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

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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.

For a couple grand, Warriors fans can have Larry O’Brien Trophy visit their suite

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There’s so much money floating around the Bay Area right now thanks to another tech boom, this price almost seems low.

If you have a suite for the Golden State Warriors home games this season — and those are pretty much sold out, the Warriors draw big from the Silicon Valley crowd — you can have the NBA championship Larry O’Brien Trophy visit your suite. All for just a couple grand. From Gilbert Lee, via ESPN’s Darren Rovell.

The best part is it includes champagne… do you get to spray each other with it as you hold up the trophy? Now that would be perfect (goggles included, of course).

Have an issue with this? Why? To the victor goes the spoils. The Warriors may be able to sell this package for years.

Sixers new “Spirit of 76” court is fire

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First, the Sixers nailed the Nike “statement” jersey.

Now, they have announced a new “Spirit of 76” promotion, with seven tribute nights this season honoring the history of the franchise and of the Philadelphia area (and there is plenty of history to honor).

The best part — the “Spirit of 76” court with the bell logo.

Here is the promo vid

I just hope the Sixers team can live up to all the hype.

Wizards’ Markieff Morris to have sports hernia surgery, miss start of camp

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When the Washington Wizards open training camp next Tuesday, starting forward Markieff Morris will not be on the court.

That’s because he will have surgery to repair a sports hernia, a story broken by Candice Buckner of the Washington Post and since confirmed by Chase Hughes at CSNMidAtlantic.com.

While we don’t have details on the surgery, often recovery time for this is just a few weeks, and Morris could well be ready for the start of the season.

Morris averaged 14 points and 6.5 rebounds a game last season, and the Wizards offense was 5.7 points per 100 possessions better when he was on the court last season. With him out, coach Scott Brooks can lean on Jason Smith or Mike Scott for traditional lineups, but don’t be shocked if he tries a little small ball with Otto Porter and/or Kelly Oubre at the three or four.

Morris also is in the midst of a felony assault trial in Arizona (one where he does not need to attend).

Sixers enter camp with Joel Embiid not cleared for 5-on-5, Jahlil Okafor on trade block

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This is the season the 76ers make the leap from team with potential to playoff team fast on the rise.

Maybe.

That’s the plan in Philly, but there are a lot of questions for this team to answer. While a couple of these issues are answered already — Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz are cleared to play and practice with teammates — a couple big ones still hang around. At the top of the list is “how healthy is Joel Embiid?” Coach Brett Brown doesn’t even have that answer yet, reports Derek Bodner of The Athletic.

It’s this simple: The Sixers outscored opponents by 3.3 points per 100 possessions when Embiid was on the court last season, he was a dominant force defensively who scored 20.2 points a game. When he was off the court the Sixers were 11.5 points per 100 possessions worse. They need him to play and play consistently if the Sixers have playoff dreams. It’s unclear when Embiid will return, but know that the Sixers will be cautious with his minutes again when he does get cleared (he has played just 31 games in three seasons).

Does that mean more Jahlil Okafor? Maybe not, the Sixers are still willing to trade him.

The Sixers have shopped Okafor for most of a year and found no deal they like. Okafor battled knee issues last season and, after a summer working to get healthy, other teams will want to see him play a little before talking trade. If he comes to camp slimmed down and his knee looks right, it could revive trade talks. Using a back-to-the-basket game, he averaged 11.8 points a night shooting 51 percent last season, he’s efficient, and some teams could use what he does (off the bench).

It’s going to be an interesting season in Philly. Are they playoff bound?