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Lou Williams ejected, Patrick Beverley fouls out, Russell Westbrook scores 40 in Rockets win

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LOS ANGELES — Russell Westbrook has had his share of big games at Staples Center in front of family and friends. The Houston Rockets All-Star guard had one of the best outings of his career Thursday night.

The Lawndale native and former UCLA standout scored 40 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as the Rockets rallied for a 122-117 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.

“It’s fun to come in here and get a big win, but the win is the main thing,” Westbrook said.

It is the most points Westbrook has scored in 45 NBA games at Staples and his 12th with 30 or more. It is also the 44th 40-point game of his 11-year career, which ties him with Karl Malone for 22nd on the career list.

“When you give so much attention to (James) Harden you forget the other MVP that is on their team,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “You have to respect him and play him the right way. We lost our discipline a lot on him tonight, especially in transition. Once he gets in front of you, you’re not going to catch him, and that happened a lot during the second half.”

Westbrook is the first Rocket other than Harden to have a 40-point game since Kevin Martin scored 45 against Portland on Jan. 5, 2011. He is also the first Houston player besides Harden to have consecutive games with 30 or more points since Jeremy Lin in 2013.

Houston rallied from a large deficit for the second straight game. It was down 16 three minutes into the third quarter before coming back to take the lead at the end of the quarter. The Rockets trailed by 25 on Monday night against San Antonio before winning by two, marking the largest comeback in franchise history.

The Rockets — who have won two of three against the Clippers this season — are 7-6 when trailing by double digits this season.

Westbrook scored 14 points during a wild fourth quarter that saw both teams lead by at least six. The Rockets led by three at the start of the quarter before extending it to 101-89. Los Angeles went on a spurt of its own to lead 113-107 with 4:29 left. The Rockets closed on a 15-4 run to snap the Clippers’ 10-game home winning streak.

Harden scored nine of his 28 points during the final six minutes, including a 3-pointer with 2:57 remaining to put the Rockets up for good at 116-113.

“We kept plugging and the difference in the final 3 minutes was that James hit a few daggers and took his game to a higher level,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. ”(PJ Tucker’s) defense on (Kawhi) Leonard was unbelievable and Russ was really good out there all night.”

Paul George led the Clippers with 34 points and Leonard added 25. Los Angeles shot 56.7% from the field during the first half (27 of 48) but made just 41% (16 of 39) over the final 24 minutes.

Clippers guard Patrick Beverley had yet another tense night against Westbrook and was ejected with 2:52 remaining after receiving his second technical. Westbrook was also given a technical for taunting Beverley as he left the floor.

“We had a chance to knock them out and we didn’t,” Rivers said. “In the fourth quarter our problem was more of our composure. I just thought we lost it as a team. It happens. It shouldn’t, but this is a good learning lesson for us.”

The Clippers led by 15 at halftime and extended their lead to 77-61 three minutes into the third quarter before the Rockets went on a 14-2 run. They scored nine of the last 10 points in the period to lead 90-87 going into the fourth.

“We lost that aggression in the third quarter that we started the game with and that was it,” George said. “Russ made some big shots when James was struggling and he was ultra aggressive.”

Report: Mavericks’ Jalen Brunson may have torn labrum in his right shoulder

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Dallas’ reserve point guard Jalen Brunson has missed the last two games with a shoulder injury suffered against Atlanta, and he was expected to miss the next three games with the Mavericks out on the road.

It sounds like he may be out longer than that, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

 

Brunson, the former Villanova star, has given Dallas a solid 18 minutes a night off the bench this season, averaging 8.2 points and shooting 35.8 percent from three. In the short term this means more minutes for J.J. Barea, but come the postseason Brunson’s size and defense would be helpful off the bench.

If playing through the injury isn’t going to make it worse or risk long-term damage, then it’s up to Brunson and his level of pain tolerance as to when and how much he plays. The surgery can wait until after the playoffs. Just expect he’s going to miss a little time in the immediate future.

