Breaking down last three minutes of Warriors 106-105 win over Nuggets.

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This game was crazy. And fun. Both teams had and gave up double-digit leads. The end involved missed shots, replay and about as close to a game going the other way as it can.

For something a little different, rather than a traditional recap, let’s just recap in some detail the final three minutes of this game and how that showed the trends of the entire night:

102-102 tie, 2:56 left (Warriors ball): David Lee is working at the elbow extended draws and the defense out then makes a nifty pass to Klay Thompson who had cut from the weakside along the baseline to get the ball on the strong side low post. His problem is Kenneth Faried switches onto him quickly and now lords over him. Thompson tries to swing into the middle for a shot but Faried rejects it. This is what Faried did all night — he seemed to be everywhere grabbing rebounds, playing good defense and just working harder than everyone. Like Manimal always does. He is just fun to watch and this was a good game from him.

Denver takes the ball off the blocked shot and pushes the pace in transition, and while the defense is focused on not giving Ty Lawson a lane to drive — something they struggled to do all night, he carved them up — Andre Iguodala runs to the arc on the right side and after a pass steps into a wide-open three that rims out. Golden State gets the rebound.

After taking some time off the clock, Jarrett Jack and Lee run a side pick-and-roll, both defenders go with Jack and he hits the rolling Lee feet from he rim. Faried is a split-second late on the rotation and Lee both makes the bucket and gets an and-1 chance (he missed the free throw). Lee was on top of his offensive game all night — he played smart on offense and just scored, putting up 31 points. He made shots isolated in the post, off the pick-and-roll, in transition, he was 13-of-15 shooting and had a fantastic offensive game. (If we knock Lee’s defense we would have to knock everyone’s in this game. The fans got their money’s worth of offense but no D.)

104-102 Golden State, 2:07: Lawson brings it up off the missed free throw and the Warriors defense isn’t set, so Lawson finds a wide-open Corey Brewer in the left corner corner but Brewer misses the shot.

Warriors don’t run much of an offensive set, Curry just hangs out up high and eventually fires up and misses a three, but Jack gets and offensive rebound. Curry tried to pass inside this time but Denver deflects it out of bounds. Then on the inbounds pass Jack just throws it to nobody and it is a turnover.

Denver takes the turnover and it is off to the races. In transition Lawson passes to Brewer who is fouled going to the rim. But Brewer only hits one of two free throws.

104-103 Golden State, 1:26 left: Jack runs a high pick-and-roll with Lee and Denver handles it about as poorly as you can — Lawson can’t fight over the top but Danilo Gallinari doesn’t show out, or really do much of anything but stand there like a marble Italian statue, so Jack drives into the wide open lane. Faried is the help but he is late and Jack hits a layup high off the glass. With that Jack had 18 points on the night.

106-103 Golden State, 1:12 left: Early in the clock Lawson decides to just drive on Stephen Curry, Lawson tried to initiate contact he didn’t get the foul call and the ball just goes off him out of bounds. That would be Denver’s fifth turnover of the quarter

Jack is in control of the offensive set for Golden State and he keeps going off picks until he can find a little daylight in the lane, but not much. The result is him driving the right side then trying an awkward looking 11-foot fadeaway that airballs.

Denver works it around but the ball eventually goes to Gallinari who tries to take Carl Landry off the dribble and he almost does, but his three-foot runner rims out.

Again, it’s Jarrett Jack with the ball. Not Stephen Curry. Jack uses up some clock then again drives and this time uses some hesitation moves to get himself a nice 15-foot look, but that won’t go down either, it is off the back rim.

Gallinari gets the rebound and pushes it up (I love that George Karl didn’t call a timeout here, he told his team to play) and Gallinari passes to Iguodala. The Warriors have a foul to give and Jack tries to use it while Iguodala tries to go into the shooting motion. The referees called it a shooting foul and while they reviewed this all they can review is if it is a three or not. Which is good for Denver because the replay showed it was not a shooting foul, but the refs can’t reverse that.

So Iguodala has three free throws to tie the game with just 3.4 seconds left. He drains the first. He drains the second. But the third clangs off the rim, however it goes out of bounds of Lee. And Denver gets a last chance.

106-105, 2.1 seconds left, Denver ball side out of bounds. Andre Miller is making the pass and while the rest of the Nuggets try to come to the ball Lawson runs basically a football curl route on the weakside and Miller tries to hit him with a pass so he is isolated but the entire thing never comes together or looks like it had a chance to. But the ball is off Golden with 0.5 seconds left.

Denver gets one last chance and somehow the Warriors and their spotty defense all night lose track of Iguodala who gets the pass catches and shoots and drains the three — but replay shows it still on his finger tips as the red lights go on and time expires. It was as close as can be but it was the right call.

The Warriors got lucky, and they got the win.

