Five Things We Learned in NBA Tuesday: Warriors win Pacific Division, may win much more

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If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while finding Jesus in a landslide scar

1) Golden State has won the Pacific Division for the first time since 1976. They could win a whole lot more. As deep and as landmine filled as the Western Conference playoffs will be, the Golden State Warriors are the favorites. They have the most efficient offense in the NBA (109.6 points scored per 100 possessions) and the most efficient defense in the league (97.5 per 100 allowed) — the last team to have both in a season was the 72-win Jordan era Bulls. Tuesday night the Warriors pulled away in the second half to beat Portland and clinch Golden State’s first Pacific Division title since 1976. It happened because Stephen Curry had 33 points (on 22 shots) and a couple times went into his video game mode. It happened because Draymond Green — my pick for Defensive Player of the Year — had 14 points, 11 rebounds, and eight assists in 37 minutes. It happened because the Warriors shot 60.2 percent as a team. It happened because LaMarcus Aldridge is out with a sore hand. It happened because Golden State had 37 assists on 50 made shots. It happened because the Warriors are the best team in the NBA this season. Bar none.

2) Monta Ellis found his shot again, it makes Dallas a much tougher out. When Monta Ellis gets going Dallas is almost impossible to stop. You still have to pay attention to Dirk Nowitzki and Chandler Parsons, and something has to give. Ellis has been up and down in recent games, but he was on Tuesday night, and the Spurs paid the price. Ellis had 38 points — 23 in the second half — and was doing it by getting to the rim and knocking down his midrange shots. Consider Dallas beating San Antonio your daily reminder that the Western Conference playoffs will be amazing. Well, amazing for us fans, I don’t envy the coaches.

3) Khris Middleton is a thing, hits game winner to beat Miami. This summer Khris Middleton is going to be a good litmus test for how closely you follow the NBA. Middleton is a restricted free agent who is going to get PAID. Like max or close to it paid. He’s the darling of a lot of front offices and every team could use a guy like him. The Bucks likely match, but he will be making bank next year. Your friends who don’t follow the NBA will say “who?” and you’ll try to explain how he’s a fantastic “3 and D” player, he’s a guy who just a huge plus for your team on the court (the advanced stats love him), and he can evolve into much more. Or, you can just show them this shot to beat the Heat.

4) Toronto’s defense is a mess (and they would seriously miss Kyle Lowry). Toronto Raptors fans are awesome — they took over the Palace at Auburn Hills and turned Detroit’s court into a Raptors’ home game. Right now, that is the only thing that is awesome about Toronto. Their defense is a disaster — they allowed Detroit to score at a 119.3 points per 100 possessions pace Tuesday (in a Detroit win). For the month of March, the Raptors are allowing 110.5 points per 100, the worst in the NBA. Their offense has bailed them out a few times, but now they could be without All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry for a while. He played just 11 minutes due to back spasms and hinted he is going to miss a little time to let it heal before the playoffs.

5) Just your weekly reminder DeMarcus Cousins is a beast. Philadelphia is a pretty good defensive team this season (it’s the other end of the court that’s the real issue) but they had no answer for DeMarcus Cousins in beast mode Tuesday. Cousins had 33 points (on 8-of-27 shooting), plus four blocks and four steals. He is just so strong he can do whatever he wants down low, and if you bring the double he’ll beat you with the pass. (And this video below doesn’t even get into his strong defense on the night.)

Jaren Jackson Jr. out for at least two weeks for Grizzlies

Jaren Jackson Jr. and Gordon Hayward
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The Memphis Grizzlies announced that Jaren Jackson Jr. suffered a sprained left knee late during the second quarter of Friday’s game vs the Los Angeles Lakers:

Memphis says Jackson will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

In his second year, Jackson has been a big part of the Grizzlies surprising success. Memphis is currently in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with a record of 28-28. Jackson has proven to be an ideal running mate for rookie point guard Ja Morant, as the Grizzlies have rebuilt quicker than anyone expected.

With Jackson out, Memphis will need to replace 16.9 points and 1.6 blocks per game. Jackson also regularly functions as the Grizzlies backup center, sliding over to play the pivot when starter Jonas Valanciunas is out.

With Jackson out for at least two weeks, and potentially longer, Memphis will lean on Kyle Anderson and rookie Brandon Clarke at the four. The trickle-down impact may be more minutes for backup center Gorgui Dieng, who was acquired at the trade deadline, up front behind Valanciunas. In addition, Josh Jackson, who spent the first few months of the season in the G-League, has had a bit of resurgence in recent weeks. With Anderson likely to play more at power forward, Jackson may see even more minutes on the wing.

