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Five Takeaways fro NBA Wednesday: Golden State survives and advances

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The takeaways have been on a vacation for a few days. Well, I’ve been on a mini-vacation for a few days (if staying with your in-laws is a vacation, that’s up for debate). But we’re back, just in time for another Warriors’ win and more Lakers drama.

1) Warriors clear last likely major hurdle between them and 73 wins by beating Utah. Most fans may have looked at the last weeks of the Warriors schedule and see those two games against the Spurs as what might keep the Golden State from their 73-win goal. I don’t think so. Gregg Popovich is going to rest guys in those games, especially the one on the road. He’s already accepted the two seed and is scaling back, plus he doesn’t want to tip his hand — the Spurs are going to play NFL preseason vanilla sets and defenses in those games.

No, the toughest test was a hot Utah team with its elite defense, when the Warriors were on the second night of a back-to-back. That test was Wednesday night. Utah lived up the billing, getting strong play from Gordon Hayward on pick-and-rolls (21 points), fantastic shooting from Rodney Hood (20 points), and great play clogging the lane on defense from Rudy Gobert (who finally got some quality minutes in the clutch). When Gordon hit a three in the final minute, it seemed like this may be Utah’s night.

But the Warriors did their version of the NCAA Tournament’s survive and advance. They got 31 points from Stephen Curry on some ridiculous shots (see below). They got another tough defensive and balanced game from Draymond Green. And they got the key game-tying shot to force overtime from Klay Thompson (thanks to the hustle of Shaun Livingston getting an offensive board off a miss and kicking it out). The Warriors overcame a cold shooting night from Harrison Barnes (1-of-8 from three), too many sloppy turnovers, and the fact the Marreese Speights/Anderson Varejao platoon at center is not primetime ready. The Warriors survived and are now 68-7. They are going to get to 73 wins, you could see the determination in this game to get it done when they could have just rolled over. But they also looked like a team where the stars could use a little rest, and that is going to be hard for Steve Kerr to balance with the drive for 73.

2) Forget all the drama off-the-court for a minute, Julius Randle hits game winner to lift Lakers over Heat in OT. Lamar Odom was sitting courtside. D'Angelo Russell was a distraction apologizing to teammates and publicly before the game. Kobe Bryant only played one half before sitting out due to general soreness. But somehow the Lakers thrived in all that drama and beat the Miami Heat in overtime thanks to a Julius Randle shot over a couple defenders. For the Heat, this is a blow — they are in the middle of a tight battle for playoff seeding in the East and this is the kind of game they needed to win. Yet Miami couldn’t force turnovers to get easy buckets, and they let the Lakers get points at the line. Then, with the game in the balance, Luol Deng let Randle get back to his left hand (the cardinal mistake in defending Randle right now) and paid the price after Randle hit the shot to win it.

3) Toronto Raptors get to 50 wins for first time in franchise history. This is officially the best Toronto Raptors team ever — no Raptors team has ever gotten to 50 wins. Until Wednesday. The Raptors got 26 points from DeMar DeRozan, and defensively kept the Hawks starters in check, which was enough for a 105-97 win. The Raptors now have a magic number of three to clinch a top two seed.

Still, this team feels like the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals last season — “great regular season guys, congratulations, but until you show me you can do this in the playoffs it’s all just window dressing.” Hopefully for the Raptors this turns out better than it did for the Bengals.

4) Lamar Odom sat courtside for the Heat/Lakers game. Kobe Bryant left him a couple of tickets, and Lamar Odom accepted — he was at the Miami/Los Angeles contest at Staples Center Wednesday. It was good to see him back in an NBA setting where there is still a lot of love for the man who almost lost his life due to an overdose five months ago. He talked with Kobe and Dwyane Wade among others, plus got a huge ovation from the crowd when he was shown on the big screen. Hopefully Odom is handling his demons.

