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Rockets-Lakers Preview (The Associated Press)
(Sun, 25 Jan 2015 09:41:18 PST)
Los Angeles Lakers fans are unlikely to see Kobe Bryant on the court anytime soon, but the Hollywood crowd won't have to go entirely star-starved Sunday night. James Harden has filled that role just fine when the Houston Rockets have taken on the Lakers at Staples Center, where Bryant's teammates will be in danger of matching the franchise's longest losing streak in nearly a decade. Whether former Lakers center Dwight Howard is able to play has yet to be determined. You either make it or you miss it and go into overtime, and I made it." Harden and his teammates have made plenty of shots against the Lakers at Staples in the past year.

Clippers-Suns Preview (The Associated Press)
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 14:09:29 PST)
The Phoenix Suns would like to believe their most recent loss is simply a speed bump in an otherwise stellar month-long stretch. The Suns will attempt to regain their momentum when they begin a grueling stretch against the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday night in a matchup of top offenses. Phoenix (26-19) had won four straight and 14 of 18 since Dec. 17 before James Harden hit a jumper at the buzzer to give Houston a 113-111 victory Friday. Eric Bledsoe, Isaiah Thomas and Markieff Morris all scored over 20 points for the Suns, but their home winning streak was snapped at seven games.

Harden's buzzer-beater lifts Rockets past Suns, 113-111 (The Associated Press)
(Fri, 23 Jan 2015 22:14:11 PST)
Harden made the 20-foot jumper as time ran out to lift the Houston Rockets to a 113-111 win over Phoenix on Friday night after the Suns came back from 16 points down to tie the score. I made it.'' Harden scored 33 points in the absence of injured star center Dwight Howard, who didn't return after injuring his right ankle in the first quarter. Harden, the NBA's leading scorer entering the night at 27.2 points per game, added 10 assists and six rebounds and made 14 of 17 free-throw attempts for the Rockets. Donatas Motiejunas added 15 points as Houston improved to 24-2 when leading at halftime this season.

Rockets' Howard injures ankle; no timeline on return (The Associated Press)
(Fri, 23 Jan 2015 21:27:03 PST)
Houston Rockets forward Dwight Howard left the US Airways Center in a walking boot after injuring his right ankle in the first quarter of his team's win over the Phoenix Suns on Friday night. Howard limped back to the locker room and did not return to the game. ''I really couldn't put any pressure on it,'' Howard said after Houston's 113-111 win. He seemed light-hearted, singing in the locker room before saying that his ankle felt a little better.

James Harden drains buzzer-beater winner, Rockets hold off Suns (Ball Don't Lie)
(Fri, 23 Jan 2015 20:58:14 PST)
The Houston Rockets rested on the verge of blowing a big fourth-quarter lead to the host Phoenix Suns on Friday night. Then the NBA's leading scorer reminded everyone of his genius. With a little more than six minutes remaining in regulation, the Rockets led the Suns 102-86, a sizable margin that appeared very difficult to surmount given the momentum and state of the game. All Phoenix did to respond was reel off 14-4 run over more than 3 1/2 minutes to make it a contest again, ultimately tying the game up on an old-fashioned three-point-play lay-up from forward Markieff Morris with just 16 seconds remaining. [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr:  The best slams from all of basketball ] The Rockets had one possession to grab back a win and avoid what projected as a trying overtime. Not surprisingly, they gave the ball to James Harden in isolation against P.J. Tucker. The resulting play was downright filthy: Harden finished with a now-characteristic 33 points (8-of-18 FG, 14-of-17 FT) along with 10 assists and three steals in the 113-111 win . It was all very much needed on a night when Dwight Howard played just eight minutes before leaving the game in the first quarter due to a sprained right ankle. Before his buzzer-beater, Harden had an arguably more impressive highlight (out of context, at least) when he sent Eric Bledsoe sprawling with a Eurostep in transition: If you check the score, you'll see that's the last basket Houston scored before Phoenix started its comeback. Of course, Harden ended up with the final word. - - - - - - - Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at efreeman_ysports@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @FreemanEric

Rockets' Howard leaves vs. Suns with sprained ankle (The Associated Press)
(Fri, 23 Jan 2015 19:01:34 PST)
PHOENIX (AP) -- Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard is out for the rest of the team's game at Phoenix against the Suns with a sprained right ankle.

