Three Stars of the Night: Digging the long ball

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How important is the long ball to the modern NBA offense? If the season ended today, four teams would place in the all-time top-40 for best team 3-point percentage – the Spurs, Knicks, Thunder and Heat. The best offensive teams seem to manufacture plenty of looks from behind the arc, and in that spirit, we’re honoring some of the best individual 3-point displays from Wednesday night’s action. And James Harden, because, well, you’ll see. To the stars!

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Dorell Wright – (28 points, 5-for-8 from 3)

It’s not easy to drop 28 points on the Grizzlies – it’s even tougher if you’re a perimeter player. Dorell Wright has been more down than up this year (he’s shooting 35 percent from the field on the season), but tonight he found his stroke when the 76ers needed it most. With Evan Turner scoring just a single point in 41 minutes of play and Jrue Holiday missing everything around the basket, Philadelphia got five huge 3-pointers from Wright and a few freebies from the line. The 76ers may not have very many consistent contributors offensively, but guys like Nick Young and Wright can heat up in a hurry.

Corey Brewer – (27 points in 24 minutes, 6-of-7 from 3)

Anytime you can tie a career-high for points in just 24 minutes, you’re doing something right. When he wasn’t cutting backdoor and baffling a Lakers defense that played both stupid and lazy, Brewer was spotting up in the corner to hit 6-of-7 from behind the arc. Brewer practically had enough time to check the weather on his spot-up attempts, but give him credit for knocking them down. Brewer’s 27-point scoring barrage spoiled a really strong offensive effort by the Lakers, but also epitomized all of the real struggles the Lakers have on the defensive side of the ball.

James Harden – (30 points, 15 of the last 17 in the 4th quarter)

This is exactly what you want from your star in a clutch situation – no 21-foot fadeaway garbage – just assertive drives straight to the front of the rim. Harden scored 15 of the last 17 points in the fourth quarter for the Rockets just by putting his head down and blowing past Minnesota’s big men to score in the paint. Whether it was in a pick-and-roll or in straight isolation, Minnesota had no answer for Harden’s aggressiveness off the bounce. This was the good kind of hero ball.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?

Hawks’ DeAndre’ Bembry out with fractured wrist

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In their season opener Wednesday, Atlanta second-year man DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench and played 17:45, scored six points and was +13 on the night. It was a good start to his career.

But now he is going to miss some time with a fractured wrist.

Bembry underwent an MRI, which revealed a fracture in his right wrist, the Hawks announced Friday. He will return to Atlanta with the team (the Hawks lost to the Hornets Friday night) and will meet with team doctors at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center on Monday. His status will be updated after that.

“We just may play some other guys more, we may use some of the young guys,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told the AP before Friday night’s game. “We’ll just figure it out tonight and as we move forward. I don’t think there’s anything guaranteed for anybody, it’s unfortunate for DeAndre’ and for us.”

 

Danny Ainge says Celtics will apply for Disabled Player Exception

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It’s not likely Gordon Hayward returns this season. His agent said as much, although a return in March is not out of the question. (It’s better PR wise for the Celtics to say he is out for the season, then if he returns early great, it’s better than setting a deadline he doesn’t meet.)

With that, the Celtics are going to apply for the Disabled Player Exception, which could help them land a replacement player, Danny Ainge told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Globe on Friday the club is applying for the Disabled Player Exception, which would provide the Celtics $8.4 million to pursue a player to fill Hayward’s roster spot.

“We’re in the process of doing that,’’ Ainge said. “We have a while to do that. There’s no urgency, but we will apply for that.”

There are limits to what that money can get the Celtics. The money is the same as the mid-level exception, the Celtics can go over the cap to use it, and the player can be obtained via free agency or trade. However, the player must be in the last year of his contract.

It gives the Celtics options. It also does not mean Hayward cannot return, it only means NBA-approved doctors determined he is not likely to return before a mid-June deadline.