Kurt Helin

SACRAMENTO, CA - MARCH 09:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers stands on the court during their game against the Sacramento Kings at Sleep Train Arena on March 9, 2016 in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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PBT Podcast: What is up with LeBron? We ask Dan Feldman.

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LeBron James is too smart, too calculated to be doing this randomly.

He sends out cryptic tweets, unfollows the Cavaliers on Twitter, is longingly talking about joining up with his buddies ‘Melo/Wade/CP3 — this is all part of the message. That message is not “I’m leaving Cleveland” but it is a message.

Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports discuss what is driving LeBron’s clear frustration. They also talk Warriors going for 73 wins and the playoff races at the bottom of both conferences.

As always, you can listen to the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunesdownload it directly here, or you can check out our new PBT Podcast homepage, which has the most recent episodes available. If you have the Stitcher app, you can listen there as well.

Five Takeaways from NBA Wednesday: Jazz, Pistons move into playoff positions

Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12), forward Trevor Ariza (1) and guard James Harden (13) walk off the court during a timeout in the fourth quarter of the team's NBA basketball game against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, March 22, 2016. Oklahoma City won 111-107. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
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What you missed around the league Wednesday while shedding a tear over the lost beer (and chips)….

1) Utah comes from behind to beat Houston, take over final playoff spot in West. You can make an argument that Houston is a dangerous first-round playoff opponent — they still have James Harden, Dwight Howard, a decent supporting cast, and they have put together stretches of excellent basketball this season. The problem is, first you have to make the playoffs, and right now Houston is on the outside looking in.

Utah came from 18 down to beat the Rockets in Houston Wednesday night, 89-87. Gordon Hayward had 22 points, Derrick Favors 17 including the game winning dunk — yes, he was standing on the baseline and should have been called out of bounds right before that dunk, but that’s not why the Rockets lost. James Harden wasn’t the reason the Rockets lost either, he had 26 points, 10 assists, eight steals and seven rebounds. But the Rockets played a terrible third quarter shooting 32 percent, and that has been the problem all season — they can’t string together four good quarters, or four good games, in a row. Inconsistency. The Rockets are just half a game back of both Utah and Dallas, they can get in the postseason, but their playoffs start now — and they need four quarters of solid play a game to make it. Because Utah is healthy (well, except at the guard spots), defending, and making enough plays to win nightly.

2) Pistons move into eight seed in The East on night Bulls, Wizards fall. Detroit is putting it together at the right time with Tobias Harris — despite a triple-double from Elfrid Payton, the Pistons beat the Magic 118-112. That’s four straight wins for Stan Van Gundy’s crew, who are so hot Reggie Jackson is bouncing in threes (this didn’t count, but damn):

While that was happening, the Bulls were losing to the Knicks at home. How does a team fighting for a playoff spot fall to New York at home? How does a team fighting for a playoff spot lose to a team that starts a Jose Calderon/Sasha Vujacic backcourt? Because Jimmy Butler is clearly still not healthy but is trying to play through a bum knee. Because the Knicks frontline owned Pau Gasol and the Bulls the glass. Because the Bulls did not defend the three-point line. Because the Bulls just are not a very good team and not one their new coach seems to inspire quite like the old coach did. Chicago is now one game behind Detroit and Indiana for the final playoff spot in the East (with the second game of a home-and-home against the Knicks tonight).

3) Warriors thump Clippers 114-98, move closer to 73 wins.
Golden State wants 73 wins — even Steve Kerr finally admitted it after the Warriors swept the season series from the Clippers 114-98 Wednesday. Now they just need to go 9-2 the rest of the way to make that happen. This was vintage Warriors — Stephen Curry dropped 33, but it was Klay Thompson‘s sharpshooting in the third quarter that helped the Warriors pull away (Thompson was 7-of-10 from three on the night). Clippers starters not named DeAndre Jordan struggled against the Warriors defense — Jordan had 19 points (and 20 boards), the rest of the Clippers starters had 27. It was an off game for Chris Paul, and that’s not going be enough against Golden State. (The Clippers miss Blake Griffin, but it’s difficult to see them beating the Warriors in a likely second round matchup.)

4) Emmanuel Mudiay hits ridiculous game winner for Denver. When you’re the Sixers nothing goes your way. Also, Emmanuel Mudiay had 27 points and 11 boards on the night, and he’s starting to develop into the point guard Nuggets fans hoped he would be.



5) Delaware guard Russ Smith sets D-League record with 65 point game.
Russ Smith played well when it mattered in March for Louisville — maybe March is his month. Smith is playing for the Delaware 87ers in the D-League and on Wednesday Smith dropped 65 points on 24-of-42 shooting — and his team still lost 140-129 to the Canton Charge.

Smith was attacking the rim — he had 32 points on layups and was 16-of-20 at the free throw line.

