Five Takeaways from NBA Monday: Stephen Curry drops 51 points, 11 threes on Wizards

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I know you didn’t have time to watch a full slate of NBA games Wednesday, instead choosing to go wild boar curling. We’ve got you covered, here’s what you need to know from Wednesday around the NBA:

1) Stephen Curry show comes to Nation’s Capital: 25 points in first quarter, 11 threes in the game and 51 points. I’ve run out of descriptions for Stephen Curry on the court. He’s simply fun to watch. Even if you’re a Washington Wizards fan — and if so, you should be proud of how well your team played — all you can do is marvel at the what Curry does, and tip your cap. In the first quarter, Curry had 25 points on 9-of-10 shooting overall and 7-of-8 from three (and that one miss was his cleanest look of the lot). Curry set a personal record with 36 first half points, and he finished with 51 on 28 shots, knocking down 11 threes. He’s a basketball magician. The Wizards played one of their better games I’ve seen — John Wall had 41 points and 10 assists — but on a night when Curry is shooting like this and Draymond Green racks up another triple-double (10th this season) there’s nothing you can do. Final score 134-121 Golden State.


2) Kevin Durant from three for the win? There’s nothing Orlando could do to stop it.
The Magic had their chance, Victor Oladipo drove the lane and looked to put a feisty Magic team up on OKC on the Thunder’s home court — Serge Ibaka would have none of that. His length and athleticism let him track Oladipo down and reject the shot. Then smart move by Billy Donovan — if you have Kevin Durant on your team don’t call a timeout and let the defense get set. KD got the ball, created a little space, and the ball touches nothing but nylon. The Magic played well, but the Thunder get the 117-114 win.

3) No Kemba, no problem: Charlotte beats Cleveland. The Charlotte Hornets had a 23-game losing streak to LeBron James led teams, and with Kemba Walker out with a sore knee it seemed like that streak might continue. Especially after the first 24 minutes. Instead, it ended on Wednesday night with a dramatic second-half comeback in Charlotte, 106-97.

In the first half Cleveland seemed to get whatever shot it wanted, putting up 58 points, finishing the half on a 13-1 run, and even getting good defensive play out of Kevin Love. They were steamrolling the Hornets as LeBron was passing out of drives behind his head to Love in the corner. But in the third quarter Jeremy Lin attacked (he had 11 in the quarter and 24 for the game), the Cavaliers took their foot off the gas and coasted, while Charlotte decided to run right at them, off both makes and misses. It put Cleveland back on their heels — often LeBron seemed the only guy back defending the breaks. In a sign of the effort level on the night, Charlotte won the battle on the glass by 21. Cleveland looked like a team still learning, and the Hornets got the kind of win they need to get past Detroit and back in the playoff mix.

4) Andrew Wiggins drops 31, Timberwolves break 14-game losing streak to Clippers. The night before, Andrew Wiggins dropped 30 on the Lakers, but was overshadowed by vintage Kobe Bryant. Wednesday there would be nobody to overshadow him — Wiggins put up 31 points on the Clippers, and the Timberwolves got the win. In the second half Wiggins got help — Karl-Anthony Towns had 17, Ricky Rubio was diving into the crowd to save balls — but Wiggins was the guy the Clippers did not have an answer for and Minnesota won 106-97. Los Angeles looked like a team that missed Blake Griffin.

There was one controversial play — late in the game the Clippers were down two and decided to trap rather than foul immediately — Chris Paul and J.J. Redick trap Rubio just over half court. Redick gets called for the foul, and while it was close you can see a foul there, he bumps him. CP3, frustrated, turns and walks away, and claps his hands — and gets called for a technical foul by Lauren Holtkamp. It was a bad tech, there was no reason to give it, CP3 was not showing up the referee and with :20 seconds left in a close game you want the players showing a little emotion. But Holtkamp has a reputation of taking any perceived slight too personally, and she has a history with Paul — last year after she gave him a technical he got a $10,000 fine saying that maybe this job wasn’t for her. She T’d him up. That’s not why the Clippers lost, but it’s going to be talked about, and Holtkamp was in the wrong.

