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Three Things to Know: Kevin Durant goes off for 51 but Kawhi Leonard, Raptors get win

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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) Kevin Durant goes off for 51, but Kawhi Leonard has 37 of his own, Raptors get the win on a big stage. This game may well be an NBA Finals preview…

In the sense that two teams wearing these uniforms could meet in June.

Beyond that, don’t go drawing broad conclusions. It’s November. There was no Stephen Curry, no Draymond Green, no DeMarcus Cousins, and besides that, every team making a deep playoff run is very different in May and June than it is in November. Teams evolve.

That said… I’ll take six or seven games of this in June if it’s going to be as close and entertaining as this one was.

Kevin Durant looked like the best scorer on the planet dropping 51 including a baseline fade-away late in regulation to cap an 18-point comeback and force overtime.

But these are not your fold-under-pressure Raptors, they have Kawhi Leonard — he scored 37 on the night — and in overtime they had Danny Green hitting a key three and fast-rising Pascal Siakam who had 7 of his 26 points in the extra frame.

Toronto won, 131-128 in one of the most entertaining games of the season.

In the past, this was a Toronto team that was a regular season beast but seemed to find a way to lose on the biggest stages. It’s just November, but this win felt different. Led by Leonard and Green — who come from a Spurs organization that just expected to find ways to win — this team did not role over after KD forced overtime, after they blew a lead, these Raptors came out and found a way to win.

There are no statement games in November. If this is a Finals preview there are no conclusions to draw about the matchup.

However, if it’s the kind of win that makes the Raptors genuinely start to believe in themselves and what they can do against the best teams on the big stages (Thursday night on TNT), then it can change the trajectory for one team. And that can matter come June.

2) Kevin Durant gave the shirt off his back to Drake. I would tell you that Drake was courtside in Toronto for this showdown, but even if you didn’t watch the game you probably would have just assumed that anyway.

Drake and KD go way back — the rapper even has a “35 Snipe” tattoo on his left arm in honor of Durant (he has a “30 Gifted” tattoo for Curry, too). When KD went to the locker room at the half he had a special greeting for Drake.

That probably left Drake wondering of KD, “Do you love me? Are you riding?”

After the game, one where Durant dropped 51 on Drake’s hometown crew, Drake asked for Durant’s jersey, and he got it straight off the All-Star’s back.

It’s good to be Drake.

3) LeBron James scores 38, takes over late in Lakers win over Pacers. Thursday afternoon, Magic Johnson went on the radio and denied that LeBron James was ignoring Luke Walton’s play calling, saying the Lakers move the ball on offense and it’s not a one-man show like that. Magic also said the Lakers were working hard to keep LeBron’s minutes down.

Did he watch the end of the Lakers’ win over the Pacers that night? LeBron had 38 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists, and with the game on the line in the second half of the fourth quarter he absolutely took over(12 points in the fourth) and did what he wanted — and got his team the win. He also played 38 minutes on the night.

This is why the Lakers got LeBron — he is once again playing at an MVP level. He takes over games late. You want the ball in his hands and him making decisions when it matters.

The question has always been what other Lakers can perform at that level with him (and, what other star players can he help recruit to make this team a contender). While with think we have some answers — Josh Hart knows how to finish and fits very well — this is still a work in progress. A process, if you will. LeBron admitted after the game that when to defer to teammates and when to just take over is something he is struggling with this season. It’s not an easy balancing act for anyone. But this was always the plan, and it was always going to be a season of learning more than contending.

For now Lakers’ fans, savor watching LeBron be LeBron. Players like this don’t come around often.

NBA makes it official, moves up free agency six hours to 6 p.m. June 30 (Eastern)

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I’d like to think this means we’ll all be able to go to bed at a reasonable hour on June 30. I also know better.

There is a frenzy of activity right as free agency opens (Tampering? There is no tampering in the NBA…), which traditionally has been as the clock turns to July 1 in New York, right at midnight. Things got so active that a lot of agents and players made sure they were in Los Angeles, even if they didn’t live there in the offseason, just so things started at the more reasonable hour of 9 p.m.

