Five Things We Learned in NBA Tuesday Night: Anthony Davis, Pelicans deserve to be in playoffs

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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 dreaming about the best part of baseball season, the ballpark food

1) Anthony Davis and his Pelicans deserve to be a playoff team — and as of now they’re in. No doubt, Russell Westbrook has put up numbers this season. But so has Anthony Davis. From Day 1. Davis has averaged 24.4 points on 53.6 percent shooting, pulled down 10.4 rebounds a game and blocked three shots. He leads the league in PER (with a Jordan/Chamberlain-like number) and is fourth in win shares. He deserves MVP consideration.

And the Pelicans are playing like a team that deserves to be in the postseason. On Tuesday night, Davis scored 29 points, pulled down 10 rebounds, plus had four blocks and two steals to lead the Pelicans to a 103-100 victory over a Golden State team that wasn’t resting anyone. That win (combined with the Spurs routing the Thunder) makes New Orleans a playoff team, they are the eight seed half a game up on OKC. The Pelicans got there on Tuesday night because Davis got help: From Quincy Pondexter and his 20 points including 4-of-4 from three; from the officials with a bad call late. (The officiating in this game was shaky both ways.) However, it was the Pelicans playing hard and pushing the best team in the league that made them look like a playoff team. They’re not beating the Warriors in a seven-game series, but it would be entertaining. New Orleans deserves to be there.

2) Oklahoma City is going to need some help to make the postseason. The Spurs are making everyone look bad lately — just ask Steve Kerr and the Warriors — and following that trend San Antonio thrashed Oklahoma City 113-88 Tuesday night. It was a blowout from the opening tip. Gregg Popovich said it wasn’t a fair fight without KD and Ibaka, it didn’t look like it. This felt like the punch that could weaken their knees and bring down OKC’s playoff dreams crashing to the floor. As it is they are half a game back of the Pelicans — and New Orleans has the tie breaker. Meaning the Thunder are going to need a little help to get to the playoffs. Tuesday night, San Antonio did what it did because Kawhi Leonard tied his career record of 26 points — and he played just 24 minutes. All the Spurs’ shooters couldn’t seem to miss. OKC looked outclassed on the night the Pelicans stood toe-to-toe with the league’s best. Only one looked like a playoff team and they now have the upper hand.

3) Clippers move into a tie for three seed in West, but it’s not pretty. The Lakers played harder and frankly looked better than the Clippers for large swaths of Tuesday night. The Lakers seemed embarrassed by their Sunday performance — they should have been — and were looking to turn things around. The Clippers got enough from their starters — and nothing from their bench — to get a 105-100 win. Blake Griffin and J.J. Redick each had 27 points on the night. With that the Clippers moved into a virtual tie for the three seed in the West with Memphis. Those two teams play later Saturday and I would say that game could determine the three seed out West, but the Spurs (just half a game back of Memphis and L.A.) could have a say in that.

4) Miami stays alive in East playoff chase with win. Brooklyn has Brook Lopez playing like a guy who wants to get paid this summer. Indiana has the return of Paul George. Boston has real grit. And through it all the Miami Heat will not go away. Goran Dragic had 28 points, and Luol Deng chipped in 21 in a Heat win over the Hornets Tuesday night, another hard-fought victory. With that, Miami is just half a game back of Boston for the eight seed. Miami has Chicago and Toronto its next two games — those two tough games will determine their playoff chances.

5) Sim Bhullar makes some NBA history. The 7’5″ mountain of a man became the first player of Indian descent to play in the NBA. It wasn’t much to see, just 16 seconds, and it doesn’t mean the NBA is going to take the place of cricket in that country’s hearts. But it’s a step. And you change things one step at a time.

Celtics lock-up Al Horford with two-year, $20 million extension

Washington Wizards v Boston Celtics
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Brad Stevens has locked up the core of this Celtics team — the one that reached the Finals last season and has the best record in the NBA to start this one — through the summer of 2025.

They did that with a two-year, $20 million extension (that kicks in next season). The story was broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and later confirmed by the Celtics.

Horford, 36, is making $26.5 million this season, the final year of a four-year, $109 million deal he signed in Philadelphia. While he never fit well as a stretch four next to Joel Embiid, he has worked well as a role player in Boston’s front line. The Celtics have locked him up at a deal closer to the league average and about his value now, at an average of $10 million a season (both years are fully guaranteed). It’s a fair deal for both sides, and a low enough number that if Father Time starts to win the race it doesn’t hurt Boston much.

