Westbrook may need a little push from a marketing campaign. Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post conducted a media straw poll and found voters have Harden as the clear frontrunner. Talking to voters I know, there is also a sense that it still is very close between Harden and Westbrook, and the final 15 games will matter in the voting at the end.
We know how Kanter and Adams would vote.
Kevin Love returns to Cavaliers, will start Thursday night vs. Jazz
Since Kevin Love was sidelined just before the All-Star break to have surgery to remove “a loose body” from his left knee, the Cleveland Cavaliers have gone just 7-6. Their rebounding has been an issue, but also the team missed the consistency of Love’s shot and his floor spacing as well.
They will miss it no longer — he will be back Thursday night in Utah, coach Tyronn Lue announced.
This is a huge boost for a Cleveland team trying to hold off Boston and retain the No. 1 seed in the East.
Before his injury, Love had been having his best season as a Cavalier, averaging 20 points and 11.1 rebounds a game. He found a comfort zone playing off the ball more with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving — the Cavaliers were 11.5 points per 100 possessions better with Love on the court than off it this season (although there is a lot of noise in that because he plays so much with LeBron and Irving). It took time, but Love adapted his game to fit with the Cavaliers, such as taking more corner threes — 2.6 per game — than he had at any point in his career.
Russell Westbrook, when told Curry said Harden should be MVP: “Who’s he?”
On Monday, Stephen Curry was making the media rounds, and that included an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show. There, when asked, Curry said he’d probably choose James Harden right now as MVP, because of how far he has lifted the Rockets up the standings (you can see the video above).
Russell Westbrook was told what Curry said, and he responded with the most Westbrook of answers.
Oh, just the guy that won the award the last two years.
This is the most interesting MVP race in at least a decade because you can make a valid case for four guys: Harden, Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard, and LeBron James. (Kevin Durant would have been the fifth before he was injured, although he would not have won the award.)
How important is getting the No. 1 seed for the Golden State Warriors?
Depends on who you ask.
Stephen Curry says it is a big deal, and that it can lock up that seed and get healthy at the same time.
“We want to get that done. Obviously, we want to lock up home court advantage throughout the playoffs. That’s a big deal,” Curry told NBCSports.com. “I think we can do both (lock up the home court and get healthy). We have 15 or 16 games left in the season (16), that’s a lot of time to control your own destiny with taking care of the rest of our home games, and finish out the season strong. There’s plenty of time to get that done and get rested to make sure we’re energized for the playoffs.”
However, Thursday Draymond Green and coach Steve Kerr were playing down the importance of the top seed.
Draymond on Kerr talking about importance of the 1 seed: "It used to be really important, it's not really important anymore."
Whats’ the truth? That they’d like to have it but could advance out of the West to the Finals without it, so long as their healthy.
However, that path to the Finals is easier as the No. 1 seed. Whether it’s San Antonio or Golden State (the Warriors have a one-game lead with 15 to play), the top seed will face either Portland or Denver in the first round, two of the bottom 10 defensive teams in the NBA this season (Denver has been better of late). In the second round, the No. 1 seed will face either a Clippers team that is talented but never stayed healthy and put it all together (and one with holes in the lineup); or they will face a good Jazz team making their first real playoff run. Two very winnable series.
The West’s No. 2 seed? They likely land Memphis in the first round, which will be a physical, grinding series. Then in the second round, it’s a dangerous, borderline contending team in Houston.
The top seed in the West is not guaranteed to make the Finals, but they should be in a healthier spot entering the Conference Finals.
Three Things We Learned Wednesday: Up-and-down Blazers were up against Spurs, get key win
1) Damian Lillard, Portland offense overwhelms Spurs in game with playoff implications for both sides. Teams that play poor defense tend to be inconsistent. Enter the Portland Trail Blazers, who are 26th in the NBA giving up 108.9 points per 100 possessions on the season, and have been worse in their last 10 games (109.6). That’s how you get a team that can be blown out by the Pelicans by 23 in its previous game then come out Wednesday night and beat the Spurs on their home court.
Damian Lillard had 36 points, C.J. McCollum added 26, and Jusuf Nurkic added 16 points, 9 rebounds, 4 steals, and 3 assists (it was Nurkic who was getting the ball down the stretch, he had 10 points in the fourth quarter). That was enough to get Portland a 110-106 win.
The game was also notable because while the Blazers stumbled a little with execution in the clutch, so did the Spurs. Which almost never happens. Even the rock-solid Manu Ginobili was off in the clutch: he threw away an inbound pass, then at the free throw line late he missed one he intended to make, then made the one he intended to miss.
The win has playoff implications for both sides. The Spurs are now a full game back of the Warriors for the best record in the West (and the NBA) — and possibly a chance to play Portland in the first round (which teams want, Portland is pesky and has offensive talent, but the two seed likely gets a physical, grinding series with Memphis that can wear a team down). For Portland, the win has the Blazers just two games back of Denver for the eighth and final playoff slot in the West (but Denver has a much tougher schedule the rest of the way).
2) Bucks hold on to beat Clippers in Los Angeles in another game with playoff implications for both sides. The Bucks beat the Clippers a couple of weeks ago in Milwaukee when Los Angeles made the cardinal sin of playing the Bucks by turning the ball over 23 times, letting them get out and run (41 points off those turnovers). At home Wednesday the Clippers did better, turning the ball over just 15 times, and that led to a close game where Los Angeles got the ball to Blake Griffin with a chance to win it, but it’s a make or miss league and…
Blake Griffin misses the game-winner for the #Clippers. Tough game to lose at home.
This was a key win for the Bucks, because the fight for spots 6-8 in the East is tight. The sixth-seed Pacers may be in the best spot, two games over .500 after thrashing the Hornets Wednesday, but they are just two games clear of the nine seed. With the win, the Bucks remain the seven seed, but just half a game up on the nine seed. Detroit and Miami are tied for the final playoff spot (eight and nine seeds) after Detroit lost to Utah on Wednesday while Miami won again. On paper that feels like it should be Detroit’s slot, and Miami has a tough stretch of the schedule left, but the Heat just keep finding ways to hustle and win, it’s hard not to see them making it in. One game back of the nine seed is slumping Chicago, which lost again Wednesday (to Memphis) and seems to be falling apart at the wrong time (which is what happens when you trade a glue guy like Taj Gibson at the deadline).
As for the Clippers, they have lost two straight and are not even taking DeAndre Jordan or Griffin on the plane to Denver for a Thursday night game. The Clippers are now three games back of the Jazz for the four seed and they are not going to catch Utah. Los Angeles is going to start the playoffs on the road. Their bigger concern is that Oklahoma City is just 1.5 games back of them — Los Angeles needs some wins to hold on to the five seed.
3) Skal Labissière has 21 points in fourth quarter, 32 for game, leads Kings past Suns. Sacramento may have found something in the rubble of the DeMarcus Cousins trade. Labissière was a very highly ranked high school recruit who stumbled at Kentucky and fell to No. 28 in last June’s draft. Even at Summer League he showed promise, and getting more run after the trade he is showing off his potential.
Labissière had 32 points on 15 shots, scored 21 of those in the fourth quarter, and chipped in 11 boards in he win.
(By the way, best new nickname in the league: Aaron Bruski has taken to calling Labissiere and Willie Cauley-Stein the “thin towers.” Brilliant.)
There are still a lot of questions to be answered, but Labissière looks like he is a part of whatever the future holds in Sacramento.