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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.

Report: Duke guard Frank Jackson undergoes foot surgery before NBA draft

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Duke guard Frank Jackson declared for the 2017 NBA draft with an outside shot of going in the first round and a likelihood of getting picked in the second-round.

This won’t help his stock.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Duke’s Frank Jackson, a well-regarded point guard in the 2017 NBA draft class, underwent right foot surgery and is expected to be fully recovered sometime in July.

When Jackson recovers will determine whether he plays in summer league, and that can affect transition to the pros as a rookie.

The bigger questions: Will this hinder his athleticism long-term? Does this put him at greater injury risk?

Jackson, a 6-foot-4 scoring guard, relies on a strong first step to attack the basket and high elevation on his jumper.

Report: 76ers, with No. 3 pick in NBA draft, like PGs De’Aaron Fox and Dennis Smith Jr.

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If there’s consensus on the top prospects in the 2017 NBA draft, it’s:

1. Markelle Fultz

2. Lonzo Ball

3. Josh Jackson

That squares nicely with the Celtics picking Fultz No. 1 and the Lakers taking Ball No. 2.

But what about the 76ers, who pick No. 3? They already have a playmaking forward with a shaky jumper in Ben Simmons. Jackson isn’t the cleanest fit. Even if they plan to deploy Simmons at point guard, they could still use a traditional point guard for support/insurance.

Enter De'Aaron Fox and Dennis Smith Jr.

Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:

https://twitter.com/SBondyNYDN/status/867526157184491521

The 76ers could also get a workout with Ball. There will be point guard options.

I’m just unsure any of them, assuming Ball is off the board, trump Jackson.

Philadelphia’s starting small forward is Robert Covington – a nice player, but not someone who should influence draft decisions. We can lightly pencil Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons into the 76ers’ starting lineup the next time the team gets good, but the rest of the lineup is open. Pondering Jackson’s fit into a half-blank canvass is overthinking. Embiid is an excellent outside shooter for a center, and Philadelphia’s eventual guards (or shooting guard and power forward if Simmons plays point guard) could be good shooters.

The 76ers’ should draft the best prospect available. If that’s Jackson, so be it. They should consider Fox’s and Smith’s fit only if those point guards are in the same tier as Jackson.

That said, don’t rule out the possibility of Fox and Smith working their way into that level. They’re intriguing players.

Thunder’s Enes Kanter: ‘I don’t like Golden State, so I want Cleveland to win the championship’

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When Kevin Durant left the Thunder for the Warriors, Oklahoma City center Enes Kanter jumped fully on board the pro-Russell Westbrook, anti-Durant bandwagon.

That ride doesn’t stop with his former teammate facing the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.

Kanter, via Fox Sports Radio:

I don’t like Golden State, so I want Cleveland to win the championship.

Kanter never misses an opportunity to take a shot at the Warriors – except when Zaza Pachulia laid out Westbrook and stood over him.

Dwane Casey: Masai Ujiri assured me I’ll return as Raptors coach

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Raptors president Masai Ujiri didn’t mince words at his season-ending press conference: Toronto’s playing style had become unacceptable.

It sounded as if he might have been planting the seed for firing Dwane Casey.

But the coach says Ujiri assured him he’d return next season.

Casey on TSN (hat tip: Blake Murphy of Raptors Republic):

I think people mistook Masai’s comments for that. We had a good meeting before that meeting, and we’ve had meeting since then – with all the coaches – as far as plans for next year and the culture reset, which I think every corporation and every team should do periodically to get the culture back in focus and that type of thing. It’s not like we’re in total chaos or anything like that. It’s just good to have roles defined, things we can do better in each of our roles.

We’re doing some good things and some things we can do much better with. And that’s what we’ll plan on doing this summer and also this fall, when we go to training camp.

The Raptors’ offensive rating has dropped from regular season to the playoffs by 8.5, 7.2 and 11.7 the last three years. Their isolation-heavy style is just easier to stop when defenses see it in consecutive games.

The big question: What does Toronto do about that?

It’d be difficult to move on from the two players most responsible for the style, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. DeRozan is signed long-term, and if the Raptors don’t re-sign Lowry, who’ll be an unrestricted free agent this summer, they won’t have the cap space to land a comparable replacement.

The best bet is probably changing schemes from the bench and hoping the players can adjust – and maybe Casey can handle that responsibility. Hiring a new coach obviously would been the clearest path to a shake up, but maybe Casey can evolve. I’d want to see a plan from him before committing to keeping him, but maybe Ujiri got that.

Casey has played a key role in Toronto’s improvement, it’s nice to give him an opportunity to coach differently before hiring a different coach.