Three Things To Know 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) Karl-Anthony Towns returns and hits game-winning free throws
Karl-Anthony Towns could not have been happier.
“This is what movies is made of,” Towns said postgame (via Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic). “You come back, 51 games missing, sellout crowd, Target Center and you get the ball with seven seconds left, no timeouts. You’ve got to make it. I mean, it doesn’t get better than that. It doesn’t get better than that.”
Towns did make it, well the free throws, anyway. The Hawks’ John Collins fouled Towns on his final shot — something upheld by a review — then KAT sank both free throws to give Minnesota the 125-124 win.
Towns finished with 22 points and showed a little rust shooting 8-of-18 (but hitting 2-of-3 from beyond the arc), which is to be expected after being out since Nov. 28 with a calf strain. The Timberwolves got a needed win in the tight West playoff chase, and did it without Anthony Edwards (still out with a sprained ankle).
The Hawks got hosed on what would have been their chance on game-winning free throws.
There were 3.6 seconds left on the clock after Towns’ free throws and the Hawks called time out to set up an inbounds play. That ended up being a Collins 3-pointer that did not hit the rim, but Atlanta’s Saddiq Bey was in position for the offensive board and appeared to be fouled by Taurean Prince. After the game, referee crew chief Ben Taylor told a pool reporter his crew missed the call.
“On postgame review we see it. It appears that Prince moves back into Bey’s space, and we should have assessed a foul on the play.”
Trey Young finished with 29 points and eight assists to lead Atlanta. The Hawks remain the No.8 seed in the East, one game up on Raptors (they are now three back in the loss column from the No.7 seed Heat, who will be next to impossible to catch).
2) Ja Morant comes off bench in return from suspension, scores 17
Ja Morant was welcomed back with a standing ovation and a roar from the Grizzlies faithful Wednesday night.
“Obviously, I’m thankful and grateful for everybody who has been supporting me during this time,” Morant said, via the Associated Press. “It definitely helped me a lot. Definitely made me feel a little better. Eased everything that’s been going on. Felt good to be back. Super excited and glad we were able to get the win.”
Morant had missed nine games (eight due to a league suspension) following an incident where he flashed a gun in a club and broadcast it on social media. Morant took time away and got counseling in Florida on how to better manage the stress in his life.
He didn’t play hoop or workout much during that time, so he came off the bench and had a minutes limit in his return while he plays himself back into shape. Time away or not, the explosive hops are still there.
Morant finished with 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting in a 130-125 Grizzlies win over the Rockets. Jaren Jackson Jr. continued his hot play with 37 to lead Memphis.
The win put the Grizzlies two full games up on the Kings for the No.2 seed in the West.
3) Luka Dončić scores 30 in return, it’s not enough to beat Warriors
Luka Dončić returned after missing five games with a left thigh strain and it didn’t look like he missed a day — 30 points,17 rebounds, and a couple of ridiculously good assists.
It just wasn’t enough, not with Kyrie Irving out (foot soreness).
In a defense-free game — the losing Mavericks had a 127.6 offensive rating— Stephen Curry and the Warriors had a couple more buckets and picked up the 127-125 win. Curry finished with 20 points, while Jonathan Kuminga led the Warriors with 22.
That’s not what anyone is talking about out of this game. Instead, it’s the bizarre inbounds play that gave the Warriors two easy points.
Toward the end of the third quarter, Golden State’s Anthony Lamb missed a straight-on 3-pointer and the rebound caromed out of bounds. The baseline referee points it would remain the Warriors’ ball, but then instantly transitions into pointing the other direction to call a Mavericks timeout. That confused the Mavericks, who thought he signaled their ball. After the timeout came the inbounds play.
The Mavericks thought it was their ball (although why nobody came down to take the ball out is confusing), and after the game owner Mark Cuban sent out this angry Tweet and said he would file a protest over the game.
Referee crew chief Sean Wright explained the call postgame.
Initially on the floor the original signal was in fact Golden State ball as this can be seen on video. There is a second signal but that signal is for a mandatory timeout that was due to the Mavs.
The Mavericks’ loss drops them a game below .500 and tied with the Lakers for the 9/10 seeds in the West play-in. The Warriors remain the No.6 seed.
Check out more on the Warriors