Evan Turner's game-winning 3 puts bitter end to bad day for Blazers (Ball Don't Lie)
(Thu, 22 Jan 2015 22:38:59 PST)
After losing LaMarcus Aldridge to left thumb surgery before the game and Nicolas Batum to a sprained right wrist during the game, the Portland Trail Blazers really could have used a win over the lottery-bound Boston Celtics to at least salvage something positive from what had been a pretty crummy Thursday. Man, this really wasn't the Blazers' day. [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball ] Holding onto a two-point lead after pressed-into-starting power forward Thomas Robinson split a pair of free throws on the prior possession, the Blazers needed one last stop to escape. And for a second there, it looked like they had it. Portland guard Wesley Matthews darted from the corner to swipe at Boston big man Jared Sullinger's dribble, knocking the ball loose in the paint and sending Sullinger diving to the floor to retrieve it. In the ensuing scramble, the former Ohio State standout wound up seated and facing the corner from which Matthews had come ... and where Sullinger's fellow former Buckeye, Evan Turner, was standing unmarked. Turner knew it was going down. "Not to be arrogant, I did actually," he said. "I prayed prior to it to make a big shot. And it happened." — Jay King (@ByJayKing) January 23, 2015 Spoken with the confidence of a man who rocks an "E.T." piece . Sullinger kicked out the pass, Turner hoisted the 3 just over the outstretched arms of the hard-charging Matthews' flying closeout, and the ball splashed through the net. It might not have been exactly the play that second-year Celtics coach Brad Stevens drew up in the huddle, but it still gave Boston a one-point lead with 1.9 seconds left on the clock. With Aldridge and Batum out of commission, everyone in the world knew where Portland would look for an answer on its last possession, and that included the Celtics; Damian Lillard couldn't even get a shot off before the final buzzer sounded, sealing a 90-89 Celtics win . Turner finished with 10 points on 4-for-9 shooting, eight assists, six rebounds, one steal and four turnovers in 31 minutes in the win, Boston's first on the road against a Western Conference opponent in nearly two years . Sullinger added 17 points on 8-for-15 shooting, nine boards (four on the offensive glass), one steal and that one big assist in his 28 minutes of work. Avery Bradley led the way with 18 points on 8-for-16 shooting to go with four rebounds and four assists as Boston won for just the second time in its last seven games. As for the Blazers ...

Top NBA All-Star reserve candidates (Yahoo Sports)
(Thu, 22 Jan 2015 21:09:40 PST)
The Warriors could end up with two All-Stars thanks to Kobe Bryant's injury.

