NBA News & Notes: Nuggets' Mudiay shows improvement, Warriors clinch Pacific Division

March 14, 2016

In the DSH's latest NBA News and Notes report, we take a look at Denver Nuggets' rookie Emmanuel Mudiay, and also examine the Warriors' latest accomplishment:

Nuggets' Mudiay starts to shine

The Lakers' D’Angelo Russell’s is not the only rookie point guard showing improvement of late, as the next point guard selected in the 2015 NBA Draft after Russell, No. 7 pick Emmanuel Mudiay of Denver, is also turning heads.

Mudiay is averaging 19.7 points, 5.7 assists, and 3.8 rebounds in six games in March, helping the Nuggets to a 5-1 record and an average of 115.8 points. Mudiay scored a season-high 30 points in a victory over Phoenix on March 10.

Unlike Russell, Mudiay is blessed with above average athleticism for the position, and has shown the ability to get to the free throw line more often than his Lakers counterpart.  Although he struggled with turnovers earlier in the year, Mudiay's explosiveness and quick learning on the job gives him perhaps an even greater upside than Russell.

Raptors competing for top spot in East

The Toronto Raptors (44-20) are closing in on the franchise’s first 50-win season and third consecutive trip to the playoffs. They are also within striking distance of the Cavaliers for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

Toronto trails Cleveland (47-18) by 2.5 games but owns the head-to-head tiebreaker after winning the season series 2-1. The Raptors have won nine of 11 and wrap up a seven-game homestand tonight against Chicago (7:30 p.m. ET, NBA LEAGUE PASS) before playing 10 of 17 on the road to close the season.

The Cavaliers have eight home and nine road contests remaining among their 17 games, beginning tonight at Utah (10:30 p.m., ESPN) in the finale of a four-game road trip.

Warriors, Spurs battle for top spot in West

As for the Western Conference race: Golden State (59-6) leads San Antonio (56-10) by 3.5 games for the No. 1 seed.

The NBA’s top two teams, both unbeaten at home and newly crowned division champions, play three more times in the regular season, starting in San Antonio on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. ET on ABC.

The Warriors have lost 32 consecutive regular-season games at San Antonio, their last victory coming Feb. 14, 1997 (The Warriors did win at San Antonio during the 2013 playoffs). The Spurs and Warriors also meet Thursday, April 7 at Golden State (10:30 p.m., TNT), and Sunday, April 10, at San Antonio (7 p.m., NBA TV).

Warriors clinch Pacific Division

The Golden State Warriors have clinched the 2015-16 Pacific Division title by virtue of Cleveland’s 114-90 win recently over the Los Angeles Clippers, giving the franchise its first back-to-back Pacific Division crowns since the club won consecutive division titles in 1974-75 and 1975-76.

Golden State has earned the franchise’s fourth Pacific Division championship since the NBA began using the current divisional format in 1970-71. Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr is the first head coach to win back-to-back division titles in his first two years at the helm since Tom Thibodeau earned consecutive Central Division titles with the Chicago Bulls in 2010-11 and 2011-12.

The Warriors, who are slated to make their fourth-straight playoff appearance for the first time since qualifying for the postseason in each of the first six years of the league’s existence (1946-47 to 1951-52), own a 59-6 (.908) record on the season, the best record in NBA history through 65 games.

Golden State’s 59 wins are tied for the second-most in team history, following last season’s franchise-record 67 wins.

Among the four major professional sports leagues, the Warriors are the first Bay Area team to earn consecutive division crowns since the Oakland Athletics won back-to-back West Division titles in 2012 and 2013.

Talking Smack
  • Scott Cacciola, New York Times: “[Damian] Lillard, 25, has earned oodles of respect this season while leading the Trail Blazers, and his meetings with [Stephen] Curry, [now 28], have the potential to be one of the league’s more intriguing subplots for years to come. Andre Iguodala of the Warriors described them as ‘new-age point guards,’ both capable of dominating games from the 3-point line and with dazzling drives."
  • Jason Kidd, Bucks coach: “I think [Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo] is just growing as a leader. When you have the responsibility of making sure the other four guys on the floor get involved, you use your voice or you use the pass -- and he’s learning how to do both of those.”
  • Kyrie Irving, Cavaliers guard: “A lot of people like seeing highlight dunks, a lot of crossovers and stuff like that, but for me, when I’m watching Kobe [Bryant], I really just watch how detailed he is and just watching how he reads the game. That fundamentally sound [game], I have a true appreciation of that, and I ask him all the time about it.”

