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Three Things to Know: No Curry? Okay, Warriors just give ball to Kevin Durant

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) No Stephen Curry, no Draymond Green, that just means more Kevin Durant.
It’s really not as simple for Golden State as “Curry’s out, let’s just give the ball to Durant more.”

Although sometimes it is that simple.

From the opening tip Wednesday night, Kevin Durant decided to take over the game against Charlotte. With All-Stars Curry (ankle) and Green (shoulder) out and replaced in the starting lineup by a guy just called up from the D-League (Quinn Cook) and a rookie (Jordan Bell), Durant went into MVP mode, put the Warriors on his back, racked up a triple-double of 35 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists, and led the Warriors to a 101-87 win in Charlotte.

This was KD’s night, but it’s not going to be like this every game. Things will get challenging for the Warriors without Curry. To use the cliché, his gravity as a shooter — his ability to pull defenders to him 30 feet from the basket, with or without the ball — is what provides the space in the Warriors offense and makes it elite. That spacing is gone for a couple of weeks, and it will be up to Durant to create shots and rack up points, but also Klay Thompson (22 points) and others to pick up the slack. That said, Durant is capable of winning a few games on his own.

More importantly against Charlotte, the Warriors came out and played focused defense for 48 minutes — something they have not done consistently all season. The Warriors have coasted a lot, but with Curry out they can no longer do that and still win a lot. Wednesday in Charlotte was one game, but it was a sign that the loss of Curry snapped the Warriors out of their sleepwalking ways, and gave them focus. If it stays that way, Golden State will barely miss a beat the next few weeks.

2) LeBron James drains threes, including dagger late, to push Cavaliers win streak to 13. LeBron James is shooting 43 percent from three this season. He still has as quick a first step as anyone in the game, and once he gets rolling downhill he’s an unstoppable force, but now he can consistently just shoot over the top of the defense and make them pay, too. Good luck stopping that.

Just ask the Sacramento Kings, who came into Quicken Loans Arena on Wednesday night and were scrappy. However, LeBron was 5-of-8 from three, including a step-back with 16 seconds left that sealed the game, and the Kings could not match him. LeBron finished the night with 32 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists.

The Cavaliers win streak is now at 13 games, tying a franchise record (LeBron’s Cavs did it in 2009 and again 2010). They can break that tie Friday night in Indiana.

3) DeMarcus Cousins sets history with another 40-20 night. With Anthony Davis out for a third straight game, the Pelicans are leaning more on Cousins to keep them in the crowded playoff mix in the West — and he’s responding. On Wednesday night he had 40 points and 22 boards in the Pelicans’ win against Denver.

That’s Cousins’ second 40-20+ game this season. The last guy to do that was Patrick Ewing back in the 1989-90 season. Back when “Do The Right Thing” was in theaters and we couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing “Funky Cold Medina.” It’s been a long time since we’ve seen something like Boogie’s recent run.

More importantly for New Orleans, thanks to Cousins the Pelicans are 3-1 in games Davis has missed. That is keeping them in the playoff mix.

 

Rumor: Patrick Beverley may meet with five teams before Clippers

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The Los Angeles Clippers want to bring Patrick Beverley back next season, his spark was at the heart of why this team made the playoffs and impressed with their potential.

First, however, the Clippers are going big game hunting for the likes of Kawhi Leonard and/or Kevin Durant (even with the Achilles injury). Beverley isn’t just going to sit around and wait for them, reports longtime NBA reporter Sean Deveney Tweeted.

The Bulls need a point guard and Beverley — a Chicago native — has said he is interested.

The Lakers also are reportedly big game hunting, but Beverley is the kind of guard they could use around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Phoenix and other teams have been mentioned.

Beverley is going to have options, but he loved his time with the Clippers last season, and that means something.

Pelicans reportedly pick up option year on coach Alvin Gentry

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David Griffin, the guy with the hammer in New Orleans, likes Alvin Gentry. They have a relationship that goes back to Phoenix, where Gentry was the coach and Griffin was in the front office (and was eventually GM).

Gentry also has a style of play — he wants to run and be up-tempo. That should fit very well with soon-to-be No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise the Griffin and the Pelicans want to keep Gentry around, as reported by Malika Andrews of ESPN.

This is another smart, stabilizing move by Griffin. The Pelicans want to build an athletic, fast-paced team and Gentry is the right coach for that style.  Maybe it doesn’t pan out, maybe the Pelicans ultimately need to go another direction with their coach, but right now this seems a good fit.

Report: Utah “frontrunner” to land Mike Conley Jr. if Memphis trades him this week

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Utah feels like it is close — a 50-win team two seasons in a row, an elite defense, an All-NBA center in Rudy Gobert and an elite shot creator in Donovan Michell. They look at the West next season, with a depleted Warriors team, and see an opening.

Yet when Utah fell to Houston 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs this year, it was reminded of what is keeping the team from being truly elite, and another shot creator and shooter is at the top of that list.

Enter Mike Conley Jr. He averaged 21.1 points and 6.4 assists per game last season, shot 36.4 percent from three, and plays strong defense. Conley would be an upgrade over Ricky Rubio at the spot.

The almost All-Star point guard out of Memphis is available via trade. He’s the kind of veteran floor general, shooter, and shot creator Utah could use. The Jazz and Grizzlies talked but couldn’t come to an agreement at the trade deadline, but the sides are talking again and conversations are “intensifying” in the run-up to the NBA Draft Thursday, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Grizzlies are intensifying talks to potentially move franchise cornerstone Mike Conley Jr., league sources told The Athletic. Memphis has been in conversations with the Jazz and Utah is a frontrunner to acquire Conley should the Grizzlies trade the point guard during draft week, league sources said.

What would be in a trade package? Certainly the No. 23 pick in this draft, plus some young players the Grizzlies like (maybe Grayson Allen, Royce O’Neal, and even someone like Jae Crowder. Reports say Derick Favors is not part of the discussion.

While anything can happen the week of the draft — and things change quickly — don’t be surprised if some version of this trade gets done.

Kawhi Leonard wins day with last laugh — his viral laugh — at end of speech

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Kawhi Leonard just won again.

He won his second NBA title leading the Toronto Raptors to the franchise’s first crown. He earned his second Finals MVP in the process.

Then on Monday he had the last laugh and won the Raptors’ championship parade in Toronto by ending his speech with his laugh, the same one that went viral at the start of the season.

Of course, what Leonard will do on July 1 was a cloud hanging over the parade, Leonard is a free agent this summer. Kyle Lowry at one point started a “five more years” chant during the parade, which is the maximum number of years Toronto can re-sign Leonard for.

Leonard, exactly as we all should have expected, dodged the question, while praising his time in Toronto.

Unfortunately, this was a parade marred by more serious concerns.