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.)

Watch Kawhi Leonard dunk all over Giannis Antetokounmpo

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Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors took Game 4 against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday, 120-102.

Things started off okay for Milwaukee but started to peter off as the hometown Toronto crowd got behind their Raptors. The bench continued to show up for Leonard’s squad, and it was Kyle Lowry dueling it out with Antetokounmpo in the first quarter.

Leonard scored 19 points to go with seven rebounds and four steals, and perhaps his most impressive play of the night came early in the third quarter. Running a little two-man game with Marc Gasol, Leonard cut to the basket and wound up dunking all over the Milwaukee star.

Via Twitter:

Leonard appeared to hobble a little bit after his dunk, but he should be ready to go for Game 5 on a Thursday night. Meanwhile, the series heads back to Wisconsin all tied up at 2-2.

The victor of this series will get to take on the Golden State Warriors in the 2019 NBA Finals.

Andre Iguodala says Stephen Curry is the second-best PG ever

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The Golden State Warriors are moving on to the NBA Finals yet again, thanks in large part to the efforts of Stephen Curry. Golden State’s point guard is now heading to his fifth-straight finals, and without Kevin Durant he was a big reason why the Warriors were able to beat the Portland Trail Blazers in just four games.

Of course there is a real worry that Durant won’t be able to play in the NBA Finals, either partially or fully, thanks to a calf injury. If that’s the case, and the Warriors can take home another championship trophy, it could mean great things for Curry’s legacy.

Curry is currently chasing Magic Johnson as the best point guard ever in the eyes of many folks. What might help solidify Curry’s place in history would be an NBA Finals MVP, which he would likely wind up with if Durant is unable to impact the Finals the way he has.

At least for Andre Iguodala, Curry is already the second best point guard of all-time.

Via The Athletic:

“I think he’s the second best ever,” Iguodala said. “I always thought that about him. I knew but other people didn’t know. So I wasn’t surprised when he took over that series. But I always gave Tony Allen credit. Playing against him made you understand the grind of how hard it is to win. It’s supposed to be hard. You’re supposed to have to find another way. It’s supposed to be uncomfortable. He just embraced that. Just ingrained that into his system and it’s been there ever since.”

The real question is what Curry’s legacy will be after these Finals, particularly if they win without Durant. Some people aren’t keen to compare eras, and might never move off of Johnson for that spot. It seems reasonable to say that Curry is already the best shooter of all-time, but June could elevate him even further.

Raptors’ halfcourt defense, big games from Gasol, Lowry evens series with Bucks

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Slow your roll on “these Bucks can challenge Warriors” takes…

They are going to have to get out of the East, first. And that is proving to be more difficult than it looked after two games.

Back home in Toronto, the Raptors slowed the game’s pace down and used an impressive halfcourt defense — the Bucks scored less than a point per possession — to control this game. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 25 points and 10 rebounds, while Khris Middleton had 30 points, but outside those two the Bucks shot 35.4 percent and had just 13 fast break points. It all kept the Bucks offense relatively in check.

Relatively is good enough when everyone is hitting their shots.

Kawhi Leonard had a quiet 19 points, although he did have the dunk of the playoffs all over Antetokounmpo.

Leonard didn’t have to carry the team because everyone in white seemed to be knocking down their shots. Kyle Lowry had 25 points on 11 shots, Marc Gasol had 17 (and his aggressive offense the last two games has stressed the Bucks defense), Nick Powell had 18, Serge Ibaka 17 points and 13 rebounds, and Fred VanVleet had 13 points on six shots. The Raptors bench scored 48 points.

All that led to a 120-102 Raptors win that wasn’t even that close.

The series is now tied 2-2 and heads back to Milwaukee where the best-of-three left starts.

The Raptors continue to defend well in the halfcourt, with the Bucks coring less than a point per possession (0.93) this game. In three of the four games, the Bucks have scored less than a point per possession in the halfcourt, but that only really matters if they can keep Milwaukee out of transition. The Raptors did that at home.

Milwaukee and Mike Budenholzer have leaned on Nikola Mirotic more in recent games, and the Raptors are now attacking him when they have the ball.

Combine that with an aggressive Gasol — he has started taking the shots from three that he hesitated on in the first two games — and his 3-of-6 from deep has become a big problem for Toronto.

Toronto had this in hand much of the second half, so much so that Drake was helping Nick Nurse relax on the sidelines.

The Bucks will also need their other players — Eric Bledsoe, who had 5 points on 7 shots, and Brook Lopez, who had 8 points — to step up in the final games.

The Raptors have found a formula that works, it’s on the Bucks now to adjust.

Kyle Korver says the copier Nets bought with cash from his trade is broken

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Kyle Korver was taken by the New Jersey Nets with the 51st pick in the 2003 NBA Draft. He was traded on draft day by the Nets to the Philadelphia 76ers for cash considerations. The Nets famously — or infamously — used the cash from that trade to purchase an office copier.

More than a decade and a half later, Korver is still playing in the NBA at age 38. And now, thanks to Korver giving the commencement speech at his alma mater Creighton, we have an update on the status of that copier.

Via Twitter:

Kyle Korver does not have a depreciation expense method. He is timeless.