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Three things we learned Tuesday: Trail Blazers win one thanks to C.J. McCollum, but lose one Evan Turner

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It was a light night in the NBA with just three games on the schedule, if you missed them while you meditated on the zen of being a Buddhist monk meth dealer, here are the big takeaways from the Tuesday.

1) C.J McCollum gives Portland big win, but Blazers also lose Evan Turner to a broken hand. This became a brilliant Dirk Nowitzki vs. C.J. McCollum showdown with the game on the line — a game both teams could use as both are trying to chase down Denver for the final playoff slot in the West. While it was no study in defense, it was dramatic — there were six lead changes in the final 38 seconds of the game.

With everything on the line, first Nowitzki did this:

Then C.J. McCollum answered with the game winner.

McCollum finished with 32 and owned the final stretch of the game, while Damian Lillard had 29. The win was crucial as it left Portland just one game back of Denver for the final playoff slot in the West, while Dallas has 3.5 games to make up.

But Portland’s win came at a cost — Evan Turner fractured the third metacarpal in his right hand on this play.

No report yet on how long Turner will be out, the timeline will depend upon if he needs surgery and other factors. That said he’s going to be out a while.

This is a blow — in their last 10 games the Trail Blazers are nine points per 100 possessions better when Turner is on the court. Portland had started to play better defense since Turner and Noah Vonleh were inserted into the starting lineup, now Moe Harkless is going to be asked to step up. It’s not what a team chasing a playoff slot needs to hear.

2) Hornets will take win, even if it’s against Nets.
The Charlotte Hornets had lost seven in a row and fallen out of the playoff picture in the East. Teams on a losing streak need a slump buster — a win, regardless of how pretty it looks.

Enter the Brooklyn Nets. The NBA’s worst team came to Charlotte and the Hornets took advantage, leading most of the way but winning just 111-107 (Brooklyn had a late 8-2 run to make it more interesting than it should have been). Kemba Walker had 17 points but on 4-of-20 shooting, fortunately for the Hornets they got a boost from Jeremy Lamb and Marco Belinelli off the bench. It was a fairly balanced Charlotte attack, and while it wasn’t a thing of beauty it was good enough and it was a win. One the Hornets needed. However, they are going to have to play better on Thursday when James Harden and the Rockets come to town.

The play of the game went to Marvin Williams.

3) Phil Jackson takes another dig at Carmelo Anthony. If you read one thing out of Tuesday, it should be Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report’s analysis of the dynamic between Knicks president Phil Jackson and the star he wants to trade in Carmelo Anthony. The core idea of the piece: Jackson misjudged Anthony’s will to win, and Jackson overestimated his ability to transform ‘Melo’s game as he had done with Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.

Phil Jackson read the piece and came back with a dig at Anthony.

Whether Jackson really believed he could mold Anthony is up for debate, and if Jackson did know that why give the star five years and a no-trade clause in that last deal? Was this order from James Dolan on high that Jackson had to accept?

Consider the tweet another step in the mind games of Jackson trying to trade Anthony — Jackson needs to get ‘Melo to waive that no-trade clause, hence the effort to undercut the star and make him unhappy and want out. The problems for Jackson in trying to make an Anthony trade are threefold: 1) Anthony likes it in New York and is only going to waive that trade clause for a destination he really likes, meaning a contender where he can play with a good friend such as LeBron James or Chris Paul; 2) Anthony has a 15 percent trade kicker, so he makes even more money if he gets dealt (Anthony could waive that kicker, but again is only likely do that for a place he wants to go); 3) The teams where Anthony would be interested in going have little interest in giving up much to get him, certainly not the kind of star power Jackson wants in return.

I’d still be shocked if Jackson finds a deal that meets all the criteria by the Feb. 23 trade deadline. Which means we get to relive all this again in June and July.

Stephen Curry reportedly will return to Warriors lineup Sunday vs. Wizards

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After four months off, the Warriors were looking for a soft landing spot to ease Stephen Curry back into the rotation.

How about Sunday, vs. Washington and the worst defense in the NBA this season?

That’s the plan, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Curry has said for some time he was targeting March 1 for a return, this would be that exact date (to be fair to the Wizards, they have played better defense of late). After that, Golden State plays at Denver on the third, has a Finals rematch against Toronto at the Chase Center on March 5, then the 76ers visit the Warriors on the seventh.

Curry suffered a fractured hand just four games into the season when Suns’ center Aron Baynes fell on him. Recovery required two surgeries, one to put pins in to stabilize the bone through the healing process, then a second one to remove those pins once the recovery was far enough along.

While some fans had called for Curry to sit out the season and tank, Warriors coach Steve Kerr emphatically shot that idea down. As he should.

For one thing, Kerr wants to build some familiarity and chemistry between Curry and newly acquired Andrew Wiggins this season. Having Curry back may mean the Warriors don’t finish with the worst record in the league this season (which they have right now) but with the flattened out draft lottery odds that’s not as big an issue. Besides, this is not a deep draft. This is not a situation where the Warriors will get instant help — in our podcast recently, NBC Sports’ Rob Dauster described it as the top three picks in this draft would be 6-10 most seasons. The Warriors may ultimately try to trade their pick for a player who can help more next season.

