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Three Things to Know: Celtics rain 24 threes on Bucks, but Milwaukee belongs

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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 rain 24 threes to beat Bucks, but Milwaukee shows it belongs. “No doubt, we feel like we can be in that upper echelon of teams in the East. There’s some teams, for good reason, that everybody talks about, you know, Boston and Philadelphia and Toronto and, you know, Indiana. Teams that had great years last year and have great rosters. But, you know, we certainly feel like we should be in that mix.”

That’s what Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer told Mike Krzyzewski on Coach K’s SiriusXM radio show on ESPNU Radio. His team then went out and proved it belongs.

The Celtics, however, got the win with 24 threes (On 55 attempts), one shy of the NBA record for a single game, to beat the Bucks 117-113. Boston got 72 points off of threes and 45 points off free throws and buckets inside the arc.

For the Celtics, it’s a big win behind Kyrie Irving‘s 28 points, and they hand the Bucks their first loss. After stumbling the first few games, the Celtics are finding their offense — they scored 115.8 points per 100 in this one — and remain the team to beat in the East.

But the Bucks hung with them, on the road, on a night when the Celtics knocking it down from deep. The Bucks didn’t treat this like a playoff game (they kept having Brook Lopez and Ersan Ilyasova drop off the pick-and-roll, their standard defense, but it gave Al Horford and other bigs clean threes they could hit, something the Bucks wouldn’t do in a seven-game series) and yet they were in it at the end. The Bucks also got 33 points and 11 rebounds from Giannis Antetokounmpo, who also did this.

There are no moral victories, but for the Bucks their first loss shouldn’t have them down — they looked like a team that can hang with anyone in the East. They belong.

2) De'Aaron Fox has his first triple-double, the Kings rout the Hawks and are now 6-3. The biggest surprise to start the NBA season? More than the Rockets stumbles out of the gate or the Wizards imploding (is that even a surprise?) it’s the Sacramento Kings — they are playing well. Playing hard.

Leading the way has been De’Aaron Fox, who showed flashes as a rookie but has come alive in his second season and against the Hawks “defense” (they have been terrible) he dropped 31 points, 15 assists, and 10 rebounds — at age 20 the youngest player in NBA history to drop 30+ points, 10+ rebounds, and 15+ assists in a game.

It’s not just Fox in Sacramento. Buddy Hield scored 27 against the Hawks and that makes five straight games with at least 20 — he is the shooter we expected. Willie Cauley-Stein has been a beast this season. Nemanja Bjelica had 19 against the Hawks and has become the secondary sniper this team needs.

The Kings have the point differential of a team that should be closer to .500 (+1.6 per 100 possessions, according to Cleaning The Glass) but that still is light years ahead of where we had this team before the season. The Kings are playing well and opponents better take them seriously. This team is good and will outwork you every night.

3) Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder pick up first road win, they’re finding their groove. The Oklahoma City Thunder are 3-4 now after coming from 19 down in the third quarter to beat the Hornets in Charlotte. That’s a solid win, Charlotte is playing well.

The formula remains the same in OKC: Their defense is good, currently fifth in the NBA, and then get enough out of Russell Westbrook to win. He had 29 points, 10 assists, 8 rebounds, and pulled out the Shammgod last night for a bucket.

OKC stumbled out of the gate this season, but the Thunder have gotten back to their identity once healthy and that means wins. But about the healthy part, this is a concern.

Watch Joel Embiid’s game-winning dunk lead 76ers past Cavaliers 98-97

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The shots weren’t falling for the Philadelphia 76ers, so they clamped down on defense.

Joel Embiid scored 27 points, including the go-ahead dunk with 13.2 seconds remaining, and Philadelphia held Cleveland without a point for the final 3 1/2 minutes in a 98-97 win over the Cavaliers on Tuesday night.

Josh Richardson added 17 points and Ben Simmons had 15 for Philadelphia, which won despite missing 30 of 38 3-point attempts. Tobias Harris missed all 11 of his 3-point tries.

“You better guard if you’re not going to make shots,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said. “We knew if we were going to do anything, we had to play defense – and defense we played.”

Jordan Clarkson and Kevin Love each had 20 points to pace Cleveland. Collin Sexton added 18 points and Tristan Thompson had 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Cavaliers.

The Cavaliers trailed for most of the contest, but took advantage of Philadelphia’s poor shooting in the fourth quarter, going up by as many as five points on three occasions.

“We gave them life and were in a fistfight,” Brown said. “You can just feel it. We had a chance to discourage them and we didn’t. Certainly a hard-fought game and we’re lucky to get away with it.”

Cleveland led 97-92 with 3:34 remaining after Sexton’s driving layup, but the Cavaliers wouldn’t score again. Harris pulled Philadelphia within 97-94 with a follow layup and then hit a 17-footer on the ensuing possession to make it a one-point game with 1:42 left.

Cleveland had chances to build the lead after that, but Love missed a close-range shot before a shot-clock violation on the Cavaliers’ next possession.

“I think our defense was pretty OK,” Embiid said. “We just didn’t make shots.”

The 76ers were having their own trouble scoring with Richardson and Embiid failing to convert on consecutive possessions.

After a timeout with 26.6 seconds left, Brown called a high-percentage play with Harris finding Embiid close to the basket. Embiid slammed it home to give the 76ers their first lead, 98-97, since early in the fourth quarter.

