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Three Things to Know: C.J. McCollum drops 50 in three quarters, then drops mic

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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) C.J. McCollum drops 50 in three quarters, then drops the mic. I, for one, welcome our new C.J. McCollum overlord…

On the second night of a back-to-back, C.J. McCollum had one of the most impressive offensive nights in Trail Blazer history. It started from the opening tip — he scored 28 points in the first quarter alone on 11-of-14 shooting.

He didn’t slow down from there, he was hitting everything and finished the night making 18-of-25 from the field and averaging 1.71 points per shot attempt. He was hitting from everywhere, check out this shot chart.


When it was all over McCollum had 50 points in three quarters, then didn’t play in the fourth because the Trail Blazers were so far ahead of the Bulls and went on to win 124-108. McCollum joins Klay Thompson as the only player in NBA history to score 50 or more points in three quarters. Here’s one more look at his insane night.



2) Cavaliers pick up a win over Heat to hold on to the third spot in East.
It’s been a long January for the Miami Heat, they were 5-8 in the month, had just lost Kevin Love to a hand injury that requires surgery, trade rumors were (and are) swirling around the team, and they were only half-a-game ahead of the Heat for the three seed in the East.

Then on the final night of the month, Cleveland held on for a win over the Heat that helps them hold on to that three seed, 91-89. For now.

This was a close game at the end, the kind of game the Heat have been winning all season — they have 22 wins in games within five points in the final five minutes in the NBA, most in the league — but when you live in close games the scales tend to balance out over time. In this one the Heat remained ice cold from three all night, hitting just 3-of-28 from beyond the arc, and that included a clean Tyler Johnson look to tie late. Miami also had the chance to tie the game in the final seconds: Down 2 with 7 seconds left after a missed Kyle Korver free throw, James Johnson drove the length of the court and went right at LeBron James, expecting to draw other defenders and kick out, but when LeBron did a great job staying in front of him and the other Cavaliers defenders covered Heat shooters, Johnson got near the rim, picked up his dribble, and had nothing. He didn’t even get a shot off before the buzzer. It was ugly.

Which fit, because it was a sloppy game from both teams, but right now the Cavaliers will take a sloppy win. They will take any win. The schedule doesn’t ease up on them in February, the Houston Rockets are up next, but Cleveland could use to string together a few wins, get back on a roll, and look like the team we all came into the season expecting to be the team to beat in the East. Cleveland may still have that team in them, but it hasn’t looked like it for a while now. Especially on defense. Some wins could change that perception.

3) RIP Rasual Butler. One of the best-liked players in the NBA during his 13-year career, passed away late Tuesday night/Wednesday morning in a single-car accident in the Studio City area of Los Angeles.

Butler reportedly lost control of his SUV at 2 a.m. Wednesday morning, the car flipped and hit a wall, and he and his wife — R&B singer Leah LaBelle, who many may remember from American Idol in 2004 — died in the accident.

The NBA world was shaken.

Butler was the definition of hard-working and professional. He was a playground legend in Philly as a youth, then went on to play four years at LaSalle University. He was drafted in the second round by the Miami Heat back in 2004, and while most guys drafted where he was don’t pan out Butler — thanks to his work ethic and ability to mold into different systems — went on to play 13 NBA seasons (for the Heat, Hornets, Clippers, Bulls, Raptors, Wizards, Pacers, and most recently in 2015-16 for the Spurs). He was a swingman who could defend, hit threes, play within the system and be solid every night. Last season he played in Ice Cube’s Big3 league.

More importantly, he was one of the best-liked guys in the league. He was real. Butler was trusted by coaches, beloved in the locker room, and, at least in my interactions with him, was both professional and smart, the kind of guy you’d want to sit down and have a beer with.

Our thoughts go out to his family and friends.

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”

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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.