LaMarcus Aldridge needs thumb surgery, and the Blazers might be in big trouble (Ball Don't Lie)
(Thu, 22 Jan 2015 19:56:06 PST)
We started to get bad vibes after Wednesday's reports that the results of a magnetic resonance imaging exam on the left hand that LaMarcus Aldridge injured during the Portland Trail Blazers' Monday's win over the Sacramento Kings were "inconclusive." We knew something definitely wasn't right when Blazers general manager Neil Olshey confirmed the Thursday morning report by Sean Deveney of the Sporting News that Aldridge's left thumb was in a cast heading into today's follow-up MRI. On Thursday night, we learned that our fears were well-founded: MRI confirms Portland F LaMarcus Aldridge has a radial collateral ligament tear in left thumb. He will undergo surgery; out for 6-8 weeks. — Trail Blazers PR (@TrailBlazersPR) January 23, 2015 The three-time All-Star power forward suffered the injury while defending Kings center DeMarcus Cousins early in the second quarter on Monday night: [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball ] Aldridge left the game at the 10:26 mark of the second quarter and did not return, finishing the game with 10 points on 4-for-7 shooting in 13 1/2 minutes. Inside the Blazers' locker room prior to Portland's Thursday meeting with the Boston Celtics, the news — as you might expect — wasn't greeted warmly, as Jason Quick of the Oregonian reports : Wesley Matthews was sitting in front of his locker and perusing his phone, when I mentioned "Bummer.'' "What?'' he asked, and I pointed to Aldridge's stall, where a horde of media had gathered for a 6:10 availability with Aldridge. "Torn ligament. Surgery. Out 6-to-8 weeks,'' I told Matthews. Matthews chucked his phone over his right shoulder and immediately got up from his chair and left the locker room. Jeff Stotts of the great medical/injury information blog In Street Clothes notes that Aldridge's injury is the same one suffered this offseason by Los Angeles Lakers wing Nick Young. Swaggy P was expected to miss eight weeks, as well, but came back a bit earlier than that , which offers something, at least, for Blazers fans looking to remain optimistic as they grapple with the notion of life without their leading scorer (23.2 points per game) and rebounder (10.2 boards per contest). Here, however, is the dark cloud within that silver lining: here are the western playoff hopefuls POR plays in the next two months: DAL (x2), HOU (x2), LAC, MEM (x2), OKC, PHX, SAS. — Aaron McGuire (@docrostov) January 23, 2015 The Blazers have been excellent this season, riding a balanced attack (10th in the league in points scored per possession, fifth in points allowed per possession) to a 31-12 record that's good for the No. 2 seed in the West (behind only the on-another-level Golden State Warriors) and an 8 1/2 game lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Northwest Division. But they've rolled up that record against a less-than-murderous slate of opposition; a handful of different strength-of-schedule measurements all peg Portland's schedule thus far as one of the seven easiest in the league. As you can see from the rundown above, that's about to change in a hurry . The Blazers' timeframe would keep Aldridge sidelined for anywhere from 18 to 24 games, slating his return somewhere between the first and third week of March. That's an awful long time to be without your top gun, especially in as dangerous an environment as the Western Conference; while it's very nice for Portland to have that 8 1/2 game division cushion, it probably wouldn't serve as a seismic shock to see the now-surging Thunder take a sizable bite out of that lead in the weeks ahead. The challenge for Blazers coach Terry Stotts will be to keep the margin from disappearing entirely. On that score, it'll be nice to be able to rely on Damian Lillard, who's in the midst of his best season as a pro (22.1 points, 6.2 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game) and has become one of the league's most lethal fourth-quarter performers . But the Blazers will need more than All-Star play from their All-Star point guard. With starting center Robin Lopez still recuperating from the broken bones in his right hand and reserve big man Joel Freeland still working his way back from a right shoulder strain , Portland's frontcourt was already stretched thin. And Olshey saying Thursday that it's possible that neither Lopez nor Freeland will return before the mid-February All-Star break, Stotts will have to lean even more heavily for frontcourt productivity on the likes of Chris Kaman, Thomas Robinson, Meyers Leonard and Victor Claver, and on small-ball lineups featuring Nicolas Batum and versatile reserve Dorell Wright sliding up to the four spot. Batum has struggled mightily this season, averaging just 9.4 points in 33.7 minutes per game while shooting a career-low 39.5 percent from the field and just 28.1 percent from 3-point land, but he did have a bounceback outing (27 points on 9-for-15 shooting and 6-for-8 from long distance, 10 rebounds, five assists and a block) in Portland's Wednesday loss to the Phoenix Suns. Blazers fans must now hope even more fervently that the Frenchman's sweet shooting in Arizona was a sign of an impending return to form. Despite the daunting prospect of facing the double-tough schedule ahead without their most accomplished interior scorer, it's possible that Stotts, one of the league's sharper tacticians, will be able to bubblegum-and-duct-tape together enough solutions to be able to weather the storm, fend off challenges from the snarl of teams below them in the standings (the Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs, Suns and Thunder) and keep the Blazers in position for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs until Aldridge returns. This is, after all, a deeper, more talented and experienced Portland team than we've seen in the past couple of years, and Lillard sure looks to be more than capable of carrying the weight of superstar-level expectations; Dame seems like the kind of dude who will hear droves of people saying, "Oh, no, this is baaaaad news for Portland," internalize it all, pressurize it into some kind of "nobody believes in us!" anger diamond and go average 30-7-7 for the next six weeks just to prove a point. That said, there's a reason why the Blazers' offensive efficiency drops from top-five-in-the-league (108 points per 100 possessions) to just-above-bottom-five (100 points-per-100) when Aldridge sits down . It's not just that he's one of the game's elite midrange shooters, a pick-and-pop maestro whom defenses just can't leave alone at the elbows and near the arc lest they suffer the same fate as the Houston Rockets. It's all the open space and opportunity that his shooting, and the threat of his shooting, opens up for Lillard, Batum and 3-point-bombing shooting guard Wesley Matthews. It's the added bonus afforded by the continuity and familiarity that the Blazers' core has built up by playing so many minutes together over the past few seasons. It's the knowledge that, virtually regardless of what happens on an offensive possession and how badly a defense blows it up, they can almost always get a decent look just by giving it to the 6-foot-11 cornerstone with the high, nearly unblockable release. It's hard to replace all that. Well, no, scratch that; it's probably impossible to replace all that. But the Blazers will have to do their best to keep plugging along, and Aldridge — reportedly in good spirits as he spoke briefly with media after the announcement — will do his best to both get back as quickly as possible and make sure he's healthy enough to stay back once he returns. From Joe Freeman of the Oregonian : "It's tough. We have been in a pretty good rhythm most of this season. We've lost guys a lot this season. This is a totally different season from last year. But we have a lot of guys here that can step up and play better and make plays. So I feel like the team shouldn't stall. We're going to get guys back soon, so it's going to be good for us." While Aldridge is to be commended for putting a brave face on bummerific news, we'll have to agree to disagree that anything about this is "good" for the Blazers. The difference between Portland contending for a title and missing the playoffs entirely could very well rest on how well and how quickly a tiny stretch of connective tissue on the outside of a thumb heals. It seems an absurd statement, but it also feels like a sadly appropriate margin of error in this unrelenting Western Conference. - - - - - - - Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YourManDevine Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL , "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.

