Washington, Gonzaga to renew series in 2016-17 (Yahoo Sports)

Washington students cheer their team as they hold giant cut-out photos of C.J. Wilcox, left, and head coach Lorenzo Romar against Colorado in the second half of an NCAA men's basketball game Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014, in Seattle. Washington won 71-54. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

After a decade-long layoff, Washington and Gonzaga are finally getting together on the basketball court again. ”This series is great for the fans of our state,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said in a statement. ”The fans have shown that they really appreciate the game with Washington and Gonzaga. There was a proposal for a series of ”neutral site” games played at KeyArena in Seattle presented by Washington in 2009 that was almost immediately shot down by Gonzaga.

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Why We Should Root for a Warriors-Clippers Playoff Series

The Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors played the fourth and final installment of their riveting regular-season series on Wednesday, with the Clippers prevailing, 111-98. 

Don’t let the final score fool you: These two rivals played a tense, exciting game up until the final minutes.

And the fireworks continued after the game, as star forward Blake Griffin got into a bit of a confrontation with veteran backup big Jermaine O’Neal, per the Orange County Register‘s Dan Woike:

Starting Warriors center Andrew Bogut took exception with some of the Clippers’ actions after plays, per ESPN Los Angeles’ Jovan Buha:

These comments are reminiscent of these two teams’ now-infamous Christmas Day fracas, when Draymond Green was ejected for elbowing Griffin in the neck and Griffin was ejected after piling up two technicals tussling with the Golden State bigs. 

After the game, which the Clippers lost, Griffin went off on the Warriors, per the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Rusty Simmons:

Unfortunately, Griffin seems to have learned his lesson, as the Los Angeles TimesBrad Turner reported after Wednesday’s game that the Clippers big refused to comment on the alleged incident with O’Neal.

Make no mistake: This has all the makings of a basketball blood feud between a pair of talented young teams. These hostilities date all the way back to last season. Who could forget David Lee hurling the “stop flopping” insult Griffin’s way?

And with the Clippers and Warriors currently occupying the third and sixth seeds, respectively, in the Western Conference, there is a legitimate chance we could see this beautiful matchup in the first round.


Good Teams, Better Matchup

Golden State went into halftime with a 56-54 lead thanks to a combined 35 points from Klay Thompson (11), Andre Iguodala (10) and David Lee (14). 

But the Clippers would pull ahead for good by the end of a back-and-forth third quarter, holding off a brief Golden State rally in the fourth before dropping the final nail into the coffin with a 14-5 run in the final minutes.

Griffin finished the night with yet another 30-point gamehis 15th of the season, matching James Harden and his Tuesday-night rival, Golden State’s Steph Curry, for fifth among all players.

Curry would finish the game with a disappointing 13 points, though he did rack up 11 assists. Thompson led all Warriors in scoring with 26 points.

When you look at the firepower on both of these rosters, it’s not hard to imagine a scintillating postseason matchup, even without all the personal history. Both squads are loaded with weapons in the starting five but have struggled at times to get production out of their reserves. Per HoopsStats.com, Golden State and L.A. rank 22nd and 24th, respectively, in efficiency rating difference between starters and bench.

Surprisingly, it was the bench that helped keep the Clippers in the game through those critical first three quarters. Danny Granger and Willie Green were revelations in the backcourt for L.A. on Wednesday. Granger, the former Indiana Pacers All-Star whose career has been derailed by knee problems, scored 18 points, his highest total since 2012. Green, a key performer for the Clippers bench last season, chipped in a season-high 13. 

Those points came in handy early on, as Granger’s 14 first-half points helped to pick up a Clippers starting unit that, with the exception of Griffin, looked to be struggling. 

Any contributions from Granger and Green would be welcomed by coach Doc Rivers, who has seen his once-stocked stable of wing players turn into a virtual MASH unit. J.J. Redick might not return this season due to back problems, and Jamal Crawford is still out with a nagging calf injury. Even the struggling Jared Dudley has not been an option of late, as he missed the three previous games with back spasms.

Rivers only needed to play Dudley 15 seconds on Wednesday, thanks to the inspired play of Granger and Green—a fact that was good for everyone involved.

On the other end, Golden State’s midseason bench pickups, Steve Blake and Jordan Crawford, struggled mightily. The two combined for zero points, 19 fewer than Crawford managed by himself in Tuesday’s win over the Dallas Mavericks.