Timberwolves fined $25,000 for resting healthy D’Angelo Russell against Denver

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Sunday, in a game against Denver, the Minnesota Timberwolves rested D'Angelo Russell. He was healthy, they just gave him the night off, and nobody around the NBA thought twice about it.

Except for the folks in Manhattan at the NBA’s league office.

The league fined the Timberwolves $25,000 as an organization for “violating the league’s player resting policy.”

The Timberwolves response? Basically, ¯_(ツ)_/¯

The new management team in Minnesota is very focused on modernizing the health and player development programs in the organization. Resting Russell was part of that, and if they felt the need to make sure Russell was good to go for future games they were not going to be dissuaded from sitting him.

Especially if the cost is just $25,000.

Some teams have gone to great lengths to make sure the league knew their player medically needed days off, the most prominent among those being the Clippers with Kawhi Leonard on back-to-backs. Then Doc Rivers admitted the truth — that they were resting him at times when Leonard was healthy and could play — and he got hit with a $50,000 fine.

The league has become very sensitive to the idea of “load management,” that healthy players are being rested during the regular season. From a PR perspective, it’s bad for business and is seen as devaluing the regular season. However, coaches and team sports scientists have seen the value, particularly in preventing injuries and having players relatively fresh for the playoffs, so they will continue to do it.

At this point in the season, every player is a little banged up. These kinds of fines by the league will push teams to say Russell — or whomever — is out for a game due to a sore knee, or ankle, or back, or whatever. Every player has some ailment that could use a little rest. This is how it was done before the league became more transparent and let teams just call it “rest.” The practice is not going to change with teams, it may just have a new name.

Kobe Bryant memorabilia, including game-worn Finals jerseys, going up for auction

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NEW YORK (AP) — Some key Kobe Bryant memorabilia, including two of his Los Angeles Lakers uniforms and cement handprints from his induction into the Grauman’s Chinese Theater hall of fame gallery, are going up for sale in April.

Julien’s Auctions said Thursday that the items would be up for sale on April 30 as part of its annual sports auction that includes a silver medal from the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and a 2002 FIFA World Cup gold winner’s medal.

Bryant’s items were already being planned for auction when he, his daughter Gianna and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26.

“We are honored to include this collection of his items and pay tribute to this giant who was an inspiration not only to basketball fans but to the entire world,” said Darren Julien, Julien’s Auctions’ president and CEO.

The Lakers uniforms up for sale are one worn during the 2000 NBA Finals, with his original number 8. The uniform included a black armband which marked the memory of Wilt Chamberlain, who died that season.

The other uniform was from his 2007 season, when his number was 24.

Other Bryant items include Adidas game shoes signed by the late legend; and a basketball signed by the 2010-11 Lakers including Bryant and other stars such as Ron Artest and Pau Gasol.

Juliens said the Bryant items were being sold by a collector in Kentucky. Fans can view what’s up for sale between April 27 and April 30 in Beverly Hills, California, before the auction takes place at Juliens Auctions Beverly Hills.

Bryant, who was 41, and his daughter were remembered Monday at the Staples Center with a memorial that included a performance from Beyoncé and tributes by Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal.

Raptors coach Nick Nurse to perform musically next month

Raptors coach Nick Nurse
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On his way to guiding the Raptors to a championship, Nick Nurse earned viral fame by arriving in Milwaukee for the Eastern Conference finals with a guitar slung over his back:

Now, Nurse is preparing for a different stage.

Nurse, via CityNews:

I’m working on four songs right now that I’m getting ready to – I’m getting ready to have a little performance. Actually, March 11th, I’m having a kickoff for my foundation – Nick Nurse Foundation – in support of music programs for kids around the Toronto area. So, we have a lot of bands coming in, and I’m going to sit in with, well, at least one of them.

Nurse is doing this while building a strong case for Coach of the Year.

Excelling in the NBA and music, Nurse is a regular Damian Lillard.