5) LaMarcus Aldridge scored 36, and the Spurs remained undefeated at home. Why does home court matter so much in the West? Because the Spurs are 27-0 at home now — after a 110-97 win over New Orleans Wednesday — and the Warriors are 22-0. When those teams meet in the conference finals, home court is going to matter. The Spurs stayed perfect at the AT&T Center thanks to a big night from Aldridge, who went up against a good defender in Anthony Davis for chunks of the night.

 

NBA Media Day roundup: Zion looking fit, Ayton sounding reserved, more

Philadelphia 76ers Media Day
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Most of the NBA conducted media day on Monday — some moments turned our head.

Here’s what you need to know from media day around the league — just the highlights. This does not include anything on the Nets — there’s a separate story on them — or the Lakers (there will be a story Tuesday morning out of Lakers’ media day).

• The reports of Zion Williamson being in the best shape of his career appear to be true. HoodieBev has the recipts.

We’ll see if this translates to the court — there’s a lot of pressure on him — but Zion looks like he’s put in the work.

• Speaking of players who looked in better shape, James Harden looked slimmed down. He joked he lost 100 pounds, but he also talked about his diet and exercise regimen.

Deandre Ayton got a four-year, $132.9 million contract extension this summer, but not because the Suns were handing it out. Ayton had to get the Pacers to make the offer (which is why he doesn’t have a five-year deal) and then the Suns matched it. Ayton is a guy with a usually upbeat personality, but when asked about his new contract, it was a short answer and a low-key tone.

Coach Monty Williams and All-Star Devin Booker both talked about how they expect Ayton to use the contract as motivation and come out with a monster season. We’ll be watching.

• The Suns’ players and coach had to all answer the “what did you think of the Robert Sarver investigation report?” question, and the answers were unanimous — they were disgusted, saddened, and felt for those (especially the women) who had to deal with his behavior. They also to a man said they had no idea (which, at least before the original ESPN report, may have been true; how he acted around players and those on the business side appears to be different).

• All the Celtics were asked about their former coach Ime Udoka’s season-long suspension, and Marcus Smart summed up the sentiments well — “it’s been hell.” They were caught off guard like much of the NBA was. That said, to a man, they backed interim coach Joe Mazzulla.

• With P.J. Tucker out in Miami there has been a lot of talk about Jimmy Butler playing the four, especially to close games. Butler himself shot that down, saying he is not a four.

The Heat continue to look for a trade for a four, but may not have one to start the season.

• At his end-of-season media session last May, Pat Riley said Kyle Lowry needed to show up in better shape this season. It appears Lowry did, but did it motivate him? “It’s whatever… everyone has their opinion.”

• It’s not media day unless Kawhi Leonard is laughing.

As for Leonard and load management this season, coach Tyronne Lue said he would play it by ear. But also, expect some.

 

Report: Heat, Celtics, Mavericks, Grizzlies may show interest in Crowder trade

2022 NBA Playoffs - 	Dallas Mavericks v Phoenix Suns
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The Phoenix Suns had media day on Monday, but veteran Jae Crowder was not there, part of a mutual agreement with the team to sit out until a trade could be found. It left players and GM James Jones addressing the issue.

What teams are interested in Crowder? Shams Charania of The Athletic says to watch for the Heat, Celtics, Mavericks and Grizzlies among others.

Miami has been at the front of the line in terms of interest (and Crowder has suggested online he would welcome a return to Miami). The Heat have minutes to fill at the four after P.J. Tucker left for Philly and Crowder — who was on the Heat team that went to the bubble Finals against the Lakers — would be a solid fit. Putting together a trade is a little more tricky. The Heat would likely want Duncan Robinson at the core of the deal, but to make the salaries match the Suns would have to throw in another player — Dario Saric, Landry Shamet, Cameron Payne, Torey Craig — and that means the Heat have to throw in a pick (a protected first) or a minimum-contract player (Gabe Vincent?) to make the deal work. Not impossible, but not likely.

