Three things we learned Wednesday: Anthony Davis shows Towns why GMs used to pick him

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Have a happy Thanksgiving, travel safely, and remember the real first Thanksgiving meal would have been very different.

1) Anthony Davis reminds Karl-Anthony Towns, everyone why all the GMs used to pick him to build around. It’s an annual question on the NBA’s preseason GM survey: If you could build your team around one player, who would it be? Two years ago the GMs overwhelmingly chose Anthony Davis. This year it was Karl-Anthony Towns, which made sense after his breakout rookie season while Davis battled injuries. GMs tend to be fickle (watch the GMs pick Joel Embiid next year).

Wednesday night, Davis reminded Towns and everybody else why he is the guy who should be on top of that list.

Davis was a dominant force for New Orleans, putting up 21 points in the first quarter on his way to 45 points on 17-of-27 shooting for the game. Davis did much of it in the paint — he was 7-of-7 in the restricted area and 6-of-8 in the rest of the paint. It was unfair as Davis just shot over or blew by Gorgui Dieng or Towns (his defenders) and scored at will — including a personal 8-0 run during the third quarter when the Pelicans pulled away for the win.

Towns is undoubtedly still a great player and a franchise cornerstone — eventually, Tom Thibodeau will get Minnesota playing defense and figuring it how not just to come apart in the third quarter. But the Timberwolves have work to do and look like they will be next year’s breakout team, not this year’s.

The Pelicans have won four in a row (and now 6-of-8), and make you wonder if they can overcome that ugly 0-8 start that looked like it doomed them.

2) Maybe one shouldn’t just leave Kevin Love open. Love’s first points of the game Wednesday night came with a difficult baseline 15-foot fadeaway over Mason Plumlee. It was a high degree of difficulty shot that fell that showed Love was on his game.

So the Trail Blazers responded by leaving him wide open from three for his next several shots, so he could really get his stroke and confidence going.

The result was Love dropped 34 points on Portland — in the first quarter. Love was 11-of-14 from the floor, including 8-of-10 from three, and seemed like he could not miss.

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A lot of his shots came on pick-and-pops where both Portland defenders went with the ball, or where Love’s man just flat-out lost him at the arc and couldn’t recover. That said, Love hit some tough fade-aways and made plays in the post.

3) James Harden’s triple-double: 29 points, 15 assists, 12 turnovers. That led to a loss. When you are not just the primary but one-and-only playmaker on the team, as James Harden is, it’s not enough just to put up numbers — you have to be efficient doing it. Or your team loses.

That’s what happened when the Rockets took on the Raptors Wednesday night. Harden was wheeling and dealing, with 29 points on 13 shots, plus 15 assists. But, he turned the ball over 12 times — 26.5 percent of his possessions used ended in a turnover. As a team, the Rockets turned it over 28 times — 27.9 percent of the team’s possessions ended in a turnover. Do that against a good team like the Raptors and you’ll watch them score 33 points off turnovers, you’ll watch DeMar DeRozan drop 24 points (a slow night for him of late), and you’ll watch the Raptors win 115-102.

It’s the unfair burden on Harden (and Russell Westbrook) this season — putting up numbers is not enough, they need to be efficient doing it or their team will lose.

Bonus thing we learned (which we already knew): The Warriors and Cavaliers can put up points. Fueled by Kevin Love’s ridiculous hot hand (see above), the Cavaliers put up 81 points in the first half on the Trail Blazers. Not to be outdone, the Warriors hung and 80 on the Lakers in the first half. It was a scoring free for all night around the NBA where eight guys — Kawhi Leonard, Russell Westbrook, DeMarcus Cousins, LeBron James, Damian Lillard, Stephen Curry, Love, and Davis all had at least 30 points (and Harden had 29).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.

Watch Lakers fan drain half-court shot to win $75,000

Indiana Pacers v Los Angeles Lakers
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It might have been the loudest the crypto.com Arena was all night.

Between the third and fourth quarters, Lakers fan Jamie Murry of Downey won $75,000 draining a half-court shot — and he got to celebrate with Anthony Davis.

Murry’s celebration is the best part — with Anthony Davis coming out to celebrate with him (and seeming a little shocked by the hug).

One other big shot fell at this game, but Lakers’ fans didn’t like it as much — Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard drained a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.

Three things to know: Joel Embiid returns, scores final 11 vs. Hawks

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Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA must-watch.

1) Joel Embiid returns, scores final 11 vs. Hawks in 76ers win

The 76ers went 3-1 with Joel Embiid sidelined by a left mid-foot sprain, but they are so much more a dangerous team with him.

Embiid scored the 76ers’ final 11 points of the game against the Hawks, including the go-ahead 10-foot jumper with 18.6 seconds left, to cap a 30-point night and lift the Sixers past the Hawks 104-101.

Embiid was making critical defensive plays down the stretch as well.

Embiid finished with 30 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and two blocks. That’s five straight 30+ point games for Embiid, who picked up right where he left off before the injury.

Well, not exactly pick up at the start as Embiid was 1-of-7 shooting to open the game, and he wasn’t the only Sixers rusty at the start. Embiid seemed focused on sharing the ball early but settled into an offensive balance as the game went on. Philly was saved by a solid defensive night.

The 76ers continue to pick up wins with James Harden and Tyrese Maxey out, which is a good sign going forward.

That’s three-straight losses for the Hawks, a loss that stings because they should have been able to dominate the shorthanded 76ers backcourt and get the win.

2) Karl-Anthony Towns goes down with concerning leg injury

Let’s hope the optimistic report from Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN is right and this isn’t as severe as it looked. Because it looked bad.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony simply was pushing off to run back upcourt when he fell to the ground — without contact — grabbing his knee and calf.

Towns was helped back to the locker room and did not return, with the Timberwolves officially saying he was out for the rest of the night with a calf strain.

A calf strain would be the best possible outcome. An MRI Monday will tell us more.

Towns’ stats are down this season as he adjusts to the odd fit of playing next to Rudy Gobert, but he is still averaging 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game.

The Wizards got a monster night from Kristaps Porzingis — a career-high 41 points — on their way to a 142-127 victory. When Porzingis is on this Washington team is tough to beat.

3) Big shots fall at Lakers’ game

Two big shots defined the night at the crypto.com arena Monday.

First, Lakers fan Jamie Murry of Downey won $75,000 with a half-court shot — and he got to celebrate with Anthony Davis.

The second one hurt the Lakers more. Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard drained a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.

The Lakers got lost in the scramble. On the initial action, Russell Westbrook doubled Bennedict Mathurin in the corner, which left the screen setter Myles Turner open at the top for a clean look at a 3 — but he was short and came off the front of the rim. Tyrese Haliburton out-hustled everyone to the rebound and tried to create his own shot but saw Nembhard wide open and kicked him the rock.

Ballgame.

The Pacers split their two games in Los Angeles at the start of a seven-game road trip through the West.

The Lakers had won 5-of-6 against a soft part of the schedule but that is about to change and over the next few weeks we will get a sense of where this 7-12 team really stands.