Are the Suns confounding or a contender? Plus, Warriors Q&A with Marcus Thompson

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Just so we’re clear, “Golden Girls” has the best theme song ever. “The Jeffersons” is a close second.

Bad Losses or Good Wins?

Celtics, Suns wet the bed

I’ll admit I was a little shocked last night due to the Celtics-Hawks game and the Suns-Spurs matchup. Let’s break down what happened to the Suns first.

The Suns stumble:

Phoenix (42-30, eighth in West) went into San Antonio with its big three healthy and an intact rotation. On top of that, the 16-56 Spurs (last in West) were without Victor Wembanyama. Naturally, San Antonio took down Phoenix 104-102 behind a 26-point, 18-rebound performance from Jeremy Sochan.

Kevin Durant (29 points on 12-of-17 shooting) and Devin Booker (36 points on 14-of-28 shooting) were good, but no other starters reached double-digit scoring. Bradley Beal had nine points on 11 shots in 30 minutes. Royce O’Neale (12 off the bench) was the only other Sun to score in double figures. Performances like these leave people thinking the Suns won’t actualize their title aspirations. They shouldn’t be this mediocre in close games, especially against the bad teams.

A rare Celtics meltdown:

As for the Celtics (57-15, first in East), they had a total meltdown against a Hawks team still missing Trae Young. You can look at the 120-118 score in favor of the 32-39 Hawks (10th in East) and think the Celtics just couldn’t put away a scrappy team. Sure? That sort of happened, except Boston had a 30-point lead against Atlanta in the second quarter and was up by 18 in the third period. De’Andre Hunter led all five Hawks starters with 24 points as the Hawks gutted this one out. The loss doesn’t shake your confidence in the Celtics, although it is a reminder about their issues in the clutch.

More from last night: 

Pacers 133, Clippers 116: This is the Indy squad from the start of the season. Tyrese Haliburton had 21 points and nine assists. Pascal Siakam had a game-high 31 points. And the Pacers (41-32, sixth in East) hit 60 percent from deep. The Clippers (44-27, fifth in West) fall closer to Play-In territory.

Kings 108, 76ers 96: This marked maybe the easiest triple-double of Domantas Sabonis’ career, as Sacramento (42-29) moved into sixth in the West. Sabonis became the fifth player with at least 25 triple-doubles in a single season (Russell Westbrook, Nikola Jokić, Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson).

Mavs 115, Jazz 105: Luka Dončić had 29 points, 12 assists and 12 rebounds as Dallas (42-29, seventh in West) dominated the fourth to keep pace with Sacramento.

Rockets 110, Blazers 92: Horrible shooting night for Houston (39.8 percent from the field), but it was good enough for the team’s ninth straight win.

Cavs 115, Hornets 92: Nobody scored more than 17 for Cleveland (44-28, third in East). All Charlotte (17-54, 13th in East) games should be free to attend – on the road or at home – the rest of the season.

Knicks 124, Pistons 99: Donte DiVincenzo scored a career-high 40 points, Josh Hart had the sixth triple-double of 2024 and his career, and Detroit lost its 60th game of the season.

Nets 96, Raptors 88: Toronto (23-29, 12th in East) lost its 11th straight game (fourth-longest streak in franchise history) in an effort to keep that top-six protected pick.

Wizards 107, Bulls 105: DeMar DeRozan barely missed a half court game-winning attempt. Jordan Poole (23 points in the start) led the ‘Zards (14-58, 14th in East) to their third straight win. Chicago (34-48, ninth in East) is 1.5 games ahead of the last Play-In spot.

Nuggets 128, Grizzlies 103: Jokić had 29 points to lead seven Denver players in double figures. The defending champions now have a one-game lead for the No. 1 seed.

The Latest From Shams

Green, Rockets continue to surge

The Rockets are the NBA’s hottest team, Q, just a half game behind the Warriors (36-34) for the final Play-In spot in the West. A big reason for that run is the recent play of Jalen Green, who is averaging 27.8 points per game in March while shooting better than 40 percent from 3.

Rewinding a couple months, I’m told the Rockets called the Nets to discuss the concept of a deal involving Green, Mikal Bridges and picks. That deal did not progress, and now Houston, which looks to keep up its winning streak tomorrow in Oklahoma City, is the biggest beneficiary.

