Three Takeaways from NBA Thursday: When will the Warriors lose a game?

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Just three games on the schedule Thursday night, but if you were watching Rex Ryan get revenge then you missed a few things worth discussing, so here is a little wrap-up of three things to take away from the NBA slate of games:

1) When will the Warriors lose a game? Golden State is 10-0 after knocking off the upstart Timberwolves 129-116 Thursday. The Warriors aren’t just winning, they are dominating, having beaten opponents by an averaged of 17.1 points per game (17.2 points per 100 possessions). They have the top-ranked offense in the NBA and second-ranked defense (based on points per possession, stats via NBA.com). Stephen Curry has come back from his MVP season improved, and the Warriors’ team is not looking to coast through the early part of the schedule. It begs the question:

When will the Warriors lose a game?

Not this Saturday, when they host the lowly Nets. Probably not next Tuesday when they host Toronto (if DeMarre Carroll is back for the Raptors that game gets more interesting, but I’ll still take the Warriors). However, then comes a three-game stretch where I think the Warriors stumble for the first time.

Thu, Nov 19: at L.A. Clippers
Fri, Nov 20: Chicago Bulls
Sun, Nov 22: at Denver Nuggets

The Clippers are legit and — if Paul and Redick are healthy — they are capable of beating the Warriors on a given night. The Bulls still may be figuring rotations/chemistry out, but they are sixth in the NBA in defense, they have flashes of great offense, and with the Warriors on the second night of a back-to-back this could be the game. Denver has been middle of the pack on offense and defense, but they have shown flashes, and it’s the third game in four nights for the Warriors, plus this game is being played at altitude in Denver. That could lead to a one-off performance.

If they don’t stumble in those three and get to what would be 15-0, then it could be a little while as the schedule softens up. And at that point I’ll start entertaining a discussion of 70+ wins, not before.

2) Just a reminder that Stephen Curry is a basketball-shooting cyborg who cannot miss. Well, he does miss some shots — he was 15-of-25 on his way to 46 points Thursday — but that may just be part of the programming to throw us off, to make him look more human so we don’t get suspicious. Here are all his buckets from Thursday night, you be the judge.

3) Game summary: Blake Griffin got tossed for Clippers, Suns guards could not miss. Nobody should read much into the late TNT game regarding it being predictive. The Clippers started the night without Chris Paul and J.J. Redick, and that gave the Suns’ backcourt of Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight a chance to take over. But there are two things of note from the Suns comfortable win over the Clippers, 118-104.

First, Blake Griffin got ejected, picking up two first-half technicals.

Doc Rivers and the Clippers didn’t like that call, saying the rule about if a player showing up an official is inconsistently enforced (he’ll get fined for that). My take on this is a little more nuanced (and has two parts): First, I don’t think what Griffin did in this specific instance was worthy of a technical, especially not a second one that sends him to the showers. Rivers is right that the rule about what constitutes showing up an official is applied inconsistently. This was a quick trigger — but the Clippers bring this on themselves. That’s the second part of this. No team in the NBA is as demonstrative at whining about calls game in/game out as the Clippers, and Griffin is at the forefront of that (with Rivers right behind him). Griffin’s incessant complaining pushes up against the “showing up the official” line nightly, so he should understand that he’s going to occasionally step over that line. More importantly, his behavior does not endear or make officials give him the benefit of the doubt — they are humans who get sick of being jawed at like anyone. Griffin wears on them nightly, and this is the occasional price. He shares blame here, even if you can say this particular instance was out of line.

The big takeaway: Griffin getting ejected did not decide this game. They were already behind when it happened. Without CP3 and Redick, Suns’ guards Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight took over this game from the start — they combined for 63 points and 13 assists. That’s why the Suns won this game; they got phenomenal guard play that the Clippers could not stop or match. Those two earned the Suns a quality win at home.

Miami guard Goran Dragic doubtful to return to game with foot injury

Goran Dragic injury
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Goran Dragic, like seemingly every member of the Miami Heat, couldn’t find his rhythm in the first half — 3-of-8 shooting, three assists, but some missed defensive assignments as the Heat started to fall behind.

Part of that may have been a foot injury — Dragic did not come out for the second half and his return is doubtful with a left foot injury, the Heat announced.

There are no other details on the injury as of yet.

Tyler Herro started the second half for Miami in his place.

The Heat has struggled with the Lakers length — and Los Angeles can’t miss from three — with that has the Heat down 26 early in the third quarter.

L.A. Lakers will stay big, start Dwight Howard at center

Dwight Howard start
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images
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While it is easy to say the Lakers’ best lineups have Anthony Davis at center, the numbers say the Lakers are best playing big with another player at center and Davis at the four.

