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Three things we learned on Tuesday: I, for one, welcome our new Russell Westbrook overlord

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You were too busy watching people dance in ’90s movies (and maybe trying out a few moves yourself) to watch the four NBA games on Tuesday, but we have you covered. Here’s what you need to know.

1) Russell Westbrook continues to dominate, be NBA’s best player this season, and he reminded us by shredding Miami. On paper, this was the kind of game the Thunder should win — they are a better team than the Heat, particularly defensively, and without Goran Dragic (back issues) Miami’s offense is lifeless. Plus, Steven Adams gives Hassan Whiteside trouble. And all of that did happen. The Thunder started to pull away with a 13-1 run late in the first quarter, led by 22 in the second, and cruised to a 106-94 win.

But the real difference in this game was Russell Westbrook. He was the best player on the court — just like he’s been the most dominant player in the NBA all season long. He controlled the entire game — not just with his scoring (29 points) but the way he carved up the Miami defense and left it in shreds on the floor. He penetrated, passed, and his relentless energy and attacks left the heat in tatters. Westbrook accounted for more than half of the Thunder’s points, via scoring or assist. He got his triple-double (17 rebounds, 11 assists, that makes 15 triple-doubles this season) and did so in just more than 23 minutes of court time (which is insane), but the numbers barely tell the story of how well he is playing.

Westbrook also got some help from a Thunder bench that has been improved of late. Plus, Adams was getting to the rim when he wanted, then hurting them.

The Thunder’s improved bench play, plus the fact Victor Oladipo is expected to return soon from his wrist injury, makes this team that much more dangerous. But it all starts with Westbrook, who continues to amaze. And dominate. I, for one, welcome our new Westbrook overlord.

2) Eight technicals, one ejection, and guys looking for fights postgame — Rockets/Mavericks had some bad blood. This is how tense things got: Trevor Ariza left the Rockets’ locker room and stood outside the Dallas locker room after the game, waiting for to have words — or more — with Dallas center Salah Mejri. Patrick Beverley and James Harden.joined him, and Dallas police were there as well to keep the peace. Ariza believed Mejri said something way out-of-bounds about him and his family (Ariza picked up two technicals and was thrown out when it happened), something Mejri denied according to ESPN. Security kept Mejri in the locker room, Wesley Matthews and Deron Williams talked down the angry Rockets, and eventually, Houston’s players boarded the bus and left without incident.

But that’s what spilled off the court from a physical, nasty game on the court that saw eight technical fouls and a couple of flagrant fouls. The big one happened midway through the second quarter, when Andrew Bogut set a down screen to free up Harrison Barnes, James Harden ran into that screen and went hard to the ground. It looked like Bogut wasn’t set, but slid and leaned into Harden on the play, and the officials called him on it.

The Rockets thought the Mavericks were playing dirty all game.

As Beverley noted, in the end, the Rockets made 17 threes and cruised to a 123-107 win behind 34 points and 11 assists from James Harden. Bogut and Dirk Nowitzki were on minute limits and did not play in the second half.

3) Joe Ingles drained a game-winning three for the Jazz, and the Lakers’ D’Angelo Russell couldn’t answer. Joe Ingles is shooting 47.8 percent from three this season — the Lakers’ scouting report was no doubt clear that he was not to be left alone at the arc, under any circumstances. Especially with the game on the line. That’s when Utah’s Quin Snyder borrowed from Steve Kerr (as noted by Nate Duncan on Twitter), running a standard Warriors play where the pick-and-roll out top is almost the distraction while a dangerous three-point shooter sets a down screen, then flares to the corner off another screen (Joe Johnson set it) and usually finds space. Ingles found that space and knocked down the game-winner.

The Lakers tried to answer — Julius Randle got to the line attacking right at Rudy Gobert (Randle did that impressively a couple of times late in the game), but in the end when they needed it D'Angelo Russell threw up an airball. This was one of those learning experience games for the Lakers, and the kind of game good teams like the Jazz find a way to win.

It’s worth watching the final three minutes of this game, it was the most dramatic of the night.