The Celtics need depth at the four but what they can offer is bench minutes, filling Danilo Gallinari‘s role (he is out for the season with a torn ACL) but putting together a trade is next to impossible financially considering who Boston would be willing to give up (not Robert Williams). Dallas could put together a deal if the Suns are interested in Dwight Powell (probably not, the Suns just paid Deandre Ayton a lot of money to be their center) or Reggie Bullock. Memphis could send out the dead money of the Danny Green contract (out for the season due to injury) and picks, or Ziaire Williamson and some minimum players (probably also with picks). Atlanta, Chicago and other destinations have come out in rumors.

As for why Crowder pushed for a trade, the man himself posted his own hype video on Instagram and Tweeted this.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported the most heard speculation around the league as to the reason — the Suns were going to start Cameron Johnson at the four to have more shooting and Crowder wanted none of that — but the reason now is moot. Crowder will get traded.

The only questions are when and where.

Durant, Irving talk about Nets moving on from ‘very awkward’ summer, but drama continues

Brooklyn Nets Media Day
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Media Day — arguably the most boring and tedious day on the NBA calendar — was anything but in Brooklyn.

After a summer Kyrie Irving admitted was “very awkward” — where both he and Kevin Durant pushed to be traded, and Durant threw down an ultimatum saying it was him or coach Steve Nash and GM Sean Marks — everyone was back under one roof and trying to stay on message about just wanting to win.

But drama will follow this team like a dark cloud until they force the conversation to be about something else. Like how many games they are winning.

Until then, the awkward questions and moments will come. For example, why did Kevin Durant ask for a trade this summer? What did he want to see changed? He talked about the team feeling unstable last season. Which it was (for a variety of reasons).

“My whole thing was, I wanted everybody to be held accountable for their habits as a basketball player. I think a lot of stuff was getting swept under the rug because we’re injured or this guy’s not around or just the circumstances. I thought we could have fought through that a little bit more and focused on the guys that were here a little bit more.

“You know, when I went out with the injury, we lost 10 in a row. And I’m like, we shouldn’t be losing some of these games that we lost, regardless of who’s on the floor. So I was more so worried about how we’re approaching every day as a basketball team. And I felt like we could have fought through a lot of the stuff that I felt that held us back.”

Those are the best, drama-free answers he could give. But Durant still loves to stir the pot on Twitter and did so later in the day.

(That was the question asked boiled way down, but both the question and Durant’s answer had a lot more context, it was not a confrontational answer in the moment.)

Kyrie Irving said there were options for him this summer, although limited ones, because he is unvaccinated. He also talked about the reasons he wanted to return to the Nets.

Marks handled the inevitable “your star wanted you fired” questions as well as he could, saying at one point “that’s pro sports.”

“Everybody’s entitled to their opinions and I think from us, it’s not to hold a grudge against what Kevin said, but it’s a little bit of saying, ‘All right, if that’s the way he feels, what’s going on here?’ Like, what do we need to change?” Marks said.

In the end, everyone talked about moving on and the potential for this roster. Durant is not disappointed to be back.

“I wasn’t disappointed. I still love to play. I knew that wasn’t going to get affected regardless of what happened this summer,” Durant said.

The Nets have the talent on the roster to be title contenders, but have more questions than any other team at that level after the past couple of years: Can Durant stay healthy? Will Irving be focused and committed for an entire season? How does Ben Simmons fit in and what is his role? Can their thin frontcourt hold up? Will they play enough defense? Is Steve Nash up to the task? Does this team have the will and drive to be contenders?

Playing through the drama is the only way to answer all those questions, but if they do this team could be a powerhouse.

PBT Podcast: Golden State Warriors season preview

2022 NBA Finals - Golden State Warriors v Boston Celtics
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The Golden State Warriors will enter the season hanging banner number four from this era and passing out their championship rings, but this is a team with more questions than most returning champs.

Otto Porter and Gary Payton II are gone and their minutes will go to a young core — Jordan Poole, Moses Moody, Jonathan Kuminga, James Wiseman — who are going to be asked to carry a larger load. Particularly during the regular season.

Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area joins Kurt Helin of NBC Sports to break down this coming Warriors season, what to expect, and if the young core can get the older vets to the playoffs rested and ready to defend their title. There’s also talk of what comes next in Golden State, as some hard contract choices are coming in the next few years.

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.