Three things we learned Wednesday: Defense? The Warriors don’t need no stinkin’ defense.

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Wednesday night was a full slate of 11 games around the NBA, and despite the fact some of the biggest names — LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Anthony Davis — were given the night off it ended up being a very entertaining show. Here’s what you missed.

1) The Warriors defense remains hit and miss, but with this offense it doesn’t matter.
The Golden State Warriors gave up 121 points on the night. DeMar DeRozan scored 34 points on 18 shots. The Toronto Raptors scored a ridiculously good 118.6 points per 100 possessions (per NBA.com) with a true shooting percentage of 60.5 percent. Toronto’s offense was fantastic Wednesday night.

And they still lost, because the Warriors offense was better. The Warriors won their fifth straight 127-121. Stephen Curry had 35 points, and Kevin Durant added 30, and the Warriors scored at a 121.7 points per 100 pace.

The Warriors are allowing 105.1 points per 100 possessions this season — that’s a bottom 10 defense. It’s up to 107.5 per 100 in their last five. And it doesn’t matter, they won all five of those games, because their offense is evolving into the unstoppable tsunami everyone feared — the Warriors have averaged 121.8 points per 100 in those five, with a true shooting percentage of 65.3 percent. In those five wins, the Warriors have assisted on 74.4 percent of their buckets — they are sharing the rock, playing at a fast tempo (101.2 possessions per game), and generally just running opponents out of the building. They also are getting the shots they want: Against Toronto almost 74 percent of their shots were either at the rim or a three pointer, and 45 percent of their shots were uncontested (according to NBA.com players tracking).

The model for this Durant/Curry version of the Warriors was always that the defense would slip a little but the offense would more than make up for it. That has sort of come true — the offense is everything they could have hoped. They have 70 games to figure out how to defend better before the playoffs put everything to the test. But until then they can shoot their way to a whole lot of victories.

2) Andre Roberson gets in way of Russell Westbrook/James Harden showdown, Thunder win because of it.
So much for the idea of two guys getting triple-doubles in the same game. Russell Westbrook came pretty close to holding up his end with 30 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds — he was the force of nature, the angry Russ we’ve come to expect this season.

James Harden never got close: 13 points on 4-of-16 shooting, 13 assists, seven rebounds, and six turnovers — and you can credit Andre Roberson. The Thunder put their long, best defender on Harden and he gave the bearded one trouble — of Harden’s 16 shots, 13 were contested (according to the NBA.com player tracking stats). Roberson was a disaster on the offensive end all night (2-of-11 shooting) but his defense won them the game, 105-103. Harden’s night might be summed up in the final 20 seconds, when down three he made a fantastic steal to give the Rockets hope, only to turn the ball over when he missed Trevor Ariza on the wing with the pass.

Oklahoma City as a whole found the defense that got them off to a 6-1 start — and just in time for the fourth quarter: Houston went scoreless for the final 6:26 of the fourth quarter until a late three by Eric Gordon which proved meaningless. All of which paved the way for Westbrook to decide not to kill some clock dribbling it out and wait for the foul and instead go for the dagger dunk — and nail it over Clint Capella.

It wasn’t pretty, but after four straight losses the Thunder will take it. Gladly.

3) Too much Marc Gasol at the end and Grizzlies out execute Clippers. I could watch Marc Gasol hit the game winner and do his dance all night long.

The Clippers have been the best defense in the NBA this season and yet David Fizdale’s floor-spacing Grizzlies (that’s just weird to write) thrashed them. Memphis just shot the ball well, starting with Conley (30 points) and Gasol (26), but as a team the Griz hit 15-of-26 threes and they crashed the boards hard. What Memphis has are both a four and a five who can space the floor and that pulled DeAndre Jordan and his rim protection away from the basket. Look at that game-winning three above by Gasol — Conley drove on J.J. Redick and DJ was forced to choose between protecting the rim or staying with his man in the corner. Jordan chose the rim, Gasol nailed the shot, and the Grizzlies all danced. The big problem for the Clippers is that the other top teams in the West — Golden State and San Antonio — both also have fours and fives that can space the floor and force Jordan into tough decisions.

Bonus thing we learned (that we already knew): Take the best player off a team and they can suck.
We got two examples of how teams are just not the same without their star. The big one was Indiana beating Cleveland 103-93 on a night LeBron James was rested. New Orleans has struggled against everybody, but they weren’t a threat to Orlando without Anthony Davis and lost 89-82. I get why teams are resting players, and the Cavaliers can afford to do it and still run away with the East. But there is a cost on the court (and to fans who paid to see those stars).