That’s how the Lakers will start the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat on Wednesday — and Dwight Howard gets the call, the team announced.

This start was expected, especially after how well Dwight Howard played in the Denver series against Nikola Jokic.

It creates an interesting defensive choice for Erik Spoelstra and the Heat: Do they start Bam Adebayo on Davis and have Jae Crowder on Howard, or reverse that. Adebayo is an All-Defensive Team player who may be the best one-on-one matchup in the league for Davis,  but does Spoelstra want to risk early foul trouble for his star center, and would it wear Adebayo down to have to work so hard on both ends. Expect Crowder to start on Davis and Adebayo to get the key minutes later in the game.

The challenge for the Lakers: Howard fouls a lot.

“Probably fouling,” Laker coach Frank Vogel said when asked what was at the top of the team scouting report for the Heat. “I think they are great at getting to the free throw line. If we can play with discipline, not give them opportunities to shoot free throws, set their defense, that will help us win games, because they are great at getting to the free throw line.”

Howard can’t mess that plan up for Los Angeles. But he’s going to get the chance.

 

Two men charged with taking over NBA player’s social media accounts, selling info

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ASSOCIATED PRESS — A Louisiana man and a Florida man allegedly gained access to professional athletes’ social media accounts and either sold the information or used it to extort payments, according to federal criminal complaints released Wednesday.

Trevontae Washington and Ronnie Magrehbi each face wire fraud conspiracy and computer fraud conspiracy counts filed by the U.S. attorney’s office in New Jersey.

The 21-year-old Washington, of Thibodaux, Louisiana, allegedly obtained usernames and passwords for multiple NFL and NBA players and sold access to the information.

Magrehbi, 20, of Orlando, Florida, allegedly obtained an NFL player’s email and Instagram account information and extorted money by publishing explicit photos of the player and threatening to publish more.

Washington and Magrehbi were scheduled to make initial court appearances Wednesday in their respective states. They were not alleged to have worked together on the scams.

Their alleged victims included two NFL players and one NBA player, all of whom lived in New Jersey at the time of the alleged crimes.

According to the complaint, Washington used a “phishing” scam — requesting login information purportedly for a legitimate purpose — to gain access to the accounts of one NFL player in 2018 and locked the player out of the accounts.

Washington also took over the accounts of at least two other players, and acknowledged to investigators after his arrest last year that he had sold access to players’ accounts for between $500 and $1,000 each, the complaint alleged.

Magrehbi also used phishing to take over the social media accounts of an NFL player living in New Jersey in 2018 who eventually paid him $500, according to the complaint.

A few days later, explicit images of the player were posted to his Twitter and Instagram accounts and he was asked for an additional $2,500 to prevent the publishing of additional photos, the complaint alleged. The request came from a prepaid cellphone linked to Magrehbi, according to the complaint.

Court personnel for the Eastern District of Louisiana didn’t provide information on an attorney representing Washington. A message was left Wednesday at the Middle District of Florida seeking attorney information for Magrehbi.

Wire fraud conspiracy is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Computer fraud conspiracy has a five-year maximum sentence.

LeBron James, Anthony Davis have two of top three selling jerseys during bubble

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The Los Angeles Lakers have the biggest, most popular brand of any NBA franchise. LeBron James is the biggest brand of any active NBA player, nationally and globally.

Combine them and it sells a lot of jerseys.

LeBron sold more jerseys during the NBA restart in Orlando than any other player, the NBA announced Wednesday, hours before LeBron and his Lakers tipped off in the NBA Finals. LeBron’s teammate, Anthony Davis, was third on the list. Here is the list released by the NBA.

Top 15 Most Popular NBA Jerseys

1. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
2. Luka Dončić, Dallas Mavericks
3. Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers
4. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
5. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
6. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
7. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets
8. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
9. Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers
10. Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat
11. Kemba Walker, Boston Celtics
12. Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets
13. Russell Westbrook, Houston Rockets
14. Nikola Jokić, Denver Nuggets
15. Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies

A few notes of interest:

• The sixth and seventh best selling jerseys were players who did not suit up in the bubble, Curry and Durant.
• Rookie Ja Morant sold the 15th most jerseys, making his first appearance on this list, while Zion Williamson did not make the top 15.
• Second is the highest Luka Doncic has ever finished on this list, his spectacular play in the bubble helped spike his popularity.
• These results are based on NBAStore.com sales from July 30 through Sept. 28.

Top 10 Most Popular Team Merchandise

1. Los Angeles Lakers
2. Boston Celtics
3. Chicago Bulls
4. Miami Heat
5. Golden State Warriors
6. Toronto Raptors
7. Dallas Mavericks
8. Milwaukee Bucks
9. Portland Trail Blazers
10. Denver Nuggets