Ben Simmons has nerve impingement in lower back, to be re-evaluated in two weeks

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The biggest concern with Ben Simmons back issue is not that it will have him out weeks, it’s that nobody is saying what exactly is causing it.

Simmons has a nerve impingement in his lower back that will have him getting treatment daily, and he will be re-evaluated in two weeks, something first reported  by Shams Charania of The Athletic and confirmed by NBC Sports Philadelphia. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski provided some context, but nothing that is very encouraging.

A nerve impingement — what is commonly referred to as a pinched nerve — is exactly what it sounds like: Something is pressing on the nerve, “pinching” it and causing pain.

The big question: What is impinging on the nerve? That’s what Jeff Stotts of In Street Clothes asked.

This does not sound like something that is going to be resolved in two weeks and Simmons will be back to normal.

Simmons injured his back last Wednesday in practice while grabbing a rebound, according to coach Brett Brown. Simmons sat out last Thursday’s Sixers game against the Nets, tried to play on Saturday vs. the Bucks but had to come out after one quarter, and has not set foot on the court since.

Simmons averages 16.9 points, 8.3 assists, 7.9 rebounds a game, not to mention a league-best 2.2 steals a night. The All-Star is a core part of the Sixers rotation and will miss significant time they try to climb up into the top four in the East and get home court for the first round of the playoffs. Shake Milton started Monday in Simmons place.

Tilman Ferttita: Rockets don’t fear Lakers, Clippers like they did Warriors

Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta
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Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta likes to talk.

Volume 48.

Fertitta, via Kirk Bohls of Statesman:

“I think Milwaukee is head over heels above everybody else,” said Fertitta

“We just need to get home court for the first and second rounds and see what happens.”

“None of us fear L.A. or the Clippers or Denver like we feared Golden State,” he said. “It’s not like how we were scared of them. We could easily win the West this year or get knocked out in the first round. Both L.A. teams, Denver, Houston, we’re all excellent teams. Just comes down to somebody gets hot and makes a shot. Our chances are as good as they’ve ever been.”

The Rockets stood up to the Warriors far more than any other team. But that was most true before Fertitta put his imprint on the franchise. He’s somewhat culpable for Houston cowering to Golden State.

As far as this season, Fertitta is right all around: The Bucks are great, combining last year’s success with important playoff lessons. Houston could easily win the West or lose in the first round. The Lakers, Clippers and Nuggets shouldn’t be feared. (Nobody fears the Nuggets, though they are a real championship contender.)

But the Lakers and Clippers also look like darned good playoff teams. Even if not predicting victory, Fertitta’s comments could become bulletin-board material in Los Angeles.

Rumor: Warriors acquired first-rounder, Andrew Wiggins for Giannis Antetokounmpo trade

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Andrew Wiggins, who's now with Warriors
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The Warriors have the NBA shook.

Even in last place.

It was more understandablenot necessarily right, but understandable – when Golden State was dominating. The Warriors won a title, won 73 games, signed Kevin Durant then won two more titles. In the midst of the run, they were treated as invincible. A team that great had never signed an outside free agent that great. Golden State really did seem “light years ahead.”

So, when the Warriors traded D'Angelo Russell for Andrew Wiggins and picks, some people cowered about what Golden State had up its sleeve next. Speculation even turned to Giannis Antetokounmpo, who faces a super-max decision this offseason and looked quite chummy with Stephen Curry (similar to how Kevin Durant once did while still with the Thunder).

Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report:

Some around the league believe the Golden State Warriors acquired a first-round pick from the Minnesota Timberwolves, along with Andrew Wiggins, with the notion of a potential future trade with the Bucks.

This is so silly.

Minnesota’s first-rounder (top-three-protected in 2021, unprotected in 2022) is a nice asset. The Warriors’ 2020 first-rounder will also land high in the draft. But Wiggins didn’t suddenly turn into a valuable player in Golden State. Owed $94,738,170 over the next three years, Wiggins still carries negative value. The Warriors aren’t now deftly positioned to land Antetokounmpo.

Golden State showed incredible vision by building an excellent team that appealed to Durant and clearing cap space to acquire him. But the Warriors got multiple fortunate breaks – Stephen Curry taking a smaller contract extension while injured in 2012, Golden State blowing a 3-1 lead in the 2016 NBA Finals, the salary cap spiking in 2016.

The Warriors can’t duplicate everything, swoop in and land Antetokounmpo.

Sure, it’s possible Wiggins improves in Golden State. Maybe Antetokounmpo will decline to sign a super-max extension, which should force Milwaukee to at least strongly consider trading him. It’s also conceivable Antetokounmpo threatens not to re-sign with anyone besides the Warriors, scaring off other teams and leaving Golden State’s offer the best that the Bucks’ get.

But it’s such a remote possibility of all that happening, it’s not worth worrying about.

This is paranoia about the Warriors at its worst.