Still, Hardwood Paroxysm’s Seerat Sohi believes that Blake is a quality pickup:


The Odds Are Not in Our Favor

With so many teams bunched so closely together, predicting first-round matchups in the Western Conference is a bit of a fool’s errand.

Though the Clippers are likely to win the Pacific Division—their closest interdivision rivals being these same Warriors—they could still very well fall to fourth. The Houston Rockets are tied with L.A. in the loss column, with the Clippers holding a one-game advantage thanks to two extra victories. As good as they’ve been of late, they have not been able to pull away from the Rockets, who have won 15 of their last 18 games.  

While the Warriors have a slightly higher margin for error, they sit only two games above the hard-charging Memphis Grizzlies. That’s right, Clippers fans: Your team sits on the precipice of yet another L.A.-Memphis playoff series.

Let’s face it: There is no bad potential Western Conference playoff pairing. The current 1-8 matchup, Mavericks vs. San Antonio, would be an offense-heavy thriller featuring two of the greatest players of all time in Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan.

Even the ninth-place squad (the Phoenix Suns) would provide a stiffer challenge than half the playoff teams in the East.

But there’s just something about Clippers-Warriors—that intoxicating blend of star power and mutual hatred. Basketball fans around the world should be praying for this matchup come playoff time.


*Unless otherwise noted, all statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.

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Blazers top Nuggets, sweep season series

LaMarcus Aldridge scored 16 points in his return.

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Blazers beat Nuggets 102-96, sweep season series (Yahoo Sports)

PORTLAND, OR - MARCH 1: The Portland Trail Blazers stand on the court during a game against the Denver Nuggets on March 1, 2014 at the Moda Center Arena in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)

LaMarcus Aldridge returned to the Trail Blazers lineup, happy to know that things didn’t go awry without him. Portland’s All-Star forward had 16 points and the Blazers won their fifth straight game with a 102-96 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night. Everybody just played better.” The win moved the Blazers (41-18) a season-high 23-games over .500. After failing to make the playoffs last season, Portland sits in third place in the Western Conference.

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Michigan in B1G Driver’s Seat After Sweeping Season Series with Michigan State

Nik Stauskas scored 25 points and Caris LeVert added 23 of his own as the Michigan Wolverines tightened their grip on the B1G regular-season title with a 79-70 win over the Michigan State Spartans on Sunday afternoon.

With a little over 10 minutes remaining in the game, it looked like we were headed for a real classic. Gary Harris had just drilled a three-pointer, increasing his game-high total to 18 points and putting the Spartans back in the lead by a score of 52-51.

But it would be nearly five minutes before Michigan State’s next made field goal. By the time Travis Trice made that jumper, Michigan had opened up an 11-point lead. The Spartans never got it closer than eight points after that.

During a nine-minute stretch in the second half, LeVert and Stauskas were responsible for all of Michigan’s points, combining to outscore Michigan State by a 23-8 margin.

Now, the B1G championship is Michigan’s to lose.

Per usual, Spartans supporters will be quick to point out that Michigan State was playing at less than full strength. Branden Dawson is still sidelined with a broken hand, and it’s brutally apparent that Keith Appling is still ailing.

However, a loss is a loss, and five of them in the span of nine games is not an ideal way to enter the month of March.

There’s still hope that Michigan State will get healthy and be one of the best teams in the NCAA tournament, but the Spartans have just about lost their chance at a B1G regular-season title.

The Wolverines close out the regular season against Purdue, Minnesota, Illinois and Indianateams that are a combined 20-35 in B1G play.

They could even afford to lose one of those games and still have the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, as they effectively have a two-game lead on the rest of the Big Ten now that they own the tiebreaker against Michigan State.

Quite the far cry from where Michigan was two months ago, no?

In retrospect, were any of those early losses all that inexcusable?

Plenty of great teams have suffered road losses against Iowa State and Duke, and the Wolverines are still the only team to have come within one lucky bounce of beating a full-strength Arizona.

The neutral-court loss to Charlotte was disappointing, but Derrick Walton Jr. had the worst game of his career and Glenn Robinson III played just nine minutes due to an injury. That doesn’t seem so bad compared to, say, Syracuse losing at home to Boston College.

The point of that quick recap of the first month of the season is to suggest that Michigan is deserving of now entering the conversation for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

The Wolverines aren’t quite there, yet, but what if they close out the regular season 4-0 to get to 23-7 with 10 RPI Top-50 wins?

Once upon a time, winning the B1G regular-season title was all but a guaranteed spot in the tournament as either a No. 1 or No. 2 seed.

