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About Last Night: Without Durant, Warriors cool off Rockets

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Coming off an embarrassing loss to the Phoenix Suns, the Golden State Warriors bounced back by ending the Houston Rockets’ nine-game winning streak with a 106-104 victory.

And they did so without Kevin Durant, who sat out due to a right ankle bruise.

Klay Thompson led the way with 30 points, while Stephen Curry added 24 points. The Splash Brothers went 8-of-19 from beyond the arc.

But the biggest factor in the Warriors’ statement win was made by DeMarcus Cousins, who stuffed the stat sheet with a season-high 27 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.

Cousins made 11 of his 16 shots and dominated the paint, especially when the Rockets switched on defense and left smaller players attempting to guard the him. Big or small, Cousins didn’t care who’s man was on him.

“I don’t think anybody can stop me 1-on-1, period,” he said. “So you can put whoever you want on me, honestly.”

Asked about Cousins’ performance, coach Steve Kerr credited a new rotation that allowed Cousins to get more space in the paint.
 

“We’ve got to remind ourselves that it’s still pretty early in the process,” Kerr told reporters. “I don’t know how many games he’s played for us — 20? We’re all learning, me too. I’ve got to learn how to use him better. I thought we used him better tonight. I thought he did a phenomenal job of getting down on the block and controlling the game down there.”

The Warriors, who lost their previous three meetings with the Rockets, avoided their first regular-season sweep since losing four games to the San Antonio Spurs in 2013-14.

No word yet if Durant will be available when the Warriors visit Oklahoma City on Saturday. 

 

Westbrook finds his groove

Russell Westbrook continued his offensive resurgence in Oklahoma City’s 108-96 comeback victory over Brooklyn.

The Nets led by 10 points at halftime before Westbrook imposed his will, finishing with 31 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists for the 130th triple-double of his career.

“It starts with me,” Westbrook said after the game. “It’s my job to bring the energy every night. It was my fault in the first half and I thought we did a good job of picking up in the second half.”

Westbrook capped a 21-4 run in the fourth quarter by drilling a wide-open 3-pointer off a loose ball scramble, after which he danced to midcourt, pounded his chest and screamed in celebration.
 

 

Heat bury Pistons with 21-0 run

In a game with playoff implications for both teams, the Miami Heat opened the second half on a 21-0 run and never looked back in a 108-74 win over the Detroit Pistons.

It was the biggest unanswered-point run and largest victory margin of the season for Miami, which is trying to hang on to the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
 

 

The biggest Heat run of the season led to the most biggest Heat win of the season.

During the 21-0 blitz, the Heat shot 6-of-10 from the floor, 2-of-2 from beyond the arc and 7-of-8 from the free-throw line. 

Meanwhile, the Pistons missed their first 11 shots of the third quarter, eight of them from 3-point range. Detroit’s first points of third quarter came at 5:27 in the period with Blake Griffin at the line.

The win moved the Heat within two games of Detroit for the No. 7 seed and built a two-game cushion on the Magic and Hornets, who are tied for ninth.

Hawks’ dynamic duo strikes again

John Collins and Trae Young have become a lethal combination in the Hawks’ fast-paced offense.

And they didn’t slow down against Memphis, the NBA’s defensive scoring leader. Collins had 27 points and 12 rebounds, while Young added 22 points in Atlanta’s 132-111 victory over the Grizzlies.

It marked the most points that Memphis has allowed this season.

Nearly one-third of Collins’ field goals have been assisted by Young this season, including 15 alley-oops — and perhaps none more spectacular than this connection from beyond midcourt.
 

 

Awkward moment of the night

In between free throws, Joakim Noah was caught on camera either flirting with somebody in the stands or getting inside the head of Alex Len, who sent him to the line with a hard foul.
 

 

Stat of the night

Klay Thompson joined Stephen Curry are the only players in NBA history to record seven-straight seasons with at least 200 3-point field goals made.
 



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Giannis (ankle) out again as banged-up Bucks try to clinch division

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CLEVELAND (AP)  — The Bucks are staggering to the finish line of a special regular season.

Milwaukee superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo missed his second straight game with a sprained right ankle on Wednesday night, one of several key injuries to hit the Eastern Conference-leading Bucks in recent days.

A leading MVP contender, Antetokounmpo will rest against the Cavaliers as the Bucks, who enter with the NBA’s best record, try to clinch their first Central Division title since 2001.

Antetokounmpo also sat Tuesday night when the Bucks beat the Los Angeles Lakers, who played without LeBron James and deprived fans of a matchup of two of the game’s biggest names.

“He’s making progress,” coach Mike Budenholzer said of Antetokounmpo. “He just can’t go tonight. It’s us hopefully being smart and being somewhat cautious, but it’s more than that. He can’t play. We’ll see how the next 24 to 48 hours go, and I’m hopeful he’ll be in a good place as we move forward.”

The Bucks host Miami on Friday.

Antetokounmpo is averaging 27.5 points, 12.7 rebounds and 6.0 assists, and his mere presence on the floor makes the Bucks a more dangerous team.

