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Three Things We Learned Tuesday: Draymond Green’s defense saves Warriors from loss to Sixers


Just so it’s out there for the record, my Final Four picks are Villanova, Louisville, West Virginia and North Carolina, with the Tar Heels winning it all. Also, know that I suck at picking the NCAA Tournament, so you have the same picks you may want to rethink them. Now, on to the NBA news of the night.

1) Draymond Green’s Defensive Player of the Year mixtape game gets Warriors two-point win over Sixers. The Golden State Warriors are still not right. They were down 12 points to the Philadelphia 76ers entering the fourth quarter Tuesday night and needed 12 points in the final frame and some stellar defense from Draymond Green to pull out the win.

Actually, it’s far more simple than that: Stephen Curry is still not right. With Kevin Durant out the Warriors need the old MVP-level Curry to lead them, yet in his last seven games, he has hit 23-of-78 from three, which is 29.5 percent. Overall he is shooting 40.8 percent. He’s averaged six assists but four turnovers in those games. For three quarters on Tuesday night he was missing open jumpers and simply was not effective as the guy running the offense. He was much better in the fourth (3-of-5 from three), but after this sustained run of struggles, it will take more than one quarter to say he has turned the corner.

Draymond Green saved the Warriors. Green has been vocal about his desire to win the DPOY, and this game is the tape he wants voters to watch. More than stats, his defense turned this game around. That said, he had stats: six blocks and four steals. His pick-and-roll defense was superb, and he was making heads-up plays all night. The final play was a perfect example: The Warriors were up three and the Sixers were inbounding the ball, but Matt Barnes stole it and had a breakaway to seal the game — and missed the dunk. The Sixers raced downcourt to tie the game with a three, but Green wisely fouled Dario Saric before he could shoot, sending him to the line for two free throws, and that saved the day. Green also had 20 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists on the night.

The Warriors get the also struggling Orlando Magic on Thursday — the schedule is doing them favors. But the Warriors need the old Curry back if they are going to hold off San Antonio for the top seed in the West.

2) Russell Westbrook gets triple-double number 33, Nets fans cheer him like the game was in OKC. Two minutes into the game in Brooklyn Tuesday night, Nets fans were raining down MVP chants on Westbrook.

Nets fans are starved for good basketball, and Westbrook is the best show in the league right now. He didn’t disappoint, Westbrook had 25 points, 19 assists, and 12 rebounds — he’s had far more gaudy stat lines recently, but he was the best player on the floor by a healthy margin and his dominance controlled the game. The Thunder got a comfortable 122-104 win on the road.

3) LeBron James would like to remind you he is also very good at this basketball thing, gets his own triple-double.
LeBron James remains the best basketball player walking the face of the earth. There is a what is essentially a four-person race for MVP this season: Westbrook, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, and LeBron. Somehow, LeBron will likely finish fourth (if Durant had not gotten injured, it might well have been fifth). We have come to take LeBron’s greatness for granted.

Of late the Cavaliers have gone as LeBron has gone, and Tuesday night he had 16 points, 12 assists, and 11 rebounds in leading the Cavs to a comfortable 128-96 thrashing of the Pistons.

Stephen Curry leaves game with knee injury

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In his first night back from an ankle injury that forced him to miss six games, Stephen Curry limped off the court not to return after in third quarter Friday night after JaVale McGee fell into his knee.

He limped to the bench then eventually to the locker room after the injury.

The severity of the injury is not yet known and should become clear on Saturday after an MRI.

Curry scored 29 points and grabbed seven rebounds before being forced to leave the game, and the Warriors held on to win the game.

Obviously, if Curry is out heading into the playoffs, that changes the dynamic in the West, where the Houston Rockets were already right on the heels of the Warriors.

Pacers use late surge to beat Clippers, close in on playoffs

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Bojan Bogdanovic scored 28 points and the Indiana Pacers used a late 9-0 run to hold on for a 109-104 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night, putting them on the precipice of clinching a playoff spot.

The Pacers won for only the second time in five games but can clinch a playoff berth with one more win or a Detroit loss.

Los Angeles’ fading playoff aspirations were dealt another blow. The Clippers are now three games behind Utah for the final postseason spot in the Western Conference. Utah was playing later Friday.

Lou Williams led Los Angeles with 27 points and DeAndre Jordan finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds as the Clippers lost for the fifth time in six games.

They certainly had a chance to turn things around.

After the Clippers rallied from an 18-point deficit to take an 88-87 lead with 7:36 left in the fourth quarter, the teams traded the lead 10 times before Victor Oladipo made one of two free throws to leave it tied at 100 with 2:17 to play.

Bogdanovic broke the tie with a 12-footer and the Pacers followed that with seven straight points before Williams made a layup with 12 seconds left to end the run.

The Clippers were making shots early but couldn’t pull away from Indiana.

They led 28-27 after one and allowed Indiana to use a 9-2 spurt midway through the second quarter to erase a six-point deficit and take a 40-39 lead.

The Pacers scored the final five points of the half to break a 53-all tie and broke it open early in the third when Oladipo made his first three shots of the game, including two 3-pointers to make it 66-55.

Indiana then poured it on. Thaddeus Young‘s layup with 9:02 left in the third made it a 12-point game. Milos Teodosic‘s basket briefly halted the run, but the Pacers scored the next nine points to make it 75-57 with 6:19 to go.

Los Angeles closed the third quarter on a 12-5 run to get to 82-76.


LeBron James throws touchdown pass like Cleveland fans hope Sam Darnold can

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Cleveland fans can only hope Sam Darnold is as good a passer as LeBron James.

And that his receivers are better than Jose Calderon. Or at least taller.

LeBron James grabbed a rebound and threw a perfect touchdown pass to a leaked out Jose Calderon as the Cavaliers went on to beat the Phoenix Suns Friday night.

🙌🏽 @kingjames 🎯 @jmcalderon8 🙌🏽

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By the way, LeBron made a nice dish to the returned Larry Nance Jr., too.


Report: Rockets to waive Brandan Wright

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Finally healthy, it was easy to see where big man Brandan Wright would fit on Mike D’Antoni’s Rockets — he’s an athletic big man who can get up and down the court, he knows how to finish lobs above the rim, and could provide some front line depth behind Clint Capela and Nene. That’s why the Rockets picked him up in February after he was bought out by the Grizzlies.

It didn’t work out that way. Wright played in one game with Houston before his sore knee forced him to shut it down. He has not played since.

The Rockets are moving on, waiving Wright and bringing in forward Le’Bryan Nash out of the G-League on a 10-day contract, reports Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

With center Brandan Wright unable to return from his knee issues this season, the Rockets will release Wright, who signed as a free agent last month, a person with knowledge of the move said…

He had a minor procedure and will work on his rehab with the Rockets staff, the individual familiar with the plans said.

 “Brandan did everything positive,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “He just wasn’t physically able to hang in there. We hate it that the guy isn’t part of this.”

Wright has played in just 28 total this season averaging 5 points and 3.4 rebounds in 13.6 minutes. He’s battled knee issues for a few seasons now and has not played more than 28 games in the last three. If healthy he can help teams, but we’ll see if he ever gets back into the NBA.

The Rockets use Ryan Anderson as their backup center, using Nene less of late, although how much D’Antoni can use Anderson in the playoffs due to his defensive challenges remains to be seen.

Nash, who played a season at Oklahoma State, will get his first taste of the NBA. He was a highly recruited kid out of high school, and this season has averaged 8.5 points in 19 minutes per game for the Rio Grande Vipers this season.