Report: Leaders in Lakers’ locker room think team ‘only a couple of players away’ from contending

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There’s a sense of optimism around the Lakers: They have won 5-of-6 and are expected to have both Anthony Davis and LeBron James healthy Monday night, plus Russell Westbrook has found a role and comfort level off the bench and other players are settling into roles. They may be 7-11, but it’s early enough there is a sense this could be turned around.

That is echoed by “locker room leaders” who think the team is just a couple of players away from being a contender in the West (where no team has pulled away), reports Dave McMenamin at ESPN.

There is belief shared by leaders in the Lakers’ locker room, sources said, that the team is only a couple of players away from turning this group into a legitimate contender. But acquiring the right players could take multiple trades.

Let’s unpack all of this.

• “Leaders in the Lakers’ locker room” means LeBron and Davis (both repped by Rich Paul). Let’s not pretend it’s anything else.

• If the Lakers don’t make a move to significantly upgrade the roster, how unhappy will those leaders become? How disruptive would that be?

• It is no coincidence that McMenamin’s report comes the day the Lakers face the Pacers, a team they went deep into conversations with this summer on a Myles Turner/Buddy Hield trade, but Los Angeles GM Rob Pelinka ultimately would not put both available Lakers’ first-round picks (2027 and 2029) in the deal and it fell apart. Turner said the Lakers should “take a hard look” at trading for him. The thing is, the Pacers are now 11-8, not tanking for Victor Wembanyama but instead thinking playoffs, so are they going to trade their elite rim protector and sharpshooter away? Not likely. At least not without an overwhelming offer, and the Lakers’ two picks may not get there anymore.

• While Westbrook has found a comfort level coming off the bench (and not sharing the court as much with LeBron), he is still a $47.1 million contract that no team is trading for without sweeteners. To use NBA parlance, he is still a negative value contract, even if it feels less negative than a month ago.

• Are the Lakers really a couple of players away from contending? While they have won 5-of-6, three of those five wins came against the tanking Spurs, the others were against the so-injured-they-might-as-well-be-tanking Pistons, and the Nets before Kyrie Irving returned. The Lakers did what they needed to do and thrived in a soft part of the schedule, but that schedule is about to turn and give the Lakers a reality check on where they really stand. After the Pacers, it’s the Trail Blazers (likely still without Damian Lillard), then an East Coast road trip that includes the Bucks, Cavaliers, Raptors and 76ers. The next couple of weeks will be a better marker for where the Lakers stand, and if they can build off of the past couple of weeks.

Dallas Mavericks near agreement to sign Kemba Walker

Oklahoma City Thunder v New York Knicks
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Looking for help spacing the floor and with secondary shot creation behind Luka Doncic, the Dallas Mavericks are turning to Kemba Walker.

Marc Stein was first with the news the sides were close to a deal, but since then multiple reports — plus comments from team owner Mark Cuban — confirmed it is happening.

This will be a veteran minimum contract (all the over-the-cap Mavericks can offer). To create the roster spot, the Mavericks will waive Facundo Campazzo, who was signed a few weeks ago and has barely touched the court for the team.

Walker averaged 11.6 points and 3.5 assists a game playing solidly in stretches for the Knicks last season, but the concern was his staying on the court — he appeared in just 37 games due to ongoing knee problems. Walker spent the offseason working on getting past those, but the Knicks traded him to Detroit for picks, but the Pistons were stacked at the point guard spot (at least before the season and injuries hit Cade Cunningham), so they bought out his $9.2 million for this season.

Walker worked to convince teams he still had plenty in the tank, but it was always going to take a situation where a team reached a certain level of desperation. Enter the Mavericks.

Doncic calls Antetokounmpo ‘the best player in the NBA right now’

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It was a matchup of two of the NBA’s top five players and two guys high in the way-too-early mix for MVP this season: Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic.

Doncic carried the Mavericks again with 27 points on 10-of-20 shooting plus 12 assists.

Antetokounmpo was a force of nature with 30 points on 11-of-19 shooting plus 11 rebounds, plus he had more help around him leading the Bucks to a 124-115 win.

There is a mutual admiration society between these two players, and after the game Doncic called Antetokounmpo the best player in the NBA. Via Jack Maloney at CBS Sports.

“Enjoy [competing against him] is hard because I want to win, so it’s hard to go against a guy like that,” Doncic said after the Mavericks’ fourth consecutive defeat. “He’s the best player in the NBA right now. He’s almost impossible to stop. It’s really fun to see him play, but it’s not that fun to go against him.”

Antetokounmpo had praise for Doncic as well.

“That’s a great compliment and I appreciate that,” Antetokounmpo said. “When you play against the best players in the league, being able to say something like that feels good. No matter wins or losses, just being respected by your peers, it’s always a good feeling.”