Steph Curry, LeBron James lead 2015 NBA All-Star Game starters (Ball Don't Lie)
(Thu, 22 Jan 2015 16:31:33 PST)

Derrick Rose has been cleared to play as many minutes as he wants to (Ball Don't Lie)
(Thu, 22 Jan 2015 15:12:46 PST)
The Chicago Bulls have been working up a pretty trashy brand of basketball recently, watching as their offense goes flat while pairing that putrid play with absolutely terrible defense. The squad has lost six of eight since an impressive home win over the Houston Rockets on Jan. 5, and the team’s schedule only gets worse from here on out: Chicago is set to take on the Spurs, Mavericks, Heat and Warriors over a six-day stretch that takes them from Chicago to Texas, back to Chicago and then out to the Bay Area. The Bulls are already without Joakim Noah, suffering from an ankle injury and the aftereffects of a knee surgery that the team’s not-to-be-trusted medical staff diagnosed as “minor” some eight and a half months ago. Injured swingmen Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Doug McDermott might be pushed back into the rotation during this stretch of games far earlier than they should, Dunleavy couldn’t run last week and it took a month for the Bulls to relent and submit that McDermott needed knee surgery after he was seen limping around with a knee sleeve to start the season. Things are, well, they’re not rosy. Derrick Rose, however, is getting Rose-ier as the season moves along. His defense still stinks and he still takes way too many three-pointers, but he’s getting there. And, at the behest of the team’s medical staff, he’ll be getting there more often. From K.C. Johnson at the Chicago Tribune : But there's good news on the medical front. The Bulls have cleared Derrick Rose to play extended minutes if needed, sources said. Rose is averaging 32.8 minutes in 10 January games. That's up from 30 minutes in December and 25.9 in November. Rose logged a season-high 37 minutes, 6 seconds in Saturday's loss to the Hawks. "I feel great," Rose said recently of his health. Derrick wasn’t exactly feeling “great” after his team’s last loss , and Rose has had some clunkers during this 2-6 stretch. He’s missed 23 of his last 36 shots, and tossed up a 3-15 games from the floor against the Utah Jazz. He also had a 32-point game against Washington’s strong defense, though, and two double-doubles (averaging 26 points and 10 assists in the games that followed) in the games that followed. His 37 minutes in a loss to Atlanta on Saturday were a season high. It is 14 months to the day of his last major knee injury, and it’s time to let him go. [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr:  The best slams from all of basketball ] It was that second knee injury, a torn right meniscus, which was always going to be the one to worry about when it came to pushing minutes and activity. Scads of NBA players have hurt their pro careers by rushing back too quickly, resulting in even more invasive clean-up operations. Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, you’ll recall, had to undergo two different operations in the wake of what might have been a too-aggressive rehab to the meniscus tear he suffered in the spring of 2013. It’s true that Rose’s ACL tear in his left knee is a far more serious injury, and it’s also true that the only game he sat out this season due to knee issues was because of soreness in that left knee, but the right one is the one to worry about moving forward. After half a season of building up to this sort of run, however, the approach makes sense. If he feels pain, you sit him without asking questions. If he feels “great,” then you play him normal, superstar minutes. The news comes with Chicago at a low point, with Rose rightfully second-guessing his team’s approach and with upcoming opponents that won’t make a statement turnaround win likely in the slightest. Rose’s minutes increase will help mask the pratfalls that come from playing Kirk Hinrich (a ball-stopping, pass-averse zero on offense whose defense is declining) too many minutes, but it won’t do much to cover up Pau Gasol’s defensive issues outside of the shot-blocking realm, and the weird decline in what should be a peak year for Taj Gibson. And it won’t do much to cover up the absence of Joakim Noah, who for all but a few short bursts in December looked nothing like the player he was pre-surgery when he was fighting through pain to play. Rose himself has to do better as well. His defense this season has been miserable, he’s not playing anywhere near an All-Star offensively even when looking at per-minute stats, and despite a hot shooting streak from outside (he’s made 18 of his last 32 from long range, 56 percent) he was shooting 23 percent from behind the arc before that run while still averaging a team-leading five attempts a game. The Spurs, Mavericks, the Heat in the middle of the afternoon on Sunday, and then the Warriors on Golden State’s home court. Things are definitely going to either get way worse before they get better, or the Noah-less Bulls could shock us by turning it all around against a killer schedule. Either way, we get to see more of Derrick Rose. After seeing him just ten times in the previous two seasons, we’ll take it. - - - - - - - Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KDonhoops

Rockets-Suns Preview (The Associated Press)
(Thu, 22 Jan 2015 12:37:08 PST)
The Phoenix Suns have been perfect halfway through the longest homestand in franchise history behind their typically potent offense. One of the few teams to stifle them this season has been the Houston Rockets, who will try to stop the Suns' longest home winning streak in nearly five years Friday night. Phoenix (26-18) picked up a dramatic 118-113 win over Portland on Wednesday to mark its seventh consecutive home victory. After squandering a 25-point lead, the Suns leaned on Eric Bledsoe to mount a late comeback and beat the Northwest Division leaders in the fourth game of their eight-game homestand.

