Three Things to Know: Kyrie Irving news blow to Celtics’ playoff chances, but at least they’re in

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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) Celtics star Kyrie Irving will miss 4-5 months, including the entire postseason, due to his knee injury.

Brad Stevens’ motion offense produces good shots. He goes four- and five-out to maximize spacing, and he gets his players on the same page with ball movement, player movement and screening. They all play hard.

But defenses clamp down in the playoffs, and teams must inevitably sometimes give the ball to someone who creates a shot for himself against a set defense with the shot clock running down. All the genius sets and extra effort still can’t avoid that.

That’s why Boston traded for Irving, who’s elite in those tough situations. He was supposed to help the Celtics’ regular-season success continue deep into the playoffs.

Without him, Boston fits the profile of a lower seed. Though the Celtics (53-25) will likely nab the No. 2 seed, they won’t necessarily put a better team on the floor than their first-round opponent – the Heat, Bucks or Wizards. If it weren’t for Boston’s home-court advantage, it could be a true toss-up series.

And that’s not so bad. The Celtics’ window is open for a while. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier are developing nicely. Irving and Gordon Hayward should be healthy next year. All these setbacks occurred during a season LeBron James remains elite and the Raptors are humming. This might not have been Boston’s year yet, anyway.

And at least the Celtics have already clinched a playoff spot, which is more than can be said for most of the teams in the Western Conference race.

2.) The Nuggets beat the Timberwolves and the Jazz smashed the Clippers in two huge playoff-chase matchups.

Denver point guard Jamal Murray had one of the most pivotal plays of the season with 1:46 left last night. As the shot clock neared expiration, Murray pump-faked and drew a shooting foul on Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns (26 points, 13 rebounds, four assists), Minnesota’s best player throughout the game, fouled out. Murray made both free throws to put the Nuggets up one, and without having to face Towns, they held on for a 100-96 win. That tied Denver with the Timberwolves for eighth-place.

As a bad shot looked increasingly necessary, Murray in one fell swoop got Minnesota’s best player off the floor, put the Nuggets ahead and massively increased their playoff chances.

Denver’s point guards – Murray (22 points) and Devin Harris (20 points) – came up big on a night many of their teammates couldn’t find offensive rhythm. Those two shot 14-for-27 from the field (52%) and 8-for-15 on 3-pointers (53%). Everyone else was 21-for-62 from the field (34%) and 3-for-21 on 3-pointers (14%).

Other Nuggets made up for it with high-effort plays down the stretch, and they can’t let up now. Denver has a tougher closing schedule than the Timberwolves do – including the finale at Minnesota. And Minnesota should soon get back Jimmy Butler, who was active but didn’t play last night.

Next up for the Nuggets? The Clippers, who got trounced from start to finish by Utah last night.

The Clippers are on the verge of elimination, but at least they still play a couple teams they’re trying to catch.

Here are the Western Conference playoff-race standings with each team’s remaining schedule:

4. Jazz (46-33) – at Lakers, vs. Warriors, at Trail Blazers

5. Thunder (45-34) – at Rockets, at Heat, vs. Grizzlies

5. Spurs (45-34) – vs. Trail Blazers, vs. Kings, at Pelicans

7. Pelicans (44-34) – at Suns, at Warriors, at Clippers, vs. Spurs

8. Timberwolves (44-35) – at Lakers, vs. Grizzlies, vs. Nuggets

8. Nuggets (44-35) – at Clippers, vs. Trail Blazers, at Timberwolves

9. Clippers (42-37) – vs. Nuggets, vs. Pelicans, vs. Lakers

3) The Wizards suffered a demoralizing loss to the Cavaliers. Washington fell behind by 15, made a 32-point swing in the right direction then blew a 17-point lead in the final 7:30 of the fourth quarter. The Wizards have lost three straight and seven of nine.

The latest defeat came after John Wall identified this game against Cleveland and Tuesday’s against the Celtics as especially important. Wall, via Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington:

“I want to play against the teams that are going to be in the playoffs. No offense to the teams that are not going to the playoffs,” he said. “I want to play against Cleveland and definitely against Boston because those are who we might end up seeing in the playoffs. So, leave a statement there.”

Welp.

With Irving injured, that Boston game provides less opportunity for redemption. The stakes are just so much lower.