PBT Extra: LeBron as MVP and other NBA postseason award predictions

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Last year, Russell Westbrook had a historic season on his way to the MVP award, with James Harden and Kawhi Leonard right on his heels. But heading into this season, the dynamic for MVP — and many of the NBA awards — feels very different and wide open.

In this latest PBT Extra, I lay out my preseason predictions for every award — LeBron James for MVP, Ben Simmons for Rookie of the Year, and on down the list. There are a few leaps and surprises in there (predicting Most Improved or Sixth Man before the season is a crap shoot, so why not gamble).

Now the predictions season is over, let’s get on to the games.

Jazz: Dante Exum undergoing surgery after shoulder injury

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Jazz point guard Dante Exum hurt his shoulder in a preseason game – an injury that immediately looked like it could be season-ending.

Though Utah doesn’t outright say Exum is done for the year, this doesn’t engender much hope.

Jazz release:

The following is a medical update on Utah Jazz guard Danté Exum who suffered a separated left shoulder on October 6 vs. Phoenix.

After further evaluation, Exum (6-6, 190, Australia) has elected to undergo surgery to stabilize the AC joint of his left shoulder. The surgery is scheduled to take place Tuesday, October 24 in Los Angeles. Further updates will be provided when appropriate.

Exum (obviously) didn’t receive a contract extension before today’s deadline, so he’ll become a free agent next summer. After one full missed season already and two years of limited effectiveness, it’s not even clear Utah will extend Exum a qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent. The former No. 5 pick almost certainly won’t meet the starter criteria, which means his qualifying offer would be worth $4,333,931 (down from $6,619,903 based on his draft slot).

The Jazz will start Ricky Rubio, and Raul Neto will be the primary point guard behind him. Wings Rodney Hood, Alec Burks, Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles can all share facilitating duties.

Utah will probably be just fine without Exum this season, which speaks to his marginal place long-term.

Sprained ankle has LeBron James questionable for opener vs. Celtics

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — LeBron James‘ playing status for Tuesday’s season opener against Boston remains unclear.

James has been slowed by a sprained left ankle for more than two weeks and it’s still not known whether he’ll be on the floor when the Cavaliers take on the Celtics and Kyrie Irving, who asked to be traded by Cleveland this summer.

Following Monday’s practice, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said “I really don’t know” when asked if James will play.

James took part in some post-practice shooting drills with teammates. He did not speak with the media as the Cavaliers prepared for their opener, a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference finals.

James has never missed an opener in his NBA career, and teammate J.R. Smith doesn’t expect him to miss this one.

“Oh, he’s going to go,” Smith said. “He’s going to go, trust me that. I don’t care what he’s got to do, he’s going to play.”

 

Report: Richard Jefferson signing with Nuggets

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Update: The Nuggets will waive Jameer Nelson, according to Wojnarowski:

It looks like Denver will ride with the younger Jamal Murray and Emmanuel Mudiay at point guard — a risky proposition. Nelson stabilized the position in the event Murray or Mudiay weren’t ready for bigger roles. The Nuggets aren’t hedging their bets now, which puts plenty of pressure on Murray and Mudiay.

Murray should be fine eventually. Mudiay’s promise is far less certain. But this is a team trying to reach the playoffs now, and it might have to ride out growing pains from its point guards without Nelson as a safety net.

 

Richard Jefferson became a late entrant into free agency when the Cavaliers traded him and the Hawks waived him.

But the forward is landing on his feet.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Jefferson could help the Nuggets, who look primed to end a four-season playoff drought. They were set to squeeze backup small-forward minutes behind Wilson Chandler out of the undersized Will Barton and oversized Juan Hernangomez. Jefferson is far more comfortable at the position.

He’s 37 and doesn’t offer long-term upside, but he’s a savvy defender and still pretty athletic. He picks his spots well enough offensively to help on that end, too.

But Denver also has a deep roster that already had 15 players on standard contracts. There’s not an obvious cut to make room for Jefferson, though the Nuggets clearly have something planned.