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Three Things to Know: Pistons haven’t lost with Blake Griffin

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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) Pistons haven’t lost with Blake Griffin, won four in a row after a victory over Trail Blazers. This is why Stan Van Gundy traded for Blake Griffin — to wake up and shake up his team to make a playoff push. That’s not to say it’s all been Griffin, he has just been his usual self (when healthy) since coming to Detroit — 20.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game in his three games in a new uniform. His shooting efficiency is slightly down, his rebounding marginally better, but he’s moving the ball, and with him the Pistons are passing better, leading to cleaner looks. Also, the team is defending well with him.

The result: Detroit has won its three games with Griffin, the team has won four in a row, and after a comfortable 111-91 win over Portland on Monday Detroit has moved into a virtual tie with Philadelphia for the final playoff slot in the East. What’s more, the winning should continue for the Pistons through a soft part of the schedule (Brooklyn is next, followed Friday by a Clippers team that could look very different after the trade deadline, then Atlanta).

If you want to see what Griffin brings to this roster, this play sums it up: He grabs the board, brings the ball up himself, and sees Andre Drummond (the NBA Player of the Week in the East) running the floor and hits him with an alley-oop. Guys will run, will cut and move off the ball with purpose if they believe they will get rewarded.

Or, Griffin can just hit a shot that would give you an “H” in H-O-R-S-E (even if it didn’t count).

I still have serious long-term reservations about the Griffin trade for Detroit, how it boxes them in financially long term and what the ceiling is for this team with him, considering his health issues. But in the short term (this season and next) Van Gundy wanted to make the Pistons a playoff team. Griffin can do — and is doing — just that.

2) Robin Lopez absolutely snaps, takes out his frustrations on a helpless chair in the hallway. Bulls center Robin Lopez was having issues with the officiating almost from the opening tip it seemed Monday night against the Kings, and through the second quarter his anger — and his verbal abuse of the officials — was rising. He was pushing getting a technical. He was acting like one of the officials told him the new Star Wars movie sucked.

Then he snapped. And I mean “get the man a valium” snapped. Lopez was called for contact with Willie Cauley-Stein trying to deny a pass, and LOST IT.

Lopez earned his ejection, then took his frustrations out on an innocent chair in the hallway.

A fine is coming, that is pretty much the definition of “not leaving the court in a timely manner.”

3) Utah has won six in a row, injected itself back into the playoff race in West. A couple of weeks ago we thought Utah was out of the playoff chase in the West and would be sellers at the trade deadline. Part of that is still true, there is a lot of interest in Rodney Hood around the league and there is a real chance he is in a new uniform before Friday, and Joe Johnson is trying to orchestrate a trade out of Utah.

However, the Jazz are back in the playoff mix, thanks to an offense that has taken off. Utah has scored 115.7 points per 100 possessions during a six-game win streak that continued Monday with a win over New Orleans — the Jazz offense the last six games has been better than the Warriors offense on the season (113.4 per 100). Meanwhile, Rudy Gobert is back and the Jazz defense is giving up less than a point per possession during the streak.

The Jazz are currently three games out of the final playoff slot in the West still, but need to pass a Pelicans team stumbling without DeMarcus Cousins, and a Clipper team that doesn’t have Blake Griffin and could be without more stars by Friday after the trade deadline, they have a real chance. Fivethirtyeight.com now gives Utah a 74 percent chance of making the postseason (better than the Clippers or Pelicans, both at 53 percent). Cleaning The Glass projects the Pelicans and Jazz to both finish with 43 wins and take the final two playoff slots, with Portland and the Clippers at 42 and on the outside looking in. Obviously, there is a lot of season left to go, but a Jazz team torn apart by injuries all season long has kept it together, and now they have a real shot at the playoffs. Quin Snyder deserves a lot of credit for that, as does rookie Donovan Mitchell.

Michael Jordan on LeBron James comparisons: ‘We play in different eras’

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LeBron James — who on Saturday night likely will move past Kobe Bryant into third on the all-time NBA scoring list — has reached the point in his legendary career that he only can be compared to other legends.

Specifically, Michael Jordan.

Jordan, now the owner and face of the Charlotte Hornets, was in Paris to watch his team lose to the Milwaukee Bucks, and tried to downplay comparisons to LeBron.

“We play in different eras. He’s an unbelievable player. He’s one of the best players in the world, if not the best player in the world. I know its a natural tendency to compare eras to eras and it’s going to continue to happen. I’m a fan of his, I love watching him play. As you can see, our league is starting to expand on very talented players. I think he’s made his mark, he will continue to do so. But when you start the comparisons, I think it is what it is. It’s just a stand-up measurement. I take it with a grain of salt. He’s a heck of a basketball player without a doubt.” 