Now the NBA has made the rumors official: Free agency will begin at 6 p.m. Eastern on June 30. Six hours earlier than before.

This was done as an agreement between the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association.

This is going to be a wild July with a lot of big-name free agents — Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler — and maybe a third of the players in the league on the market, plus there are a lot more teams with cap space to spend this season. It’s going to be a frenzy.

Now we know what time the wild times start.

Why does Kevin Durant respond on social media? “I’m qualified to talk about basketball”

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Every NBA player gets ripped on social media, even the guys who are not on social media. Most of the time players just ignore it, the way they ignore fans yelling stuff courtside or distant family asking them for money.

Kevin Durant, however, gets into it sometimes, even with national media members (and even had a burner account). Which always becomes a thing.

Why? Why not just ignore it? From Durant himself at practice Friday, via NBC Sports Bay Area.

“Because I have social media,” Durant said Friday… “I mean, I’m a human being with a social media account. I could see if I ventured off into like politics, culinary arts or music and gave my input, but I’m sticking to something that I know. You know what I’m saying? This is all I know. I’m actually talking about stuff that I know. I’m qualified to talk about basketball.

“So when I respond to something, especially if it’s about me personally, of course I’m going to tell you if you wrong about it. When I’m on the training table getting treatment on my calf and I see a tweet that come by and I disagree — I don’t talk to people because I’m worried about what they say, it’s just that I’m interested. So if you talking about in-game or the NBA Finals, they’re the same to me, you know what I’m saying?”

Durant seems to have more time on hands to get into these spats while he is out injured. Which likely will last into the start of the NBA Finals.

Does this mean the Drake/Durant beef is inevitable?

LeBron likes Instagram of Kyrie Irving in Lakers jersey, Internet goes berserk

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The Lakers landing Kyrie Irving in free agency this summer might be their best realistic option. It’s far, far from a lock — the Knicks, and yes Celtics, will make their pitch, too — but reuniting the pair that won a title in Cleveland is on the Lakers’ radar. (Insert your own, “you know who should coach this team” Tyronn Lue joke here.)

Fueling the speculation, LeBron James and Irving were seen hanging out together at a club in Los Angeles recently. Then Friday, this happened: Cuffthelegend posted this on Instagram and LeBron liked it.

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I like how this feels

A post shared by Savage Season 365 (@cuffsthelegend) on

(For the record, Cuffthelegend gets some stuff right, he’s not a guy who posts stuff out of nowhere.)

Of course, NBA Twitter and the web responded to this in its usual measured, thoughtful way. Some Lakers fans think the deal is done, others mock the idea altogether.

Two thoughts on Irving and the Lakers:

• Multiple reports say Irving is open to it. Irving also has a strong relationship with Kevin Durant, and Boston still plans to trade for Anthony Davis and then try to re-sign Irving (even if Boston fans are done with Kyrie). The only person who knows which way Irving is leaning right now is Irving, and there’s a good chance he changes his mind in the next five weeks anyway.

• If the Lakers are going to land a star free agent this summer, it will be because LeBron was an active recruiter. These elite players have options, and the Laker front office is not inspiring confidence of late, it will be on LeBron to win guys over.

 

Jeremy Lin: Milwaukee security guard asked for my pass to Raptors team bus

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Jeremy Lin has discussed people not believing he plays in the NBA.

It apparently still happens.

Lin, whose Raptors are playing the Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals, via Bill Michaels Sports Talk Network:

After Game 2 in Milwaukee, I was trying to get to the team bus and one of the dudes in the Milwaukee arena just screams at me. He’s like, “Where do you think you’re going?!” And I’m like, “Uh, I’m trying to get to the team bus.” He’s like, “What?! Where’s your pass?” I was like, “I don’t have a pass. I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t have a pass.”

This happens in a lot of arenas, so I just kind of go with the flow.

It’s a fine line. Lin shouldn’t be profiled as a non-athlete because he’s Asian-American. Arena staffers should keep everyone safe by stopping unauthorized people.