Best of NBA: Tempers flare in Warriors' rout of Thunder

Best of NBA: Tempers flare in Warriors' rout of Thunder

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Klay Thompson scored 34 points to help the Golden State Warriors beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 111-95 on Monday night in a heated matchup filled with trash talking, physical play and technical fouls.

It was Golden State's second visit to Oklahoma City since former Thunder star Kevin Durant signed a free agent contract with the rival Warriors last summer. Durant has been out since February with a left knee injury and sat on the bench with his team.

Even with Durant out, the negative energy from the first meeting was still there. Stephen Curry exchanged shoves with Oklahoma City's Semaj Christon just before halftime, and both were issued technical fouls. Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook and Golden State's Draymond Green also got technical for their roles in the skirmish.

The Warriors controlled the game, leading by as many as 27 points (see full recap).

Harden hits game-winning layup in final seconds
HOUSTON -- James Harden drove the length of the floor for a layup with 2.4 seconds left to lift the Houston Rockets over the Denver Nuggets 125-124 on Monday night.

Harden had 39 points, 11 assists and was three rebounds shy of his 20th triple-double of the season. Houston outlasted Denver in a duel between the second- and third-highest scoring teams in the NBA.

Harden likely saved the game for Houston, too, when he batted down an inbounds pass to Mason Plumlee near the basket following his layup.

Will Barton gave Denver a one-point lead on a three-point play with less than a minute left. On the following possession, Harden missed a layup, but he got it back on the other end of the floor when he rebounded Jameer Nelson's air-ball.

Harden took the ball the full length of the court and scored on a finger-roll, go-ahead layup (see full recap).

Thomas returns in Celtics’ win over Wizards
BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas scored 25 points after missing the previous two games with a bruised right knee, leading the Boston Celtics to a 110-102 victory over the Washington Wizards in another testy matchup Monday night between two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

Avery Bradley added 20 points and nine rebounds, and Jae Crowder and Al Horford each scored 16 with nine boards for Boston, which moved 2 games ahead of the Wizards for second place in the East. The Celtics trail first-place Cleveland by two games.

Bradley Beal led Washington with 19 points, and John Wall had 16 points with eight assists.

Behind Thomas' 12 third-quarter points, Boston pushed an 11-point halftime lead to 92-75 after three (see full recap).

How the Sixers watch the NCAA Tournament, from scouting to reliving

How the Sixers watch the NCAA Tournament, from scouting to reliving

INDIANAPOLIS -- The NCAA Tournament is a different viewing experience for everyone. To some it is a chance to root for an alma mater, to others is a glimpse into future NBA talent, and for the small handful that makes it to the pros, a reminder of moments they cherished. 

From players to the head coach, March Madness has an individual meaning to the Sixers.

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The draft has been just as much a part of Brett Brown's time with the Sixers as the regular season. The Sixers have been perennial top pick contenders and could be heavily involved in the 2017 draft lottery. They have their own first-round pick and rights to swap with the Kings. They also could get the Lakers' pick if it is outside of the top three. 

How does Brown watch college basketball this time of year? 

"Like I'm going to coach one of them," he said. "You pay attention."

Rather than trying to read into the intangibles, such as being a good teammate or competitiveness, Brown hones in on one skill that he can assess quickly. 

"I'm always paying attention to shooters," Brown said. "It really does, on so many levels, make the world go 'round. It especially does with the group that we're constructing … I'm very opinionated when it comes to shooting. I feel like if I see somebody shoot three or four times and just watch their form, their footwork, their preparation, you form a pretty quick opinion. It takes you about a second to look at their stats and it helps you validate what you think or contradict what you think. But shooters really are what's most on my mind."

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It was only three seasons ago that Jahlil Okafor was cutting down the nets as an NCAA championship winner. Okafor considers the Duke basketball circle as family and spends his summers on campus. Watching the tournament from a distance stirs up old feelings that really aren't so old. 

"It kind of makes me sad because I want to be out there with my guys," Okafor said. "It makes me a little sad, especially when they lose (second-seeded Duke lost to South Carolina in the second round). It's always fun to watch. I'm so closely removed from it and I'm friends with all those guys on the team."

Okafor said coach Mike Krzyzewski has changed up the system, which was heavily focused on getting him the ball at the basket since he left after his freshman year. The excitement of March Madness, though, still feels very familiar. 

"Sometimes it feels like it was yesterday, sometimes it feels like it was 20 years ago," Okafor said. "It feels like I was just in the tournament."

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Nik Stauskas will always be attached to Michigan basketball. This season was significant because the teammates he played with before entering the draft in 2014 were still part of the program. 

"It's going to change next year because it will be the first year that I will have not played with anyone on that team," Stauskas said. "But as of right now, I still feel such a huge connection. Most of the coaches are still the same, most of the main players were guys I played with my sophomore year."

Michigan upset Louisville in the second round before losing to Oregon by one point in the Sweet 16. Stauskas was watching along from the Sixers' road trip. 

"To see them make the run, I'm extremely proud," he said. "I don't get emotionally attached to basketball games unless it's Michigan playing. It's fun to be that involved and that engaged into a name."

NBA bans Joakim Noah 20 games for drug violation

NBA bans Joakim Noah 20 games for drug violation

Joakim Noah of the New York Knicks was suspended 20 games without pay for violating the league's anti-drug policy.

He tested positive for a substance found in some over-the-counter supplements, the league said Saturday.

Noah has not played since Feb. 4 and likely was to miss the Knicks' final 10 games this season because of a left knee injury. The NBA said Noah's suspension will begin with the first regular-season or playoff game for which he is "eligible and physically able to play."

At minimum, that means the suspension will carry over into at least the first 10 games of next season and likely longer, since Noah is not currently able to play.

The players' union believes the 6-foot-11 player made an unintentional mistake.

"Joakim was completely forthcoming and cooperative throughout the investigation and we believe that this isolated occurrence was a regrettable mistake," the union statement said. "Joakim has offered his deepest apologies for this infraction, and neither he nor the NBPA will pursue an appeal."

The league cited Noah for Selective Androgen Receptor Modulator LGD-4033. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has said that the substance, known as SARMs, has "similar properties to anabolic agents, but ... the lack of steroid-related side effects."

The World Anti-Doping Agency has SARMs on its prohibited at-all-times list. USADA has issued warnings in the past that products containing the illegal compound are "being sold illegally as dietary supplements."

Noah is in the first year of a four-year, $72 million contract. He averaged 5.0 points and 8.7 rebounds in 46 games this season, and has been limited to 75 games over the last two seasons.

Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek told reporters in San Antonio on Saturday that he hopes Noah can be medically cleared by the end of this season so the suspension can begin.

The Knicks play in San Antonio on Saturday night, and began the day eight games back of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.