Draymond Green, Becky Hammond at forefront of NBA’s #LeanInTogether campaign for gender equality

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We men have a responsibility to support the women in our lives and help them reach their goals and dreams.

For the second year in a row, the NBA is promoting the #LeanInTogether campaign to support gender equality, with Draymond Green, Chris Bosh, Gordon Hayward, and Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammond taking a part in the new PSA (which you can see above).

“Men leaning in is a win-win proposition,” said Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO and founder of LeanIn.Org. “When men are dedicated fathers and partners, they have healthier, happier children and stronger relationships. When they stand up for gender equality at work, they outperform their peers. Equality is not just the right thing for men—it’s the smart thing.”

The goal is to promote men as good dads, 50/50 partners, and people willing to stand up for women in the workplace. Things we should be doing already.

You can learn more at leanintogether.org.

Derrick Favors’ dunk lifts Jazz over Rockets 89-87

Utah Jazz's Derrick Favors (15) dunks the ball as Houston Rockets Dwight Howard, left, Trevor Ariza (1) and Patrick Beverley look on in the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 23, 2016, in Houston. The Jazz won 89-87. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
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HOUSTON (AP) — The Utah Jazz didn’t take much time to celebrate overtaking the Houston Rockets for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference playoff standings.

They know there’s still a lot of work to do.

“It feels good to know we’re still in it,” Derrick Favors said. “But we’re not in there yet so we’ve got to continue to work hard, play hard and keep winning games.”

Favors’ dunk with 1.6 seconds left lifted the Jazz to an 89-87 victory over the Rockets on Wednesday night and a half-game lead in the standings.

“I think this whole process right now is good,” coach Quin Snyder said. “Just being in an environment like this one on the road or being in a hunt competitively puts your team in a situation that’s new for us … and I think it’s a good opportunity for us to get better.”

Gordon Hayward had 22 points on his birthday to lead Utah.

Data curated by PointAfter

The Jazz trailed by as many as 18 in the second half before rallying for their first lead of the game with about 4 minutes left. The teams exchanged leads several times after that before Dwight Howard tied it on a dunk with 22.3 seconds remaining.

Rodney Hood then found Favors, who finished with 17 points, under the basket and he finished with the slam to put Utah on top. Houston had a chance to win it after that, but James Harden‘s 3-point attempt bounced off the rim.

“I think we played with a little desperation there in the second half,” Hayward said. “We talked about them letting us get back into it and we stepped up and hit some shots.”

Harden had 26 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds and a career-high eight steals, but the Rockets dropped their third straight.

“The season’s not over,” coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “We’re in a position where, we take care of business we can still get into the playoffs. But we’ve got to take care of business. There’s no more excuses.”

Harden made a pair of free throws to give Houston the lead with less than 2 minutes to play. The Rockets forced a shot clock violation on the other end and Patrick Beverley made a floating jump shot just before Houston’s shot clock reached zero to make it 85-82.

Shelvin Mack tied it back up with a 3-pointer and Hayward grabbed a steal and made two free throws to put Utah up 87-85 with 24 seconds left.

Houston opened a 71-62 lead early in the fourth. It was all Jazz for the next couple of minutes as they scored the next eight points, powered by 3s from Hayward and Mack, to get within one.

The Jazz finally went ahead for the first time by scoring six straight points, capped by four free throws by Hayward, to make it 79-78.

Donatas Motiejunas opened the second half with a free throw for Houston to push the lead to 50-34. The Jazz scored the next 11 points, with five points from Mack, to get within 50-45 with eight minutes left in the third.

Houston scored six straight points after that to push the lead to 56-45.

Howard had a season-high six blocks, including one on a layup by Rudy Gobert where he sent the ball into the stands in the first quarter.

Houston led 49-34 at halftime.

TIP-INS

Jazz: Mack finished with 16 points. … Favors had 15 rebounds.

Rockets: The 34 points Utah scored in the first half were the fewest Houston had allowed in a first half this season. … Harden is the first Rocket to have at least 20 points, seven assists, seven rebounds and seven steals since Clyde Drexler did it on Nov. 1, 1996.

BREAKING THE SKID

The Jazz won in Houston for the first time since April 11, 2012, snapping a six-game skid. Hayward knew it had been a long time but Favors didn’t realize they’d had such a tough time in Houston.

“I didn’t even know that. Wow,” he said. “It feels good. It was a big win for us.”

 

Emmanuel Mudiay hits ridiculous leaning, 36-foot game winner (VIDEO)

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That may be the wildest game winner of the NBA season.

Emmanuel Mudiay gets the inbound pass out near midcourt with 3.1 seconds left, and starts trying to weave his way through the Sixers. Then he looses control of the ball, leaving him no options — pick up the ball and just launch it.

Nothing but nylon.

Denver gets the win, and Mudiay finishes with 27 points and 11 rebounds. He’s developing nicely this season and the Nuggets could have themselves a quality point guard for a long time.