Warriors revel in proving they're 'that good' after 4th straight big win over Rockets (Ball Don't Lie)
(Thu, 22 Jan 2015 11:19:57 PST)
Here's how Houston Rockets star James Harden referred to the Golden State Warriors before their matchup on Saturday night: The clip of Harden telling his huddled-up teammates that the Warriors — who entered that contest with an NBA-best record of 31-6 — were "not that good, man," despite having already beaten Houston twice by double figures this season, was later deleted from the Rockets' Instagram account . Nothing's ever really gone on the Internet, though, even if the "Swag Champs" might have wished it would disappear after a third straight major loss to that "not that good" team. Houston had a chance to bounce back from their troika of beatdowns on Wednesday, and ... well, it didn't go so hot: [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball ] The firing-on-all-cylinders Warriors needed just under seven minutes to build a double-digit lead, which Golden State center Andrew Bogut punctuated by emphatically rejecting Houston star Dwight Howard at the rim, twice: While Houston charged back to keep things tight for a while behind a steady stream of trips to the line and delivered dimes from Harden, the Rockets just had no answer once Golden State hit the gas just before the midpoint of the second quarter. Steve Kerr's club ripped off a 20-3 run that spanned nearly 7 1/2 minutes, putting the clamps on Houston (just 1-for-12 shooting after a Dwight Howard dunk at the 7:26 mark) while cranking up their own ball movement and shotmaking (thanks in large part to Klay Thompson's 11 points in that stretch) to turn an in-the-balance contest into a 20-point blowout by halftime. The lead would balloon to 30 on a Draymond Green triple with 5 1/2 minutes left in the third, and the Dubs cracked the century mark with 50 seconds left in the frame. A mid-fourth garbage-time run keyed by the likes of Alexey Shved, Corey Brewer, Joey Dorsey and Jason Terry — a surge that came after Josh Smith got ejected , because there's apparently no performance-enhancing drug greater than getting rid of Smoove these days — brought Thompson, Green and Stephen Curry back off Kerr's bench, but Houston drew no closer than nine. The result: a fourth straight double-digit defeat for the "Swag Champs" at the hands of the West's best team, who now stand at 34-6, winners of 17 straight at the rollicking Oracle Arena, with the last 10 home wins coming by at least 13 points. (Yeah, that's a record. ) Curry continued his MVP campaign with 22 points and 10 assists (albeit against six turnovers, which will cost him ) in 34 minutes, boosting his season shooting marks above the fabled 50-40-90 line — 50.1 percent from the floor, 40.2 percent from 3-point land, 91.5 percent from the charity stripe — while also showing a bit more fire than we're accustomed to seeing from Dell's son after a third-quarter bump from Trevor Ariza: Holding Curry back to keep him from getting in trouble — just another critical won't-show-up-in-the-box-score contribution from Draymond Green. Send that man to the All-Star Game ! The bad blood between these two teams stretches back two seasons , and as the Curry-Ariza brouhaha showed, it seems to reaching a new and rolling boil, perhaps sparked by Harden's recent pre-game denigration of the Dubs' talents. It's no surprise, then, that the Warriors seemed to particularly relish the victory that locked up a season sweep of Kevin McHale's squad, according to Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group : Here is a transcript of a smiling [Draymond] Green, dripping with sarcasm after the game, in response to the [Harden] video: Q: With the way you guys have been beating teams lately, do you think getting up by these big margins might have that effect on teams? A: I mean, I’m sure they were a little frustrated because we’re not that good. So to get up by 20 like that in the half and then come out in the third quarter I’m sure is a little frustrating. But hey, we’re not that good. Shouldn’t be up by 20 at half. Happens though, right? Q: What’d you think of that, ‘They’re not that good thing?’ A: Uh, [Harden's] right. We’re nowhere near where we’re going to be at the end of this year. We’ve got to continue to get better and stay healthy and then we’ll look back at this point in the season and say, ‘Man, we weren’t that good.’ So he’s right. Green then turned to teammate Brandon Rush: We’re not that good. Well, you saw it. You got Twitter? Rush: Yeah, I got Twitter. Green: You got Instagram? Then you saw. We’re not that good…I guess we’re not that good…Yeah, you know if we’re not that good…Four losses to somebody ain’t that good. [...] Q: Seventeen consecutive home wins is pretty good, stands alone in franchise history. What does that mean to you? A: Seventeen in a row at home, that can’t be all this year can it be? It can’t be if we’re not that good. Curry wasn't quite as demonstrative as his power forward, but he took the opportunity to enjoy himself, too, according to ESPN.com's Ethan Sherwood Strauss : After the game, Curry was less sarcastic but equally pointed: "We showed we are pretty good, especially against them." Well, there's no disputing that. The Warriors averaged 115 points per game against the Rockets this year, shooting just under 50 percent from the floor as a team and a crisp 38.2 percent from 3-point land en route to their four-game sweep. Against the league at large, Houston's allowing just 99.5 points-per-100, marking them as the NBA's fourth-stingiest defense; against the Warriors this season, they gave up 109.6-per-100, which would slot them in just north of the circling-the-drain Minnesota Timberwolves, owners of the league's most permissive D. No matter how you slice it, Golden State whipped the Rockets from pillar to post during the regular season, outscoring the Rockets by a whopping 13.8 points per 100 possessions, a simply monstrous number. Then again, it's not like the Warriors have singled out Houston specifically for this sort of beatdown. (Well, maybe they did on Wednesday night.) They're actually doing this to pretty much everybody. Through 40 games, Golden State — owners of the NBA's third-best offense (110.2 points-per-100 scored) and top-of-the-pops defense (97 points-per-100 allowed) — has outscored its opposition by 13.2 points per 100 possessions. The No. 2 team in that "efficiency differential" stat, the Dallas Mavericks, is +7.8-per-100. NBA.com's stat tool has these sorts of advanced stats stretching back to the 1996-97 season; in that time, only four teams have finished a full season above +10-per-100 — the 2012-13 Oklahoma City Thunder ( +11 ), the 2008-09 Cleveland Cavaliers: ( +10.3 ), the 2007-08 Boston Celtics ( +11.5 ) and the 1996-97 Chicago Bulls ( +12 ). The Warriors, right now, are topping all of those teams. This, it is fair to say, is bonkers. The statistical indicators that the Warriors might actually be an all-time great don't stop there, though. From SB Nation's Jesus Gomez : The Warriors have an average margin of victory of +11.3 points points per game, well above the second-place Hawks, who come in a distant second with a +7.1 average. If that holds until the end of the season, the Warriors will become only the eighth team in history to finish with an average point differential of over 10. The other seven teams? The 1970-71 and 1971-72 Bucks, the 1971-72 Lakers, the 1991-92, 1995-96 and 1996-97 Bulls and the 2007-08 Celtics. Six of those teams went on to win the championship; the only team that didn't was the 71-72 Bucks, who lost to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. Looking like a world-class wrecking crew at the halfway point doesn't necessarily mean you're going to be hoisting the O'Brien in late June; just ask last year's Indiana Pacers . Nor, to be fair, does finishing the full season with a chart-topping differential — as Gomez notes, last year's San Antonio Spurs won the championship after leading the league in margin of victory, but the previous four differential leaders didn't, and while the '96-'97 Bulls and '07-'08 Celtics won it all after finishing +10 or better per-100, the '08-'09 Cavs and '12-'13 Thunder didn't. (Then again, lest we forget, that Thunder team lost Russell Westbrook just two games into the playoffs .) A lot can happen between now and the start of the playoffs; by springtime, the Warriors might look a lot more vulnerable than they do this Thursday. Some folks, though, still seem to think the Warriors ain't all that right now. Take it away, Superman : After the game, Howard was asked if the Warriors were the best team in the league. "I think the [Atlanta] Hawks are the best team," he said. "Think they got the best record, right? Now, that's not technically true. The Warriors have a better winning percentage and lead the Hawks by two in the loss column. Oh, well. It's like I always say, Dwight: Never let the facts get in the way of a good story, especially when said story might help in some small way soothe the pain of the butt-kicking you just received. - - - - - - - Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YourManDevine Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL , "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.

