NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman graded every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma City Thunder took what coach Mark Daigneault called a “bloodthirsty mentality” into Saturday’s rematch with the Houston Rockets.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 42 points to help the Thunder blow out Houston 153-121.
They were disappointed in losing at Houston on Wednesday and responded by setting an Oklahoma City record for points in a game, surpassing the 150 they scored in a win over the Boston Celtics last month.
“Just (wanted to) be the aggressors,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “Play our style, our brand of basketball. I think we got away from that a little bit in Houston, and we just wanted to get back on track.”
— NBA (@NBA) February 5, 2023
Daigneault was most pleased that the approach was player-led.
“It wasn’t like I was giving motivational speeches,” he said. “But, you know, as a team, they kind of banded together and decided that they were going to come out and play the way they did. And they were impressive because of it.”
Gilgeous-Alexander set the tone by scoring 20 points in the first quarter.
“I thought tonight was, like, a pretty big leadership statement game for him,” Daigneault said. “I think when you need a response like we needed tonight coming out of the other night, you rely on your guys that are most experienced, who play the most minutes.”
Gilgeous-Alexander shot 7 for 23 from the field in the first matchup, but bounced back to make 14 of 23 field goals on Saturday, falling two points short of his career high. The first-time All-Star also made 14 of 15 free throws and had six assists for the Thunder, despite not playing in the fourth quarter because the Thunder led by 42 points at the end of the third.
“We’re a team that’s growing in confidence, and I think our habits are growing,” Daigneault said. “And I think a lot of things are moving in the right direction.”
Rockets coach Stephen Silas didn’t want to hear it.
“You’ve got to step up in these situations, and we didn’t do it,” he said. “We succumbed to back-to-back, three-in-four, no Eric, no Tate, all that stuff. … We succumbed to it. That’s not – we’re talking about winning habits. That’s not one.”
Oklahoma City led 79-53 at the break after shooting 55% from the field. Gilgeous-Alexander scored 28 points in the first two quarters, a career high for him in a first half.
The Thunder continued to roll in the third quarter, making 16 of 26 field goals in the period to go up 123-81 heading into the fourth.
Oklahoma City set the Thunder single-game scoring record on a 3-pointer by Darius Bazley that banked in during the final minute.
Warriors fans everywhere — not to mention coaching staff and players — are holding their breath.
Stephen Curry left the game against the Mavericks in the third quarter when he was defending Danny Green and the two collided, knocking knees. On the replay, Curry’s knee seems to bend slightly at an awkward angle.
Steph went back to the locker room after after appearing to injure his left leg on this play pic.twitter.com/SKx4XmXMIZ
— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) February 5, 2023
Curry went to the Warriors’ bench, was looked at by the team medical staff, and soon went back to the locker room and did not return. X-rays taken of his knee were negative, but the MRI expected Sunday will be more telling.
Of extra concern is that this is the second injury to that leg in as many games, Curry was able to play through the first one.
Of note on the Steph Curry lower left leg injury: He initially banged it up in Denver on Thursday on this shot attempt. Listed on the injury report today as a contusion. Had extra padding for it. Then took this second hit that knocked him out of game. pic.twitter.com/S3YSUgTEP6
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) February 5, 2023
Curry is averaging 27.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 6.4 assists a game. Of larger concern, the Warriors outscore opponents by 5 points per 100 possessions when Curry is on the court and 5.4 when he is off. At 27-26 the Warriors sit seventh in the West.
The defending champs have not lived up to that billing this season, never putting together a consistent run of high-level basketball to show us what we believe they are capable of. If Curry misses significant time (and potentially the All-Star Game) it will be longer before we get to see if these Warriors can pull it together.
The Magic’s Bamba was suspended four-game and the Timberwolves’ Rivers got a three-game suspension — both without pay — for their part in a fight between the teams Friday night.
AUSTIN RIVERS AND MO BAMBA GET INTO IT 🤯 pic.twitter.com/kUFYXgPvI5
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 4, 2023
In addition, Magic guard Jalen Suggs was suspended one game for “escalating the altercation by aggressively grabbing Rivers around the neck and pulling him to the floor.” The Timberwolves’ Jaden McDaniels was fined $20,000 for running into the scrum and pushing Bamba in the back.