What to Watch

Tuesday, March 15: The Spurs and Clippers match up for the third and final time this season as San Antonio seeks its 42nd consecutive regular-season home victory (8:30 p.m., NBA TV).

Wednesday, March 16: Billy Donovan of Oklahoma City and Brad Stevens of Boston square off (7 p.m., ESPN) as the four-year anniversary of their overtime meeting in the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight as coaches of Florida and victorious Butler, respectively, approaches. In the second game of ESPN’s doubleheader, the Clippers and Rockets renew their rivalry (9:30 p.m.).

Thursday, March 17: The Hornets begin the week on a seven-game winning streak that has them only a half-game behind the Heat for fourth place in the East. The teams meet in Miami (7:30 p.m., NBA LP).

Friday, March 18: The current Nos. 2 and 3 teams in the East, Toronto and Boston, face each other twice in a five-day span, starting here at Air Canada Centre (7:30 p.m., NBA TV).

Saturday, March 19: Along with Warriors-Spurs, Saturday features Thunder-Pacers (7 p.m., NBA LP), Cavaliers-Heat (7:30 p.m., NBA LP) and Clippers-Grizzlies (8 p.m., NBA LP).

Sunday, March 20: The Trail Blazers (35-32), now sixth in the West, and Mavericks (33-33), tied for seventh in the West, start the week separated by one game in the loss column. They play here in Dallas (4 p.m., NBA LP).

The Numbers

  • The Hornets have won seven consecutive games for the first time since March 2002.
  • Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo has recorded all four of his career triple-doubles in the last 11 games. He is the first player in franchise history with four triple-doubles in a season.
  • Spurs big man Tim Duncan needs three points to pass John Havlicek (26,395) for 14th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
  • After passing Kevin Johnson on Sunday for 19th place on the career assists list, Cavaliers forward LeBron James needs 11 assists to pass Muggsy Bogues (6,726) for the 18th spot.
  • Warriors guard Klay Thompson has joined teammate Stephen Curry as the only players in NBA history with 200 three-pointers made in four consecutive seasons.
  • Curry celebrates his 28th birthday today.
  • Pistons center Andre Drummond leads the NBA with 55 double-doubles. The franchise single-season record is 69 by Bob Lanier in 1972-73.
  • With 26 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in Friday’s victory over New Orleans, 36-year-old Grizzlies forward Matt Barnes became the oldest player to record his first career triple-double.
  • Suns rookie Devin Booker has scored 27 or more points in four of his last six games, including recent back-to-back games of 32 and 35 points. He became the first Phoenix rookie with consecutive 30-point games since Walter Davis in 1977.
  • Jazz center Rudy Gobert is averaging 13.8 rebounds in his last nine games.
  • The Delaware 87ers, the Philadelphia 76ers' National Basketball Development League affiliate, are the first NBA D-League or NBA team ever to have four players score 45 or more points in a game in a season. Sean Kilpatrick, Jordan McRae, Russ Smith and Christian Wood have all accomplished the feat.
  • Kilpatrick, now on his second 10-day contract with the Nets, has scored in double figures in four of his last five games for Brooklyn, including two 19-point performances.

Kemba Walker, Stephen Curry named NBA Players of the Week

The Charlotte Hornets’ Kemba Walker and the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry today were named NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week, respectively, for games played Monday, March 7 through Sunday, March 13.

Walker helped the Hornets to a 4-0 week with averages of 27.8 points (second in the Eastern Conference), 6.8 assists (10th in the conference), and 5.0 rebounds.  He recorded two games with at least 30 points and dished out six or more assists in all four contests.

Walker connected on 16-of-31 (51.6 percent) three-point field goals for the week.  On March 12, Walker posted 26 points, six assists and five rebounds as the Hornets recorded their seventh straight win, a 125-109 victory over the Houston Rockets.

Curry led the Warriors to a 4-0 week behind averages of 30.5 points (third in the Western Conference), 5.8 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 2.25 steals (sixth in the conference).  He connected on 24-of-52 (46.2 percent) from beyond the arc, adding to his NBA-record tally of three-point makes in a season, which currently stands at 318.

Curry recorded two double-doubles, including his 41-point, 13-rebound effort during Golden State’s 119-113 win over the Orlando Magic on March 7.

Other nominees for the NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week were Atlanta’s Paul Millsap, Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving and LeBron James, Denver’s Emmanuel Mudiay, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, Phoenix’s Devin Booker, San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge, and Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan.

By Staff of and news services

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