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Three Things to Know: James Harden goes off, Kevin Love goes down


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) James Harden astounds the NBA with first-ever 60-point triple-double. Everything was on James Harden’s shoulders — Chris Paul (groin) and Trevor Ariza (hamstring) were in street clothes (or singing in a car), then Eric Gordon left the game in the first half with a sore back. Their other primary playmakers sidelined, the Rockets needed the full Harden experience to beat Orlando.

They got it — 60 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists. The NBA’s first-ever 60-point triple-double (breaking Russell Westbrook‘s record from last March for most points in a triple-double, when he had 57, also against Orlando). Harden scored or assisted on 86 points. He did it on 30 shots, attacking all night long — he had 12 shots at the rim and 18 trips to the free throw line on the night. But words don’t do his game justice. Just watch.

The rest of the NBA took note.

James Harden makes no bones — he wants to be the NBA’s MVP this season (he did last season, too, when he came in second to Westbrook the voting). This season he’s the frontrunner right now (missing only seven games with his hamstring injury helps his cause) and ridiculous games like this are something voters remember.

2) Another blow to Cavaliers, Kevin Love out 6-8 weeks with a fractured hand. The Cavaliers came into Tuesday night having won a couple in a row, seemingly stopping the bleeding for a bit. Everyone seems to be waiting for them to flip the switch, maybe this is where it happens.

Nope. Tuesday night things got much worse in Cleveland.

Early in the first quarter against Detroit, Love made contact with Anthony Tolliver, and started grabbing his hand in pain. Love tried to play through it, but eventually came out, went to the locker room, got X-rays, and found out he would have to miss 6-8 weeks due to a fractured fifth metacarpal bone in his left hand — the bone that connects your little finger to your wrist.

This injury creates a couple big problems for the Cavaliers. The first is simply just winning games — Love is averaging 18.1 points and 9.6 rebounds a game, and he’s shooting better than 40 percent from three. They don’t have anyone who can replace his offensive production, draw defenders, and make sharp passes to teammates. Love can get buckets, and the Cavaliers need that to cover up their horrid defense.

The second problem is the injury also throws a wrench into the Cavaliers trade plans at the deadline. Almost every trade scenario for the Cavaliers involves Channing Frye going to another team to balance out the salary, but now he’s needed along the front line, making it harder to move him. The Cavaliers also will have to play Tristan Thompson more, but that’s not going to help their offense.

Cleveland will be the four seed in the East if they can’t beat Miami on Wednesday, and you have to wonder with Love missing all this time exactly what seed they will be when the playoffs start.

3) John Wall to have knee surgery, out 6-8 weeks, and that could spell real trouble for the Wizards. For much of the season, Washington didn’t take playing the NBA’s weaker sisters seriously — they had flat games against teams such as the Lakers, Nets, Hawks, Mavericks, and others, losing games the Wizards should not have because they didn’t play hard and the other team did. For a while they were below .500 against teams below .500. As you read this they are 16-11 against teams below .500, the worst record of any NBA playoff team against that group.

Now that may come back to bite them. John Wall is going to have knee surgery to “clean up” some issues after he had to deal with irritation and swelling all season (remember he has surgery on both knees before signing his designated player max extension). He will be out 6-8 weeks, which means Wall is out for at least about 20 games give or take — and 15 of the next 19 are against current playoff teams. The Wizards are currently the five seed in the East, but are just 2.5 games above the eight-seed 76ers. Washington may see itself as a team that can hang with anyone in the East when healthy, but if they start the playoffs on the road in Boston or Toronto or Cleveland it could be over fast.

Washington got a big win Tuesday night without Wall, ending the Thunder’s eight-game winning streak. The Wizards need more of that. They will start Tomas Satoransky at the point (he’s played solidly this season earning the backup PG slot), and on Tuesday Otto Porter stepped up with 25 points. Bradley Beal will go off for some big games, and the Wizards will probably hang on to their playoff slot.

But they have made their postseason a lot harder because they didn’t bring it every night like elite teams do.