Report: Celtics were ‘very much enamored’ with Tyler Herro, whom Heat took one pick before Boston

Heat guard Tyler Herro vs. Celtics
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The Celtics – holding the Kings’ first-round pick – lost a tiebreaker with the Hornets and Heat in last year’s draft. Charlotte picked No. 12, Miami No. 13 and Boston No. 14.

The Heat took Tyler Herro No. 13.

A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston:

On NBA draft night last year there was a collective moan among the Boston Celtics brass right about the time the Miami Heat used the No. 13 pick to select Tyler Herro.

The Celtics were very much enamored with the 20-year-old leading up to last June’s draft

The draft is full of smokescreens and disinformation, especially from Boston. So, this can’t be taken as gospel.

But it’s still another fun chapter in the Pat Riley-Danny Ainge rivalry, which includes a previous example of the Heat drafting a player the Celtics coveted.

Herro made the All-Rookie second team and is now helping Miami against Boston in the Eastern Conference finals – no small feat for a rookie.

The Celtics settled for Romeo Langford, who had a far less productive first season and is now out for the year.

Of course, it’s far too early to declare either player will absolutely have a better career than the other. Besides, Boston never chose between Herro and Langford. The Heat got the choice and took the player both teams seemingly agreed was better.

Down 2-1 to Lakers, Nuggets sense a familiar bubble series pattern

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Mike Malone thinks he’s been here before.

Not just down 2-1 in an NBA bubble playoff series and having to come from behind, but the pattern of it — his team getting stronger and figuring things out while the opponent falters.

“This is to me kind of similar to the last series,” Malone said after the Nuggets’ Game 3 victory. “Game 1 the Clippers blew us out. Game 2 we win. Game 3, we felt we gave that game away against the Clippers.

“[The Lakers] blew us out in Game 1. Game 2 we gave away at the end. We had to right that wrong and try to get a game under our belt, which we did tonight. This gives us that much more confidence going into this series letting them know that we’re here, we’re in this for the long haul. We’re going to continue to fight and do whatever we can.”

“You definitely learn more about your opponent, what to try to look for, tendencies, and all that…” Jamal Murray said about why Denver improves as the series gets longer. “Like I said, just taking care of stuff that we can control, whether it’s turnovers, communications, switches, rebounding. Areas that we should control, we got to do that if we want to win. If we’re consistent in our play, like we touched on earlier, we can win a lot of games, put a lot of pressure on other teams.”

Those tendencies and patterns, that history of success, has Denver feeling more and more like this is a series they can win. There is a confidence that is brimming from the Nuggets stars, especially Murray. He has stepped up his game, and it’s not just the three-point shooting — 34.6% in the regular season  47.7% in the playoffs — it’s his aggressive attacks and finishing at the rim. Murry, an inconsistent finisher at the rim even during this regular season, has been lights out when he gets inside in the playoffs. It stems from confidence.

“I think what I’ve seen from Jamal this year, aside from the growth defensively, which has been tremendous, I’m so proud of him in that regard, but now I know every night what I’m getting from Jamal,” Malone said. “Last year we knew what we were getting from Nikola, but what kind of game would Jamal have. That’s no longer the case. We have two superstars in Nikola and Jamal and a lot of young, talented players behind them.”

It should not be a surprise to anyone that the Nuggets played their best basketball with their backs against the wall — this team has been in four straight seven-game playoff series, winning three. They are used to the pressure. Nor should it have caught anyone off-guard that they would not go away quietly. Some in Lakers’ nation thought Anthony Davisgame-winning three to put the Lakers up 2-0 was a gut punch that would floor the Nuggets.

Malone made sure that was not the takeaway from the game.

“[Monday] when we met and we watched the film, I started off by watching the last play of the game,” Malone said. “Get the elephant in the room out of the way. Let’s talk about the play, what happened. When we’re in this situation again, let’s learn from it. Yes, we all take ownership. Let’s learn from it.

“After that, my goal was when we got done with that film, they saw so many positive clips of us doing the right things, which put us in a position to win. Now we had to do that for more than just a second half. We had to do it for four quarters.”

They did it for three, but that was enough to get the win thanks to some late heroics from Murray.

The key to the remainder of this series is defense. For both teams.

Denver is not an elite defensive team, they were middle of the pack for the regular season. What they can do throughout a series is become more disruptive. They have done it this series, quieting the Lakers’ halfcourt offense. The Lakers scored less than a point per possession — 92.8 points per 100 possessions — in their halfcourt in Game 3 (stats via Cleaning The Glass). Add to that the fact LeBron James is fading as games go on — he is dominant in the first quarter but struggling more in the fourth. Denver got a fantastic game from Jerami Grant in Game 3, they will need more of those games, but the Nuggets have a plan that works and that they can execute.

