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Three Things to Know: Team LeBron vs. Team Stephen. Who ya got?

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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) Team LeBron vs. Team Stephen. Who ya got? I don’t think we can say this enough (if for no other reason into shaming them to do the right thing next year) — the All-Star Game player draft should have been televised. It was not because the players union pushed back, saying there was not a consensus that it should be from players who could be involved, which is about as soft as it gets. Oh no, you were picked last, you’re one of the 24 best players in the game but you’re picked last in that group. The horror. The NHL did it and the players survived somehow. The NBA started down a road with the new format it then went halfway and it sucked the fun out of it. Do better next time.

Now, on to what about the teams.

LeBron James and Stephen Curry hopped on a conference call — how exciting! — and made their picks (then both said it should have been televised).

LeBron drafted as his starters (they had to pick from that pool first) DeMarcus Cousins (New Orleans Pelicans), Anthony Davis (New Orleans), Kevin Durant (Golden State) and Kyrie Irving (Boston Celtics). For the reserves, LeBron picked LaMarcus Aldridge (San Antonio Spurs), Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards), Kevin Love (Cleveland), Victor Oladipo (Indiana Pacers), Kristaps Porzingis (New York Knicks), John Wall (Washington) and Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder) as reserves.

Team Curry’s starters are Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks), DeMar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors), Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers) and James Harden (Houston Rockets). For reserves, Curry chose Jimmy Butler (Minnesota Timberwolves), Draymond Green (Golden State), Al Horford (Boston), Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers), Kyle Lowry (Toronto), Klay Thompson (Golden State) and Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota).

Here’s what we know: LeBron took Kevin Durant first. KD likes finally being picked No. 1.

So who ya got? How do you not choose Team LeBron — that starting five is insane. It’s the Monstars. LeBron and KD on the wings, Cousins and Davis inside (and both can hit threes), and Irving at the point? Good luck. And you have to love LeBron took Kyrie, and also reunited Durant and Westbrook. Off the bench, LeBron’s team can put out a Westbrook, Oladipo, Beal, Love, Porzingis lineup that could run and shoot with anyone.

Curry has shooting and athleticism, his starting five has Harden and the Greek Freak, and if this were the kind of game where anyone played any defense having Butler and Green on the second unit would be impressive.

In an actual seven-game series I’d take team LeBron without question. That team is dominant. In the defense-free zone that is an All-Star game, anything can happen. If Butler or Harden decide to go hard after the MVP, Curry could win the thing. But I’ll put my money on Team LeBron… and the over. Always the over in the All-Star Game.

2) De’Aaron Fox with an insane game-winning putback dunk. We haven’t had a lot of Sacramento Kings highlights in this space this season because, well, there hasn’t been a lot of Sacramento Kings highlights this season.

Thursday night, rookie De’Aaron Fox may have had the Dunk of the Year — at least the most meaningful one. Down one to Miami (in Miami) and with less than 10 seconds remaining, the Kings put the ball in the hands of Bogdan Bogdanovic in isolation at the top of the key (there was a meaningless screen by Fox in there), and he ended up with a 19-foot contested fadeaway that missed — but nobody put a body on Fox, who flew in from the weakside wing and made the play.

Damn, that’s good.

Miami has won a lot of close games this season, but those things tend to even out.

3) Russell Westbrook goes off for 46 vs. Wizards, while Kevin Durant has triple-double and Warriors drain 21 threes against Timberwolves. Some All-Stars were putting on a show Thursday night.

All-Stars Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal went at it — Westbrook hat 46-6-6, while Beal dropped 41 despite getting kicked in the, um, kiwis by Steven Adams.

Westbrook was apparently motivated by the feeling he was picked last in the All-Star draft, although he was just listed last thanks to alphabetical order. Whatever the motivation, it was the full Russ on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Warriors were the Warriors against the Timberwolves. Golden State hit a season-high 21 threes, and LeBron’s No. 1 pick Durant celebrated with a triple-double of 28 points, 10 boards and 11 assists.

Big nights for Ben Simmons (32 points), Joel Embiid good sign for Sixers

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It was a dramatic win — because Philadelphia’s two best players stepped up.

Down one with eight seconds left and Chicago having the ball, Joel Embiid forced a turnover, Ben Simmons scooped up the ball and was fouled, then drained a pair of free throws with 5.6 seconds to play and the Sixers got their sixth straight victory, 116-115.

It wasn’t just that play. Simmons had a career-high 32 points, along with 11 assists and eight rebounds, while Joel Embiid had 30 points and 13 rebounds. Coach Brett Brown said after the game the pair carried Philly on the night — and the Sixers are going to need more of that to end their playoff drought.

Check out their highlights above.

Three Things to Know: Russell Westbrook was clutch; Curry was vintage Curry

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The NBA is back, and every day around the league 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) Russell Westbrook rescues Thunder with game-winner vs. Kings. It wasn’t just averaging a triple-double for a season, when it came time to vote for MVP last season one of the reasons Russell Westbrook came out on top was how clutch he had been. He hadn’t just willed his team into games they probably should have lost, he got them the wins — in the final three minutes of games within three points last season (something that happened 32 times for the Thunder), Westbrook averaged 4.4 points scored (best in the NBA of anyone who played in more than five such games) and shot 38.7 percent from three.

That Westbrook was back on Thursday. With the game tied 107-107 and one second left, the Thunder ran an out-of-bounds play where Westbrook got surprisingly open coming off a double screen and had room for a clean look catch-and-shoot three. Do we need to tell you what happened?

