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Three things we learned Tuesday: Sometimes good teams have bad nights. At the same time.

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Three of the top four teams in our latest NBA power rankings lost on the same night (the only one that didn’t had the night off). Obviously, this is all Donald Trump’s fault. Nonetheless, here is what we learned Tuesday night around the league.

1) What is going on? Clippers blow 18-point lead in Brooklyn, Spurs flat at home against Magic. There must have been something in the water in Brooklyn and San Antonio because it was an ugly night for the two teams that believe they have a shot at knocking off the Warriors in the West this year.

With a 127-122 double-overtime loss to the Nets Tuesday, the Clippers have now lost three straight on the road. Their problems start with their bench — it was a surprising strength for them early on but now has either come apart or regressed to the mean, depending on how you want to view it. The Clippers led by 16 early in the fourth, but it was the bench at the start of the fourth that had no answer for Sean Kilpatrick — 20 points in the fourth (after shooting 3-of-13 through the first three) — and gave up most of the 19-5 Nets run that made it a ballgame. Well, that and the fact the Nets went 6-of-6 from three in the fourth. From there, it was a scramble and Chris Paul alone could not save Los Angeles.

The Clippers were without Blake Griffin who rested for the night, but this is Brooklyn (without Jeremy Lin), losers of seven in a row, it shouldn’t have mattered. Los Angeles has looked slow and tired on the road of late, with dead legs. The Clippers defense has been a little worse during their recent losing streak, but the bigger problem is on offense, where for the last three games they are 15.8 points per 100 off their average. In those three games, the Clippers are shooting 40.9 percent overall, 28 percent from three, and have been outscored by 12.3 per game. Next up on the road trip? The Cleveland Cavaliers. Play like this and it could get ugly.

(As an aside, I think Doc Rivers is right to have lost it on official Kenny Mauer for giving him technical foul, which led to Rivers’ ejection in the first OT. Rivers did cross over half court on the sideline to complain to Lauren Holtkamp about a call, but she was calm and talking to him while Mauer clearly thought he heard something (which Rivers denies), rushed in from across the court and played her protector. It was an overreach in my book. The league won’t see it that way, Rivers will get fined for losing his… cool. But at an emotional point late in a close game Mauer needlessly injected himself into the story.)

As for the Spurs, it was the first game home after a road trip and the Spurs mentally never showed up in a 95-83 loss to Orlando. Starting in the second quarter San Antonio just sagged back on defense and Orlando took advantage — that is the Magic team with the worst offense in the league, but these are NBA players and if you give them room they will hit shots. For example, Serge Ibaka has struggled this season but was 7-of-11 for 18 points on the night. The Spurs struggled to find their footing on offense, but credit Frank Vogel and the Magic defense here — we thought coming into the season they would be good defensively, and this has quietly become a top-10 defensive team. Still, it’s nights off like this that make you kind of wonder just how good the Spurs are and can be.

2) Cavaliers have off night, but give Giannis Antetokounmpo some credit for Bucks win. Cleveland took the day off mentally in Philadelphia on Sunday, but the Cavs were still able to come back and get the win in that one. Milwaukee is not Philly — the Bucks have Giannis Antetokounmpo and some real talent on the roster, coast on them and you will pay. Which is what happened, Cleveland’s bench (once LeBron James and J.R. Smith sat) blew and early lead and the team was listless the rest of the way.

Let’s give credit where it’s due: This may have been the Bucks best game of the season. It all started with Antetokounmpo, who was attacking the basket against a Cavs team that lacks a true rim protector (outside of LeBron) — the Greek Freak was 12-of-15 in the restricted area for the game, finishing with 34 points on 19 shots (plus 12 boards and five steals). The book on Antetokounmpo is clear — make him a jump shooter. The Cavs failed at that. Check out his shot chart.

Giannis shotcart

The Bucks are risk takers under Kidd, which has had mixed results, but the one where he put the ball in Antetokounmpo’s hands has been a stroke of genius. Jabari Parker added 18 points and Michael Beasley had 17 off the bench for the Bucks.



3) Thing we will learn in next months: Can Grizzlies keep their heads above water?
The Memphis Grizzlies are 11-7 and if the playoffs started today would be the four seed in the West. The question is where they will be in late January. That’s when they should get point guard Mike Conley back from the transverse process fracture in his spine (which sounds worse than it is, this was the injury Cam Newton had).

Here’s the concern: The Grizzlies are 19.3 points per 100 possessions better when Mike Conley is on the court. Pair Conley and Marc Gasol on the court together the Grizzlies are a raw +81 this season, without them they are -88. Throw in the fact that Chandler Parsons (bone bruise), Brandon Wright (ankle) and James Ennis (calf strain) have missed games due to injury lately, and the depth of a thin Memphis side will be tested.

When (if?) the Grizzlies get healthy somewhere just before the All-Star break, will they still be in striking distance of the playoffs in the West, or will this team fade so far it can’t quite climb back? Will some bench players step up? I love the culture in Memphis, I love what David Fizdale has done as coach, but what comes next is a tough ask.

Nike “very concerned” after LeBron James’ jersey rips on opening night

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In the team’s first preseason game, the jersey of the Lakers’ Tyler Ennis was torn in the back with a tug from an opponent. Everyone made tearaway jersey jokes and moved on, thinking it was a one-off situation.

