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Three Things to Know: After loss to Spurs, D’Antoni more concerned with rust than rest

Mike D'Antoni, Tyler Ford

Houston Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni, left, argues a call with referee Tyler Ford during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs, Sunday, April 1, 2018, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)


Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) In rest vs. rust debate, Mike D’Antoni is anti-rust after loss to Spurs. It’s an annual debate among coaches with teams heading into the playoffs: How do I let my players get a little rest without letting them get rusty? The scales have to be tilted to one side in the equation. Gregg Popovich is a rest guy. Steve Kerr is a rest guy (although this season he’s been forced to rest guys due to injuries, which has led to rust concerns).

Mike D’Antoni tilts the scale toward avoiding rust.

His Rockets have locked up home court throughout the playoffs, but D’Antoni was clearly anti-rust after his team’s 11-game win streak ended at the hands of the Rockets (quotes via ESPN).

“We just didn’t bring it. We just weren’t sharp,” D’Antoni said. “We haven’t been sharp now for about three or four games. It hasn’t just been one or two days. That’s scary when you rest guys.

“That’s why at the end of the year, you’ve got to be careful taking guys out and just resting them. Everybody wants rest, rest, rest. Well, they’ve got to play. Otherwise, we’re going to lose the advantage of what you worked for for 80 games, and it’s scary times for us. You’ve got to play. You’ve got to bring it, and you’ve got to bring it every day. We’ll get it back.”

The Rockets were without Chris Paul Sunday, which played a factor, but did have James Harden on the court.

After this much of the season, I have little doubt the Rockets can get their groove back in the first round against the Pelicans or Timberwolves or whoever they face. The Rockets know what their formula for success is and how to execute it on both ends. We also all have seen Harden hit a wall deep into the postseason. The Rockets need him to be his peak self in the playoffs.

D’Antoni is trying to find his team’s balance. After a brilliant regular season Houston is set up to be a contender, but that comes with added pressures. One’s D’Antoni is plenty familiar with.

2) Ben Simmons inbounds ball of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s back to get himself a bucket. Ben Simmons was toying with the Hornets at points on Sunday — with Joel Embiid out more responsibility falls on the rookie to extend the Sixers win streak to 10. He did that Sunday and made Michael Kidd-Gilchrist look the fool on April 1:

In case you wanted a full batch of Simmons highlights, we got you covered:

3) After Hassan Whiteside’s playing time rant, what direction will Heat go? In Miami, the team always comes first. Dwyane Wade is coming off the bench, Chris Bosh got benched at some points. After sitting out the fourth quarter and overtime of a loss to the Nets Saturday, Whiteside went off on a rant calling it “bull----.” Whiteside got a fine from the team for that one.

Whiteside is a good center, but not an elite one (he’s inconsistent game to game and even quarter to quarter), and with Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo on the roster, coach Erik Spoelstra has more options this season. If Spo wants to match a small lineup, as he did against Brooklyn, he can. Combine that with Whiteside’s injuries and he is seeing less time on the court even when he does suit up this season.

Miami needs Whiteside in these playoffs, but if he’s not buying into the franchise’s philosophy, they will look at their options this summer. The sides are at a crossroads, and it’s something to watch over the coming months.