Curry gets angry, Warriors beat Rockets 126-113 (The Associated Press)
(Wed, 21 Jan 2015 23:35:16 PST)
Stephen Curry figured it would happen eventually. With the Golden State Warriors routinely routing opponents on their home floor, frustration was bound to surface from the other side at some point. The typically mild-mannered point guard got involved in a rare altercation before finishing with 22 points and 10 assists, and the Warriors held off the Houston Rockets 126-113 on Wednesday night for their franchise-record 17th straight home win. Curry, who already had a technical foul, ran at Trevor Ariza after the Rockets forward bumped him on the way down court early in the third quarter.

Forbes reports record riches for clubs
(Wed, 21 Jan 2015 14:42:37 PST)
Powered by record-setting telecast rights and club sales deals, the National Basketball Association saw team values skyrocket 74 percent over last year to a $1.1 billion average, Forbes magazine reported Wednesday. The jump reported on the magazine website is the largest year-to-year gain since Forbes began listing its sports team values for the major North American leagues in 1998. It lists 11 NBA teams worth at least $1 billion (863 million euros) compared to three in 2014. The report said former Microsoft boss Steve Balmer overpaid when he bought the Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion last year in the wake of the racism controversy surrounding former owner Donald Sterling, valuing the Clippers at $1.6 billion but noting the premium that teams in large cities have in value because of greater local revenue streams, citing those signed in the past six months by Miami, Atlanta and Sacramento.