Then LeBron James‘ jersey ripped down the back on opening night, on national television.

Now Nike is looking into the issue, reports Darren Rovell of ESPN.

Nearly three days after one of its jerseys tore in the first regular-season game of its new deal with the NBA, Nike released a statement Friday expressing worry about the issue, without offering insight as to what happened or what will be done.

“The quality and performance of all our products are of utmost importance,” the company said in a statement. “We are obviously very concerned to see any game day jersey tear and are working with the NBA and teams to avoid this happening in the future.”

This is the first year Nike has the NBA apparel contract, having just taken it over from Adidas. They made the jerseys similar to what had been done for the 2016 Rio Olympics, where there were no issues, but these jerseys are lighter than the former Adidas ones. It’s unclear what, if any, changes could be coming.

Like many of the jerseys from opening night, LeBron’s ripped one is being auctioned by the NBA to raise money for hurricane relief.

Reports: Rockets think Chris Paul could be sidelined for up to a month

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The Rockets’ opening night win over the Warriors was a boost to their confidence — they believe they can challenge the Warriors next May in the playoffs.

Chris Paul is a big part of that plan, which is why we may not see him for up to a month (even though he is listed as day-to-day, and officially only out Saturday). With that, the Rockets are considering adding another point guard to the roster. Marc Stein of the New York Times and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the news Friday afternoon.

At the top of the free agent point guard list is Jameer Nelson, the veteran was just waived by Denver to make room for Richard Jefferson.

C.J. Watson and Trey Burke also are available.

Chris Paul and Harden still need to smooth out playing together, something that will take time on the court together. CP3 being out until mid-November is not ideal, but the Rockets are thinking about May, and ideally June, so they will sacrifice a few games now to have him healthy then.

Dwight Howard still feeling ‘super’ expectations with Hornets

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DETROIT – Dwight Howard went from leading Orlando in the NBA Finals to playing in star-studded Los Angeles to joining a Houston team that also fancied itself a contender to being the highest-paid player in his hometown Atlanta to… landing in Charlotte, a small-market franchise with modest ambitions.

The spotlight finally off the former No. 1 pick, Howard doesn’t feel reduced pressure.

“Everybody expects me to be Superman every single night,” Howard said.

Howard is diving into his new situation – his third team in three years – headfirst. He’s leading pregame huddles and the Hornets onto the court.

“I have the most experience,” said Howard, in his 14th season. “So, it’s not to come in and fit in. It’s to come in and be a leader.”

This is the latest referendum on Howard. Despite eight All-NBA selections (most of them first-team) and three Defensive Player of the Year awards, he faces relentless criticism of his legacy.

His exit from the Magic was so ugly, it’s known as the Dwightmare. His feuding with the Lakers great is the stuff of legend in Kobe Bryant mythology. Howard never clicked with James Harden with the Rockets. The Hawks unloaded him for a paltry return in what was more salary rearrangement than salary dump, and his former teammates reportedly cheered.

Howard just seems to rub people the wrong way.

That makes his latest test in Charlotte so interesting. Howard is supplanting maybe Kemba Walker as the face of the team and definitely Cody Zeller as starting center. The Hornets have found success with Zeller, going 63-53 when he starts and 57-73 otherwise the last three seasons.

“The nature of his game, he plays in a way to help other people play better,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said of Zeller. “He is a screener. He is a ball-mover.”

In other words, the type of player teammates love.

Is Howard?

Howard is still solidly productive. In Charlotte’s season-opening loss to the Pistons, he posted 10 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks – and ruffled a few feathers. Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

https://twitter.com/Vincent_Ellis56/status/921100491362365440

Dirty-work players who irritate opponents are revered. High-priced players who irritate their teammates are loathed.

Howard walks a fine line.

He returned to Atlanta with emotion and expectations. By the end of his time with the Hawks, everyone seemed unhappy. Still, Howard says he’s grateful for the opportunity to play in front of people, especially his grandparents, who watched him grow up.

“Atlanta is going to be my home,” Howard said. “The Hawks is always going to be my favorite team.”

It’s just never easy for Howard.

Even a career Basketball Reference pegs as 99% likely to end in the Hall of Fame based on his tangible accomplishments stirs controversy.

“He’s a Hall of Famer right now if he never played another game,” Clifford said.

Said Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy, who coached Howard in Orlando: “It’s mind-boggling to me that would be any debate there.”

It’s probably easier for Van Gundy and Howard to recall their time together fondly than it was to enjoy it while partnered. Clifford, who was an assistant in Orlando and Los Angeles while Howard was there, is just getting into his time as Howard’s head coach.

It’s those middle moments, in the throes of long seasons, that have proven difficult for Howard and those around him.

Here he is in Charlotte, hosting the Hawks tonight, and facing another challenge. The Hornets would probably be happy just making the playoffs and ecstatic advancing, which would be their first playoff-series victory since reemerging as the Bobcats in 2004. Howard, who has reached three conference finals, is counting on himself to lead them there – even if nobody else is anymore.

Kobe Bryant still has it, bounces shot in from near half court

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This was a Nike gala, an event with a basketball theme. The court was lit up from below, there were tables at half court, and people had drinks in their hands.

Kobe Bryant was there, stylishly dressed in black. So was famous model Winnie Harlow.

Know that regardless of the setting, Kobe still has game.