Thursday Summer League Notes: Dion Waiters puts up some numbers

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The Summer League tournament continued on Thursday, with some teams playing their last game in Vegas. Here are a few notes from the action.

• Dion Waiters finally broke out of an ugly slump with a good half of basketball.

Waiters had been shooting 29.5 percent through three Summer League games, plus he was turning the ball over too much. But Thursday he looked great in the first 20 minutes, hitting making 7-of-10 from the field for 15 points. He looked like what we expected, a guy capable of dominating at this level.

Of course, in the second half he was jacking up contested everything and went 5-of-13 from the floor. So a return to bad form. But he had 27 points on the night so maybe he can build on it.

• Raptors fans, your backup point guard Dwight Buycks has looked pretty solid all Summer League (he’s averaging 10 assists a game), then he looked fantastic on Thursday — 18 points and 10 assists. He was a Marquette player who bounced around Europe and the D-League sharpening his game, and it shows in Las Vegas.

• Another day, another strong outing for John Henson of the Bucks — 16 points, 13 rebounds. He has had a very good Summer League.

• We also could do the “another day, another strong outing” for Jonas Valanciunas 15 points, 12 rebounds and a couple of nice blocks. He was steady and patient when he got the ball on the block and just backed his man down.

• Another guy who has been pretty impressive all week is Golden State’s Kent Bazemore. Thursday was another example with 25 points on 10-of-21 shooting, (although he was 1-of-6 from three) and he grabbed six rebounds. He’s been the best player on an undefeated team in Vegas, which will get you in the Summer League MVP conversation.

• Dallas forward Jae Crowder tweaked his left ankle in the first half of Thursday’s game and did not return to action. Didn’t look too serious, but they are careful with these thins.

• Michael Kidd-Gilchrist sat out for the Bobcats (soon to be Hornets again) on Thursday. No injury, just a day off.

• Friday is consolation game action — 14 teams play, and it is the last game in Vegas for all of them. The eight teams still standing in the Summer League standings resume action on Saturday.

• Along the consolation game lines, the Trail Blazers have said they will sit all their starters Friday.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
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It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.

Watch Lakers fan drain half-court shot to win $75,000

Indiana Pacers v Los Angeles Lakers
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It might have been the loudest the crypto.com Arena was all night.

Between the third and fourth quarters, Lakers fan Jamie Murry of Downey won $75,000 draining a half-court shot — and he got to celebrate with Anthony Davis.

Murry’s celebration is the best part — with Anthony Davis coming out to celebrate with him (and seeming a little shocked by the hug).

One other big shot fell at this game, but Lakers’ fans didn’t like it as much — Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard drained a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.