We have many years of these two players testing each other, and someday it may be Antetokounmpo calling Doncic the best in the NBA.

Three things to know: The Warriors are starting to look like the Warriors again

Golden State Warriors v Minnesota Timberwolves
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Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA must-watch.

1) The Warriors are starting to look like the Warriors again

About that slow start in the Bay Area…

Over their last 11 games, the Golden State Warriors are 8-3 with a top-10 in the league offense and defense and a +4.5 net rating (fourth best in the league over that stretch). The latest win was Sunday’s destruction of the stumbling Timberwolves, 137-114, a game that saw the Warriors up by more than 20 in the first quarter and never truly threatened again.

“I think we’re starting to put it together and if we can keep building at this rate, you know, we’ll be poised for a run pretty soon here,” Draymond Green said.

All season long the Warriors have had Stephen Curry playing at an MVP level, carrying the team. So what has changed over the past few weeks that has the Warriors rolling? Three things.

First, Steve Kerr started staggering the rotation and separating Green’s and Curry’s minutes some, something he tried not to do much in the past. It’s one way Kerr dealt with the fact the Warriors’ bench has struggled (getting Donte DiVincenzo healthy helped as well). Curry now stays in for the entire first quarter, while Green gets his first rest about the five-minute mark, then Curry sits to start the second and Green returns to play with more of a bench unit (both stars finish the quarter together on the court).

“I’ve said for years Draymond is kind of the heartbeat of our team,” Kerr said. “He’s the guy who kind of makes everything go and he’s the motivator, he’s the bully, he protects his teammates on the floor, talks trash. But this guy is just so good at basketball.”

Second, the other way the Warriors dealt with the bench issue was Kerr scaled back the “two timelines” experiment. The idea was that the roles Otto Porter and Gary Payton Jr. filled last season could be filled by the young trio of James Wiseman, Moses Moody, and Jonathan Kuminga. That plan failed spectacularly. Wiseman is now down in the G-League, while Moody is out of the rotation. Kuminga is getting his shot — he played well against the Timberwolves — but has been up and down this season.

“I think we’ve settled into some roles, guys are comfortable now with when they’re gonna play who they’re gonna play with. So I think that’s been helpful,” Kerr said.

Third, Klay Thompson found his legs. He kept saying he needed more time, and whether it was a spark lit by Charles Barkley or Thompson getting off of social media and out of his own head, it’s worked. In his last 10 games Thompson is averaging 20.8 points a game and shooting 46.2% from 3. He is not defending like his old self (and may never again), but he’s back to being a No.2 scoring option on an elite team.

Green would throw in one more reason, the Warriors’ defense is back.

“Most importantly our defense has picked up which allows us to push the pace more,” Green said. “Like it’s one thing to push off makes, which we want to do, but when you’re pushing off a miss and getting a rebound then going, that’s tough to guard because it creates a lot of cross-matching.”

There was no magic bullet for Kerr to fire, it took a number of things to turn for the Warriors to get back to being themselves. But they have now, and the rest of the West should be worried.

2) Doncic says Antetokounmpo is “the best player in the NBA right now”

The Dallas Mavericks had no answers. Not that teams really ever do.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was a force of nature Sunday and dropped 30 with 11 boards on the Mavericks, leading the Bucks to a 124-115 win.

After the game, Luka Doncic called Antetokounmpo the best player in the game. Via Jack Maloney at CBS Sports.

“Enjoy [competing against him] is hard because I want to win, so it’s hard to go against a guy like that,” Doncic said after the Mavericks’ fourth consecutive defeat. “He’s the best player in the NBA right now. He’s almost impossible to stop. It’s really fun to see him play, but it’s not that fun to go against him.”

Antetokounmpo returned the compliment.

“That’s a great compliment and I appreciate that,” Antetokounmpo said. “When you play against the best players in the league, being able to say something like that feels good. No matter wins or losses, just being respected by your peers, it’s always a good feeling.”

Antetokounmpo and Doncic are two of the guys in the early MVP conversation, along with Curry, Jayson Tatum and a few others. It turns out, those first two also have a mutual admiration society going.

3) Clippers Ivica Zubac put up a monster 31 and 29 line against Pacers

No Kawhi Leonard, no Paul George, but the Clippers picked up another win on Sunday knocking off the Pacers 114-100.

Thank Ivica Zubac, who had a monster 31-point, 20-rebound game.

After the game, Zubac was made he fouled out before he could get his 30th rebound and have a 30-30 game.

Quietly, Zubac is having a fantastic defensive season for the Clippers, but like the rest of the team his offense has been up and down as they try to adjust to ever-changing lineups. That Clipper defense locked down the Pacers in the second half, plus Indy was just off shooting 9-of-42 from 3.

Zubac found his offense, the Pacers had no answer for him, and the Clippers have a win and improved to 12-9 because of it.