LeBron’s game-winner in Game 3 may have been moment Dwane Casey lost his job

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It wasn’t just one thing that led to Toronto Raptors’ president Masai Ujiri deciding to fire Dwane Casey after the coach had just led the team to a 59-win season and the No. 1 seed in the East. It was the slow buildup of a lot of things — most of them game-management related (not Casey’s strong suit) — that pushed Ujiri to make an unpopular and difficult decision.

However, the final nail in the coffin of Casey’s job may have been this play, LeBron James‘ game-winner in Game 3.

While on one side we should give credit to Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue for not advancing the ball to halfcourt for the inbound, allowing LeBron to get up a head of steam coming down the court and making it harder to double him, the fact Toronto went with single-coverage and now help on the play when it was obvious to everyone on the planet who was going to take the shot frustrated Ujiri to no end, reports Michael Grange of Sportsnet Canada.

Ujiri’s frustration with Casey’s inability to transfer regular-season success was rising, according to multiple sources….

According to multiple sources the confusion and subsequent lack of execution on the final play was another log on the fire. After the game, Ujiri stormed into the Raptors dressing room at Quicken Loans — just out of sight of most of the players but not out of earshot — and rebuked Casey in the coach’s office for failing to double-team James. Ujiri didn’t reserve his frustration for just Casey – he also tore into the officials in the hallway as well. But observers noted that the intensity was more than typical for Ujiri, who can run hot at the best of times.

It wasn’t just those things in this series. It was Game 2 when the Cavaliers started using the Kevin Love/Kyle Korver corner pick action that left Jonas Valanciunas in no-man’s land. Or in that same game when the Cavaliers started doing pick-and-roll actions that left C.J. Miles switched onto LeBron, and LeBron would just post him up and score (that happened five or so times in a row without an adjustment). Or in Game 4, when Casey went to Lucas Nogueira at center in a four-point game for no good reason. Casey was outcoached against Boston.

Does all that warrant firing Casey? Not alone. Ujiri just felt with this roster and this coach the team had gone as far as it could, and with both Boston and Philadelphia fast on the rise in the East (plus whatever LeBron decides to do this summer) the Raptors needed a change. Coach was a spot where change could be made more easily than the roster (which Ujiri assembled, and has its flaws).

The big question for the Raptors now: Who’s next? Who is that upgrade?

Not an easy question to answer. (Well, not Drake is the easy answer, but beyond that…)

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
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It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.

Watch Lakers fan drain half-court shot to win $75,000

Indiana Pacers v Los Angeles Lakers
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It might have been the loudest the crypto.com Arena was all night.

Between the third and fourth quarters, Lakers fan Jamie Murry of Downey won $75,000 draining a half-court shot — and he got to celebrate with Anthony Davis.

Murry’s celebration is the best part — with Anthony Davis coming out to celebrate with him (and seeming a little shocked by the hug).

One other big shot fell at this game, but Lakers’ fans didn’t like it as much — Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard drained a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.