Forbes: Lakers, Knicks, Bulls lead 11 NBA franchises worth at least $1 billion (Ball Don't Lie)
(Wed, 21 Jan 2015 11:23:35 PST)

Rockets-Warriors Preview (The Associated Press)
(Tue, 20 Jan 2015 19:37:49 PST)
Howard finally played against the league's best team over the weekend and the result was even worse thanks to the "Splash Brothers." Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and the Warriors can establish a franchise record with a 17th straight home victory Wednesday night and sweep the Rockets for the first time in 41 seasons. Golden State (33-6) beat Houston 98-87 on Nov. 8 and 105-93 on Dec. 10, though Howard missed both contests - once due to the flu and once due to a right knee strain. Howard was available Saturday with team highs of 23 points and 10 rebounds in the Warriors' 131-106 rout in Houston.

NBA-Highlights of Monday's NBA games
(Mon, 19 Jan 2015 22:16:12 PST)
(Adds late games) Jan 19 (The Sports Xchange) - Highlights of Monday's National Basketball Association games: - - - Cavaliers 108, Bulls 94 LeBron James scored 26 points and the Cleveland Cavaliers continued their resurgence with a 108-94 victory over the Chicago Bulls. All five Cleveland starters scored in double figures as the Cavs improved to 3-1 since James returned from a two-week layoff to rest an injured knee and back. ...

Harden pours in 45 points to lead Rockets past Pacers
(Mon, 19 Jan 2015 20:43:17 PST)
James Harden bounced back in a big way, scoring 45 points to lead the Houston Rockets to a 110-98 NBA victory over the Indiana Pacers. Harden was one point shy of his career high set on February 20, 2013 against Oklahoma City. Thirty-three of his 45 came in the second half as he rebounded from a disappointing 12-point outing as he battled foul trouble in Houston's 131-106 loss to Golden State on Saturday.

James Harden's 45 points lead Rockets over Pacers 110-98 (The Associated Press)
(Mon, 19 Jan 2015 18:26:10 PST)
Rockets coach Kevin McHale lamented Houston's lack of effort in a lopsided loss to Golden State on Saturday. James Harden scored a season-high 45 points, including 18 in the third quarter, and the Rockets led from start to finish in a 110-98 win over the Indiana Pacers. He bounced back after scoring just 11 in the 131-106 loss to Golden State. Houston led by 10 at the break and used a 33-point third quarter, thanks in large part to four 3-pointers from Harden, to push the lead to 20 entering the fourth.

Pacers-Rockets Preview (The Associated Press)
(Mon, 19 Jan 2015 07:25:35 PST)
The Houston Rockets had one of their worst defensive showings of the season their last time out. Harden looks to get back on track Monday when the Rockets face an Indiana Pacers team coming off one of the worst offensive performances in franchise history. After opening its homestand with an impressive 112-101 win over Oklahoma City on Thursday, Houston (28-13) couldn't slow down high-powered Golden State two nights later in a 131-106 loss. The Rockets allowed their most points in more than a year and an opponent season-high 54.9 percent shooting.

NBA's D-League becoming a testing ground for new ideas (The Associated Press)
(Mon, 19 Jan 2015 00:44:39 PST)
David Arseneault Jr. thought nothing of the email when it first appeared in his inbox. The message from Dean Oliver, the Sacramento Kings' director of player personnel and analytics, just seemed like another inquiry about the quirky system his father ran at tiny Grinnell College. Little did Arseneault know that the Kings had been targeting him as a candidate to coach their NBA Development League affiliate, the Reno Bighorns, for a unique basketball experiment. I said, 'The head coaching job?''' Arseneault said, recalling the story during the D-League Showcase that concludes Monday night in Santa Cruz.

NBA Power Rankings: Are the Knicks the worst team ever? (Yahoo Sports)
(Mon, 19 Jan 2015 00:01:23 PST)
There's a new No. 1 in this week's rankings. But No. 30 looks determined to stay in the basement.

Nuggets-Warriors Preview (The Associated Press)
(Sun, 18 Jan 2015 21:57:41 PST)
Since the start of last season, the Golden State Warriors have won at least one home game against 25 of the other 29 teams in the NBA. The Denver Nuggets, who visit Monday as the Warriors try to establish a new franchise-record home winning streak, aren't one of them. Golden State's run at home reached 15 with a 104-89 victory over Miami on Wednesday before it split road games at Oklahoma City and Houston. Saturday's 131-106 win over the Rockets was the Warriors' ninth in 10 games and they shot 54.9 percent from the field.

