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Three Things We Learned Tuesday: Robin Lopez, Serge Ibaka exchange punches, but Raptors have more fight than Bulls

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If you missed Tuesday’s NBA action because you were getting a neck massage from a python, well, we question your judgment. But, we’ve also got you covered, here are the biggest takeaways from a night around the Association.

1) Robin Lopez, Serge Ibaka exchange punches in a brawl, then Raptors punch Bulls in the mouth with comeback win.
Most NBA “fights” consist of a push and some posturing, others step in to make sure the two guys — who don’t really want to fight — don’t have to back up their words. Technicals are handed out, and everyone gets back to the game.

However, what started as a rather innocent play of Toronto’s Serge Ibaka and Chicago’s Robin Lopez battling for rebounding positioning, followed by a little bump in the back, escalated quickly into an actual punches thrown brawl in the third quarter of the Bulls’ visit to the Raptors Tuesday night.

The two were fighting for position, even after the ball went through the hoop, and Ibaka seems to hit Lopez in the back with a little bit of an elbow (and Lopez has back issues), which appears to set everything off. Lopez’s punch missed, while Ibaka’s caught Lopez in the hair, not the body.

Both men got technicals, were ejected, and can expect a suspension from the league for this one. Also, the Bulls’ Nikola Mirotic and Raptors assistant coach Jamaal Magloire got technicals for a separate shoving match after the main fight.

Notice the score in the video above when the fight took place late in the third, the Bulls were firmly in control of the game. The Bulls carried a similar lead into midway through the fourth when DeMar DeRozan sparked a 15-0 Raptors’ run that made it a game. Eventually, that went to overtime, where an 8-0 Toronto run that gave them the win. DeRozan finished with 42 points, Jimmy Butler had 37 for the Bulls.

It’s a big win for the Raptors, who are now half a game back of the Wizards for the three seed in the East (the three seed means avoiding Cleveland in the first round). For Chicago, the loss combined with a Miami win has the Bulls two games out of the playoffs in the East.

2) Bulls’ GM Jerry Krause passes away at the age of 77, deserves better than his public reputation.
Jerry Krause will forever be haunted by a comment that he argued was taken way out of context.

“Players and coaches don’t win championships. Organizations win championships.”

He got the blame in a lot of quarters for breaking up the six-time champion Chicago Bulls of Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson, when the fact is Krauss deserves plenty of credit for those six titles. On one side there was Jordan, who intimidated everyone on and off the court to get his way, while Jackson manipulated everyone around him to get what he wanted. Krauss stood up to both of them — Krauss traded Jordan’s pal Charles Oakley to get Bill Cartwright because he knew Chicago needed that style of big man. Krauss was not always right, but the guy Jordan nicknamed “crumbs” — because whatever he ate still seemed to be on his shirt — had the fortitude to stand up to Jordan when few did.

Krauss inherited Jordan, but MJ didn’t win those titles alone, and it was Krauss who put Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, John Paxson, B. J. Armstrong, Cartwright, Ron Harper, Dennis Rodman, Toni Kukoc, Luc Longley and Steve Kerr around Jordan. Krauss helped build those teams, and he deserves credit for that. Krauss is up for the Hall of Fame as a contributor, I don’t know if he gets in, but he certainly contributed to all those titles in Chicago.

3) The Warriors route the Mavericks on way to fifth straight win. Are we done worrying about the Warriors now? Kevin Durant got hurt right as the team hit its toughest part of the schedule, Stephen Curry‘s legs were heavy, and his shot was off, and the team with the best record in the NBA stumbled for a bit. Then they got to go home for a week, play three games against teams at .500 or below, and suddenly they look like their old selves again.

Golden State picked up its fifth straight win Tuesday night with a 112-87 route of the Mavericks in Dallas. Maybe Seth Curry summed it up best when asked if it was fun to start at point opposite his brother Stephen, and he said yes, until the game tipped off. Stephen outscored Seth 17-10, if you’re counting.

