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Report: ‘Very real chance’ Kings pick Michael Porter Jr. at No. 2

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Michael Porter Jr. is the mystery in this draft. A year ago he was considered a likely top two pick for this draft class — a 6’10” athlete who can score around the basket and knock down threes — but then he missed most of the season at Missouri due to a back injury that forced a microdiscectomy surgery. The questions about his health remain, as do questions about how much he loves the game and how much work he would put in to reach his full potential.

Yet every year at the draft teams (and fans) fall in love with the potential of the unknown. We have a better sense of who DeAndre Ayton and Marvin Bagley III and Jaren Jackson Jr. are and could be (even though any draft is always a risk), but Porter Jr. is the unknown. His cancellation of a workout for teams Friday in Chicago adds to that mystery. He’s high risk but high reward.

The Kings may be willing to take that gamble at No. 2, reports Sam Amick of the USA Today.

Amick is a former Kings beat writer who lives in the area still and is well connected in Sacramento. With a week to go before the NBA Draft, take every report and rumor you hear with a grain of salt. In some cases, the whole box of Morton’s Kosher salt. But this one deserves to be given some weight, and the Kings are nothing if not unpredictable.

We know the Suns are expected to take DeAndre Ayton No. 1. After that, it’s the Sacramento Kings and it’s wide open. Luka Doncic is probably the safest pick here — he’s a ball-handling forward who understands how to run a pick-and-roll and is a gifted passer who has already been putting up numbers against men in Europe’s top league — but the ceiling for Bagley is considered by many scouts to be higher. Same with Porter, although he comes with higher risks.

The Kings have drafted a lot of bigs in recent years — Skal Labissiere, Harry Giles, Willie Cauley-Stein — but they are at a point in the latest rebuild that they just need to get more talent. Take the best player available regardless of position, develop that talent, and figure out how to fit all the pieces together later. Watch the NBA’s elite (like that team just a 90-minute drive from Sacramento down the 80) and you see talent wins out in this league. The Kings need a lot more of it. And they need to hit on this pick because they don’t have their first rounder next year.

Manu Ginobili leads Spurs over Kings to clinch 21st straight playoff berth

Associated Press
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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Rudy Gay scored 18 points, Manu Ginobili had 17 and the San Antonio Spurs rallied late to beat the Sacramento Kings 98-85 on Monday night and clinch their 21st straight postseason appearance.

Sacramento, which was eliminated from the postseason on March 11, led by 14 points before being outscored 38-19 in the fourth quarter.

Reserves Gay, Ginobili and Bryn Forbes combined for 25 points in the fourth quarter. Forbes finished with 11 points total.

Willie Cauley-Stein led Sacramento with 25 points and 10 rebounds. De'Aaron Fox added 21 points, and Buddy Hield had 17.

Forbes’ fast-break layup off a steal by Kyle Anderson gave San Antonio its first advantage at 68-67 with 10:21 remaining. Sacramento went back ahead seconds later when Hield hit a 3-pointer, and the lead changed three times after that before Ginobili and Gay gave the Spurs’ the edge for good.

Gay and Ginobili had thunderous dunks in the final five minutes that helped San Antonio maintain small leads.

Manu Ginobillllliiiiiii!

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Gay also had a 3-point play off a runner he tossed in and ripped the ball from Cauley-Stein while blocking the 7-footers shot.

A 3-pointer by Forbes and a layup by Ginobili 30 seconds later to gave the Spurs an 82-77 lead with 5:23 remaining.

LaMarcus Aldridge added 15 points and 14 rebounds but was 6 for 19 from the field.

Sacramento forced the rally with some hot shooting through three quarters.

Fox, who was shooting 30 percent from 3-point range for the season, made his first three 3s. He finished 3 for 5.

The Kings had 11 offensive rebounds through three quarters to the consternation of the Spurs’ fans, who groaned louder with each.

Sacramento shot 41 percent for the game.

 

Without Curry, Durant, Thompson, Warriors don’t have enough against Kings

Associated Press
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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — With April approaching, the beat-up, undermanned Golden State Warriors are prioritizing health over everything else – even the No. 1 seed in the West.

“It’s a harrowing experience,” coach Steve Kerr joked before the game. “I’m just trying to process it all.”

Yet the faces down are glaring: NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant, two-time MVP Stephen Curry and his Splash Brother, Klay Thompson.

Buddy Hield made three free throws over the final 27.5 seconds, Willie Cauley-Stein had a late dunk and the Sacramento Kings won for the second time this season on Golden State’s home floor, beating a Warriors team missing its top three scorers 98-93 on Friday night.

Hield finished with 22 points off the bench. He also had seven assists and seven rebounds.

Quinn Cook scored a career-high 25 points on 10-for-13 shooting for Golden State (52-17), making his initial seven shots and also hitting a career-best five 3-pointers after the team announced Durant was out with a broken rib.

Green returned from a one-game injury absence to produce 14 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, four steals and two blocked shots.

“That’s the most important thing, though, is to get healthy,” Green said. “Obviously I think where we are right now we’re in the position where I think all three guys could play if they had to but it’s just not that important for them to play. I think it’s more important for them to be healthy. That’s kind of been the theme the whole year, just to keep guys fresh and healthy and try to get a rhythm.

“I don’t think it’s all bad for us with them guys being down. We’ll be fine and get them healthy and then we can go into the playoffs healthy. That’s the goal.”

Hield made one free throw with 27.5 seconds left and then two more with 13.2 seconds remaining as the Kings (23-47) withstood a frantic final minute after the teams entered the fourth quarter tied at 75. Sacramento also won at Oracle Arena on Nov. 27.