Coming into this weekend, most bracketologists were projecting Michigan for a No. 4 seed.

We’ll see how much that changes in the coming days, but if the Wolverines keep playing as well as they did against the Spartans on Sunday, it should just be a matter of time before they find themselves on the top line of many brackets.

Not bad for a team that has had to adjust to playing without Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Mitch McGary.

If he isn’t already firmly entrenched in the discussion, it’s time to start talking about John Beilein for coach of the year.


Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.

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LeBron James teams up with Starz for comedy series (Yahoo Sports)

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 1: LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat dunks against the New York Knicks during the second half of a game at Madison Square Garden on February. 1, 2014 in New York City. The Heat defeated the Knicks 106-91. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)

NEW YORK (AP) — LeBron James is no stranger to getting the greenlight to shoot, but this time it’s for a scripted comedy series set in the world of professional basketball.

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Hawks top Heat to snap nine-game slide in series

Hawks overcame LeBron James’ 30 points to beat Heat for first time since Jan. 2, 2012.

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Kobe Bryant Calls 2010 Lakers-Celtics NBA Finals His Favorite Playoff Series

Assuming Kobe Bryant‘s days on the championship stage are over, at least he’ll know he saved his best trip for last.

That was just one of the gems the Mamba shared before his Los Angeles Lakers squared off with their historic rivals, the Boston Celtics, on Friday.

Bryant, who’s played in seven NBA Finals and won five of them, said his favorite championship round was L.A.’s 2010 meeting with these same Celtics, via Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald:

That 2010 series is my favorite series of all time, just because it was the most competitive one. It was the most difficult one. I mean, we’re going against four future Hall of Famers. That doesn’t happen too often.

That championship clash wound up being a seven-round slugfest.

Bryant’s Lakers had supreme motivation to perform. Not only did they have a title to defend from 2009, they had the bitter taste of defeat to wash from their palate after dropping the 2008 Finals to the Celtics.

Bryant dazzled in the 2010 series, tallying 28.6 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 2.1 steals en route to his second consecutive Finals MVP award.

He also helped knot the latest chapter of this rivalry, and he wasn’t happy to see the offseason trade of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce erase his chance at a tie-breaker:

It was tough to see that happen. I mean, going against Paul and KG, Lakers-Celtics? That’s good basketball. When we played against them, you saw really good basketball. You saw smart players, unselfish players who played both ends of the floor, multi-faceted players.

The old matchups, in Bryant’s head at least, had everything.

A legendary past as rich as any in this game’s history. Hall of Fame talent on both sides of the floor. And, perhaps, his next favorite fan base after the purple-and-gold faithful:

I love it. I love going into Boston. I love playing there. I mean, the fans are incredible, because, you know, they’re nasty, but they appreciate the game. They appreciate good basketball. They appreciate players who go out there and just leave it all on the court. You know, friend or foe, they have an appreciation for it.

That appreciation, it appears, is mutual.

Not just for the Celtics fans, but their players as well. Bryant isn’t the type to gush with admiration, but in his own way, he gets his message of respect across:

Bryant doesn’t always keep an open book like this, but lately he’s getting a little more creative with how he spends his time. Considering he’s spent nearly the last nine months rehabbingfirst from a torn Achilles, then a fracture in his left knee—anything other than that has to seem like a welcome distraction.

As far as the game he lives for, that won’t be a possible distraction for a little while yet. Bryant will have his left knee re-evaluated in February, via ESPN Los Angeles‘ Dave McMenamin, and plans to return no matter how rough things get for his Lakers.

That time can’t come soon enough.

The only thing better than reliving Bryant’s best memories are watching him create new ones.

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George Karl says Andre Iguodala was Mark Jackson’s mole during Nuggets-Warriors playoff series

The former Nuggets coach says ‘no question’ Iguodala was Jackson’s source of ‘inside information.’

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Karl: Iguodala was Jackson’s mole during Nuggets-Warriors playoff series

Denver Nuggets former coach George Karl, who led the team to 57 wins last season, sat down with Dave Krieger for a must read Q&A. Karl, who was fired after the Nuggets’ loss to the Warriors, revealed that he is still upset about last year’s playoff series, and the things that were said by Golden State coach Mark Jackson. Jackson accused the Nuggets of playing dirty and intentionally attempting to injure Stephen Curry. Q: Do you think Andre Iguodala was Mark Jackson’s “mole”? A: No question. Q: Does that bug you? A: I just think that’s media hype. I mean, that series was not a physical series. Everybody wants to be more aggressive with the 

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