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Three Things to Know: West is bunched up

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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) We knew the West would be bunched up but… damn. This is just insane. We are a quarter of the way into the NBA season and 14 teams in the Western Conference — every team save Phoenix — can legitimately think they have a shot at the postseason.

And that will have implications.

Here are the standings as of now:

Look at that. In the West, 5.5 games separate seeds 1-to-14.

The 14 seed Utah Jazz are just 1.5 games out of the playoffs (and I think the Jazz will shake out of their slow start and still make the postseason). The top-seeded Clippers (did not see that coming) are just 4 games from being out of playoffs entirely, ahead of 9 seed Spurs and Mavericks (the 8-10 seeds all tied).

Just for comparison, in the East top-seeded Toronto is 5 games up on Detroit, the No. 5 seed, and the Raptors have an 8.5 games cushion on making the playoffs over the No. 9 seed Wizards. (The “lowly” Suns out West are 9.5 games back of the Clippers, and they are dead last in the conference by a long shot.)

Two big things will come out of this tight West.

First, it means a depressed trade market at the deadline because there are fewer sellers. We thought Sacramento, Dallas, maybe San Antonio, and other teams might be looking to move veterans and take on salary for young players or picks to jump-start a rebuild once they were out of it, but all of those teams are now thinking playoffs and not going to throw in the towel. If anything, more teams in the West may be buyers, which also could lead to a bubble in the market.

The other thing to watch is seeding for the playoffs, and how much it matters. Certainly there are advantages to being at home (even in the first round) but in a West where every team in the postseason (outside of a healthy Golden State) could potentially beat any other team, being healthy and getting the right matchups will matter more than where the games are played. It might be better for some team to be the six seed and get a better matchup for them than to be the four seed, have home court but a tougher matchup.

2) James Harden goes for 54 but the Rockets still lose… to the Wizards? MVP James Harden showed up on Monday night in our nation’s capital and put on a show — 54 points on 32 shots, knocking down 7 threes, and scoring seemingly at will against the Wizards. With 13 points and 11 turnovers, technically Harden had a triple-double.

But it wasn’t just Harden. With Chris Paul out, Eric Gordon got the start and he scored 34 points (on 23 shots) for a backcourt total of 90 points — second most by a backcourt tandem in a game ever. You’ll never guess one of the two ahead of them on that list, by the way:

And yet it wasn’t enough. John Wall had 35 points and 11 assists (Wall passed Wes Unseld on the Washington all-time scoring list during the second quarter), Markieff Morris had 22 points off the bench, and those Harden turnovers — a couple late in the game, a couple more in overtime, he struggled late when forced to go right — were enough to get Washington the win in OT, 135-131.

Let’s not go so far as to say the Wizards have fixed their woes, but they are now 3-1 since coach Scott Brooks moved Thomas Bryant and Kelly Oubre Jr. into the starting lineup, then sent Markieff Morris to the bench.

3) What controversy slowing him down again? Kevin Durant in a groove, drops 49 on Orlando. Kevin Durant is the best pure scorer in the game and he has found his groove again. In his last three games — all Warriors wins — he has 125 points, shooting 52.5 percent.

Orlando was the latest victim, Durant dropped 49 on them to spark a comeback win for the Warriors, 116-110 over Orlando.

Klay Thompson had 19 of his 29 in the fourth quarter to help with that comeback. And the Warriors might get Stephen Curry back Thursday in Toronto. You can stop worrying about this team, if you were for some odd reason

Celtics’ Jayson Tatum: “Trade rumors don’t bother me”

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Jayson Tatum was one of the young Celtics who struggled to find his space this season with Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward back in the mix. Tatum wasn’t shooting the three as well, was taking more long twos, and just seemed to plateau from last season rather than take the leap forward that was expected.

Playoff Tatum has looked more like what we expected, 19.8 points per game, 58 percent shooting from three, and impressive shot creation. That, of course, has rekindled the “are they going to trade him for Anthony Davis” talk. To which Tatum just shrugs, speaking to the New York Times.

“Trade rumors don’t bother me,” he said in his deep monotone. “They’re talking about trading me for guys like Anthony Davis. So, I mean, I must be doing something pretty well.” When pressed on whether this bothered him, he didn’t budge: “I love the game of basketball. Being traded is part of the game. I’ll play for whomever. It’s something I can’t control.”