“It was a great play-call by coach and we did the rest,” Embiid said.

Cleveland had a chance to win it, but Love’s 3-point attempt from the top of the key rimmed out.

“Kevin is a great shooter, not a good shooter,” Cleveland coach John Beilein said. “He took his time but just didn’t nail it. It’s one of many looks I’ll take at that time.”

 

Warriors two-way guard Damion Lee breaks bone in right hand

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Yet another member of the Golden State Warriors is injured, with two-way guard Damion Lee now out because of a broken right hand.

The injury occurred during Golden State’s 122-108 home loss to the Jazz on Monday night. Lee underwent an MRI exam Tuesday morning that revealed a nondisplaced fracture of the fourth metacarpal. The team said he will be reevaluated in two weeks.

“Hopefully just a few weeks,” coach Steve Kerr said before the team flew to Los Angeles, where the Warriors play the Lakers on Wednesday night.

Lee joins a long list of injured players on the depleted Warriors, who are 2-9 following five straight trips to the NBA Finals.

Stephen Curry had surgery on his broken left hand, which he injured Oct. 30, and will need another procedure next month to have pins removed. He said Monday that he expects to be playing again come spring.

The two-time MVP joins Klay Thompson, who is recovering from a July 2 surgery on a torn ACL in his left knee suffered during Game 6 of the NBA Finals. Thompson could miss the entire season.

Kevon Looney, who is dealing with a nerve issue that has kept him out since a brief appearance in the season opener, is going through more extensive workouts but is still not ready to return, while guard Jacob Evans III is still dealing with a strained inner thigh muscle and also will miss Wednesday’s game. Kerr said he is likely still at least a couple of weeks from playing again.

Backup center Omari Spellman was listed as doubtful to face the Lakers because of a sprained left ankle and already sat out Monday’s loss to the Jazz.

Kerr, who took over coaching the Warriors in 2014-15 and immediately won an NBA championship, has never had this short a bench with so few healthy bodies to mix and match rotations.

“We’ll just see how it plays out,” Kerr said. “We’ll figure out who’s ready to go and we’ll go from there. It’s challenging. It’s been kind of the theme so far. It’s not exactly ideal but it’s the reality. You don’t spend a whole lot of time lamenting anything. You just keep going.”

Bulls big man Cristiano Felicio out 4-8 weeks with broken wrist

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This is not going to impact the Bulls’ rotations — Cristiano Felicio has yet to touch the court for the Bulls this season — but it’s a setback for a player trying to prove he belongs in the NBA.

Felicio fractured his wrist during the Bulls practice Monday and will be out at least a month, reports K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

Cristiano Felicio, who has yet to land on the active roster this season, broke his right wrist after falling in Monday’s practice, according to coach Jim Boylen. The Bulls’ coach said Felicio will miss four to eight weeks with the injury.

“We had the X-ray. It did not show up on the X-ray. Then we had the CT scan and it showed up on the CT scan,” Boylen said. “We’re going to do an MRI (Wednesday) just to let them give us a little more certainty on maybe how much separation there is in there and how much time it will be.”

The Bulls gambled on Felicio a couple of years ago and signed him to a four-year, $32 million contract. That roll of the dice has come up snake eyes so far, with Felicio playing a limited role the first two seasons — and this season no role at all.

It is expected the Bulls will try to use Felicio’s salary in any trade packages they put together closer to the deadline, this injury would not impact that.

Asked about getting stabbed in back, Chris Paul says trade from Rockets

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Chris Paul has gotten traded three times in his career.

New Orleans sent him to the Clippers – but only after David Stern nixed a deal with the Lakers – in 2011. In 2017, Paul engineered a trade to the Rockets by opting in. Then, in an unprecedented star swap, Houston dealt Paul to the Thunder for Russell Westbrook last summer.

Paul recently discussed trades with comedian Kevin Hart.

Hart:

Why is it always such a crazy time when it comes to these trades and whether they’re happening. You’ve been part of some big conversations. Is it at a point where it’s just business, or is it becoming personal?

Paul:

Every situation is different. But the team is going to do whatever they want to do. They’ll tell you one thing and do a smooth nother thing.

Hart:

That’s the business side.

Paul:

Exactly.

Hart:

Do you feel like there’s been times where, “Damn, that’s a little eye-opening. I got stabbed in the back”?

Paul:

Absolutely. This last situation was one of them. The GM there in Houston, he don’t owe me nothing. You know what I mean? He may tell me one thing but do another thing. But you just understand that that’s what it is.

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is an easy target right now. Many people around the NBA resent him tweeting support for Hong Kong protesters (who are trying to maintain and expand their freedoms) and costing the league significant revenue in China.

But, in this case, Morey brought it upon himself. He said in June he wouldn’t trade Paul then did so, anyway.

Maybe that was to protect Paul’s feelings if he stayed in Houston. In that case, Morey could tell Paul he believed in him all along. There’d be no way to know Morey was fibbing. Now that Paul is gone, Paul being upset is someone else’s problem. It’s a common tactic by executives.

Paul reportedly requested a trade from the Rockets, but he denied it. I don’t necessarily believe Paul. There was plenty of evidence of tension between him and Harden. It’d be pretty conniving to request a trade then throw Morey under the bus for making the trade.

But Paul’s denial of a trade request is on the record. So is Morey’s declaration that he wouldn’t trade Paul.

Morey must own that.