Does anyone think the ultra-competitive Jordan actually believes that? Of course not, we saw his Hall of Fame speech. But for fun, let’s take MJ’s words at face value.

Jordan is right. Both that it’s nearly impossible to compare NBA players across eras and that people will continue to do it anyway.

Jordan was a better one-on-one scorer playing in an era where the rules pushed the game toward isolation basketball and playing through contact. LeBron is a much better passer with better court vision in an era where driving-and-kicking to the corner, or making a skip-pass against an overloaded defense, is the smarter basketball play. Jordan broke open barriers as a player who is a brand off the court, but LeBron expanded that in a social-media era and added in a social conscience.

Both are legendary players, both are products of their generation, and both are Mount Rushmore players. Which player you think is the better player says more about you, your age, and your preferred style of play than it does LeBron or Jordan.

But please, commence the arguing in the comments.

Greek Freak makes himself at home in Paris, scores 30 points, Bucks beat Hornets

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PARIS — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 30 points and 12 rebounds and the NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks beat the Charlotte Hornets 116-103 on Friday night in the first NBA regular-season game in France.

Milwaukee improved to 40-6 with its eighth straight victory. The Bucks have the best 46-game start in franchise history. They were 39-7 in 1970-71 when they went on to win the NBA championship.

Eric Bledsoe added 20 points and five assists for the Bucks.

Malik Monk led Charlotte with 31 points. The Hornets have lost eight in a row.

Milwaukee rallied to tie it at 78 going into the fourth quarter. Pat Connaughton put the Bucks in front with a dunk in the fourth. Then Antetokounmpo got going, drawing a foul as he slalomed through the defense.

Report: Needing depth at center, Dallas trades for Willie Cauley-Stein from Golden State

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Dallas took a big hit this week when center Dwight Powell went down with a torn Achilles. The Mavericks’ starting center was a critical pick-and-roll partner with Luka Doncic, a roll man and vertical threat that allowed Kristaps Porzingis to space the floor (along with other Dallas shooters), plus Powell was a solid team defender.

Willie Cauley-Stein is going to get a chance to fill that role.

Golden State is trading Cauley-Stein to Dallas for a second-round pick.

Dallas just made a trade for Justin Patton to waive him and clear out a roster spot for this trade.

Cauley-Stein is averaging an efficient 7.9 points and 6.2 rebounds a game for Golden State. More importantly for Dallas, he provides the athletic dive man, a threat on the roll they need to keep things open for Doncic.

Dallas could have waited out the market to try and land a better center, but this gives them a reliable fit for minimal cost (a late second-round pick, they kept Golden State’s own second rounder). Cauley-Stein will split time at the five with Kristaps Porzingis, Maxi Kleber, and Boban Marjanovic.

For those of you crunching the numbers at home:

For Golden State, in the short term, this move creates a couple of open roster spots. One of those likely will be used to re-sign Marquese Chriss, who was waived last week. The other roster spot likely will go to Ky Bowman.

Golden State adds a pick and a trade exception for sending out a player that was not part of their long-term plans anyway.

In trade about money/roster space, Mavericks send Isaiah Roby to Thunder for Justin Patton, cash

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We have a trade…

That shifts things around on the end of the bench in Dallas so they could create a roster spot forWillie Cauley-Stein (a trade that was announced later). A trade that is mostly about saving some and rolling the dice on a project in OKC.

Dallas is sending Isaiah Roby to OKC for Justin Patton, a story broken by Shams Charania of The Athletic.

What is really going on here?

For Dallas, this is about clearing out a roster spot, it plans to waive Patton. That roster spot is going to Willie Cauley-Stein in a trade with Golden State, that was just reported. The Mavericks lost center Dwight Powell to a torn Achilles this week and needed to bring in a player or two — via trade or free agency — to help bolster the existing front line of Kristaps Porzingis, Maxi Kleber, and Boban Marjanovic. Here is Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News.

The move also clears out a little cash for Dallas.

In Oklahoma City, they get a young player to develop but also save some money.

Roby has not played in an NBA game yet. The rookie out of Nebraska — taken 45th overall last June — is a development project, but one who passes the eye test for an NBA power forward. He did a lot of things well in college — scoring, rebounding, works hard off the ball — but can he do that at an NBA level? He’s played in nine G-League games this season, averaging 9.2 points and 7 rebounds a game.