The heart of that plan is keeping the Lakers out of transition, which brings us to the other side of the equation: The Lakers intensity and physicality on defense almost won them Game 3. The Lakers forced turnovers — six in a row at one point — and turned those into transition buckets. The Lakers are as good a transition team as there is in the league and the Nuggets are terrible at defending it. When the Lakers run, they win. It’s just harder to do that when you’re taking the ball out of the basket each time down, the Lakers need stops.

Expect the Lakers to come out with intensity in Game 4, maybe helping them race out to a big lead. Maybe.  But even if that happens, the Nuggets will not be phased — they came from 16 and 19 back against the Clippers to win last round.

Denver has seen this movie before, and they liked the ending.

NBA playoff schedule 2020: Dates, times, matchups for all games

NBA playoff schedule 2020
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And there were four.

The NBA is down to the conference finals — and the bubble has provided us with upsets galore. There are some unexpected teams in the NBA’s Final Four, but of course LeBron James is still there. The Lakers are the heavy favorites at this point.

Here are a few notes on the NBA playoffs schedule 2020:

• The NBA is continuing to push the pace with games every other day — except in the East, when ESPN wants a break not to clash with the NFL, and to let the West catch up. The fast pace of games will return with the NBA Finals.
Families for the players, and with the final four now the coaches, are in the bubble.
• The NBA has released an NBA Finals schedule to teams and their target is still a Sept. 30 Game 1. If either conference finals goes seven games that date will need to be pushed back.

Here is the NBA playoffs schedule 2020 (all times are Eastern):

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

No. 3 Boston Celtics vs. No. 5 Miami Heat

Game 1: Heat 117, Celtics 114, OT
Game 2: Heat 106, Celtics 101
Game 3: Celtics 117, Heat 106 (Miami leads series 2-1)
Game 4: Sept. 23, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 5: Sept. 25, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 6: Sept. 27, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)*
Game 7: TBD (ESPN)*
*If necessary

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers vs. No. 3 Denver Nuggets

Game 1: Lakers 126, Nuggets 114
Game 2: Lakers 105, Nuggets 103
Game 3: Nuggets 114, Lakers 106 (Lakers lead series 2-1)
Game 4: Sept. 24, 9 p.m. (TNT)
Game 5: Sept. 26, 9 p.m. (TNT)
Game 6: Sept. 28, TBD (TNT)*
Game 7: Sept. 30, TBD (TNT)*
*If necessary

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: Second Round results

Eastern Conference

No. 3 Boston beat No. 2 Toronto 4-3

No. 5 Miami beat No. 1 Milwaukee 4-1

Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers beat Houston 4-1

No. 3 Denver beat No. 2 Los Angeles Clippers 4-3

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: First Round results

Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers beat No. 8 Portland 4-1

No. 2 L.A. Clippers beat No. 7 Dallas 4-2

No. 3 Denver beat No. 6 Utah 4-3

No. 4 Houston beat No. 5 Oklahoma City 4-3

Eastern Conference

No. 1 Milwaukee beat No. 8 Orlando 4-1

No. 2 Toronto beat No. 7 Brooklyn 4-0

No. 3 Boston beat No. 6 Philadelphia 4-0

No. 5 Miami beat No. 4 Indiana 4-0

Report: Dwight Howard was nearly ejected for language in Game 3

Dwight Howard
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Dwight Howard is thriving in his role as enforcer and Nikola Jokic antagonist for the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals — and he’s talking a lot on the court to let everyone know it.  Based on NBA.com matchup stats, Jokic is 3-of-7 shooting while guarded by Howard, with another 10 points at the free-throw line, which means he’s doing better than JaVale McGee or Anthony Davis (and he’s keeping Davis out of foul trouble).

Dwight Howard has been a spark of energy for the Lakers in that role, but he almost got ejected in the first half of Game 3 because of his language, reports Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. Howard already has one technical because, with 7 minutes left the second quarter, Howard picked up a foul guarding Jokic and, in frustration with the call, threw the ball in the air, which will get any player a technical for showing up the referee and delaying the game.

Jerami Grant, who finished with 26 points, was at the free-throw line midway in the second period, and Howard uttered an obscene remark in the direction of the officials. It was apparently so off-putting that official Marc Davis shouted, “Hey, cut that out now! Are you serious? I’ve heard that twice now. Twice. Cut it out now!”

Howard got off with a stern warning, but he was visibly irritated.

Rajon Rondo had to get Howard’s attention before he made another mistake in terms of who to body up with on the free throw.

The Lakers will need better focus and play across the board to win the series than they have shown the last couple of games, particularly on the defensive end — the Lakers need stops and transition opportunities because their halfcourt offense continues to bog down. Howard can be a big part of that guarding Jokic, but he can’t step over the line and hurt the team.

Game 4 between the Lakers and Nuggets is Thursday at 9 p.m. Eastern. The Lakers lead the series 2-1.