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Five Takeaways from NBA Monday: Tristan Thompson saves Cavaliers’ night

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If you missed everything in the NBA Monday because you were bathing in beer at a spa, we understand. We’ve got you covered, here’s what you need to know from a Monday around the Association:

1) With the game on the line, the Cleveland Cavaliers turn to… Tristan Thompson? It worked Monday. This was not a game that left viewers with the sense the Cavaliers have found their groove again — their offense down the stretch was far too much isolation and leaned too heavily on LeBron James, their defense seemed scrambled at times, and it certainly wasn’t pretty. It’s the kind of grinding game good teams find a way to win, however, and the Cavs blue-collar worker Tristan Thompson came through when needed. He had 10 points in the fourth quarter and he put the Cavaliers up two with a little four-footer off a LeBron assist with 39 seconds to go. Then when George Hill tried to drive to tie up the game on the Pacers’ next possession, it was Thompson again to save the day.

Cleveland had a late 7-0 run to secure the 100-96 win. LeBron had 33, Kyrie Irving had 22, and the Cavaliers got a needed win.

2) John Wall puts up 37 to make sure Wizards get a win over Sixers, stay in the playoff chase. Chicago, Charlotte, Indiana, and Detroit are all in a virtual tie for the final three playoff spots in the East — one of those teams is going to be left out of that party. Right now, the Wizards are trying to crash that party and force a couple of teams to be left out — they are 1.5 games back of those four, but Washington has the easiest schedule in the NBA the rest of the way. They just have to make sure they win those “easy” games. Monday night that meant John Wall going off 16 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter, helping spark a 16-0 Wizards run in the final frame to help the Wizards come from behind and get the win over lowly Philadelphia. Right now for Washington, a win is a win and they shouldn’t apologize for any of them.

3) That’s the Bucks we hoped for this season: Antetokounmpo, Middleton, and Parker all go off in Milwaukee win over Houston. This is the kind of step forward we’d been hoping to see from Milwaukee all season. Jabari Parker: 36 points (a career high), 5 assists, 4 rebounds. Khris Middleton: 30 points, 5 steals, 4 assists. Giannis Antetokounmpo: 18 points, 17 rebounds, 11 assists, 4 steals (we’ll see if the NBA’s reviewed stats let the Greek Freak keep the triple-double, it took his last one away because of some generous hometown scorekeeping as to what qualifies for an assist, and that may have happened again). The Bucks handled a Houston Rockets team that needs wins badly 128-121 and it felt like this was just a sample of what the Bucks could do nightly in the future. Milwaukee answered every scoring barrage James Harden and Dwight Howard could throw at them. It was fun to see — I just hope this wasn’t a one-off and we get to see a lot more of these Bucks down the line.

4) DeMarcus Cousins keeps his cool (barely); Russell Westbrook and Thunder get the win. Stephen Adams was trying to instigate — it’s what he does. He tried to get under players’ skin, and DeMarcus Cousins almost got suckered in by it and did something foolish — he cocked back his arm to throw a punch — but thought better of it and walked away. Adams was called for a penalty, although the Kings got a “delay of game” out of this and I’m not exactly sure for what. Still, good on Cousins for walking away (he did have a technical on the night already, his 14th this season).

In the end, the Thunder’s stars were too much. Kevin Durant had 27, Russell Westbrook finished with 20 points, 15 assists, and 13 rebounds, and the Thunder picked up a win in Sacramento 131-116.

5) The Clippers’ halftime show: Unveil strange new mascot, have Steve Ballmer dunk. Top this, Red Panda. The Los Angeles Clippers, at halftime of their eventual win over Brooklyn, first unveiled their new mascot Chuck The Condor. Which I’m not sure really looks like a condor, or much of anything else.

Not long after this, Chuck dunked off a trampoline.

Then 59-year-old Clippers’ owner Steve Ballmer dunked off a trampoline.

Let’s see Jim Buss top that.

Report: Gary Harris, Torrey Craig and Michael Porter Jr. not with Nuggets at Disney World

Nuggets players Gary Harris and Torrey Craig
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Nikola Jokic was delayed in joining the Nuggets after testing positive for coronavirus in Serbia.