With Robert Williams still out following knee surgery, Horford has seen his minutes increase to start this season but he has handled it well, averaging  10.9 points and 6.3 rebounds a game, shooting 55.5% overall and 48.8% from 3-point range. Joe Mazzulla will likely try to get Horford some rest down the line when he can, but for now he’s leaning on the veteran.

And the team has rewarded him.

Donovan says Lonzo Ball’s recovery has ‘been really slow’

Milwaukee Bucks v Chicago Bulls
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Watching the finger-pointing and heated moments between Bulls’ defenders on Wednesday night as Devin Booker carved them up to the tune of 51 points, one thought was how much they miss Lonzo Ball‘s defense at the point of attack.

Ball had a second surgery on his knee back in September and the team said he would be out at “least a few months.” It’s coming up on a few months, so Donovan gave an update on Ball and his recovery, and the news was not good for Bulls’ fans. Via Rob Schaefer at NBC Sports Chicago:

“It’s been really slow,” Donovan said when asked about Ball’s rehab. “I’m just being honest.”

Donovan added Ball has not necessarily suffered a setback. The Bulls knew this would be an arduous process. But he also noted that Ball is “not even close” to being cleared for contact or on-court work.

Ball had his first knee surgery in January and the expectation was he would be back and 100% by the playoffs. However, Ball’s knee didn’t respond well, and he was eventually ruled out for the season. Things didn’t improve over the summer, which led to the second surgery. How much do they miss him? The Bulls were 22-13 with him last season, and he averaged 13.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 5.1 assists, a game. However, it was his defense that was most crucial.

There is no timeline for his return. Which is not good news for Chicago.

PBT Podcast: Timberwolves without KAT, get Luka some help

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Minnesota has stumbled out of the gate this season, and now they will be without Karl-Anthony Towns for around a month with a calf strain. Just how much trouble are the Timberwolves in?

Corey Robinson from NBC Sports and myself discuss that and then get into Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s Team USA vs. Team World matchup — does Evan Fournier get the world team in trouble? Who guards whom?

From there, it’s time for Corey’s Jukebox and some New Orleans jazz for Zion Williamson. Some Mavericks’ talk follows that — Dallas has put a big load on the shoulders of Luka Doncic, and while he’s playing like an MVP it’s a long-term concern for the Mavericks and their fans.

You can always watch the video of some of the podcast above, or listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

LeBron calls out reporters for asking him about Kyrie Irving but not Jerry Jones

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Within days of Kyrie Irving being suspended by the Nets in the wake of a Tweet promoting an antisemitic film (and his initial refusal to apologize for it), Irving’s former teammate LeBron James was asked about it. He had to deal with the controversy, saying, “I don’t condone any hate to any kind. To any race.”

At the end of his press conference Wednesday night after the Lakers beat the Trail Blazers, LeBron scolded the assembled press for not asking him about the 1957 photo that surfaced of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones outside North Little Rock High School while white students protested the integration of the school when they had been quick to ask about Irving.

“When I watched Kyrie talk, and he says, `I know who I am, but I want to keep the same energy when we’re talking about my people and the things they’ve been through,’ and that Jerry Jones photo is one of those moments that our people, Black people, have been through in America. And I feel like as a Black man, as a Black athlete, someone with power and with a platform, when we do something wrong or something that people don’t agree with, it’s on every single tabloid, every single news coverage. It’s on the bottom ticker. It’s asked about every single day.

“But it seems like to me that the whole Jerry Jones situation, the photo, and I know it was years and years ago, and we all make mistakes, I get it. It seems like it’s just been buried under, like, `Oh, it happened. OK. We just move on.’ And I was just kind of disappointed that I haven’t received that question from you guys.”

Irving and LeBron were teammates in Cleveland and won a ring together, there was a direct connection (plus Irving had been linked to the Lakers in trade rumors over the summer).

However, there was a connection between LeBron and the Cowboys as well. LeBron was for many years a very public Cowboys fan (despite growing up in Browns territory). It came up as recently as October, when LeBron was on Instagram Live promoting his HBO show with Maverick Carter “The Shop” and he said he had stopped rooting for the Cowboys in the wake of Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protests, “There’s just a lot of things that were going on when guys were kneeling. Guys were having freedom of speech and wanting to do it in a very peaceful manner…. The organization was like, ‘If you do that around here, then you will never play for this franchise again.’ I just didn’t think that was appropriate.”

When asked about the photo, Jones said he was a curious 14-year-old who was watching and didn’t understand the magnitude of the moment or situation.