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Draymond Green, Steve Kerr play down No. 1 seed, Stephen Curry says it’s “a big deal”

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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.

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

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Wether you were filling out your March Madness bracket for the office, or hiding bottles of steak sauce around a library, if you missed the night around the NBA we’ve got you covered with the key takeaways.

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…

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.

Damian Lillard’s 36 spoil LaMarcus Aldridge’s return as Blazers top Spurs

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Damian Lillard scored 36 points and the Portland Trail Blazers defeated the San Antonio Spurs 110-106 on Wednesday night, spoiling LaMarcus Aldridge‘s return from a health scare.

C.J. McCollum added 26 points for the Trail Blazers, who were coming off a 23-point loss in New Orleans on Tuesday.

Aldridge had 19 points and seven rebounds after missing two games with a minor heart arrhythmia. He was cleared Wednesday morning and does not have any playing restrictions.

Kawhi Leonard had 34 points to lead San Antonio (52-15), which had won 11 of 12 entering the game but fell one game behind Golden State for the league’s best record.

Trailing 104-97 with 1:45 remaining, San Antonio closed within two points as Aldridge scored five consecutive points on a layup and a powerful dunk that led to a three-point play. After Leonard missed a short runner, McCollum made a pair of free throws to end the Spurs’ streak and give Portland a 106-102 lead.

Patty Mills then hit a 3-pointer from the right corner off a feed from Leonard, but Lillard made four straight free throws to seal the victory for the Trail Blazers.

Aldridge finished 9 for 24 from the field and played 32 minutes. He made his first two attempts, a 17-foot jumper and a 21-footer, drawing loud cheers from the sold-out crowd.

San Antonio raced to a 14-7 lead, but Portland went on an 11-2 run to quiet the crowd and keep the game within seven points throughout.

Leonard finished 12 for 21 from the field, including consecutive dunks, in scoring 30-plus points for the 25th time this season. The 6-foot-7 forward first sprinted in from the free-throw line for a one-handed stuff against Noah Vonleh and then spun under the basket for a dunk against the 7-foot Jusuf Nurkic.

Portland closed the third quarter on a 9-3 run in taking an 82-80 lead to set up their fourth-quarter heroics.

TIP-INS

Trail Blazers: Lillard has scored 30 points in six of 11 games since returning from the All-Star break. … Portland was without F Ed Davis (left shoulder), C Festus Ezeli (left knee) and F Evan Turner (right hand). … Nurkic had 16 points after scoring just two against New Orleans on Tuesday. … The Blazers improved to 7-4 when Lillard, McCollum, Vonleh and Nurkic and Maurice Harkless start. … Portland is 80-83 against San Antonio overall after snapping a five-game skid against the Spurs.

Spurs: Aldridge has scored 1,000 points for a 10th straight season, joining LeBron James and Dwyane Wade as the only active players with that streak. … G Tony Parker missed his fourth straight game with back stiffness. The 34-year-old has missed 16 games this season after sitting out 10 games last year. … Leonard has scored in double figures in 94 straight games dating to Jan. 14, 2016.

 

Stephen Curry says Warriors not concerned by recent “speed bumps” (VIDEO)

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The Golden State Warriors still are not right. Stephen Curry is still not right.

To hold on to the No. 1 seed with Kevin Durant out, the Warriors need the MVP-level Curry of the last couple seasons, yet in his last seven games, he has hit 23-of-78 from three,  29.5 percent. Overall he is shooting 40.8 percent. While he had a better fourth quarter Monday night (3-of-5 from three) it took a Draymond Green Defensive Player of the Year mixtape game to beat the Sixers at home.

But as Curry told me Monday, there is no panic in the Warriors’ locker room over the recent “speed bumps.”

Will Dwyane Wade be a Chicago Bull next season?

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Dwyane Wade has expressed his frustration with the Bulls this season — both with teammates and management. He’s also not seeming to take head coach Fred Hoiberg very seriously. It all points to a big question:

Will Dwyane Wade be a Chicago Bull next season?

He has said he will consider opting out, but will not make any call until the season is over.

I can think of 23.8 million reasons Wade could be back as a Bull next season — that is how much his player option is for, and it’s unlikely he would make that much on the open market (although he could get a multi-year deal and more security). Also, Chicago is his hometown and he has been active off the court in his city, he may not want to walk away from that. He may not want to leave playing with Jimmy Butler.

Rival executives are not so convinced that’s enough, reports Ken Berger of Bleacher Report (in a must-read piece about the dysfunction in Chicago).

Wade, 35, has a player option for next season. Given the tumult in Chicago, rival executives believe it’s reasonable to expect Wade may want out—despite the $23.8 million he is owed if he stays.

The question is, how strong would the market for a 35-year-old two guard with questionable knees be? He is averaging 18.8 points a game, he can still create shots for himself and others, and he’s still a good player on the perimeter. He has real value, but how much will teams pay for it?

There are some contending teams — Cavaliers, Clippers, others — that would have an interest in Wade as a free agent, but only if he was willing to take a considerable pay cut. To use the examples cited, LeBron James may not care, but Cavaliers already have the NBA’s highest payroll. The Clippers need to shell out this summer to retain Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and J.J. Redick (all of whom would be more important on the court to the Clippers than Wade).

What other teams are out there might offer remains to be seen.

Wade likely has not made up his mind yet, he will get to the off-season then make his call. He’s going to need to decide what matters most to him in the balance of money/winning/playing with friends. He can’t have everything, so what is it that drives him now?