Both Green and the injured Alperen Şengün are extension-eligible this offseason. We’ll see how Houston goes about locking in its core in the coming months.

Warriors Q&A

Marcus Thompson on Warriors

The Warriors are clinging onto the No. 10 spot in the West against the charging Houston Rockets like Sly Stallone held onto the edge of an icy mountain in “Cliffhanger.” It seemed only right to ask Marcus Thompson to answer three pressing questions about the Dubs. Also, read Marcus on the Warriors’ search for a second scorer.

Question: Should Draymond and the Warriors be worried about the Rockets or themselves more?

Thompson: Other than the trash Dillon Brooks will talk if Houston bounces the Warriors, the Rockets are irrelevant to Golden State. Draymond is right. The Warriors are a mess and need to worry about their own issues. Even if they somehow managed to get the No. 10 seed, they’re getting bounced anyway if they don’t get it together.

The Rockets’ schedule toughens. But the Warriors play eight of their final 12 on the road. Seven of their final games are against winning teams, including a showdown with Houston. They’ve got to find a way to win some games. Or it will be much more than Dillon Brooks talking.

Question: Do the Warriors know what to do if Steph isn’t having a good night?

Thompson: Not really. The simple answer is to make threes. When Curry’s teammates do, they’re fine. The problem is they don’t have consistent shooters. The Warriors don’t have another formidable shot creator, so it hurts when Curry is not rolling. They’ve got players who can thrive in certain matchups. But no one who can get 20 to 25 next to Curry consistently. That’s why they are 18-20 when he scores fewer than 30 points. Of the top 10 teams in the West, Curry is the only star who has a losing record when he scored below 30.

Question: What did Chris Paul mean by calling referee Tony Brothers a TikToker?

Thompson: Brothers said in an interview with the Florida Vipers Academy that he “don’t really care too much for basketball,” and it was posted on the Academy’s TikTok. Paul clearly didn’t like Brothers’ confession that he “isn’t a fan” of the game and he ended up a referee because he wanted to become a judge. “Now I’m the judge, jury, prosecuting attorney and defense attorney,” Brothers explained in the clip. Paul posted the clip of Brothers on his IG story. Elite-level trolling by CP3.

Goodbye, Hornets

Bidding adieu to another lost season

The Hornets were knocked out of Play-In contention when they lost to the Hawks this past weekend. So, what’s next for them? They have new ownership, a new front office and another wasted season around LaMelo Ball, who wasn’t healthy. Let’s say goodbye to the Hornets.

Charlotte’s bright spot from this season? Oh, boy. Well, Brandon Miller had a few questions entering his NBA career and may have answered close to all of them right away. He’s been fantastic for them, and his future is blindingly bright. Mark Williams also was really good until his back injury cost him the rest of this season. And … uh … Tre Mann has looked solid since the trade?

Key free agents for Charlotte: Davis Bertāns (early termination option), Miles Bridges, JT Thor (team option)

Biggest position to address: Everywhere that isn’t point guard. They have LaMelo Ball as the star and Brandon Miller as a potential second star on the wing. There are a couple of promising players on the roster, but the Hornets need as much talent as possible everywhere.

What’s the draft pick situation? Their draft pick is owed to San Antonio. It’s top-14 protected, though, so they’ll easily keep it.

Will they have cap space? If they can convince Bertāns to give up on his salary for next year and terminate his deal, then they could have roughly $16 million in space – maybe a little less. But it’s most likely they won’t have anything significant, as Ball’s max extension kicks in next season.

2023-24 yearbook quote: “Do I make you Hornet, baby?”

Bounce Passes

Does the NBA have its next betting scandal?

John Hollinger shared thoughts on why the G League Ignite team failed.

The Sixers are eagerly awaiting Joel Embiid’s return.

Screen Game (All times Eastern)

  • Main Screen: Mavs-Kings (10 p.m. TNT). Both teams are trying to reach the top six in the West.
  • Second Screen: Warriors-Heat (7:30 p.m.). No LeBron James for the Lakers, so this game gets the honor over Lakers-Bucks.
  • League Pass Game of the Night: Thunder–Pelicans (8 p.m.). We’ll be so lucky if we get this as a playoff series. Full schedule here.

(Top photo: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images )

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