Last night’s result might have been good for everyone involved, though. The Cavs (49-30) move one step closer to the No. 3 seed, though the bigger test will come against the 76ers (48-30) tonight. And Washington moves closer to getting the No. 7 seed, which would almost certainly mean a first-round matchup with the vulnerable Celtics.

But that won’t matter unless the Wizards play much better than they have lately.

Bradley Beal says there were no teams in free agency where he could have contended

Washington Wizards v Charlotte Hornets
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Bradley Beal got his bag this summer — a $215 million max contract that includes a no-trade clause.

That signing was expected, with the teams that could have made bold moves to land him getting the impression he was not going anywhere. Which makes Beal’s explanation of his decision on the “No Chill with Gilbert Arenas Podcast” interesting (hat tip TalkBasket).

“There were no teams in the market, free agency-wise. I’m just being frank. There was nowhere else for me to go where I can be like, ‘Oh, I can go win.’ It was teams that strategically wasn’t what I wanted. So realistically, I wouldn’t say my hand was forced, but this was my best decision and best option on the table at the time.”

That’s not how it works. Technically he is correct, the teams with cap space this past summer — the ones that could sign him outright, such as the Spurs — were not going to contend for anything with or without Beal.

But teams create cap space all the time to get players they want, via trades/waiving players or other moves (for example a sign-and-trade). If Beal and his agent had put the word out that he was leaving Washington and wanted to go to a contender, teams from Miami to Los Angeles would have been poised to do whatever it would have taken to land him. There are countless examples of this around the league over the years, but to stick with the Miami theme, remember the Heat had to dump the salaries of Hassan Whiteside (they got back Moe Harkless and flipped him) and Josh Richardson to create the space for a sign-and-trade to get Jimmy Butler (which hard capped the Heat for a season). Teams will do what it takes to land superstars, Beal had options if he wanted to leave.

He didn’t want to go anywhere. Beal has said before that he wants to win on his own terms in our nation’s capital and has backed that up with his actions. He talked up the Wizards on the same Gilbert Arenas podcast.

“Not everybody gives you a voice in the organization. I have a voice here. I never had a chance to fully play a year with [Kristaps Porzingis]. That enticed me. He’s probably the best big I’ve played with. I like [Kyle Kuzma’s] ability to be able to spread his wings a little bit more, develop into the player that we think he can be. I like the young core that we were developing. Rui [Hachimura] is really good, had an awesome summer. Deni’s [Avdija] just gonna continue to get better. And then Corey’s [Kispert] a knockdown shooter, who is a pro’s pro. We still need to get better. I’m not sitting here saying, ‘We’re gonna hold up the Larry. We’re going to beat Milwaukee tomorrow.’ No. But to have the pieces we have, we have enough to know that we can compete on a nightly basis with no BS.”

That’s an optimistic view of the Wizards, who are 11-12 and 19th in the league in both offense and defense. The Wizards can be good but their margin for error night-to-night is minimal — they have to play their best game every night to have a chance. It’s a lot to ask.

Beal got what he wanted and nobody should ever question him for making the most money he could (Washington could always offer more and more guaranteed years than any other team). If he does want to leave someday, with his no-trade clause Beal has complete control over where he would land. It’s all a good deal. Just don’t say there weren’t other options available last summer.

Floyd Mayweather says he’s trying to buy NBA team, has offered $2 billion

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“Money” Floyd Mayweather lives up to his nickname — he was money in the ring and earned a lot of it as the greatest boxer of a generation.

Now the legend is willing to spend it to own an NBA team.

Mayweather said at a recent public event he was working to buy an NBA team and has made a $2 billion offer for one.

“I’ve been working on buying a NBA team outright. One of my other business partners, Brent Johnson, he’s here. So we’ve been working on the NBA team for a while now. It’s kinda, it’s rough…

“It could be the Vegas franchise. It could be the Seattle franchise or I could be buying a franchise that’s already up and running. So the first offer, we offered them a little over $2 billion for majority ownership. Do I have it? Absolutely, I have it, but it didn’t happen overnight. It didn’t happen overnight. It’s a lot when you have so many different businesses all around the world. It’s a lot.”

