VIDEO: Highlights from Thursday’s games
NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Warriors win No. 70 … is rest next? — The Golden State Warriors etched their names in the NBA history books again last night, becoming just the second team to win 70 games. A 112-101 win against the San Antonio Spurs gave them that as well as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference playoffs and the No. 1 seed in the league. If they run the table, they can surpass the 72 wins the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls amassed, but will they still push for that accolade? Ethan Sherwood Strauss of ESPN.com has more:
With the Golden State Warriors having wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, coach Steve Kerr said he is leaning toward resting his players but that the team will meet to discuss the issue.
“We are going to talk about it tomorrow,” Kerr said Thursday night after the Warriors’ 112-101 win over the San Antonio Spurs, their 70th victory of the season. “We’ve been putting it off for as long as we were able to, which was until we got the 1-seed. Now that we have that, I’m inclined to give some guys some rest if they need it, but I’ve sort of made a pact with the guys that if they are not banged up and they are not tired and if they want to go for this record or whatever then — so we got to talk.”
The Warriors have three games remaining and must win them all to surpass the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, who set the NBA record for wins in a season with 72. Clinching the No. 1 seed was Kerr’s primary goal.
Asked about his concerns, Kerr said, “I’m a little uneasy about it. It’s not that I’m worried about injury. You can get injured in practice. It’s not so much that I want to rest guys to avoid injury, but we do have a back-to-back here. It will be our third game in four nights.”
All-Star forward Draymond Green said he thinks most of his teammates are aiming for the wins record over rest.
“Think about the year we’ve had: started 24-0, haven’t lost two in a row all year, have had several streaks of seven-plus wins in a row, yet we’re still sitting here needing three in a row,” Green said. “That tells you how hard this is to do.
“So to get this far and kind of just tank it and say, ‘Aw, never mind.’ … Let’s face it, we probably will never get to this point again. That’s why it’s only been done one time. I think most guys in the locker room are all-in, and we’ll figure that out this weekend.”
All-Star guard Klay Thompson was direct about what his decision will be, telling ESPN, “I’m not going to rest.”
“I’m only 26. When I’m 36, I’ll be looking to rest more,” he later told the assembled media.
Forward Harrison Barnes echoed that sentiment, saying, “I’m 23, so I’ve got no problem playing the rest of these games, and we’ll go from there.”
Reigning MVP Stephen Curry said the Warriors aren’t finished yet.
“We wanted to take care of tonight and clinch home court for the playoffs, was a goal of ours,” Curry said. “With three games left and 73 still there, it’s obviously a lot to play for.”
VIDEO: Golden State’s players talk after Thursday’s win
No. 2: Playoff hopes dimming in Houston — The Houston Rockets are assured of no better than a .500 season after last night’s stunning 124-115 home loss to the struggling Phoenix Suns. On record alone, these Rockets are a long way off from last season’s 56-win crew that made it to the Western Conference finals. Last night’s loss to Phoenix is just the latest flub in a season full of them for Houston, writes Jenny Dial Creech of the Houston Chronicle:
As the Toyota Center emptied on Thursday night, a fan in the lower bowl shouted out to the Rockets, playing the final minute of their 124-115 loss to Phoenix.
“You just blew it, Rockets! You blew it.”
The fan was one of 18,227 in the arena watching, cheering on and hoping their team would pull out a win and keeping wishes for a playoff spot alive.
The obvious goal going into Thursday night for the Rockets was a simple one – win. With four games left and a playoff spot on the line, the first step was to defeat the 20-58 Phoenix Suns.
When the game started, it seemed like the Rockets would handle the task easily, but by the time the fourth quarter rolled around, the game was close, emotions were high and the lingering tension in the Toyota Center was apparent.
“It’s tough,” Rockets interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “It’s a tough loss, but we have to move forward.”
They are now 38-41, which puts them in ninth place in the Western Conference. Dallas is 40-38 and Utah is 39-39.
The Rockets had another strong start to the second half, going on a 10-0 run in the first three minutes and taking a 13-point lead.
But much like Mirza Teletovic did in the second quarter for the Suns, forward P.J. Tucker took over for them in the third. He had 12 of his career-high 24 points in the quarter. Headed into the fourth, the Rockets had a narrow 90-89 lead.
The fourth quarter would provide back-and-forth, lead change after lead change and a stressed out crowd trying to will the Rockets to a win and an eventual spot in the postseason.
The Rockets were disjointed in the final minutes as the game slipped away.
“I think there is a sense of frustration that set in a little down the stretch,” Bickerstaff said. “It won’t say they weren’t trying. It matters to those guys, it stings.”