OKC needs the wins for playoff seeding through its final 22 games — the Thunder are now just 1.5 games out of being the three seed in the West, or 2.5 games away from falling out of the playoffs entirely. The West is that bunched up. They should make the playoffs (fivethirtyeight.com gives them an 89 percent chance of being in) but where they fall will determine how tough a run through the playoffs they will face.

2) Stephen Curry was hitting Stephen Curry shots, drops 44 on Clippers. If Stephen Curry’s shot chart looks like this, it’s going to be a long night for the opposition.

Curry had 44 points on 19 shots and just could not seem to miss, even nailing a buzzer-beater from the center-court logo.

Credit the Clippers here, who put up points (22 from Tobias Harris) and made this a contest, falling 134-127. Los Angeles is fighting for a spot in the playoffs (they are currently one game back of New Orleans for the eight spot) and have found ways all season despite a rash of injuries and Blake Griffin being traded. They should be appreciated for their play this season. There’s just not much you can do when Curry and the Warriors are going off.

3) New look Cavaliers suffer first loss, fall to Wizards. The newfound energy was there in Cleveland. LeBron James was playing at an MVP level. The versatility of the new-look Cavaliers roster was on full display.

Cleveland just couldn’t shoot Thursday night. To be more specific, Cavaliers not named LeBron James (32 points on 18 shots) couldn’t buy a bucket. Cleveland was 8-of-35 from three and in the final nine minutes of the game the non-LeBrons were 0-of-10 shooting. The Wizards went small and were +17 with that lineup as the Cavs had no answers (the lineup was Bradley Beal, Tomas Satoransky, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Markieff Morris). The Wizards got the win 110-103.

Cleveland can chalk this up to an off night, and it was. It was also a reminder of why this Cleveland team isn’t as good as a year ago — they don’t have a reliable second shot creator and scorer who can just get buckets and lift the team up. Kyrie Irving is an elite scorer, but he’s in Boston. George Hill, Jordan Clarkson and the new guys are not on that level. Some nights that will be an issue.

The Wizards are now 8-2 since John Wall went down and are scoring 4.2 points per 100 possessions above their season average in that stretch. The ball is moving and the players are moving off it, Beal has been brilliant, Satoransky has stepped up, and the Wizards are securing their spot in the top half of the East. When Wall returns he has to figure out how to fit in with this offensive style, not come in and dominate it with the ball in his hands.

The Wizards need more wins like this as they enter a tough stretch of their schedule (14 of the next 16 are against teams currently in the playoffs).

Russell Westbrook hits game-winning 3-pointer to beat Kings (VIDEO)

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Welp, looks like Russell Westbrook is re-energized after All-Star Weekend.

As the first night of games after the break got underway on Thursday night, it was Westbrook who gave us a jolt as he helped the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Sacramento Kings on the road.

With just a second to go, Sacramento’s Justin Jackson had tied the game up at 107-107. This came after Vince Carter pulled up confidently from nearly 30 feet out, missing badly. Sacramento missed another follow, and then Jackson put home the final try.

Via Twitter:

That left the Thunder to advance the ball with just one second left.

Oklahoma City ran a simple play with Westbrook running near-to-far across the arc from the inbounder, eventually settling at the top of the 3-point line.

He let it fly, and that allowed OKC to come away with a win, 110-107.

Bulls find way to lose despite being up by 5 with 35 seconds left

AP
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CHICAGO (AP) Ben Simmons scored 32 points, making two free throws with 5.6 seconds left to complete Philadelphia’s rally from five points down in the final minute, and the 76ers beat the Chicago Bulls 116-115 on Thursday night.

Joel Embiid had 30 points and 13 rebounds, and Simmons added 11 assists and seven rebounds as Philadelphia won its sixth straight and snapped a four-game road losing streak.

Bobby Portis had a career-high 38 points and Zach LaVine added 23 for the Bulls, who were 18 for 34 on 3-pointers.

Chicago had a 115-114 lead and the ball with 8 seconds to go before Embiid deflected an inbounds pass to create a turnover. Simmons came up with the ball near half court and was fouled by Denzel Valentine. He made both free throws.

Portis had a chance for a game winner, but his short attempt – with Embiid defending – just missed.

The 76ers raced to a 25-7 lead midway through the first quarter before Portis got hot and Chicago started making 3s.

Philadelphia’s lead was down to 33-29 at the end of the quarter and the Bulls busted out for 40 points in the second to take a 69-67 halftime lead. Chicago was 9 of 12 on 3-pointers in the quarter, including 4 for 5 by Portis.

The 76ers were up by five early in the fourth before Portis scored six straight points – on a 3-pointer and a three-point play – to put the Bulls on top 101-100. A few minutes later, Portis dunked over Embiid to stretch the lead to 111-106 with just over four minutes to play.

LaVine hit a 3-pointer to make it 115-110 with 1:02 left.

TIP INS

76ers: C Embiid has nine straight double-doubles . Simmons has six triple-doubles this season, which ties him with Wilt Chamberlain (three times) and Billy Cunningham for most in a season in team history.

Bulls: To look at some younger players during the final 25 games, C Robin Lopez and G/F Justin Holiday were removed from the starting lineup. Both were inactive on Thursday as Cristiano Felicio and David Nwaba (21 points) started; Also, Cameron Payne – who played in his first game on Thursday – will replace Jerian Grant as the backup point guard.

“It really is hard,” coach Fred Hoiberg said. “It’s hard for Robin, it’s hard for Justin and it’s hard for Jerian, who’s probably making as big a sacrifice as anybody.”

UP NEXT

76ers: Host Orlando on Saturday.

Bulls: Visit Minnesota Saturday night.