In the past few days, the Bucks have been rocked by injuries to starting guard Malcolm Brogdon (plantar fascia tear) and forward Nikola Mirotic (sprained thumb).

Milwaukee were also without backup center Pau Gasol (ankle), guard Sterling Brown (wrist), guard Donte DiVincenzo (heel) and guard George Hill (groin).

Brogdon is out indefinitely while the Bucks did not provide a timeline on Mirotic’s return.

“These things can always change,” Budenholzer said, downplaying a report Mirotic could miss one month “In a perfect world they’re less. Sometimes they take longer. This is a little bit of a unique injury. Obviously we’re hopeful for shorter.”

Since being acquired by Milwaukee on Feb. 7, Mirotic has played in 14 games with three starts. He’s averaging 11.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 22.9 minutes.

The wave of injuries will test Milwaukee’s depth just as the team builds for the playoffs.

“Certainly there’s no good time to have them, but we feel good about our depth,” Budenholzer said. “As long as guys can return in a timely way, which we’re hopeful of, getting some time without games, not pounding on your body, may be a silver lining.”
 

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Report: Bucks’ Mirotic (thumb) to miss 2-4 weeks

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The Milwaukee Bucks have apparently been dealt another injury to their depth chart.

Forward Nikola Mirotic will miss the next two to four weeks with a slight fracture to his left thumb, per Shams Charania of The Athletic. Mirotic, who was acquired by Milwaukee via New Orleans at the trade deadline, has been a valuable 3-point shooting threat for the Bucks since he landed there. However, Mirotic was slowed earlier this season by a calf injury when he was playing for the Pelicans.

If Mirotic misses the full four weeks, he would likely not return to Milwaukee’s lineup until sometime during the playoffs. The postseason begins on April 13 and, depending on how the Bucks’ first-round series shakes out, Mirotic would theoretically be returning for the end of the first round or the start of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Mirotic’s injury makes him the second significant player in the Bucks’ rotation to go down with an injury lately. Guard Malcolm Brogdon was ruled out indefinitely last week with a plantar fascia tear in his right foot. Most estimates have Brogdon returning to the lineup in the next six to eight weeks.

In 14 games with the Bucks this season, Mirotic is averaging 11.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists while making 35.6 percent of his 3-poiners. In 64 games this season, Brogdon is averaging a career-high 15.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 28.6 minutes per game, while shooting career bests in field goal percentage (.505) and 3-point percentage (.426). Mirotic had recently replaced Brogdon in the starting lineup, filling that role in Milwaukee’s last two games.

DJ Wilson, who had played well this season but lost playing time after Mirotic and Pau Gasol were added, should see an uptick in minutes now that Mirotic will be out.

The Bucks are 53-18 and have been the best team in the Eastern Conference all season. Milwaukee has a three-game lead over the Toronto Raptors for the No. 1 seed and has 10 games left to play this season. Six of those remaining games are against teams with a .500 record or better.



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Chinese, Croatian teams highlight field for 2019 NBA Summer League

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NEW YORK — The NBA announced today that the Chinese and Croatian National Teams will join all 30 NBA teams to compete at MGM Resorts NBA Summer League 2019, marking the first time that the league will feature two international teams.  The 15th NBA Summer League will take place July 5-15 at the Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Team China previously played in Las Vegas at NBA Summer League 2007. Team Croatia will make its NBA Summer League debut.

MGM Resorts NBA Summer League 2019 will be an 11-day, 83-game competition that opens with all 32 teams playing four preliminary games each.  The top eight teams are then seeded in a tournament, which culminates with a Championship Game on July 15.  Teams that do not qualify for the tournament will each play a consolation game.  Every team will play at least five games and as many as seven at NBA Summer League.

Last year, all 30 NBA teams participated at MGM Resorts NBA Summer League for the first time.  NBA Summer League 2018 set a record for total attendance (139,972) for the second consecutive year and matched the single-day attendance record (17,500), which was established in 2017.

The 2018 event was the most-watched NBA Summer League ever, with ESPN and NBA TV combining to amass 30.4 million hours viewed.  Fans across social media platforms accounted for more than 565 million video views, an increase of 35 percent from the previous year.

The Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in the Championship Game of MGM Resorts NBA Summer League 2018.  The Trail Blazers’ K.J. McDaniels was named the Most Valuable Player of the Championship Game, while the Lakers’ Josh Hart earned MVP honors for NBA Summer League 2018.

Nine of the top 10 players selected in NBA Draft 2018 presented by State Farm, including No. 1 overall selection Deandre Ayton of the Phoenix Suns, competed in NBA Summer League 2018.  Three of those players – the Chicago Bulls’ Wendell Carter Jr., the New York Knicks’ Kevin Knox and the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Collin Sexton – were part of the 2018 MGM Resorts All-NBA Summer League First Team.

MGM Resorts NBA Summer League has a rich history of showcasing the NBA’s future stars.  Kia NBA MVPs Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, James Harden and Russell Westbrook are NBA Summer League alums.  NBA All-Stars Blake Griffin, Damian Lillard and John Wall are former NBA Summer League MVPs.

Ticket information and complete game and broadcast schedules for MGM Resorts NBA Summer League 2019 will be announced at a later date.

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