Greg Monroe takes high, silent road on topic of Josh Smith (Ball Don't Lie)
(Sun, 18 Jan 2015 13:25:15 PST)
Following the team’s victory over the hapless Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday, the Detroit Pistons’ record stands at 16-25. That’s a mark that isn’t exactly making the rest of the Eastern Conference quake in its sneakers, but it’s a damn sight better than the 5-23 record the team owned when it waived forward Josh Smith three days before Christmas. The Pistons have gone on an 11-2 tear since Smith was let go, only losing to the white hot Hawks (a team Detroit nearly rallied to come from behind and defeat) and the New Orleans Pelicans. Big man Greg Monroe has thrived in Smith’s absence, free to play his inside/outside game with aplomb up front. Following his team’s tough win over the Indiana Pacers on Friday, Monroe was asked what was making the biggest difference to encourage this startling midseason turnaround: (The sideline reporter that popped Monroe with the microphone is Grant Long, who himself was brought in to Detroit by then-coach Doug Collins in 1996 to help settle the very Smith-like relationship Otis Thorpe had with the rest of the team. Thorpe was later traded in 1997 to Vancouver for what turned out to be the second overall pick in perhaps the greatest draft in NBA history in 2003. The Pistons selected Darko Milicic to end a transaction lifeline that did absolutely no good for anyone involved.) You’ll recall that Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy took the high road recently when reporters started to note that the Pistons had taken off in response to Smith’s absence, and that the Houston Rockets (Josh’s new team) initially struggled with him on the team. Monroe is clearly taking cues from his coach in this instance. Monroe struggled against Indiana and Philadelphia, missing 15 of 23 shots, but he is earning enough minutes to work himself back up to averaging a double-double. Point man Brandon Jennings, meanwhile, has absolutely teed off on the rest of the NBA in the days since Smith left , making over 45 percent of his looks from the floor and from behind the line as Detroit (currently a game out from the eighth seed) threatens to jump into the Eastern Conference playoff bracket. Mostly because they paid Josh Smith to go away. Greg doesn’t want to say it, but I will. - - - - - - - Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KDonhoops

NBA-Highlights of Saturday's NBA games
(Sat, 17 Jan 2015 22:17:31 PST)
(Adds late games) Jan 17 (The Sports Xchange) - Highlights of Saturday's National Basketball Association games: - - - Hawks 107, Bulls 99 The Atlanta Hawks matched their second-longest winning streak in franchise history night by beating the Chicago Bulls for their 12th straight victory. Bulls guard Kyle Korver hit 7-of-9 from the three-point line and scored 24 points to lead four Hawks in double figures. Al Horford scored 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds for Atlanta (33-8), which never trailed. ...

Curry and Thompson help Warriors to 131-106 win over Houston (The Associated Press)
(Sat, 17 Jan 2015 20:57:00 PST)
Klay Thompson had a great night offensively on Saturday. Stephen Curry and Thompson scored 27 points each and the Golden State Warriors used a huge third quarter to roll to a 131-106 win over the Houston Rockets. ''I just want to continue to prove that and get better every game.'' Coach Steve Kerr raved about Thompson's work on Harden, who went 4 of 15, including 0 of 4 on 3s, to finish well below his average of 27 points a game. ''I thought Klay did a good job of avoiding fouls and then contesting late.'' Golden State rebounded from a loss to Oklahoma City on Friday night that snapped an eight-game winning streak.

Warriors-Rockets Preview (The Associated Press)
(Sat, 17 Jan 2015 09:18:21 PST)
Golden State's defense hadn't been much of a concern while the Warriors were scoring at a remarkable rate during their record string of blowout victories. After their eight-game win streak ended, the Warriors will look to tighten things up Saturday night and deny the Houston Rockets a fifth consecutive home victory. The NBA-leading Warriors (31-6) had been playing well defensively, giving up 96.1 points per game - two fewer than their season mark - on 41.7 percent shooting over a team-record eight straight double-digit wins. Golden State, however, couldn't continue that trend Friday in the opener of a difficult two-game trip, allowing Oklahoma City to score 98 through three quarters and shoot 52.6 percent overall in a 127-115 loss.

Sources: Nets back away from Brook Lopez trade talk with Thunder (Yahoo Sports)
(Fri, 16 Jan 2015 11:00:36 PST)
The Nets' desire to move Brook Lopez soon remains unchanged, though.

Dose: Well Hello, Melo!? (Rotoworld)
(Fri, 16 Jan 2015 00:31:00 PST)
Melo was back for the sloppy Knicks (for now), Houston stopped OKC, and LeBron & Kobe grinned their way through another Lakers loss on Thursday.

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