Ben Simmons out at least through Monday

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Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons‘ troublesome back will keep him out at least through Monday reports NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Serena Winters. Winters reports that Simmons went through testing upon the Sixers return to Philadelphia on Sunday and will have further testing done on Monday:

Simmons missed the first game back from the All-Star break on Thursday due to back soreness. He then exited Saturday night’s game at the Milwaukee Bucks after playing less than five minutes.

Simmons went to his second-straight All-Star game last week. He’s averaged 16.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, 8.2 assists and a league-leading 2.1 steals per game through 54 games this season.

An up-and-down season sees Philadelphia currently fifth in the Eastern Conference. The 76ers are an equal 1.5 games behind Miami for fourth and ahead of Indiana in sixth. The Sixers would love to climb to fourth for homecourt advantage in the postseason, as they’ve been dominant at home with a 26-2 record, while underwhelming on the road at just 9-20.

With Joel Embiid continuing to suffer from injuries, while also having his minutes managed, Philadelphia can’t afford to be without Simmons for long. The 76ers added depth on the wing at the trade deadline with Alec Bucks and Glenn Robinson III, but have little behind Simmons at point guard. Raul Neto started in Simmons’ place on Thursday, but did not play on Saturday until the game was well in-hand for Milwaukee.

Lance Stephenson hopes strong season in China springboards him back to NBA

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The Chinese Basketball Association season is up in the air because of the Coronavirus outbreak. The season is postponed and, while there is talk of restarting it on April 1, there are more questions than answers about that plan right now.

Lance Stephenson was in China playing for the Liaoning Flying Leopards and — as many American scorers can do against the soft defenses in the CBA — put up impressive numbers. Stephenson is hoping to use that as a springboard back to the NBA, reports Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Will it work for Stephenson? Maybe. It only takes one GM looking for a little scoring punch down the stretch to buy-in.

However, GMs also know the numbers are inflated in China and it doesn’t translate to being able to do the same thing in the NBA. Jimmer Fredette is example 1A. Or, here are the top five scorers in the Chinese league so far this season:

1. Dominique Jones (Jilin Northeast Tigers) 37.8
2. Joe Young (Nanjing Monkey Kings) 35.9
3. Darius Adams (Qingdao Eagles) 34.9
4. Tyler Hansbrough (Sichuan Blue Whales) 32.3
5. Jonathan Gibson (Jiangsu Dragons) 31.2

All of those guys, and a lot more, would like to use China as a springboard back to the NBA. That, however, is proving to be a long leap.

Bulls’ coach Jim Boylen unapologetic about late-game timeouts in decided games

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Saturday night, Chicago was about to lose its eighth straight game, down 112-102 to Phoenix with 30.2 seconds remaining, when Bulls coach Jim Boylen called a timeout. Boylen extended a decided game, and the Bulls’ embarrassment at home, and it apparently did not sit well with Zach LaVine.

Why call the timeout? Here is what Boylen said postgame, via K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

“We were just trying to get a 3, execute an action we’ve been working on,” Boylen said. “I think their pressure on our inbounds hurt us all night. We had a hard time getting the ball into actions.”

Boylen sees a teaching moment. Whether the players are tuned into him and he can effectively teach anything at that point in the game is another question entirely, one Boylen does not care about. LaVine was asked about it postgame but just laughed it off as Boylen being Boylen, but noted that’s not a good time to make a point.

“That’s what he do, man,” LaVine said, laughing. “I don’t know what to tell you. I’m not the coach. He told me he likes working on things we do in practice and things like that. He’s the coach. He can call timeout if he wants to.

“I just wish we were in the game. We played a really good game throughout the game and then we lose control. It’s just frustrating. Obviously, you never know what can happen type thing. But you’re down by 10 with 30 seconds left, it’s tough to stay locked in at the end of that.”

This is far from the first time Boylen has called a late-game timeout in a decided game. Darnell Mayberry counted four times he has done it — in February.

This speaks to the tension within the Bulls organization, something that will make a rebuild even more challenging. Boylen has never been popular with the players — something that can be overcome to a degree if the team is winning, but the Bulls are 19-38 and have lost eight in a row. Evidence shows the players are not responding to the coach, but team president John Paxson LOVES Boylen’s old-school attitude and has his back.

Right now, any free agent of note is going to look at the team, its coach, and if they have good options, take a pass. The team needs to be built up internally, and it’s fair to question if the GarPax front office (which is far more Pax than Gar right now) and Boylen are up to that task. Especially if the players are tuning out the coach.