The win keeps the Warriors 2.5 games up on San Antonio for the best record in the NBA. Considering the Warriors have a slightly easier schedule the rest of the way, it’s hard to see them blowing that lead.

Report: Kings, Hawks could pass on Luka Doncic if Suns don’t take him No. 1

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Luka Doncic or Deandre Ayton?

That’s the question many NBA fans are asking themselves, but according to one report it’s not the only thing several teams in the Top 3 of the 2018 NBA Draft are thinking about.

ESPN’s Jonathan Givony says that while the Phoenix Suns may still be considering taking Doncic with their No. 1 overall pick, the Sacramento Kings (2) and Atlanta Hawks (3) are not.

The Kings and Hawks are reportedly leaning toward taking an American frontcourt player, which would point us toward guys like Ayton, Marvin Bagley, Jaren Jackson, and Mo Bamba.

Via ESPN:

The growing consensus among NBA decision-makers in attendance at Stark Arena in Belgrade is that the teams drafting behind the Phoenix Suns at No. 1, the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks are likely to pass on European prodigy in favor of American frontcourt players. The question remains whether a team will trade up into the top three to snag Doncic, or if he will fall to the No. 4 (Memphis) or even the No. 5 pick (Dallas) after being heavily scouted in the Euroleague playoffs against Panathinaikos and mostly struggling.

The information we’re missing is whether the Kings and Hawks are turned off by Doncic specifically. Is it because they haven’t scouted him as much as the other guys? Is it because of perceived team need? Do they think Doncic has peaked already? Are they worried about less information being available from a Euro prospect? All are possible.

With all the hype around Doncic, it would be shocking to see him fall out of the Top 3. It’s happened before, but both Ayton and Doncic are the guys atop this draft that people are licking their chops to get.

Could we see a team trade up to get Doncic from the Hawks or Kings if Phoenix goes elsewhere? Is this just false information funneled to the media as a means of depressing the market for Doncic or for ferreting out a big trade offer?

The conference finals aren’t even over yet and here we are talking about the incessant drama of the NBA offseason. I love this league.

Larry Brown once told Trevor Ariza to never shoot

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Larry Brown is a legendary basketball coach, but he’s also been known to ascribe to a certain style. Brown’s regimen has sometimes rubbed players the wrong way, and likewise Brown has been overly attached to players which he likes.

For Houston Rockets wing Trevor Ariza, Brown’s staunch attitude almost ruined his career.

Ariza was a second-year player with the New York Knicks during the lone season Brown coached in the Big Apple in 2005-06. The UCLA product didn’t shoot well from the 3-point line in college or during his rookie season, so when Brown came to town he told Ariza to stop shooting from beyond the arc entirely.

Seriously.

Via Dan Woike and the LA Times:

More than a decade ago when Ariza was a second-year player, his coach with the New York Knicks, Hall of Famer Larry Brown, thought Ariza shouldn’t shoot from the perimeter. Like ever.

“He told me not to even look at the basket or shoot the ball,” said Ariza, 32. “I was definitely afraid to shoot. I just wouldn’t. I would not shoot.”

Woike’s story is pretty incredible, and goes on to detail how Ariza’s trade to the Los Angeles Lakers reignited his career and his confidence to shoot the ball. That’s obviously crucial for the Houston Rockets who need Ariza docked in the corner as Chris Paul and James Harden run pick-and-rolls and isolate.

Stories like this always sound wild, if only because they’re contextually being compared to completely different eras. Ariza was drafted in 2004, and has seen three different eras of NBA basketball (Iverson era, point guard PNR era, 3-point era) pass by during his time.

Larry Brown’s in the Hall of Fame but he whiffed on this one.

Stephen Curry goes berserk, Warriors beat Rockets by 41 in Game 3

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Stephen Curry had yet another big third quarter. Who could have seen that coming?