5) Wizards playoff dreams on life support after loss to Kings.
Washington is not playing like a team trying to make a desperate push into the playoffs — they were apathetic as a team Wednesday night in Sacramento. This was a game the Wizards needed, and they came out flat. Washington turned the ball over 20 times. They had no answer for DeMarcus Cousins (29 points, 10 boards). The Wizards are now 3.5 games back of the eight seed Indiana Pacers for the last playoff spot in the East with just seven games to play. Hard to see them making that ground up (which is going to lead to changes come this summer in Washington).

By the way, the Kings got to 30 wins on the season for the first time since the 2007-08 season. Which isn’t exactly something to brag much about, but it’s still a step in the right direction.

Marcus Smart announces he recovered, cleared of coronavirus

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Marcus Smart stepped forward and self-identified as having tested positive for the coronavirus. He wasn’t showing any symptoms and went into self-quarantine, and last we heard was doing well.

Sunday, Smart said that two days ago he was cleared and has fully recovered from the virus.

Most importantly, this is excellent news for Smart and his friends and family (and, by extension, the Celtics). His health is the most important thing in this story.

The NBA has asked recovered players to donate plasma because scientists are hoping to use the blood — which has developed immunities — to help create a vaccine or medicine to slow COVID-19. It’s optional, but the league is encouraging players to help.

There have been 10 players and five NBA off-court staff — including Knicks owner James Dolan — who have tested positive for the disease. Fortunately, none of them have shown any advanced symptoms that required hospitalization.

Colorado junior forward Tyler Bey declares for NBA Draft

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University of Colorado forward Tyler Bey has declared for the 2020 NBA Draft:

The junior averaged 13.8 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game for the Buffaloes. Bey shot 53% from the field overall and 74.3% at the free throw line.

Bey also extended his range a bit in his third year at Colorado. He knocked down 13-of-31 three-pointers (41.9%) on the season. At just six-foot-seven, he’ll need to be able to score from behind the arc to find a place in the NBA.

Most draft analysts have Bey pegged as an early second-round pick. Some thought he could play his way into the back-end of the first-round with strong pre-draft workouts. With the pre-draft process up in the air, NBA front offices may have to make their decisions based on what they’ve already seen in person and on tape.

Stephon Marbury has arrangement to procure 10 million medical masks for New York

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Former NBA player Stephon Marbury told The New York Post that he’s arranged a deal to deliver 10 million N95 medical masks to New York. These masks are much-needed among healthcare workers battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Marbury is having the masks produced at cost in China, where he played the last seven years of his career.

Although Marbury currently lives in Beijing, China, he said “At the end of the day, I am from Brooklyn. This is something that is close and dear to my heart as far as being able to help New York.”

While growing up, Marbury starred at Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn and on New York City’s famed playgrounds. After one year at Georgia Tech, Marbury left for the NBA. The high-scoring guard played for five teams during his 13-year NBA career, including his hometown New York Knicks.

After sitting out for two seasons, Marbury signed to play for the Beijing Ducks in 2011. The move was initially seen as a way for Marbury to prove he could still play at an NBA level. Instead, Beijing became home-away-from home for the New Yorker.

Marbury averaged 21.6 points per game in 271 contests spread over seven seasons with the Ducks.

Georgetown sophomore Mac McClung declares for 2020 NBA Draft

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Georgetown sophomore Mac McClung told ESPN Jonathan Givony that he’s declaring for the 2020 NBA Draft.

McClung first came to national prominence when his high school highlights blew up on YouTube:

In his second season at Georgetown, McClung averaged 15.7 points and 1.4 steals per game. A foot injury in late-January kept McClung out of the lineup for nearly a month. He returned for one game in late-February, but played just eight minutes off the Hoyas’ bench.

The six-foot-two guard is known for his deep shooting range and his highlight dunks. McClung’s shot is inconsistent however, as he shot under 40% in each of his first two seasons at Georgetown. McClung’s defense also needs work.

McClung projects to be a point guard in the NBA, due to his size. To make it as a lead guard, he’ll need to work on his ballhandling and playmaking. With those question marks, McClung is seen as a stretch to be drafted in the second round.

McClung stated he’s signing with an NBA/NCAA approved agent. That will allow him to keep his college eligibility as he goes through the pre-draft process.