That echoes what Tatum has said all year. This wasn’t the Laker locker room (which was a different circumstance), Tatum was unphased by the rumors that swirled around him and felt management would be upfront with him.

New Pelicans head man David Griffin has said in the past what he would look for in a Davis trade is one young All-Star player, other good young players or picks, and a veteran role player or two to stabilize the locker room. Tatum would be the young likely future All-Star. The guy who did this to LeBron James just a year ago.

Whether Tatum is traded or not depends on a lot of things — what direction Pelicans’ ownership wants to go with the trade, whether Kyrie Irving remains in Boston this summer, what other surprise offers for Davis or other stars come in — and none of it is within Tatum’s control. So he’s going to do his thing.

In the playoffs, that thing has been impressive.

Jimmy Butler, Jared Dudley ejected after scuffle following Joel Embiid block

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Welcome to the playoffs.

Emotions already were running high as Brooklyn faced what isn’t officially but might as well be a must-win game Saturday.

Then with 7:42 left in the third quarter this happened, and all those emotions burst out.

It started with Joel Embiid making a hard block on a Jarrett Allen dunk attempt. Brooklyn’s Jared Dudley — who started for the Nets and has been huge for them this series — came in to protect his man and shoved Embiid. Then Jimmy Butler decided to protect his guy and ran in and shoved Dudley. Then it all broke loose, including D'Angelo Russell moving the pile with his shove.

After the official reviewed the video (and consulted with the official video center), Butler and Dudley were ejected as instigators — that is a win for Brooklyn, the 76ers lost the better player in that trade.

Embiid was given a flagrant 1 for a foul with contact to the head. For my money that’s over the top in this case, he got the ball and blocked the shot, and this is the playoffs. That was not an intentional blow.

The Nets got a couple free throws and the game moved on, but you can be sure this is going to linger.

The playoffs are just more fun when there is bad blood between the teams.

Joel Embiid playing, starting for 76ers in Game 4 in Brooklyn

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Philadelphia can take a commanding 3-1 series lead over Brooklyn with a win on Saturday.

The Sixers will have Joel Embiid in the paint for that game.

Embiid, battling a sore knee, has averaged 22.5 points and 12.5 rebounds a game, and he’s been a defensive presence, but he has not been his same, explosive self. He has missed some bunnies around the rim and just has not been right. It’s clear watching him.

Still, Philly is better with him on the court (as long as the aggressive Ben Simmons still shows up). With him in the paint and a quick end to the series, Philly may be able to get some rest for Embiid before the second round. But Brooklyn will not make that easy on Saturday or the rest of the way.

Missouri’s Jontay Porter announces he will enter NBA Draft

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Jontay Porter — the younger brother of Denver’s Michael Porter Jr., who did not play all season as he recovered from back issues — was impressive as a freshman, the one season he played at Missouri. He averaged 9.9 points and 6.8 rebounds a game (mostly off the bench), showed a shooting touch from three, he plays a high IQ game, and at 6’11” he has NBA size and a strong frame.

But since then Porter has been a story of injuries. A lot of them. He did not play this past season after tearing the ACL and MCL in his right knee back in October. By his own admission he tried to rush back and tore the same ACL again in March.

Now, Porter is declaring he will enter the NBA Draft.

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Porter has legitimate potential as a stretch five in the NBA, but the knee injuries and questions about Porter’s athleticism (he’s not athletic by NBA standards) makes teams hesitant. That’s why Porter is projected as a second-round pick, a big man with potential but one who needs time to get healthy and develop.

A couple other draft notes:

• Charles Bassey, the 6’11” big man out of Western Kentucky, will test the draft. He is projected as a late second rounder, if drafted at all.

Mike Daum, who averaged 25.3 points and 11.7 rebounds a game this past season for South Dakota State, has entered the draft and signed with Octagon Sports. He needs to impress at combines and workouts to make sure he gets drafted.

• Two European big men, Louis Olinde (6’10” out of Germany) and Aleksander Balcerowski (7’1” center from Poland) both have put their names in the NBA Draft pool. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony announced both of the Euros looking to come to the NBA.