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Three Things to Know: Toronto looks dangerous, Cleveland disinterested

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Raptors look like team that can go deep in the postseason. The Cavaliers want to be woken up when the playoffs start. No Kyle Lowry. No Serge Ibaka. But the Toronto Raptors had a secret weapon for their nationally televised game Thursday night — Cleveland’s defense.

The Cavaliers don’t care about the regular season — LeBron James called them a “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” team during the 82-game marathon — and it shows with a 3-7 record in their last 10 and a defense that is dead last in the NBA during that stretch. This could be the Cavaliers worst game of the season, and the offense was not going to cover up the defense in this one. Isaiah Thomas looked rusty as he missed his first 11 shots, finishing 2-of-15 with four points. Kevin Love was 2-of-8 on the night. J.R. Smith hasn’t made a shot in two games (0-of-12). As a team, the Cavaliers shot 6-of-26 from three (23.1 percent). LeBron James played well and tried yelling at his teammates to snap them out of their funk, but id didn’t work.

This game and the bad habits the Cavaliers are developing are exactly why plenty of people around the league think Cleveland is vulnerable.

It’s not just the Cavaliers are bad — the Raptors are good. Legitimately good. They are top five in offense and defense in the league this season and they unleashed all their strengths on the listless Cavs. The Raptors pounded the Cavaliers inside with their size, and their depth led to Toronto winning the battle of the bench 76-48. The Raptors had a defensive rating for the night of 95.9, and an offensive rating of 129.5. Everything was going so well Fred VanVleet had 22 points.

There are no statement games in January, but for the Raptors this is a good confidence boost.

2) Boston comes from 22 down in London to beat Sixers. The NBA’s annual sojourn to London did not slow down the Celtics’ winning streak, now at seven games.

The Sixers got off to a fast start and led by 22 in the first half, but the Celtics owned the second half and picked up a 114-103 win. The stats tell the story: Philladephia shot 54.7 percent in the first 24 minutes and 36.6 percent in the second 24. Boston cranked up their defense after the half, and that fueled their offense — the Celtics shot 61.9 percent in the second half. Ridiculous. But this was more than just shots falling, Boston’s effort was there in the second half, while the Sixers looked like they just wanted to get to the pub.

Kyrie Irving led the way in the second half and finished with 20 points and seven assists.

3) NBA blows opportunity, will not televise All-Star Game Draft. The NBA All-Star Game itself is a listless affair. All-Star Saturday is a blast, the weekend-long circus around the game is entertaining, but the actual on-the-court product has great players taking turns scoring against non-existent defense. It’s not entertaining, and sport should be that at least. This season the NBA came up with a good way to inject a little fun into the game — have the top vote getters be captains and pick the teams in a draft of every All-Star, playground style. As of today’s vote, Stephen Curry and LeBron James would take turns picking teams.

Except the league is blowing it because they are doing the draft in private. The teams will just be announced, we will not know the draft order or anything else.

Where is the fun in that?

“Yes, it would be more fun if we had that kind of draft…” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said on NBA TV. “I think there was a sense from the players that it put them in an impossible position, where they’re picking one player over another – in part, not because they necessarily think that player is better than another player, maybe because they have a personal relationship with the player, or they think that player would be a better complement to the players, and that, invariably, if they just did it as a pure draft, guys would say, Oh, I can’t believe such and such was selected before that player.”

Yes, you can. We want to have that “I can’t believe such and such was selected before that player” debate. This is an entire business and league selling entertainment — why put one of the most entertaining parts behind a curtain? We want to see how the sausage is made. One of the reasons we love the NBA is the interpersonal drama, and this would bring plenty of it — would LeBron James pick Kyrie Irving? Would Curry team up Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant again? Who ends up with a chip on their shoulder because they were picked last?

Who wouldn’t watch the All-Star Draft? Will some player have hurt feelings? Maybe, but he’s an All-Star, he’ll get over it.

This was a chance to put some real drama into the All-Star Game, but the NBA went halfway with its idea.

Kevin Durant: Liking anti-Russell Westbrook Instagram comment was ‘total accident’

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Kevin Durant liked an Instagram comment critical of Russell Westbrook.

Here we go again?

Royce Young of ESPN:

I’m not inside Durant’s mind. He could be lying to cover another burner Instagram snafu.

But I tend to believe him. It’s easy enough to accidentally click like, and the greater context is on his side.