No. 3: Bulls’ lackluster finish may lead Gasol to leave Chicago — Much like the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference, the Chicago Bulls have failed to live up to expectations in 2015-16. Just a season ago, they were a 50-win team that gave LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers a good fight in the Eastern Conference semifinals. After last night’s road loss to the Miami Heat, it will take a lot of work just for Chicago to make the playoffs. How the Bulls have responded to this rough season hasn’t been ignored by free-agent to-be Pau Gasol, writes Nick Friedell of ESPN.com:
Gasol, who is expected to use the player opt out in his contract after the season, had said before February’s trade deadline that how the Bulls finished down the stretch would play a part is his decision-making process.
After the Bulls’ 106-98 loss to the Miami Heat, those playoff chances are just about dead. The Bulls would have to win their last three regular-season games, and the Indiana Pacers would have to lose their last four games to claim the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
“Nothing is set right now,” Gasol said after the game. “Definitely, I will evaluate what I need to when the time comes. But the way the team has responded to adversity and the way we finished up the season has not been so far great, and it’s been disappointing. So at the end of the day, when the time comes, I will evaluate things. It’s hard to finish the season like this. It’s not finished, but we’re in a very, as we know, extremely difficult position, so everything will be thought of and considered.”
Gasol, who signed in Chicago during the summer of 2014 after the Bulls missed out on Carmelo Anthony, said he hasn’t considered the fact that he might be playing his final three games in a Bulls uniform.
“Not really,” he said. “I want to play every game — I always try to play every game like it’s my last. I try to give it my all. I’m at a point in my career where I’ve played a lot of basketball and try to give it my best every single night. I think I’m doing overall pretty good, but I’m not thinking that it could be my last game [with the Bulls]. I mean, it could. It could be your last game any night, any given night, so from that standpoint, I don’t think too much ahead about it.”
“We haven’t given it enough importance on a gamely basis,” he said of the Bulls’ defensive intensity. “We haven’t been able to put enough games where we play together with intensity and effort required on the defensive end. In this league, you’re going to have better or worse nights offensively, but defense is what’s going to give you a chance every single night. And we’ve relied too much on our offense. We just haven’t had the defensive mindset, nor emphasis on it, so we paid the price a lot of times. We’ve been too casual many times, and that’s why we are where we are.”
Gasol reiterated what has been a common theme throughout the Bulls’ underwhelming season: They haven’t played together when they needed to win games.
“No matter how talented you are, you don’t win based on talent,” Gasol said. “You win based on desire, togetherness, effort, determination, things that are important.”
No. 4: How Colangelos rose to power in Philadelphia — The sudden resignation of Philadelphia 76ers GM Sam Hinkie caught a lot of folks off guard on Wednesday. Two days later, many are still sifting through the reported power struggle and now, transition, from Hinkie to Jerry Colangelo and his son, Bryan, being the basketball decision-makers for the Sixers. The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski has more on how this all took place:
Philadelphia 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie began to believe that this burgeoning front-office arrangement would never work for him, that chairman Jerry Colangelo had persuaded ownership to marginalize Hinkie’s influence and strip his authority.
Over weeks, Hinkie had considered the possibility of his future and finally decided to resign on Wednesday. He often explained himself to ownership in letters and reports, especially because that’s how it liked to be informed of his plans of action.
So, Hinkie emailed his resignation letter in the afternoon to Sixers ownership, including 12 majority and minority owners, and Jerry Colangelo.
Hinkie was mortified to see his words in the public arena, never expecting that a private correspondence to his superiors would become public and turn into something of a mocked manifesto.
From the moment Colangelo arrived on the job in December, Hinkie was doomed – no matter how hard Hinkie tried to work with Colangelo, no matter how hard he tried to accept and implement his advice. Around Hinkie, people were surprised at how optimistic he had been about finding a way to coexist with Colangelo, about working together. Others were far more cynical about how this would end – and turned out to be right.
In the end, Colangelo wanted two things: to turn Hinkie into a glorified director of analytics; or run him out completely, sources said.
From the start, Colangelo felt that Hinkie didn’t have the necessary people skills to run an NBA organization, that he was too buried in numbers and pie graphs and PowerPoint presentations. Jerry Colangelo constantly lamented the absence of what he termed “real basketball people” in the organization. Colangelo has strong respect for Hinkie’s No. 2 man, Brandon Williams, who played in the NBA, and even signed off on Williams’ promotion to chief of staff.
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: DeMarre Carroll returned to the Toronto Raptors lineup last night and is waiting to see how his knee holds up after the flight home to Toronto … ICYMI, the Miami Heat had a pretty awesome Craig Sager tribute last night … It’s sounding like Kevin Garnett wants to play another season for the Minnesota Timberwolves … Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr is sending some well wishes to Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan … The San Antonio Spurs don’t plan to rest their stars in their final matchup vs. Golden State on Sunday … The Miami Heat may add ex-swingman Dorell Wright to the roster soon … Coach Brett Brown and the players on the Philadelphia 76ers seemed sad to see Sam Hinkie go …