a big load on the shoulders of Luka Doncic, and while he’s playing like an MVP it’s a long-term concern for the Mavericks and their fans.

You can always watch the video of some of the podcast above, or listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

LeBron calls out reporters for asking him about Kyrie Irving but not Jerry Jones


Within days of Kyrie Irving being suspended by the Nets in the wake of a Tweet promoting an antisemitic film (and his initial refusal to apologize for it), Irving’s former teammate LeBron James was asked about it. He had to deal with the controversy, saying, “I don’t condone any hate to any kind. To any race.”

At the end of his press conference Wednesday night after the Lakers beat the Trail Blazers, LeBron scolded the assembled press for not asking him about the 1957 photo that surfaced of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones outside North Little Rock High School while white students protested the integration of the school when they had been quick to ask about Irving.

“When I watched Kyrie talk, and he says, `I know who I am, but I want to keep the same energy when we’re talking about my people and the things they’ve been through,’ and that Jerry Jones photo is one of those moments that our people, Black people, have been through in America. And I feel like as a Black man, as a Black athlete, someone with power and with a platform, when we do something wrong or something that people don’t agree with, it’s on every single tabloid, every single news coverage. It’s on the bottom ticker. It’s asked about every single day.

“But it seems like to me that the whole Jerry Jones situation, the photo, and I know it was years and years ago, and we all make mistakes, I get it. It seems like it’s just been buried under, like, `Oh, it happened. OK. We just move on.’ And I was just kind of disappointed that I haven’t received that question from you guys.”

Irving and LeBron were teammates in Cleveland and won a ring together, there was a direct connection (plus Irving had been linked to the Lakers in trade rumors over the summer).

However, there was a connection between LeBron and the Cowboys as well. LeBron was for many years a very public Cowboys fan (despite growing up in Browns territory). It came up as recently as October, when LeBron was on Instagram Live promoting his HBO show with Maverick Carter “The Shop” and he said he had stopped rooting for the Cowboys in the wake of Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protests, “There’s just a lot of things that were going on when guys were kneeling. Guys were having freedom of speech and wanting to do it in a very peaceful manner…. The organization was like, ‘If you do that around here, then you will never play for this franchise again.’ I just didn’t think that was appropriate.”

When asked about the photo, Jones said he was a curious 14-year-old who was watching and didn’t understand the magnitude of the moment or situation.

Watch Russell Westbrook drain two buzzer-beaters against Blazers


The Portland Trail Blazers had to know it was not their night when Russell Westbrook knocked down a buzzer-beating step-back 3-pointer just before the half.

Westbrook wasn’t done, he had one more buzzer-beater in him at the end of the third.

Westbrook wasn’t the only guy in the building draining half-courters — for the second-straight game a Laker fan knocked down a half-court shot, this time to win $25,000.

It was a good night all around for the Lakers and their fans at home against the shorthanded Trail Blazers. They got 31 points from LeBron James, plus 27 points and 12 boards from Anthony Davis. Austin Reaves added in 22, and the Lakers took control in the third and cruised in for a needed win.