“It’s just a side note as we grow and build,” Sacramento’s De'Aaron Fox said. “Every games matters for us just trying to get better.”

Before the game, NBA Finals MVP Durant became the latest Warriors star to go down . Then Golden State lost reserve Omri Casspi to an ankle injury early in the game.

Durant will miss at least two weeks with a fractured rib on the right side. An MRI exam revealed Durant’s injury, and he will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

Durant said there’s still time for the team to heal and get ready for the playoffs. He missed 18 games in 2017 before returning for the final two contests of the regular season.

“No concern. I’ve got a couple weeks and I’m just trying to get healthy, and I’m just trying to make sure I’m out there being able to be me on the court,” Durant said. “That’s the most important thing. It’s not great timing-wise, obviously. It’s all about just feeling better when I’m out there playing.”

Cook scored 13 in the first quarter as the Warriors jumped out to a nice lead, but they held just a 59-57 edge at halftime.

Both teams played the first of back-to-back games.

 

Three Things to Know: Pistons haven’t lost with Blake Griffin

Associated Press
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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Pistons haven’t lost with Blake Griffin, won four in a row after a victory over Trail Blazers. This is why Stan Van Gundy traded for Blake Griffin — to wake up and shake up his team to make a playoff push. That’s not to say it’s all been Griffin, he has just been his usual self (when healthy) since coming to Detroit — 20.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game in his three games in a new uniform. His shooting efficiency is slightly down, his rebounding marginally better, but he’s moving the ball, and with him the Pistons are passing better, leading to cleaner looks. Also, the team is defending well with him.

The result: Detroit has won its three games with Griffin, the team has won four in a row, and after a comfortable 111-91 win over Portland on Monday Detroit has moved into a virtual tie with Philadelphia for the final playoff slot in the East. What’s more, the winning should continue for the Pistons through a soft part of the schedule (Brooklyn is next, followed Friday by a Clippers team that could look very different after the trade deadline, then Atlanta).

If you want to see what Griffin brings to this roster, this play sums it up: He grabs the board, brings the ball up himself, and sees Andre Drummond (the NBA Player of the Week in the East) running the floor and hits him with an alley-oop. Guys will run, will cut and move off the ball with purpose if they believe they will get rewarded.

Or, Griffin can just hit a shot that would give you an “H” in H-O-R-S-E (even if it didn’t count).

I still have serious long-term reservations about the Griffin trade for Detroit, how it boxes them in financially long term and what the ceiling is for this team with him, considering his health issues. But in the short term (this season and next) Van Gundy wanted to make the Pistons a playoff team. Griffin can do — and is doing — just that.

2) Robin Lopez absolutely snaps, takes out his frustrations on a helpless chair in the hallway. Bulls center Robin Lopez was having issues with the officiating almost from the opening tip it seemed Monday night against the Kings, and through the second quarter his anger — and his verbal abuse of the officials — was rising. He was pushing getting a technical. He was acting like one of the officials told him the new Star Wars movie sucked.

Then he snapped. And I mean “get the man a valium” snapped. Lopez was called for contact with Willie Cauley-Stein trying to deny a pass, and LOST IT.

Lopez earned his ejection, then took his frustrations out on an innocent chair in the hallway.

A fine is coming, that is pretty much the definition of “not leaving the court in a timely manner.”

3) Utah has won six in a row, injected itself back into the playoff race in West. A couple of weeks ago we thought Utah was out of the playoff chase in the West and would be sellers at the trade deadline. Part of that is still true, there is a lot of interest in Rodney Hood around the league and there is a real chance he is in a new uniform before Friday, and Joe Johnson is trying to orchestrate a trade out of Utah.

However, the Jazz are back in the playoff mix, thanks to an offense that has taken off. Utah has scored 115.7 points per 100 possessions during a six-game win streak that continued Monday with a win over New Orleans — the Jazz offense the last six games has been better than the Warriors offense on the season (113.4 per 100). Meanwhile, Rudy Gobert is back and the Jazz defense is giving up less than a point per possession during the streak.

The Jazz are currently three games out of the final playoff slot in the West still, but need to pass a Pelicans team stumbling without DeMarcus Cousins, and a Clipper team that doesn’t have Blake Griffin and could be without more stars by Friday after the trade deadline, they have a real chance. Fivethirtyeight.com now gives Utah a 74 percent chance of making the postseason (better than the Clippers or Pelicans, both at 53 percent). Cleaning The Glass projects the Pelicans and Jazz to both finish with 43 wins and take the final two playoff slots, with Portland and the Clippers at 42 and on the outside looking in. Obviously, there is a lot of season left to go, but a Jazz team torn apart by injuries all season long has kept it together, and now they have a real shot at the playoffs. Quin Snyder deserves a lot of credit for that, as does rookie Donovan Mitchell.

Robin Lopez snaps, gets ejected, takes out frustration on chair

Associated Press
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Robin Lopez must have really hated that chair.

The Bulls center was frustrated with the officials through the entire first half Monday night against Sacramento and had been working up to a fever pitch for a while yelling at them. When Lopez was called for contact with Willie Cauley-Stein trying to deny a pass, he lost it. And I mean LOST IT. It was like the official told him “Star Wars” was overrated.

Lopez earned his ejection, then took his frustrations out on an innocent chair in the hallway.

That is the definition of “not leaving the court in a timely manner.”

Lopez will find his next paycheck a little light, as there will be some fine money taken out by the NBA.