Dikembe Mutombo to receive Sager Strong Award

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NEW YORK (AP) — Hall of Fame basketball player Dikembe Mutombo will receive the Sager Strong Award at this year’s NBA Awards show.

The award is named for longtime Turner Sports sideline reporter Craig Sager and presented annually to an individual who has been a trailblazer while exemplifying courage, faith, compassion and grace.

Mutombo’s honor was announced Tuesday by the NBA and Turner.

The four-time Defensive Player of the Year created the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation to improve conditions for people in his native Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital has treated nearly a quarter of a million people since opening in 2007.

He will receive a colorful suit jacket, the kind Sager fashioned during his years on air before dying of leukemia. The award will be presented on June 25 in Santa Monica, California.

Former New Orleans coach Monty Williams was last year’s inaugural recipient.

Kyle Kuzma says Lonzo Ball hitting weight room hard this offseason

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It wasn’t just Lonzo Ball‘s awkward jumper that was a problem for him, so was his finishing around the rim — Ball shot less than 50 percent in the restricted area and 43.6 percent inside eight feet. In today’s NBA, he has to become more of a consistent scoring threat to open up his passing lanes.

Part of that is Ball getting physically stronger, something that also would help him avoid injuries and play in more than 52 games (what he did as a rookie). That part he is working on already, Kyle Kuzma told Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

“Consistency in the weight room, that is the biggest thing,” Kuzma said on Tuesday of what he has seen out of Ball this offseason so far. “He has been in there pretty much every day I have been in here around this time. You can tell he is taking the weight room a lot more serious and that is going to help him by allowing him to recover faster and hopefully next year be on the court more because of that weight room.”

The Lakers are counting on the development of their young core — Ball, Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, etc. — as well as free agents they can attract this summer to lift them into the playoffs next season.

Magic Johnson told Ball this is going to be the most important summer of his life, that now he has to put in the work to take his body and game to the next level. To play like a No. 2 pick.

So far, so good.

Re-watch highlights from the final minutes of Houston’s series-tying win

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After the game, Warriors coach Steve Kerr said his team ran out of gas, which is what led to their 3-of-18 fourth-quarter shooting and just 12 points. There’s some truth to that, particularly with Andre Iguodala out forcing other guys into the rotation and a heavier load on the stars.

But give the Rockets credit here.

Part of what wore down the Warriors was fantastic pressure defense from Houston that made Golden State really work on offense. As Golden State got tired, players settled for midrange jumpers, not getting to the rim much (three times in the quarter) and not having the legs under their threes (0-of-6 in the quarter).

Meanwhile, it wasn’t pretty, but James Harden and Chris Paul were making plays.

Check out those plays again in the video above — we finally got a good game in a series, we should savor that.

Steve Kerr on Warriors’ late possession vs. Rockets: “I wanted the timeout”


The Houston Rockets leveled the Western Conference finals against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night by a margin of 95-92. The win for the Rockets was ugly, but it leveled the series at 2-2 heading back to Houston.

It was a close game down the stretch, and it looked like Golden State’s last chance to get the win was going to come on a possession with 11 seconds to go following a missed James Harden jumper.

The Warriors immediately turned up the floor and did not call a timeout. The resulting possession was messy, and it wound up ending on a difficult Klay Thompson turnaround jumper. Golden State would get another shot at a 3-pointer with half a second left thanks to a foul on Thompson’s miss, but many were still left wondering why Steve Kerr did not choose to call a timeout during the possession before.

Kerr addressed the decision after the game.

Via Twitter:

You sort of have to side with Kerr in principle, but if you’d seen the way the Warriors played the rest of that fourth quarter you would probably err on calling a timeout and letting them set something up. Curry was 1-of-8 in the fourth, Durant shot poorly most of the game, and Golden State scored 12 total points in the final period.

When you consider Curry got a look at a wide open 3-pointer in the corner with 0.5 seconds left on the clock when the Warriors did call a timeout on the next possession, it makes it look even worse.

In any case, Houston beat out Golden State in a close game and we’re headed back to Texas for Game 5 on Thursday.