Durant has always tried to downplay a feud with Westbrook. Even at the personal rivalry’s peak, Durant just seemed as if he wanted Westbrook to like him. So, it’s nearly impossible to believe Durant – even for a button-pushing moment – wanted to publicly slight Westbrook.

But maybe Durant wanted quiresultan or some other alter-ego to do so? Maybe, as beaten down as he looked by the controversy over those deleted tweets last summer, Durant didn’t learn his lesson and still uses burner accounts. I certainly wouldn’t rule that out.

Again, though, this would be a weird message. Last summer’s deleted tweets praised Westbrook while slamming the rest of the Thunder. Durant was going to have a burner account take the opposite stance now? That doesn’t really add up.

NBA apparently reviewing whether Russell Westbrook should be suspended for Thunder-Jazz Game 5

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The NBA has a hard rule during altercations: Any players who leave the bench area receives a one-game suspension. Intent doesn’t matter. It’s not negotiable. The league simply doesn’t want more players entering a fracas.

Russell Westbrook found a gray area last night.

The Thunder star was waiting to check into Oklahoma City’s Game 4 loss to the Jazz when Raymond Felton fouled Rudy Gobert, um, unpleasantly. Gobert and Felton got into it, though not immediately. Once they did, Westbrook walked onto the court, and he and Gobert swiped at each other.

Gobert and Felton eventually received technical fouls. But could harsher punishment be in store, especially for Westbrook?

Andy Larsen of KSL.com:

A pool reporter request to the game officials to ask them about the play was initiated, but the NBA indicated that the officials wouldn’t comment on the matter because it would be reviewed by the league’s disciplinary committee.

The key question should be: Did a referee already beckon Westbrook into the game? If one did, Westbrook shouldn’t be suspended. If none did, Westbrook should be suspended.

The league will talk to the refs and get a better understanding of what happened. Their account matters most.

But one indicator working against Westbrook: Steven Adamswhose toughness is beyond reproach – was also waiting to check in and stayed on the sideline. If Adams had already entered the game, wouldn’t he have gotten involved? Maybe not, but his hanging back is circumstantial evidence pointing toward a Westbrook suspension.

Again, though, the referees’ accounts matter far more.

Russell Westbrook on matchup with Ricky Rubio: ‘Let’s get past that. We’re done with that’

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After Ricky Rubio‘s 26-point triple-double in Game 3, Russell Westbrook said, “I’ma shut that s— off next game though. Guarantee that.”

Westbrook definitely tried. The Thunder star defended Rubio far more aggressively in Game 4 last night. But Westbrook also fouled Rubio four times in the first half and played too out of control, committing five turnovers. Rubio (13 points, eight rebounds, six assists) wasn’t nearly as individually excellent, but his passing keyed the Jazz’s offense.

Most importantly, Utah outscored Oklahoma City by 12 in the 30 minutes the point guards shared the court and won 113-96 to take a 3-1 series lead.

How did the matchup with Rubio go, Russ?

Westbrook:

It’s not about me and him. Let’s get past that. We’re done with that.

How convenient.

Westbrook is the one who brought attention to the individual matchup. He took stopping Rubio upon himself. Now, when it didn’t go well, Westbrook suddenly doesn’t want to talk about it?

Maybe Westbrook realized he got carried away, to the detriment of his team. It’s not too late to fix that, and this could be his attempt to do so before Game 5 Wednesday.

But he also must own the egg on his face for putting the spotlight on Westbrook-Rubio and then dodging the attention once the matchup went south.

Rockets 50, Timberwolves 20: Most dominant playoff quarter in shot-clock era (video)

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James Harden missed a floater and clapped in frustration. The Rockets’ third quarter in Game 4 against the Timberwolves didn’t get off to a great start. Harden’s shooting had underwhelmed since Game 2.

Then, Harden and Houston broke out of the funk – in a big way.

The Rockets outscored Minnesota 50-20 in the third quarter of their 119-100 victory last night, giving Houston a 3-1 lead in the first-round series. The 30-point margin in the third quarter was tied for the most lopsided playoff quarter in the shot-clock era:

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Harden singlehandedly outscored the Timberwolves himself, 23-20. Paul added 15.

The Rockets shot 5-of-10 on 2-pointers, 9-of-13 on 3-pointers and 13-of-13 on free throws. Houston committed no turnovers and offensively rebounded a third of its misses.

It was incredible output, even for the NBA’s best offense.

The Rockets’ 50 points were second-most in a playoff quarter – and the most in a victory – in the shot-clock era. The leaderboard:

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