The only NBA team publicly known to be for sale is the Phoenix Suns and the sale price for that will be well above $2 billion (some estimates suggest double that number). Portland is not currently for sale but is expected to be available in the coming years, and other franchises may pop up on the market as well, but the price for any of those may be above $2 billion. As for potential expansion teams (which are likely headed to Seattle and Las Vegas), those are years away according to league sources, with the vote to approve them a few years out at least, followed by a couple of years of ramp-up. Also, the entry price to get into those is going to be well above $2 billion.

Mayweather says he has the money. He said a year ago his net worth was above $1.2 billion, but there is no formal tracking for these things, it could be higher or lower. Either way, with the price of NBA franchises today, he likely needs to bring in other investors as $2 billion will be on the low end of a sale price.

How the controversies of Mayweather’s past — including domestic violence and homophobic comments — play out in his ownership bid is another unknown. We know the NBA vets its owners and considers such things.

It may be a long shot, but Mayweather wants to buy an NBA team, which could be very entertaining for fans.

Watch Rudy Gobert get ejected for tripping Thunder’s Williams

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Already without Karl-Anthony Towns, the Timberwolves were without their second twin tower for most of Saturday night after Rudy Gobert got ejected for kicking and tripping the Thunder’s Kenrich Williams.

Early in the second quarter, Williams was driving to the rim and Gobert was there to contest it, and with the contact Williams went to the ground, then Gobert tripped over him and fell. As Williams started to get back up and try to get down the court, Gobert kicked Williams’ legs out from under him, tripping Williams. A brief scuffle followed.

The referees reviewed the play (it didn’t take long) and ultimately Gobert was given a flagrant 2 and ejected, while Williams got a technical. The refs got that one right.

The game was chippy the whole way through, but going against a smaller Timberwolves front line the Thunder picked up a 135-128 win behind 33 from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

Watch Simons puts up career-best 45, carry Portland past Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) —  Anfernee Simons scored a career-high 45 points and blocked a potential 3-pointer with 4.6 seconds left to lead the Portland Trail Blazers to a 116-111 win over the Utah Jazz on Saturday night.

“I wanted to be aggressive and set the tone for my teammates,” Simons said. “Early on, let them know that we are in this game and I’m going to do whatever it takes for us to win it.”

The Jazz led 111-110 after Kelly Olynyk‘s twisting jumper and then had a chance to tie it at 114, but Simons swiped the ball from Jordan Clarkson as he rose for a 3-point attempt from the right angle.

“I just tried to catch him before he went up. … Kind of a risky play, but I’m glad I got it,” Simons said with a chuckle.

The Trail Blazers had lost seven of their last eight games before winning this thriller as Damian Lillard missed his seventh game with a lower right leg injury.

Portland’s Jerami Grant scored 13 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter as the Jazz swarmed Simons.

Jusuf Nurkic had 15 points and 14 rebounds and Trendon Watford finished with a career-high 14 rebounds, too.

The Jazz held Simons to just one field goal attempt in the fourth quarter, but he hit two free throws with 29.2 seconds to play, giving Portland a 112-111 lead. Grant added four free throws in the final 6.4 seconds for the final margin.

“Ant got it going early and we just kind of rode him, rode him, rode him. And then obviously Jerami was going,” Portland coach Chauncey Billups said.

Clarkson had 24 points, and Lauri Markkanen added 21 for the Jazz, but committed two turnovers in the final 35.7 seconds. Collin Sexton scored 19 points and Jarred Vanderbilt had a season-high 16 for Utah.

Portland led 107-101 on Grant’s 3-pointer with 4:12 to play, but Sexton scored five quick points in 10-3 run that was highlighted by Markkanen’s block of Simon’s drive in the final minute.

Simons scored 23 points in the first quarter – a season high for Simons, as well as any Blazers player in any quarter. Simons had 22 in the third quarter against Denver on Oct. 24.

By halftime, Simons had 33 points and the Blazers led 69-60.

“You have to come out in the very beginning and try to set the tone. Doesn’t matter that it’s the second night of a back-to-back. They came out with an aggressiveness and a physicality that we didn’t (have),” Utah coach Will Hardy said.

Simons became the third Trail Blazer in the last decade to score 45 points, joining Lillard and CJ McCollum. He wanted more.

“In the back of my mind, I wanted 50. But there’s going to be plenty of opportunities for that. It’s all right, because we got the win,” Simons said.