As for why the relatively stiff penalties in this case, the NBA said: “Following the incident, Bamba attempted to continue to engage with Rivers in a hostile manner in the corridor outside the locker rooms where he also aggressively shoved a security representative. Both Bamba and Rivers continued the escalation on social media following the game.”
Suspension amounts for the Orlando/Minnesota tussle:
💰Mo Bamba: $284,138
💰Austin Rivers: $60,121
💰Jalen Suggs: $47,740
— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) February 5, 2023
Friction between Bomba and Rivers started a few plays earlier when Rivers — who was in the game — missed a corner 3 in front of the Magic bench, and there was jawing from Bamba and others. Rivers came over and confronted and the fight started soon after, with Bamba coming off the bench. After an official review, five players were ejected: Rivers, McDaniels and Taurean Prince from the Timberwolves; Bamba and Suggs from the Magic.
Banba and Rivers did continue the fight on social media, which added to their time off.
Mo Bamba's IG story after getting ejected 😳 pic.twitter.com/sTu3Ss0wTK
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 4, 2023
"We only know U from an old rap song…Not hoops. STFU."
Austin Rivers claps back at Mo Bamba on his IG story 👀 pic.twitter.com/xydyDh28UT
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) February 4, 2023
The suspensions will all start on Sunday, Feb. 5.
Irving requested a trade out of Brooklyn before the Feb. 9 trade deadline, and the Nets are talking to several teams about a potential deal, with the Lakers, Suns and Mavericks at the front of the line. This trade could come together in the next few days, allowing the teams involved to make other moves before next Thursday’s deadline.
Here are the latest Kyrie Irving trade rumors:
• The Los Angeles Clippers have thrown their hat in the ring and made an offer for Irving, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and confirmed by Law Murray of The Athletic.
Sources tell @TheAthletic that the LA Clippers have made a strong offer to the Brooklyn Nets for Kyrie Irving, and that head coach Tyronn Lue is open to coaching Irving again after the two won a championship with Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016.
— Law Murray 💔 (@LawMurrayTheNU) February 5, 2023
There is pressure from ownership on down for the Clippers to win big this season — the team’s fourth with Kwahi Leonard and Paul George — and they need help at the point guard spot (they are interested in the Raptors’ Fred VanVleet if he becomes available as well). The Clippers have a lot of salaries between $10 million and $20 million — Norman Powell, Marcus Morris, Luke Kennard, Robert Covington, Reggie Jackson, Nicholas Batum — who can be packaged in different configurations, plus they have young talent that can be added in Terance Mann and Brandon Boston Jr.
Bringing in Irving would be a massive gamble by the Clippers — do they need another mercurial star prone to missing games? — but the Clippers want to win and will push all their chips into the middle.
• LeBron James was asked after the Lakers’ loss Saturday night if Irving is the kind of player that can get the Lakers to the finish line and have them thinking championship.
LeBron James on if Kyrie Irving is the type of player that can help the Lakers get to the finish line: pic.twitter.com/EAbcLtcPjB
— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) February 5, 2023
“Obviously that’s, the word you use, ‘duh’ question when talking about a player like that.”
• Whatever you think of Irving the person, his trade demand is a smart business move — the Nets were not going to give him the max contract extension he wants, so he is trying to force his way to his next team, one that will pay up. And by pay up, that’s a four-year, $198.5 million contract. Wojnarowski of ESPN said this on NBA Countdown Saturday.
“Irving, who is in the final year of a deal that pays him $36.9 million, has been seeking in the neighborhood of a four-year, $198.5 million maximum extension available to him until June 30, sources said. If Irving is traded, he is eligible to sign a two-year, $78.6 million extension with his new team until June 30.”
Any team that trades for Irving will have to pay up this summer when he is a free agent — he’s too expensive to be a rental. There are reports the Lakers and Mavericks are hesitant to give Irving that kind of long-term deal.
• If Irving doesn’t get traded before the deadline, he could hold out for the rest of the season, Stephen A. Smith of ESPN reports.