Gary Harris, Torrey Craig and Michael Porter Jr. apparently aren’t with Denver, either.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

The Nuggets closed their facility two weeks ago after positive coronavirus tests. At least a week prior to that, a Western Conference playoff team reportedly had four positive coronavirus tests.

Are either of those events related to these absences?

The NBA has shown a disturbing lack of transparency around its restart.

When the season got suspended, Denver looked like a good regular-season team that’d face issues adapting to a playoff style. Now, who knows how the Nuggets will be when the season resumes? There’s so much roster uncertainty.

Harris is Denver’s starting shooting guard, and Craig and Porter have been rotation-level backup forwards. Both Harris (on smaller players) and Craig (on bigger players) have been defensive standouts with lackluster offense. Harris’ shooting struggles have been a major disappointment. For Craig, they’re an accepted limitation. Porter has shown flashes as a superb scorer, but he’s still raw.

Who knows if and when these three will join the Nuggets? Again, the lack of transparency has been frustrating. But Harris, Porter and Craig missing time would be a major setback for Denver.

Rockets star Russell Westbrook says he tested positive for coronavirus

Rockets star Russell Westbrook
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Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Luc Mbah a Moute didn’t travel with the Rockets to Orlando for the NBA’s resumption at Disney World.

Westbrook says he tested positive for coronavirus:

It’s good that Westbrook is feeling well. And, once he had coronavirus, it’s good he tested positive before the team departed. He can quarantine in the comfort of his own home rather than a hotel room. He didn’t risk spreading coronavirus during the flight.

When will he join the Rockets? That’s tough to say. He must clear coronavirus first, and it’s unclear how long he has had it. Then, upon arrival at Disney World, he faces an in-room quarantine. The length of that can vary.

With Harden as the centerpiece, Houston has built its secondary attack around Westbrook’s aggressive style. The Rockets’ unique center-less approach is a direct response to Westbrook’s minus outside shooting. Empowered by spacing later in the season, Westbrook has really thrived.

He’d be a huge loss. Houston could go from a championship-contending wildcard to one-man show – or less.

This revelation also raises questions about Harden and Mbah a Moute, whose late arrivals haven’t been publicly explained.

Report: Rockets’ Bruno Caboclo violates quarantine, must remain in room 10 days

Rockets forward Bruno Caboclo
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Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard and 76ers star Joel Embiid expressed doubt about players following the NBA’s protocols in the bubble.

See Rockets forward Bruno Caboclo.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:

Players first arriving at Disney World is one of the most perilous times in the NBA’s plan. A player leaving his initial quarantine with coronavirus could undermine the whole operation.

The league has no practical choice but to be strict.

James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Luc Mbah a Moute didn’t arrive with the rest of the Rockets in Orlando. This makes four players who are behind in their ability to build chemistry and train with their teammates. At least Caboclo is just four days away from being four days away – major progress for him.

Houston has already clinched a playoff spot. But there’s some danger of slipping to the No. 7 seed and facing the powerful Clippers in the first round. So while they don’t have the most urgency for the seeding games, the Rockets are playing for something in the seeding games.

Lakers star LeBron James: #FreeWOJ!!

Adrian Wojnarowski
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Missouri U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley sent out a press release complaining about the NBA’s list of approved social-justice messages for jerseys.

ESPN NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski replied to the email, “F— you.” (Wojnarowski did not censor the first word.)

Wojnarowski apologized. ESPN condemned his behavior and, according to Andrew Marchand of the New York Post, suspended him two weeks.

Several NBA players have publicly supported Wojnarowski:

Lakers star LeBron James:

Clippers guard Lou Williams:

Clippers guard Patrick Beverley:

Nuggets guard Jamal Murray:

Heat big Bam Adebayo:

Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie:

Kings forward Harrison Barnes:

Pacers center Myles Turner:

Grizzlies forward Anthony Tolliver:

Wizards wing Troy Brown Jr.:

Trail Blazers guard Jaylen Adams:

LeBron’s message is particularly notable.

Obviously, he’s the NBA’s biggest star. His words carry weight.

Wojnarowski also has a long history of harshly criticizing LeBron. Here are just a few examples.

But if he can get over The Letter from Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, LeBron can probably get past anything written about him.