On the heels of the Houston Rockets’ 22-point win in Game 2, the Golden State Warriors decided to turn up the intensity as they returned home to Oakland on Sunday. The Warriors leapt out of the gate, scoring 31 points in the first quarter and playing monumental defense at the rim. Houston suffered from blown attempts in the paint for the entire first half, but it was their 3-point defense that stabilized their offense. The Rockets shot just 27 percent from beyond the arc in the first two quarters.

Then, perhaps expectedly, came the third quarter. The realm of 2-time NBA MVP Curry.

Golden State’s golden point guard failed to miss a single field goal in the quarter, helping the Warriors rally to start the half as well as fend off a Houston charge midway through the period. Curry completely took over with around six minutes left, dropping five of the Warriors’ next six made baskets.

It was enchanting, and everything we’ve come to expect from Curry when he’s at his best. After a made bucket, there was a shimmy. After a follow-up layup, a defiant stance on the baseline as he yelled to the crowd about Oracle Arena being his house.

Indeed, it was.

Curry and the Warriors did not let off the gas in the fourth quarter, finally burying the Rockets that both sides called a truce with 5:11 left, subbing out their big stars.

Houston was led by James Harden, who scored 20 points with nine assists and five rebounds, although he turned the ball over four times. Chris Paul had 13 points, 10 rebounds, and four assists. Eric Gordon helped with 11 points off the bench. The Rockets turned the ball over 20 times, allowing 28 points off turnovers to the Warriors.

For Golden State it was Curry’s 35 points and six rebounds as the big story. Kevin Durant added 25 points, six rebounds, and six assists. The Warriors shot 41 percent from 3-point range as every starter scored in double-digits. Golden State was also able to limit its turnovers to just eight.

Game 3 exemplified the stratification between the two teams. Houston was arguably the best team of the regular season, with the caveat being that Curry was out for huge swaths of time due to injury. With Curry back on the floor and playing at full tilt, Golden State again looks unbeatable.

Steve Kerr was able to counter the Game 2 strategy from Mike D’Antoni, who ran everything during Houston’s win directly at Curry on defense to tire out the recently-returned star. Kerr’s tweaks resulted in a complete eruption from Curry, one Houston was powerless to stop. Coupled with the continuous pounding from Durant and the incessant, extra pass 3-pointers, the Rockets didn’t have a counterstrike option.

Game 4 is in Oakland on Tuesday at 6:00 PM PST. We’ll see if D’Antoni can work his magic and come up with another new strategy to try and slow the Warriors.

Marcus Morris: II did a s–t job defensively against LeBron’

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The Cleveland Cavaliers aren’t dead. Not yet, at least.

LeBron James helped lead his team to a victory over the Boston Celtics on Saturday, 116-86, to set the series at 2-1 with the Cavaliers trailing.

James was efficient, scoring 27 points on 8-of-12 shooting while adding 12 assists, five rebounds, two blocks, and two steals. As a team Cleveland shot an impressive 50 percent from 3-point range, dwarfing their marks from Games 1 and 2 in the series.

Meanwhile, the team-first strategy implemented by the Celtics finally got its first big test of the Eastern Conference Finals. A top defensive team, Boston was embarrassed by how it played in Game 3 and they weren’t afraid to admit it. Four of its five starters were double-digit minuses in the box score, including Marcus Morris, who many were touting as a LeBron stopper (or LeBron slower).

Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Morris gave his honest opinion of how he played vs. LeBron. Meanwhile, Jaylen Brown said he was embarrassed.

Via Twitter:

Sounds about right.

Because you play the same team over and over again, by the time you get to the conference finals it’s all about finding counters to your opponent’s counters. The game-by-game strategy changes so much, and out of necessity.

The Cavaliers finally found their sweet spot, not only from beyond the 3-point line but in limiting the offensive contributions of both Morris and guys like Al Horford.

How Brad Stevens counters Ty Lue’s Game 3 strategy should be fun to watch, and reciprocal changes in the coming games will be the story of the series. Boston still has the edge, but the Cavaliers aren’t letting someone take The King’s crown without a fight.